Through War Torn Europe: An official trip after WWI told in the words of James Gordon Steese
Number Twelve
Caledonian Station Hotel,
Edinburgh, Thursday,
August 14th, 1919.
Had a fine trip up here from London, 400 miles, nine hours of very smooth running with less than half a dozen stops. Colonel ******* and I had a first class compartment to ourselves and were very comfortable, except that our car was an extra and separated from the rest of the train by a blind baggage car. At lunch time, therefore, we had to wait till the train stopped and then go back to the restaurant car by the outside route. We got even by remaining there for the remainder of the trip. In doing this we narrowly escaped losing our baggage, as the extra car was set off a couple hours before reaching our destination. We happened to be curious about the shunting and got out in time to rescue our stuff.

We had wired ahead to the North British Station Hotel but, upon arrival, we found everything booked up till next Tuesday. After we had visited eight hotels, we finally succeeded in getting adequate but inferior accommodations, not at this hotel, but at a little place, kept by a British ex-non-com and his wife, a block farther along on a little park. We immediately got a car and drove around till dark, about 9:30, to see Holyrood Castle and the town. We could not get a car at a flat rate per hour but had to take a taxi and let the meter run. When it came to going out to see the Firth of Forth bridge, the driver guaranteed the meter would not run over 27 shillings for the round trip. As the distance is about eight miles out by the shortest route, we were dubious about it, but consented. He took a longer route and sure enough the meter registered over 20 shillings before we started back. However, when it reached 27 shillings the driver calmly turned it off and then, when we got back, triumphantly collected just 27 shillings, thus vindicating himself to our supposed discomfiture.

Upon our return we found all hotel dining rooms and restaurants had closed at 8:30 P.M. Even the Y. M. C. A. could not help us any, famished and chilled as we were. We found one small hotel dining room still feeding a few late comers, but the woman in charge turned us away, in spite of our uniform, because, as she said, she was allowed to feed only people occupying rooms in the hotel. We asked for rooms but she had none vacant.

After walking all over town and buttonholding every one we met, we finally found an obscure place down on Leith Street near the water front just closing for the night. The proprietress, a very fat motherly old soul, looked dubious, said the cook had left, but after I bad explained how cold, tired, and hungry we were, and that we would be glad for anything, even if only bread and jam, she said she would get us something and if there was any fire left would cook it herself.

Soon she came up from the basement with two wonderful beefsteaks, hot coffee and rolls, apologized for the lack of potatoes, and made it up a few minutes later by giving us each a tumbler full of real Johnny Walker. As it was nearly eleven o'clock by this time and we had not eaten much luncheon on the train, we were really pretty low spirited, but in a few minutes the entire world had assumed its customary rosy hue again. When we left, she charged us two and threepence, about fifty cents, apiece for the food, but refused anything for the whiskey, saying she had two boys of her own still in the service. She would not even accept a tip. As no liquor may be sold after eight in the evening, her furnishing it to us at all was all the more generous.

 My only way of getting even approximately even was by paying her with a gold sovereign I had been carrying as a pocket piece for some six months. All gold disappeared long ago and the sovereign was really worth quite a premium. We have seen no gold in circulation in any country,  so I created quite a sensation.

We are off tomorrow for the Trossachs and Loch Lomond.

End Notes and Bibliography