Edinburgh and what not to do….

Those of you who have broken a bone will know what this feels like…the feeling of being disconnected from a limb…

Saturday 20th January - I waved my left arm about – about 10 metres from the top of Arthur’s Seat frantically shouting ‘my arm, I can’t feel it anymore’; adrenaline coursing through my body, the cold air hitting my exposed skin, and that feeling of pure dread knowing I’d done something nasty to my body…and wondering ‘how the heck am I going to get out of this sticky situation I’d got myself into. And, more important, how the *bleep* am I going to get down from this mountain and get help?’

I knew the second my feet slipped out from under me - and I tried to break my fall by stretching out my left arm, banging my head onto solid rock in the process - that this wasn’t going to be a little bump. I just knew I wasn't going to walk away slightly bruised from this fall.

The piecing pain and the feeling that I was picking up half my arm from the floor just didn’t feel right.

Andrew - who I’m so glad was with me in Edinburgh (thank god, I wasn't travelling solo this time) tries to calm me down. I remember his look that was saying 'you're going to have to move'. But as stroppy as it seemed at the time, there really was no way I was moving from the spot I’d slumped into. Holding onto my arm for dear life, Andrew sprung into first aider action (ironically I was the one with the first aider certificate!). Anyway! he made me a sling out of a spare thermal he had in his backpack... whilst I sat there and well, cried.

I’m not quite sure what was going on in each other’s heads at that moment. I was freaking out thinking ‘why has this just happened. We’re on top of a windy mountain – although to be honest, I’m not even sure you’d call it a mountain. It’s more of a steep hill…but, at that moment in time, it just felt like a huge big gigantic mountain - it’s icy, it's cold and there is no one around’.
It’s not even like I could hobble a few metres to the nearest help-point, and I really didn’t fancy being left alone whilst Andrew went to find help.

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…moments later and like a knight in shining armour – or maybe just pure luck – or, I like to think that someone was looking down on us – a man appeared from nowhere. I glimpsed the word ‘Ranger’ on the man’s sweatshirt, but assumed it was just one of those branded sweatshirt you get nowadays.
But, my knight - aka Robbie the Ranger - took one look at my face and said “you look like you need help?” and then he sprung into rescue action, reassuring us he’d seen worse, and injecting a little humour into the situation. I was so relieved to see Robbie, and so relieved he was there to help. He was asking so many questions....

did I need air lifting?”, “could I walk”, “how was the pain?….

... mountain rescue armed with pain relief were on soon their way, as well as an ambulance. The whole time I was thinking “what is mum going to say when she finds out?’. Because I travel alone a fair bit, she’s got into the habit of telling me ‘not to lose anything, to be careful, to make sure I look after my phone, to keep my passport, money and most importantly myself stay safe’, so I REALLY wasn't looking forward to her finding out about this little incident. 

Andrew and Robbie manage to hoist me up and onto my feet, and with teeny baby steps and lots of stopping to get my breath back, we manage to get to a more sheltered and safe spot. Still, we were nowhere easy for the mountain rescue paramedics to reach me. I was unsteady on my feet and it was slippy, so we resort to sliding me down on my bum - so very ladylike!
Robbie asks how I feel about going a little further and by this time all I want to do is get to the bottom of the mountain, get somewhere warm and for the pain to stop. We see the ambulance in the distance making its way to the bottom of the mountain (hill!). So, wobbly on my feet, and trying to let my arm sink into the makeshift sling around my neck, I hold onto Robbie like my life depends on him, and we take each step, one at a time looking for solid ground where it’s not icy, and where I can place my foot….but, we both slip. I shriek and pain slices through my shoulder.
I wasn't going any further, so Robbie makes me sit and we wait….

It doesn’t take long before three jolly mountain rescuers reach us and take over. I was a little sad to see Robbie back away. Handing me gas and air (my first experience), the guys hoisted me into a sleigh. The rescue takes just over two hours. I remember lying back in the sleigh and looking up at blue sky – it was the first time I realised it all felt so quiet and peaceful up there. I thought how lucky we were that it wasn’t moody and raining. I mean, Scotland is "always" cold and rainy right? (it could all be worse). Inhaling the gas and air – boy, that stuff is AMAZING. I never realised how good it was, I thought it was all in the mind! It’s a shame you can’t buy bottles of it!

