Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Busing Around Edinburgh: Outside These City Walls

Ocean Terminal
As I caught the thirty five bus to the Ocean Terminal on my way to see the Royal Britannia I wasn't really sure what I expected. But, I can tell you this, I was not ready for the Ocean Terminal to be a mall. A four storey mall, if the elevator was to be believed – never mind the fact that you pushed a button labeled 2, and even if the ground floor were to be floor one, it still would only make you on floor three – but who has time to argue with an elevator?

And the strange thing is, it's a pretty good mall. With good restaurants. You also get to see the front page of the newspaper from Wednesday May 2, 1945, framed, announcing the death of Adolph Hitler as you walk in.

To walk on the boat would cost ten pounds. I was not prepared for this sacrifice – nor did I intend to actually walk on it. I simply wanted to view it. I chose to walk around the building and try to find access to it. I was blocked on one side by industrial lots, and fences. Perhaps the other side would offer a better view, after all it was labeled “viewpoint and picnic area.”

Oh of course! It too was blocked by industrial zone, and fence. What a great viewpoint. So glad I made it. I took whatever snaps I could, and then grabbed a picture of the model in its case by the ticket office. It was then that I decided I'd done all I could here. I came, I saw – time to head back.

Rosslyn Chapel
It seems that the number fifteen bus exists for one reason, and one reason only. To take visitors from Edinburgh to Rosslin (a confusing town name, as most buildings there are spell Rosslyn with a y.)

Rosslin is a quiet, and peaceful town, where children who live there know the adults greeting them with a wave and a, “hello Martin.” It's the type of place that is mostly a main street, a corner store, and – what I'm sure would have been it's claim to fame – a library with a few hundred books, and one internet terminal. Rosslin is a small community where you would go if you wanted to get away from it all. Then Dan Brown went and screwed it all up!

Featured in The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel now draws tourists in great numbers. The only people happy about this, I'd imagine, are the owners of the pubs situated right beside the bus stop. Most of the business there, I'd imagine, is by people waiting for the bus to return forty five minutes after drop off, after they've exited the church.

Entrance fee here is seven pounds, fifty p. Again, nothing I'd be willing to spend, especially when photographs are not allowed inside. I've never understood why pictures are discouraged in religious buildings, and I can't think of any good reason – especially since guidebooks, and other such publications are allowed the privilege.

As of right now most of the building is under repair, and covered in false roofs, and scaffolding. It is not the most picturesque. But, for those that want a shot of the now-famous building, but unwilling to part with their hard earned money, there is a small – partially hidden – path that circles the chapel. Instead of turning into the ticket office, simply push through, following the stones, between wall and brush. Better pictures are offered there, then from inside the wall. A network of hiking trails seems to extend from this location too, worth of a trek if time is permitting.

If you have no desire to say, “I was there,” then the town is probably best avoided. I'm sure the locals will thank you. To be honest, the entire number fifteen bus route is probably best avoided.

Portobello Beach
The number twenty six bus leaving from George Street stretches out to the east of Edinburgh. I disembarked just outside the Portobello Town Hall, and followed the signposts down past public washrooms (always delightfully common in Scottish towns) towards the beach. The sky was slightly overcast but under this Scottish Sunshine people still made their way down to the water. Children played in the waves, frigid despite the summer, while dogs were walked along the sand.

The beach stretched on in both directions, and I could only image what it would be like if the skies, by some accident, happened to be pained blue for an afternoon.

I dipped my toes in the water.

Up the beach was an amusement centre where I pumped 2p coin after 2p coin into a gambling game, where the intent was to have your 2p coin push others onto a secondary platform, and then have that push others into your collection tray. There were times when I was up, and times when I was down. I was only playing with 40p, however, and as such played until I had run out. This took a, far more entertaining than imagined, twenty minutes. Each time I was almost out, one of my coins would cause another great cascade of clinking coins over the edge.

Portobello beach is definitely worth a visit for anyone who finds themselves near Edinburgh.

Seton Sands
I decided to continue on the number twenty six bus all the way to its terminus at Seton Sands. I was rewarded with a delightful trip along the oceans shore, gazing out at the miles and miles of public sandy beach. At one point the bus passed through the town of Preston. This is a town where buildings are covered in painted murals. One of the murals, along the beach front, is actually a map showing the locations of all the other murals in the area. Time and weather permitting, it's worth stepping out and looking around.

At the end of the scenic ride, you'll find yourself at Seton Sands, a very prestigious sounding location, reminding me of Shell Beach from the movie Dark City. Just as in the movie it turned out to be a slight disappointment. Seton Sands, you see, is a trailer park.

Moving On
Once back home after a day riding the Lothian Bus Line there was nothing to do but pack up, and get ready to fly out tomorrow. In the background Michael Jackson's funeral played on BBC2, made slightly more interesting by the BBC commentators who felt the need to critique, and at times insult in their very British way, the speakers and presenters.

And just like that two weeks has come to an end.

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