This is my experience of PERFECT for the Daily Prompt:
In 2003 I scrimped and saved and took myself to the UK for a 19 day adventure. I went alone. This was my first time on a plane, my first time out of the country. I dreamed and planned and asked advice all year, and everyone I talked to said, “You HAVE to go to Scotland!” It wasn’t on my original wish list, but I decided to take this advice; and I’m SO glad I did!! My final day in Edinburgh before boarding a bus back to London and catching the plane back home was, in a word, magic.
I was staying in a hostel on the Royal Mile, so I got up and got myself showered and ready to go out for the day relatively early. I had been neglecting my journal for the past few days, so I took it with me to Starbucks, got a coffee and found a quiet place to perch and write. (I know, Starbucks! But it’s really the only place to find just plain, brewed coffee over there. I actually had to drink instant coffee in England once – BLECH!!) So, I did that – spent about 45 minutes writing about my adventures, and then I went out to see what the day held for me. I didn’t have any particular plan, just wanted to soak up the last bit of Edinburgh I was allowed. I walked toward the castle and I thought I heard bagpipes, so I followed the sound. It lead me down Cockburn St., past the music store where I bought the Old Blind Dogs CD that a tour guide had recommended to me earlier in the week, down the sloping, winding, cobblestone street to an opening onto a balcony-like overhang to the next street down. There were a few other folks hanging over the wall looking down and the music was very loud by this point, so I walked over to the wall. There below me was a pipe and drum group in full formal kilts who looked to be warming up for a performance.
As I stood listening, the man next to me started chatting to me. “Where are you from?” “What brings you here?” – All the usual questions. So I told him, “I’m from California, here on vacation and this is my last day before I head back to London and then the States.” He told me he was from Leeds and asked if I had stopped there in my travels. “No,” I said, “should I have?” He put his arm around my shoulders and, as the band played another tune, told me all about the wonders of Leeds – everything I had missed – and advised me to extend my trip to see it. I explained that I really couldn’t do that – work, etc. were waiting for me back home. He nearly cried! I’m pretty sure he hadn’t been home yet from the night before, but he was very nice and didn’t smell too bad. Soon the band moved along and so did we spectators.
I decided to check out the New Town for a bit – I wanted to make sure I could find the bus station, and it looked busy down there from my perch above Princes Street Garden. There was a winter carnival set up as well, so I made my way down. The crowds were huge, but I managed to find the bus station (complete with plaque explaining that it was the former site of the first veterinary school in the UK – which is cool since I work for a vet!). Then I did a little window shopping, but the crowds were so overpowering that I got swept away and didn’t see much. Soon, though, I heard music again and there were no cars in the street anymore, just people. It was a parade! I watched for a while – still have no idea what the parade was for – and then I let the crowd carry me to the Christmas Bazaar. There was a ferris wheel set up near the Walter Scott Monument and a bunch of little booths…and an ice rink. I decided I needed to write some more, so I sat in the bleachers to watch the skaters (we don’t see a lot of ice skating in CA!). Just as I sat down the song that, by then, had become the my magic song, “Babylon” by David Gray, came on over the speakers…it felt like a hug. Pretty soon the spell was broken when I saw two teenagers in black, over-sized clothes approaching me. I had not had a single bad experience in my travels, but you always hear stories of pickpockets, etc. so I tucked my bag under my arm and waited. They said they wanted to do some magic tricks for me, would that be OK? I said, yes, but I still kept an eye on them. It turned out, they DID just want to do some tricks! They were really sweet kids, we chatted for a while, and they moved on just as it began to rain again.
Since it was raining now and I hadn’t finished writing and I was getting chilly, I moved over to the covered seating area on the other side of the skating rink. They were selling mulled wine and cider from a truck there, so I got some mulled wine and took a seat again. Just a couple of minutes later the rain was really coming down and the tables under the awning were filling up. When a couple of ladies asked if they could share my table I said yes, of course. They were very chatty, asked me a lot of questions, and wished I was in town a bit longer as they would like to have me over for dinner! [People were SO friendly in Scotland, so warm and interested. They were lovely in England, too, but in Scotland? Well, they wanted to take me home with them!] As soon as there was a break in the rain I decided to get back to my nice warm hostel.
It was getting to be late afternoon by that time anyway, twilight time since we were so far north. The common room was packed because of the rain, and I was smiling like a fool from my serendipitous day. An Australian guy and a few Canadians I had befriended in my week there gave me the, “What are you so happy about?!” face, so I told them about my day. I guess it didn’t seem magical enough to break the cold and rain induced grumpiness for them, but I was still spellbound. I stayed long enough to get warm and then I announced that I was off to get a potato (there was a baked potato place close by that everyone loved – cheap and easy and warm!). By this time it had been raining steadily for hours and everyone who came inside was dripping wet and freezing, so they all looked at me like I had two heads. “You’re going out there in this?! Aren’t you from California??” my new friend, Paul, said. “Yep, I love the rain and it’s only a short walk,” I responded. Pretty soon I was taking orders for everyone else and collecting money. If I was crazy enough to go out in this weather, they were going to take advantage! So my last evening in Scotland was spent sitting in front of the heater in the kitchen trying to get dry while enjoying a veggie chili potato with my new friends, continuing to be grossed out by the penchant for putting mayo on fries, making each other laugh, and just generally enjoying ourselves.
It was the best day I never planned, and it comes back to me vividly every time I hear that song.