It takes exactly twelve minutes for my heart to settle on a mushy love scene with Edinburgh.
At least, I'm sure that's how long the walk upwards from Waverley Station to The Mound takes, during which time I decide the picturesque Scottish capital is quite a romantic backdrop.
The train journey from London has already been punctuated with delightful scenes that have served to remind me how much I love long distance trips: trees whizzing past with dizzying speed, corn fields swaying with the wind, small water bodies twinkling as the sun's rays hit...and the delicious feeling that we're on the eve of something amazing.
It is the day before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. At King's Cross where I board the train - itself a near comical experience when the first train I jump on turns out to be the express service alright...to Leeds - the atmosphere is businesslike, but with a tinge of excitement. London, always a cacophony of voices, languages and accents, is heightened with expectation. Its doors are open, and the world is coming in for a spectacular few weeks of pomp and pageantry in the 2012 Games. Mayor Boris Johnson's voice booms intermittently over loudspeakers across the station, 'This is it, London. The big one!'
When my friend Abena meets me at the station, we squeal like a pair of kids. It's been at least two years since we last saw each other.
'Arrrgh, you cut your hair!'
'So did you!'
And so on...
Abena lives opposite a bakery, a Chinese take out restaurant (foodie alert) and a chic-looking hair salon. As we settle in on the second floor, I get a clear, unobstructed view into one of the apartments on the next floor.
There is a couple in the flat above the bakery who seem to be glued at the pelvis. Their kitchen window looks steamy - but one is hard pressed to know if this emanates from the hot water she's pouring from the spaghetti into the kitchen sink, or the scorching kisses he plants down her neck while she's at it.
I turn around and grin mischievously at Abena. 'You have nice neighbours.'
I have packed optimistically, which really means I've totally underestimated the weather and haven't brought a decent coat for the chilly summer Edinburgh seems to be experiencing. As Abena roots around in her wardrobe for one to lend me, I whip my phone out and send a text to Adi, my Scottish friend in London.
Hey, I'm in your country! What's a must-do in Edinburgh?
He replies soon. A must-do in Edinburgh...is to get out of the city and go to Glasgow immediately.
Bet you can't tell he's from Glasgow, can ya?
The plan is to have dinner and take in some night time sights, but we never make it out of the flat eventually. Once we park our bums on the chairs in the kitchen, we trade scintillating stories we've missed from the other's life, and for the rest of the night, peals of laughter can heard from us every so often.
This leaves us with a steely determination to get up and about the next morning as opposed to lazing around and gorging ourselves on cake.
|We do get up and about|
At least, that is the script.
I don't exactly plan to cheer also for: France (3rd home), The Netherlands (just because), Italy (next European destination), Jamaica (really, who didn't?) and ALL the other African nations (continental alliance, abi), so much so that Abena bursts into laughter. 'Dava, I think you're confusing people by cheering for every country!'
I sit down meekly.
Edinburgh has a quaint feel to it that is such a visual delight for me. There is a decidedly old look about the buildings in a way that makes me feel like I'm walking through an ancient European city. It seems to have two prominent landmarks on either side of it, though with my questionable geography, they may well have been on the same side of the compass - Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh Castle. Now I know my thighs cannot manage Arthur's Seat, and even as we contemplate the climb, I remember Adi's second text:
I was going to suggest Arthur's Seat - because I know how much you love to exercise ;p . (This, I know, is a direct dig over the time we planned to attend an exercise class together and I pulled out at the last minute. Honestly, I had a headache!)
But yes, it means I only admire Arthur's Seat from afar. Edinburgh Castle, though, is an architectural wonder. It towers above us, dominating the skyline with its magnificence. I decide that just seeing this is way better than the rocky peaks of Arthur's Seat.
|Just a little bit excited outside Edinburgh Castle|
Over the next two days, we pack in a whirlwind of activities
|Azonto elephant at the safari park in Stirling.|
We people-watch on the Royal Mile, feast on a hearty Scottish breakfast, visit a safari park in Stirling, fit in a last minute trip to Glasgow for a house party, enjoy afternoon tea at The Balmoral, and buy emergency bags on Princes Street because we've chanced on a book sale and ended up needing to lug our loot back home.
We also discover that the Scots take their love of whiskey to latex levels.
It's not a boring city, that Edinburgh. Well worth the visit!