Careful not to slip themselves, the rescue team lower me down the mountain and onto flat ground. The next stretch of the rescue was getting me up and onto a buggy – a bit like a golf buggy. I hate attention, fuss and being a nuisance, and all of this all felt like I was doing all three, plus it all felt so dramatic!

And, then it was off to meet two more paramedics and an ambulance….more attention, more fuss, more questions, all just because I’d stupidly slipped and hurt myself :-(

I’ve never been in an ambulance before, so this was another first. And, by now I was sporting a nasty black eye – I’d completely forgotten I’d hit my head as I fell, and I was shaking uncontrollably. I was also a little upset that my gas and air had been taken away from me too – pain was kicking in again :-(

Within half an hour after reaching Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, I’d been x-rayed, checked over by a doctor - making sure I hadn’t been concussed from my fall - and had it confirmed that I had indeed broken my shoulder – the humerus (which to me sounded like hummus).
And, there was me thinking I’d just dislocated my shoulder and all that would happen was a nice doctor would just pop it back into place, and I could go about enjoying the rest of the weekend……sadly not....

Something else was bothering me as I sat talking to the doctor. I was a little concerned that he may have thought I’d wet myself – the chair I’d been sat on had a wet patch from my wet leggings from where I’d slid down the snowy mountain (hill). So reassuring the doctor that I hadn’t peed myself, he popped on a collar and cuff and we said goodbye!

So that was that, not long after that Andrew and I were on our way back home to London – not even 24-hours after we’d arrived. “I feel so bad I’ve spoilt the weekend” I repeatedly said to Andrew who’d now assumed nurse duties, including all lifting and carrying of bags.

We should have been tucking into a breakfast of scrambled eggs, avocado and smoked salmon on toast in one of the many cute cafés that we’d spotted and earmarked the night before. Instead of that, we were back in the comfort of a Virgin Trains first class carriage looking at each other – me apologizing and feeling sorry for myself, whilst taking bites out of an egg mayo sandwich -which to me still feels like the best ever egg mayo sandwich ever to be made!

All the drama had given me the munchies too, so when the trolley came around a second time, I didn’t say no to a second sandwich and some shortbread biscuits!

The next morning having been to Lewisham Hospital casualty as soon as I got home (and faced my mum), I had it re-confirmed I had broken my shoulder. I spent the next the days feeling very sorry for myself and popping Cocodomol to ease the pain.
Fast forward two weeks after that day, and I returned to hospital for what I thought was a check-up. Sitting waiting for my name to be called out, one of the doctors walked past me and recognised me. Me being me thinks ‘aww, he remembered me, that’s so cute, I must have made an impression!’...but he had other reasons and questions including….“when did you last eat Lucy?”. Hmmm, I wasn’t expecting that….I knew instantly what was meant…an operation…a few hours later I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, filling in consent forms and anticipating my anaesthetist to call my name whenever someone came into the room. It all felt a bit like sitting in a bizarre dentist. One person would get called for their op, and would head off in their white gown, and then another anxious person arrived.

A good few months later pinned and plated, I’m able to write about ‘what NOT to do in Edinburgh!’

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Big thanks to Andrew for looking after me and taking care of me – this guy has seen me at my best and at my worst – and I’m lucky to have him as a friend. And huge thanks to Robbie the Ranger, mountain rescue and paramedics who also looked after me on that Saturday morning.

 

So, what did we see in Edinburgh?

Apart from leaving a little part of me up at the top of Arthurs Seat and the view…..

We… had a comfortable and hassle-free ride through the villages, towns and cities of the east coast with Virgin Trains. Not forgetting the best egg mayo sandwich!

