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Today’s travel story comes from Scotland. I intended to craft a tale from another country, such as Italy, since I posted the Scottish story The Pole Dancer last week. However, this story is the one that surfaced again and again. Perhaps it’s because yesterday was my sister’s birthday, and she features in this account.
This is Wrong Way Sister. And yes, I have my sister’s permission to share these snippets from our trip.
Sisters’ Trip to Scotland
Last July, my sister Debbie and I experienced a series of firsts together. We grew up in the same household and see each other often as adults. And we enjoyed a girls’ trip to the UK in 2017, traveling with our mother, our other sister and Debbie’s daughter through Ireland, Scotland and England.
We’ve shared many adventures and yet we’ve never traveled together, just the two of us. For this trip, we flew back to Scotland to take part in a clan gathering. Debbie and I are members of the Maitland Clan. The gathering gave us the perfect excuse to return to a country we both love and to meet with other clan members from around the world. Check out this post for more about that amazing time with our clan chief and family that we met for the first time.
Knowing how full the clan gathering schedule was, we tacked extra days onto our trip, so we could explore Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. Debbie and I share many common interests, including a powerful love for this extraordinary city. Before the clan gathering began, we spent our days happily wandering the city, riding the hop on/hop off buses, and popping into quaint shops and cafes.
Wrong Way, Sister
Sharing a cute little self serviced apartment, cooking our own plant based meals, sleeping in the single bedroom and big comfy bed, my sister and I bonded. People mistake us for twins, because we both choose to embrace our silver hair and wear it long. We often think the same way about situations or say the same words out loud. I woke up one night and discovered we slept in identical positions, a phenomenon we jokingly called synchronized sleeping!
During shared meals and tea times, late night chats and explorations in Edinburgh, we learned new things about each other. One trait I discovered is that my sister does not have a good sense of direction!
Our apartment on Thistle Street became home for ten days. Every morning we exited the building, off on adventures. Charming Thistle Street is populated with pubs, cafes and blocks of apartment buildings. It’s conveniently located a block from Hanover Street, which leads to Princes Street and the bridges that connect New Town with Old Town. Perhaps because of my many years as a realtor, I’ve learned to navigate by directions rather than landmarks or using “right” or “left”. I could mentally call up Edinburgh’s grid of streets in my head as we explored.
Debbie, on the other hand, generally headed in the opposite direction from our intended destination. It became humorous, watching her stride with great purpose…in the wrong direction! On one occasion, I stood at our apartment building door, watching with amusement as she walked down the block to Hanover Street and prepared to cross. Not sensing me behind her, she turned to see where I was.
“It’s this way, right?” she asked. On this day, our destination was Charlotte Square. “No,” I called out, laughing and pointing down Thistle Street. “Exactly the opposite direction.”
The World’s End
On another day, the hottest ever recorded in Scotland, Debbie and I decided to walk to a section of Edinburgh’s original wall.
In Old Town, on what’s known as The Royal Mile, there’s a pub called The End of the World. It marks the outer edge of Old Edinburgh. The exterior wall of this 16th century building formed part of the Flodden Wall that surrounded Old Edinburgh as a defense against intruders.
For the residents of the city at that time, the wall truly was the edge of their known world. People lived and worked and died within that protective barrier. To go beyond it meant entering a dangerous unknown.
After mentally determining the location of the remaining section of the wall, we set off. Debbie and I walked…and walked…and walked. In the record breaking heat, we quickly became hot, draining our water bottles and rolling up our sleeves.
At last we spied our destination ahead. With a sigh of relief, we remarked that the wall section was much farther from The Royal Mile than we anticipated. I was thinking of the long return trek back to our apartment when Debbie voiced the same concern. Our conversation went like this:
Me: “This was a lot farther out than I realized!”
Debbie: “It was! I’m tired and thirsty. At least we are walking toward our apartment, right?”
Me: Laughing. “No. No, our apartment is in the opposite direction. We’ve been walking away from it all this time!”
We stopped at a pub on the way back, for a much appreciated rest, snack and cup of tea.
Until We Return
I treasure the memories from that trip. I loved spending those 10 days with my sister. As the oldest sibling in my family, I always felt protective of my younger sisters and brother when we were children. I still feel protective, even now all these years later. Wandering about Edinburgh that protectiveness showed itself again. I wanted my sister to enjoy the experiences and arrive at our destinations, without getting lost!
In return I recognized that Debbie trusted me, completely. If I said, “It’s this way”, she turned around without question and headed the other direction. The only time we ended up not lost, but traveling to our destination the “long way around”, it was because we followed the GPS on my phone. Instinctively, I knew how to get to Dean Village in Edinburgh. I learned that day to trust myself the way Debbie trusts me. After exploring beautiful Dean Village, we arrived back at our apartment via the shorter route, the phone’s GPS silenced.
I look forward to more shared trips with my sister. One of my greatest desires is to travel and share experiences with my family members. My big WHY involves seeing that desire become reality.
After 10 glorious days in Scotland, Debbie and I bid Edinburgh “farewell until next time” and headed home. At JFK International Airport in New York, we sat wearily, waiting for our flight to Atlanta and then home.
Debbie excused herself to go to the ladies’ restroom. I watched her enter the restroom and happened to see her exit it as well a few minutes later. She hesitated for a moment, and then with confidence turned left and strolled down the wide hallway, away from me!
I chuckled. Wrong way sister was at it again. I knew she would eventually figure it out and turn around. I’d be waiting for her.
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