Friday, June 26, 2009

E09: Wherefore art thy Wifi?

At noon I rise from my bed to the sound of bagpipes blowing through the open window, a sure sign that tourists are out and about, feeding the hat of the local busker. It's so hard to tell what's genuine here, and what's not. When I see a man walking down the street in a kilt, is it because he is in actual Scottish dress, or did he just buy it from one of the man kilt shops located in the tourist sections of town? And those kilt shops – are they for locals, or are they simply for those passing through in search of something unique to take back home with them?

As I leave the apartment, remembering to lock the deadbolt with a steel key that would better hang from a nineteenth century jailers ring than my own, I head back out onto the Royal Mile. Think of this as whatever street is most populated by tourists in your town. You know the one: the street that has all number of tacky souvenir shops, kitschy museums, and overpriced food masquerading as something a local might eat, but never will. Combined with Princes street, your tour of Edinburgh's old city can both continue and end in the same location, completing a great loop.

But I was not in search of sights, or old walls, or anything remotely visual. I was on the look out for wifi access. Yes, like a great fool I walked down the street – netbook open before me – constantly refreshing the wireless networks available. Everywhere I turned there were closed and secured networks. The people in Toronto aren't nearly this safe with their wireless routers. Most of the, I imagine, don't even know they can password protect it. But here – here, every footstep brought me to a dozen new locked networks, each holding me back from the online access I so craved. Like a junkie removed far too long from his smack, I was willing to do whatever it took to get online. But no, none of these networks used their default passwords (not that, you know, I tried them.)

BTOnline networks popped up everywhere, open and waiting for me to connect – so they could forward me to an informative page telling me just how much I'd need to pay for how much time online. This was not for me! Nor, apparently, was the University of Edinburgh wifi access that blankets a large part of the city, requiring a student number and password. It's nice to see the University is so forward thinking, but... annoying nevertheless.

Finally I found what I was looking for. An open network just for me. Outside of a jewelry store, I stood uploading previously written blog entries, and a couple of photos. I tried to sit on the pavement, so as to not constantly fear dropping my netbook as I balanced it with one hand, and typed with the other. But – because the internet gods hate me, I lost the signal the moment I sat down; I stood back up, and my signal returned. I was not amused.

I continued my quest; this time an open network was not enough. I required an open network near a bench, a ledge, a fence. Something, anything, that would allow me to type with both hands at the same time.

Outside of a little bakery I found another network, and there in front of me was a rounded off concrete pole sticking up, preventing cars from running off the road and killing tourists. I sat. Now, it wasn't the most comfortable of seats, but it wasn't the worst either. I'd have to remember this place for future fixes.

There I was able to catch up on email, send messages to former co-workers (as you will remember, I am now officially unemployed so as I can take time to travel next year), and search for what will hopefully become a most important piece of information (google: free wifi hotspots in Edinburgh). The results of that search were quickly cut and pasted. Anyone ever looking for internet in a foreign city is encouraged to run the same search, with their city's name in place of Edinburgh. The only catch? You need to have already found access to access it.

Two hours later, feeling somewhat like a hack, I returned. I would watch some television (which I still maintain is a very cultural experience.) In Scotland they have not grown out of commercial jingles. You would think that the extra ten years of experience would have them the world leaders of such advertisement, but what I saw was quite distressing, reminiscent more of 1980s coffee campaigns. For dishwasher detergent the lyrics were “Trust Fairy to clean your dishes, cleans everything inside: but you can't fit your scooter in.” (a little boy then tries, and fails, to shove his muddy scooter in the dishwasher.)

It's hard to say when I became too old for mindless days full of television. Somewhere around the second year of University I believe, but after twenty minutes of antique related reality television I once more needed to jump up and leave. Anything outside would be better than people selling their wares at auction, or taking a private buyers potentially lower price. I walked to the tourist information centre.

Located at Princes Street near North Bridge this place has all number of pamphlets, maps, and souvenirs. Want a tam with long red hair coming out of it so you can prove to all your friends you'd been overseas, or to a dollar store, at any rate? This is the place. There is also fudge. Not fudge made here, that would be crazy. Still, there is fudge. Of that you can be sure. There were also some computers. I decided not to investigate the, for I already had a fantastic set up with my concrete pole, and bakery.

I would recommend all new visitors pick up one of the Edinburgh city attractions maps. Not only does it provide you with the location of all venues choosing to advertise with the map, but it also has listed public toilets. Yes, I know what you're thinking, “fantastic! Why don't all cities have these marked on maps?! Someone call Garmin, they need to update their POI section to include these.” Well good sir, or madame, I fully agree. Someone write to Garmin straight away. I just haven't the time Not when there are free The Midgie magazines to be read, informing me of festivals, fairs, and other such going on aound the city and the country.

Ohh look, in the middle of the magazine there is a pull out map of the city. And what is that marked on it? Wifi hotspots. That would have been more useful a few hours ago. Still, my ignorance provided me with a quest, and the feeling of self righteous success one receives for completing said quest. That information would have to be tested later. Especially since some of them are roofed, and I hear it rains quit a lot here.


Hunger lashes out at me. The picnic bar I ate yesterday does nothing for me today. Sure it was a delicious combination of rice crispies, chocolate, nougat, raisins, and peanuts, but even something of that caliber can't last forever. No, it was definitely time for dinner.

Before leaving for Edinburgh I did no real research on the city. I did not know where I should go, what I should do, where I should drink, or where I should eat. The only advice I had received was on the back of a yellow sticky note, which had come all this way with me. It read:

Oinks, located on Victoria street, between George IV bridge, and Grassmarket. Order the Hog roll, get it with apple sauce.

The time had come for me to investigate this oinks, as I had heard it was the best pulled pork in the world. Who was I to argue with a tiny scrap of yellow paper, or the stomach acid currently trying to burn its way through my organ lining, so as it could begin digesting me from the inside, like Ripley's chest burster?

My first view through the window of Oinks? A fully cooked pig in the window, with most of its flesh torn off and pulled into fabulous sandwich stuffers. How long would this pig have taken to cook, I asked: 9 hours, Nine hours of preparation went into the sandwich I was going to devour, bread spread with applesauce, as I had been instructed. As I bit into it, I knew pulled pork as I had never known it before.

I am a man who likes sauce. There was once a time when my fried eggs could not be seen through the pool of red ketchup covering them. My pizza is always accompanied with Cheddar JalapeƱo sauce. My pulled pork, always slathered in barbeque. But here, here was a sandwich where the salty meat was complimented by the sweet sweet applesauce. Here was perfection unlike I had ever known it before. Here was a journey well worth it.

If ever in Edinburgh, by all means, I recommend that you try Oinks (famous) pulled pork. My goodness, what food it is.

After such culinary perfection I walked back home, through the gardens, where I could recuperate for the 11:00pm showing of Romeo and Juliet vs. Zombies.


  1. Oh my god, you are hilarious!! With the wifi stuff. Can't believe you are standing outside a jewellery store to get signal. Perhaps you should invest on one of those cards / antenna (whatever they are) and you just plug it in your usb like a flash card and voila! wifi signal wherever you are! Not even sure what those are called!

  2. i hear what you're saying, and there's logic there... but that would cost extra! i found a bus shelter now, anyway =p


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