Not since Chaucer wrote the “Canterbury Tales” has the world seen such literary genius as Aunt Jane and Ian’s blog posts from the UK.
Our travels take us to Scotland — land of our Ancestors, Clan Grant; birthplace of the great poet Robert “Robby” Burns and James Bond; where the hypodermic needle, curling, and the flush toilet were invented; and home of haggis, sticky toffee pudding and single malt whisky.
On a rainy Saturday morning, we took the 4 1/2 hour train ride from King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverly station. The grumpiest couple in the universe sat across from us from London to Newcastle, and then we had our “four top” area to ourselves until we arrived in Edinburgh.
We hopped in a cab, and quickly arrived at our flat on Shandwick Place, which is conveniently located just on the edge of the Old Town, the New Town, and Edinburgh’s West End. We couldn’t be more perfectly located. The apartment is newly remodeled, and we are very comfortable — two bedrooms, two bathrooms, WiFi, washer/dryer. We may never leave.
After settling in, we set out into the New Town, although it really is not that new since it was built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Beautiful stone buildings, cobblestone streets, it’s super charming, even in the drizzling out (the first real rain in the entire week we’ve been here). We quickly found a nice welcoming pub and settled in for lunch.
A pint or two later, we decided to walk around our neighborhood, but the rain picked up and we returned to the flat to check email, do laundry, and generally hang out, something we haven’t really done in over a week. I took a rather extended nap, which I guess I needed, because it was close to dinner time when I woke up again.
We had a nice late supper in an Italian restaurant nearby (Italian is on a 36- to 48-hour rotation on Ian’s meal plan), and called it a very well-spent day.
Sunday morning the sun shone brightly through our windows at Shandwick Place, so after a light breakfast, we hit the streets of Edinburgh ready for action. The streets were not so ready for us. It was much quieter here than in London on Sunday morning.
However, by the time we meandered up the large hill to Edinburgh’s Castle, which sits on a large bluff looming over the city, we encountered many other tourists. Seems we all had the same destination in mind.
The Castle’s origins date back to 900 BC and it’s played a pivotal role in multiple wars fought over Scotland’s independence. In addition to touring all the different parts of the Castle grounds, the views from the Castle are incomparable. And we also got a peek at the Scottish Crown Jewels.
Just outside the Castle gates, a large stadium is set up for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which starts next month and looks unbelievably awesome. Massed drumming, bagpipers, dancing, and singing. For now, they are having concerts nightly and fireworks, we believe in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games happening in Glasgow, but more on that later.
We walked through the stadium and out onto the Royal Mile, a long thoroughfare, which is chock-a-block full of shops, restaurants, historic sites, tourist stuff, pubs, bars, and restaurants. Ian and I have plans to visit a few of these places later in the week. At that point on Sunday afternoon, we just were looking for a place for lunch. About halfway down, we stopped at a nice pub called Number One High Street and finally sat down for lunch.
Since we wanted to get a sense of the rest of the city, we decided (on the advice of our trusted advisor, Rick Steves, to take one of the hop-on/hop-off bus tours, which wound up being a good way to get oriented to Edinburgh. In the Grassmarket neighborhood, we “hopped off” when we heard the sound of many drummers drumming. Not sure what was happening, we encountered a full-on Carnival-style parade. Again, perhaps this had something to do with the Commonwealth Games. Nevertheless, it was great to see these performers so enthusiastically drumming, dancing and “shaking what they got” in the streets of Edinburgh.
We returned back to our flat sometime around 5 or 6, and took a little rest. Because it stays light so late here, we are finding we don’t go to dinner until 8:30 at the earliest. It doesn’t start to get dark until well after 9 p.m. here. So, we can come home at 6, Aunt Jane can take a little snoozer for an hour (or so) and there is still plenty of time for a cocktail before dinner. I love Scotland!
We had dinner at another nearby restaurant called Indigo Yard, which was literally tucked down an alleyway nearby, but had a very cool interior and good food. Since it was still light out when we left, we decided to take a walk, and stopped off for dessert (for Ian) and a glass of wine (for me) at another upscale pub.
On our way home, we could see the Castle lit up with flaming torches and a concert was in full swing. I immediately recognized the deep, sexy baritone rolling across Edinburgh was that of Tom Jones. Ian, of course, had no idea who Tom Jones was.
When I explained who he was, and sang a few bars of “She’s a Lady” and “What’s New Pussycat” and told him how some ladies threw their undergarments at him, Ian asked “How old is this guy?” I replied I wasn’t sure, but I thought he was grandma or grandpa’s age, Ian sputtered, “What?? NO WAY! You’re crazy, Aunt Jane.” But sure enough, look it up on the interweb, he was born in 1940. And guess what, people, he sounded pretty dang good to me.
So, that’s pretty much our first 36 hours in Scotland. I’ll let Ian give you his version of events now. Tomorrow’s post: how Charles and Camilla screwed up our morning and the whiskey experience (that’s two different events).
After a long train ride we have finally arrived in the homeland: Scotland! I was very impressed with our flat and everything in it, very modern and my bed is really comfortable. As Jane had mentioned we had lunch at a great pub, 1780, I got barbeque spare ribs and chips (who knew the Scots could barbeque?)
The rain decided to welcome us to Edinburgh but I didn’t mind it at all because it was nice to just chill in our apartment. It was about 36 hours since I had an Italian meal (36 hours too much) so we decided that would be our dinner and it was excellent. Our first day in Scotland was relaxed and it was perfect.
After getting a nice sleep we started our journey to the main attraction of the city, Edinburgh Castle. It truly is marvelous and, believe it or not, we have to thank Hitler for why it is still here today. Hitler decided when he was going to win World War II and control all of Europe he would make Edinburgh Castle one of his homes in the UK. He gave special orders and made sure this baby was staying intact but his only mistake was fighting against the Stars and Stripes which is why we all don’t have to speak German today (Aber Deutsch ist ein Gute Sprache!).
But I digress.. the castle was beautiful and provided amazing views of Edinburgh. We walked down the royal mile and looked at some cool shops and bars which gave us a good idea of some places to come back to. We got tickets for the extremely tourist-only hop on hop off bus which gave some audio guidelines as we toured around the city. It took me about 5 minutes to realize I didn’t need that garbage and I plugged in my iPod which has made some boring parts of the trip a lot better (absolutely no offense to Jane there are always boring parts to even the greatest trips.)
We heard a bunch of drums and shouting at Grassmarket Square, which we investigated to find out it was a mini parade; it was awesome. We went to a trendy bar/restaurant for dinner I had a great rib eye. Some jabroni, Tom Jones, was playing at the castle which we could hear on our walk home. Respect for the guy because I hear he has a way with the ladies (we’re more similar than I thought) but seemed like he put on a good show so cheers mate! That was the end of our full first day in Scotland.
Some great stories will be told about our adventures coming up so stay tuned
And a few more pictures from our day.
Check out this clip from last year’s Edinburgh Tattoo: