Saturday, June 20
Today was the day…train day! The sort of day I dread! Let’s see how things go with our maiden journey with British Rail!
We started the day slowly and walked the bikes through Chesterfield town to pick up some travel food and then rode the mere 1km to the train station. The first thing we noticed was that our train was arriving at Platform 1, the street level platform. Yay! No stairs or elevators to tackle. Things were looking promising. We waited on the platform and as our train sped into the station we again stood with eyes glued to the carriages looking for the bike symbol to tell us where we needed to go to heave the bikes on board. The first carriage had a bike symbol on the side, the other carriages went by…no bike…no bike…no bike! Darn! Only one carriage for bikes and it happened to be the first one, that was now all the way up the end of the platform! Start power walking! We hurried along to get to the carriage…PHWEEEEEEEE!!! The whistle blew! The station officer held up his paddle. Fair dinkum, give us a chance! We got to the carriage and Steve got his bike on board (made much easier by our lighter loads), then I managed to heave my bike on board, just as the doors closed! We squeezed in and found there were three hooks for bikes. One little nook with one hook and another nook with two hooks. In the nook with one hook, the train workers had decided to place a big bag of garbage! In the nook with two hooks, there was already a lady with her bike, but her one bike was filling the space for two, so we couldn’t move and we couldn’t unload the bikes and we couldn’t hang the bikes. The lady said she was getting off at the next station so we figured we could stand and sway and wobble until then. Steve decided to stay with the bikes while I went off to find our seats and put some of the bags in the overhead rack. I found our seats (the seats we’d been allocated and for which we had tickets with the seat numbers on them), to find a lady and her enormous back pack and her walking poles, were in our seats.
“Do you have 11A?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, “I have a rail pass.” I had no idea what that meant, I just knew she was in our seats! I sifted through our tickets to find the one with the seat numbers on them to show her, but she wasn’t looking like moving. Thankfully, the train stopped and she got off, so at least we could sit down and the bike lady also got off, so now we could get the bikes stowed as well. What a rigmarole! It had not been a good start! It had been another typical, oh so familiar, stressful start to the train journey!
We settled in for the four hour journey to Edinburgh and watched the English countryside, towns and cities zip past the window. We watched grey skies turn into rain and then back to grey and then a glimpse of sun as we whizzed past Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle and then onto Scotland. Just before we were due to arrive, we hopped up and went up to the carriage where the bikes were stowed, so we could load them up and be ready to jump off. What did we see in the space with the bikes? There were now four bags of garbage dumped in the space around the bikes! Obviously as the rubbish is collected from the passengers on the train, what better place to put it than around other passengers’ bikes and luggage! That’s clearly the best place for it! Bikes don’t matter! It made it a bit difficult to get to the bikes and our bags, but we eventually got them off their hooks, loaded them and then we finally pulled into Edinburgh station.
We hopped off, wheeled the bikes along the platform and then, thankfully, there was a ramp up to the street for us to walk the bikes straight out of the station. As we came up from the platform and onto the street, I looked around and the first thing that came into my head was, WOW! What a beautiful city! The buildings were amazing. Just stunning. I looked around and just stood in amazement at what a spectacular sight had greeted us. I smiled!
We hopped on the bikes and off we went, riding through the streets towards our accommodation, where we would meet up with Steve’s mum and dad. It was as we were riding through the city that we were reacquainted with cobblestones. DRRRRRRR…DRRRRRRR…DRRRRRRR went my bike as I bumped and teeth-chattered along the streets, round the corners, up the hills and weaved in amongst the cars, black cabs and buses. It was super fun! We then made it onto a bike path and we whizzed along through tunnels and beside a river and beside trees and it was one of the most fun rides I’ve done. I was grinning and pumping the pedals and just having a brilliant time. A mere 10km later, we pulled into the lane of our little house, where we’ll be staying for the next four days. Len and Pauline had arrived and after being greeted by the owner and shown around, we settled in. Steve and I didn’t quite know what to do! We had space…and a couch that Steve could stretch out on…and a heater that turned on with a switch…and it was warm… and we had a dining table…and a whole kitchen…with an oven and everything…and a big soft bed…!!!!! It just went on and on!!! It was all so normal and civilised and completely different to how we’ve been living for the last four months! What a treat! What luxury!
We all went for a stroll beside the river to pick up supplies from the nearby supermarket. As we walked along, Steve again discovered that he could not have lived in this country in centuries past! Since being in England, Steve has hit his head on door frames, ceilings, shelves and during the walk, he discovered that his near-concussed brain is not even safe in the great outdoors, since even the bridges were at head-whacking height!
On our return we cooked a big meal of vegetables, in the big, normal, full sized kitchen! Then we sat down at the table! We ate together at a dining table! We even had real plates, not plastic ones! Then…I got to make a cup of tea…in a real teapot! Then I got to drink it out of a real mug! It was all so special!
We spent a pleasant evening catching up, sharing stories of our travels again and then finally hit the hay in our comfy beds. What a day! It started a bit stressfully with that doozy of a train trip, but it ended wonderfully, arriving in a beautiful city, having a lovely home to stay in and family to share it with. Special!
