Sunday, July 9, 2017

Edinburgh Day 1

When we arrived in Edinburgh it was raining well and windy and COLD.  The first thing we did was queue for a taxi to our apartment and then go out and buy sweaters/jackets at a T.J. Maxx (T.K. Maxx there).  We also had dinner at a KFC (it was close) where a bunch of teenage boys (probably middle school) were throwing bits of food around and walking on the tables and not listen to the employees telling them to leave so Chopper got up and told them to leave and they told him (in their Scottish brogue) to shut up!  He didn't want to get arrested, (not what we needed) but managed to intimidate them out the door and the manager locked them out.  Stupid, rude kids are universal I guess. 

Our first full day in Edinburgh, we walked from our apartment up the Royal Mile - so called because Edinburgh Castle is at one end and Holyroodhouse Palace is at the other.  There's also this:
Queen Mary's bathhouse.  There's no evidence that there was an actual bath in the house, but apparently it was used as a relaxing spot by Mary Queen of Scots.  It was a tiny, wonky little thing.

The Royal Mile is mostly shopping and fantastic buildings.  If you're a fan of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, here's the World's End pub.  It's been so long since I've read it that I can't remember why it's significant sadly.  But yet another stop on our literary tour of the United Kingdom.  Can any tour of the United Kingdom NOT be literary?  I suppose if you don't read . . . 

Coming up to Edinburgh Castle is a little underwhelming honestly.  It's built at the top of an extinct volcano but it's imposing views are really on the back sides.  The street gradually goes up to meet the castle and so it doesn't loom quite as much.  Also, the courtyard is already set up with big blue bleacher sets for the Military Tattoo that they do in August so that doesn't help the view. 

But the view from the castle is fantastic!!  It was cold still and rainy in the morning so not the greatest scene in the gray but that is the Firth of Forth -- a fjord geographically.

Edinburgh Castle wasn't our favorite.  It is a fortress definitely and was fairly small as fortresses go and really crowded.  In the center is something that looks like a church but is actually a war memorial.  Then around the outside you have mostly battlements and prison cells.  They also have one tower where they house the Scottish crown jewels which are really neat to see.

William really liked all the canon

There is a small section of state rooms that you can go in.  One is the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son, King James I.  I guess we just weren't all that impressed!  Sad to say that maybe we've seen better castles . . . I never thought I would say that!!

Ok so that honestly is all I really have to say about Edinburgh Castle!  Wow I feel like I've short-changed it or something.  We enjoyed our morning though.  On the way down the Royal Mile we went looking for lunch and found a few other things to occupy us.  One was St. Giles Cathedral.

This beautiful church was having a lunch time choir performing from Pennsylvania.  They sang beautifully.  It is amazing the acoustics of these places -- not a microphone in sight and yet the sound just swells wonderfully and fills the church.  I really enjoy sitting in churches and listening to music.

There was a "museum" of optical illusions but it was pretty pricey so we had fun with their mirrors outside and then walked on.
Super tall and thin!

 Super short and wide!

The lunch place  we ended up at had Haggis Fritters on the menu as an appetizer.  If you're going to try something you're nervous about, might as well do it fried when everything tastes good right?  
I knew that Haggis contained less desirable parts but didn't think about it.  I guess I did not expect the texture to be what it was.  And it makes sense because it's sold a lot in a can but it's very . . . mushy.  The texture is more like a pate or something.  The flavor was good actually, but the texture and the thought of what was in it meant that I really didn't eat that much.  Chopper also tried it and Abby was super brave and did as well!  She said she liked it and then didn't eat any more which means she didn't really.

Just in case you're wondering, Wikipedia says that it is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver, and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt and mixed with stock and encased in the animal's stomach.  So there you have it.

Fun before food

After lunch we decided to go in search of Greyfriar's Kirkyard and see if we could find the Harry Potter graves.  We passed by The Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote the first book.  It had a line.

The church itself was closed and the graveyard was interesting.  It had several plots that were almost like rooms without walls and more headstones mounted on walls than on the ground I thought.

This is McGonagall's plaque -- a man who was a poet

And Tom Riddle's gravestone!  Not at all like the one from the movie of course!

There's a gorgeous school behind the graveyard that is said to have inspired Hogwarts in that it has 4 houses and used to take in orphans.  I wonder how much of this is stretched and how much just was a part of her and came out in her writing.

Some great views with the layers of buildings

After Greyfriars we weren't sure exactly what was next and we were getting towards the end of the afternoon (everything pretty much shuts down about 5 pm we've found) but ran into the National Museum of Scotland.  It turned out to be a crazy mix of stuff either connected to Scotland or found or invented by a Scottish person.  It was so kid friendly with so many hands on exhibits that we had to practically drag the kids out at closing time.

Whale skull

Real dress -- I always knew that they did them wide like this but had never seen one actually so wide!

William LOVED the mechanical section!

A fabric weaving machine using punch cards

A Tesla coil I think

The city of course is full of statues and for some reason they all had pigeons on their heads

Abby stood like this for about 5 minute before Chopper noticed and took a picture.  She likes to pose.

On our way back to the apartment for the night we peeked in at Holyroodhouse.  It's the Queen's residence when she's in Scotland and it was closed due to her being there for something going on in Edinburgh so we didn't get to see the inside, just take pictures through the gate bars like the crazy tourists we are!

Abby claims everything called an Abbey as hers.  It's been a lot of stuff.

Edinburgh is known as a city of literature and they claim Sir Walter Scott of course but also Robert Louise Stevenson and others. Waverly train station is the only train station in the world apparently that is named after a novel (Waverly by Sir Walter Scott) and there were pieces of literature all over the city.  One entire wall outside the Parliament building has different quotes from various writers and I liked this one from one of my favorite poets whom no one reads.  I wish that we could have gotten out more into the wildness of Scotland although the rain we had was enough to make us glad that the wet was over.  Overall, we had very little rain for as long of a trip as we had so I can't complain!  And we all seemed to weather it well!

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