Wednesday, August 17th, Edinburgh, Lothian

Mailboxes Etc; St John's and St Cuthbert's churches; the high road up to the Castle; chatting with a semi-irate piper; lunch at St Giles café; St Giles's Cathedral; Oxford a capella; National Museum of Scotland and the Celts; a pint at the Grosvenor; Boots; Starbucks; dinner at Yo! Sushi

Citryroomz Edinburgh



I had a very good and enjoyable day today, and the weather was beautiful–once again it was lovely and almost warm if you were in the direct sunlight and the wind wasn't blowing, but still not quite warm enough for shorts. I decided that I didn't need to wear my sweatshirt when I left the hotel.

It's now about the same time that I was typing my notes last night, and once again I can really hear the fireworks. Not surprisingly although I am as much of a night owl when I travel as when I'm at home, I'm a night owl that pretty much stays at home after dark unless I'm out and about for a special occasion such as the times in Ireland when I went to a show or concert or a session at a pub. Most of the time, though, I've returned to wherever I'm staying not long after dinner. And now back to this morning.

I wasn't in a great hurry to get moving early this morning, since my only time constraint was the a capella concert at 2:30 PM. The first thing I did was go find the nearest outlet of Mailboxes Etc, which is only a few blocks away from here. It won't be much trouble carrying everything I want to send back home there, even if I'm carrying two of my good cloth, reusable shopping bags with handles and two canes (the one I bought in Fort William to send back home, and Mom's or Chris's to use during the day). The guys there told me they have a UPS tube that should hold the cane. The shop is closed on Saturday, so I'll have to go Friday morning.

After I left the MBE, I stopped by the two churches nearest the hotel, St John's and St Cuthbert's. I'd forgotten how lovely St John's is. It really is one of my favorite churches here, with lovely stained glass and architectural details. I found it interesting that either the church is less socially active than it was when I was here five years ago, or they've moved some of their activity off campus and out of the church building.

St Cuthbert is a much less ornate but still very pleasant church, which isn't surprising when you realize that St John's is a Scottish Episcopal church and St Cuthbert's is Church of Scotland, a much more austere denomination. I'd forgotten that the main way to approach the entrance to St Cuthbert's church itself is through the cemetery. When you're there, it's easy to see why that graveyard has the reputation of being very haunted. I have to admit that when I left the church I couldn't figure out how I had come in from the street and wound up looping through part of the cemetery and up through part of the Princes Street Gardens and came out on Princes Street back in front of St John's church, around the corner from where I had gone into St Cuthbert's.

From there I decided to take the high road up to the Castle. By that I mean instead of walking all the way down the hill to Grassmarket and Cowgate to get to the Royal Mile, I went up the path up the side of the hill to Johnston Terrace and the steps known as Castle Wynd which joins the Royal Mile just below the Castle Esplanade. It's a pretty steep route but doable if I take my time and don't press too hard.

There was a piper in full regalia not far below the Esplanade. I stopped to listen to him for a while, which he noticed and which seemed to endear me to him because when he decided to take a bit of a break he kind of went on a rant about the "stupid tourists" who don't pay any attention to what he plays but treat him like a photo op. I found his rant as amusing as I did watching people lining up to stand next to him while he was playing to have their picture taken, and even when he wasn't playing and we were clearly chatting a few people asked him if they could take their picture with him. I almost asked him why he was there if he hated playing for tourists so much? Instead, I asked him what kind of music he liked to play. When he asked me what I'd like to hear I suggested a bloodthirsty battle march, and he could think about all the "stupid tourists" for inspiration.

It was time for lunch by then, and I went around the corner to the very nice little St Giles café, which I'd been to when I was there last and rather enjoyed. It's not the café in St Giles's but is around the corner from it on St Giles street. I had a very good ham and cheese toastie and their version of a hot toddy, which was also very tasty as well.

I still had a while before the concert started, and it was only a ten minute walk away, so I paid a visit to the wonderful St Giles's Cathedral which I remembered very well from my last trip here, and liked as much this time as well. They ask for a fee of 2 GBP for taking pictures there, which I gladly paid and made a 3 GBP donation as well. A lot of people didn't seem to bother paying the photo fee, but I really feel it's worth it since it's such a lovely building. I also paid the 3 GBP fee to enter the small chapel for the Order of the Thistle, which also has wonderfully detailed carvings.

Then it was over to and down South Bridge to the location in one of the University of Edinburgh buildings where the concert was. On the way over I went past a very nice Scottish souvenir shop where I was able to find a zip front, extra large sweatshirt which fits OK. Although I do have London and Paris sweatshirts at home, I didn't buy either of them there but ordered them from Amazon last fall. I now have an Irish and a Scottish sweatshirt which I actually bought in those two countries. I will of course also look for ones while I'm in London and then in Paris.

