Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hogmanay Hysterics

On the road again... Less than 24 hours after landing back in Paris from the States, I was off on my way across the pond to the UK. Not before the evil grasp of jetlag attempted to thwart my merry plans, however. I have taken the Eurostar several times, and always prefer to arrive far earlier than their suggested checkin time of at least 30 minutes. Because of this, I set my alarm for 5:30am so that I could leave the house by 6:30am and get to the station with at least an hour to spare. Apparently my inner clock had very different ideas. At 7am, I woke up in a panic and realized that I must have got up, turned my alarm off, and gone back to sleep when my alarm rang hours previous. Luckily, I had everything packed down to the outfit I was planning to wear on the train. And while my lingering distrust of Uber was still afoot, I knew that the only way I could even have the slightest hope of making it to the train on time would be to give it another whirl. I ordered a cab, brushed my teeth, and ran down the staircase, managing to have arisen, gotten dressed, and be en route to Gare du Nord in less than 10 minutes. I admittedly had very little faith that I would make it on time, particularly because it was New Year's Eve Day and there could be a huge mass of people, so when all was said and done I was frankly handed a bit of a miracle. No traffic across Paris, no line through ticketing or border control, and by the time I was going through security with my bags, the other late stragglers and I were already being assured we would make the train on time. With a whole five minutes to spare, I sat down in my seat and marveled at the fact that I made it from wake up to train in lesson than 40 minutes. Something was already telling me this was going to be a banner New Year's Eve.

Once arrived in London, I made my way from the holiest of sites, King's Cross, to my Hot Blonde Cousin's apartment. She was working from home for the day, so I was able to drop my bags and take a quick run to Primark, my European store of stores. I was very happy to get my hands on a super cute rain jacket and umbrella, both desperately needed. Once back in the flat, I hopped in the shower before we took the Tube back to King's Cross and settled in for the 4 hour train ride to Edinburgh! This was around the point when travel was starting to take its pretty little toll, but I knew I had to rally for the evening about town. We got into Edinburgh at around 7pm, picked up our tickets for the street fair, and checked in at the hotel. This gave us a good hour to primp and pump up for what we knew was going to be a long night.

Now, just a bit of explanation first... Hogmanay is a famous New Year's festival that takes place in Edinburgh every year. We had found it on a list of NYE experiences worth having, and since Cousin and I both loved Scotland so much the last time around, it seemed like a perfect choice for our festive wanderings. From what we knew in advance, it is basically a giant street fair right through the heart of the city, culminating in fireworks over Edinburgh Castle. Several stages and screens are placed in different areas, home to DJ's, music, and live footage of the action. There are also a couple of smaller private concert areas that you need an additional ticket to enter. One of these houses more traditional Scottish music, which we would have been happy to take part in, but unfortunately it was sold out before we got our tickets. Even so, the streets were alive with partiers from around the globe. Cousin told me en route that this would be the first year in which alcohol would actually be sold at the fair, only beer and wine. Apparently in past people have always been encouraged to bring their own, something many still did, ourselves included. I can't pretend that this was the best idea in the world, however. Filling a flask full of whiskey rarely bodes well when you have no idea how to keep track of the volume you've consumed. Along with some wine bought from the stalls, and various other concoctions we ran into via fellow merrymakers, the evening was far from a sober one.

Now onto the juicy stuff... The first gaggle of guys we met was a young crew from Glasgow. They were already outlandishly wasted at the very early hour of pre-midnight, making for some fascinating antics. For the most part, we really couldn't understand a word they said, their thick brogues cloaking any semblance of comprehension. We did, however, get many hugs and cheek kisses, a multitude of high fives, and several comments alluding to us being the coolest Americans they'd ever met. At some point we extricated ourselves from their grasp, quite amused with their behaviour, but also rather certain we were destined for some other company that evening. 

