Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Traveling Karma

I’m not sure how it works, but it seems to me, if you’re an interesting traveler, you meet other interesting people. Such is the case for me on a regular basis. The trip to Edinburgh is no different.

Early Friday morning, Dilly and I left her charming flat on our pedicured feet – and took the tube to the train. Our train reservations found us sitting, facing forward in a section of the car that has tables. Side by side, four seats each. For the first two stops we sat alone. Dilly gazing out the window – me glancing up now and again from the laptop to catch the passing scenery. At the third stop – a party of six, three young men and three young women entered our car. They were calling back and forth to each other and seemed to be full of holiday cheer. Immediately I was intrigued - and my traveling company dismayed. “Oh, I hope they don’t sit near us,” she said, having experienced rowdy, young, drunken seat-mates in the past. “Oh – they look like fun, I hope they sit here,” I said at the same moment.

And down they sat – across the aisle from us, one young man and the three women, and across our table the other two young men. Shortly after everyone was sorted out – Dilly went in exploration of train sustenance, while I stayed behind to make friends. As I eased-dropped on their conversation – hoping to pick up a story or two, I gathered they were talking about cooking. One of the men was telling about making Bacon & Tomato sandwiches at eleven o’clock the night before for the trip. Within minutes, a small soft-sided insulated cooler was removed from the luggage rack, and out came tin-foil wrapped torpedo shaped sandwich after sandwich. Passed around, the tin-foil was peeled back to reveal crusty rolls, with what looked like grilled ham. My first sight of English bacon. Admiring the sandwiches – and being impressed that a early-thirty something male would be up the night before a trip, making sandwiches for the group, I listened in closer. Soon, the youngest of the group was discussing ingredients procured in the past month, brought home for free, and used in amazing meals. Prime ribs, standing rib roasts, and lobsters were all mentioned.

As I tried to piece together what restaurant he worked for, out came another shopping carry-all. In the top section was a Tupperware container approximately the size of a shoe box. Nestled in it, under a scattering of lemon wedges, was a side of salmon. My first thought was – “How brave to travel with raw salmon and no refrigeration.” My next thought was – “That’s going to be the most amazing dinner.” My thoughts, on both accounts were incorrect. The salmon wasn’t raw, and it wasn’t for dinner. Soon, it was removed from the container and placed on a cutting board. Following it were cucumber spears, diced beets, horse radish crème fraische, and little Bellini’s, all neatly spread out. This is the sight that greeted Dilly upon her return from the café car.

Amid much laughing and teasing, our gastronomic friends began to slice the salmon and put together their repast. Unable to ignore the glorious feast being prepared before our eyes, we began to question our seatmates. We discovered two of the men were brothers, and on Monday, St. Patrick’s day, they’d be celebrating the oldest one’s birth. The younger brother worked for Sky TV’s Market Kitchen, and the third was their childhood friend and next door neighbor. There are many other little things we learned along the way, a few that would, “Make Daddy Proud”. For instance, the brilliant coloring of this salmon? Is because it was soaked in shredded beet-root after the brining process. Within sort order four plates appeared, and one of them was placed before a speechless and amazed Mit and Dilly. Now this, is the way to travel!

Rounding out the gastronomic event were pomegranate and champagne cocktails. Fully sated, we continued our journey north, spying sheep, the Angle of the North, and glimpses of the North Sea. It seemed that all too soon we were pulling into Waverley Station and waving goodbye to our newest friends.

Gaining a cab, we piled in and journeyed to the flat of the humming landlord and the beginning of the water torture in the UK experience.

Our flat was perfect in every way – and indeed, in the midst of each pronouncement, as the landlord showed us through it, he’d stop to hum, mid-sentence. “You flip this switch … hum-dee-hummm … to turn on the microwave. And in here …la-de-da-de-da… you’ll find extra towels and such.” Not sure how to take this interactive humming, we just continued to make appreciate noises, and ask general questions. It did seem to me he was staring at each one of us closely, but then maybe he was trying to understand our American English. Only that wasn’t the case. Just before his departure he said, “I must ask. Which one of you is the Nun?” “Nun? Nun?” I started to say, when Dilly interrupted with a laugh. “Oh, it’s me. I sign myself “Sister” when I make reservations, since the title box won’t allow you to leave it blank. Ms., Miss, and Mrs. are all so boring – so I chose a different title each time. Sometimes Lady, sometimes Duchess and this time “Sister”! Clearly thinking he’d leased his flat to a pair of crazy people, he none the less took his leave and left us to our own devices.

Those devices do not always translate into smoothly operating the bathroom fixtures that employ water. Our first hurdle as to figure out how to flush the toilet. It seems you have to keep the handle down – AND give the bowl time to recover from the previous flush. The following morning – in my over-sleeping rush, I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the shower. Nor could the resourceful Dilly. Thankfully we had two in the flat, and one held no secrets. It wasn’t until that night, when two friends came to the flat, and we discussed the mysteries of UK showers, that we heard about the on/off switch, sometimes located out in the hallway. It worked like a champ on Sunday morning.

And this is where I’ll leave the tale now. Still to come, the “Warehouse Experience” at Glenturret, meeting up with our friends at the Brass Monkey, the journey to Wales, returning to London and dinner at Hot Stuff with the freshly arrived Blue!

Today (Wednesday) we are doing laundry and getting ready to head out for the Tate Museums, a “Photographer’s Experience” walk, and a stop by the local bookstall. The sun is shining – so – as the saying goes, “Off to make hay while the sun shines!” Ta!


mamie said...

What a wonderful post - I loved the photos of the train food. Brings picnics to a whole other level, hmmm? We missed you last night, but I'm sure you're having more fun!

Geggie said...

Oh, you are just killing me. It's Scotland just lovely? Make sure that you go out for a fully Scottish breakfast some morning, it's delightful.

The people on the train sound so great! Glad you had fun!

Geggie said...

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Anonymous said...

You've done it agaian ! I can't imagine you going anywhere and not making friends !! Sounds like a wonderful vacation - and even I could tuck down those goodies for lunch - lucky you two ! tp

Gina Elizabeth said...

It is so wonderful to read your latest post! I have missed you!!!!
Can't wait to hear more about your adventure!

Anonymous said...

Great to hear of your travels! Your "new" friends sound wonderful. Did you get any good recipes? Give Dilly a good old southern Hi Y'all from M.O.T.O.R. and D.O.T.O.R.

Anonymous said...

Hey sis,

How cool are you? I am really envious of your trip. Go ahead and spend $20 for me and I'll pay you back some day. If you're flush enough we can meet up in Marin this fall with our cousin to hear of your adventures in detail.
Hope you stay safe,

Anonymous said...

WELCOME HOME ! Sooo good to hear your voice - can't wait to hear more about your trip !!! tp