A week in Scotland {Edinburgh & Aberdeen}

A week in Scotland {Edinburgh & Aberdeen}

// Edinburgh -- July 27-31, 2018 //

Happy to put our weird ass cottage experience behind us, we left Wales and headed for Edinburgh. I know I’m just a broken record saying how great first-class train travel in England is -- but it’s really fucking great. (Only on Virgin or LNER Trains though, as we learned on this trip).

On the first leg of the trip we were fed breakfast. The coffee was actually pretty good, and breakfast was hot and not half bad. Kris had the “full english” which was a small version of the real thing and I had a vegetarian hash.

We had a bit of a wait in Manchester so we went up to the first class lounge. It wasn’t amazingly first class, but it was far better than waiting down in the crazy station. I had enough time to make some tea and stuff my pockets full of cookies at least.

First Class Lounge Manchester Piccadilly England

The final leg was into Edinburgh and since it wasn’t quite dinner time yet, we got stuff from the lunch menu, plus ciders and fruit and more cookies. I mean, look at this spread:

Virgin Trains First Class to Edinburgh, Scotland

Waverly Station in Edinburgh was fucking insanity. It was like my worst nightmare and my least favorite part of travel -- busy shit where loads of stupid tourists congregate. We weaved our way out of there as fast as we could and started making our way to our Airbnb which was a mile away. A mile is a long fucking way when you’re hauling your shit with you, but we made it alright.

Our host wasn’t home so we followed the self check in instructions. He had a nice 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in a modern building and was clearly a neat freak which is fine by me. The room was spotless and so was the bathroom. The whole apartment was filled with light and decorated with Ikea plants and furniture.

Airbnb Edinburgh, Scotland

We unpacked, showered, and tried to work up the oomph to go out for the evening. We thought we’d hit a natural-sounding grocery store and grab some to-go food to take to the park. But the grocery store didn’t end up having any prepared food, it was more of a health food store with a small grocery section. It was super duper hot and humid and cramped inside the store and we both started to get cranky and nutty. Finally it was like okay, let’s fucking re-evaluate and we ended up just getting milk and cereal and going home.

Flexibility is key!

We met our host later that night and he was a tiny, quiet man named Olaf. He was in his 30s, single, and sort of looked like a cross between Edward Norton in Keeping the Faith and Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. Like…..it wasn’t like he sat in the corner and rocked back and forth, but at the same time he was very quirky and particular in the way that perpetually single people in their late 30s can be. His life was built on routine dictated solely by him and most of it was really adorable. Like he’d sit with his feet curled up under him like a cat and watch Netflix shows. At night he’d set out 3 fancy chocolates by the coffee maker and he’d stage a mug while he hit go on his drip machine. Then he’d come back to the kitchen ten minutes later, pour his coffee, grab his chocolates and go into his room. He had a little shelf in the kitchen with cookbooks like “Ten-minute meals for One” and he had a cookbook stand open to the page of the recipe he had scribbled on his little chalkboard for that night.

ANYWAY. We didn’t connect with him at all in any way, but at the same time it wasn’t like we had a bad time there. He was perfectly friendly and polite, but his social anxiety was clear. He always seemed super nervous and rushed and kind of sweaty when he would encounter us in the kitchen or the living room. But also like -- he was incredibly nice, letting us do laundry, insisting we put the drying rack in the hall so it didn’t take up all the space in our room, letting us use his shower since our bathroom had only a bathtub, etc.

Still. It is so strange to stay in someone’s home and not ever “break the ice” and have a real human moment together. Airbnb is weird sometimes. I get why people are hesitant to use it.

The next day was a Saturday and we set out to explore downtown. But first: coffee.

We stumbled (via TripAdvisor) onto one of the most unique coffee shops ever. It was dubbed as the first artisan shop, the first one to roast in house, etc. but it wasn’t snooty or (overly) hipster at all. They were totally approachable and it was a very homey- set up in that there was no counter or cash register or barrier between barista and customer. You basically just walked into a giant room and there was a coffee machine in the corner. There was no apparent order to anything, but at the same time there was no chaos. You just took a seat and then wandered around until you saw one of the guys and you just asked them to make a coffee for you. They don’t take your name or give you a number and you don’t have to come back and get your drink -- they just come and find you and deliver it to your table. All of the pastries are self serve -- you just get yourself a plate and grab what you want and in that sense it’s all 100% the honor system. It’s on you to find a barista before you leave, tell them what you ate/drank and then give them money for it. All in all it was extremely fucking refreshing and I wish every place was like that.

