Is it Edinburgh, Edinburrr or Ice’nburgh?
Ya need hairy legs to wear a skirt in that weather!
Tonight I am toasty in Jingmei’s Oxford dorm room, enjoying the warmth of her room and her love, which is a wonderful change from this morning, when we were a few hundred miles north in Edinburgh, Scotland.
We were there trying to enjoy a mini-vacation from her studies in Oxford and my work in Washington, DC. That is, until this morning’s speedy departure. We didn’t plan to leave this morning, in fact, we pissed off or hotel and paid fines to change our tickets, but the price was gladly paid to get out of town.
Starting in the beginning of March, Jingmei and I tried to think of a fun place to go this week, for I would be flying in for the week to celebrate the end of this term’s mentally exhausting exams. Quickly, most fun European destinations were crossed off the list, as Chinese nationals, even with UK student visas, need to complete a lengthy visa process that Jingmei didn’t have the time or energy to do while preparing for her exams.
I even spent a few days calling embassies to odd places like Romania, Tunisia, and even Cyprus, who usually lets anyone in, just to find that every country required her to apply with flight and hotel reservations before granting a tourist visa. In defeat, we looked at the little island she lives on now.
Back in 1997, when I had my Cool Britannia tour of South England, I missed out on a desired trip to Edinburgh for a drunken jaunt to Cardiff. At the time, I was a little disappointed to miss out on a much-hyped destination, for much-maligned Wales, and always wished I’d gone north instead of west.
Now that we were confined to the UK, I made my move. Jingmei and I headed north on a planned 5-day excursion to Scotland, finally fulfilling my four-year-old dream. Gee, lucky me.
The trip started with a bad omen when our Virgin train was canceled and we had to take a two-hour bus to Birmingham before boarding a crowded and delayed six-hour train north. Once there, icy wind instantly tore into us, with only a brief ray of sunshine to welcome us on our walk to the hotel.
The hotel was very clean and nice, with Jingmei commenting on how she’d love to have a home designed like this one day, and we were happy until midnight rolled around. With me in full jetlag and Jingmei wired from sleeping all day on the train, we were awake when we heard the heater turn off. It was -2C outside, before the 20-knot wind chill was factored in, and the heat turned off! Agh! The English are SO cheap!
Awaking at noon the next day, after a night hiding under the covers, we expected the heat to back on. Yeah, right! Out of the cold room we fled, into the marginally colder streets, just in time to see a glimpse of the sun near the beautiful if foreboding Edinburgh castle.
Before the omnipresent clouds could depress us, we ducked into the very inebriating Whisky Tour to find out that single malt whisky (without the “e” up here) is from germinated barley while grain/blended whisky is from unmalted grain, the latter being cheaper and much more commonly consumed. The rest of the afternoon was a blur of cold stumblings, warm pubs, expensive and tasteless Chinese food, more cold stumblings, and finally, a cold hotel room.
Was it no surprise then, when, after our tasteless “English” breakfast of eggs, toast, fried tomato, ham, and beans(!), I asked Jingmei if she wanted to leave tomorrow, a day early? That’s when Jingmei re-affirmed my decision to marry her by saying, “Why not leave now?”
Twenty-three minutes later (yes, I was counting) we rolled out of Edinburgh on a Virgin train heading south with this parting thought: “It is far better to spend a day on a Virgin train than a day in a cold Edinburgh pain.”
I guess you had to be there…