Probably the most challenging part of my trip to Edinburgh was getting around on foot. Without cell phone service or constant wi-fi access, it made getting around more difficult. I know I depend too much on my smart phone, but I would have loved to use it to help guide me around the city.
When I was with my daughter it was easy. I simply followed. But walking around without her meant I spent a lot of time trying to not get lost. With the many cobblestone walkways, and so many streets on inclines I tried to avoid having to retrace my steps. A map may have made things easier, but walking around on crowded city streets trying to read would have created problems too (like getting run over crossing a round-a-bout.)
What I did find helpful was using landmarks as a way to know where I was. In one direction was the Edinburgh Castle at one end of the Royal Mile. In another, the Palace. And there were several parks and gardens located across the city as well as churches and museums that I used to position myself. There were several bars we used as meeting places. I discovered if I sat at the front table at Whistle Binkies, I could connect to a hotel’s wifi across the street while I waited.
Then there was Arthur’s Seat. For more than a week, I caught glimpses of it looming far in the distance as we strolled through the city. Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Holyrood Park. The inactive volcano sits over 820 feet above sea level. My daughter and her friends like to bring visitors there for a hike. Those who know me well, know I don’t “hike.” From photos, I knew the views from there were gorgeous and I was willing to at least give it a try.
One day after our leisurely morning cappuccinos, we began walking in the direction towards the park. As we reached the street that bordered the park, I looked up. I thought to myself, “there’s no way in hell I’m going to make it.” I expected to go part of the way up and then meet them on the way down.
Slowly we climbed. Children and small dogs passed us by. Most of the trail was narrow and rocky. Occasionally I’d envision myself slipping off the side as people passed us in the opposite direction. My daughter, who was still recovering from bronchitis, needed to stop every so often to clear her airways. This helped me out immensely. Every time she stopped to cough, I was able to catch my breath. Unbeknownst to me, I actually had a real use for the hiking boots I bought for the trip.
At a certain point I started thinking about calling it quits, they pointed out that we were about to take the last segment up. I had made it to the summit! As promised, the views from the top were beyond spectacular.
We rested, cooled down and took some pictures. While the way back down was less taxing on my breathing, it did take more muscle control to walk downhill rather than slide. The last thing I wanted to do was take out a row of real hikers on my descent.
Once we reached the bottom, my daughter’s boyfriend asked if I felt a sense of accomplishment? I truly did. Exactly a year earlier, a walk through the grocery store caused me great pain due to the lingering effects from treatment. Just that I was able make this trip, but also climb a mountain (ok, it wasn’t a mountain, but a really tall hill) was remarkable. I was feeling pretty good about myself, as we toasted cheers with our first pints of the day. I never felt more deserving of an iced cold beer in my life.
I was still feeling pretty good when I fell asleep for the night. Getting out of bed the next morning was a different story. I paid for that triumph for several days, but it was worth every painful step.