5/2/2016 now with slideshows of the pictures I took each day
Monuments--Dugald Stewart Monument; Edinburgh Mercat Cross; Greyfriars Bobby; Manuscript of Monte Cassino; Meliville Monument; National Monument; Nelson Monument; Playfair Monument; Ross Fountain; St Bernard's Well; Scott Monument. Museums--Brass Rubbing Center; City Art Centre; Lauriston Castle & grounds; Museum of Childhood; Museum of Edinburgh; Newhaven Heritage Museum; People's Story; Queensferry Museum; Writer's Museum & Makar's Court
Bruntsfield Links; Calton Hill; Inverleith Park; Leith Links; The Meadows; Princes Street Gardens; Saughton Park
Blackness Castle; Cairnapple Hill; Castlelaw Hill Fort; Chesters Hill Fort; Corstrophine dovecot; Craigmillar Castle; Crighton Castle; Dirleton Castle & garden; Doonhill homestead; Eagle Rock, Cramond; Edinburgh Castle; Hailes Castle; Holyrood Abbey; Holyrood Park; Lauderdale Aisle, St Mary's Church; Linlithgow Palace; Ormiston Market Cross; Preston Market Cross; Seton Collegiate Church; St Martin's Kirk, Haddington; St Triduana's Chapel, Restalrig Collegiate Church; Tantallon Castle; Torpichen Preceptory; Trinity House Maritime Museum
Modern Art; National Gallery; National Portrait Gallery
National Museum; National War Museum; National Museums Collection Centre
#28 Charlotte Square; Georgian House; Gladstone's Land; House of the Binns, Linlithgow; Inveresk Lodge Garden, Musselburgh; Malleny Gardens; Newhalles, Musselburgh; Preston Mill & Doocot, East Linton
|**Chenderoh Guest House||20|
|**Garadh nan Ros||25|
Burrell Collection; Gallery of Modern Art; Glasgow Museums Resource Centre; Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum; Museum of Transport; Open Museum; People's Palace; Provand's Lordship; St Mungo Museum of Religious Art & Life; Scotland Street School Museum
Alexandra; Auchinlea; Bellahouston; Botanic Gardens; Cathkin Braes Country Park; Dams to Darnley; Darnley Mill; Dawsholm; Garscadden Burn; Glasgow Green; Hogganfield; Kelvingrove; Linn; Glasgow Necropolis; Pollock Country Park; Queen's; Ruchill; Springburn; Tollcross; Victoria
Antonine WallBar Hill Fort; Antonine WallBearsden Bath House; Antonine WallCroy Hill; Antonine WallDullatur; Antonine WallWesterwood to Castlecary; Auchgallon Stone Circle; Barochan Cross; Biggar Gasworks Museum; Bothwell Castle; Cadzow Castle; Carn Ban; Castle Semple Collegiate Church; Coulter Motte; Craignethan Castle; Crossraguel Abbey; Dumbarton Castle; Dundonald Castle; Glasgow Cathedral; Kilpatrick Dun; Kilwinning Abbey; Loch Doon Castle; Lochranza Castle; Machrie Moor Stone Circles; Maybole Collegiate Church; Moss Farm Road Stone Circle; Newark Castle; Rowallan Castle; Skelmorlie Abbey; St Blane's Church, Kingarth; St Bride's Church, Douglas; St Mary's Chapel, Rothesay; Torr A'chaisteal Fort; Torrylin Castle
David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre; Geilston Garden, Dumbarton; Greenbank Garden; Hill House, Helensburgh; Holmwood House; National Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbridge; Polloch House; Tenement House; Weaver's Cottage, Kilbarchan
5 years ago, when I turned 50, Mom sent me on a tour of Ireland. It was a wonderful experience, and we saw a lot of the country, but we never spent more than 2 nights in any city and although we had plenty of free time each day (usually in the evenings) we were always on a schedule during the day and had to make sure we didn't miss the bus.
Last year, after I learned that I had won the trip to Scotland at the Portland Highland Games (from here on in, PHGA=Portland Highland Games Association), I decided that I didn't want to do the same sort of thing again. The trip package included roundtrip airfare, 6 nights lodging (anywhere other than Edinburgh for some reason), and a car allowance. I was pretty sure I didn't want to use a car, and when I checked with the PHGA's travel agency, Willamette Travel, and learned I could use the car allowance for any other ground transportation instead, that's what I decided to doI would stick in one city for the whole 6 nights and decided I'd start with Glasgow.
I was hoping that I could convince my familyMom and my two brothers, Michael & Timto cover some additional lodging so I could extend my stay in Scotland beyond the six nights the PHGA was covering.
I've been listening to the BBC's Scotland Outdoors podcast for a couple of years now, and back in June, before I'd won the trip, they did a special on the trip from Fort William to Mallaig on the Jacobite steam train. I did some research and found a decently priced B&B in Fort William. I also hoped to be able to spend some time in Edinburgh. After doing some more research, and getting in touch with a couple of B&Bs there, I found one at what seemed a pretty good rate. When I contacted my folks, Michael and Tim decided that yes, indeed, they would be glad to cover the B&B in Fort William, and Mom said she'd cover the week in Edinburgh for me, as a combined Christmas and birthday present. Many thanks to all three!
I had to use the PHGA's portion of the trip before the date of the Highland Games this year, and decided that I wanted to be in Edinburgh on Dad's birthday (July 1st) and my birthday (the 2nd) so that's what I planned6 nights in Glasgow on the PHGA, 2 nights in Fort William thanks to Michael & Tim, and then 7 nights in Edinburgh thanks to Mom. I wanted as much time in Glasgow as possible, so I asked Willamette Travel to book my flight from Ft Lauderdale so I'd arrive in Glasgow early the next morning and would have almost a whole day there.
I'd ordered a shared ride/shuttle to the Ft Lauderdale airport to catch my 1:45 PM flight to Newark, so I had plenty of time to use the treadmill for 45 minutes here at home before leaving. We arrived in Newark at around 5:00 PM, which left plenty of time to go find my connecting flight to Glasgow before it left at 7:40 PM. Amenities on Continental's domestic US flights are pretty basic, just beverages & a small bag of pretzels free, with alcohol and snacks for sale, but they do offer a wide variety of free music and movies and TV show in monitors in the back of the headrest in front of you. Their international flights, however, at least the ones I was on, take very good care of you with two free meals as well as snacks and beverages in flight.
The plane arrived at around 7:30 in the morning, which was 2:30 in the morning local time back in Florida. I hadn't been able to sleep on the plane but felt OK. I called Mom from the airport, using my rental UK cell phone, to let her know I'd arrived and she could go to bed (it was around midnight her time by then).
After my luggage finally showed up and I went through UK customs & passport control, I used one of the ATMs/cashpoints at the airport. I needed some change for the bus, so I bought the cheapest thing I could find (some hayfever medicine, actually) before I took one of the two airport busses into town. I knew this specific one eventually went to the Charing Cross train station, which is right next to the hotel which had been booked for me by the Portland Highland Games Association's (from here on PHGA) travel agency, the Premier Inn Charing Cross. I got there about 10:00 AM, and couldn't check in until 2:00 PM, but was able to leave my luggage.
The hotel is in a great location, next to a couple of landmarks that make finding it much easier. Around the corner is the King's Theatre, and it's very near two major streets that parallel the Clyde River and lead to/from town.
I set off on foot for George Square, where I took one of the City Sightseeing Glasgow tours. I'd done a lot of research about Glasgow & Edinburgh before I left home, so I remembered quite a bit about the different places the tour went and where they were. I rode all the way around and got off back downtown at St Andrews in the Square, a very lovely former church now used for concerts and other cultural events.
One thing I'd noticed right away was that many of the women in Scotland seemed to think it was much warmer than I didshort skirts and short shorts are very much in fashion there right now (even though it was chilly enough to require coats, sweaters or jackets). God bless the women of Scotland.
I knew that by the time I walked back to the hotel, it would be late enough for me to check into my room. On the way, I had an OK fish supper (fish & chips with a beverage) at the Central Station location of Blue Lagoon.
When I got back to the hotel it took a bit of time checking in because there were lots of other people doing the same, including several groups of two and three or four women (hen parties). The room was small but very nice & quite comfortable, up on the 7th floor (9th floor for us Americans: ground floor, mezzanine (restaurant/lounge), then the 1st floor, etc) with a lovely view of the city looking towards the Clyde River.
When I was unpacking I couldn't find the small travel alarm clock I thought I'd brought (I found it later, in one of the shoes I'd packed). After taking a bit of a lie down and a shower, I set off to explore the local area and look for the cheapest battery-powered alarm clock I could find. I'd noticed that around the corner from the hotel, across the overpass over a major throughway, and right next to the Mitchell Library, was a Tesco Express. Tesco is one of the main chains of convenience stores in the UK, so I checked it out. Sauchiehall Street (pronounced sockiehall), one of the main streets in Glasgow for restaurants, pubs, and shops, and pedestrianized for about half its length downtown is a block up from the hotel, so I wandered all along it checking it outvery nicebut couldn't find an alarm clock at any of the places I went into. I had a pretty good dinner at the China Buffet King (Glasgow & Edinburgh both have largish Japanese, Chinese, and Indian populations and so are great places for finding good ethnic food), went into one of the pound stores (the equivalent of our dollar stores, of course) which I'd heard about on the bus tour to pick up some snacks, and stopped for a pint at a downtown pub called Lauder's and at the pub nearest to the hotel, the Griffin. Both pubs were very nice. I really liked the Griffin, and was very glad it was just around the corner from the hotel. (I really, really liked having pubs within walking distance of everywhere I stayed in Scotland, and already miss it now that I'm back home in S Florida).
I paid for and had an OK breakfast in the hotel's restaurant/lounge. The place itself is very nice, and also has two PCs for Internet access which you have to use a credit card to pay for (wifi is free in the rooms, but I don't own a laptop since I usually only travel once a year to go back home and visit Mom, and have free computer/Internet access at her house and at our house at Black Butte in Central Oregon). The breakfast was a standard full Scottish breakfast, quite decent, but not worth paying to have a second time. I was sure I could find at least the same quality cheaper elsewhere.
After breakfast I walked downtown to Glasgow Cathedral (splendidly lovely), and to St Mungo's Museum of Religious Art & Life, which also has a very nice café. I enjoyed St Mungo's a great deal, and thought it was lovely and very well donemy college major was in comparative religion. Around the corner is Provand's Lordship, another of Glasgow's wonderful free museums. I forget where I had lunch.
