Saturday, May 16, 2009

Whisky Express

Mom has developed a strong fondness for Pret A Manger, so we had lunch there and then did some more power shopping in the Covent Garden area. We hit my favorite British ladies' clothing chain, Monsoon, where I picked up a lovely silk tunic blouse, and then went to Marks & Spencer where I tried on hats and purchased (what else but) "knickers." Supposedly everyone buys their underwear (knickers) at M&S, and I like what they sell, so of course I had to pick up a pack on this trip.

We caught a cab to King's Cross Station, famous for many reasons (an IRA bombing in the 1970's, a Pet Shop Boy's song), most recently for being the location of the London terminus of the Hogwart's Express in the Harry Potter Stories. I went to look for Platform 9 3/4's and found it -- just as a baggage trolley was disappearing through the barrier!

Our train left London at 2pm for the 4 1/2 hour trip up to Edinburgh. It was very clean and comfortable, except for the toilet which was nearly as bad as the one on the train between Beijing and Xi'an in China. Facilities aside, the ride was smooth and quiet, and attendants came through after every stop to offer us tea and coffee (complimentary) and snacks (for sale). We were seated with a guy on his way up to Dundee, and he helped us do the crossword puzzle in the Independent.

The train had free wireless internet for the duration of our trip. It worked great but oddly enough when I'd go to to the Google home page, the default language it came up in was Swedish.

Arrival in Edinburgh was spot on time, and a short cab ride brought us to our hotel. When I booked us into the MacDonald Holyrood Hotel, I picked it because it was a highly recommended mid-price hotel and because I got a good price on it from Expedia. When we got into our room we nearly fell over. It is massively huge, large by even US business-class hotel standards. The room (#300) is about 2 1/2 times larger than what we had in London, and has a million-pound view of Arthur's Seat, the remains of an ancient extinct volcano that broods over Edinburgh. We went down to the hotel lobby for some dinner and to taste some local whisky, enjoying some local smoked salmon with a plate of British cheeses. Mom sampled the Highland Park (a single malt from Orkney), while I enjoyed the light and almost floral Isle of Jura (another single malt from off the west coast of Scotland).

The hotel is a T-Mobile Hot Spot. It works great but oddly enough when I go to the Google home page, the default language it comes up in is German.

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