We left for Scotland nine days ago, and the whole trip snuck up on me like a honey badger stalking its prey. With all the excitement—not to mention work—involved in buying a new (old) house, SVV and I have been tirelessly doing manual labor on nights and weekends getting the place in fair enough condition for a mid-October move-in. Add that onto the handful of clients who have kept us busy (in a good way) and working until 2am nightly leading up to my departure, and I found us a week day shy of flying out of Nashville without a single hotel booked for our 16-day trip. Cue the panic attack!
Especially given that this was meant to be my sister’s trip—my mom promised us each a big international vacation when we turned 22; it took me until I was 27 to cash in on this on our romp through South Africa and Kari until a few weeks short of 24 to squeeze it in between grad school and starting her big corporate job in Charlotte—and I was invited along with the stipulation that I planned the whole trip and Mom would fund it. (A pretty decent deal if you ask me!)
It all worked out, of course—it always does—and last Monday, Mom, Kari and I were on a plane for Atlanta, then another to Paris, at which point we landed at Charles de Gaulle to find the biggest clusterf*ck of an airport situation I’ve ever been privy to.
Not only were the airport staff incredibly rude and the airport not at all marked, leading us to lose valuable time aimlessly roaming like the three blind, sleep-deprived mice, but despite not needing to get our bags and take them through customs, we still were made to exit the terminal, re-enter the terminal and go through security again. A security line that snaked its way around the check-in desks for a good third of a mile in each direction (I’m not even exaggerating), and suddenly our two-hour layover turned into, “holy Hell, we have 10 minutes until our flight is set to depart and still haven’t even reached the first part (of three) checkpoints we have to go through!”
The airport employees continued to be rude and unhelpful, shrugging their shoulders every time we relayed our plight and yelling at us to get back into line. Apparently, de Gaulle is always this bad, several “regulars” told us as much, and apparently, I have just been really fortunate to never have used it as a stopover point before. Finally, I grabbed one airport employee who actually looked kind, and she ushered the three of us to the front of the line and through security without them so much as checking our passports.
Once we arrived at the Air France gate after boarding was allegedly closed—they were still waiting on more than 10 people who had checked into the flight but not arrived at the gate; that’s how bad the airport situation was—the terribly rude Air France employee yelled at us: “You have been on the ground for two hours and 15 minutes!!! Where have you been?!?!” which made me want to slap her in the face as I had had to pee urgently since the moment the seat belt sign came on during our Paris descent and we hadn’t so much as a spare second for a bathroom break. Wow, Air France (and de Gaulle in general), way to live up to the France stereotype. (I should add that I do love France as a country and have never believed what they say about Parisians; I just never ever will fly through this airport again even if it means taking a route that’s more expensive and takes longer.)
We finally touched down in Edinburgh a mere 20 hours after leaving home, and took a cab to our hotel in New Town. This is when our bedraggled selves committed the cardinal sins of all travelers: We decided to take a nap. Hey, can you blame us? We hadn’t slept in the past two nights given that neither Kari and I can ever fall asleep the night before a flight, and the France scenario had left us all a bit stressed. I’ve never been a napper, or much of a sleeper in general (I blame my highly-anxious, perfectionist personality), so I figured this would be OK: I’d rest for 20 minutes, wake them up, then we’d be on our way.
You can see where this is going. Three hours later, and the hotel gal knocked on our door and I woke up to find it was 3pm. Not only that, but it was an absolutely gorgeously sunny day, a rarity in Edinburgh, and I hated that we’d wasted nearly all of it. So I roused Mom from her slumber, while Kari continued to snooze peacefully on the couch, and though we both felt like we’d been hit by a bus, we figured some Vitamin D would do us some good.
And we were so glad we did this, too. It’s long been said the cure to jet lag is getting out into the sun so your body can quickly adjust to the new schedule. After a stop for a coffee and a scone (with jam and clotted cream, natch), we were rejuvenated and the adrenaline of being back in Edinburgh took hold.
We didn’t want to do any of the big tourist attractions without Kari, so we wandered aimlessly as I pointed out “that’s where I used to go with Evan and Francie when we were feeling fancy!” (Opal Lounge) and “that’s where I used to buy clothes when I wanted something cool to take back and wear in the States!” (TopShop or Monsoon). We watched bagpipers pipe and cute Scottish dogs be, well, cute Scottish dogs, and were overall giddy and merry at just being present in Scotland.
We returned to the hotel around 6pm in time to shower before dinner in Stockbridge with my former flatmate Jo and her adorable fiance Henry (whom my Mom kept calling “Harry” as he’s ginger like the Prince) at Purslane.
Purslane was absolutely delightful, by the way, and I would 100 percent recommend you go there for the £25-for-three-courses dinner deal they offer nightly. Everything we had was divine!
Mom and Kari went back to the hotel and crashed after dinner, while I stayed out with Jo and “Harry,” visiting a bar down the street, Hector’s, that was full with locals and their dogs. It was the perfect first evening back in my fair city, and I got back to the hotel around midnight before reading a bit (more Tropper—I’m obsessed) and finally crashing.
While I’ve gotten sleepy every afternoon like clockwork, I haven’t yet let jet lag mess up my daily schedule. Mind over matter, after all. I continue to go to bed around 2am, get up around 8am, and spend the day seeing every last monument and attraction I can. I will let you in on a little secret since we’re all friends here: I take a sleep aid the first couple nights I’m in any new country in order to get in sync with my new time zone as quickly as possible. This can be something prescription like Ambien or Lunesta, something over-the-counter like Tylenol PM, or something natural like melatonin or valerian root. (Obviously, check with your doctor first to see what’s best for you.)
Other than that, I abide by the philosophy that I can sleep plenty when I’m dead and that I can go a week or two without for the greater good (in this case, travel). I also have found that sensory deprivation helps loads, whether it’s a sleep mask or ear plugs (both of which I travel with always) paired with heavy drapes, as does a dose of exercise. (I wish I could say I’m one of those people who always uses the hotel gym, but I’m more of a city walker instead.)