While I was at St Mungo's I noticed a sign for tours of the Necropolis next door. The two guys working in the museum were very helpful. They were able to figure out that even if the City Parks Dept did not have a tour of the Necropolis going on while I was in town, the Friends of the Necropolis did.
That morning I had booked a ticket to that evening's Bard in the Botanics performance of Shakespeare's "A midsummer night's dream", part of Glasgow's West End Festival which was still going on. So I took the bus from downtown out to the Botanic Gardens, figured out where the play was (it was pretty obvious, it was under a large tent next to the Kibble glass pavilion), and wandered around the gardens. They are quite lovely. I enjoyed Kibble Palace & the other greenhouses.
I wandered around the neighborhood for a while afterwards looking for where I could have dinner, and maybe a pint afterwards. I thought I might check out Oran Mor, which is right across from the Gardens. It's another former church turned bar & restaurant but looked a bit too busy. Instead I had a very nice dinner at Mario's Plaice, I think a fisherman's pie (various seafoods in a cream sauce under mashed potatoes). I noticed that there seemed to be some regulars there the staff knew by name.
The performance was excellent. They'd added lots of music to it, kind of a combination of jazz meets Cabaret meets Lady Gaga, which actually worked out pretty well. Most of the people in the small orchestra were also actors in the play. The weather turned a bit chilly and I wished I was wearing something over my sweatshirt, especially since it started raining a bit about halfway through the play. (Seating was availableyou could rent either a very small plastic stool or a higher one for a couple of pounds, which although not very comfortable was adequate if you got up and stretched a bit during intermission).
I didn't stop by Oran Mor afterwards, since I wanted to get to the bus stop in plenty of time. The bus I'd taken from downtown, which I was told went by Charing Cross station, actually went a few blocks away, which wasn't quite as convenient as I'd hoped especially since it was still raining.
I stopped for a pint at what I'd decided was my local pub, the Griffin. While there I'd noticed a group of younger people come in, one of whom was a very attractive young woman who came to my table and chatted me up for a bit. Her name was Sinead and she was there with a group out playing pub golf. She had a friend of hers take a picture of us with her wearing my hat, and I wish I had my own camera with meshe looked wonderful in my hat, a lovely face with long hair. Then again I already think more women, especially attractive ones, should wear hats.
On the way to the hotel I stopped at a takeout place called 3 In 1 for a small pizza, which I had in my room at midnight. It was excellent. (In both Glasgow and Edinburgh I think I saw as many takeout-only places as I did restaurants with seating).
I slept poorly last night and wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere. I walked all the way down to the Clyde River walkway and out to the Science Centre where I first had lunch in the café there. The Centre was a lot of fun although like most science museums I've been to here in the US it's more fun if you're a kid or with kids. I bought a ticket for that afternoon's Planetarium Show, about what you'd see in the night sky over Glasgow. I love planetarium shows, and this was no exception. They started out with just overall grayness, because of course it was overcast again, but then made the clouds and the city lights go away. I always fall in love with planetarium girls, especially if they're pretty and have a sense of humor, a pleasant voice and accent, as the one who did this show had.
Up a ways and across the river is the new Riverside Museum, which had only opened that Tuesday. Needless to say it was packed at 2:00 PM on Saturday, and since I was going to be in Glasgow for a few more days and could come back some morning just when they opened, I took the Clyde River water taxi back downtown. I thought it stopped closer to Glasgow Green downtown, and either I was wrong or the crew didn't know which stop was actually closest. By the time I found the Green it was too late to make it to the People's Palace and see it before they closed at 5:00 PM and it was drizzling a bit too hard to enjoy wandering around taking picturesI had to keep wiping the lens off. I decided I could come back later, when hopefully the weather would be better, and walked back to the hotel for a bit of a lie down.
Sometime after 7:00 PM I headed out for Sauchiehall Street again, and had a very good dinner at the Chukoku Chinese buffet. I stopped for a pint somewhere along the way (I seem to have forgotten to take a picture for later reference) and had a very nice pint of hard cider at the Griffin before heading back to my room at the hotel.
I slept very poorly again. Although I'd gone to sleep about 1:00 AM Glasgow time, my body decided to wake up way too early. About 11:00 AM I headed out along Sauchiehall Street again, this time stopping at Boots (the largest drugstore chain in the UK) and Marks & Spencer's Food Hall for a look around, on my way to the Cathedral precinct. When I'd been to St Mungo's Museum a couple of days earlier, the guys working there were able to confirm that although the city didn't have any tours of the Necropolis going when I was in town, the Friends of the Necropolis did have one that day, and I'd reserved a place via email.
I'd forgotten that there was nowhere else to eat nearby the Cathedral/St Mugo's/the Necropolis, but I had a very nice lunch at the café in St Mungo's (another very tasty Scottish dish, whose name I can't remember).
The tour of the Necropolis takes a couple of hours, and goes over some occasionally uneven, a bit rugged, and sometimes wet and muddy terrain, including the 2nd highest point within the city limits, but is well worth it. It's a very atmospheric, pleasant cemetery with very interesting monuments to lots of historically important or just plain interesting people. The weather was sometimes partly sunny, sometimes drizzly.
That evening was a gamelan concert, out at the Botanics, this time in the Kibble Palace, again part of the West End Festival. I'd stopped at the St Enoch tube station for information and was told to take a different bus this time, one which was supposed to go directly to Charing Cross on the way back. The guy at the info center told me to take the #23, but didn't tell me there are two #23s. I of course got on the wrong one, but when I eventually asked the driver he dropped me off close to where I could transfer to a bus actually going to the Botanics. (Glasgow's buses had changed routes only the week before, but still you'd think the guys at the bus info office would be doing a better job).
I went back to Mario's Plaice for dinner, and had the traditional Scottish dish of mince & mash (ground beef in gravy with mashed potatoes, usually with peas), which was very well done. I've made the dish a couple of times myself, once when Mom was here.
Before I'd left Florida, I'd been able to verify that there would be seating available. (The guy who replied to my email enquiry was actually from Seattle). I've loved gamelan music for a very long time, and never missed a chance to hear the one at Lewis & Clark when I lived in Portland, or in Seattle when I could. This gamelan, Gamelan Naga Mas, is a small one, but the music was excellent, and it was in a very lovely setting right inside the Kibble. After the show I introduced myself to the guy who sent me the emailhe was the only one with an American accent. (He'd married a Scottish girl while in Seattle and followed her home).
I got to the bus stop early for what was supposed to be the right #23 at 9:38 PM, and waited until well past then, but it never came. By then I was pretty tired, it was gray and drizzly again, and I did not feel like walking back to the hotel although it's not that far and I'm sure would be a very pleasant walk in better weather during the day, so I took a cab back to the hotel. I had a pint at the Griffin, and picked up a doner kebab at 3 In 1 to have back in my hotel room.
I slept in a bit, until about 9:00 AM. I walked over to the University of Glasgow, a very lovely campus, only to find out that the Hunterian Museum is currently closed due to a new roof being put on, but the Gallery was open and was very nice. From there I walked back downhill to the Kelvingrove Museum & Gallery, and had a very nice lunch at the café there before wandering around. I loved the place, and there was actually an organist giving a recital while I was there (you could hear the music throughout most of the placegreat acoustics).
The route from the hotel over to the Kelvingrove & the Hunterians goes across a bridge across the River Kelvin, one of the tributaries of the Clyde. It also goes past a small grove next to the Kelvin (Kelvingrove) and a small park with a statue of Lord Kelvin, the physicist, probably the most famous of those lords.
The Museum of Transportation, which is now closed with the collection moved to the new Riverside Museum, is in the same area.
I took the right #23 back to the hotel, and had time to stop by my room at the hotel to drop some stuff off and to pick up some trinkets I'd brought to give to Josephine, the librarian I was going to meet over at the Mitchell Library for a tour.
It turns out that the main public entrance to the Mitchell is not on the more ornate side, facing my hotel across the major road, but is around the corner on Granville Street. I, however, went in the entrance closest to the hotel but the guard there directed me through the building to the public service desk by the main entrance downstairs, which is where the auditorium (didn't see inside it), the café (which has a liquor license), and the public Internet computers are.
Josephine took me all over behind the scenes at the Mitchell, which is a very lovely building and has some wonderful rooms which are now used only for special occasions. Unfortunately the batteries in my camera died halfway through, so I couldn't take pictures in some of the rooms Josephine showed me. I then met Trish, one of my counterparts there in the section that has the best-sellers and AV materials.
After leaving the Mitchell I took a cab to drop off a load of dirty clothes at the nearest laundry facilityit wasn't that far, I just didn't walk to it carrying my laundry bag. I walked back from the laundry and had a pint at a lovely small pub called the Ben Nevis which was across from the laundry on the way back.
Before I went back to my hotel, I stopped at the Mitchell to use the Internet (I had picked up a guest card when I was there earlier) and to take more pictures of the Granville Street entrance and the ground floor area. As I was leaving, right outside the library, I ran into Josephine and thanked her again for the great tour of her wonderful building.
I had dinner at a place called the Noodle Bar, and a pint at an Irish pub called O'Neill's, which were both very nice.
It was partly sunny in the morning, and almost warm (well, OK, warm for Glasgow). I took a different route down to the Clyde and walked along the river to the new Riverside Museum. I got there about 11:00. It was much less crowded than when I'd tried to come on Saturdaystill a bit crowded with lots of families with kids, but manageable. It's a beautiful museum, both in terms of the architecture and the exhibits, many of which came from the now closed Transportation Museumeverywhere you look there are machines like complete rail cars, buses, cars, motorcycles, you name it. Kids would love it.
I then walked from the Riverside Museum over to where I'd dropped off my laundry the previous day. This time I had lunch at another lovely pub called the Islay Inn and had a very nice game terrine with oatcakes (I liked them, too) and a pint. I picked up a cab back to my hotel with my laundry.
I wanted to try the subway, so I walked from the hotel up to the Cowcaddens subway station and took it over to the Bridge Street station, a bit across the river from the Glasgow Green. I wouldn't want to make the walk from the station to across the river at night, but during the day it was fineespecially since it had still partly sunny and almost warm. The route along the Glasgow Green side of the river would probably be fine at nightbut maybe not.
Across the river from where I was walking was a very interesting building with what looked like a steeple and a dome of some kind. I found out by looking at Google Maps as I was typing these notes that the building is Glasgow's Central Mosque.
I loved the Glasgow Green, a wonderful park, and took lots of pictures of all the different statues. The People's Palace is another of Glasgow's excellent free museums, and the Winter Gardens is a delightful greenhouse. Across from the Green, down past the People's Palace, is one of the most beautiful buildings that I saw anywhere in Scotland, the Templeton Carpet Factory.
