Rising slightly above Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat peaks out letting hikers see the entirety of the city of Edinburgh. I looked down at the old buildings with church steeples peeking through, and thought about how terrible my journey was to this point.
The group was given a free day so that we could have a chance to explore more of England, see France, or visit Scotland. Half of the group decided to go to Scotland. All six of us took a plane, but four were on one flight and two on the other. Nicole Wilkerson and I took a flight into Edinburgh and stayed at a hostel Monday night. The beginning of the trip started out bumpy because we were supposed to take a bus from Kings Cross station to Stansted Airport an hour and a half away, but we missed the bus by one minute.
So we took a not-so-cheap taxi to the airport, but luckily our driver knew short cuts and just the right words to calm us from our anxiety attacks. Once on the plane and finally relaxed, I pulled out my wallet to put my London Underground pass in it, and noticed that my debit card was missing. Turning my bag inside out and seeking the help of the flight attendants, my search came up empty, kind of like my wallet. It was going to be ok though. I spent the entire plane ride thinking of ways to fix my money situation, and never once thought of Western Union, what we ended up going with.
With our feet on the ground in Scotland, Nicole and I just had to find Bus 35 to Tollcross and walk to our hostel, but with it being our first time in Edinburgh, we were unsure how to navigate the streets and understand their bus system. We ended up at the end of the line, but our driver was kind enough to get us back to the right stop and point us in the right direction. We still got lost. Once we did find our hostel, it was calming to lay back and relax in the beds.
Tuesday morning, we needed to find Western Union, and according to Google maps it was only a twelve-minute walk, but we managed to get lost and take an hour to get there. It was worth it because we could see more of the city and I was able to have money.
Back on track for our day, we successfully used the bus to get to Holyrood Park to start our hike. Soaking in the view, all the bad things that happened seemed not to matter because we were in Scotland and had the privilege to travel from our small college town to a city pulsing with history. We learn a lot when attending these trips, mostly by going in and out of museums and tours, but the one thing that is taken from each trip is that no matter what happens, we, unlike others in the world, are getting a chance to partake on trips to other countries. This trip to Scotland taught me that no matter what, show kindness to someone because they could be having one terrible event after another and on the verge of a panic attack, and your kindness might just be what is needed to help them relax. After all, we might be different nationalities, races, religions, or genders, but we are still human.
The events for Saturday 04 March were for use to visit Charles Dickens Museum. After getting lost through a few wrong turns and finding a college, Goodenough College, perfect for me (because you might not be the best, but you are good enough), we found the museum, which was a house that Dickens lived in for a few years with his wife and two of his daughters. The museum gave us an insight into how the renowned writer lived in the 19th century, and after exploring his home we could enjoy a cup of tea in the café down stairs by a garden starting to show the beginning of spring.
When Dickens was younger, his father was put in to debtors prison where Dickens had to spend years working to keep his family’s income steady. This experience was portrayed in his writing as he discussed the issues behind the prison. His novel Great Expectations features a commentary from Pip about debt collectors harshness and the strain it was to families. It wasn’t exactly a protest about the unjust, but a commentary on the issue to show how this affects children.
As we left the Bloomsbury neighborhood, a common writer area of London, we ran into the beginning of a protest at the train station. The protestors were holding signs for the Socialist party that want to save the NHS in the UK, keep racism out of the country, and for the UK not to follow the US in a Muslim ban. One lady invited us to stay in England forever because she didn’t believe that anyone should live in a country spreading hate. Moving on from the that train station, we went to Westminster to tour the abbey that maid kings and queens and laid them in their final resting spot. At the end of the tour, we walked out into Parliament Square were Socialist had gathered in the green to protest for the country to keep the NHS. The website further explains what the NHS is about and how it helps,
NHS England leads the National Health Service (NHS) in England. We set the priorities and direction of the NHS and encourage and inform the national debate to improve health and care. We want everyone to have greater control of their health and their wellbeing, and to be supported to live longer, healthier lives by high quality health and care services that are compassionate, inclusive and constantly-improving. NHS England shares out more than £100 billion in funds and holds organisations to account for spending this money effectively for patients and efficiently for the tax payer. A lot of the work we do involves the commissioning of health care services in England. We commission the contracts for GPs, pharmacists, and dentists and we support local health services that are led by groups of GPs called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs plan and pay for local services such as hospitals and ambulance services. (www.england.nhs.uk).
Together people fighting to keep healthcare from becoming privatized gathered and marched through the streets hoping that Parliament would hear their pleas.
In America we tend to forget that the rest of the world is having similar problems, I will admit to not paying attention to what the rest of the world is going through, and not look to how they are handling these issues as we focus on the same. Joining in with London as they protested showed me that we don’t just need to worry about us, but to help our fellow human beings when there is unjust in the world.
Touching down in London, the twelve of us felt the weight of time forcing exhaustion on us, but forced ourselves to move on so we wouldn’t be the victims of jetlag. Driving from the airport to our hotel gave us time to let it sink in that we were in such a remarkable city, and let others imagine what it would be like if they had a chance to run in to Niall Horan while he is in town recording. Once we made it to the hotel, we were informed that check in was not until two, but we could leave our bags with them while we explore the city.
If there is one thing I can offer to those who travel to a new city without a way to have Google maps at your hands, always listen carefully to the person kind enough to give you directions and maybe even write them down, or not. Sometimes getting lost in a new city is fun because you always find your way back. We made wrong turns on our first outing navigating the city, but found out way to our destination even if it meant walking a few extra steps.
Another piece of advice is that if there is a tourism card that offers discounts, take it up. It is always important. We circled the city on the Hop on, Hop off bus tours listening to the history of the city that made the sonnets of Shakespeare and carried Dickens in his walks. Our one stop for sightseeing was the Tower of London, but first we needed fish and chips to give us energy to make it a few more hours until it was time to go back to the hotel.
At the gates of the Tower, I felt overwhelmed by the fact that I was standing at the gates were Anne Boleyn was held before she was falsely accused and beheaded, and were Marry Queen of Scots stayed before she was beheaded for treason against Queen Elizabeth I. The halls of the Tower held countless of stories of queens staying there before their coronations, queens going into confinement before childbirth, princes who were murdered in the middle of the night, the armor of England’s Kings, and the crown jewels.
Have you ever seen a raven play fetch with twigs? Before the tower, neither had I, but these attention seeking birds approached tourist with multiple twigs begging to have some fun on such a cold and rainy day. Their squawks bounced against the ancient brick and humored those in our group who were ready to call it a day and rest. Their happy calls helped bring a long day to a beautiful end.