North of the Wall: Edinburgh 2015

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Edinburgh architecture

The train rattled through Carlisle station, stopping briefly for a few passengers to alight with their luggage, chatting on mobile phones, then carried on North. North past the wall.


Although Hadrian’s Wall no longer stands (in full) there is definitely a sense of entering another world once you get towards the north of the Lake District. We traveled from Liverpool, so watched as cities turned into suburbs, then into technology parks and industrial estates before decivilising into lumbering green hills dotted sparsely with empty eyed sheep chewing the cud.

It wasn’t the first time I had been to Scotland, in fact, I spent a lot of time when I was younger there, even traveling up to the northern island of Mull about ten years ago, but I had never visited the Scottish Capitol. Although my description of its location North of the Wall is a bit Game Of Thrones, you can certainly feel (it’s freezing) and see the change in the land as your train rocks and clatters North of the English border. England is a fantastically beautiful place once you get past the mundane grey city walls (though even some of those look great).

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The journey was the start of our annual pilgrimage to cities far and wide as a group of friends. 10 of us in total, heading to a far-flung state to experience a new part of the world for ourselves. I love it, as a hobby, it’s not a bad one to have and we have previously been to places such as Amsterdam (loved it) and Brussels (though I wasn’t there). I hope it’s something that we continue as I see it as a way to see the world with a fantastic bunch of people by my side.

And, that’s exactly what they are. I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends. Everyone adds their own skills, personalities and opinions to make a solid core of friends that have stuck together since (someone of us) school.

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Edinburgh is a fantastic city, historical, beautiful and expansive. We probably only visited about 50% of it over the two days we were there, but had to steer clear of the extortionate tourist sites. I mean, twenty quid to go into the castle is far too much in my opinion. But it was still great to clamber the Royal Mile and see the walls of the castle and it’s view across Scotland. We walked and ate, walked and drank, then ate some more. The perfect concoction of greedy indulgence and calorie burning hill climbs to make sure we didn’t all feel guilty about what we were eating.

Little can be said, however, for the activities of the evening as we ventured to our rented apartment only to find it was basically a mansion crammed in the middle of Edinburgh! To get the most use out of it we undertook a game of beer pong and for the first time in my brief history of beer pong tournaments I managed to get the ball in the cup. (Cue much raucous celebration and stripping off of clothes). Victory for the boys, Huzzah! Though at one point I went to the bathroom and upon my return found the hallway rammed with embattled seats from the kitchen due to a heated game of musical chairs. ]

Which, you might think is a kids game, but it can get very brutal.

We made it to at least one of Edinburgh’s bars that night, but the early morning, the amount of penalties from beer pong and the physical excursions from musical chairs and spoons, meant that it was a short trip before we headed back to the house with chips slathered in gravy and Jonny with his battered mars bar  (link for none UK residents).

Some of the gang on the second day. From left to right: Faye, Jonny, Sarah, Laura, Carl
Some of the gang on the second day. From left to right: Faye, Jonny, Sarah, Laura, Carl

The second day of trip started late, as you could probably guess, due to recovering from the previous nights endeavors. But we closed the book on our suffering by scoffing down a disappointing breakfast from a local Frankie & Benny’s. Following up from a conversation the day before and indulging in our insatiable lust for escape rooms, we found that afternoons activity in the middle of Edinburgh Old Town and fairly close to our next destination for food.

Dr. Knox’s Enigma was the game we tried and by gum was it a good one! We have done a few across the North West, some of group have even done International games, but this was by far the best quality game I have been to. It told the story of Burke & Hare, two men who found a profitable business in Edinburgh by murdering the tenants of their Doss House and selling their bodies to the medical school to be dissected. It’s rumoured they murdered up to 30 people before they were caught. The game takes place after the execution of William Burke (after being ratted out by his accomplice) and you have to try to link the murders to Dr. Knox, the surgeon who used the bodies in his experiments and lectures. After all, he must have known where they were coming from right?

Burke and Hare with one of their unfortunate victims.
Burke and Hare with one of their unfortunate victims.

The story of Burke and Hare is a great one, so you should check it out here.

Having such a set story gave the game real feeling and the quality of the set that we were in added two-fold to the drama. If you want to find out more about Dr. Knox, you’ll have to go yourself and complete the game!

We enjoyed a tired, but quiet journey home to Liverpool until Amy left her bag on a train, starting a surreal conversation over Twitter with Virgin Trains customer services who we couldn’t even get hold of on the phone! But all in all it was a great, great trip and I am sincerely looking forward to our next one.

Check out our group video below that I filmed as we wandered the streets.

Edinburgh Trip 2015

If you read my last post then you will know that myself and my friends went up to Edinburgh for a short weekend trip. There will be a post coming about it with photographs, but for now I will leave you with this to give you an idea of what went on…

Our Trip: Edinburgh from matthewjdaniels on Vimeo.

Opening your eyes

Funnily enough, my fiancée was talking about this just last night.

Learning when to switch off
Learning when to switch off

Unplugging from everything is something that I hope to teach my children in the future. I’m not a doom and gloom person, I don’t believe that technology is going to ruin our children’s lives and make them useless as human beings. None of that. I believe technology is what it is – a tool to aid us and better our lives. There is no doubting that life has improved vastly for the majority over the last 30 years because of the huge leaps that technology has taken.

Yet.

I believe there is always a time to put it all down. Switch off those screens and un-crane those necks and look about yourself. The world is definitely a beautiful place full of interesting people and fascination, if all it takes it for you to leave your phone at home for a day – then you should absolutely switch off. I watched a short film the other day (link below) where a guy is hitchhiking to the sea. It’s not so much the story that hit me but the example of pure human interaction that is put on display. This guy – this hitchhiker – has no idea who these people are, he has no idea what their likes or dislikes are, whether they are in a relationship, what they had for breakfast or what their new favourite song is. All information which is readily available to us through various forms of social media.

This guy has to actually talk to these people, find out the natural way through conversation. I know it can be hard to cast aside prejudgment or even personal traits like shyness. But, watching that film, I felt envious. Envious of his confidence and his skill for small talk (Yes, I know it’s a scripted film, but still). It almost made me want to go and sit at a bus stop and just talk to the next person I see. But ,no doubt, that person would have their head bent over a phone screen and would not be interested in what I had for dinner.

This weekend myself and my friends are heading to Edinburgh for a short break away. I am taking my camera with me, will shoot some pictures and film some footage – but I want to stay away from the internet. I don’t want to broadcast every second of my trip with my mates to the whole world. I am going to switch off and all of you can hear about it when I get back. I don’t want to miss the real beauty of the city, or of the journey or even the company of my friends because I am updating a status or uploading a picture to Instagram.

I hope this way, I will be able to enjoy it more. I will be able to talk and fully throw myself into the Edinburgh life as so many who travel do.

I am super excited and I am even looking forward to the train journey at a ridiculous hour tomorrow morning.

I’m super excited to see something new.

Super excited to see my friends and super excited to open my eyes and enjoy some real life moments.

The Sea By Midnight from Isaac Ravishankara on Vimeo.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bloggers, Unplugged.”