Brian and Lanny Go to Europe
by Nick Brady
Copyright 2015-2017 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.
Brian and Lanny deplaned in Edinburgh, ready to begin their great adventure. They located their packs then queued up for customs. Their paperwork was in order and they were quickly sent on their way. Shouldering their packs, they headed for the exit. After 15 hours in airports and airplanes it felt good to stretch their legs.
"Now what do we do?" Brian asked.
"I made us a reservation at the Castle Rock Hostel. It's right in the middle of everything and it's cheap," Lanny told him. "From here on I'm not sure where we'll be every night, but I figured we would be in Edinburgh for a day or two. We need to crash tonight."
"Right. I slept some on the plane but that was a short night. So how do we get there?"
"We catch a bus from the airport that will take us to the Edinburgh Castle. The hostel is right close to that."
"OK, cool. Let's go."
They bought tickets inside, grateful that Marty had advised them to have some Pounds with them. They stood outside the airport and watched buses go by until they saw one with Edinburgh Castle on the front placard. They hauled their packs inside, tossed them on a baggage rack, then found a seat nearby. They were on their way.
"Gee, this is a big place," Brian said as he looked out the bus window.
"It is. The old part is ancient but there are new high rises and lots of modern buildings too. After we get secured in the hostel we can do some exploring on foot," Lanny told him. After a 30 minute ride he said, "OK, here it is."
They grabbed their packs and got off the bus to see the hostel. Immediately across the street was a great pinnacle with an old castle on top. "That's the Edinburgh castle, and here we are," Lanny grinned.
They went in and were greeted by a young man with a great red beard. "Hello mates. My name is Ian, can I help you?" he asked.
Lanny checked them in and they were directed to a room on the second floor. They decided that they could wear the clothes they had on and stored their packs in a locker. Once in their room, they found it had two sets of bunk beds. They claimed the top and bottom of one of them and went to the bathroom down the hall to use the toilet and freshen up.
"We need to let our families know that we made it here safely." Brian composed a brief email and sent it to both Marco and Lanny's father Frank with a copy to Louisa and Melissa: 'Arrived safely in Edinburgh. Will keep you posted. Love, Brian and Lanny'. "There, that should do it."
"I'm glad you thought to do that," Lanny said, "We need to keep in touch with them so they don't worry about us."
"This is a nice place," Brian observed. "There are sitting areas and everything is clean. You did good, Lanny."
"I told you I did my homework," he smiled. "Let's look around."
The hostel was in the center of the old historic part of Edinburgh and a lot of things were within close walking distance. Carrying only their rucksacks and with security belts tucked under their shirts, they began a walking tour of the old city. They passed by the World of Illusions, then walked down to St. Giles Cathedral.
"Wow, look at this place," Lanny exclaimed in a hushed voice. "The spire on top looks like a big crown. Let's go inside."
"This is really beautiful. Look at the big Gothic arches and all the colorful flags and banners," Brian said when they got in.
They picked up a brochure and dropped a few pounds in a collection basket. "This goes back to the twelfth century. That's eleven hundred something," Lanny remarked. "Sure nothing this old in Tulsa."
"Well, nothing still standing anyway. This is cool."
Lanny grinned, "I'm a sucker for museums and old cathedrals. I hope you are OK with that."
"Oh yeah, I love this kind of stuff," Brian replied. "This is what we came for."
They spent quite a bit of time there and sat in a back pew and soaked up the serenity of the place.
From there they hiked down a few blocks to the National Museum of Scotland. It was two buildings, one rather new and the other dating back several centuries. The old part had a central gallery of slender iron spires that rose up to a glass ceiling that filled the place with light.
"The brochure says the old part displays Scottish history and antiquities, and the new part is devoted to science and technology," Lanny read out loud. "There's a lot of cool stuff in here,"
They spent several hours looking at everything from dinosaur skeletons to a kinetic Millennium clock, a wonderful tower of spinning wheels, whirling figures and ringing bells.
"That looks like it might have been designed by Rube Goldberg," Brian laughed.
"But look at some of the figures. This is pretty grim in part."
"It's amazing for sure."
By now, it was late and they realized that they were very hungry. The rolls and coffee from the morning breakfast on the airplane was long ago.
"I need to get something to eat," Brian said.
