Updated: Nov 15, 2020
I grew up in Houston, TX and remember riding the bus downtown with my mother one time when I was about eight years old. It was a route that my mother clearly knew well, but it really surprised me that she knew where to go and I asked her how she could know where to get off and how to get back home again without getting lost.
Truly, how did any of us ever take public transportation or for that matter, drive anywhere, without Google maps?! Of course, I actually know the answer to that because I used to use paper maps back when we rode dinosaurs to get around.
Isn’t technology amazing though! I know that we are having parts of our brains become dysfunctional by continuously depending on technology to do certain functions for us. I’m okay with that. Google maps also tells you everything you need to know about bus and train directions and schedules are so incredibly valuable world-wide now.
My sister, 12 years my senior, and quite adept at culinary skills, had a conversation with my mom when I was about 15, asking why my mom hadn’t taught me to cut up a chicken. My mom said to her that she wanted me to get a good education and earn enough money that I could afford to buy chicken that was already cut in to pieces. I sort of feel that way about getting my directions. I want to always have enough access to technology so that I don’t have to depend on paper maps any more. I actually love paper maps, but more as decor and nostalgia than for functionality. My first summer jobs were drawing oil and gas maps, and one of the most useful things I learned besides how to measure and read latitudes and longitudes was how to fold them.
In most parts of the U.S. public transportation is appallingly inefficient and the only reason one uses it is because there is no other option. We have such a love affair with our vehicles, and for good reason - they get us directly where we want to go. Unless you're in Los Angeles, then you might not get there if you want to go during rush hour.
Taking public transportation in Europe seems so normal. Even in the large cities like New York and Chicago where it is much more efficient and common for people to actually use it, subways and busses are usually quite dirty and in need of significant updates.
Having lived in Europe for a couple of years - quite a long time ago, we were used to using trains and busses as a good transportation option. Edinburgh has quite an efficient system of rail, busses, trams and ride share like Uber and Gett. We decided to give public transportation a try for our eight days there. We lasted 6.5 days.
In the city itself, it is very difficult and expensive to find parking and we were told that you really don’t want to have a car there. We actually ended up staying outside of town for our entire stay though, in the suburbs rather than downtown. We went in frequently to see some amazing things and we could buy an all day bus pass for about $5.20. We took a train for quick rides part of the time, and it was $5.60 for a six minute quick trip to avoid a 45 minute bus ride. The train however was a 10 minute walk from the station to our house, and the bus let us out across the street. Trade-offs. If you’ve been reading my previous blogs, you already read about how long it took me to go play pickleball - one hour and thirty-five minutes!
On our last full day in Scotland, we decided we wanted to head out of town to explore a bit further afield. When we checked in to the price to take the train and walk a considerable distance to our destination, it was going to be about $100 just for the train portion of the trip and then we would also need some bus transfers, so we were looking at $110 total for slow transportation. We checked in to getting a rental car and it was a whopping £21 - with insurance about $27! Easy choice, and we spent about $24 in gas. Ky headed off to Hertz to get our new chariot for the day. It was a Vauxhall, a small British 4 door hatchback. It suited our needs perfectly. It only took us a couple of tries to get in to the right side of the car for Ky to drive.
On the way out of town we were able to drive across one of the three bridges, one is for trains and one is only for busses. We stopped in North Queensferry to take a closer (and much higher) drone look. It was a gorgeous afternoon.
Unfortunately, we had a little delay. Ky did a quick tire change though and we were on our way.
We had set our sights on going to St. Andrews, mecca to golfers, and home to the prestigious St. Andrews University and Cathedral.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club founded in 1754 and it exercised legislative authority over the game. Since we’re not royal, and the ancient part is debatable, (and I guess you need to be both, and be invited, just ancient won’t cut it), we didn’t go in to that building. We did have lunch overlooking the 18th hole and watched as duffers that had paid over $200 to play a round which they had booked a year in advance, finished up the game of a lifetime on the storied course.
There is a walkway around the outer perimeter of the course which is open to all and there were quite a lot of pedestrians taking advantage of the views and the quick stop at the famous small stone Swilcan bridge that leads to the 18th hole. It was built originally over 700 years ago to help shepherd get livestock across a small stream names Swilcan Burn. We couldn’t resist walking in the footsteps of all of golf's greatest players.
The University is the oldest in Scotland and the 3rd oldest in the English speaking world. Its most illustrious graduate of recent note was Prince William, and it was there that he met his bride to be, Kate Middleton.
There is also the famous St. Andrews Cathedral. The town is gloriously old - as in, over 870 years old - and that is for the establishment of the present town! Scotland just has history oozing from every stone.
We made it home on the left side of the road, thanks to Ky's good driving and thanks again to Google maps - don't leave home without it!