After wandering around a bit longer, we started to think about where we might want to situate ourselves for the fireworks. We had entered the fair at the top of a hill where there was a DJ but also where it was so crowded I feared for a moment we were mirroring Times Square. Toward the bottom of the hill, where we spent most of our time, there was much more leg room, but certain areas were tainted with an obstructed view of the grand display. There was a nice little corner, however, where we comfortably settled in and, as luck would have it, were standing right next to a pack of Irishmen. Or Irishpeople, to be more accurate and politically correct. They seemed a cheerful bunch, so we shared libations and tales, feeling much more like an amiable group of travelers, bonding over their beer as they did in the days of yore... Whenever that was. But in all seriousness, there is something so special about the connections you make when traveling, however brief or fleeting. The best thing, of course, was the fact that one particular Irishman was very cute and charming and full of conversation directed specifically at me. As we all cozied up to see the fireworks commence, I felt I could perhaps see a New Year's kiss on the horizon. When the bell struck midnight, the light was ablaze with color, and we spread many happy wishes to our new friends. No kisses yet, but come on, give a girl a few minutes!

After the fireworks were finished, it was time to hit some pubs. Cousin, who remains to this day the best navigatrix I have ever had the privilege of traveling with, was the one who found us a sufficient watering hole. Once we got settled, the cute Irishman offered to buy me a drink and I felt appropriately flattered. But of course, this is where the plot becomes rife with twist! Irishman went to the bar while Cousin happened to be chatting with one of the Irish ladies in our party. Amidst their conversation, the Irishwoman casually dropped in that she was dating the Irishguy I had been consorting with all evening. Cousin, who was appropriately thrown, demanded that the girl repeat her claim. She even asked her point blank what she thought of the fact that her man had been flirting with me all night. The girl's response? "Well, he's going to do what he's going to do." Wow. While Cousin immediately came to share the news with me, I noticed Irishlass and Irishlad having what I would consider their first real interaction all evening. No kisses at midnight, no exchanges beforehand. She looked mildly upset, and he looked as if trying to convince her of something. When they finally returned, he went to sit down further away from me, not having returned with a drink as promised. Cousin jumped on the opportunity to ask him if he was dating the Irishgal, and his response? "Oh yeah, massively," Cut to moments later when I saluted a goodbye, and we left the pub without further explanation.

I must admit that I was rather perturbed by this turn of events, at least momentarily. I am constantly confounded by the behaviour of men who act as if completely free whilst in a committed relationship. Have a blast, boys,  but at the end of the day, I am far more impressed by a man who can't help but brag about his lady love than one who tucks all proof of romantic entanglement in a nice little locked up layer. Still, there are no regrets when destiny takes wing! About three seconds after leaving the bar, Cousin noticed another pub with a minimal cover. At first I wanted to say no, I was over the drama of the evening. But I rallied and sallied forth because that is what true Ladies of the Scottish Highlands do!  Happily, within moments of obtaining beers and a high top table, Cousin mentioned that she saw two young men checking us out from across the way. She then proclaimed that they were heading our direction, she assumed to come and introduce themselves. Instead, they walked right passed us and stopped at another high top to look back again. Negative, ghost rider. This was my cue to turn on the tipsy sass and take destiny into my own hands. I caught the eye of one of them, gestured that they should immediately appear by our side, then reprimanded them for not having the courage to come and do so on their own. Oh yes, very well aware of how special I had become. Needless to say, we spent the rest of the evening with these two fellows, absolutely spearheaded by myself. I believe I spent a good while convinced that my companion hated me, but then spending another good long while making out with him a lot in public. Such is life.

From this point, I will not go into the level of ridiculousness these two gentlemen brought along with them, mainly because I make it a habit of only incriminating myself at the heart of my ramblings. Yes, it was a late night. Yes, it was absurd. And yes, the following morning slash entire day was not without its consequences. But all in all, the night was a rousing success and I would absolutely recommend Hogmanay for anyone craving a fantastic NYE in a beautiful city in a cold weather but warm-hearted country in Europe.

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