Today's program was the a capella group from Oxford. Unlike the groups from Cambridge yesterday, this group consisted of both men and women, six guys and seven women. Although I could appreciate the skill of all the singers and the great arrangements, I didn't recognize most of the songs they sang, not being a fan of the latest pop music. It was still enjoyable anyway.

The National Museum is only up the street from where the concert was. When I was here five years ago, I thought the museum was moving. Instead what happened is that the complex was remodeled and many of the exhibits I saw were moved into the wonderful Victorian building next door. Not only is it a wonderful building, the exhibits are very interesting and beautifully done within it. One of the main reasons I wanted to go was the special exhibition on the Celts, which opened at the British Museum in London after I left last year, and it too was very well done and very interesting. Unlike in the rest of the museum, taking pictures was not allowed.

I left when the museum closed at 5 PM. Although the Greyfriars church, and Greyfriar Bobby's pub, are just up the street I decided to come back another day when I'd have more time to wander around the pretty and atmospheric graveyard as well as visiting the church. I also decided to take a cab back to the hotel, instead of making the uphill walk back here. It turned out to take longer than I had thought it would to catch a cab, about ten minutes, but the ride was quite inexpensive from there to here–about 6 GBP.

I wasn't ready for dinner yet, so I stopped in at the Grosvenor, the pub directly across the street from my hotel, for a pint. I really like the Grosvenor. It's an older pub, with lots of smaller tables as well as bar height tables, and lots of comfortable chairs if some could use reupholstering. I will definitely go back, since in addition to all the beers they have on tap they also have three ciders as well.

I still wasn't ready for dinner so I went a little further up the street to the Boots. When I left home, I had a smaller pocket case for the magnetic clip on sunglasses that go with my prescription glasses. I still had the sunglasses and the fat, hard case I keep in my car, but somewhere I had lost the thinner pocket case. I bought a pair of clip on sunglasses at the Boots that don't really fit my glasses, but my sunglasses mostly fit the case for the Boots clip ons, which is thin enough to fit in my pocket. I also wanted to pick up a bottle of glasses cleaning solution, since I'm almost out of the smaller size bottle I brought from home.

I still wasn't ready for dinner, so I went to the Starbucks next door for an iced coffee. I also bought a poppy seed muffin for later, which I'm going to have as soon as I finish this up for tonight.

I'd passed the local branch of Yo! Sushi a couple of times and had wanted to eat lunch there earlier but hadn't left enough time that day to be able to wait for a smaller table instead of one of the bar height ones. I didn't have to wait too long tonight, and had a very good, not inexpensive but not too expensive, dinner. Yo! uses the same model a lot of US sushi chains do, where you can order from a menu but most people just select things from the moving conveyor belt that goes around the restaurant past all the tables. I had a table by the window looking out at the Castle.

It was still sunny and lovely when I left for dinner so I didn't wear either of my sweatshirts, even though when I got outside I could tell that later this evening it would be chilly enough to need one. When I left the restaurant I had to walk fairly briskly to stay warm on the trip back here.

Before I left home, my friends at my local pharmacy and I had tried to get refills for all of my prescriptions well in advance before I left but for some reason my pharmacy plan had not authorized sufficient refills for two of my prescriptions, so I'm almost out of one of them and will run out of a second long before I get home. This evening after I got back from dinner I turned roaming back on for my home iPhone to call Benefits for Broward County to get the phone number for the prescription plan, then to call the prescription plan to see if they send prescriptions internationally (they don't), then to call my home pharmacy to see if they ship prescriptions internationally (and they don't either).

I have a ticket for the Queen's Gallery at 9:30 tomorrow morning, and it's about a half an hour walk from here, so I should leave here not much later than 8:45. After I leave the Gallery I'm free until I have a 2:30 PM ticket for the hokey but fun Edinburgh Dungeon which is also on the Royal Mile. Then I'm free after that until I have a ticket at 6:30 PM to hear the Edinburgh Renaissance Band at the Queen's Hall which is about a twenty five minute walk from the Royal Mile. I think on the way there I'll look for somewhere to have dinner after the concert.

Or maybe not. According to Google Maps, there are three walking routes from the Queen's Hall back here to my hotel. One of them, which I wouldn't even consider after dark, goes through the huge park known as the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links, and winds up at the main intersection near where the B&B I stayed in on my last trip is. I remember there were several very nice pubs & restaurants in that area, so maybe I'll wait and eat dinner when I get to that neighborhood.

Time to have my muffin and get to bed.

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