"Me too. I'm starving," Lanny agreed. "How about we find some kind of a grocery store and pick up some things."
They started back to their hostel and found a little market where they bought some hard rolls, a half-liter of white cheddar, a length of dried sausage, a small bag of apples and a liter bottle of orange soda. "This should travel well," Brian said. "Why don't we go to the hostel to eat? Besides, it's getting dark."
"Let's go," Lanny agreed.
There was a small kitchen area at the Castle Rock where they laid out their purchases and sliced up sausage and cheese for sandwiches.
"Hey, this is pretty good," Brian said.
"It tastes good to me, but then I'm really hungry," Lanny agreed. "We'd better get used to it. This is what we'll be living on most of the time."
"Food is food," Brian told him. I've eaten a lot worse on scout camp outs. We'll survive."
They sat back and chatted with a couple of other hostelers, feeling very international. Before long the effects of a full stomach reminded them that they had very little sleep and were rather time-lagged.
"What say we check out the sleeping quarters," Lanny yawned.
"That sounds OK to me," Brian agreed. "What time is it anyway? My watch says it's only four o'clock."
"You need to set it for local time," Lanny told him. "It's ten o'clock here."
"No wonder I'm so sleepy. Ten o'clock is my bedtime," Brian laughed.
"Well, come on then. Let's go get cleaned up and get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day."
"They took their packs out of their lockers and hauled them up to the room. They got out towels and clean underwear then took their toiletries to the male bathroom to shower. The bathroom was clean with individual shower stalls. They brushed their teeth then began to undress to shower. It was the first time that either of them had seen the other naked. Nothing was said, but they both took a good look.
Brian was a little taller than Lanny, and more muscular. Lanny was more slender, but quite well defined. They both liked what they saw before they slipped into separate shower stalls. While they were showering they heard several others come into the bathroom. There was loud laughter and the sound of some horseplay.
When they stepped out of the shower they saw four other young men in their underwear who appeared to be in very good spirits.
"Hello, mates. And where might you be from?" The tallest asked.
"We're from Tulsa," Brian said in a friendly tone, not wanting a quarrel.
"Tulsa? Where the hell is that?" the tall youth asked.
"Tulsa, Oklahoma. That's in the US," Brian answered.
"Are you bloody Yanks?"
Brian laughed, "That's right, we are that."
"Well then welcome mates. We should buy you a pint."
Lanny spoke up, "Thank you very much for the offer, but we just got here and the time difference has gotten to us. We were thinking of getting some sleep. Maybe tomorrow, OK?"
"Eh, what's the matter? The night is still young."
"Thanks anyway," Brian said firmly. "We need to get some sleep. Another time, OK?"
The tall stranger looked quickly at Brian's solid chest and shoulders and shrugged.
"We'll be off in the morning. You should try the local beer. Try a dark Guinness if you've never had one."
"Thanks for the tip. We might do that," Brian responded. "Goodnight." They went back to their room to find a pair of packs on the other beds.
"Looks like we have company," Lanny remarked.
"I hope they're sober," Brian responded.
"Oh, those guys weren't trouble. They just had a belly full of beer. You handled it well."
Brian chuckled, "Remember Marty's advice – look them in the eye and speak firmly."
Lanny hesitated, "I hope you won't be disappointed, but I'm not really a drinker. The local beer might be great, but I don't care to try it myself."
Brian laughed, "That's just fine with me. I have kind of an aversion to alcohol, to be honest."
"Another thing I guess we have in common," Lanny smiled. "Which bunk do you want, top or bottom?"
"Doesn't matter to me, you pick."
How about I take the top one?" That was fine.
They put their things in their packs and shoved them under the bottom bed, then spread out their sleep sheets and crawled inside. There were duvets on a side table. They flipped off the room light, said good night and settled in. Both fell asleep with vision of the other's naked body running through their heads. But not for long. They were very tired.
Another pair of fellows came into the room rather late at night but tried to be quiet. The noise of their bumping around scarcely disturbed the tired Yanks.
Brian found himself wide awake when it was scarcely light outside. He looked at his watch and saw that it was five AM. His interior clock was still on Tulsa time. He eased out of bed to use the toilet and heard Lanny ask softly, "Are you awake?"
"I am. Not used to the time change I guess."
