There was a burly bagpiper leaning against the fence, glowering at a younger version of himself who was piping in the courtyard. "Do you have bagpipe duels?" I asked, having been catapulted into a garrulous mood by the previous conversation and by my status of invulnerability as a tourist.
He was having none of it. Glower was what he wanted, and glower was what he was going to do.
"Duels?" he said icily. "No. We don't have duels."
All right then. I was about to move off, but he relented and made an effort. You could almost hear the social engines in his brain start up. "Where are you from?" he asked. Then we got into a fascinatingly awkward conversation, where every time one of us spoke, the other one had just begun to speak as well. I would think that the conversation was over and move off, and he would call me back with a trivial question that was clearly designed to keep us engaged further. It could have been the subject of a thesis paper on conversational dynamics gone awry. But I did find out that the other piper and he traded off every half hour. So.
Exactly the opposite happened at the National Gallery, where the guard at the door was the explaining kind of Scotsman. He waxed eloquent on the subjects of backpacks in the museum, and the impossibility of getting from there to the Museum of Modern Art. No direct buses, not possible to walk. This took a very long time to convey, so just for good luck I went through the museum again to steel myself for the long walk back to Jelte's flat.
There I learned that Jelte was still not back from Aberdeen, having had a very successful yesterday talking with community energy mavens there, who pressed conviviality on him and made it seem ridiculous to travel back home without another shot first. This led to a home stay and friendship.
I headed west to the Botanical Gardens, a map clutched firmly in hand. The map was of marginal help, since I didn't get the angles right. Streets are not orthogonal around here. You can head off and find that you have made a 30º miscalculation, which quickly veers off into walking in the wrong direction; erratic street signage doesn't help. It was quite amusing to be lost in a foreign metropolis. I found the Russian Embassy, next door to an unemployment office. I found an empty plinth where the statue of Flora Stevenson once stood. I bought pupusas at a food co-op, and met a crowd of people who looked like bikers at the entryway to a Baptist church that must have been a converted Catholic church. I walked along a stream and found a stone well with a statue of, possibly, Minerva. All in all, it was wonderful.
I arrived at the Gardens in time to gallop around quickly, see amazing trees and flowers, and sit down in pouring rain to sketch the glass house and decide it would be better to head back than to waste time wishing my pen used waterproof ink.
Which was a good decision, because just as I arrived at the flat, Camilla and Jelte arrived from opposite directions and we headed out for dinner.
It was a genuine Italian restaurant with genuine Italian waiters. My plate of gnocci with artichokes must have been about a thousand calories a bite, but what bites! Rich, creamy, seasoned quietly but expertly.
And finally, we headed off into the night at top speed, walking through parks, up hills, into stone passageways and through courtyards packed with wheelbarrows and plastic pipes and discovering a rock in a carefully racked gravel bed with a missing plaque and the carved inscription, "we find no vestige of a beginning and no prospect of an end" (from James Hutton, the guy who postulated that geological forces acted in the past just like we see them act today, and so we can deduce geological history), and passing by Athur's Seat and looking at maps in the window of a shop and viewing the place where squads of unhappy religious rebels had been hung (or maybe it was beheaded) and deciding not to look for Napier's grave because we had already gazed at Adam Smith's grave at another churchyard.