Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scotland Part Four - Edinbra

I didn't get much time to see this beautiful city, but what I saw really won me over.

I had one full day there between our visit to Auchentoshan and our road trip to the Highlands, and again after being on the road before I headed home.

The day we went to Auchentoshan, we passed this scene on the way to the train to Glasgow. Someone had a drunken laugh the night before!

The weekend was atypically warm, dry and sunny. The locals are used to rain and cold, so everyone was tilted to the sun like plants. The view from Dan's apartment, looking out onto the lush garden and letting in the warmth.

People in Edinburgh seem to be optimistic about the weather despite the usual wet reality, lots of flowers planted everywhere, and many people with convertible cars! On days like this, they can finally break out the shoe pots.

We wandered around town and sat in the park as we contemplated our next move, eventually heading to the Royal Mile for some whisky shopping. See that winding hill on the upper right? Yep, we walked straight up it on a path.

Winded, here is the view we were rewarded by at the top.

We had a stroll down the Royal Mile, stopping into Royal Mile Whiskies and Cadenheads where I did some damage. Here is St. John's Cathedral, which is also where all the city ghost tours can be picked up.

The Royal Mile is called such because at the top is Edinburgh Castle, and a mile down the same road is Holyrood Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots lived. I was really jonesed to go into it after being shut out of Stirling. Alas, this is all I was going to see of it. There was a "royal visit" till mid June and the Palace is shut to visitors. I mean COME ON. They open the White House when the First Family is around... Man, this trip is all about the timing, isn't it? Well, maybe this just means I'm meant to return for another opportunity to do some Mary geeking.

That evening, Dan and I set out for some pubs, starting in the Grass Market (former square of public hangings, now a thriving, mostly Irish, bar and restaurant scene) and had another long walk. Dan's girlfriend, Yvonne, lives in Marchmont near the Meadows Park. That was my home base for most of the trip. That night, everyone was still out enjoying the weather. Lucky students had just finished exams and were ready to party. The town was thumping! And it would stay light till after 10pm.

A pretty high stone walkway on the way to the park.

The Elephant Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter book, is in Greyfriars. Here is the school that was the inspiration for Hogwarts.

I spent a lot of time in Greyfriars cemetery, both that night and when I returned to town a few days later. Wish I'd had time for a ghost tour like these people in the distance with their be-caped guide. 

Stone relief, one of many.

Here's a skeleton relief taken on a different visit.

This is the tomb of Greyfriars Bobby, who was a Skye Terrier who, legend has it, spent many years protecting the grave of his owner, John Gray, until his own death in 1872.

This is the legendary pub near the entrance. Keep walking up the road to the right and you'll hit the George IV Bridge and then the Royal Mile, just past the pub and down and you're in Cowgate and the Grass Market, so this was also my landmark corner that guided me.

As I mentioned, I unexpectedly had Tuesday night and all of Wednesday to myself since Dan had to tend to Yvonne and her family for her grandmother's funeral. I ended up having a fab chippy take away near Yvonne's, then took a long walk and eventually ended up back in Marchmont at the Argyll pub, watching Tom Jones on Jools Holland and understanding how much better Guinness really does taste across the pond. Here's a shot I snapped on my walk. The little chapel in the far distance has been converted into a theater. Wish I'd been able to see something there.

The following day was spent shopping in my new very favorite store of all time, Marks and Spencers and taking a haunted underground tour in the South Bridge vaults. This really cool company called Mercat puts together these very clever ghost and history tours around town. Our guide, Kimberley, was a pip and so much fun to listen to. There were just three of us in all. And I have to say, there were a couple of times I was pretty spooked down there. I kept expecting someone to jump out at us during the tour (someone who worked there). When that didn't happen, I swore I felt drafts and smelled wafts of things like leather polish that weren't really there. When I emerged, I was definitely needing something to calm my nerves. Luckily, the Albanach pub was right there.

The Royal Mile looking down.

Looking into one of the many ornate "Closes" (corridors) up and down the Mile. One could spend a whole day, and get a good cardio workout, wandering up and down these.

And here's a city view taken from the George IV Bridge.

That evening, under Dan's recommendation, I decided to take advantage of the pre-theater dinner special at Sweet Melinda's in Marchmont. Gooooood call. Really fresh and delicious seafood, great ingredients, excellent preparation, super cheap deal. I was one happy Jew. Especially after rhubarb and vanilla custard tart. A couple of night's prior, we had gone out with Dan's roommate, Dave and his friend Nick from Inverness. I decided to revisit the couple of places I really liked that night in Stockbridge, Hector's pub and the Raconteur cocktail bar, and take a long walk and snap some photos getting there.

Here's Edinburgh Castle as seen from the Grass Market.

Now looking up the Royal Mile.

And now farther up.

Walking on the pedestrian bridge by the National Gallery, I saw this scene. The Scott Monument and the Balmoral Hotel clock tower.

This is from Princes Street looking toward the Castle, that's Royal Scots Greys' statue.

Here's a cool shop window on Deanhaugh Street on the way to Hector's pub.

After a pint at Hector's and a couple of cocktails at the Raconteur (which well lives up to its name. Great place for someone on their own to hang out and chat), it was back to Yvonne's. Couldn't believe I'd already be heading home the next day!

A parting, moonlight glimpse up Marchmont Crescent, which had been my home all week. Fare thee well, Edinbra. Can't wait to see you again!

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