It will take us a day or two to adjust," Lanny advised him. "Are you ready to get up?"
"Sure. Let's get dressed and try not wake up our roomies. They were nice enough not to wake us up last night."
They took their packs into the toilet and pulled out some clean clothes. The things they wore on the trip were not really dirty so they shook them out, folded them up and put them back in the packs.
"We will get used to wearing things until they really get grubby. We only have a few changes of clothes," Lanny suggested.
"I suppose we'll get used to each other's smell after a few days," Brian chuckled.
"I don't know if this place has breakfast or not. Are you hungry?"
"Not really. I don't think my stomach is awake yet. Want to take a walk and then come back?"
Lanny smiled and nodded. They carried their packs back downstairs and shoved them into their lockers then went outside into the cool morning air. They walked down the street taking in the sights and sounds of early morning Edinburgh. They passed a bakery and their appetites were revived by the smell of freshly baked bread. There were a few people on the street who looked like they were hurrying to work. The old buildings looked very picturesque to them.
"This is an old city," Brian observed.
"At least this part of it. This section goes way back I think."
"Look, the streets are paved in cobble stones."
"Lanny shook his head. "This is so neat. I'm glad you're with me Brian."
"I still can't believe I'm really here. And to think, this is only our second day."
They took a long walk and enjoyed the sight, sounds and smells of the place. When they got back, they were ready for some breakfast. They found the red bearded fellow at the desk when they returned.
"Is there somewhere we can get a cheap breakfast?" Lanny asked him.
"Sure. There's a coffee shop on the corner that's open. Tell the lady you are staying here and ask for the hostel special, eh? Her name will be Lucy."
They thanked him and followed his suggestion.
They went in and sat down. A frizzy haired young woman looked up and asked them, "What can I do for you lads?"
"Ian down at the Castle Rock said to ask Lucy for the hostel special. Are you Lucy?" Lanny asked.
"That would be me," she smiled. "Will you be having tea of coffee? I take it you are Americans."
"Does it show?" Brian asked.
"You don't sound like you be locals," she laughed. "I would guess it will be coffee, right?"
"Yes, with milk if you please," Brian replied.
In a moment Lucy returned with two mugs of coffee, a small pitcher of milk and an assortment of buns, jams and a block of butter.
"Enjoy," Lucy told them.
And they did. The rolls were fresh and they ate their fill. When they finished they were charged three pounds. "Hey, that's not so bad. That's only about five dollars for both of us," Brian said.
"We'll need to thank Ian," Lanny grinned. "Are you fueled up and ready to go?"
"Let's do it. I want to see the castle."
"It's a long way up there. Do we have to hike or what?"
"Let's ask Ian," Brian suggested.
"Excuse us Ian. How do we get up to the castle from here?" Lanny asked.
"Ah, that's not hard. There's a local bus that will take you up there."
"How much will it cost and where do we catch it?"
"Hmm, you lads on a budget?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
"Well, if you aren't proud, I might be able to help you. My friend works up there and he might let you ride up with him. He should leave in about a half hour."
"That would be great! How can we find him?"
Ian smiled. "Let me call him, OK?"
Ian took out his cell phone and had a rapid conversation to someone in a thick brogue that was hard to follow. After a minute, he hung up and smiled. "He can stop by here on his way to work. Sit out in front and he'll pick you up."
"Oh, thank you very much!" Lanny said. They went out in front of the hostel and sat at a sidewalk table. In about twenty minutes a small car stopped at the curb.
"Are you the lads who want a ride to the castle?" a young man called to them through the window.
They jumped up and ran to the car, Lanny sitting in front and Brian wedging himself into the rear.
"My mate Ian said you are visiting us from America. You're a long way from home, eh?"
"We are, Lanny explained. "This is only our second day here. We're just starting out on a long trip."
"Oh? And where will you be going?"
"We will go down through the UK and then over to France. We plan to be here for two months or more."
"Is that uncertain?"
Lanny smiled, "Until our money runs out."
"The young man laughed. "Sounds like one of my trips. Where is your home?"
"We are from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Do you know where that is?"
"I think so. Oklahoma is the state just above Texas, right?"
"Right. Have you ever been to the States?"
"Ah no, but I would very much like to someday. So you are off on quite an adventure, eh?"
