Road Trippin’ in Scotland – Part 1

A couple of weeks after my first trip to England I had an opening for a 9 days break during the Eid Holiday and since I still had a valid visa to the UK, I thought why not fly back but only to go up north to Scotland this time. I have always wanted to visit Scotland and I guess that was the time for it. By the time I worked the idea up, flight prices have skyrocketed already and the best worst- still expensive- scenario was a one stop flight through Bahrain to London followed by a train to Edinburgh. It was the most expensive flight I have ever booked but I ended up paying for it because I didn’t feel like wasting my last decent break for the summer staying in Kuwait. It was either pay or stay and I decided to pay because I knew I will end up feeling bad if I stayed. And so, I had my bookings finalized making sure everything is set and good to go for my next trip. A trip that turned into quite another adventure from day one; looks like adventures follow any time I go to Great Britain.

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The backside of the Edinburgh Castle as seen from Johnston Terrace

My journey to Edinburgh started with me flying from Kuwait to Bahrain, I reached Bahrain only 45 minutes before my second flight, the one taking me to London. As I wasn’t able to get a boarding pass for that one when I was leaving Kuwait for a reason I only came to know later, I needed to get one from Bahrain. So I went to the counter to collect the boarding pass then bam, no boarding pass for me because the airplane was packed! Apparently the airline company has overbooked the flight and seat priority was given to those who checked in online. And since I didn’t check in online to secure one before the flight –totally my fault as the airline company representative kept on telling me- I ended up with no seat on a flight I have booked 3 months earlier!! I thought I have secured a seat already by paying for that ticket but apparently that wasn’t enough, the payment wasn’t enough and I should have checked in online to make sure I do have a seat on a flight I have purchased. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I don’t think this is the idea behind online check in at all.

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The Writer’s Museum

No one offered an apology for the inconvenience that went down on me by what happened, it got more frustrating when they put the blame on me. I was missing my flight because of them but it looked like I was the one to be blamed for it. It got even worse when they couldn’t find me a seat on any flight leaving to London that night. They offered me a seat on the 10 am flight departing the next morning without any consideration to the train I will be missing because of this slump. I was going to miss my train and pay a little fortune to buy another ticket and the customer care personnel was indifferent about it. I wasn’t offered any compensation whatsoever not even the mileage voucher I was entitled to have, an info I came to know about later as well. I was just asked to send an email with my situation and wait till I was gotten back to. Well, they did get back to me later with only an acknowledgement confirming the receipt of my correspondence which didn’t include an apology even and that was the first and last time I heard from them!!!

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The Mercat Cross in Parliament Square facing the High Street in the Old Town of Edinburgh where important civic announcements used to be made

They seriously managed to ruin the first day of the trip for me! Nothing was going as planned that day and my mind got immobilized. I couldn’t believe what was happening as I haven’t experienced anything like that in all my travels before. I felt extremely down for how things turned out to be that I couldn’t sleep well that night. However I had to accept the fact that I won’t be in London on Friday morning and think about what needed to be done to accommodate the new developments. I decided to sleep on it; tomorrow is another day and I thought I better do the thinking in the morning with a fresh mind. So before heading to the airport the next day, I had to contact my accommodation in Edinburgh to inform them with my yet to be known arrival time, email the airline customer care, and the train company to check the possibility of waving my nonrefundable economy ticket to another time.

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A bagpipe musician in Royal Mile ❤

I finally landed safely in Heathrow and started on my way to King’s Cross to figure out something to do with my expired train ticket. The Virgin Trains people at the station said my best shot is to talk to the train officer, explain the situation and see if he/she can allow me on the train, otherwise I will have to buy a new ticket for the worth of 128 pounds. There were only two remaining train trips leaving London to Edinburgh that night and I had to catch one, I was so determined on spending the night in Edinburgh and wouldn’t go for anything else. The information desk lady was kind enough to wait with me for the officer who showed up 5 minutes before the train departs when I was already being eaten by suspense.

