Now I'm in the BLOC hotel at Gatwick, with a window out onto the runways, so I can see planes taking off - still about 5 hours until my flight out. Rainy and gray (grey?), but the hotel is right in the terminal, so I don't have to go outside even for a second. Pretty minimal digs, the "shower" is just the bathroom once you've closed the door, and half the rooms don't have windows at all (ick). This is a repurposed office building; these were cubicles. Still, cheap and convenient.
Lots of adventures I'm still savoring. I got to see "the Tempest" in the new Sam Wanamaker Theatre, which is modeled on the indoor theaters of Shakespeare's day, and (for the performance) is illuminated ONLY by candlelight. Super cool. My train out that evening wasn't until 11:30pm, so the hotel clerk suggested I leave my bags with them and enjoy the city a bit more -- I took the Tube to Picadilly Circus, and on a whim got a cheap ticket for a ventriloquist show (this gal, the monkey was particular fun). London rulez.
As does the Caledonian Sleeper, the night train I took up to Edinburgh, though I was of course sleeping through most of it, it was dark, and the train track seems to run through a trench most of the time. Nonetheless, even my first glimpse of Edinburgh was stunning -- with the ancient buildings on the rugged crags right in the heart of the town, there are few cities with more distinct a skyline. I took the very new (2014) tram out to the airport and collected Steve, and we celebrated with sushi and gyoza, in the traditional Scots manner.
Saturday was the Edinburgh Zoo, which has pandas, penguins, lemurs, meerkats and KOALAS! Only koalas in the UK. I could spend hours there. Kind of want to, since the koalas are at the very back and very top of a very steep hill, so once you're up there you'll want to make it last. Yeah, there were pandas too.
After Zoo, to the heart of the city and Edinburgh Castle. Afterwards, back on Princes Street, I looked up at the height and thought, "I walked up THAT?" but I did, and it was worth it. Then to a fairly posh restaurant in what seems to be the hipster quarter, and Haggis Wellington.
Haggis. Heard of it for years, very curious, in spite of Groundskeeper Willie's description of it... always assumed it would be a bit runny and oily, like that little pellet of white fat that's always in every can of pork and beans, and you TRY to eat it but you excuse yourself and spit it out into the toilet. An acquired taste. But NO. I like haggis. It's dark, for one thing, kind of grainy, and very salty, with a nice tang. "You do realize that was on the breakfast buffet this morning," Steve told me, and I kind of had realized that, but I wanted the first taste to be SERVED, not just grabbed from a counter. Once that line was breached, mind you -- for the next 2 mornings, I piled haggis on my breakfast plate. I'm a fan. Perhaps even a cult member. I may form Haggis Eating Kia Soul Owners and combine my two great loves into one movement. HEKSO!
We had more fun on Sunday -- I'd mentioned my obsession with the Forth Rail Bridge (ever since "the 39 Steps" really), and Steve said, "let's go" -- bought us return tickets to a random down on the north side of the Firth, so we crossed the Bridge twice. I would never have thought of that. My OCD approach to such things would require an actual destination on the other side, even if just a restaurant or bookstore, but Steve's right, and now we've crossed the Forth Rail Bridge! After that we headed back to the town center and rode a hop-on/hop-off tourist bus to see other sides of the city, which filled up an hour until it was time to meet Steve's friend Colin, who is a great fellow, and with whom we gabbed with little regard to time until dinner approached and we had to part ways.
Steve and I hit the Zoo again and visited the koalas on Monday, since his flight & my train were both in the afternoon; got rewarded by rather a lot of activity from the males (the lone female was in the exact same spot she had occupied on Saturday, still glaring down). Then a sad parting, and the Virgin East Coast Train back to London.
I have had a great time on this trip, but my favorite parts were the meetings -- linuxcub in Copenhagen, hantsbear and Colin in Edinburgh. My normal travel is rather solitary -- ride a train on my own, go to shows on my own -- but the company of great people will be happiest memories from this jaunt.
In a few hours, off to LAX, and then transfer to Southwest to get home to Oakland. I'm brining my own snacks!