They chatted as the little car careened over the narrow road up the mountain. In about twenty minutes they pulled in front of the castle. "I'll let you out here. Staff has to park in the back. Beware of the hucksters, eh?"
Before they could thank him he sped away. "Gee, what a nice guy," Brian said. "I didn't even catch his name."
"I hope everyone we run onto is as nice. This has started off great."
"We will have to depend on the kindness of strangers," Brian laughed. "Did you notice that the steering wheel was on the right and he drove on the left side of the road?"
"That's the way it is set up here. I would be nervous trying to drive here."
It was only nine o'clock, but there was already a line at the entrance to the castle. The price was posted on a booth. Lanny did a quick mental calculation. "It's about twenty five dollars apiece," he said with alarm. "That's a lot."
"Well, we are already up here so I guess we might as well do this thing."
"We're only going to be here once. Let's get in line."
As they waited a number of people came by trying to sell them maps and souvenirs, little toys on strings and a variety of junk – the hucksters. "'No thank you' seemed to work. They reached the front of the line, paid their fee and went inside to the great hall.
The walls and ceilings were covered with wooden panels. Along the sides were suits of armor and an assortment of swords and lances. The tour included a guide and they joined a small group and listened as they were giving the history of the place. The names of kings and queens, dates of construction and battles were rattled off faster than they could keep track of. There was more history than they could absorb, and they let their attention wander as they took in the sights.
They were led out of the main part of the castle and through what looked like a small village within the castle walls. There were parapets, staircases, great cannons, and everything looked ancient and wonderful. There was a small chapel built in the twelfth century, and this thing built by one king, and another thing built by another king. It was more than they could absorb. An hour later the tour was over and they were deposited back at the entrance.
"Wow! That was neat. Was it worth twenty-five dollars?" Brian asked.
"Well, the ride up here was a bargain. Now how do we get down?"
"It's still early, maybe we should walk."
And so they did, walking and talking, and having a grand time. They decided that the streets of Edinburgh were more suited to their budget. There were buskers playing music, juggling and doing tricks. They stopped to watch a small group of dancers in colorful blue kilts doing a traditional dance while several others provided the music with fiddle and accordion. The clack of the dancers' shoes on the street kept time to the music.
When they got back to the hostel, they sat in the lounge and chatted with a few others who were gathered there. One young man was playing a guitar and singing with a pretty girl. It was fun, and a cheap way to pass the time. After a little while they went back to their locker and retrieved their groceries to make themselves a meal.
"So what will we do tomorrow?" Brian asked.
"Well, I'm not sure. There are a millions things to see in the UK, but we're going through money kind of fast. What do you think about taking a either a train or a bus to London. We can see the countryside as we go by, and there are a lot of famous sights in London that I would like to see. The fare might be kind of expensive but it would be a great way to see the country," Lanny suggested. "What do you think?"
"Sounds good to me. You're the expert here, Lanny. I'm just along for the ride."
"You're easy to get along with. OK then, let's go to London. I'll check on fares and schedules. Let's see if we can use one of the hostel's computers."
There was a small internet area with several computers set up. They sat down at one that was available and Lanny started checking schedules.
"Let me check the trains first. They will be faster. Oops, that's almost a hundred dollars apiece. Let's try the bus. Hey, this isn't bad. We can leave here at six-fifteen in the morning and be in London at five-thirty in the evening, and it's only twenty-five dollars apiece. That's a lot better than I thought."
"Cool. But where will it take us?"
"To the Victoria Coach Station it says. Let me see if I can find a hostel near there."
Lanny began to peck away at the keyboard. "Here is one, the Travel Joy Hostel. It's within walking distance from the bus station and right down near the Thames River, near the houses of Parliament and everything, and it's only twenty-five dollars a night apiece. That's not bad at all."
"Sounds great. Can you make a reservation?"
Lanny tapped at the keys. "It says they have one room left. It doesn't say how many people are in it, but it will be a place to sleep. What do you think?"
"I say grab it. I don't think we can do any better than that."
A few more clicks and Lanny announced, "There it's done. I put it on my Visa card so we have it nailed down."
"Cool. That sounds like a great location. Get the directions so we don't get lost looking for it."
