Edinburgh began to melt way as soon as we crossed the North Sea. Within a couple of hours, we were in a completely new landscape. A river roared along side the tracks, piquing daydreams of kayaking. Then the land began to change: the tracks sliced through a valley, brooks meandering over the land, mountains climbing and climbing, seemingly untouched by man save a solitary road and a power line that ran parallel. For miles and miles, little but sheep scattered at random over the meadows. I’m reading a book about Internet data analysis. It’s fascinating, but it seems so incongruous that I keep putting my book down to stare and daydream out the window.
Much of the train ride we spend through Cairngorms National Park. We had considered some time here when planning, and we would love to do so if we ever get a return trip. At any rate, we feel the further north we go, the further away we are from the often enjoyably chaotic streets of Edinburgh.
Arriving in Inverness confirmed this change. The walk from the train station to the hostel was about ten minutes. Like Edinburgh, there were street musicians, but they consisted of a tween singing off key with an iPod speaker, a scruffy dude playing Neil Young, and a guy playing “Thunderstruck” on the bagpipes. Most of the people seem to be coming in to do some outdoor exploring or are from Scotland. There’s not the same broad international array of people.
I do have a bit of a bone to pick with Nessie, however. The weather is perhaps the most Jekyll and Hyde of any place I’ve ever been. On the way to the hostel, it begins dumping, but it gets sunny about twenty minutes later. later as we went to the river, it got unseasonably cold: the next time I play “never have I ever”, I won’t be able to claim “never have I ever worn four layers of clothing in August. Also, the gulls in this town are some entitled little bastards, going right after a meal someone had just set on the ground.
But don’t get me wrong. Inverness is beautiful, and if we hadn’t planned this as a one day lay-over on the way to Isle of Skye, we could spend days here. The city straddles the River Ness, which connects the famous Loch Ness and the North Sea. We walk cross a bridge and watch fly-fishermen down the river. Cyclists abound. The city seems a bit more insulated, like its tourism is around the river, and the rest is for the locals. Some signs are in both Englsih and an older Gaelic Scottish dialect. At Mountain Warehouse, a local outfitter that was practically giving away gear, the cashier scoffed at the out-of-Townes who came and complained of the cold. “What do you expect,”‘she said. “It’s Scotland!” But still, it’s a welcoming place, as Jesus doesn’t mind what brings you to the cathedral.
We got in and and Tapas lunch at Las Tortillias. Red pepper and Swyash soup was banging, and their wine captions were the best. After raiding the local outfitters to get last minute provisions for the las leg of our journey. After a while we began trekking around the city: old churches and beautiful views around the river.
Then we stopped at Hootenany’s for traditional Scotish fare. Nic had steak and I had the Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties. Haggis seems to get a bad rap, but I remember Chelsea raving about this dish as the perfect antidote to the cold. Tonight we turn in early, watching Team GB Olympic coverage. It’s on to Skye in the morning, where I have to figure out this while driving on the left side of the road thing.