Afterwards we got back to seeing the town. At one point we went into a TK Maxx looking for packing cubes because everyone claims they change your life. We were also on the lookout for a small, cheap backpack to use as a day bag. I was ooing and ahhing over the fanny packs and he said, “Don't call it a fanny pack - fanny means pussy here so a fanny pack would be a dildo.”

And I said, “But also this is a pack right above my fupa, so…..” It still made sense.

Edinburgh is relatively small so the center of town was compact and I can’t say that I liked it. It was just overrun with tourists in a way that kind of ruined it. We walked around and saw all the things you’re supposed to see, but we were quickly kind of “over it” and it was very draining. I guess I’m just a London girl at heart? Because in London we can literally be out all day long, like literally all day starting with a coffee shop, and we’d be walking towards the train station to get on the train home for the night and half the time I wouldn’t want to go. I like couldn’t get on the train. I just wanted to “be” in London some more even if that just meant sitting by the river or aimlessly walking around.

Edinburgh was the total opposite -- it was beautiful, sure, but a few hours in and we were spent. 

We grabbed groceries for dinner and went home, ha. Dinner was great though! We went into a fancy artisan butcher shop and got an unbaked ham and leek pie + some amazing shortbread.

Later that night Kris had gone in the bathroom to trim his beard and I was in our room posting shit on Instagram. Then I had a message from him pop up. It said, “Hey, I'm locked in the bathroom. The lock fell apart. I need you to push the little thingy below the handle back in from the outside.” I was absolutely dying at the details of the message, and at the fact that he opened it with, “Hey”. We were both cracking up about, but he made the great point of saying that he said all of that so I’d know exactly what to do, and I did.

But still. For the rest of the week, we kept milking that joke -- just looking at each other and saying, “Hey…..”

Sunday morning we woke up and decided to hit a weekly farmer’s market that was happening that morning and get breakfast. But we got to the market and it was tiny and unappealing. They had some nice looking shit, but it was super duper cramped with nowhere to sit and enjoy any food we would’ve gotten anyway. There was only one place selling coffee and it had a long line and only served brewed coffee from a pot. It just wasn’t our jam. Hence another fuck-we-are-hungry-but-nothing-is-it fit.

This is honestly our biggest downfall when we travel, so I’ll take it, ha. Then it started to lightly rain so that was not helping in the moment. At first we just starting walking hoping to find somewhere but that just never fucking happens. You always walk by the cutest cafe of all time after you’ve just fucking eaten. It doesn’t work the opposite where you stumble on your dream place just as you’re starting to get hungry. I was like wait, fuck, no. Pull up Trip Advisor! We found two places right around the corner and one of them was a french cafe that was cheap and perfect. We couldn’t sit outside because of the rain, but the inside was cozy enough. They fucked up with our coffee though and forgot about it and at that point -- since we are addicted to caffeine -- it was “too late”. Like we still drank our flat whites and they were deelish, but we had passed the point of them waking us up. We had let ourselves get way too hungry and way too flustered and it’s funny how hard it is to recover from that!

Thankfully our food was amazing though and we had a super chill day planned, so obvi worse has happened and these are total fucking light problems and we know what wankers we are.

I got an amazing bagel and cream cheese with crispy bacon, soft scrambled eggs and fresh tomato on the side. Kris got a breakfast quiche and all was well.

Afterwards we walked along the Water of Leith and it was pretty magical. Like that is what I would recommend doing if you are in Edinburgh. It was like another world.

The drizzling rain perfectly fit the riverwalk and we ended up in one of the most spectacular cemeteries I’ve ever seen. It was gorgeous and so massive and well kept. We walked up and down so many aisles just reading the headstones and wondering about people’s stories -- a lot of the grave markers gave info on multiple family members so it was fascinating to piece it all together.

On the other end of the cemetary was the entrance to an art museum so we decided to go in there to dry off and warm up since museums are free and always have cafes with cheap tea.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Afterwards we walked back home along the river and stopped at a bakery to share a blueberry cheesecake cupcake. That’s just as good as you are imagining.

Later that night we went back out to walk over to Holyrood Palace. It wasn’t as cool as Buckingham Palace in terms of just the wow factor from the outside, but it was worth seeing and the walk over was nice. We actually got lost and ended up walking down a dead end street full of ridiculously fancy brownstones. At the edge of the grass of Holyrood Palace, there is this little shack made of stones that said it was built in the 1500s when Queen Mary lived there and it was called the Queen Mary bath house. But it was the tiniest little structure set very far away from the rest of the palace.

Queen Mary's Bath House Holyrood Palace Edinburgh

Kris kept goofin on it saying, “Where's the Queen? She fucked off to the bath house at the end of the yard.”

