Saturday, August 20–Edinburgh, Lothian

Scottish National Portrait Gallery; back to Yo! Sushi for lunch; the National Gallery and a skating reverend; Alba Flamenca; the Royal Mile; Royal Military Tattoo & fireworks

Citryroomz Edinburgh



It's been a long day and a very late evening. It's now 1:45 AM on Sunday, and I only got back to my hotel room about half an hour ago.

I decided to wait and get a haircut after I get to London, so I wasn't in a hurry to get started this morning since my first time commitment wasn't until 6 PM this evening. I didn't leave here until after 11 for the walk on up to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which is in a lovely old building. I rather enjoyed the collection but it didn't take me much more than an hour to see all of it, including the small special exhibition on self portraits.

It was grey, cold and raining for most of the morning and was when I left the Portrait Gallery. There was nowhere to eat lunch between Queen Street which is where the PG is and Princes Street which is where the other National Gallery is. And when I was walking up and down Princes Street looking for somewhere to eat, I realized that there are almost no places to do so along Princes Street until you get to the corner where my hotel is, unless you count coffee shops and a cookie store. Eventually I decided to just go back to the nice sushi place I'd been to earlier this week, since it was pretty good and not too expensive and most importantly it's right across Princes Street from the National Gallery.

It didn't take me too long to go through all the National Gallery either, but I did enjoy it very much. I was especially pleased to find one of my very favorite pictures of all time downstairs in its usual home in the Scottish collection, Henry Raeburn's picture known as the Skating reverend or Skating minister. I'm not sure where I first came across a reproduction of the picture, probably in a textbook for an art class somewhere, nor can I clearly state why I like it so much, but I do.

It was still raining and a bit chilly when I left the National Gallery so I came back here to hang out for about an hour and to put on my sweatshirt underneath the rain jacket I had been wearing before I went to my evening's programs. It was still drizzling when I left about 5 PM so I walked around the corner to the Caledonian hotel and took a cab from there. I actually got there so early I had a frappacino at the Starbucks on the nearest corner.

My final Fringe performance was in the smallest venue I've been to in a long while, a little tiny space that serves as a performance venue and school for Alba Flamenca. The performance was excellent, and traced the links between classical Indian dance forms, Romany gypsy belly dance, and flamenco, first by a solo dancer from each style performing separately then together for the finale. All three dancers, the choreography, and the music–some recorded and some live–were all very good.

From Alba Flamenca back up to the Royal Mile is about a twenty to thirty minute walk. Fortunately it had stopped raining by then. I just wandered around on the Royal Mile, checking out some of the street performers. I had a pretty good mushroom omelet and some very good cream of lentil soup and excellent carrot cake for dinner at a little café along the Mile I'd never been to before.

The Tattoo performance wasn't until 10:30 PM but people were grouping for it well before the house opened at 9:45. I'm not sure I'd call it queuing when there are about twenty five or thirty people across for several blocks. The ushers working the line kept asking everyone to squeeze in as closely as possible. I'm sorry but there are very few people I want to be body to body with, and I had my camera hanging around my neck in front of me anyway.

I hadn't quite paid as much attention to the seating chart when I made my reservation as I should have. I was way the hell up in row Z, but there were several rows even higher up than that. I was six seats in from an aisle, which was good, and down towards the narrow end of the U where the performers all exited.

The Tattoo is quite a spectacle and spectacular in terms of the special visual effects, the pyrotechnics, the number of performers and ensembles involved, the logistics and choreography within each separate group and when they were all together. Visual effects were projected onto the Castle itself, to very good results.

The order of play went like this: Massed pipe & drums (12 different pipe bands all together); the band from the Nepalese army; the band from Her Majesty's Royal Marines Scotland; a youth precision motorcycle team, accompanied by the band of Her Majesty's Rifles; a mass ensemble of fiddlers from the Shetland islands; an ensemble of 50 highland dancers; the US Army Europe band & singers; a precision drill team from New Zealand; the band, drill team and mounted guard from the Jordanian armed forces; the massed pipes & drums again; the New Zealand army band; the band from His Majesty the King's Guard of Norway; all the military bands together; joined by the massed pipe band for the finale.

And there were the occasional fireworks as well as the visual effects.

There were a couple of interesting pieces of trivia I learned from the souvenir program: the temporary stands which are in use today and which I saw when I was here five years ago just before the Tattoo were actually new that year, and are an awesome bit of engineering themselves; and calling such an event a tattoo goes back to Belgium and the Netherlands over 300 years ago. Apparently when the local regiment's band marched through the streets to signal curfew and that the soldiers had to return to their barracks the innkeepers would yell "doe den tap toe" which meant "turn off the taps".

It's now 2:30 AM and time for bed. The plan for Sunday, my last day here in Edinburgh, is to do pretty much what I did on the last day of my previous visit–start at the Castle first and use that part of my Royal Edinburgh pass, then work my way down the Royal Mile stopping at the Camera Obscura, wandering on over to Old St Paul's church, then returning to the Royal Mile and the People's Story, the Museum of Edinburgh, and the church and graveyard at Canongate, then heading on over to Greyfriars and the church and graveyard there with a final pint at Greyfriars Bobby's. I'll probably then take a taxi back here for dinner and a quiet evening.

And now to bed.

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