Today is mostly a travel day, but our train to London doesn’t leave until 2:30. We took the advantage of the extra time, and the much better weather, to go back down to the Grassmarket area and have a late breakfast. We had looked up a bunch of good places to eat in the area but sadly ended up in none of them because decisions are hard and you can’t please everyone.
After we ate, we took another walk up Victoria street and went aheads and completed the full trek up Castle Hill to the front gates of the Edinburgh Castle. It was one of the things where it probably isn’t going to be worth it, but you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t get up there and just do it. We reached the top, where they are currently constructing stands for some kind of military parade, and as 4 bus loads of tourists poured around the corner, we gave each other the look that said “Take the obligatory picture and let’s scram.”
We put the finishing touches on packing up our bags and making sure we were leaving our place in good order, and walked outside to get a cab to the train station. As mentioned above, we were on the 2:30 express train to King’s Cross in London. It was at the train station that we had our first experience with Pret A Manger, a chain that sells pre-made salads and sandwiches that were damn good. Picture that part of 7-Eleven that is barely as wide as the 128 spout soda dispenser, but actually with food you would want to eat. After butchering the name for 4 days, because ‘merica, I would learn that it was actually French phrase meaning “Ready To Eat” which makes total sense.
We had assigned seats on the train, but were told seat assignments were “semi-optional”…it only becomes an issue if the train is crowded and someone really wants to sit in a seat…but we wanted to make sure we got 4 seats around a table like we had in Austria last year so we could stretch out relax and do activities. Since both kids are under 5 they technically don’t have seats, and our group only has 2 of the 4 reservations required to secure a table. We sat at one anyway. Our bet was that whoever had the other two seats around the table, would see us and head a different direction. We were right.
The train ride itself was uneventful. The route wound down the east coast of the UK but I can’t say it was especially pretty or dull; exciting or boring. It was nice to see these tiny little British towns, built around churches with maybe a larger house on a hill here or there, go whizzing by…it was almost exactly how I had pictured it, which is probably why it was mostly forgettable.
Across the aisle from us were two #business bros who had clearly just finished a #business meeting with some prospective #business clients and were rather pumped up about their #business prowess. They immediately hit the drink car for some (warm, gross) beers to toast each other and their #business-ing of the day. They both had their #business laptops out (back to back…”battleship style”), clicking away at their email and analyzing every last word they could remember from their #business meeting. e.g. “When so-and-so nodded his head, I knew we had them.” They were, as they say, “having some really good meetings” which almost always code for “no one’s buying anything.”
Perhaps predictably, these poor guys’ high spirits would turn down right somber as we got closer to London and the whole situation had the benefit of an advancing clock. It became clear to them, through back channel emails from their boss (and clear to me because they were reading them to each other out loud), that the meeting did not go nearly as good as they thought. They hit the drink car again.
Luckily, the fellow sitting next to them provided some additional entertainment. I have no idea who this guy was, but nearly the entire length of the trip he talked on his cell phone at a volume suitable for a job interview as a Roman herald. From what we gathered, he seemed to be a student of some sort, perhaps medical school, and was probably not a permanent resident of the UK. There were three separate conversations.
The first was a cold-blooded break up with a significant other of some sort. Spoken phrases included: “When my dad comes to visit next week, you should not come”, “It’s not that I don’t care for you, I just don’t ever think about you”, and “Why aren’t you talking? I don’t understand why you feel strange having a rational conversation about this. I don’t. Like not at all.” It was brutal to listen to and Erin and I (and the #business bros) were on the edge of seats (the guys head was turned away from us). I can’t imagine being on the other end of the line.
The second conversation I would title “tips and tricks to stay healthy during Ramadan.” If you think that sounds boring you’d be right because it was. This is why it was suuuuper annoying that this was the longest of the three conversations. The guy made short work of his lady friend back home, but when someone wants advice on avoiding gluten in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, boom, he’s got hours for you.
Finally was a conversation with a friend about mental health and depression where it sounded like he literally talked a guy off a cliff. To be fair he preluded his advice with “I’ve never worked as a clinic psychologist”, and then he prescribed whomever on the other end of the call medication. Who is this cold-blooded psycho-analyst nutritionalist guy?
Anyhow, we finally showed up in Kings Cross and I was starting to feel cross because for the last hour our train’s AC was out and I wasn’t feeling great. We got our stuff off the train though and began navigating the London Underground.
Luckily Erin had pre-ordered subway cards for us and they were loaded up with cash, so we were able to get moving quickly. We got on the Victoria line by way of elevators…thankfully because of the bags…and off we went. We transferred to the Circle Line on our way to Kensington where we would be staying. Off the subway, and just up the lift (wink) and we’ll be on our w…. …where is the lift? Every station has to have a lift for handicap people right?…there is no lift here? …so…I have to lug these bugs and stroller and children up these stairs and i’m already hot and sweating and feeling ill…yeah…yeah i do…
Eventually we stepped out on to Kensington’s High Street with about a half mile walk in front of us. Just around the corner really, and…it’s uphill…of course it is uphill…why wouldn’t it be…everything in this country is uphill…i’m starting to think the phrase “up hill both ways” is not a figure of speech…but an actual description of the UK…
Alright then, we finally made it to our place. We got the ket out of the lock box so all we have to do is go in and relax. I’ll just put the key in the lock and…its doesn’t go in…no like at all, it doesn’t even fit…no i’m telling you it doesn’t go in the tumblers at all…ok i’ll call the guy…he says it should fit…we’re on the 1st Floor right?…yeah this should work…don’t tell me not get upset…i’m tired and feel stupid, exhausted, hot, and i just want…oh wait…wait I think they call this the Ground Floor here…what if we just walk up the steps and try it on that door…ok I’m and idiot we’re here…hello London.