Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 21: Edinburgh

I woke up feeling slightly better but managed to freak out over the bathroom lock. Naked and bruised, I located my towel and re-entered the bathroom, deciding not to lock the door. I will not be trapped again!

I washed my hair in the difficult shower and had breakfast. Cazy and I left a little before 9am and made it on foot to our hop on/hop off bus stand fifteen minutes early. While I took photos of a statue of David Livingstone, Cazy investigated Waverly station.

"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

Our bright pink red City Sightseeing bus turned up and we sat in the open area on the top deck. The audio tour was very well timed (perhaps spurred on by a GPS system?) and initial traffic made it easy to photograph sites without fear of blurred images. We departed the bus at Edinburgh Castle (we could have walked there from the hotel!) and were amazed at the mammoth size of it as we approached.

Edinburgh Castle from below.

Once inside, the audio tour took us around. The castle is built on a huge volcanic rock. We climbed the Lang Steps to the top level and it was incredibly windy. We didn’t bother with the War Memorial (a snobby decision - it wasn’t old enough to interest us!) and focused on David’s Tower, Scotland’s Royal Honours (crown, sword and the Stone of Destiny which is often featured in fiction) and the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the first king of Britain. Many things are fragile in that area - flash photography is disallowed.

A commanding view of Edinburgh.

We had to race from the Honours (miraculously kept from Oliver Cromwell and found in a locked chest in the 19th century - people had been worried that the Honours were lost) to see a musket demonstration. It was loud and smelly. The heavens began to spit rain at us so I attempted to open my umbrella - this was a mistake. The wind nearly blew me away Mary Poppins style - and at that moment, the musket fired. What a fright! We hid in the toilets for five minutes until the sun re-emerged.

The musket demonstration two minutes before a downpour.

We roamed through the Foog Gate (this was after seeing Mons Meg, a 500-year-old canon that was extremely popular with children and cameras) then peered at a few “newer” buildings (19th century hospital, etc) and adjourned to the cafe. Once done there, we watched the bigger gun firing at one o’clock before spending far too much at the gift shop (I may or may not be the owner of a 100% cashmere tartan scarf).

We located the bus stop and were picked up shortly thereafter. The tour entertained us until Holyrood Palace which is impressive but overshadowed by the immense crags behind it. It’s a humble-looking royal residence and I was delighted to recognise parts of the grounds from the Time Team special which featured Neil Oliver.

A palace fit for queens of past and present.

The palace's paintings are well looked after (despite being slashed two centuries ago) but the tapestries are faded and dull. Audio guides led us through the rooms where photography was not allowed. We saw the dining room (the queen has sat at that table!) and the cushy chairs made for her grandparents in the throne room.

I liked seeing where Mary Queen of Scots and her husband lived. This was in the oldest part of the palace (noticeable from the outside by the rougher stones) and the floorboards creaked and snapped so consistently I had to pause the audio tour during the worst spells. The wood smelled more in this “unlived” area of the palace.

Holyrood Abbey: chunkier than Whitby Abbey.

Afterwards, we studied the ruins of Holyrood Abbey and I geeked out over the lump in the grass outside because Time Team excavated it on the behest of Elizabeth II who used to play on that little hill. The archaeologists found a seal for letters buried within. The audio tour doesn’t tell you that!

See, I didn't make it up!

Again, I bought too much stuff and was relieved that we were leaving because huge tour groups were starting to turn up. Back on the bus we went (a two minute wait!) and we were conveyed back to Waverley Bridge station via Dynamic Earth (no one departed or boarded the bus at that stop!) and some awing views of Holyrood Park.

Upon arriving "home", I discovered I definitely killed the washing machine but the lovely people at the hotel washed and dried our clothes. I love it here!!!

I made pastaand I'm currently watching Broadchurch on ITV player (a treat that I will have to give up once my IP address lands me firmly in Australia).


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