We… spoke to some super friendly local people on the bus ride to our cosy Airbnb (which came complete with Tunnock’s caramel wafers and Whiskey)

We…had a lovely walk to the Old Town on Friday evening. The city has a lovely old-charm feel with cobbled streets and cafes everywhere – and I do love a café. I had a good feeling on that Friday evening that I was going to enjoy taking photos of the city (pre-drama)

We…stopped at the famous Harry Potter Elephant Café. I had no pre-illusions about this café, and I admit to never reading or watching any of the books or films. The café had a traditional feel to it, but it was also incredibly touristy. It was a funny experience. We ordered homemade tomato and lentil soup, with bread….the soup arrived and we started eating. But half way through we looked up at each other…. there wasn’t a tomato or lentil in sight. Ha, it was all vegetable and it was delicious.

I wasn’t going to mention this, but I was reminded of a wee incident on our brief evening walk and bus journey home to our Airbnb. Perhaps it was an omen or a warning…we alighted the bus, and guess who manages to find the patch of black ice and falls slap bang onto her bum? Yup, me. I found that all very funny. I was more concerned about my camera than my bottom!

Here’s Andrew’s account of the day, in his words…

I Andrew, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and mostly the truth.

Well, let’s set the scene. It was a beautiful Edinburgh morning in January. Snow was crunching under foot as we walked through the deserted streets up to the beautiful Holyrood Park, home to Arthur’s Seat. The scene of the crime.

We passed through the park following Google maps to the foot of the mountain, which apparently is technically a hil - but it felt like a mountain. And we began our climb.

Looking back, the warning signs were there. We were both sliding around on the snow and ice so should have called it quits there, but we could see other people making the climb so thought ‘hey, it can’t be that bad’. On we walked getting higher and higher. We were still slipping about but the top was in sight. We were in a narrow gully which looked like it led to the summit with the promised view across the city.

It was all supposed to be so simple, a gentle walk to the top, take a few pictures of the view and then down for breakfast in one of the cute cafes. And that’s when it happened. In a matter of second our weekend took a dramatic change. One second Lucy was on her feet, the next she was on the floor face down in the snow. 

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I started laughing as I’m a nice guy like that. But as soon as Lucy rolled over I knew something wasn’t right as she was as white as a sheet. She kept saying I can’t feel my arm, whilst waving it at me. Lucy stopped waving her arm and started crying. It was at that point I knew we had to get off the hill. Which was going to be a challenge as Lucy was now clutching her arm and refusing to move. But move, we had too. I some managed to get Lucy to slide down the 5 metres on her foot while I dragged her other foot. But that was as far as she was going. We were stuck.

I was doing my best not to freak out at the situation for Lucy’s sake, but I was beginning to get worried. And then like a miracle, Robbie the Ranger appeared. He instantly took control of the situation and calmed us both down. Lucy was wrapped in one of those silver foil blankets and was slowing sliding down the hill. And then the pain really kicked in and we were not moving any further. We were then given a number of options, some of the words used included mountain rescue, special buggy, ambulance and even helicopter. We managed to persuade Lucy to move to a point where the special rescue team would be able to reach us.

It was at this point that I for some reason started talking photos of Lucy in her moment of pain, but I know Lucy well and knew that she would appreciate the pictures. Turns out I was right. Phew! The mountain rescue team met us and loaded Lucy into the stretcher. They then gave Lucy gas and air for the pain and her mood instantly lifted. It lifted so much she decided she wanted to have a baby as the gas and air was sooooooo good. 

This was when the amazing vehicle turned into something from Thunderbirds, if Thunderbirds had golf buggies with 6 wheels. Lucy and her stretcher were strapped to the began her descent. Whilst I had to walk.

The mountain rescue crew and Robbie were amazing and got us down from the mountain and into the warmth of the ambulance. Before we were whisked off to Edinburgh’s top tourist hot spot: The A&E department!

Day trip to Florence...

During my trip to Rome, I had my sights set on going to Florence for the day – even after my Airbnb host said ‘it would be too short and too tiring’ – nothing was going to change my mind. The trains run frequent and I’d already consulted my Italian ex work buddy Emmanuele, and if he said it was easy, then I knew to trust him (thank you Emmanuele).

