New Travels

Elephant Shortbread

Everything in Edinburgh is green and brown and small. Doorways. Mountains. Knotty-limbed trees. My nose and fingertips have been cold all day. The sun didn’t completely set until 10:00 pm. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours.

Today I took a walking tour and had shortbread cookies in the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote The Sorcerer’s Stone. I wandered graveyards and took pictures. I ate a pork sandwich, drank Australian ginger beer. I wore a big sweatshirt under my coat because it’s that cold, and walked a slow ring around Edinburgh Castle at sunset.

So far, I want to write about. My Scottish dance teacher. How some travel destinations should suck but just don’t. How I love volcanoes. Like, enough to add it to my Facebook “interests” list, if I ever used Facebook, which I don’t anymore. How being here reminds me, inevitably and somewhat embarrassingly, of my intense teenage Mists of Avalon phase. James McAvoy in a kilt. A news report from 1989 about a New Kids on the Block concert in Edinburgh that I have taped on VHS in my house somewhere. And a woman on the airplane and her crazy body spray. Actually, let’s talk about that one right now. It can’t wait.

I arrived at dawn and the first thing I noticed is that the control tower at the Edinburgh Airport is shaped like a bong. The second thing that I noticed is that the middle-aged, heavily accessorized Irish woman in the row in front of me, at the instant we touched down, started spraying herself everywhere with a flowery-smelling aerosol body spray. And spraying. And spraying. Like, two whole minutes of spraying.

It’s one of those things. One short spray in a confined space with a probably-prohibited substance (it was aerosol and definitely more than 200 cl) that smells like a terrorist bombing at a Sephora, is rude. Long, continuous spraying with this same substance, however, has deeper implication. It conjures—in really incredible detail, even at that hour of the morning, the thick-necked boyfriend on the receiving end of all this hissing and stinking.

So that’s how my day started.

Also, I want to write about the weirdness of this hostel. Which has a lovely, friendly vibe (and free WiFi, so who’s complaining) but looks like it was decorated by homeless people who spent a lot of time in Thailand. Take right now, for instance. I’m sitting here with nice people enjoying the free WiFi and watching Behind Enemy Lines on an enormous TV. (Which, honestly, is probably not the film I should be watching on my way to Croatia…) But if I pick my head up from this screen, I sort of wonder if we’re in a fallout shelter and not on vacation.

Not that it’s a bad sensation?

I think that means it’s bedtime.

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