For the first time on Two Tickets To, we’re publishing a blog post about a trip that only one of us went on! In this one, it’s Matt’s turn to attempt some solo travelling with a trip up to Scotland to see one of his oldest and best friends – who also, confusingly, happens to be called Matt. We’ll now hand over to some lovely first-person blogging to take you through the weekend:
Edinburgh 2016 – the background story
For far too long, my friends and I – the imaginatively named ‘Skipton Lads’ – had plotted to visit one of our group, Matt H, in Edinburgh. On a dreary weekday in December, a few of us decided to power through and just book it – we knew that we’d never end up going if we just keep talking about it.
Jack and I would be travelling by train from Leeds – a reasonably long 5 hour train journey, but a simple one. The other Skipton Lad to be making the trip would be Reading-based Jonny ‘JP’ Newhouse, who admirably decided that his budget for the weekend would be far better spent on anything but travel, and promptly booked himself onto a Megabus. From London. A journey which, much to everyone else’s amusement, takes just under 12 hours.
We’d be staying at Matt H’s flat near Haymarket, and were very excited to be making our first group trip up to Edinburgh since the infamous December 2009 excursion, in which 80% of our time there was spent either walking around All-Saints looking at clothes that our 17-year-old-selves could never afford, or playing FIFA because nearly all of us were tragically underage. We’d come a long way since those days, and were determined to make the most of the 2 nights we had in the city.
Thursday – Day 0 – The Day Before
Thursday should have been a great day. Friday was booked off work, and the biggest thing in the work diary was my relatively straightforward end of year review. Sadly, life always has a habit of conspiring against you just when you don’t want it to, and I was struck down with the worst flu I’d had for a couple of years. The kind that absolutely drains you, and makes you feel like you’re living your life through a weird mucus-filled bubble. After being promptly sent home from work late morning and instructed to go to bed, I passed out in a ball of self-pity for a few hours before letting the others know there was a decent chance that I wouldn’t be able to make the weekend.
A trip back to the family home was in order to hopefully speed up my recovery, so I was whisked off in the evening for some much needed home cooking and TLC. I was sent to bed heavily drugged up, hoping that I would feel better in the morning…
Friday – Day 1 – Should I stay or should I go?
Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy. No. Intolerable song.
Woke up in the morning feeling like I probably shouldn’t go to Edinburgh. Oh dear. But I was determined to do everything I could in the two hours before I had to catch the train to meet Jack. My flu-ridden morning route went something like this:
1: Roll out of bed and plod my way to the bathroom to see if I was going to throw up. A close call, but somehow my morning managed to be vomit free.
2: The fruit bowl. The oranges. Eat as many as I could physically stomach to try and get some emergency vitamin C in my system.
3: A shower. Varying the temperature settings between hot and cold depending on my mood in any given 30 seconds.
4: Jump back into bed after the shower and decide that – in the words of Louis Van Gaal – ‘we go for it’. Texts sent to let the others know that I’m coming. Edinburgh, against my better judgement, was on.
5: Breakfast. Despite deciding to make the trip, I still couldn’t eat much.
With that, it was out the door and onto the first train to Leeds. I was meeting Jack at the station, and I felt incredibly sorry for him. 5 hours on the train sat next to me meant that it would be a miracle if I didn’t pass my plague onto him.
Jack’s first words to me were along the lines of ‘you look terrible’. And yes, yes I did. We had a while before we had to jump on our first train across to York, so we stocked up on essentials for the journey. On another day, with another level of fitness, these essentials would probably have consisted of some ‘road beers’ and an unhealthy amount of junk food. On this particular Friday, however, our first stop was Boots for some high-strength flu capsules, Strepsils, and Night Nurse. An absolutely tragic way to begin any weekend away, I’m sure you’ll agree. The second and final stop was Sainsbury’s. I made my entrance by spectacularly dropping my case on the crisp stand – blaming the flu on this one, rather than any natural clumsiness – and stocked up on more fruit. Fruit juice, fruit smoothie, fruit in a packet.
We strolled our way over to the platform and jumped on the train to York. A pretty standard rickety journey on Northern Rail, and we arrived with time to spare before catching our connecting train direct to Edinburgh. The train journey from York to Edinburgh is probably testimony to just how awful I was feeling – I remember none of it. When I first started writing this, I couldn’t for the life of me think why. Then I realised that I’d spent the entire journey asleep. I have no idea if I snored. I still haven’t dared ask Jack.
We arrived in Edinburgh, and I was – thankfully – feeling a bit better for having had some sleep. Matt H impressively managed to pick us out from a fast moving stream of people, and our weekend was underway. It was mid-afternoon at this point. Jonny was 6 hours into his Megabus journey, with at least another 5 to go.
The train had arrived at the main Edinburgh station, Waverley; Matt’s flat was 5 minutes’ walk from the city’s other hub, Haymarket, and there was a very handy tram system which took us there. I’m pretty sure it didn’t exist the last time I was up in Edinburgh, but it’s a great way to see the place – the tracks go straight down Princes Street; one of the most famous roads in the city with a great view across the valley to the Castle.
Matt H’s flat had two bedrooms. Our sleeping arrangements for the weekend would see two of us sharing the double bed in the spare room, and one of us on an airbed in the living room. No prizes for guessing who ended up by himself. To be fair, it was a quarantine that I was quite happy to impose on myself – I’d feel bad if anyone did catch my flu, and I’d rather have my own bed on weekends like this anyway! A quick trip to the local Co-op later for some beers (fat chance of me actually managing to drink one in my current state!) and snacks, and we were ready to head back into the centre to a bar where we’d (hopefully) meet Mr Newhouse after his Megabus makes his grand appearance.
The bar in question was called Spit/Fire, and had an incredibly cool, barely lit basement section. It was an exposed brickwork fan’s dream; the kind of hipster paradise that’s sprung up in all big cities in the last few years. It also had a great selection of world beers. Sadly, and predictably, I settled for a boring glass of Cola. Matt H’s girlfriend, Emily, came along to meet us after her day at work had finished, and we waiting a little longer for Jonny. Incredibly, his Megabus was actually early! Matt H went off to make sure Jonny didn’t wander the wrong way out of the bus station, and appeared a few minutes later with our bus traveller.
And with that, we were all together! Another trip back to Matt H’s flat was in order to allow Jonny to dump his stuff. We also recreated the infamous Adam Lallana Nivea advert (another football reference, sorry) before we headed out in search of dinner.
Dinner on night one was at a cute little Italian. In typical fashion, everyone else (sensibly) ordered Pizza or Pasta whilst I couldn’t resist splashing out on a reasonably average steak. The olives at the start were the biggest disappointment. In all my life, I’ve only ever not eaten a portion of olives on two occasions – this meal, and a packet bought from Aldi. Jack and I agreed that the sauce was to blame – it was, and I don’t use this word lightly, vile. The rest of the meal was lovely, and everything reasonably well priced, but the olives will forever leave a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. See what I did there?!
The plan for the rest of the evening was to hit the town. This was another decision point for me – I was still ill, couldn’t really drink due to all the flu tablets, and would probably be better off being boring and staying in. Matt H’s flat was the gathering point for the pre-town festivities, so any good intentions went straight out the window. We headed out for a few pubs and I proudly broke the midnight barrier before sensibly deciding I’d had enough and would head back for an early night. The others weren’t too far behind, so we headed to our beds/airbeds with a full Saturday of Edinburgh exploring ahead of us – including a trip to see the mighty Hearts of Midlothian FC!
Stay tuned for the rest of the weekend!