May 23 – Heading further North

When on holidays, it’s nice to have the occasional lazy start to the day. We had tons of time to get out of Airbnb in a suitably relaxed manner. What a wonderful little place it was – though I think if I only had an upstairs bathroom in real life that’d get old pretty quick. Especially one that is only about a metre across 🙂 Still, really cool to stay somewhere so ridiculously old, yet still holding together. It must have had so many different purposes over its 500 or so years, I wonder what will come next?

We got the bags down the stairs (yes, much easier than going up), jumped through all the hoops required to return the keys to the lockbox, and walked down Micklegate one last time to go to York station. (Once, according to the bus tour, the largest train station in the world, but not nowadays).

Breakfast was at Pret – a fresh ready-to-eat sandwich shop, more or less. Kinda wish they’d expand to Australia. It was during breakfast we noticed that there was actually a Lounge at the train station. As this is our second-last train trip, I splurged (not very much) for First Class tickets, and sure enough, that gets us access to the First Class lounge, with it’s cozy and warm inning fireplace (lol), free coffee and pastries – what’s not to like? A great way to spend some time since we left absolutely nothing to chance and arrived nearly 2 hours early.

One very comfy lounge visit later it was time to head to the platform. A couple of Lifts made it much easier to get across to the platform, no stairs once again, though perhaps there were some stares at the size of our luggage, which seems to be at least twice the size of everyone else’s. Mind you, I guess the locals aren’t going to be travelling around for six weeks.

The indicator boards were super informative, even showing us where we needed to stand to make sure we were in the right place for the carriage we were booked on. Very soon we were on board and in our very comfortable seats by the window, with a good sized table.

I am guessing this is a particularly comfortable train as when we got on, the first thing we heard where the loud snores of one of our fellow passengers, happily carrying on while we boarded and while the train took off once again. Very soon after leaving someone came around to check the tickets, and for the time, to also double check our ‘two together’ railcard (which gives us about 1/3rd off all train fares). It took me an embarrassingly long time to find the railcard in the train app, but, job done and all was well.

Not one minute later another person came through asking what we’d like for our (complementary) lunch. I guess they’re not kidding when they talk about first class! I opted for a chicken Caesar roll while Perry had a hot ‘hog roast’ roll.

Not one minute later (again), (yet) another person came through asking what we’d like to drink. Grand – it’s time for more railway tea!

I’m starting to wonder what may be next in the endless parade of staff. Maybe someone offering us free kittens to borrow to make the journey nicer, or comfy pillows, a turn-down service, but no that seems to be it for the moment, but certainly can’t fault the service.

There are only a few stops, first one is Northallerton. Snory man is still snoring. I get the feeling that shortly after lunch I shall be joining him in this unpleasant chorus. Meanwhile, the train, living up to its ‘Azuma’ name, is a-zooming along at a pretty steady 200km/h, past fields and fields of lush greenery.

Also don’t worry too much about our snoring friend – he woke up in time for his stop, what a shame we don’t get to enjoy his dulcet tones all the way to Edinburgh. Of course I was a second too late to get some of the lovely landscape of Durham, but if you wanted a less than exciting picture of the train station then hey, I’m your guy!

Next stop of note was Newcastle – here is a quite literal whistle-stop tour of some nice old buildings as we zoomed by.

One downside to the seat booking was that we’re on the wrong side of the train to get pictures of the bits where we travel right along the seaside. So let’s all just imagine it was really pretty. The occasional nap later and it was time already to get off the train – hello Edinburgh!

Again as luck would have it there was step-free access to get out of the station – which consisted of three or four lifts up and down and a lot of walkways, but eventually we were duly ejected on to Princes St – wher we very quick learned that Edinburgh is a busy place, at least, near the station. People everywhere going in every direction! But the GPS held true, guiding us to where we needed to be.

We were early to the hotel, but our room was ready which was nice, we were able to check in. There was a moment of concern when looking at the massive staircase going up three or four floors, but our room was on the first floor. Which, due to the crazy-high ceilings (so lovely) was more like the second floor. We’re old hands now at lugging bit fat suitcases up stairs so we made it without too much bother.

The room is very clean and tidy – at first I thought it was absolutely tiny, but the bathroom is almost as big as the room itself, plus a kind of alcove with hanging space and drawers. And the view, well, you don’t get a much nicer blogging station than this – the only trouble is it’s really distracting with that view!

As per standard holiday operating procedure, first port of call was the local hop-on-hop-off bus. The ones here have a few different routes, so we had a go at both the short one and the long one. First things I had learnt – Edinburgh is much bigger than I thought it would be, and also, much more hilly. It also has a number of surprising ‘bridges’ – not exactly bridges in the traditional sense, but the bus commentary would note that we were on a bridge, when it looked like we were just on a normal road, then it would say “now look to your left’.. and sure enough, there’s a gap where we can see this normal street is actually 50 metres above the streets below, and we are indeed on a huge bridge. Kind of like a much more grandiose version of where Enmore Rd meats King St at Newtown – it too is a bridge (over the train line), but doesn’t feel like one.

Just about every building in central Edinburgh is really trying to set an impression and prove something. It mostly looks early 20th century, and every building is projecting solidity, permanence, and even authority, with very strong stone architecture forcefully making itself known across the whole streetscape.

The long bus route went up close to the castle, where it looks like they’re in the process of building the stadium seating for the military tattoo that happens there every year. The street approaching the castle is also, well, tourist central, with shops ranging from the almost-cute “Thistle do nicely” to the trying-a-bit-too-hard, “Bonnie wee gifts!” to the outright tacky-as-all-shit, “The Princess Diana Memorial Tartan shop”.

The castle sure is an impressive sight perched up on its almost impenetrable crag. Great location, that I kinda don’t look forward to the long ascent up to it some time later.

But tour laps done, we thought we’d find an early dinner, and stumbled across a really nice pizza place with fresh sourdough pizzas, huge but deceptively light, and soooo delicious. No, we weren’t going to launch straight into haggis on day one.

After that it was back to the hotel to collapse. Despite this day consisting mostly of sitting on trains and buses, we’re pretty exhausted. Maybe it was bringing the luggage upstairs. So even though it’s barely 7:30, I think that’s about it for the day. More fun and adventures tomorrow!

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