21 February 2010

Auld Reekie

IIII ) llll Edinburgh (19Feb10)

0418 Before arriving at Dundee station, Ali texts forward and says to get our cameras ready. Just then, we enter a tunnel, all is black. For a moment I think it must be some kind of sick joke. But no, soon we are crossing an estuary and the scene really is picture-worthy

0501 Feel like a little kid, running up and down this coach, opening doors and windows, trying unsuccessfully to get good shots as shoot across the countryside. Just waiting for that coffee cart to pass again so I can off-load some of my smaller change buying a bag of regular, salted "crisps"

0600 Edinburgh, a city with quite a different feel to it than Aberdeen. Fewer grays, more golds, with a large castle perched on the hilltop overlooking the downtown center. Its nickname is Auld Reekie (for the smell). Catching our breath for just a couple minutes, then it's out to explore

0753 As soon as we checked-in to our hotel, we were out the door again. Our first stop was at the post office, just next door to where we're staying. We mailed two small boxes home. Then we hit the streets with Ali, Ki'naksaapo'p and Alvine. They're all heading to the golf course at St Andrew's tomorrow, so tonight is their chance to tour. After a brief walk, down the way, we bought twenty-four hour double-decker bus tickets and set off on a guided tour

0906 We got off the bus up near the base of the castle, where there is an amazing tartan mill. We had about an hour to look through before getting back on our tour. Mahoney picked up some of the spare cuts at the kilt-maker's shop, different plaids that she can fashion something with. We also got information for mail-ordering all the formal dressware. If Sheen ever gets married, I would love to be decked-out Scottish

1016 For the rest of the bus tour, we rode and froze on the upper open deck. Great photo ops, and we got a chance to survey many highlights of the city in preparation for a more leisurely exploration tomorrow. When the tour concluded, we walked as a group, first to the hotel so we could drop off some bags, then to the Rose Street Brewery, where I ordered bangors and mash

1259 The pub dinner was like a home-cooked meal, very tasty, clean, and filling. And the beer Ali suggested was nice too. After eating, we walked in an arch of sorts back to the hotel, stopping off at a grocery along the way, so we would have some sweets for our room - chocolates, crisps, and McVitie's caramel digestives

1605 Passed out for a few hours and have decided I better get up and at least process and post some of today's pics. Otherwise I'll have difficulty catching up by tomorrow. Don't care much for our room here in Edinburgh. The thermostat controlling the radiator is set too high and we have no control over it. Alternately, when we open the window, it gets too cold. And the red and pink floral display carpets and wallpaper throughout the hotel look, as Mahoney aptly pointed out, as though PeptoBismol threw-up all over this place. It's all a lot of sensory stimuli for me, and I feel like we've gone through the looking glass. I'm just a little worried about my lady. Her body's not taking this travel very well. We're half way through now, and the pace only picks up from here

1803 Damn, looks like I may have to wait until we get to Oxford to upload more images. We've got wireless here, but maybe the FB application is having an issue? Don't know, it's late and I'm going to bed. Wish I'd had my camera ready an hour ago when I saw this lady on the street shove her husband so hard he fell on his ass. That was pretty funny

IIII ) lllll Auld Reekie (20Feb10)

0117 Awoke in Auld Reekie, well rested and ready for another adventure

0300 We started off our rounds this morning running a couple errands for Ki'naksaapo'p and Alvine, since they'll be at St. Andrews all afternoon. We walk from the Fredrick House along the cobbles of Rose Street, where Mahoney gathers a photo collection of the stone roses set in the ground at each intersection. Soon we came across our first destination, the Sony store, where we picked up a battery charger for Alvine's camera. Then we crossed over by a church and graveyard to await one of the tour busses that would take us up to the castle and Old Town. While we waited, a magpie flew between the trees beside us, confirming our suspicions that there are magpies here, who construct the large stick nests we've been seeing

0354 Once up toward the castle, we stopped in a souvineer shop to do an exchange for Alvine. She wanted a refund, but our only option was to swap, so we gathered up some Armstrong items and Mahoney got a shawl. We were in and out quick, and then made our way into the castle proper. Because of Mahoney's wheelchair, we got the royal treatment. Entry was half cost for her, free for me, they gave us a guidebook to the castle, and drove us right to the top

0414 We get off the car at the Great Hall, built for hosting ceremony. The roof inside is supported by the oldest Rennaissance stone corbels in Britain. Each one has a different carved image on it, including one of the Green Man, a pre-Christian symbol of fertility. J.K. Rowling (a resident of Auld Reekie) did a massively attended midnight reading for one of the Harry Potter releases beside the fireplace here

0444 From the Great Hall we went on into a room where the Crown Jewels are on display. We found particularly interesting the manner in which the king's crown is decorated with white ermine skins, just like at home. Also among the jewels is a diamond and pearl necklace belonging to Princess Louise, after whom Lake Louise is named. She was married to Prince Albert, from whom originates the Province Alberta

0514 We decided to skip past a war memorial and prisoners' chambers to look at a tiny little building called St. Margaret's Chapel, the oldest in Edinburgh. It has a Mahoney-sized entry door (for shorties) and stained glass windows. Most of the stained glass images were Christian, but there was one opposite the altar of William Wallace. Outside, far down on the streets below, there's a protest of some sort going on - people marching with signs and megaphones, but we can't hear or read what their issue is

0615 Not wanting to bother with the war museum or barracks, we made our way along the winding cobble route out of the castle and down the street to a statue of the Greyfriars Bobby dog, who stood on a street corner waiting for its owner for fourteen years. A sad story

0641 Getting hungry, we moved downhill to an area with several pubs. We found a vintage clothing store there called Armstrong's, where Mahoney bought bulky fur jackets for Isabella and Tyra. Then we crossed the street for a bite and dark ale at The Last Drop, refering to the execution scaffold for public hangings that were once situated at this site. Most famous was the 1829 hanging of serial killer William Burke, who sold the remains he didn't fetish for medical study. I ordered a spinach and feta with chicken breast. Mahoney got bangors and mash

0857 After lunch, we hopped back on the bus and plugged into an audio tour of "Horrible History" to listen to as we drove past various areas of the city. Lots of murder and torture and such. Eventually, the bus pulled back around near the hotel and we hopped off to walk the rest of the way, stopping off at a grocery store to get snacks for the train tomorrow, as well as at a lingerie shop

0944 By the time we reached the hotel I was worn out of all the shopping, shopping. Tip-toeing on the verge of cranky, but hoping for a relaxed evening. And figured we might as well start it off with a visit to the Costa for black coffee and vegetable crisps made of beetroot, parsnip and carrot lightly sea salted

1341 Just got back from Dirty Dick's pub, a very loud and clausterphobic place with great food. We seemed to be the only ones dining though. I had the steak pie, Mahoney ate haggis. People here definitely have a different degree of spatial comfort. I saw seven people crowded around what would be a two-person table (at best) back home

1442 Still no hope of posting images from Edinburgh with this sad connection. But tomorrow we travel to Oxford and, if we're not completely defeated by the time we get settled in, I should be able to put some up

1648 All packed up and ready for an arduous journey in the morning, traveling from Edinburgh to London, King's Cross. Then hauling our not inconsiderable luggage up to the street, grabbing a taxi across the city to Pattington station, and hopping on another train to Oxford, where we'll be sleeping the next three nights