Les Zaventures d'Alex dans
My adventures in Scotland and England
I had decided to have two weeks of vacations before I begin classes. So I was leaving for France two weeks sooner. I was hesitating between many countries, from Spain to Italy or Poland but we finally decided for Scotland. I was unsure for a whileabout who was going with me. At first we were supposed to be 3 but finally only Cedric came.
My travel partner
Cedric is a guy I know since college. We then went to university together but he's not in my echange program with France. He's a good guy but I was a little surprise about his decision to go for 3 or 4 months in Europe, in my opinion it was just not his style. He finally reduced it to 1 month because he didn't want to miss his semester. We went to New York together and there has been no major problem so I guessed it would be the same for Scotland. He left two weeks before me to visit France and I was supposed to meet him in Paris.
We took the OFQJ bus to the hotel and then I call Jeany, a friend I know since my first year in France, to tell her I was there. She came to the hotel to help me carry my stuff to the student housing, which I then called to be told I could not take my room that day but it was still possible to leave my stuff there, which was good since I had no help the next day and I had 68Kg of luggage. I was still mad at the student housing's director, which is very good since it's a normal attitude toward her.
We went back to Paris and Jeany left me to go to bed. She was soon replaced by Philippe. For those who don't know him, he's a quebecois who was at the student housing two years ago and who now works for Peugeot in Paris.
Next day I took my room and did the paperwork. But this time I didn't haveto wait 3 hours at the Sous-Prefecture to have my rendez-vous. But I still had to wait 1 hour at the CAF, but when a governement gives you money without particular reason, you don't complain. Even more if it's not your own government
I had to meet Cedric at his youth hostel. I had invited people to eat with us so I also called my friends : Jeany and Phil of course, I also called Duyen who herself called two of her friends. Cedric's friend were Helene, a gorgeous Danish girl, a Spanish girl and a girl from Argentina. So we were 10. We had a drink near Les jardins du Luxembourg because we had to wait for Helene. When she came, the waiter almost dropped his plate in admiration for her. After Cedric drank his 15$ drink, we left for the restaurant. We went at St-Michel. It was very cool, Duyen understood very soon how easy it is to make fun of Cedric. Helene tried to make us believe that she wasn't aware that she was so beautiful but we never believed her. We laughed a lot but we had to leave to catch the last train.
When we left each others, we wanted to take a picture and the guy we asked was, strangely, a very weird Quebecois. He was keeping telling us he was from Joliette but it seemed he has been in France for a long time.
Next morning I left the student housing at 8h30, my train being at 10h19. I had to be at Gare du Nord at 9h59. When I stepped out of the bus, I realized I had forgotten my car rental's papers. I went back home get it an left again at 8h51. I began to worry about being late. At 9h40 we were approaching Gare du Nord when suddenly the train slowed and stopped so close, so far. After a few minutes the driver told us to wait, like we had any choice. Then he told us there was a problem with the previous train, great. Then the train began to move and I was at Gare du Nord. A ran like crazy and was at the gate with 10 minutes free. I looked for Cedric but couldn't find him so I crossed the gate and he was still not there. At 9h57, I saw him at the gates. He told me his train stopped just before Gare du Nord, so he was on the same train than me, but he must be running slower than me.
When we got to London, we took the metro - euh, the tube - to Blackfriars to get the car. The problem was we could not find the place. We were asking to people but nobody knew. Cedric called the car rental place but he had some problems with the british accent and understood Burreo instead of Burrell. We finnally found the place by asking the guy who sells ticket in the tube who looked in his atlas. After that, we were there pretty fast.
The car we rented was a Citroen Saxo. It's a cute little car but have the steering wheel on the wrong side. The worst is the gear box because the first speed is the farther from the driver, plus it was shitty so we spent two weeks starting the car again at almost every stops. Cedric offered himself for driver which was ok for me since I didn't want to drive in London. I was the navigator, and I'm good at it. We almost not got lost, the only problem was with the path the rental place gave us. We were supposed to turn right but it was forbidden so we hade to turn left three time same problem that we have in Montreal, just inverted. We finally found the highway (motorway). Everything was going well on the highway and at a rest area, I drove. It's kindda strange in the beginning but it's very easy on the highway. We were hungry so we stopped in a Burger King. We took a Trio, at 12$!!!!! We realized afterward that it was more expensive because we were on the highway but at the time we tought it was the normal price in that country where everything costs 2.5 times the price in Quebec. And the girl asked me something she had to repeat 3 times but I never understood good beginning, what was it going to be in Scotland?