I had purchased a return subway ticket, and decided to wander over to the St Enoch station downtown instead of back across the river to the Bridge Street station. When I got to St Enoch, however, I felt I could walk back to the hotel with no problemprobably because along with wearing my ankle braces as usual I was also wearing a brace on my left knee under my jeans (which was a lot more comfortable than I'd remembered).
Although I don't seem to have taken any pictures, I also visited the Glasgow Police Museum while I was downtown. Glasgow actually had the first police force in the United Kingdom, even beating out London and Sir Robert Peel. This is another small but very charming museum, with a very nice display of police uniforms from around the world, most of which look very nicealthough I think the oddest-looking cap of them all was the one from Belgium. The guys working the desk were very friendly and informative.
There is a separate museum in the headquarters of the Strathclyde Police office quite close to the hotel, but admittance is by invitation only. Although I did stop in earlier in my stay to see if I could arrange to see the museum no one ever got back to me.
While wandering around I was hit up for money by a street kid who wanted me to pay him to be my tour guide and to show me where the Glasgow Cross is. I finally convinced him to stop bothering me, and although I never found the Cross I did find the Gallery of Modern Art instead. I have to admit, I enjoyed the building itself more than I did the art work inside, but I did love the art in the Hunterian and Kelvingrove when I was there.
When I was typing up these notes after I got back to Florida, I did some more research. It turns out that the Glasgow Cross isn't really a cross at all, but rather is an intersection where five streets meet insteadan intersection I'd been to several times and have the pictures to prove it. There is a cross at the Glasgow Cross, the Merkat (market) cross, though it doesn't look much like a cross. It has a big octagonal tower for a base, and although there is a cross topped with a unicorn holding a shield. I have pictures of it as well.
Making my way uphill to Bath Street, which is the main street which runs around the corner from the hotel, I went into the Buchanan Galleries shopping mall, which looked like a very nice modern mall. I just rode the escalators up to the top and back down, just to get a look.
As I walked along Sauchiehall Street I stopped in a pound store to pick up another of my favorite candy bars in the world, Cadbury's fruit & nut bar, which I cannot find in S Florida. There were a lot of buskers out today.
I stopped by the Mitchell Library to use the computers again. They were having some IT work done on the system, and instead of being able to use the card I was given earlier, I found out that the librarians had to assign everybody a temporary ID # and password just for the day (and I'm sure they were enjoying every minute of it). I decided that this was the last time I'd use the computers, whether it was free like in the Mitchell or if I had to pay for it like at the hotel or an Internet café. I decided to just keep doing my written travel log, and to type my notes up when I got home and then convert them into a Web page with links to all the places I went, instead of trying to take the time to do all that when I was on vacation.
I got back to the hotel about 5:00 PM and stretched out to read for a while and give my knees a rest. I went back out about 7, and since I was leaving for Fort William the next morning, I went to the Griffin for dinner (I hadn't eaten there yet) and a pint and to take some pictures because I'd really liked the place. One of the bartenders who recognized me showed me their function room in the back, which can be reserved for private parties, and a lovely room it is, too. Dinner was excellentsteak & Guinness pie with mashed potatoes, followed by apple crumble with custard for dessert.
It was about 9:30 when I returned to the hotel for the last time. It was still light, mostly clear and a lovely evening in Glasgow. I finished packing, because the next morning I had to get up early enough to catch the train from Charing Cross over to the Queen Street station and then catch the 9:00 train up to Fort William.
I slept poorly again last night. My body seemed to think it was still on Florida time, although I'd been in Scotland for five nights already. I woke up before 7:00, before my alarm clock went off, though.
I shaved & showered, grabbed my bags, checked out, and then took the train from Charing Cross to Queen Street (2 stops). I had bought my reserved tickets a couple of days before. I was early for the train to Fort William , but Queen Street is a very nice train station with lots of shops and cafes so I didn't mind.
The train journey from Glasgow up to Fort William is wonderful, kind of like taking the train from Portland to Seattle along the Columbia and then Puget Sound. My coach was only about half full for an hour or so, until we were joined by an group of older tourists (Scottish ones at that). As lovely as the scenery along the way is, I didn't try to take pictures through the train's windows. The route goes through the train station highest in elevation in the whole UKit is going up into the Highlands, after all.
The train got to Fort William about 1. Although the Google Maps directions I'd printed out showed the B&B I was looking for to be quite near the train station, for some reason I thought it wasn't that close. When I made the mistake of asking someone in the parking lot of the nearby grocery store for directions, they turned out not to know where it was either. After I followed their directions for a while along the loch, I stopped at the Crannog restaurant to ask them for directions. They told me I needed to go as far back along the loch as I'd come, so I asked them to call a cab for me. It turned out to not be that far back to the B&B, and it was indeed just around the corner and a bit uphill from the train station.
The B&B is called Guisachan House (pronounced kind of like gwichigan), and is a lovely place with a very nice lounge on the ground floor that serves alcohol (how nice). I checked in about 2:00 PM, left my luggage, and headed out to find a cash point machine (ATM) and some lunch. I found both at Morrison's, a large grocery store with a nice café, right next to the train station.
When I'd been by the Crannog restaurant earlier, I decided I probably wouldn't be coming back for dinner because their prices seemed kind of high. That is where the boat tour of Loch Linnhe (pronounced linee) goes out from, and there was supposed to be a tour leaving at 4:00 if they had at least 8 people for it.
Ft William is a lovely lochside town, and is the biggest one in the Highlands. The B&B is down at the end of the loch, Loch Linnhe, just above the site of the original fort at Fort William and what looked like a very lovely small cemetery I wanted to explore before I left town for Edinburgh.
I got back to the Crannog at about 3:30, and bought a ticket (if we didn't go I'd get a refund), and wandered down the loch front for a while until it was time for departure. In the time I was wandering around more than enough people had come.
The tour was wonderful, and the scenery is spectacular. The tour also goes past two of the aquaculture sites on the loch and a rock where local seals apparently are often spotted (I didn't see any myself but I think some other people on the cruise did). The loch and Ft William are at the base of Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK. Although the weather was sometimes miserable and rainy for a bit, say 20 minutes or so, it was also partly sunny at times, and as they say in Seattle "the mountain was out", although the very tiptop of Ben Nevis was covered by clouds. I was wearing a hat, and my sweatshirt under my Goretex raincoat, so I was pretty much OK except for my hands which felt a bit cold sometimes. I actually stayed outside on the bow for almost the entire cruise.
After the cruise I was delighted to find out that the public bathroom across from the dock had a hot air hand drier, which was lovely and warmed me back up. I wandered around town for a while on the way back to the B&B (but it was still grey & drizzly so I didn't take any more pictures that day), where I read for an hour or so before heading back out to find somewhere for dinner. The Crofter pub looked the nicest, and I had an excellent steak and ale pie.
Fort William is a small, lovely lochside town in the Highlands below Ben Nevis. It doesn't go very far along the base of the hills, maybe half a mile along the loch and a quarter mile up the side, but still very pretty.
As I said earlier, the B&B is down at the train station end of town and is a bit up the hill with a lovely view of the loch, the hills across the valley, and the very nice graveyard just across the road. My room was smallish and only had a twin bed, but again it was for just me, and I did have my own attached bathroom with shower. I didn't want anything fancier or more expensive anyway, so it was a lovely place to spend a couple of nights.
I got back to the B&B about 9 and read for a while. When I was heading out to have a pint somewhere, it was still drizzly so I decided to have a pint in the B&B's lounge instead. After a while, about 10:30 or quarter to 11:00 I seemed to be the only person still up, except for maybe the landlady. While I was in the lounge I called & left messages for Michael & Tim (who were paying for my stay at Guisachan House as a combined Christmas/birthday present) to let them know how much I liked the B&B & to say "Thanks!". As I was writing up my notes for the day, while having a nice pint and a glass of tonic water, it stopped drizzling and the clouds began breaking upthere was still light in the sky over the hills about 11:00. I then headed back to my room for a cup of herbal tea before going to bed.
Breakfast will be here at the B&B in the morning, of course, then the Jacobite Steam Train leaves for Mallaig at 10:20 AM. We'll be in Mallaig for a couple of hours before heading back to Ft William, which should leave plenty of time to wander around town some more. I hope my camera will like the different, more expensive AA batteries I bought in town instead of the bargain ones I tried earlier.
I didn't sleep too well last night either.
After a nice Scottish breakfast in the B&B's dining room, I had plenty of time to walk around Fort William for a bit before the steam train left at 10:00. I started with the lovely, small cemetery right below the B&Bvery nicely situated, pretty, not a bad place for a cemetery.
The Jacobite Steam Train was wonderful. I'm glad I had sprung for the first class ticket, as our carriage was much nicer than the more utilitarian rest of the train. It's very pretty, with comfier seats, and they give you free tea and a scone on the way up and tea on the way down. On the way up I had a table for two to myself.
The weather was clearing up that morning, and the scenery along the Highland coast was stunningmore of the kind of country I'd seen on the way to Fort William the day before.
We didn't stop to see the Harry Potter bridge so I never knew when we'd crossed it. We did stop for a bit at the small station of Glenfinnan, which had a small museum with rail travel posters, a café in a converted railway car, and an example of the railway cars which in the past had been converted to holiday rental lodging. By Glenfinnan, the sun had come out. While there, I ran into the tour guide with the group whom I'd ridden the train into Fort William with the day before, and we chatted a bit.
Mallaig is beautiful, a very nice small coastal town in the Highlands. I wandered around for a bit, taking lots of pictures, and deciding where I wanted to have lunch.
I had a very nice lunch of local haddock & chips at the place I liked best, a very pretty restaurant called the Fish Market. Of course it didn't hurt that this was the restaurant where a youngish (maybe in her teens) musician was playing right outside. She told me she'd been playing harp for 10 years, and I think she said 6 or 8 years for the fiddle. I told her about the time Seattle's Folklife Festival had a panel on harps from around the world, and when I left the restaurant after lunch I remembered to tell her about jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant.
On the way down, I had a table for four on the other side of the tracks, for a different view. I shared it with a much older couple, both of whom were overweight and not very well. They were nice, if the woman was a bit whiny. They were on a two-week tour very thoroughly planned out by one of their sons.
This time I went and stood at the back for a bit, where I could take pictures through an open window. I didn't see the Harry Potter bridge on the trip back either.