Lanny printed off some instructions and looked back at the bus schedule. "I think we should go ahead and pay for the bus tickets while we are at it. "How about putting them on your Visa card and then we'll be about even?"
"Sure," Brian handed Lanny his card and Lanny did the honors. "OK, we can pick them up at the station when we get there."
"You are the travel planner extraordinaire, my friend."
"Hey, no problem." Lanny printed everything off, sent a quick email to their families and closed down the computer.
They fixed themselves another sandwich, drank the rest of the orange soda and decided to walk around some more. They stopped at the little market again and picked up some more provisions. Edinburgh at night was a cool place. They were still adjusting to the time change and it had been a long day. They went back to the hostel, showered and found themselves in bed early. Whoever had shared their room the night before had moved on and they had it to themselves. They had a quiet night's sleep and were up at five to pack and find their way to the Edinburgh Coach Station. The tickets were waiting and they got on board.
The seats were narrow, but they were next to a window. They were off.
They rode out of Edinburgh as the morning sun sliced across the landscape. They looked out at gently rolling lush green hills. There were very few trees, but many fields with low stone walls around the perimeter enclosing cattle and sheep. No barbed wire was to be seen here in Scotland. As they rolled south, the terrain grew more hilly and forested areas began to appear. There were little towns and villages with stone houses and steepled churches. At some they stopped briefly to exchange passengers, others they passed through. Cars were on the road and people could be seen standing in their yards and talking over back walls. It looked very interesting to these Tulsa boys. It was not quite like Oklahoma.
At five-thirty in the afternoon they pulled into Victoria Coach Station. It was a big place with more buses then they had ever seen before. They scrambled off and hoisted their packs for the walk to the hostel. The directions had them turning this way and that. Without the instructions they knew they would be lost. In about half an hour they found themselves looking up at the Travel Joy Hostel. Just down the block they could see the River Thames. They were excited.
"We have reservations," Lanny told the older lady who was at the counter, and handed her the paper he had printed the evening before. She looked at it carefully.
"I see. Well lads, I have good news and bad news. We have a room for you and you will not have to share it, but it has only one double bed. I'll let you decide which is the good news and which is the bad," she looked at them with a trace of a smile. "That's all I have. Will that do?"
Lanny and Brian looked at each other and shrugged. "I guess it will have to," Lanny replied.
They stowed their packs in a locker and went out for a walk. London was a huge city, and a mixture of new and ancient architecture. They headed for the river.
"Tulsa has the Arkansas River running through it, but it's nothing like this," Brian said.
"In 500 years it might be," Lanny told him, "This place has been populated forever, I think."
They strolled up the river all the way to Westminster Bridge and admired the Houses of Parliament with the great tower and Big Ben on top. Nearby was Westminster Abbey, and across the Westminster Bridge was the London Eye. It was marvelous to see.
"Oh man. There is so much history here all in one place," Lanny said with awe. "My family is basically British from England, Ireland and Scotland. It feels like some of my history is from this place."
"I know what you mean," Brian agreed. "I don't know much about where my family came from, but I imagine I'm the same way."
I think it takes money to go into these places. Maybe we should do that tomorrow when we have more time," Lanny suggested.
"I would kind of like to go over and look at that big Ferris wheel. How about that?" Brian asked.
"Sure, it doesn't cost to look."
They crossed the Westminster Bridge, admiring the ornate lamp posts along the way. It was farther than they realized. The great Eye was enormous. The more they walked, the bigger it looked. As they approached it, they saw that rather than seats like a normal Ferris wheel, this had high tech looking glass capsules that held several people at a time.
"Oh man. I have to ride that thing," Brian said with excitement. "I bet it's expensive."
"Everything here is expensive," Lanny grumbled. "Let me check online."
They found a place to sit and Lanny took out his smart phone and started looking.
"Ouch. You're right, it's pricey. Let me look at this for a minute. Wait, here is the best deal I can find. If we book in advance it's about sixty dollars for the two of us. That's if we go in the evening. What do you think?"
Brian looked up at the great wheel. "That's a lot of money, but I hate to miss the chance to ride that thing."
"I would like to ride it too. If we go at night I bet the view from that thing would be spectacular," Lanny grinned. "What do you say?"
"Oh heck, let's do it. I will kick myself later if I don't."
