I checked Twitter this morning and was suddenly reminded that LOST ended last night. Having never watched the show, I…don't get it. But I don't really understand all the people who are so adamantly, violently against the show, either. The Twitter dance between LOST disciples and anti–pop culture backlash is always hilarious, especially when I can look back on the raging battle, blissfully unaware, as I'm waking up on a beautifully sunny and cool morning in Edinburgh.
I would have been fast asleep either way.
Today, instead of the long, arduous Monday-morning commute into the Chicago suburbs, I'm on a bus headed north into Perthshire, where we'll visit a "Plant Hunters'" garden full of rare specimens, feast on traditional fish and chips, and visit a whisky distillery.
Yesterday, we boarded a different bus, with a different driver, and made our way through a driving rain along the A1, southeast into England. The sky was grey, the asphalt shrouded in a fine mist; at times, we couldn't even see the North Sea off to the left for the fog. Every so often, to our right, there were tiny, woolly sheep everywhere grazing on grassy meadows and craggy hills. In other places, the ground turned a brilliant yellow with fields of rapeseed in full bloom.
I slept on and off — jet lag and some particularly wonderful episodes of Angel on DVD had gotten the best of me the night before — waking at intervals for lessons on history, geography and various British accents from our tour manager, Chris. (Try this one in your best Scottish: "Och! My toes are trampled to a pulp!") We spent the entire day in Alnwick, a beautiful little town whose main attractions are a small garden and a castle. As somewhat less of a garden enthusiast, I made it through the garden in about an hour and set off into town with my camera. But Alnwick is no Paris; the photography is slim pickings. After another hour of wandering about and walking up to stores I wanted to visit only to find them closed for Sunday, hanger had overtaken me and I needed lunch. I settled on a tiny restaurant with courtyard seating.
The British frown upon solo diners. Hmph. Well, I frown upon British food. Ugh. I ordered a bacon and brie Panini, the only thing on the menu that sounded even remotely appetizing, and was promptly poured on as soon as my food arrived. I played Sudoku on my iPhone — God bless my iPhone — and waited out the rain.
Yesterday was an off day.
It's lonely here, despite the fact that I'm traveling with a group. The first couple of nights, I went out with Chris and his friend Sarah, who lives in Edinburgh, for drinks and dinner. Which made me feel very much part of the "in" crowd. But it's hard to relate with my fellow travelers, given the age gap and my level of gardening knowledge; being here as a journalist, it doesn't always feel like I'm part of the group. Which is fine.
One of the things I'd looked forward to about this trip was all the time I'd have to myself. Except I haven't used it very well: one trip to Sainsbury's supermarket for a bottle of Evian and a visit to Marks & Spencer for a new handbag, after the zipper busted on the one I bought for Paris last year. Stupid $19.99 deal from Target. But last night, I was exhausted to the point of antisocial, and I embraced it. I went straight to my room, logged on to Yelp and started looking for takeaway Thai. Turns out, one of Edinburgh's highest-rated Thai restaurants, Dusit, is around the corner from my hotel in tiny, one-way alley called Thistle Street.
I walked past sweet boutique shops with fancy purple leather handbags and posh little restaurants I could kick myself for missing until last night, until I happened upon this hole in the wall that smelled like…home. I ordered green curry with chicken and sat in a folding chair by the front door until they brought my bag to me. I ate in bed and fell asleep at 9:30. I was more content last night than I have been in any quiet garden grove since we arrived.