When we got back to the station, I went to the ticket window to check the times for the train to Glasgow in the morning, where I would need to change trains for Edinburgh. The choices were leaving at 7:40 AM and getting into Edinburgh about 1:00 PM, or leave at 11:40 AM and arrive in Edinburgh about 4:30. Either would work fine, as I'd booked a ticket for an 8:30 PM show in Edinburgh on the 1st.
I stopped by my room at the B&B to use my own private bathroom and to put on my knee brace before wandering around Ft William. I stopped in the small but very charming branch of the local public library, which although having a small collection housed there allows patrons to place holds on and pick up any materials from the larger library system. While wandering around I noticed two signs: 1) the local school's bagpipe band was going to be performing for free from 7:30-8:30, and 2) there was a Scottish music show elsewhere on the mall at 8, but no mention of cost was made. Since I was going to a Scottish music show the next night in Edinburgh, I decided to support the school's bagpipe band.
I found a pub called the Tavern, which smelled wonderful. After I sat down, however, I waited for over five minutes and no one even brought me a menu, so I left. None of the other places looked quite as appealing as the Crofter, which I'd really liked the night before, so that's where I went again. This time I had a very tasty lasagna, made with the best Scottish beef.
The school's bagpipe band was very good, as good as many of the adult bands I've heard at Highland games over the years. The players consisted of their adult advisor/coach/teacher, and students from 11 to 18 years old. (10 pipers total, 6 drummers.) A couple of the pipers were very cute girls. The music was wonderful, the weather overcast and a bit chilly with midges (known in many places in the US as noseeums).
I went back to the B&B to finish the book I was reading (I only brought free proof copies I'd picked up at the library where I workedwhen I finished a book I left it where I was staying at the time). About 10ish I went back downstairs to the lounge to: 1) have a pint; 2) tell the hostess I might be leaving early to catch the 7:40 train, although I was hoping to sleep in a bit; 3) write up my notes for the day; 4) call Michael & Tim from the B&B to tell them how much I liked it there and to say "Thanks!" since I'd missed them the night before and was leaving Fort William in the morning (due to the time difference, it was only about 2:00 PM for Tim & 4:00 PM for Michael; I had to leave messages for both); and, 5) read for a bit outside my room before trying to get some sleep. I plan on sleeping in until breakfast, and wandering around some more before catching the 11:40 train.
Dad's birthday. Although I didn't get to sleep until after 1:00 AM, I woke up about 5:30 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. Eventually I gave up, shaved & showered, collected my bags, and walked down to the train station, where I was early for the 7:40 train.
As I said a couple of days ago, the scenery between Glasgow & Fort William is spectacular, especially when the weather's good as it was today. It's absolutely gorgeous, sort of the best of the Oregon Coast, Puget Sound, the train ride from Portland to Seattle along the Columbia and Puget Sound, and the mountains of Central and Eastern Oregon & Washington, all combined.
Within 30 minutes of arriving at Glasgow's Queen Street station, where I'd started out two days ago, I caught the train to Edinburgh (about 4 hours between Glasgow & Fort William, about 45 minutes from Glasgow to Edinburgh). There was a hen party (bachelorettes) in the adjacent 1st Class cabin next door, and they were pretty loud even if they were still sober.
Since I was carrying my luggage, I didn't want to walk from the train station over to the B&B so I took a cab. The B&B, the Adam Drysdale House, is on Gilmore Street, which probably originally was residential but now has mostly B&Bs with what I think is a residence for Catholic priests run by an order of nuns right across the street (I was wrongit's a residential care facility, but is indeed run by nuns). It's around the corner from a major road, at the corner of which is the King's Theatre, and which has lots of pubs and restaurants & shops. When we were introducing ourselves, Karen, the owner & hostess told me she'd been Glasgow's first female cabbie.
ADH is nothing fancy, but pleasant and comfortable, which is what I wanted and was great for the money (Mom was covering this part of my trip, as a combined Christmas & birthday presentthanks, Mom!). There's a dining room on the ground floor, which is where we ate breakfast and which the owner uses as an office, but no lounge, so the only time you interact with other guests is basically at breakfast.
My room for the night is up on the 2nd/3rd floor, with its own private bathroom right next door. Tomorrow I'll be moving downstairs to a double room, at the same rate, because a family was coming in and they wanted to be all on the same floorwith is fine with me, especially since my new room has its own bathroom ensuite.
My room was ready, so I left my bags, and put on my knee brace. Karen had given me a tourist map which indicated there was a free 3-hour walking tour leaving from one of the Starbucks downtown at 3:00 PM, which I thought I might do, but first I needed to: 1) find out where to take some laundry; 2) have some lunch; 3) find an ATM/cash point; and, 4) get some better batteries for my camera, all on the walk into town.
Karen told me there was a laundry nearby, although I forgot where she told me. I found a cash machine along the main street around the corner from the B&B, and had a very nice lunch at a small café called Made In France around another corner, thought I walked past the laundry Karen had mentioned, and set off for the Royal Mile & the Starbucks where the walking tours start. I wanted to try lithium batteries for the camera, which are more expensive, but are supposed to last longer, so I tried several places along the way before finding any.
While I was wandering around I kept seeing people in graduation robes all over the place.
One thing I'd discovered from looking at my maps, and wandering aroundstreets in Edinburgh frequently change their names. The Royal Mile, for instance, is actually called four different names for different stretches; the single route I took several times from downtown back to the B&B changed street names at least three times, and so did the main street around the corner from the B&B.;
I must have walked past the Starbucks I was looking for a couple of times, but didn't actually find it until after 3:00 PM, and the tour had already left. That was OK, I had done my research before I left Florida, had a couple of good pocket maps, and was having lots of fun just wandering around. I figured I could just wander around some more to pleasantly fill the time between then and the Scottish music show at 8:30 which I had a ticket for.
I accidentally found St Cecelia's Hall, at the University of Edinburgh, which has a small museum of early keyboard instruments I wanted to see. It's only open Saturdays and Wednesdays, but the attendant on duty gave me a brochure with a map showing it and the other musical instrument museum (also open only Saturdays & Wednesdays).
My first priority was to find out exactly where the show was being held, in the Augustine Church on the George IV Bridge. After that, I wandered around and: 1) had a pot of tea at Elephant House, a coffee shop where J K Rowling wrote lots of the first Harry Potter book; 2) picked up an iced fruit drink at a Starbucks, which I had while walking around (brain freeze); 3) had a very nice dinner at a restaurant called Mum's (haggis, neeps/mashed turnips, and tatties/mashed potatoesit was excellent); 4) went past Bobby's Bar, with the statue of the most famous Scottish dog ever, Greyfriars Bobby; 5) wandered around the very lovely Greyfriars kirkyard, where I used my rental cell phone to call Mom to let her know I'd arrived in Edinburgh, and to say "Hi" on what would have been Dad's 79th birthday; and, 6) had a pot of decaf Earl Grey and a piece of carrot cake at the St Giles café (which, just to confuse things, is not actually the café at St Giles Cathedral), all before the show at 8:30.
Within Greyfriars Kirkyard are some of the remains of the Flodden wall, which was built to enclose the town from 1514-1560.
The show is in a smallish, intimate room downstairs in the Augustine Church, and was excellent, even if the female members of the rotating cast weren't on that night, just 4 guysan MC who sang, and three musicians who also sang. All four were very good. The last song of the show was, of course, "Auld lang syne", and I have to admit I started crying during it, thinking about Dad, whose birthday it was, and whom we lost almost 10 years ago. My excuses, if I need any, were that I was tired, hadn't slept well in days, and by this point was having such an incredibly bad sinus headache I needed to take a taxi back to the B&B instead of walking. I did manage to talk to the singer before I left, and told him how much I'd liked the show, that it was Dad's birthday, and he'd have loved the show as well. The singer told me they'd lost his grandfather a couple of years ago.
The cab ride back to the B&B wasn't too expensive, and was well worth it. I needed to take some sinus medicine, and just lie down and not move my head until the headache went away. Around 1:00 AM, I was still awake but feeling better. The plan for the morning was to have breakfast at the B&B, and to drop off a load of wash at the nearest laundry for later pickup. The only set appointment that day was to meet Simon Thoumire, a podcaster I listen to, at noon. After that, I might take a bus tour before walking back to the B&B to check out my new room and explore the local area some more to find a place for dinner and a later pint.
My birthday. I fell asleep last night about 1:00 AM and woke up again about 5:30, but this time I actually fell back asleep after getting up to use the bathroom and woke up again about 8:15. On Saturdays & Sundays the breakfast at Adam Drysdale is from 8:30-9:30, and 8:00-9:00 from Monday-Friday, so I put on some shoes, running shorts, and a sweatshirt and went downstairs for a very good Scottish breakfastbreakfast first, shave & shower later.
The only time constraint was that I was meeting Simon at a Starbucks over on Princes Street at noon. I wanted to drop off a load of wash in the next couple of days, so I headed off with it in the direction I thought I'd seen a laundry while walking around the day beforeand couldn't find it (never didI have no idea what I thought I'd seen, and should have taken a picture the first time so I could find it again). I went back to the corner facing the King's Theatre, and since I had the cell phone with me (hoping one of my family would call to say "Happy birthday" sometime during the day, despite the time difference) I called the B&B and asked Karen for directions again.
It turns out that the laundry she mentioned was down the other direction on Gilmore than I'd been, and wasn't far, even carrying my laundry bag. I had my camera, but didn't take pictures on the way down through a very nice area, saving that for after I'd dropped off my laundry and had two hands. I was a bit disappointed but not surprised that I'd have to wait and pick up my clean clothes Monday morning, but that was okay since I still had more than enough clean clothes left.
I walked back to the B&B, taking pictures along the way. I still had time to pick up my pack, with the book I was reading and a couple of things I'd brought for Simon (a t-shirt I had had made, with one of my pictures from Glendalough in Ireland and the URL for my combined playlists for the Celtic music podcasts I listen to, including Simon's. I also had some "Kilted for her pleasure" bumper stickers Marc Gunn, a musician and podcaster, had sent me).
The major street running by Gilmore connects with Castle Terrace and King's Stables leading up to the Castle, and connects with Princes Street. It was a very lovely day, warm, and even t-shirt and shorts weather. I got to the Starbucks a bit early, and called Simon just to make sure I had the right one. He was on a bus, just about to arrive. I described myself, and said to look for someone with a dark shirt, a pack, and a hatand I didn't see anyone else wearing a hat.
