Thursday, January 15, 2009

Europe Trip Journal Part 3


Train to Edinburgh, Scotland. Was confusing figuring out where we were allowed to sit; finally settled into seats with a big table between them and realized later they were reserved for people getting on at the next stop. But the stop came and went and they didn't appear, so we got awesome seats for the 3-4 hr journey. :) :)

Arrived in Edinburgh a little after noon. Nice hotel - bigger room than in London and quite pleasant. Edinburgh looked interesting on arrival (and proved to be so) - ancient churches, a castle on a hill (actually a dormant volcano), and monuments next to modern architecture and carnival rides, with a huge train station in the middle of it. Our hotel is at the bottom of the Royal Mile, which stretches from the Palace at Holyrood (where the Queen stays when she's in town) to Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill where past kings and queens of Scotland lived before England took over. We walked along this path browsing gift shops and looking at the old magical streets and buildings.

The sun seemed to set very early - like 3:30 or so, and the low light on the old buildings looked amazing. The streets and buildings are laid out kind of interestingly in that instead of alleys, they have "closes" which are enclosed courtyards between the buildings, only accessible on foot, and mostly private with entrances to people's apartments but they all have names like "Jackson's Close" and, my favorite, this one:

One of my favorite buildings was Scottish Parliament, which took an interesting modern approach to representing primitive structures - windows and awnings looked like big sticks lined up (photo from google):

See that bluff in the background? Been there done that. Stay tuned for details.

After dark a crowd gathered in a church courtyard, lit torches and marched about a mile to a hill to light a bonfire. The amazing thing was the sheer number of people. In the thousands for sure. Apparently it's a tradition and tonight was the most people ever. We walked with the mob but didn't carry torches because of my thing with fire - but this allowed for some good photos.

After the angry mob, we found a shortcut back to the hotel - a dark, steep, stone staircase.


Breakfast at a Turkish restaurant - because hey, when in Rome... Food was surprisingly good. Hiked up small mountain (Holyrood Park). Great views of the city and according to Stanley was a good "highland" experience.

Enjoyed ruins of St. Anthony's chapel - built sometime before 1426.

Fruit smoothie and a caramel brownie for lunch - best brownie I've ever had - caramel, nuts and fudge chunks on top.

Arrived for a tour of Edinburgh castle as the sun went down. Enjoyed getting a feel for the old Scottish monarchy. Need to read up on the castle and the kings and queens.

(This is taken inside the castle walls; it's a pretty big campus or whatever you want to call it.) Saw the royal crown and sceptre. Kind of sad that no one is using them these days. Apparently they were officially given to Queen Elizabeth II a few decades ago.

Pub for some beers, then dinner at a great Indian place - lamb vindaloo was hot enough for Stanley and lamb kurma was hot enough for me.

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