I have conflicting feelings about the invention of the GPS.
On the one hand, for the directionally challenged like me (in Afrikaans I would say rigtingbeduiweld), it can be a life saver. No more driving around with an open map book on the seat next to me, multitasking, trying to figure out where the hell I am, whilst attempting to look confident driving like I-know-exactly-where-I-am-heading. Especially when I am driving through a dodgy area.
On the other hand, I am one of those lazy drivers who will end up just following the GPS instructions without concentrating on where I am driving or even which direction. As an example, I always take a GPS with me to Cape Town as somehow the mountain confuses me endlessly. But the end result is that even after navigating to Cavendish Square about five times, I still wouldn’t know how to get there without a GPS.
However, when going to a foreign city, it is like a lifeline! I am normally pretty scared to get lost in a new city, and those complimentary maps they hand you at the hotel does not help at all if you don’t know where you are! And the best thing is, I only need my phone. That’s right, isn’t it?
Well, that’s what I thought when I landed in Edinburgh on the a cold, but not wet Tuesday in December. When I first arrived (after the initial shock of losing my iPad), I set out for a short stroll in the immediate neighbourhood around my hotel in the Old Town. This was fine and since I only walked in a circle, the hotel map did the trick. I did breath a sigh of relief (after walking down some stairs) when I realised I ended at the bottom of the street where my hotel was located…
A couple of hours later I ventured out for a longer stroll. Actually, I discovered that I forgot to pack pajamas, so wanted to head towards the shopping area and then maybe get something to eat. My taxi driver told me I was only a few blocks away from Princess Street, so I decided to walk in that direction. I punched ‘Princess street’ into my phone’s GPS, fixed my scarf and set off.
The directions per my phone looked something like this.
For starters, I thought Princess Street was quite a bit closer, but nevermind, I am not scared of a little walk. Secondly, it was dark already and I had no idea which direction was north, south, east or west. But it is easy, because all I had to do was walk in a direction and see if I am walking away from the end point or walking towards it, not so? A recipe for disaster!
My first mistake was turning right on George IV bridge, instead of left. Unfortunately, since I did not want to appear lost, I kept on exiting the maps application on my phone and had to start a search from scratch everytime, and somehow the directions kept changing… After about 15 minutes, I eventually realised that I was definitely walking in the wrong direction (this was when I reached the Edinburgh University, and a new search indicated that I was now more than 2 miles away, whereas I started out just more than a mile away). Clever girl I am….
So I started walking in the now correct direction. But the GPS was telling me to go down Potterrow and when I started walking in the direction I thought I was supposed to go, I seemed to go further away from the blip that was me… Eventually, after walking in all 4 directions I realised it wanted me to walk on the motorway, going under the pedestrian road, which is more or less when I clicked that I was following the vehicle directions and not walking directions… And in a city like Edinburgh, with one ways and pedestrian roads everywhere, this makes quite a difference, I’ll have you know! A new search for walking directions, showed a much more straight walk along a main road.
With a couple of wrong turns I eventually found the right road and made it to Princess Street Gardens. From there I just had to walk down the many steps and I suddenly found myself in the midst of a German Christmas market. Elated, I remembered the taxi driver telling me about the market in Princess street Gardens. Only, instead of the 15 minute walk, it took me more than an hour. And I was starting to regret wearing my new hiking shoes…
After buying the fated pyjamas, I headed back to the market for something to eat. I feasted on a pork steak burger, while listening to a conversation between two students, one of whom had the ability to use the word ‘like’ several times in one sentence. Miley Cirus would have been jealous. I finished off my meal with a delicious homemade hot chocolate, and started making my way back to the hotel.
As it turned out, my hotel was only a 10 minute walk from the market! But, at least I did learn my lesson, and memorised the route I had to take the next morning to the starting point of my tour…and left with plenty of time to spare.
I wish I could tell you that this was the end of my navigational, directional and public transport challenges on this trip…but alas…a story for another day!