I know I’ve said to really soak up and uncover a city and all its charm, ‘you have to live a city’ – and that means spending more than a day somewhere, but hey, one day was better than none….and one day I will ‘live Florence’. I already knew I wasn’t going to see everything in one day, and I was intent on not rushing to see everything. And anyway, I love having a reason to return somewhere :-)

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I’d already booked and paid for my ticket a few days in advance, so all I had to do was find my platform and my seat. I chose a super early 7.45am train. The tickets are cheaper if you book ahead – my return ticket was approx. 60 euros. But, if you know exactly what day you want to travel, it’s even cheaper if you book a few weeks ahead. So, that morning (1st December), I set my alarm super early and headed at 6.30am for the Termini Station in Rome. I had a 50-minute walk, hence my early start. It was a dark morning when I left my cosy home, and walked through the streets, but I was excited at the thought of making this trip. The journey isn’t too long (just under 2 hours), and the ride itself is beautiful. Passing through little towns, and Tuscan fields of trees and fog, I had to resist the urge to get off at a random stop just to take a photo. I thought of my photographer friends who would have loved to have shot with their drone here. It really was special.

I arrived into Santa Maria Novella train station on time 9.17am…and oh boy, first though was ‘it’s so much colder here!’. Luckily once you’re in Florence, its small-town feel makes it so easy to travel about from one spot to another on foot. It’s probably one of the most accessible and walkable main Italian cities.

I’d been to Florence before and writing this now, I can still remember what it was like to catch my first glimpse of Santa Maria del Fiore – it was just how I remembered it. Breathtakingly beautiful. It’s one of the most famous Cathedrals in Italy due in part to its huge dome . I had a sense of Deja-vu walking around the cathedral – I circled it twice just to get a feel for its immensity and to see ‘the gates of heaven’- and I remembered the day when mum and I stood watching a religious procession. The weather totally opposite to what I was experiencing this time around – it was sunny, hot and Mum and I were a little shocked at our rather expensive and rather huge £5 gelato! I had to dig out the photos of us on my return. It was September 2011 and I remember it like it was yesterday.

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It was still early morning, and relatively free from tourists, so I headed to Giotto’s Campanile first as there was no queue. Reliving previous bell tower climbs and also the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I was prepared to work up a sweat. There are 414 steps to reach the very top; it’s unmistakably memorable, and it’s also a symbol – much like the Duomo – of Florence. From the lofty heights of the top, you’ll be rewarded by several grand panoramic views of the city, the surrounding hills and of the cathedral and Cupola of Brunelleschi itself. It really is quite beautiful.

 

Rather than taking a teeny rest, I decided there was no time like the present to face the next climb and I headed straight for the Cathedral Cupola…there was a little queue, and I knew if I left it any later the queue would be ten times, if not more long (I was right). After seeing the Duomo from all side and visiting inside, I wanted to see inside the dome and the view, so I booked my time slot, and dodging a rain shower I headed in. My legs were still recovering from the Campanile climb, and silly me didn’t notice the 463 steps to reach the top of the Cupola. It was too late to change my mind, and so up I went. I felt quite proud of my achievement once I’d reached the top, and wow, the view! I thought the Campanile view was a beauty, this was even more spectacular (well, I thought so). Not only do you get a remarkable view of the city from the top, but as you climb, you also get to see a different perspective of inside the Cathedral, and of the stunning and intricate frescoes. It’s something you can’t miss seeing in Florence.

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Naturally, once back on the ground, I needed to refuel…on gelato, and headed for Gelateria Edoardo where news to me, I found out that Florence is the birthplace of Gelato! How an earth did I not know this? Naturally coming here felt like a good sign that I was in good hands with whatever flavours I choose…. always pistachio though ;-)

Other than the Cathedral, I had no real agenda, I just wanted to walk and enjoy Florence, and that’s exactly what I did. I soon found myself at another spot I remember so vividly…Ponte Vecchio, one of Florence’s oldest and most beloved landmarks. Literally translated as the ‘old bridge’, I love the history and Romantiscm of this bridge. While today the bridge is known for its illustrious jewellery shops, and hanging balconies, the history of this bridge is interesting (to me anyway). Beneath the glitz of gold rings, chains and watches is a bridge that’s stood the test of time. A gold necklace can be bought anywhere, but a gold necklace purchased on the Ponte Vecchio, is not just gold, it’s all in the location that make that item of gold so special. It’s an experience. I was drawn back to the bridge various times that day – I guarantee anyone visiting will be too – the light changes at different hours of the day. The Cathedral is impressive, the museums and galleries spectacular, but for me Ponte Vecchio is my favourite sport; at sun set the bridge literally bathes in gold and at night it twinkles. It’s so completely charming.

