Monday, September 27, 2010

Lovely Edinburgh

07-05-09 Thursday

 After a wonderful night of sleep we are ready for our daily full Scottish breakfast. We have to enter the member’s only area of the club to eat (which is down the stairs, through the pub and then up the stairs next door) and are seated at a table with a white linen table-cloth and gold etched china. The dining room and food are certainly posh and I enjoy myself immensely (CG, on the other hand, thinks it is way too stuffy and is anxious to be on our way)!

We find the car park described in P’s tour notes (£16 per 24 hours) and leave the car to explore my favorite city on foot. The day is beautifully sunny, however, there is a reason that there isn’t a cloud in the sky – near gale force winds are whipping everything and everyone about! Since our destination is Edinburgh Castle, well away from where we are at, we hail a taxi at the Balmoral Hotel (a right sturdy tank of a car that reminds me of a 1940’s vehicle) and are soon ceremoniously dropped off in front of the castle gate (now that’s service!).

Using the last day of our three day Explorer Pass, CG and I enjoy our tour of Edinburgh Castle. We admire Mons Meg (one of the world’s oldest siege guns), are charmed by the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) and the actual Stone of Destiny where so many kings and queens were crowned, and are by and large quite impressed with the beautiful hilltop fortress. Too bad I am nearly blown away from the wind and CG has to grab me at the top of one cobbled walkway!

Exiting the castle, the Royal Mile entices us back onto the street and into pedestrian traffic towards the end at the bottom of the hill, Holyrood Abbey, where the British Royalty often stayed (and still does). We journey into the stunning St. Giles Cathedral, and after exiting, we are drawn to a street vendor who is handing out flyers to tour (among other sites) The Real Mary King’s Close, purported to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland.

The tour of the underground 16th and 17th century “city” is quite interesting and we learn that hundreds of people died when the plague swept through Edinburgh in 1645. The name is a misnomer as the tour actually includes two other closes (Allans Close and Stewart’s Close). I am amazed at the living conditions that many inhabitants faced while living in the bleak seven-storied tenement houses (the wealthier you were, the higher up you lived due to the practice of throwing the contents of your chamber pot out the window at two precise times of the day). Alas, no ghosts are spotted (or heard) and CG and I are soon top side again.

I am delighted when we stop in at The World’s End Tavern for lunch (I had just passed by it last time and was quite curious as to what it was like inside) where brass markings outside indicate where the old wall stood and signified the end or edge of Old Edinburgh. Both CG and I order the delicious steak and mushroom pie and I declare that this is my favorite pub of the trip!


We follow our feet down the hill and are captivated by the street side museum about the history of Edinburgh and best of all, it is free of charge.

We have popped in and out of gifts shops on our way down the cobbled hill and are somewhat souvenir-laden when we finally make it down to Holyrood Abbey. After almost getting squashed by a fire truck while crossing the street (look right, not left!), we enter the abbey gift shop, but decide to forego the tour (CG’s opinion is that the palace would be much the same as Scoon) so we head back up the hill towards a very old cemetery M and I had walked through when we had been here. However, CG and I completely miss it (and, well, I am sure my memory isn’t what it used to be either) and we end back up on Princes Street near the Walter Scott Memorial and Princes Street Gardens.

Our feet are complaining a bit so we steer towards the National Galleries of Scotland so we can rest them a little before climbing the rest of the hill (and then down a wee bit on the other side) to our hotel. We are pleasantly surprised to find out that Scotland supports their arts, and the admission is free to the extraordinary collection inside. Once indoors (and out of the wind) we both find ourselves marveling at the wall size paintings of Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci, Ruben, Botticelli, Poussin, Raphael, Degas, Gainsborough, Monet, Gaugin, and Singer Sargent, as well as the Greek and Roman busts and antique statuary exhibited in the spacious rooms. Thoroughly engrossed in the magnificence of these historical artists we are surprised (and a little disappointed) when it is announced that the museum is to close for the day.

It has been a beautiful day, all in all weather-wise. The near gale force wind has finally died down so we have been able to enjoy a wee window of splendid sunshine while we toured Old Edinburgh.

Not getting the rest we had planned on, and sorely wanting to catch all we didn’t see last night, we step back onto Rose Street, and we have a quick nip in the magnificent 1930’s inspired Dome Bar (once a bank like The Standing Order but much more opulent). After finishing our drinks at the neon-lit bar, CG chooses the next pub stop for the evening – Robertson’s 37, which feels more like a neighborhood pub instead of the counter-culture one I had chosen the night before (but oh the adventure!).

Still not quite ready to call it a day and ravenous from our travels, we head back towards the other end of Rose Street where we dine upstairs at the alternative restaurant from last night – The Auld Hundred. Again, steak and mushroom pie is our choice, and we tell ourselves that we are sampling them all to decide on the best but, truly, the dish in of itself is quite tasty!

Darkness is setting in now and a nap sounds delightful before we set out again – we are planning on taking the hour and a half haunted nighttime tour of Mary King’s Close which will start a little after 8:30 in the evening. We wobble back to the car park where we had parked the Volvo many hours ago (it seems to be on the other side of the city!), then back to the Royal Scots Club, and we pick up our key from the desk clerk.

Making my legs go up the four flights of stairs is somewhat of a challenge but I am successful, and I collapse onto the bed as CG heads into the bathroom and draws a nice, hot bath. Afterwards, he remarks to me that the water had seemed to have a greenish-brown tint. I had taken my very hot bath the night before and hadn’t noticed any discoloration, and we mark it up to the ancient plumbing or the dim lighting of the building. The hot baths had been fabulous and very well received!

A few hours later, groggy from our nap and the drone of the TV, CG and I decide to forego the haunted tour and climb into bed for the night. It has been a completely amazing day!

1 comment:

Linda said...

Wow, that day would tire even a native Edinburgher, used to all our hills. Glad you had sunshine for your visit, despite the wind.