Queen Mary's Bath House Holyrood Palace Edinburgh

There was another plaque on the grass that said this is where the King’s privy garden used to be. Another goof, “This is the Kings privy garden…..can you imagine? Get the fuck outta here, this is my privy garden. You ain't privy to this shit!”

On our walk back we ducked into the cutest pub of all time. I ordered a chai tea and it came out as a chai latte in a fancy mug on a saucer with a little cookie. It couldn’t have been more darling. And they were playing an amazing 80s soundtrack. Kris likes all of the funny little food items -- often a menu will list things like, "Fizzies" or "Toasties" and everything sounds so cute. So he wanted to add, “Puffies and poachies and hog chocklins” as more whimsical sounding items. 

Edinburgh Scotland

Monday we decided to splurge and do something totally touristy -- tour the Brittania, the royal family’s yacht that was decommissioned and brought to Edinburgh. It was worth every penny. If we do spend money on things like that, they’re well researched choices and always pan out. The yacht was really a sight to behold and again the audio tour absolutely made the whole experience. There were four floors to explore and it was really fantastic. The old black and white family photos scattered throughout felt really special. It was so interesting to see the captains quarters and where the crew slept and the laundry facilities and the on-board hospital and surgery. It was like a floating city.

The Royal Yacht Brittania Edinburgh
The Royal Yacht Brittania

Later that evening we got home and ended up getting onto a subject that warranted a discussion that was not appropriate to have in our Airbnb. That’s the other shit thing about staying in someone’s home -- you can’t 100% be yourself. Like, you can’t have a big loud debate/disagreement, etc. in someone else’s home. Well. I guess you technically can and fuck, maybe that’s why lots of hosts say they don’t host couples….

ANYWAY.

Like the good people that we are, we went for a fucking walk and worked it out that way. I tend to crave movement when we’re working something out anyway. We wandered around the neighborhood and ended up walking to the water’s edge and catching the very tail end of the beautiful sunset.

Edinburgh, Scotland

// Aberdeen -- July 31-August 3, 2018 //

And Tuesday, we were off to our next stop: Aberdeen. Our train was in the morning so we got up and made coffee and had snacks to tide us over until the train breakfast. Olaf was home the entire time, but never came out of his bedroom. Something I can relate to because there’s certainly been guests where I’ve hid in my room until they left because I just didn’t want to deal with them anymore, and wasn’t obligated to. But at the same time, it’s weird to not say goodbye to someone after you’ve stayed with them for days. And it was late in the morning when we left and we had been up for several hours so that made it even weirder not to have seen him.

Our train again was awesome. We were early so we went to the lounge and the Edinburgh lounge was proper comfort. The train itself again was amazing, the breakfast and coffee were on point and the ride itself was nearly entirely on the coast and it was absolutely stunning. Another ride where we couldn’t even watch or hardly read anything -- you’re just glued to the window.

LNER First Class Train Edinburgh to Aberdeen

Aberdeen seemed adorable and right away I loved it so much more than Edinburgh. We had another mile walk to our Airbnb and another self check in since our hosts weren’t home. The house was super darling and old and quirky. Our room was big and the bed was gigantic and comfortable.

Airbnb Aberdeen Scotland

We were both starving though, so as tired as we were, we headed out for food. It was the perfect set up as there was a cafe on their same street literally four doors down. And it was well priced and fabulous. I had a grilled bagel sandwich with mozzarella, pesto and roasted peppers. I ate every last bite.

We went right back to the Airbnb and just enjoyed the bed and our quiet time before our hosts got home from work. The first one home was the dude and he was darling -- an adorable Scottish guy and he was super welcoming and chatty. A bit later the girl got home and she was equally as cute -- like a Scottish Zoe Deschanel, if you can imagine that without your head exploding. She was also incredibly friendly and gave us lots of recommendations knowing we loved food just about as much as she did.

They went about doing their normal life stuff and we decided all we really had in us was the oomph to go to the store and get groceries for dinner. Plus, since they were home and seemed cool we figured we’d take the opportunity for some social interaction.

The walk to the store was so beautiful and the neighborhood looked like a fucking movie set. It was like a damn utopia. We were both completely able to picture ourselves living there. We got back with our food, did some quick prep, and then went into the living room where they were also eating dinner. It was completely relaxed and chill -- there was a Friends rerun in the background and they just seemed like a sweet, content couple just like us.

We even actually “connected” with them when we started talking about travels -- they have been all over Europe like us and they started talking about Italy and we started talking about Italy and we both realized that we had been to the Amalfi coast and hated it….and then the girl and I realized we had both cried out of frustration when we missed our bus connections -- it was so funny, we’d all had the exact same experience there so it was such a random thing to have in common and was so fun.