Meeting Simon was a lot of fun, and we had a great visit. I asked if we could go somewhere other than Starbucks (maybe they're novel and exotic if you live in Edinburgh, even if there are other coffee shop chains there, but they're everyday to me, and I was trying to avoid US chains while in Scotland). We went to Oloroso, a rooftop restaurant over on Castle Street which has an incredible view of the surrounding area. It was actually such nice weather that we sat outside. The food prices on the menu are out of my usual range, but Simon had a latte and I had a very nice ginger beer. Simon picked up the tab since it was my birthdaythanks, Simon! We were in time for the 1:00 o'clock gun being shot off at the Castle (which they do every day but Sunday).
I really enjoyed meeting Simon, and liked him live as much as I do when listening to him on his podcast. The amusing part is that he doesn't actually live in Edinburgh himself, as I had thought. His parents do, and that's where the shop associated with his Scottish music podcast is located. Since that's the address I found on the Website, I assumed that Simon lived there as well, but he and his wife and two kids had moved to Glasgow this past November so we could have met there instead. No problem, though, Simon used meeting me in Edinburgh as a good excuse to visit his parents with his family.
The Queen was in residence at Holyrood Palace the whole time while I was in Edinburgh, so there were several public events going on she was involved with (and of course the Palace grounds were closed to the general public) and Simon was going to meet his parents on their way to one of those events. I walked with him a bit through the Princes Street Gardens, which are lovely, and we parted when he was heading up some stairs. I wandered around the delightful Gardens for a while, which were busy on a sunny, warm summer Saturday.
I went to the National Gallery, which I enjoyed a great dealand not just the building itself but all the artwork inside, including the skating reverend which I've always enjoyed. I decided that I wasn't interested in going to the exhibit in the Royal Scottish Academy, so I skipped it and went on to the Scott Monument. I paid the 3 GBP to go in, and started on upstairs. That was the scariest thing I've ever done, even worse than taking the stairs up to the top of Blarney Castleway more stairs, which were uneven, very narrow, and you had traffic coming up and going down. In one stretch of stairs, you became almost intimate with someone passing you going the other way. I got to the platform almost 3/4 of the way up and had had enough. On a bright sunny day, like then, the views are indeed incredible.
What can make places like the Scott Monument, or any place with lots of stairs or just uneven terrain, difficult and even scary for me is a combination of the following: sometimes I have a bit of a balance problem if I have any allergy symptoms, my knees and ankles may be bothering me (even when wearing braces, which do help a great deal) and with my current pair of bifocals my feet and whatever I'm walking on are not quite in focus through the reading portion of them and I have to look through the top distance part. Add very narrow, twisting, and uneven stairs like the Monument has and you'll get the picture.
There are 3 related bus tours leaving from the Waverley Bridge, and I got the combined tour which would allow me to take as many of them as I wanted for 24 hours. I also bought a ticket to the Castle which I could use through the 4th. I went on the tour that eventually winds its way up to Calton Hill. Because I'd done my research before I left Florida, I knew what I was seeing and where things were in relationship to each other.
After the tour I walked up to Calton Hill, stopping at the Old Calton Cemetery on the way, which is another lovely place. I wandered around and took lots of pictures. I'd forgotten that the philosopher David Hume, another Edinburgh boy, is buried there among many others.
Calton Hill is a lovely place itself, and the views of the Castle, Arthur's Seat and the surrounding countryside to the Pentland Hills and the Firth of Forth on a clear sunny day are wonderful. It is one of the three highest points in the area. After the Scott Monument I decided not to pay to climb the stairs to the top of the Nelson Monument.
Heading back to the B&B I stopped for a very nice chicken & cider pie at Bobby's Bar, the lovely pub near Greyfriars Kirk and named for Greyfriars Bobby, one of the world's most famous dogs. I had seen the place the day before and liked it, but not stopped in then. With the dinner I had a Scottish brewer's version of an American version of an India pale ale, a very nice beer.
I sort of knew the general direction of a route back to the B&B, so I headed off. I stopped for a tall glass of club soda & cranberry juice at a small pub called the Captain's because the sign outside said live folk music, but the afternoon session was just finishing up at 7:00 PM.
The route I chose this time went past the Meadows, which is a large park area that extends to the area near the B&B, but I stuck to the adjacent road. When I got back to the area around the B&B I wandered around looking for somewhere to go for dessert, and then where to go for a pint. For dessert I chose Anam, a Punjabi restaurant with an adjacent sweet shop, which smelled wonderful when I walked in. When I asked the sales clerk in the sweet shop what they had, she rattled off the names of the pastries, which made no sense to me, so I asked her what flavors things werewhich made a lot more sense. I had a couple of different ones, which were delicious, kind of like a denser, heavier halvah.
I looked in a couple of the local pubs (the Cuckoo's Nest and Bennett's) but they were too busy for me on a Saturday nightthere wasn't even a stool at the bar available at either place, and I didn't want to have a quick pint standing up. I wound up at the King's Arms, which seemed to have an older crowd and wasn't that busymaybe because Saturday is karaoke night there. I had a very nice pint, and a couple of the guys were pretty good.
My new room at Adam Drysdale is on the ground floor. I had gotten the keys from Karen at breakfast, and they'd moved my packed bags down for me after the room was ready. I couldn't figure out how to turn on the heater, so I put my sweatshirt on. There were also no towels. I finally managed to get hold of Karen, who was at a 50th birthday for her ex-husband. She said they'd leave some towels for me when they got back.
This room is a bit larger, and has a small couch. There isn't a desk in this room either, but I'll be able to use one of the end tables next to the bed to write up my notes while I'm here.
I don't have specific plans for the rest of my time there. The following Thursday would be my last day in Edinburgh. The only other time constraint is that I'd arranged to meet a librarian at Edinburgh's Central public library for a tour Monday afternoon. I think that tomorrow I'll head over to the Castle after breakfast and try to avoid the worst of the crowds. Maybe I'll try and catch one of the other bus tours before my ticket expired at 3:30, which is when I bought it this afterbnoon. I'd been past Sandy Bell's earlier and knew that they had live folk music Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon as well as in the evening. Maybe I'll try dropping in for that.
I'd rather spend my birthday with my family, but Mom's in Portland, Tim and his family are in Santa Clara CA, and Michael & Renee are in the Chicago area, so as usual I'd have been spending my birthday on my own in Ft Lauderdale. Being on my own wandering around Edinburgh was much more enjoyable and was an excellent way to spend my birthday.
Towels were waiting outside my door when I went to breakfastporridge, tea, toast, & yogurt. I then met the family who had rented the whole floor upstairs, including my previous room. Mom, who's much more of a people person than I am, would have effortlessly found out all about every other guest there. I picked up what I learned mostly by listening to their conversations with each other and Karen. There was a young married couplePaul was from Toronto, and Ann was from New York (I think they lived in Toronto). They were with Ann's parents from New York, and Paul's mother Sally, who was actually an Edinburgh girl, born and raised there. (I met a couple of other couples during the rest of the week but don't remember them that well and never learned that much about them, just enough to say "Hi" at breakfast).
After breakfast I took a shower and shaved. This B&B has weird showers, with the water pressure & temperature controlled by an electrical device in the shower, which is handheld, low flow & low efficiency.
I wanted to be up at the Castle by noon, and I made it. It's a pretty easy walk to the stairs up to the Castle from the B&B, and not too bad going up the stairs themselves. The road was lined with tour buses.
On the way I took some more pictures in my immediate area, including the outside wall of the B&B which has the window of my room, and checked out the building directly across the street, the one I originally thought was a residence for priests. It turns out that it's St Joseph's House, a residential care facility run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
I forgot that there is no firing of the 1:00 o'clock gun on Sundays. I had lunch at the Redcoat Café in the Castle near the gun instead. The spinach quiche had red & yellow peppers; if I'd known that I wouldn't have ordered it since it gave me indigestion for the next couple of hours.
Edinburgh Castle is well worth the price of admission, and so is the audio tour which allows you to go at your own pace and listen to what you want when you want. The sound quality is excellent and it also has some musical accompaniment and sound effects. Many parts of the Castle are beautiful, and so was the view of the surrounding area especially on a gorgeous sunny day like it turned out to be.
As I mentioned yesterday, if I wanted to go on one of the other tour buses I had to board before 3:30, which is when I bought the ticket the day before, so after I left the Castle I headed off down the Royal Mile. The tour buses leave from the Waverley Bridge, which I thought connected to the Royal Mileand I should have checked my maps because my memory was wrong. I needed to turn off onto North/South Bridge, which would have got me to a street that connects with Waverley. I didn't make it back in time to take another tour, but that was OK.
I eventually made it down to Lothian Street, which becomes Teviot Place, which becomes Lauriston Place, which I knew connects to Home Street which is the main street nearest the B&B. I made it back to my room about 5:00, and stretched out for about an hour and a half to give my legs & knees a break.
While looking at my maps and tour books to decide where I wanted to go during the rest of my time in Edinburgh, when I noticed something that I really hadn't beforethe Union Canal is almost right around the corner from the B&B, perhaps less than a quarter of a mile away. So, before dinner, I headed on over to the Canal and walked down it for about 45 minutes or so, keeping track of the time so I didn't wind up too far from my starting point and having to walk back. I didn't want to put dinner off too late. The Canal walkway is probably not too safe after dark in some areas, but on a bright sunny day it's quite lovely and there's lots of walkers, runners, and bicyclists. There are also lots of canal boats, many of which are for rent, and club houses for several rowing clubs. I took lots of pictures.
After I got back to my starting point, I was pretty sure I knew how to get back to the B&B by taking a different route and this time I was right. I went through the adjacent area known as Fountainbridge, and found a very nice place called Lock 25. I had a delicious steak & ale pie with excellent hand-cut fries my Dad would have definitely approved of (he was a french fry expert, after all) along with a pint of a very nice summer beer. I thought the fries were so good, I told the server about Dad being an expert and that he would say they were doing them right.
Lock 25 was only a block or so away from a place I recognized on Home Street, a couple of blocks from Gilmore, where the B&B is. I stopped for a pint of cider at the Cuckoo's Nest, which wasn't too busy on a Sunday (as opposed to Saturday night) and is a very nice place indeed. There were a couple of groups of very lovely women there as well.
The main activity for tomorrow is to be at the Central library for a tour at 2:00 PM, so anything else I do has to get me there by then. First I need to pick up my laundry after breakfast and drop it off back at the B&B. Maybe I'll do more of the Royal Mile stuff on either side of visiting the library. The B&B is within walking distance of Charlotte Square, the Georgian House, St Mary's Cathedral, the Dean Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art, all of which I also want to see.
Thursday will be my last full day here in Edinburgh. I need to ask Karen about the best ways to get to the airport from here, early on a Friday morning.
