Rear View Part 13

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Take Off

First of all, I apologise up front for the remarkable lack of bikes in this piece: however, if I hadn't been a biker I wouldn't have been a member of the bike's website and so wouldn't have met some lovely friends and decided to join them for a Christmas Party. So it's tangentially bike-related. We woke early on the Friday morning, drove in the dark to the airport, queued for ages1 at check-in, muttered about people being awkward at the head of the queue, realised we had an extra item of luggage and so it would be better to go over to the "extra item of luggage" desk and sort that out now before people began muttering about us, considered how funny it would be to say "a bomb" when they asked us what was in the big cardboard box 2, decided that it wouldn't be very funny at all, dashed straight through security (ah the joy of Crocs!) and onto the plane. After that lot, the 25 minute flight into Edinburgh through a firey red sunrise seemed like the blink of an eye. By 9 am I was tucking into porridge on the Corstorphine Road, admiring the tall sandstone buildings of this beautiful city.

Capital City

Since I'd forgotten to pack my sunglasses, naturally the sun shone all weekend, and so after checking in to our hotel in the Grassmarket area behind the Castle, we took a stroll in the afternoon sunshine up to Royal Mile and admired the stunning view from the castle itself. It really is a magnificent city. On our descent towards the Christmas market in Princes Gardens we passed houses that seemd to be 8,9,10 storeys high. Sunny it may have been, but the wind was still icily cold, and we gladly wrapped our hands round a couple of glühweins and watched the skaters on the ice rink. We returned up the hill to The Witchery, a fabulously candle-lit gothic restaurant at the gateway to the castle, and were lucky enough to get a table for 2 in amongst the mad Christmas parties. They even had a half bottle of Pouilly-Fume, and I thoroughly enjoyed the roquefort ice-cream which came with my pudding.

Back at the hotel, Dai changed into one of his kilts and we went for a short pub crawl....

Forth Bridge

In the morning, we found a local proper barber's shop and a little caf´ for a breakfast fry-up, before setting off northwards to the party destination. I ticked another of the 'bridges I must see' off my list as we paid the £1 toll for the Forth Road Bridge, and admired the iconic diamonds of the steel railway bridge running parallel. The party itself was in Bridge of Cally, a bit north of Perth, and the village seemed to consist of a hotel, and post office, and a rather large static caravan park. We checked in, caught up with old friends, got glammed up for the evening - Dai in his posh evening kilt, and me showing off my tan in a vintage chocolate-brown backless frock. There were quite a few kilted gents in attendance, and very smart they all looked too: I especially like the combination of Jacobite shirt with a waistcoat. The meal was somewhat disappointing: the usual practice with brussel sprouts is to boil them to buggery, but these were practically raw. We washed down the taste with a few more swallies.

I didn't realise it at the time, but this was my last evening as a smoker. The freeezing cold outdoor temperatures combined with the smoking ban made me realise that there was too much pain for too little gain involved, and I've now been off the evil weed for 5 weeks.

Tay Bridge

On the Sunday, having most of the day free to get to the airport for an 8pm flight home, we decided to continue being tourists and cross the Tay Bridge heading for St Andrews. The Tay Bridge is only 80p for the toll, but is nowhere near as stunning as the Forth. We pulled into a little kiosk on the eastern end for some welcome bacon butties and cups of tea, and consumed them admiring the graceful length of the bridge and fending off scavenging seagulls.

St Andrews

I have very few regrets in life, but I sometimes wonder if things would have turned out differently if I'd accepted the offer made to me by the University of St Andrews. I only turned it down because I got stuck at Leuchars railway junction for an hour one freezing cold November, and very pragmatically realised that I woudn't enjoy doing that twice a term. We parked near the lovely old ruined cathedral and St Rules tower, and wandered by the harbour admiring the beach, until the bitter breeze blowing off the North Sea forced us to find an indoor spot. In caf´ Northpoint for coffee, I was glad to see that the gap in the market for gluten-free cakes was catered for, and I tucked into a delicious chocolatey brownie. To the airport in plenty of time, I enjoyed sausage and mash at the Wetherspoons, and did a little shopping for my workmates (shortbread, they'd requested!)

The Peanut meanwhile, was having a service done, to get it ready for next year's outings. Over Christmas no doubt we'll watch a bit of 'The Ride and Long Way Down' (both have found their way into various stockings this year) and look forward to another year's happy riding. Stay safe out there!

The Rear View Archive


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1Bloomin Easyjet!2It was motorbike seats. See, I told you there was a teeny bit of bikes!

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