Day: 267, 268, 269 & 270
Towns / Cities Visited: 177
Countries Visited: 30
Steps Taken Today: 49,964
Steps Taken Around the World: 4,360,451
Another travel day had dawned, and we arose to gather our belongings and bid farewell to Edinburgh once again. When asked where she wanted to go on her trip abroad with us, aside from Italy of course, my mother’s answer of Scotland had come swiftly. Having been a number of years previous, she had asked if perhaps we could spend a little time in Edinburgh and Glasgow again before she had to return to normality back in Australia, and with no objections from us, we had happily written the return into the itinerary. As such, the time had come to traverse over to the other major city of this frosty northern corner of the world. Trundling our suitcases down to the bus terminal, we caught the next service into the city centre, made our way to the train station, and managed to purchase tickets at an automated machine. Heading to the information desk we were informed there was two options available, the slow train which was arriving in ten minutes, or the fast one which was arriving in thirty. Opting for the latter we boarded the train upon its arrival, and less than an hour later we were alighting in sunny Glasgow, and by sunny, I mean equally as overcast as its eastern counterpart.
All we had to do now was catch a bus to our Airbnb and the journey would be complete. Of course, that turned out to be in no way as easy as it sounds and we soon discovered that due to a charity fun run in the centre of the city, our bus was not running. Hopeful, we searched for another service which might deliver us at least to the vague vicinity, before eventually pulling the pin and deciding on taking the shoelace express instead. By the time we arrived, twenty-five minutes later, it’s safe to say we were all quietly cursing whoever’s bright idea it was to walk, the fingers of blame all pointed to the next person.
Checking in, we had well and truly earnt a tea and biscuit break, before sucking it up and walking to the nearest supermarket. We didn’t have much planned for Glasgow, but there was one important task we had assigned to ourselves, cook a Christmas dinner so that I might properly celebrate with my mother before she faced a Christmas at home with both of her children on the other side of the world. A sucker for the challenge of cooking something I never had before, and something that is rather difficult to get your hands on in Australia, we scoured the supermarket until we found what we were looking for lurking in the freezer, a whole goose. Meat and trimmings acquired for the following day’s feast, and bits and bobs for the current evening’s meal purchased alongside them, we made the heavily laden journey home just before the sun sank beneath the horizon. By the time we retired for the night, it was fair to admit that it had been an uneventful day, but an importantly preparatory one.
No solid plans for adventure meant we were able to sneak in another coveted sleep in before rolling out of bed to face the next day. Rugged up against the chill, we wandered out into an uncharacteristically clear day. The walk back into town was far more pleasant without the burden of luggage, and we enjoyed the simplicity of our morning stroll, chatting idly and taking in the sights of the city, such as they were. Detouring into the nerdy comic book and collectibles store we had visited on our initial time in Glasgow, my mother gifted my partner fifty pounds to spend as he wished, much to his delight.
Passing the traffic cone topped statue of the Duke of Wellington, we reached George Square to discover it was playing host to its own little Christmas market. Having been enamoured by our experiences at the Edinburgh one, we happily skipped right on in. It may not have been as big, but the rows of wooden cabins housing the stalls, edged with faux pine fronds, shining baubles, and fairy lights gave the market a warm, alluring intimacy.
First stop before exploring the depths of this festive maze though, was the Ferris wheel; one, because it seemed like a unique way to snatch a view of this historic city, and two, because the little kids in all of us called for it. To be fair, it ended up being a great way to scope out the market in its entirety and get the lay of the land, and by the time we were released back into the thick of it, we headed off eagerly in search of some lunch from amongst the vendors.
Scanning the options, we settled on the always irresistible combination of chips with cheese and gravy, before tottering off into the German themed bar area to grab ourselves a mulled cider to take the edge off. When the drinks ran out, we ventured back amongst the stalls, continuing our vain search for somewhere that did personalised baubles to add to our yearly tradition, but to no avail, and we resigned ourselves to grabbing a bratwurst, and following it with another round of mulled cider at a weirdly American themed bar set up in another of the stalls. Festive tunes filling the air, I could confidently say that it was most certainly beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, even if the cold weather version was taking a little while to get used to.
It may not have been that late in the day, but we were soon heading home; after all, that goose wasn’t going to cook itself. Before long we were using what limited cooking equipment we had on hand and sliding the goose on into the oven. Of course, in order to make this early December day feel closer to the twenty-fifth, and to while away the cooking time, we snuggled down on the couch with a glass of gin each to watch one of my favourite festive films, A Muppets Christmas Carol. Look, I know it’s not very adultly and there are plenty of more mature Christmas films we could have been tucked around, but this one always takes me back to my childhood. Besides, the songs are catchy and Michael Caine is a damn force in it. Fight me.