It was a warm & sunny day. I picked up my laundry after breakfast, and since I wasn't carrying my laundry on the way over I took pictures of that part of the neighborhood. One thing that probably surprises most Americans, including myself until I remembered my Scottish history, is the huge number of churches you keep running into, from a seemingly large number of different denominations. This is because of Scotland's at times very turbulent and contentious religious historynot only did you have Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church and setting up the English Anglican/Episcopalian Church but you had Scotland's own Reformer John Knox and his Presbyterians as well as various other groups splintering off from the larger succeeding denominations. A lot of these buildings are no longer used as places of worship and many of those are unfortunately left abandoned but many of them have been repurposed and reused, some of them for very interesting new reasons.
After dropping my clean clothes off at the B&B, I set off for the Royal Mile again. This time, on a Monday, Spittal Street was mostly empty of tour buses, and I quickly learned the reason whya sign along the way indicated that parking there for them was free on Sundays only.
I started the day at the Camera Obscura, getting there a bit after 10:30 AM. The next show, all the way up on the 5th floor, was at 11:00, so I headed on up. The 5th floor is actually one of the highest points along the Royal Mile, with an outside terrace with wonderful panoramic views on such a sunny, clear day. I of course took lots of pictures.
The Camera Obscura is a great piece of basically simple but very clever Victorian optics, where a view that can be panned and zoomed in and out is projected onto a rotating white table, so that everyone seated around it every now and than has it right side up in front of them. The detail of the image was crystal clearyou could probably not have read a newspaper article someone was holding down on the street below, but maybe could have made out the headlines. Using a white piece of paper the person giving the show can appear to pick images up off the table and lift them into the air, or by folding the paper make people appear to go up one side and down the other. Add Camera Obscura girls to planetarium girls as ones I fall in love with, especially if they're cute, are intelligent, have a great sense of humor, and a delightful voice and accent as this one did.
The rest of the CO's exhibits on the other floors carry on the theme of optical trickery, with lots of works by M C Escher as well as lots of other tricks of perspective and optical illusions. The electrical displays were pretty cool, toomany of my pictures of these, and of many of the other displays here, seem to have turned out pretty well. Some of the holograms were better than others, though.
Even when you know very well how the Ames Room and the floating head illusion work and are produced, they still manage to fool you. I still remember one time when a kid was getting positioned in the floating head illusion just right, for an instant what you saw was a floating head with a pair of detached feet on the side. The Mirror Maze is very disorienting but way coolI went back in again with my little video camera, and that seemed to come out pretty well, too. (As I was heading on down to the next level, I heard a terrified kid shrieking for his parents to come and get him out of the mirrors). The Vortex Tunnel very thoroughly screws up your perception as welleven if, as I did, you stand there holding on to the railings very tightly your brain tells you that the walkway to the very visible and very well lit doorway in front of you is twisting around. The video of this of course doesn't quite capture what it does to your perception but is still pretty cool. Watch this sitting down.....
I needed to be at the Central Library to meet Anne Morrison at 2:00 PM for my tour. I stopped by the Hub (first the Assembly Hall for the Church of Scotland, then becoming the Highland Tollbooth St John's Kirk in 1956, and finally becoming the headquarters for the Edinburgh Festival in 1995) to check it out and take a look at the café but I wasn't quite ready for lunch yet. I wanted to wait until I was right in the vicinity of the Library anyway. I stopped at St Columba's Free Church, another of Edinburgh's lovely churches (as I said earlier, everywhere you go there is either a church still in use or one that's been converted to other uses or even just currently left abandoned and unused). I also popped into the Ensign Ewart pub for a look around (also very nice) but didn't have anything there.
I went to the Writers Museum on my way down the Royal Mile, which is very nice and very well done, but as usual I didn't spend too much time standing around reading the notices that went with the displays. I took several pictures, including one of the old, now uneven stairs, until I saw the "No photos" sign upstairs. I also checked out Deacon Brodie's pub, which was very nice also and which I hoped to come back to.
Just around a corner from the Library I saw a sign for a place called Maxies, advertising Scottish food, with a three course lunch special for under 15 GBP. This was a lovely place, and lunch was excellent. Dad would really have loved my dessert, a very nice, very moist chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream. When I left Maxie's I went out what I thought was the door I'd come in through, only to find myself exiting onto the Royal Mile through an entrance I'd passed a while back.
My visit to, and tour of, Edinburgh's Central Library was excellent. I first went to the main desk on the ground floor and asked for Anne. She wasn't there and I was told that her office was actually downstairs, in the Edinburgh & Scottish section, so that's where I went. When I got downstairs, I was told that she had just left. After a few minutes I asked if they could call upstairs and see if Anne was waiting for me there; they did, she was, and she came back downapparently we had actually passed on the stairs, her going up as I was going down. While I was waiting for Anne I asked if I could take pictures and was told that yes, I could, but if I wanted to take pictures of any people I'd have to get their permission first, so I stuck with just taking pictures of the building and no people (their policy is pretty similar to ours although anyone wanting to take pictures in the Main library where I work is supposed to get permission from the management first. I accidentally got folks in at least one shot, though).
Both Anne and Vesma were wonderful hosts, very informative to a visiting colleague, and took me all over behind the scenes, including in the stacks. The best view of Edinburgh Castle from the Central Library turns out to be from the windows back in the stacks. It was both encouraging and depressing at the same time to learn that Edinburgh's public library system, as well as Glasgow's which I had visited the week before, is going through much the same financial problems as are many public library systems here in the US.
After Anne took me all around her part of the Central Library we went to the small children's library which is actually in the building next door, and then to the building next to that which houses the AV & music part of the collection, where Anne turned me over to Vesma who then took me all over behind the scenes in her building. There was a lot less AV materials on display in the Central Library than we have in Broward County's Main Librarybut that was just what was upstairs on display (more about that soon). I was also very impressed to learn that Edinburgh Central has a very extensive circulating collection of sheet music of all kinds, ranging from classical to Scottish and folk music. Vesma told me that she had only been in her position since March after taking a year off, but had been a librarian for a long time, and she was still getting to know their collection. She took me downstairs to where all the stuff not on display but still available for checkout usually lives until requested, and I was very, very impressed. Not only do they have what turns out to be a amazingly huge collection of sheet music, as I mentioned, they probably have more DVDs and music CDs than we do, all told, and we have the most in the county library system.
The building itself is really cool and I enjoyed my visit and tour through it. Although the current building itself was built in the 19th Century it was built on the site of a 17th Century building, from which two doorways were kept and integrated into the new building (who said recycling is new?). I was also pleased to be told, and to note, that the Edinburgh Central Library is also a Carnegie Library (I had seen the nice statue of AC in a little niche by some stairs).
After my tour of the library I headed back up to the Royal Mile.
I had noticed in passing down the Mile that the Deacon's House café (not to be confused with Deacon Brodie's Tavern up the street) was advertising a cream tea for 4 GBP, so in I went. It's a very pretty, very pleasant place, and I had a lovely tea, with a fruit scone, raspberry jam, a ridiculous quantity of delightful whipped butter, and Scottish breakfast tea. The ambience was also improved by the cute girls working the counter.
I then went on a tour of the small but very nice Lothian & Borders Police museum, which was small but very nice.
I next went to the Museum of Childhood, another of the city's very well done and free museums.
I then found St Patrick's Roman Catholic church, down a close off the Royal Mile. I hadn't known until I started doing my research for the trip after winning the raffle that a lot of people from Ireland had moved to Scotland and to Edinburgh in the pastwhich of course explains why a third to half the pubs I saw seemed to be Irish ones. Many of the incomers had settled in the vicinity of St Patrick's, which at one time was known as Irish town.
There really wasn't anywhere else I wanted to go to along the Royal Mile then, so I headed back to the B&B. St Patrick's is right next to Cowgate, which I knew is connected to Grassmarket/West Port/East Fountain Bridge which gets to the area around the B&B so I went that way. There were a couple of parts I wouldn't want to walk through by myself at night, but it was fine during the day with lots of interesting buildings along the way.
I got back to the B&B about 5:30, and as usual I took off the knee brace since I wouldn't be climbing any more hills or stairs, and stretched out for a while to give my knees a break. I headed out about 7:30 to find somewhere for dinner, and for a pint later,
I'd walked past Everest, a place serving Himalayan and Nepalese food, over on Home Street a couple of times before. This time I noticed that they had a 2-course dinner for under 15 GBP, so that's where I went. It turned out to be a very nice place, with very good food, and they give you a very good value for the money. The staff was very helpful as wellthe food ranges from mild to medium to spicy, and they'll help you figure out which is which.
This evening I went to Bennett's for a pint. I'd checked it out Saturday night but it had been too busy to even get a stool at the bar. Tonight was different, and I was able to get a small table. I really liked Bennett's, a very nice place, very comfortable. It became my favorite local pub while I was in Edinburgh, although the Cuckoo's Nest was a close second. I knew I'd be coming back, especially when I learned they had a 2 course dinner special for 10 GBP Monday-Wednesday. I headed back to my room at the B&B for a cup of herbal tea and to read for a bit before trying to get some sleep.
Last night I decided that today I'd go to the Dean Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art, which are both within walking distance from the B&B, so after another very nice breakfast I set out along a route that would take me past St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral.
The first part of the route was familiar since that's how I'd come home after my walk along the Union Canal a couple of days earlier. This neighborhood is called Tollcross, and I went past the very pretty Tollcross Primary School, and past the Haymarket & the train station there. The route also went past the Palmerston Place Church, which also looked very nice but was closed.
St Mary's has several buildings on the grounds, and the Cathedral itself is quite beautiful and I took lots of pictures.
On the way from St Mary's to the Dean Gallery I passed the Belford Hostel, which looks like another former church converted to other use. The Dean Gallery is on very lovely grounds, right next to the Dean Cemetery. After the Dean I went on to the Gallery of Modern Art. I have to admit I enjoyed the buildings and their grounds a lot more than I did the art inside each of them, but that's just me. (I liked the art I saw in Glasgow at the Hunterian and Kelvingrove much, much more).
After leaving the Gallery of Modern Art I kind of wandered around the small village of Dean, which is very pretty. I went past St Andrew's Catholic church--it was closed but very pretty on the outside. I also went past the famous Erskine Stewart's Melville School which is in a walled enclosure not usually open to the public. What I could see of the buildings over the high walls was impressive.
The Dean Parish Church (Church of Scotland) is another small, very pretty church but was also closed. Right around the corner from there is an entry to the Dean Cemetery, which I wandered around in for a while and took lots of pictures, another very pleasant cemetery.