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It has been said that philosophy students used to rub the big toe of the David Hume statue for knowledge but now everyone rubs it for luck 😀

I felt so defenseless at that specific moment; I was exhausted, hungry and couldn’t stop thinking about what needed to be done next. I was actually on the verge of shedding a tear, not out of being helpless, on the contrary, it was simply out of mere tiredness and frustration. I got so overwhelmed when the officer agreed to let me on the train after showing him the e-ticket that says I should have landed in London at 6:30 am that day. I couldn’t believe it, I thought I was going to pay those 128 pounds for that one way ticket but I didn’t. What the officer did was by far the best thing that happened to me that day or maybe since I started on the trip. I was finally able to take a breather as I was eventually on my way to Edinburgh as I hoped I would and without paying for an expensive one way ticket as well. I can never be grateful enough to the information desk lady and that train officer, thank you so very much for turning that day around for me.

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The view of Edinburgh on the way up Arthur’s Seat

And though I was no longer eligible for the seat I booked on that trip earlier and ended up standing for 3 hours till I was able to find an unoccupied one,  I was at last on my way to Edinburgh where I will be spending the night and that was all I could think of at that moment. I was dead tired and couldn’t feel my back nor my swollen feet. I had to rearrange the accommodation and car rental bookings at that time and for the meticulous and punctual person that I’m, that was such a disturbing start for my trip. It surely turned my plan a little upside down, but I was so grateful that this charade was finally coming to an end.

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The statue of Greyfriars Bobby, it’s believed that one should rub its nose for good luck as well

It wasn’t easy for me to effortlessly accept what happened that day but easy or not I had to handle it. I had to come to grips with it and think of how I should turn things around which I eventually did. I was relieved and at ease after I managed to rearrange everything but I need to admit that it was quite difficult for me to be cool with those proceedings. It never occurred to me how things can unexpectedly go south no matter how planned and well organized they can be and at such a moment there would be absolutely nothing to do about it except embracing the changes and get by. What a lesson that one was; a lesson well learned!

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Inside the unique Tron Kirk which is the location of the Royal Mile Market

By the time I reached the hostel, it was past 12 at night and I was like a walking zombie and couldn’t keep my eyes opened. As I was checking in explaining to the guys at the reception why it took me so long to be there, the were so curious, one of them asked me: “when did you leave your home last night?”, that was 8:30 pm which is 6:30 pm Edinburgh time, the guy’s reaction was like “wow, it took you more than 24 hours to be here”; touché! Most importantly, I was finally there dragging myself to my bunk bed ready for some needed and well deserved sleep.

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The Heart of Midlothian which was the location of an old tolbooth where people used to pay their taxes. Later on it turned into a prison, the heart was where public executions took place. People would usually spit on the heart as a sign of contempt, now it’s done for luck 😀

It was astonishing how I literally forgot everything once I had my head on the pillow that night and fell asleep, I woke up in the morning as fresh and energized as I should be as if nothing has happened during the previous 24 hours! It was finally the fun time of the trip where I got to walkabout the city to explore it. I kicked off the day with one of Sandemans New Europe free walking tours of Edinburgh recommended to me by the hostel staff. I have never been on such tours before and was quite skeptical about it to be honest but it was just mind-boggling 😀 I had a blast, the tour was great and the guide was simply awesome. He was so funny and very theatrical when telling stories adding zest and making them all the more enjoyable. That tour was such an excellent start for my day, it gave me the chance to meet some nice people and see the city.  The day just kept on getting better afterwards as I walked myself through Royal Mile into  Aurthur’s Seat enjoying the amazing weather I was being offered.

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Hannah and Nina, we met at the top of Arthur’s Seat and walked our way down together all the way till Calton Hill

Aurthur’s Seat is a green setting in the midst of a concrete jungle, it offers stunning views of Edinburgh from all directions including the sea view, not a super easy climb but it was totally worth it. That lovely day came to a beautiful end with a warm sunset over the medieval city from the top of Calton Hill followed by dinner with a family from Saudi Arabia who stopped me as I was walking myself back to the hostel to ask for directions. I totally enjoyed myself that day and the fiasco that happened on friday was ancient history. I was content and ready to call it a day itching to what was coming up the following morning; my first road trip ever, through the Highlands of Scotland.

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The sunset as seen from Calton Hill with a view of the Dugald Stewart Monument

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