A couple of hours and some light vegetable prep later, we were tucking into our makeshift feast, and rounding it off with plum pudding because it would be akin to sacrilegious not to in my family. It may not have been the prettiest meal, or the fanciest, but it was ours, and I revelled in the opportunity to share it with two of my favourite people. As I sliced into my goose leg and used the morsel to sop up my gravy, I sighed with contentment. This, this is what the festive season is truly about, regardless of your beliefs or which celebrations and traditions you follow. It’s not about expensive gifts or elaborate four course meals. It’s not about one-upmanship. It’s about making time for the people we so often set aside in the name of life. It’s about sharing; a meal, a hug, a smile, a token of affection. Whether it’s a whole week together or a five-minute phone call, it’s about connecting with those we love, and reminding them of their importance to us.
Rising on our two hundred and sixty-ninth day somewhat uninspired to do any sightseeing, and with no adventures planned, the first half of our day entailed little more than breakfast, relaxation, and a slapdash lunch of cheese and leftover goose sandwiches. Mustering an afternoon second wind, we agreed we should probably to something other than just laze around, and so settled on lazing around in a different location. Now, since its original release in 2001 J.K. Rowling’s supplementary book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, had been a favourite of mine. Look, I might not agree with the woman’s stance on the trans community, but I am a strong believer that you can hate the artist and still appreciate the art. I mean, Hitler was a being of pure evil, but even I will admit that his painting ability is more than passable. Still, I digress. It just so happened that the second instalment of the Fantastic Beasts movie franchise had recently been released and, finding ourselves finally back in an English-speaking nation and wanting a low impact activity to fill our afternoon, it seemed like an easy enough choice.
Wandering over to the nearest cinema, we purchased tickets and an obligatorily large bucket of popcorn, and ducked in to find our seats. Now, I’ll be honest, at the cinemas back home, regular seating basically resembles standard theatre seats with the addition of cupholders, apparently, in this cinema at least, the regular seating consists of something more akin to that which we would call Gold Class; think large reclining seats with plenty of space to move and array your snack options. Couple that with the fact there was almost no one else in the auditorium with us, and I can honestly say we had made a stellar pick for kicking back and whiling away our time.
Emerging into the early night which befalls much of Europe this time of year, we took a moment to admire the glowing Christmas decorations donning the mall whilst debriefing on our respective thoughts on our recent cinematic experience before heading home for the stereotypical Christmas dinner leftovers. General consensus: needed more magical creatures but was otherwise salvaged by another flawless performance by Eddie Redmayne and a rather dapper Jude Law. Look, I don’t know when in his timeline Dumbledore went from grey, tailored, three-piece suit, to heavily embellished robes with matching nightcap, but I’m pretty sure it was probably around the time he came out of the closet.
Stirring, we were forced to meet the day my mother would finally be concluding her six-week jaunt with us and heading home. That being said, we still had the day to fill until then, and thus we packed our bags, left them safely in the apartment for our collection later, and took one last meander into Glasgow. Determined to have an even more in-depth search for someone, anyone, selling personalised Christmas baubles, and again coming up trumps, we were forced to resign ourselves to the fact that we would have to call in a favour and have my best friend back home go to our usual vendor to fulfil this year’s requirement. Scotland, I don’t know how to tell you this, but there is a massive gap in your festive knickknack market.
The only positive to come out of our fruitless hunt was the discovery of another small Christmas market tucked between the streets, and with it somewhere for us to source the day’s lunch. Its minute size may have made options seem slim, but there was actually quite an array of stalls spruiking all kinds of food. In the end, I opted for the somewhat less than festive Peking duck wrap one of the vendors had on offer, which made for a nice change from all the Western style food we were so often entrenched in.
I think I’m right in saying that you can’t send your mum off on a 30+ hour journey home without a final farewell drink, and, as such, it seemed only right that we stop at the mulled cider stall. Besides, it was cold. For hypothermia, and freedom!
The remainder of the day, I’m afraid, was anything but riveting. A walk brought us to our bags, two trains brought us to Edinburgh, a tram brought us to the airport, and, after a short wait and a fond farewell, a plane took my mother in the direction of Australia, and a drop into a rental car company saw a car trundling my partner and I south to our overnight accommodation in Gordon.
Grateful for the conclusion of our multi-vehicle journey, and content with my home cooked dinner, I happily nestled into bed. Pulling the blankets snug around me, I mused on the past six weeks we had shared with my mother.
I had been on several holidays with her in my late teens and early twenties, the woman who had played the vital role of my first travel companion, from our two-week self-drive adventure around New Zealand after the conclusion of my Year 12 studies, to our beach bathing break on Dunk Island, and our sightseeing session in Hobart. Now, after many years of forgoing short holidays to fund this extensive adventure, I was finally able to add a European escapade to our album of memories.
I think as I have matured, I have come to better appreciate the privilege I hold in being able to make these kinds of memories with her. So many people lose their mothers too soon, or simply can’t afford the kind of adventures I have been so lucky to enjoy, and as I lay in the still dark of the night, I took a long moment to be grateful for this. Mum, whenever you get around to reading this one, I just want you to know that I treasure each and every day I am lucky enough to have you in my life, and when, one day, you leave this world, I will fill the gaping mum shaped void with all the beautiful memories we have stashed away over the years.