The Unwilling TouristDate: 29 August 2010I was walking down North Bridge the other day and I was stuck behind a small group of middle aged people wearing backpacks and with cameras hanging around their necks. They were taking up the entire width of the pavement and seemed to be in a competition to win the World's Slowest Walk contest. I was stuck behind them and couldn't get past. I tried darting around them, slipping between them, kicking the walking stick out from under one of them - nothing worked. They simply shuffled along, completely unaware that there were other people behind them that wanted to reach the other end of the bridge before new year's eve. It was incredibly frustrating. As I huffed and muttered to myself behind them, I found myself thinking, 'freaking tourists all over the place!' Ironic of course, when you consider that I am one of them.
With the end of the festival in sight, it occurred to me that I should at least try and see a little of this fair and rather damp city that has been my home for the past month. I'm ashamed to admit that there are still vast areas of central Edinburgh that I have never visited. Entire districts into which I have never ventured. So I decided to climb Arthur's Seat. I know it's not technically a district of Edinburgh, but I figured it would give me a good enough view to enable me to more or less pinpoint the areas of Edinburgh that I should visit. I realise the logic is a little flawed, look, don't try and make sense of it, just accept it as good enough logic for me.
And so, late one morning I found myself at the foot of a rather large and very steep hill. It was one of those summery Edinburgh days (i.e: feeble rays of sunshine peeping through heavy rain clouds accompanied by strong gusts of wind) and conditions were perfect. I would like to state before we go any further that I don't think I'm an out-of-shape person. I consider myself to be generally rather healthy and if not exactly fit, certainly not unfit. When in Stirling, I had even climbed a much higher, steeper and infinitely more precarious hill (an event which involved much sweating, clinging on to cliff faces hoping I wasn't going to die and, bizarrely but honestly, lots of poop - you can read about it in my Othello tour blog at my website in the blog entry entitled, 'The Poop Trail'). In short, I wasn't expecting this hill to present much of a challenge.
I was wrong. It was hard, hard work! It took ages to get up there due to the traffic jam created by the hordes of freaking tourists also climbing up at a snail's pace. The sun kept shining at irritating intervals, making me sweat profusely and remove my jacket, only to have to hurriedly put it back on again (usually accompanied by a little squeal) as the clouds blocked out the sun two minutes later and the wind revved up its biting coldness. I arrived at the top of the hill a sweaty, snotty, panting wreck. I collapsed on the hard, sharp rocks, unable to move any further.
On the plus side, once I'd recovered consciousness and the spots had receded from my eyesight, the view was excellent. It was lovely. I looked out over unknown suburbs of Edinburgh, consciously ticking off the ones I deemed to be worth a visit (not that I knew how I was going to get to them, but anyhow). I then sat down and soaked in the view, which to be honest, got a little boring after a couple of minutes. However, that dilemma was soon solved by a lunatic who having climbed to the top of Arthur's Seat, pulled out a set of bagpipes and, without so much as an apology, proceeded to smash the peaceful silence with some random earsplitting piping. I spent a few happy minutes fantastising about different ways of putting an end to him and his bagpipes from the top of Arthur's Seat. When he'd finished, the rest of the people gave him a round of applause. Freaking tourists.
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