The trip started out like most…The bus will drop you off here and you can wander about until 2:30 when the bus will pick you up at this exact spot. Shop, eat, and enjoy the Ambiance that is Edinburgh. I was on a mission. I needed to get some English Currency. I was told the best exchange rate was at the Post Office, and due to the Queen’s Jubilee, everyone else in the country had the same thought. 2 of the places we’d stopped on the tour were several miles’ walk from our hotel or any of the city tours we went on so when we got to a post office that was close enough, Pitlochry, there was a 45-minute wait to get INTO the building. We ran out of time. Now was my chance. The Exchange was a mere 3 blocks from where the bus dropped me off!
I headed from the St. Andrews and St. George Church on George Street down to Sir Walter Scott’s memorial on Princes Street.
Then I went to the Mall and changed my money. From there, I went back up the hill to the bus collection point. It was 1:30. The bus was going to pick us up at 2:30. I wanted to sit down, but the beggar was not pleased that I was encroaching on her territory. I had no interest in wandering around the shops and I wasn’t hungry, so I sat. I got a wifi connection and thought, “Hmmm, I could locate the hotel and see if I could walk from here rather than waiting an hour.” Sure enough, the hotel was just a 20-minute walk from my location! I checked out my location and looked on my map, and noticed my battery was nearly in the red. I decided to go to my next turn before I turned on my phone again.
I walked back to Scott’s Memorial and headed in the direction my map told me to go. I could see the castle from the street, so I kept that on my left and headed out. There was a wonderful park, and it wasn’t long before I heard band music. The Royal Marines were putting on a concert in the bandstand. They were playing a medley of John Williams tunes. I got to an intersection and found a bench. It had been 15 min, so I had to be close. I looked at my map and discovered I was on the right trail, but I was firmly in the red now. I headed up across the bridge.
I passed the Hanging Bat and the Raging Bull, but somehow that didn’t spark any inspiration to eat. You may not know this, but Edinburgh was one of the first planned cities…set out on a grid. News flash. Weird looking grid. So I come to an intersection of 4 streets…(grid?) Lauriston Pl, West Toll Cross, Home Street, Lothian Road (A7?). Normally, there would be 2: Lothian Road, and one other, but no…Lauriston Pl turns INTO West Toll Cross, Home Street goes approximately 60 degrees south of Lothian Road. Uh Oh.
I stayed on Lothian Road. My phone is officially dead. It is now after 2:00. I should be in sight of the hotel. I am not. I walk further on Lothian road and now nothing looks familiar. I stop at a food truck and ask for directions. Lady gets out her phone. She lives in this neighborhood, but has never heard of my hotel? Then I hear the fateful words that will get repeated to me throughout the rest of my tale: “OK, just go this way for about a mile and a half…” and they point to the way I just came.
I smiled and asked if I could take her phone with me. I had to explain that I was kidding. Oh…Kay… I began thinking if she was pointing me back to where I had just come, wouldn’t I have seen this place on my way here? I headed back down the hill then I recalled that on her phone map, there was the Novotel. We had passed it twice since we got to Edinburgh, so I knew it was a crucial landmark and headed for that.
I FOUND Novotel and walked into the pub attached to the building. I asked the bartender where the Leonardo Royal was and guess what he said… That’s right. He pointed back to where I’d just come and said it was a 13-minute walk according to his phone. Or, I could take the #2 bus. Oh? Where was the bus stop? He said it was down at the bottom of the hill to the left. It was now 2:30. He said they come about every 15 minutes. What he didn’t tell me was that the bus goes 2 directions and they only take exact change. I had a 20-pound note and I wasn’t going to pay 20 pounds for a 1.06-pound fare.