An entry down to the Water of Leith (Edinburgh's river) was near the Cemetery, so I walked along it for a while. It's a lovely, very scenic route, and extends for a total of 12 miles. I only was on the part from Dean to Stockbridge. The walkway is usually down along the river itself with access to and from the street level up above. Along the route I saw herons a couple of times, and went past the site of the former Dean Industrial Village and the "ancient" St Bernard's Well.
When I came up I found myself in the Village of Stockbridge, a very nice neighborhood. I had a cup of tea and a very nice breakfast pastry at the Costa Coffee there (the two largest coffeshop chains in Scotland are Costa and Starbucks).
According to my maps I wasn't that far from the Royal Botanic Gardens, so I decided to head on over since I was in the area. A passing policeman told me the best way to get there from where we were. I was wearing my ankle braces and a brace on my left knee, but got a severe cramp in my left calf on a small incline leading up to the Gardens. It felt like being stabbed by a sharp, narrow-bladed knife. After a couple of minutes and steps it worked itself down to a noticeable but dull pain so I could still walk but with a bit of a hobble and limp.
When I got to the Gardens I noticed that there would be a walking tour at 3:00 so I bought a ticket, and am very glad I did. It turned out that I was the only person who had signed up, so it was just me and the guide, who was a volunteer and a retired policeman. He gave me a very good, hour long tour of the Gardens, and we had a very pleasant chat about them. I managed to keep up with him with some effort, limping and hobbling as I was. The Gardens are very lovely, and usually I would have wandered around more on my own afterwards but he had shown me most of the highlights and I really, really wanted to get off my feet for a bit.
Normally I would have walked back to the B&B from the Gardens but I decided to take a cab instead. I couldn't flag down a cab in the vicinity of the Gardens, so it took me about 20 minutes to make it back to Stockbridge. I had a very nice pint of cider at the Taphouse there before catching a cabwhich I'm very glad I did, because there was a rather hilly stretch along the way to the B&B. I was back in my room by about 4:30.
The cabbie had asked me if I'd seen the Castle lit up at night yet, and I hadn't (in fact, I'd forgotten about that since it was getting dark so late). As I said earlier, the B&B isn't that far from several streets where there are great views of the Castle on the way to it or from Princes Street on the Castle's other side.
I headed out for dinner about 7:00. I had seen a place called the North China Restaurant around the corner from the King's Theatre, so I thought I'd check it out. Their prices seemed reasonable so I had a very nice dinner there, even if they didn't have any combination meals for just one diner. I had chicken and mushrooms in oyster sauce, which didn't even come with plain white rice but was still very tasty. Most of the other diners while I was there seemed to be Chinese students at one table and two Chinese girls at another.
On the way back to the B&B the bakery around the corner, which I'd passed several times when they were closed, was actually still open so I picked up a couple of cream-filled pastries to have with some herbal tea later. Dad would have loved this place--a lovely bakery around the corner from where I was staying.
At about 9:30 PM I stuck my head outside to see what the weather was like, and if it was pleasant enough to wander over to see the Castle at night. It was grey and cloudy and drizzly so I decided to call it a night and hang out in my room at the B&B, read, listen to some Scottish music on my iPod, and generally give my knees a break.
My 2nd to last day in Edinburgh & Scotland.
My two main priorities for the daygo to both of the musical instrument museums at the University of Edinburgh, which are only open Wednesday & Saturday afternoons.
Today was a New Town day. After another delicious breakfast at Adam Drysdale, I set off along Home/Brougham/Earl Grey/Lothian (remember I mentioned that streets in Edinburgh change names often?). I'd been past St Cuthbert's and St John's Episcopal churches often, since they're both on the stretch between Castle Terrace and Princes Street, but had never been in either. They are both very lovely churches, and I wandered around the burial ground at St Cuthbert's while I was there before going on to St John's, which has a café and a fair trade gift shop.
I really liked the New Town, which was a planned city much in the way that Washington DC and the new Paris are, with nice rectangles and parks and lots of statues at intersections. I was on my way to the Georgian House, but walked the length of Rose Street up and back first since it was on the way. I had actually walked part of this very charming pedestrian way a couple of days before with Simon on our way to the rooftop restaurant. It has lots of nice pubs and restaurants and a tobacconist with a wooden Native American outside.
The Georgian House is on Charlotte Square. The park there, with the Albert Memorial, is actually a private one, with keyed access restricted to the tenants and owners of the properties around the Squarethis is true of several other parks and gardens in the city. The House is quite lovely, well worth the price of admission, with a very well done introductory video about the era, the house, and the family who lived there at the time the exhibits recreate. My two favorite rooms were the drawing room upstairs and the dining room on the ground floor.
Along Charlotte Square is the West Register House, one of the two buildings housing the National Archives of Scotland.
From the Georgian House I went down George Street, which I'd been on before, and rather liked. I had lunch at the Wetherspoon Standing Order, which also has an entrance on Rose Street. I had the burger lunch special, and it was quite good. The pub is very nice as well, quite lovely, with bookcases along several walls.
After lunch I went on over to the Free Church of Scotland's Church of St Andrew & St George (the patron saints of Scotland and England), another of Edinburgh's lovely churches.
I wandered past the National Portrait Gallery which is closed for renovations until November of this year, but is a very nice building from the outside anyway.
I next stopped by the central Waverley bus terminal to get information about how to get to the airport from the B&B by bus. I knew that the #27 and #10 go right past the B&B and needed to find out if they connected to the Airlink bus and where. While at the bus station, for the first time in my life I paid to use a public restroom (OK, I know that they're not uncommon and that places like Portland and Seattle, where I'm from, have tried them but I've never had to use one before).
Wandering around George Street and Princes Street reminded me that many of the most attractive buildings I saw in Scotland were, or had been, banks.
From the bus station I headed off towards the University of Edinburgh and its two musical instrument museums. As usual I got a bit turned around on the way, but eventually made it to the nearest of the two, the keyboard instrument museum in St Cecelia's Hall (Cecelia is the patron saint of music and musicians). This small but very delightful museum occupies most of one of the floors in the building, and has a wonderful collection of early organs, harpsichords, clavichords, and pianos, many of them beautifully decorated.
I got a bit lost going from St Cecelia's Hall to the other instrument museum in Reid Hall but eventually made it after wandering around the University past the Old College, the Surgeon's Hall Museum (I'm sorry but a museum of medical equipment really didn't interest me), the Nicolson Square Gardens (very pretty and nice), and the local United Methodist Church (probably the least attractive church from the outside I saw while in Scotland, so I didn't see if it was open). The museum in Reid Hall is a bit smaller than the one in St Cecelia's but is also quite well done, and has a couple of really cool interactive computer displays, one with videos of some of the types of instruments on display being performed. There is also a very lovely auditorium, which was open when I was there.
Reid Hall is right next to the Wilkie Building, home of a surgical research lab dealing with pathology, neuropathology, and forensic medicine.
While trying to find my way down to Lauriston Place from Reid Hall I went past the Jericho House again. It seems to be another former church, which became a residential care center but now seems to be abandoned.
I was going past the National Museum in its current location, which I hadn't yet been in, so this time I checked it out and I'm very glad I did. I have no idea what it's going to be like in its new location when that opens later this summer, but its current incarnation is fantastic, a really excellent museum. There were, unfortunately, several annoying students as part of groups there which made me hurry my visit a bit more than I usually would have.
I had seen Edinburgh's Central Mosque on the maps before but never actually found it until I did so accidentally today when looking for the route back to the B&B. It's quite a lovely building from the outside, but I didn't check it out inside (I didn't want to have to take my shoes off).
I then went past George Heriot's School, one of Edinburgh's architectural masterpieces. I'd been past it before, but for the first time the gates were open so I took some pictures of the very nice buildings I could see from the gateway.
The weather had been grey and cloudy and occasionally drizzly all day, but somewhere in here on the way over to Lauriston it poured for about 15 minutes. I actually pulled the hood of my Goretex coat up over my hat for a while. I saw nothing particularly noteworthy along the route back to the B&B.;
I'd noted earlier in the week that Bennett's, a very nice pub I'd been to a couple of times before, has a dinner special Monday-Wednesday which they serve until 8:30 PM, so that's where I had decided to go tonight. But, when I got back to the area of the B&B it was still too early for dinner. I thought I'd have some tea at Ruby's Café, which I'd been past several times and not gone into, but they were closing (at about 5:30). I noticed that the Pine Tree Bakery, which I'd also been past several times before, was still open, so I picked up a couple of very nice cream-filled pastries for later. My Dad would have loved this place, and the fact that it was around the corner from the B&B where I was stayingif he stayed there, even if Karen serves a lovely breakfast at the B&B, Dad would probably have been to the bakery to pick up something for later anyway. I went back to the B&B to drop off my purchases and to take off my knee brace and read for a bit before heading back out for dinner.
I went over to Bennett's about 7:00 and had a very good dinner. The special is two courses for 10 GBP, and you can choose from an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Since I already had dessert back in my room, I had a delicious French onion soup followed by the beef with lots of gravy, boiled small potatoes, and vegetables. I had a very nice pint along with dinner.
I am really going to miss having several pubs within walking distance, with a much larger and more diverse selection of beers than you typically get here in S Florida (although not in Oregon and Washington, with the local microbrew pubs there).
I went back to the B&B to read for a bit, have a cup of tea and one of my pastries, which was indeed very tasty. About 10:30, while it was still a bit light, I headed out to see the Castle lit up at night and to try and take pictures. By this time it was a beautiful, clear evening, probably the best weather we'd had all day. I started out along the Castle Terrace road, then went on over to Princes Street. I didn't think of it at the time, but I should actually have crossed the street when I got to Princes Streetthe view of the Castle is better from the far side of the street since you can actually see over most of the vegetation lining the Princes Street Gardens.
It turned out that none of my night shots of the Castle were worth keeping, even after using my photo editing software. Apparently the background street lighting confused my camera, and so many of the pictures were out of focus when the same shots taken in daylight are fine. The Castle lit up at night is well worth seeing, though, very nicely done, with more of an atmospheric effect rather than floodlighting the entire place. Try a search on Flickr or an image search on Google and you'll see what I mean.
I still hadn't been to the Auld Toll, another of the pubs around the corner from the B&B, but they had already stopped serving when I got there about 11:45. I really didn't like the place as much as Bennett's or the Cuckoo's Nest so probably wouldn't be back tomorrow. I went back to my room to have a cup of herbal tea and my last pastry, and to read and listen to some Scottish music on my iPod and try and get some sleep before my last full day here.