Sunday, June 21
Today I had something a bit different on the schedule. I had entered my first organised run since we’ve been on this trip. Wherever we go I always look to see if there’s a race scheduled but haven’t been able to find one that coincided with a place we were in. When I knew we were going to be in Edinburgh, I searched for a run and found that there was going to be one on at the same time we were here, so I entered. Today was the day I was running The Great Scottish Walk Run Festival 10K. The day was again grey and cold, and the four of us drove out to Holyrood Park, where the run was to begin. I picked up my number and then we waited in the freezing cold for the start of the race. We stood around in our puffer jackets and multiple layers and shivered in the blowing, cold wind. I went to stand in line at the portaloos and a lady beside me said, “Oh, it’s bitter!” So it wasn’t just us! The locals thought it was freezing too!
After an energetic group warm up led by the effervescent Emilia who tried to rev us up with star jumps, leg swings and loud shouts of “Whoo!!”, we were directed to the start line. We stood while the pipers played the bagpipes (so great!), then we were given the GO!
Off I went, to find that the start of the course was straight up hill…into a headwind! Why did that feel so familiar? There’s no escape, whether I’m riding or running, those hills and wind just seem to track me down! Up we went, then a bit of a downhill, then back up hill…the hills kept coming! I passed the half way mark and got a clap and encouragement from Steve, Len and Pauline standing on the side of the road.
“This is such good fun!” I called out to them, “but there’s a lot of hills!!”
Then, just as I’d said that, I had a long hill climb, winding round and round, up this hill…
It was a doozy! It just went on and on! Three solid kilometres of non-stop climbing. The reward for that effort though, was an absolutely amazing view from the top. I could see across the rooftops of Edinburgh and across to the castle and it was beautiful. I said to myself, “I’m in Edinburgh! I’m running and look at what I’m seeing. How amazing is this!” Then, the finish line was in sight and I couldn’t stop grinning, because it was just such fun, even though the legs and lungs were talking to me rather loudly!
I crossed the finish line and then discovered that somehow, I had managed to be the first finished out of all the women runners. I’m not sure how that happened. I haven’t won anything for running before. I learned this from a race marshall, who stopped me on the finish line and said in that beautiful Scottish accent, “Well doon. Yoor the fairst laydee horm. There’ll be a praiz.”
So we waited around in the cold and wind a bit longer, for the prize giving. I think one of the highlights of the morning, was not the prize, or being the first woman, it was just hearing my name called as “Haydee Boosh.” It sounded so great with that accent! I went up and received my prize of an engraved plate and that was that! I’d finally got to do a run on this trip and now I could go and top off the morning with a nice cup of tea from a tea pot and in a real mug. That’s what I call special!
After a shower, warm up, and a couple of cups of tea, we rugged up in layers of puff and thermals and headed off to continue our new Sunday tradition of a pub lunch. We found a pub, where we happened to be the only ones in the place and found a booth by the window. Steve enjoyed his steak and ale pie, Len and Pauline tackled a mountain of nachos and I had the vegan haggis with neeps and tatties (mashed swede and mashed potato). It was sensational! So tasty!
We then walked off our lunch with a roam around the streets of Edinburgh. It was still freezing cold! The wind was making it extra cold, but we strolled and shivered and the chilly weather could not detract from the fact that Edinburgh is a beautiful city. “Isn’t it gorgeous,” I said to Steve. I just looked up and looked around and the buildings were just stunning.
We roamed the streets, went up to the castle, where it was obviously action stations in preparation for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August. The stands were being put in place and there was scaffolding all around, but we got to walk around the area where the events take place.
It was just a nice, leisurely afternoon (albeit a very cold one!) of strolling and roaming and marvelling at the wonderful city we were in. As we were heading back to the car, we saw a long flight of steps. Steve and I looked at each other. Why not!
“Let’s run them,” I said, (because obviously the legs hadn’t done enough today).
“No!” said Steve, “we’ll walk them.”
“Oh, come on,” I urged, “we can run them.”
So I took his hand and together, in unison, we pitter-pattered up the steps at a steady clip. The legs finally asked for a rest wen we got to the top!
So that was basically the day. I got to do a run. We were able explore the beautiful city of Edinburgh and then recover from the cold in our warm and comfy little house nestled in its quiet, cobbled lane. How good is that?! Tomorrow is supposed to be even colder, with the added side order of rain as well, but I think we can fairly say now, we’re used to that! It will be nice to be settled in a place for a few days and have a little rest and take things at a leisurely pace for a while. That will be a nice treat. The whole trip is a treat, there’s no doubt about that. It’s the triple chocolate, soufflé mousse, caramel ice-cream with sprinkles, cheesecake and trifle kind of treat of a trip! It’s so many amazing things rolled into one journey, that little extras like this layover in Edinburgh just become another layer of greatness on top of something that’s already pretty darn special. So what will tomorrow bring? Who knows, it will be like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get!