It's about 10:45 PM and for the first time since I've been here I was aware that I could actually hear the fireworks which are set off after every night's last performance of the Military Tattoo for the day. Why I didn't hear them Sunday or last night I have no idea.
It was a lovely day today, and when the sun was out and the wind wasn't blowing, which was almost all the time, it was warm enough for me to not need my sweatshirt although I did need it at 8:15 AM when I left to walk down to the departure point for my day trip to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond. It really was only a twenty minute walk, so I got there almost half an hour before we left.
Our bus was a smaller one that held about sixteen people, with one seat along the left hand side and two on the right hand side. There seemed to be several nice people along on the trip, including my seat companion who was a lovely younger woman from Brazil. She complained a bit about how busy Edinburgh is right now, and that she didn't know that there was this huge festival going on when she booked her ticket. I politely refrained from saying she should have done her research before hand. I also chatted a bit with a woman from Australia as we were walking back along the shore of Loch Lomond later.
Our driver, Jan, was a nice guy. He described himself, and most of his colleagues as well, as tour guides who have learned to drive minibuses. He provided a lot of interesting commentary along the way, and played the occasional tune on the van's excellent sound system.
As part of the general chat on the way out of town, I learned that there are over 3,000 acts registered for the duration of the Fringe. Jan pointed out that the selection criteria for getting listed as part of the Fringe aren't that stringentanyone who can afford to hire a venue and pay the fee to get listed in the official Fringe directory can get their program or act listed.
Our first stop was Stirling Castle which is quite impressive and I liked quite a bit. Shortly before we got there, Jan stopped on the main road below the Castle where there was an excellent view of the Castle as well as a bunch of Highland cattle who were very nicely close to the road then. Jan said usually they're much further away in the field, but today it was warm enough they were all hanging out near a small pond right by the road.
Do an image search on Google for highland cattle picturesfor cows, they are often absurdly cuddly looking, as if you could give them a big hug if you wanted to.
I paid the small fee to go into the Castle, and took the guided tour which lasted about an hour. We were there for about two hours, so I had time to wander around and take pictures afterwards.
We stopped for an hour for lunch in the small town of Aberfoyle which looked quite nice as we drove through it but I didn't explore. The car park where we parked is right behind the Scottish Wool Centre, which doesn't seem to have their own real web page but has a very nice and fairly large store selling all kinds of Scottish souvenirs and a decent restaurant where I had a very good piece of pastry, a toasted cheese and onion sandwich, and some fairly good cole slaw. Afterwards I bought a Harris tweed cap and hat. Some of the people on the van were late getting back after lunch because the service at one of the restaurants Jan had recommended turned out to be very slow.
Loch Lomond is very lovely, as I had noticed when driving past it between Glasgow and Fort William. We parked near a couple of restaurants & cafes and a small park. Jan led everyone else up some steep steps with no guard or hand rails for the view from above while I stayed on the lakeside path to a beach. I was a bit worried about not linking up with everyone else because I got there before they did. I walked past what looked like the only trail head coming down off the hillside and on to a very nice stretch of beach with lots of pebbles instead of sand. There was a smaller bit of beach closer to the trail head and I headed back that way and when I got there they all had come down off the hill path.
On the way back into town, Jan told us that the lyrics to "Loch Lomond" are supposedly about two Scottish prisoners, an older and a younger man, who were given a choiceone would be set free, and the other would be executed. The older man offers to stay and be killedthe low road-- so the younger one would go free, the high or above ground road.
We got back about 6:30 PM. I walked back here to my hotel, and got here just after 7:00. I hung out here in my room for about half an hour. I had checked the menu at an Italian place (Ask Italian) almost right next door to the hotel and liked it so I went there about 7:30. I had to wait about fifteen minutes for a table inside and sat at a table outside since it was still comfortable. I had some very nice seafood ravioli followed by a piece of a good cheesecake for dessert. Afterwards I walked a little past the hotel to the local outlet of the co-op grocery/convenience store I'd first seen in Fort William to pick up some yogurt for a late night snack.
This hotel is in a very convenient location for shopping, at least the kind I'll be doing. The co-op is a few doors down on this side of the street, and across the street and a few doors down is a Boots pharmacy which is the only place I've been able to find Slimfast, and the small Sainsbury's.
I'm going to another a capella performance tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 PM. I might stop into the churches of St John's and St Cuthbert's first, since they're around the corner from the hotel. If I leave here before lunch, I might go for a bit of a wander in the very atmospheric graveyard at St Cuthbert's as well. The venue for the performance isn't far from the National Museum, which I really want to go to since it has the Celtic exhibition I missed in London last year. I think I was in London before it opened there but I remember seeing signs for it. And the very lovely Greyfriars kirk, and its lovely graveyard, isn't far from the museum as well.
And sometime in the next few days, I might get my hair cut if I go past a barber's that isn't too busy or too expensive. I had it cut before Nick's graduation and it's starting to stick out from under my caps and hats. And I need to find the nearest location of Mailboxes Etc so I'll know where to go on Saturday to send some stuff back home before I fly to London on Monday.