We concluded that in Britain, there is no left or right, the concept just doesn't exists. We decided that after mixing up a couple of times. Sadly, we never found anything else practical to express these complex concepts.
Cedric drove to York, a nice medieval town. We found the youth hostel and I parked the car. We looked for long before finding a place and I had fun trying to find the gearbox's point of friction. I made a good ending with a nice inverted parallel parking.
We then went in pubs but there was not a lot of action so we came back at the hostel to sleep.
In the morning, we visited York then we left before the parcmeter expires we did a big part of the trip following the parcmeters rythm. Even the smallest town have it so it's almost impossible to parc for free.
We decided to take small roads. It was very nice with all the hills and sheeps. We went to Dumfries then Ayr and Glasgow. A long day. We saw a lot of sheeps and we had to be careful because there was nothing to prevent them to go on the road. At the end we became tired of driving. Mainly because the one of the only thing we saw was menhirs indicated in my travel guide which turned out to be a few rocks in the middle of cows. At Ayrs the Youth Hostel was full but we ate there . I had a small plate of pasta with mushrooms not too bad but not enough. We went to Glasgow and took our rooms at the youth hostel. I didn't like the city, there is not much to see.
All in all, a bad day.
Then things became interesting. We went to Edinburg. There we went in a Backpacker hostel. It looks like a youth hostel but more free for all. The receptionist was kindda fucked up. When he knew we were from Quebec, he shown us the names of english people in the logbook and told us to kick their ass welcome to Scotland! We visited a lot in Edinburg, mainly on the Royal Mile, which is a touristic main street. Then we went to the castle, big and beautifful. We can borrow CD readers with explanations on the castle and the historical context. This was my first meeting with Mary queen of Scots I was going to meet again almost everywhere. Then we went on a hill with a Nelson monument and a greek temple (?). There we met a bunch of funny Thailandeses. After supper, pathetic, as always, we went back to the hostel and I sat with people who were hanging out in the lounge. There was French, Irish, but mainly Australians. In fact there was almost only australians. I guess when they leave their country, they leave it for really because it is so far. It talked a little with everyone before I met Suzie with who I got along very well, plus she is very cute. We had a lot of fun, me making her understand the Quebec accent, because her french is very good. She showed me the difference between accents :Australian, American, British, Scot I still have hard time with Australian and Neo-Zelander they are supposed to say fish and chip differently but it's not easy to find out that word in a discussion when you meet someone. It's a little bit like the difference between Quebec and Montreal Accent in french. Then we went in a little pub (Doctor Watt's library, I would never have known it was a pub) where I made her discover the joys of frenchkissing a french I don't see the difference it may make be she was thinking she was "under pressure " The pub was closing at 1am so we left for the Three Sisters. A big club, three floors, where we met fun deutch guys. The place was so full but again, if I hadn't been shown around, I would never have found it since it's a little bit off the tourist place (nobody's perfect). We got back to the hostel at 3, it was a very fun night.
We went back to Edinburg and ate in a small french restaurant. We took a steak frites and we were going to leave when a french girl came and sat next to us. Obviously, she knew the waiter because she was shouting at him. She looked (strangely) nice so we talked with her. It was a good idea because we laughed a lot. She was always complaining about everything, a real french like we imagine them. We talked for an hour or two. She was always making fun of Cedric, saying how stupid he was but I was not paying attention since it's hard to take her seriously.
We knew there was fireworks that night and she was going there too so we asked her to come with us. We went back to the hostel and left with other peoples but they were getting lost in little street and Caroline (the french girl) wanted to stay on the bridge. We trusted her since she lived there for a year. Fireworks were beautiful it looked like those on St-Helen Island but the wind was going in our direction so at the end it was impossible to see anything because of the smoke.
I went back at the hostel, Ced was not sleeping there, He took a room in a B&B (20£) because he didn't sleep well the night before (sissy!!!). Since I was very sleepy, I tought I would sleep anywhere. I was right.
That morning I was in very good shape. We left for Stirling to visit others castles. Stirling is the city where William Wallace had beatten the English. We visited Stirling castle which is almost as big as the one in Edinburgh, this is normal since it's one of the places where the most battles occured in the world. During the visit, I saw a girl with an hat like mine and since most of the people who wears that are Canadians, I asked her :"Nice hat, are you Canadian ?" Of course she was and we continued the visit together. She's from Vancouver and travels with her boyfriend on motorcycle. She goes back next fall but he continues for a year. Nice trip. Then we decided to meet later at the Wallace Monument.
After the castle; we went at the youth hostel to get a room. Many people were waiting because someone was cancelling and it looks like it's a very complex operation that takes at least half an hour. The receptionist told us there was enough rooms so we decided to come back later.
At 2pm, We went to the Wallace Monument, a big stone tower with 276 steps but the stairs are very narrow, almost too much for one person to pass but it was two ways, funny. We met again with Angela and she presented us Ben, her boyfriend. We went to an Internet Cafe to talk about anything and Canadian politics, until 5pm. We decided to meet again for supper in a pub at 8h30.
We went back at the hostel to get our room. It was almost full so we've been lucky to have one. We then walked in town and went to the pub. I took a Chicken and Bacon pie which was not too bad compared to the rest of the food in that country.
Road and Oban
We reached Oban, a beautiful Victorian station and slept in a nice youth hostel with a view on the sea. The town was kindda dead, we ate fish and chip, that I now declare official meal of the trip. We were tired so we stayed on the hostel's lounge where we met Eisley, a girl from Victoria, B.C. Her 5 months trip to Europe was almost over. We played Asshole (Trou de cul in French, I didn't know it existed outside Quebec) all night.
Next day, it was road again. The weather was fine and we left at 9. Until Glasgow we took small roads, near the sea and Lochs. After that it was highway. We stopped at Hadrien Wall and continued to The South (capital letters included). Almost nothing happened except that I was chased by a beam that had fallen from a truck. And we realized how gas is expensive, we spent 200$.
We reached Oxford by 21h30, to see that there was a lot of people in the street, most of them being closed. Everithing was full, from hostels to B&B. We were beginning to panic and think about to sleep on a bench in a park but we finally found something in a neighbouring village. It was a pub with a few rooms. It was 22£ but we were happy since there was a shower in th room and a real breakfast in the morning. We left our stuff in the rooms and went back to Oxford, only to see that everything was closing at 11pm.
Hurray for England!!!!
We visited Oxford in the morning, it was nice but the parking was expensive so we didn't stay for long.
Direction : Salisbury.
We took our room and also reserved for London. Price comparison: Salisbury, 10£ and London, 22£. Well
In the afternoon we went to Stonehedge. Despite Cedric's aversion for "rocks"; it was very impressive even if we couldn't go near the menhirs because they had to be protected. After that we went to a tumulus but Cedric was complaining about pack of sand in a field so we left.
We then ate chinese food. It was good but portions were small. Then we wanted to go in a pub or something but there was a football game (England-Poland) so everyone was watching it. Since we're not really fans, we went to cinema, to see Mickey Blue Eyes, which was very funny. When we got out of the theater we met two german girls, Ursel and Renate, we had seen at the hostel so we talk with them until we reach the hostel and after that we continued in the lounge, bitching English food and French people in general, especially after I showed them my guide written in french. "Apres une analyse au carbone 14, on a decouvert que le steak de Salisbury est au moins aussi vieux que Stonehedge". Anyway. An american joined us and we talked until 1am. We went to bed, laughing.
Back in London
We left for London that morning. First stop : Windsor, which wes very big and beautiful, but we didn't have the time to visit it. We reached the car rental place 10 minutes before due time. Then we went to the youth hostel, left our bags and I went to my favorite tea shop to by a year reserve of tea. Darjeeling, Jasmine and Lapsang Souchang, which smells like burned wood.
Then Cedric wanted to go to Westminster and Buckinghm to take pictures and I only wanted to wander in London so each one went on his side. I went back at the hostel to change clothes and meet two cute flemish girls with whom I had a drink. After that they wanted to go in a tourist tour bus but I was not interested in doing this so I left them. I was hungry and at the restaurant, I met an american who told me about a traditional shakespeare theater. It sounded great so I went there but I was 20 minutes too late and it was full. I went back at the hostel and met Raquel, a mexican girl and talked with he all the evening. We met in Paris a few week later and we're still writing to each other. She's great.
Back in France. Train was at supper time, we left our bags at the train station and visited Tower Bridge and London Tower. Then we went at Notting Hill and Harrod's (very chic). We went back at the train station and a French girl tought I was from Belgium, nice.
Song of the trip : Drinking in L.A of Bran Van 3000. It was always playing and it's from Montreal
The Worst : FOOD!!!!
What I liked : People I met.
If I had to do it again : No car, I would do it by bus. But I will go back again, at least to see the highlands.