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The International Writers Magazine: Scotland

Abrasively American
Margaret Banker
My senior spring break found me not in some Caribbean Island, or roaming the seas on a cruise-liner, but friend-hopping through the UK, visiting pals pursuing levels of education much beyond my ambition. 

St Andrews

As I latched on to my European tour guides, forcing them to walk the touristy paths they actively avoid in everyday life, I discovered the joys, the exhaustion, the acceptable degradation of touring abrasively American. 

In the country infamous for cloudy, rainy weather, I soaked up ten days of sunshine. Lugging my poppy-red umbrella, I strolled through Edinburgh, pale skin freckling from the yellow-face as I hiked up the jagged ridges of an extinct volcano. With blue rain coat tied unfashionably about the waist, I sauntered along the beaches of St. Andrews, unadorned toes merrily skimming the water, uncovered shoulders basking in the warmth. Fleece and mittens packed into my purse, I explored the magnificent highlands, pulling a celeb-who-me? move as I draped tinted sunglasses across my eyes, shielding them from the bright rays. Capitalizing on this unexpected weather surprise, suspecting that it was I who brought the uncharacteristic luminosity with my sunny-and-ready-to-be-a-tourist attitude, my Scotland host and I spent my week of vacation procrastinating her homework and journeying throughout the country, visiting her small town of St. Andrews, the capital city of Edinburgh, and the wild wilderness of the northern Highlands.  Trekking to and fro on trains, we reveled in adventure as our bank accounts and mental functioning took a hit while the repetitive trips exacted their monetary and psychological tolls.  Perhaps we tried to fit too much into five days – instead of bopping through all parts of Scotland, perhaps we should have stuck to a few places.  But, though broke and exhausted as the Scottish portion of my trip drew to a close, I cannot imagine skipping out on any of the adventures.  From Scotland I hijacked my masters-student friend away from her studies, (after all, who really needs to work on dissertations?) and travelled onward to London via Bath and Lacock.

A simple abbey does not a great day trip make. But an abbey that served as the filming site for two Harry Potter movies certainly does! By train, bus, and foot I traveled to Lacock, a small town that epitomizes the English countryside. I wanted to visit Lacock Abbey – the filming location of the first two Harry Potter movies.

Laycock The arching windows and ceilings, the particularly green courtyard, the immense black cauldron prominently placed in the center of vaulted room: all brought to mind the scenes and characters of a most beloved series. Certainly Lacock Abbey– an old nunnery transformed into residential home for one of the inventor’s of the camera – held prominence unrelated to this cultural phenomenon, but this concerned me not as I scurried, awestruck, through the halls of Hogwarts. 

Although Lacock boast some of the most famous walking paths in England, ones that take you through fields and streets, over wooden fences and sidelong to aromatic tea shops, our packed schedule left us no time to tramp along them.  The morning abbey adventure was cut preemptively short as we had to race to Bath in time to tour the Roman Baths.  The one allotted day for touring between Scotland and London left no time for dilly-dallying, not with all that called us onwards!

I touched, regardless of all orders and rules, Minerva’s spring. The Roman Baths are a geological wonder – warm water seeping up from the center of the earth, bubbling from elements other than heat. The mysterious blue pools have seen visitors for centuries, have provided recreation and rejuvenation to generations. These Baths of Bath have captivated travelers, authors, and artists alike, myself not the least of all. To come and go without feeling the waters experienced by so many from the past? Insufferable.  Was this selfish desire contributing to the slow deterioration of the ancient bathing area? Potentially.  Twinging with something that felt too much like guilt, I moved on from the Spring to the Pump Room above, accepting the glass of freely given spring water available to all guests. Choking down the disgustingly warm, mineral-tinted water, (not worth the wait, for sure) we hustled to the train station in order to catch our unquestionably and inexplicably expensive ride to London.

The red phone booth, the London Eye, the photo at Platform 9 ¾. Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace. Acting abrasively American, we took in the sites, snapping cliché photos, posing like tourists in front of well-known, over-photographed hot spots. Having only a weekend in London, just two days to experience a sprawling, iconic city, I put aside my pride and my dignity, shouldering the mantle of obnoxious tourist. Annoying? Possibly. Worth it? Absolutely. London phones

© Margaret Banker May 2011
mbanke02 at

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