Shortly after though, they did that “thing” couples do where one of them is like, “Okay darling -- do you want to go to the gym?” Which is sort of like having a friend text you when you’re on a date to give you an “out” if you need it.

It was a little abrupt, but at the time we didn’t think too much of it. They’re just real people living their lives and good for them for going to the gym.

But then after that, for the next three nights we stayed there, they literally never acknowledged our existence ever again. It was so.fucking.WEIRD.

The next morning, a Wednesday, we stumbled out of bed down to the cafe again, which was such a dang treat. Most of the time we don’t go out for breakfast or coffee because we just can’t be up and “on” that early. But when a cafe is four doors down, you can literally just roll out. You don’t have to put on sunscreen, you don’t have to pack a bag, you don’t have to map out your day, you can just go have breakfast and do the rest later.

The breakfast was just as fantastic as the previous day -- I had a warm croissant filled with bacon, eggs, and cheese and Kris had a savory waffle. And afterwards we went home and continued our slow morning, eventually heading out for a walk to Johnston Gardens. Our walk took us through more of the gorgeous neighborhood and the park itself was adorable - it was sort of like a mini japanese garden.

Johnstone Gardens Aberdeen Scotland

We went home for a break in the afternoon and then went back out later in the evening intending to walk through Duthie Park and then onto the beach for sunset. Our plans got thwarted in the park though because it started pissing rain. There happened to be an indoor garden in the park though, so we were able to run in there and what a great place to take shelter.

Afterwards we had to ditch our beach plans and just headed back home to make some dinner. We got home and the dude was there. I went into the kitchen to get some food and he was on the phone and made a weird face at me. Almost like an annoyed face like he thought I was coming in the kitchen needing something from him. But I wasn’t. Though I quickly felt incredibly awkward and just went back upstairs figuring he’d be done and out of the kitchen soon enough. He was and he left and we didn’t see him or the girl for the rest of the night. Until they came home later and didn’t say a word to us. Like we were in and out of the kitchen and living room and they avoided direct contact with us and didn’t even acknowledge we were there. No quick hello, no hey guys how are you, nothing.

It was so.fucking.WEIRD.

The next day, Thursday, we woke up and ended up taking a crazy walk through town that totally kicked both of our asses. We walked to the center of town, which we were immediately turned off by and quickly got out of and started walking towards the university campus. That was beautiful and we parked it in the grass for a while and took a rest. Then we walked to the coast, but it wasn’t all that great in Aberdeen and it was really fucking cold and windy.

We walked down the boardwalk and then walked home, but by the time we got back home our walk had been 7+ miles, which is a lot for us and it’s funny how extra draining it is to do in a city versus in nature. We grabbed some fancy prepared food from M&S and headed back home.

Our hosts were not home again all night, which seemed strange as they’d just moved in and alluded to having family coming to visit that weekend and needing to get a move on getting their backyard ready and unpacking their remaining boxes and cleaning and shit. Again it was the same thing -- they ended up coming home eventually and we were in and out of the kitchen and living room and they went out of their way to avoid us. They didn’t say a single word and just rushed through the house whispering to each other before leaving again. It was incredibly fucking bizarre. They came back later and did more avoiding and whispering, going so far as to microwave food in the kitchen and stand in there and eat quickly and then run up to their room and shut the door for the rest of the night. Like. They just wolfed their dinner in the kitchen? Because we were in their dining area and they didn’t want to to interact with us?

I mean I know - I was a host - hosts are just people and they could have fuck all going on that you have no idea about. But this was fucking weird all the same, regardless of what they could’ve possibly had going on.

Finally that night Kris and I were like -- did that seem weird to you? This is weird, right? And realized yes it was absolutely fucking 100% weird. We went over everything we possibly could have said or done to offend them or weird them out and we came up with nothing. It wasn’t like we had told some weird stories or started bombarding them with butt sex stories or we were leaving dirty dishes sitting out or doing anything off-script at all. Plus -- that first night we had great conversation, we had the Amalfi coast camaraderie, they were so welcoming upon first meeting us, etc.

But after that -- nothing. They literally didn’t speak another word to us.

The next morning we got up, checked out and that was it. There was no note, no message, no contact, no nothing. It was one of the most bizarre Airbnb experiences we’ve ever had.

We ate at the cafe again on our way to the train station and then started another wonderful train journey, this time taking us to our four-week stint in the Lake District!

A Month in Paradise a.k.a. The Lake District

A Month in Paradise a.k.a. The Lake District

Two Weeks in Wales {Colwyn Bay and the north coast}

Two Weeks in Wales {Colwyn Bay and the north coast}

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