Winging It

I have to confess at the start: I haven’t ridden my bike in about a week. But there’s no need to panic. It’s the result of compact city centers dense with culture that have allowed me to wander by foot through their fascinating streets. In fact, walking proved to be the best way to see Liverpool and is shaping up the same way in Edinburgh.

Since departing Oli’s house outside of Reading two weeks ago, I have thrown most of my England-based plans to the wind, moving on a whim with as little as a few hours’ notice. Consequently, I’ve had to cut Ireland out of my plans altogether; I know I’ll need a lot of time to fully appreciate the country and all it has to offer, so I’m just waiting for my opportunity to do it right. The bright side of “missing out” (for lack of a better phrase) on one place is that I discovered an entirely new destination whose immense value I had not anticipated.

In case my effusive review of Bluecoat didn’t imply it, I fell in love with Liverpool. The bounty of music, food and friendly denizens kept me engaged for my entire stay. There is a certain energy about the city that drew me to it. It’s gritty yet welcoming, bustling but calm. The city center is incredibly walkable, allowing me to leave my bike at the hostel the whole time. Despite being relatively compact, it seemed like it would be very difficult to run out of discoveries and interests.

Philharmonic Pub. Inside, the bathrooms are a tourist attraction. I refrained from photographing men peeing. Great meal before seeing the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Church bombed out during WWII
One day it was open to tours. There was eerie cello music playing from inside to attract visitors. Mighty creepy.
Docks after rain 


As a result, I never took breakfast at my hostel, choosing instead to explore the thriving culinary scene. I befriended an ultra sociable staff at a cafe with soul-satisfying treats, and they pointed me in all the right directions. From there I explored two massive cathedrals where I listened to choral practices and ascended to the top of a 330 foot tower (terrifying and exhilarating). The museums were brilliant and, as I mentioned before, the arts scene is profound. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to learn that Liverpool was the “European Capital of Culture” in 2008.

Catholic Cathedral

Anglican Cathedral: ~330ft tower
I hate heights, but the view is worth it

Upon arriving, I had no idea where my next destination would be. Ireland was still in the cards, even. From there, I probably could have cycled to Newcastle, where I need to arrive next week. But a quick chat with my Canadian friend from London convinced me to hop a train to Edinburgh. I decided, especially with my conclusion on Ireland, that it would be a great idea to get a taste of Scotland. Thus, on Monday morning I secured the last affordable train ride north for that evening.

While I waited I hung out in the Central Library’s nifty 19th century reading room

Arriving in Edinburgh by train at night is a real treat. As I emerged from the station, my first view of the city was its trademark castle, dominating the skyline with a beautiful purple under lighting. Subsequent strolls (the ideal experience here) further revealed the city’s beauty, both in daylight and dark.

View from Arthur’s Seat

In the spirit of adventure, I learned about Scotch Whisky (fun fact: there is no E in Scotch Whisky, but there is in the Irish and American versions) and even found a type that I could enjoy. Especially exciting to me, I tried and enjoyed haggis. The lead up to its ingestion was unnecessarily nerve wracking, for I could only think about the fact that it’s sheep innards. As soon as I tasted and stomached the first bite, though, I was glad I tried it. On that note, I don’t feel like I need to have it again.

Got to see the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whisky

While I know sticking to a plan would have undoubtedly been a fabulous experience, I have truly felt in my element pursuing a path spontaneously and impulsively. There is a certain thrill to stumbling upon great sights without expecting them, even if they’re tourism mainstays. To me, it’s far more rewarding and primes me to bask in the glory of the journey, encountering the world as I go.

This is why I hesitated to use the phrase “missing out” earlier in the post. One can only view it as such if they only consider their destination, checking the boxes as they go. Taking the trip one step at a time, however, means that I’m never missing out, since I’m taking in wherever I happen to be as much as possible.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but traveling this way has proven to be even more fulfilling than I had anticipated.


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