I headed down to the bus stop Where there was a couple from Arkansas also waiting. She had a phone with GPS. “OH! No Problem! Y’all jist go down the hill there and catch Bread Street? Then ya jist turn onto Morrison Street and then to Morrison link.” Now she’s saying that as if she’d lived in, um, Southern Edinburgh…because of her accent. Then she pointed me in the wrong direction. If I could have looked at her phone, I would have been able to tell she had it oriented wrong. I’m good at reading maps. So I headed down the street in the wrong direction. Nothing looked familiar. I stopped at a clothing shop and asked the lady at the desk who had a phone.
This is what I don’t understand. I have lived in my current house for 22 years. I have no idea what my neighbors’ names are, but I know where 2 hospitals, 3 emergency rooms, 4 grocery stores, and at least 15 restaurants are near my neighborhood. I worked 1 year at the Hardee’s on the interstate and could tell you where all the hotels in the area were, and where to get your car fixed and your prescriptions filled. I worked 6 years at the financial office and could tell you every restaurant in a 6-block radius, the music store, the clothing stores, the bus stops, and where to get the best ice cream. The people that I asked were NATIVES of the city, and had lived most of their lives there, and yet not a single person had any idea where the hotel district was (and there were 8 hotels in a 2-block area. You’d think that would stand out!) and had never heard of the Leonardo.
So the nice lady points me back to where I came…It’s a 20-min walk. Now I’ve been on this 20-minute walk for over 1 1/2 hours. It’s getting close to 3:15. I head back up to the Novotel and on the way, I see my Arkansas friends. I told them that I never found Bread street. Oh well. This time I walk East of the Novotel and enjoy the sights. Because…nothing looks familiar. It is now 3:30. You may ask how I know since my phone/clock/map/internet/paperweight is dead. There are clocks on the schools, clocks on the churches, clocks on the time/temp displays in front of the stores and banks… I have officially missed the bus to the Britannia dinner and tour. My group has no idea where I am, and I can’t call my husband to let him know I’m alright. I’m in some sort of educational area, schools everywhere. They look like ghost towns. So I turn around and head back to the Novotel.
There, in front of the hotel, is a coach with its driver. It is a tour coach. Surely this driver has taken his charges to other hotels in the area. He would know! So I go and ask him. He hasn’t a clue. By now, I have discovered there are TWO Leonardo Royal hotels. One is old and picturesque, and one is new. Every time I asked for directions, they tried to send me to the old one which I passed several times before I saw that it WAS a Leonardo Hotel. I probably could have walked in and explained my situation to them and they might have been able to get me to the right one.
The picturesque Leonardo was TWO blocks from the Novotel, and the guy who had sent me to the bus stop had no idea it was there. The new one was about 6 blocks from the hotel and he had no idea THAT one was there. The Coach driver had never delivered tourists to either one. He suggested I take a taxi. “Where am I going to get a taxi?!!!” (Frustrated much?) And while I’m speaking, one pulls up and drops off some tourists. The Coach driver talks to the taxi driver and tells him I need to go to the Leonardo in the Haymarket district. Much to my surprise, he enters into HIS GPS. Oh! it’s not far. It’s now 4:15
He easily finds the place, and due to the fact that every one-way street is going the wrong way, we have to go a longer route than I would have had I walked. I get to the hotel about 4:30 and wait 5 min in line to talk to the concierge. I tell him I’ve become separated from my group and could he call the tour guide to let him know I am alive and well and going to soak in my tub? He was aghast. “They left over an hour ago!!” “I know.” He has the wrong tour group on his “current” list and cannot call him. I get to my room and plug in my phone.
For the 1st time on this tour, I have handicapped facilities, and I COULD take a nice soak in the tub…if it had a drain plug. So, at 4:45, I Facebook messaged my friend Jeremy to let my husband and the tour guide know I was safe and sound. Then I changed into my PJs and went to bed. Even though my paperweight was dead, it kept counting steps…12,000 steps. The most I had walked before this was the 10K steps in Heathrow Airport before my flight home the first week in April. My normal is usually less than 1000.
It appears that on every trip I take, I have to have some alone time…so I get lost? No more shortcuts for me!