Another important spot linked to the bridge is the Vasari Corridor – and oh my, when the light hits this corridor all kinds of wonderful shadows, sun beams and magic happens. It’s a long corridor that links the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace. I had so much fun taking photos here, that I had to stop and make myself head to Piazza dell Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio – Florence’s most famous square.

Time was ticking-on, my train was due to depart at 7.33pm…and I felt like I had so much more to see. I’d only scratched the surface of this city – I was drawn by too many smartly dressed men in trilby hats to photograph too. It was making me sad that I was going to have to leave so soon…

Top tip, unlike me, if you don’t want to just walk and wander, and you do want to tick off some sights, you’re going to have to make yourself a little itinerary. Florence really does hold some of the most magnificent masterpieces in the world. There are the major museums and galleries to visit including the Uffizi home to Michelangelo’s David (plan ahead if you want to visit here. It’s the biggest and best museum, and also the hardest to get into), The Academia, Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, churches including Santa Croce, Giardino de Boboli (I like saying the name Boboli), a market, as well as the many streets (on either side of Ponte Vecchio bridge) and piazzas to get lost in. Not to mention all those energy refuelling pit stops to make in the cafés and restaurants. And, because it was gearing up to the festive season, everywhere had taken on that magic Christmas feel.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to visit the numerous art galleries – as you can see from above, there’s enough to keep you busy for weeks on end – as well as beautiful Renaissance churches, buildings and streets. There’s also the view at Pizzale Michelangelo. I was told the view here is a little of a hike up a hill, but it’s a great way to see a stunning view of the city without having to pay to climb the steps of the Duomo. 

Maybe next time, because Florence, I’m sure to be back x

 

Rome in December...

So, the end of 2017, and my final trip of the year. I’m cheating slightly and doing one trip over two months, but visiting two cities, Rome and Florence (actually, it’s three as we can’t forget The Vatican too). I never expected 2017 to be so topsy-turvy. Life isn’t always easy by no means, people can be messy, confusing and complicated and there are bound to be disappointments, but I’m super thankful that I achieved so much travelling, made many memories and had some good people around me. I learnt a great deal about myself in 2017 – maybe that’s one for another blog post - and I ended the year healthy and around my family.

So, Rome…I visited this city at the beginning of summer 2016. It was somewhere I had always dreamt of visiting; I’m surprised it took me so long to get there to be honest. I built up such a romantic image of the city in my mind, and in all honesty, I wasn’t blown away on that first visit. That bugged me, because if you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll notice that I adore Italy. I found it way too touristy, and despite thinking I was being vigilant and careful, I had my phone stolen – not fun when you’re flying solo and rely heavily on google maps!

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So, why go back? Like I say, I adore Italy, and it bothered me that I didn’t fall in love with The Eternal City. I seem to have found a love of visiting this country in winter months too – I just find it so much more magical, mysterious, intriguing and romantic. It’s also not as busy. I was also determined that I was going to take a day trip to Florence too. It’s another city Mum and I visited years ago on a coach trip. We both remember walking across the Ponte Vecchio bridge and stopping to take the obligatory photo. I knew even then, that I would have to go back one day.

Since returning home to London after my last trip to Palermo, I found myself having ‘up and down’ days. I really missed my ‘office work routine’ (which I guess after having devoted 20 years to the same company was only to be expected). I had days where everything was exciting and I was super productive, and then days where I felt alone and a little melancholic. I was usually that person giggling at an inappropriate joke and making some rude remark in an office full of people - I missed the office banter. I was going to have to adapt. I sat in my new little office-space thinking. I caught up on some writing, sent emails, did a little networking, but I needed to get away somewhere I could take photos, explore, discover new things, think with no distraction, put a few feelings ‘to bed’ so-to-speak, and write for a few days…and Rome seemed like a perfect choice.