"OK, just a minute." Lanny pecked at his screen. "There, we are booked for tomorrow night at eight o'clock. It will be a great way to end the day. I put it on my card. You can pay for something else later."
"No problem. I owe you for the room too."
"We'll work it out Brian. If one of us runs out of money the other can take up the slack. We are doing everything together anyway."
"I kind of like it that way," Brian smiled. "Let's start back."
They walked back across the bridge and noticed tour boats going up and down. They passed the great spires of Westminster Abbey. "I wonder if we can go in there?" Brian asked.
Lanny pulled out his trusty smart phone. "Let me check it out."
"Oh man. It will cost us twenty dollars to take a tour. I don't know about that. Wait a minute." Lanny searched the church's website. "Hey, today is Saturday. There is no charge to attend a worship service. They have a Eucharist at eleven-fifteen tomorrow morning with choir and organ. I bet that would be an experience."
"Yes! I would rather do that than take a tour anyway. We are both Episcopalians, I bet we would feel right at home."
Lanny grinned, "OK then, that's a plan. Anything else you want to do? I mean walking around doesn't cost anything, but we might schedule something else if it's not too expensive."
"What about that boat ride? How much is that?" Brian wondered.
"Hang on," Lanny looked at his phone. "That's not bad actually. We could go at two in the afternoon for only about seventeen dollars for both of us."
"Hey, let's do that. I bet you can see a lot from a river boat. Use my card and book us."
Lanny pecked for a minute. "Done. We are good for two o'clock."
"That's a pretty full day for tomorrow," Brian said. "Are you ready to head back and eat something?"
"I am. I think I'm still jet lagged."
They made the long walk back to the hostel and stopped by the pub located just off the lobby. There was a small band playing and a good crowd of young people eating and drinking. It was a nice place.
"Let's stop for a little while and listen to the music," Brian suggested.
"They found a table and sat to enjoy the place. They ordered Coca-cola and were served it in a glass with no ice.
"This is England," Lanny chuckled. They never put ice in the drinks. It's cold though."
As they sipped their drinks Lanny looked at the menu. "They have a lot of Thai food here. It looks good, but it's not cheap."
"Maybe tomorrow," Brian suggested. Let's just have sandwiches tonight. We've spent a lot of money for tomorrow's excursions."
They enjoyed the music, and when they finished their colas, they took their packs to their room. The bedroom was very small and contained an aging double bed and two side chairs with a little table between them. They sat and sliced cheese and salami to go with their bread. An apple was dessert. It was not fancy, but filling. As they ate they both were looking at the bed.
"I guess we might as well get some sleep," Brian said.
"Right. I think I need a shower first."
They took their towels and looked for the bathroom. The showers were down the hall. The shower stalls had partitions between them, but no doors. Once again, they had the opportunity to see each other in their natural state. They liked what they saw, but bathed in silence, toweled themselves dry and put on shorts and T-shirts then returned to the room.
They shoved their packs into one corner and sat on opposite sides of the bed.
"We need to get some sleep," Lanny suggested.
"Yep. I'm pretty beat," Brian replied.
The bed had sheets and a thin blanket. As they stretched out, it was apparent the mattress sagged in the center. With some wiggling they managed to position themselves on opposite sides of the bed.
"Is this going to work?" Lanny asked.
"Sure, I can sleep anywhere."
"I had a great time today," Lanny said.
"Me too," Brian replied. "I can't wait for tomorrow."
Sleep came quickly but during the night Brian roused to find that they had rolled together to the center of the sagging mattress. Lanny had thrown his arm around Brian and seemed to be fast asleep. Brian did not object to this, and turned towards Lanny and put his arm around his friend, who sighed and snuggled closer.
They woke up in that same position at about eight in the morning. Brian was keenly aware of his erection and could feel through his shorts that Lanny suffered from the same condition. Brian repositioned himself and enjoyed the feeling of closeness.
The movement woke Lanny up and he opened his eyes and smiled. "Is this going to work?"
"It works for me," Brian replied and gave Lanny a hug, which Lanny returned.
Lanny sighed, then rolled over and got out of bed, "I have to go pee."
They both stood and adjusted themselves, then headed for the toilet to relieve their bladders and wash up. When they returned to the room, neither of them spoke of their little time of closeness. Today was another day of adventure.
Tonight was another night.
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