Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Ah, Edinburgh. What a great city. I loved it. Seriously loved it. It was low key--not as bustling as London. It felt safe and friendly. The weather was overcast and a bit rainy and chilly but we were actually pretty comfortable (I think we all made sure to dress warmly enough after being so cold and miserable in Cambridge).

Once again we found that we didn't really know what we were doing, but we just relied on the kindness of strangers to help us out. We purchased bus passes for the day. We figured that would be the most convenient and economical way to get around Edinburgh. We had to ask the driver and other passengers (like the sweet lady from Malawi who was studying midwifery at the University of Edinburgh) to help us know when we should get off, and they did.

We walked pretty much the whole Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle and all the way down to Holyrood Palace as well as a good portion of Princes Street with a few little detours. We decided to not fight the crowds or pay to go into the castle since we had already seen a couple of them on the trip. Instead, we shopped until we were ready to keel over. We went into fancy department stores and kitschy tourist shops. We found more souvenirs to bring home to our kids (J's rugby ball was a smash hit--pun kind of intended). We shared a chocolate bar with a homeless man. We ate dinner with some students from Germany (Marion) and Amsterdam (I couldn't remember his name within 5 seconds of him telling us). We discovered The Writers' Museum, saw tartan being woven and found Waldo (or "Wally" as the Brits call him). I ate haggis--Robert Burns would be proud.

Bank of Scotland.
The Royal Mile.
Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations, father of capitalism, father of modern economics, Scottish hero.
Bank of Scotland from the other side.

Bagpipers are pretty dang cool.

For the most part the people were friendly, but I found the Scotsmen to be a little more gruff than the charming Irishmen--like the guys that gave us a hard time at the tartan weaving mill when we asked if Mom could ride the elevator because stairs are hard on her knees. Of course they let us ride. They just had to give us a hard time about it first.

Machines and men at work at Tartan Weaving Mill.

Edinburgh Castle.

Museum on the Mound
Irn Bru. I thought it tasted a little bit like Smarties (the American kind) and cream soda.
Haggis Buttery at Contini Cafe (haggis on puff pastry with cheese).

There were some great shops on the Royal Mile and Princes street. We fell in love with Ness. It was full of darling clothes, accessories and handbags. I hadn't really bought a souvenir for myself up to that point but Anne and I both left there with a beautiful tartan handbag and a silk scarf each and Mom found a scarf and some other beautiful things as well.

The streets of Edinburgh were full of people trying to make a buck (or a quid): bagpipers busking (I paid £2 to take a short video of a bagpiper), people dressed in costume wanting money to have their photo taken with you, living statues, and the like. There were a couple of falconers with a peregrine falcon and an owl. Anne paid  £2 to hold Guinevere the owl. She was a gorgeous bird and she seemed to know it. She was very cooperative in posing for photos for me.

We saw this welcoming alley and decided we needed to duck down it and see what there was to see. We were excited to find The Writer's Museum. It was a fun little place with displays honoring some of Scotland's finest writers: Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott.

We saw several windows with glass like this. I had never seen it before but got really excited when I was watching Poldark after returning home and noticed windows with round spots like these in one of the scenes. I think the panes must be hand blown.
Robert Louis Stevenson's pipe and fishing basket and poles.

Exterior of the Writer's Museum.
The Scott Monument--the largest monument to a writer in the world. 
The train station is right in the middle of downtown.

Edinburgh is such a photogenic city. It was hard to put the camera down and just enjoy the beauty.

We found him!

Edinburgh Castle.
The Royal Mile.
The Tollbooth Tavern--supposedly haunted. Didn't get a chance to find out.
Neat old public school house.
For dinner we stopped at a place called Oink and had roast pork sandwiches on rolls with stuffing and applesauce. It was good and one of the most American-tasting things we had the whole trip--although the hog head in the window gave the place a distinctively European flair. You just don't see that around here very often. At least not in any of the places I've ever lived. The place was crowded but Marion from Germany and his friend from Amsterdam were kind enough to share their table with us. They were both students at the University. We learned that The University of Edinburgh has free tuition for anyone in Europe except the English. Ha ha. Ouch.

Palace of Holyrood--The Queen's residence in Scotland.
Even the light posts get the royal treatment at Holyrood.
Arthur's Seat
After dinner we made our way to the end of the Royal Mile and Holyrood, but the hour was getting late and tours were wrapping up for the day. We looked around for a few minutes and then caught a bus back up town. We had to switch buses a couple of times and ask for help once or twice to find our way back to Kenvie Guest House, but we made it.

We were still trying to tweak our plans for the last couple of days of the trip because we had packed so much packed into our remaining time. We asked Dorothy (the hostess) if we could possibly stay at her place one more night, but she was all booked up. We got up the next morning, had breakfast and said our goodbyes. She called us a cab. Our driver was a pleasant older fellow with a fantastic Scottish brogue. He dropped us off right at the train station post office even though it wasn't really a designated drop off spot so that Mom wouldn't have to walk far.

Before boarding our train to the Lake District, we had quite a few things we wanted to mail home after our shopping spree the day before. We spent a fair amount of time trying to box things up and shift the contents of packages around so that boxes wouldn't be too heavy. After all that we finally decided it would be pretty impractical to mail some of the things home. We ended up making a tape handle for one of the boxes so we could just bring it as a carry on on the flight home (an idea that one of the postal clerks thought was very clever)

We did mail a smaller package or two. A male mail clerk asked for "a wee signature" and Anne signed her name rather flamboyantly and told me she didn't want to give him a wee signature; she'd give him a grand signature. We Cassidy women don't like to be told what to do very much.

To Be Continued. . .

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