I actually slept pretty well last night, in spite of some mild stomach problems. I woke up just early enough to not miss breakfast (8:30-9:30), and shaved and showered afterwards. I wanted to make sure my stomach had settled, so I hung out in my room until about 10.
Karen, the owner/hostess, knew I was leaving early the following morning. After breakfast she asked me if I was paying for my stay at the Adam Drysdale House, apparently having forgotten that Mom had sent her a couple of e-mails well before I left for Scotland saying that she would be paying for me and giving Karen the credit card details. I reminded Karen of this, and gave her Mom's phone # in case she couldn't find the e-mails Mom had sent. I also reminded Karen that Portland is 8 hours behind Edinburgh, so if she called around 4:00 PM it would be 8:00 AM in Portland and Mom should be up and about.
Since this was my last day here in Edinburgh and in Scotland, I had decided to try and catch up on some of the places I'd missed that I still wanted to go to. Both of my Edinburgh maps indicated that Sir Walter Scott's house is in the New Town just off George Street at Castle Street, so I that's where I headed first. Despite going up and down the block a couple of times, I couldn't find the place, or even a sign indicating its whereabouts.
My maps also indicated that the Assembly Rooms are on George Street between Frederick and Hanover streets. I couldn't find it either, or a sign for it. It did occur to me later, however, that Wetherspoon's Standing Order (which I'd been to yesterday) is in the right location and also looks like it might have been some meeting rooms earlier. (I was wrongsee the website for the pub).
From George Street I headed back down towards the Royal Mile, stopping off at the Museum on the Mound on the way, of course going all the way around the building in the wrong direction before I found the entrance. This is a very charming little museum dealing with the history of banking and finance in Edinburgh and Scotland, and has two displays of one million (former) GBP.
Back on the Royal Mile, St Giles Catehdral was open so I finally went in. St Giles is another of Edinburgh's very lovely, very impressive churches. I took lots of pictures, and paid the 2 GBP photography permit fee. Right outside St Giles I finally found the Heart of Midlothian set into the sidewalk where I'd already walked past or over it several times already without noticing it.
I had a very nice lunch at a pub/restaurant on the Royal Mile called the Filling Stationvery good fish & chips, with pretty decent tartar sauce (almost up to the standard that Mom makes), along with a lovely berry crumble for dessert and a pint of Strongbow cider.
A bit further down the Royal Mile is the People's Story, another of Edinburgh's excellent free museums, and very well done.
Next door is the Canongate kirk and kirkyard. This is in some ways the prettiest, most appealing of all the churches I went to in Scotlanda lovely, bright place, with no stained glass windows for denominational reasons. I love stained glass windows and wouldn't have minded some here, myself, but the church is a much more recent building and so has the open floor plan we've come to expect. The adjacent kirkyard is also a very pleasant place, with quite a few of Edinburgh's more famous people buried there, including the poet Robert Ferguson (an inspiration to both Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson), Adam Smith, and Robert Burns himself. I'd missed Adam Smith's gravesite but one of the docents asked me if I'd seen it on my way out, and showed me where it was (right up at the entrance to the graveyard, actually).
Down at the end of the Royal Mile is the Parliament, and Holyrood Park, Holyrood Palace, and the Queen's Gallery. As much as I wanted to go on a tour of the new Parliament building, I decided I'd better not go inthere was a metal detector, and as usual I had my pocket knife with me. The Queen was still in residence, so the Palace and grounds were closed to the general public which meant I had to skip the remains of Holyrood Abbey as well.
I knew from my maps that Holyrood Road becomes Cowgate, which was a familiar route back to the B&B, so that's how I headed. Along the way I stopped for a pint at the Fiddler's Arms, a very small but very pleasant pub I'd passed a couple of times before.
I got back to the B&B's area about 4:30. In fact, I saw Karen at the intersection of Gilmore and the main street, Home, and asked her if she'd called Mom yet, and she hadn't.
I wandered around for a few minutes deciding where I wanted to go for dinner, and a pint afterwards. I took a look in the Auld Toll again, and decided that I really didn't like it after all.
When I got back to the B&B I thought I heard Karen talking to Mom on the phone in the breakfast room, and when I knocked on the door and went in I was right. I said "Hi" to Mom so she'd know that Karen's call wasn't a scam of some kind and then had to get off Karen's phone because the credit card machine shared the same line. After the bill to Mom's credit card went through, I called her back from my room on the rental cell phone.
I headed out for dinner and then a pint about 8:00. On the way out I met Sally (Paul's mom) coming in. Ann's parents had headed out early that morning, Ann & Paul were leaving early the next morning for Barcelona, and Sally was staying on in Edinburghwhere she had been born and raisedfor another week on her own.
I had a very nice dinner at the Panda Inn--excellent spring rolls, a pork and noodle dish, and jasmine tea for under 10 GBP.
Next I stopped for a pint at the Cuckoo's Nest on the corner. I'd tried it the previous Saturday when it was too busy, and hadn't been back yet. It's a very lovely, comfortable place, and I had a very tasty pint of pear cider.
I thought I had saved exactly enough coins (3.50 GBP) for the bus fare from the B&B to the airport the next morning, but when I checked my pockets after getting back to the B&B I found I had spent one of the pound coins. No problemit was still relatively early, so I set off for the nearest cash point/ATM where I got the smallest amount I could, 10 GBP. Since I needed to get some change, I stopped by Bennett's for one last pint.
I didn't sleep too wellI usually don't the night before I travel anywhereand woke up before the alarm clock went off at 6.
After one last shave and shower in the weird shower in my room, I headed out about 7:00 to catch a connecting bus to the Airlink bus from downtown. The #27 was the first bus to come by, but the driver told me that the #10 went closer downtown. I boarded the next #10, told the driver I needed a transfer to the Airlink, put in my 3.50 GBP, asked him to tell me when we got to the closest place his route got to the Airlink stop, and got off where he told me when we got downtown.
When I boarded the Airlink I found that the #10's driver had in fact not given me the correct transfer but one worth 3.20 GBP and not 3.50, and I couldn't take the Airlink without paying another 3.50I didn't even have the option of paying another 30 pence to make up the difference. I'm afraid I lost my composure a bit with the Airlink driver because of the error his colleague on the other bus had made. The Airlink driver told me I could use the transfer I had to take a different bus to the airport, but that bus would take almost an hour to get there.
I didn't have that kind of time, and since I'd need to find an ATM/cashpoint to get some more British currency to get to the airport no matter how I did it, I decided I'd get what I estimated was more than enough to take a cab there instead, so that's what I did. The cab ride out to the airport was very nice, through areas and neighborhoods I'd read about when doing my research but hadn't made it out to see. I got to the airport in plenty of time to get checked in and make it to the departure gate. I still had enough GBP left to check my 2nd bagafter all, the money wouldn't do me much good when I got home, and where would I go to change it anyway?
While I was waiting to board I noticed that there was a largish group of US school kids apparently returning home after a trip (they all behaved wellif they hadn't been wearing the same shirts and weren't all together I wouldn't have noticed them). The flight to Newark was OKonce again, I sat on the aisle so I could flex my right knee when I needed to, so I didn't see much out the windows and as usual I couldn't sleep. As on my flight from Newark to Glasgow, they fed us a couple of times.
It was almost panic time again when we got to Newark. Unlike flying through there outward bound, we had to go through Immigration, walk all the way to where we could pick up our luggage including, of course, the 2nd bag I'd checked, go through US Customs, check our bags for the connecting flight, and hightail it to that departure gate. When I got there they were already boarding my flight to Ft Lauderdale.
The flight from Newark to Ft Lauderdale took about 2.5 hours. I read and listened to my iPod almost the whole time. Not surprisingly, some of the people near me on the flight down were from New Jersey and I found their voices and accents a bit unpleasant.
Once we got to Ft Lauderdale, it took longer for our luggage to show up than it probably should have. I had already paid for a round trip when I booked the shuttle to/from the airport, and it was pretty easy to find the dispatcher, who seemed to be a bit of a jerk I don't think I'd want to work for. I was the last of four passengers to be dropped off, and got home just about 6:00 PM Florida time.
After I called Mom to let her know I'd arrived safely, I stretched out for about an hour or so. I may have dozed off for a bit, but not for long. I managed to do 45 minutes on the treadmill that evening. I didn't even make it upstairs to my usual bedroom but left my luggage downstairs, heated up some leftovers from the freezer, watched some shows on my DVR, and fell asleep in the downstairs bedroom about midnight local time.
(I learned the next day, when I was unpacking, that the TSA had searched one of my two checked bagsthe one that only had dirty clothes in it.)
I had a very wonderful trip, and loved all I saw of ScotlandGlasgow, the terrain between Glasgow & Fort William, Fort William and its area, the terrain between Fort William and Mallaig, Mallaig itself, the terrain between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and Edinburgh itself. The varied terrain is always interesting and often quite beautiful: as I've said earlier it's kind of like the best of Oregon and Washington and British Columbia and the San Juan islands all put togethernot boringly flat like mostly characterless South Florida, which after all was Everglades not long ago.
I stayed in very pleasant accommodations in each of the three cities I visited. I would recommend picking a hotel that has a lobby (Premier Inn Charing Cross didn't) and a B&B that has a lounge (Guisachan House had one, but Adam Drysdale did not) to make it a bit easier to meet and get to know your fellow guests, if that's what you want, but their lack really didn't bother me. It would have been nice having a table or desk at Adam Drysdale to use when writing up my travel notes as I did in Glasgow and Fort Willaim, but using the side table next to the bed worked almost as well.
I really liked spending more time in each city, and getting to know the area as well. I could have spent more time in each city because there were more places I didn't get to, including small Fort William but that's primarily because it's a gateway to the Highlands rather than somewhere you'd want to be in for more than a couple of days if you weren't on the way elsewhere. I didn't make it out of either Glasgow or Edinburgh into the surrounding countryside, or go on any of the day trips available to the Highlands or lochsbut I did spend two nights in lovely Fort William with the wonderful train trip up to the delightful Mallaig.
I loved the presence of history in the midst of modern life. In both Glasgow and Edinburgh are traces of, and actual structures, going back to medieval times, next to Georgian, Victorian, 20th Century, or even 21st Century buildingssometimes all in the same block. Fort Lauderdale celebrated its 100th birthday this year but that was actually the founding of the fort back during the Seminole WarsI don't know of any buildings still standing that are anywhere near that old. To be perfectly honest, both Portland and Seattle are pretty young as cities go, but they are older than most of S Florida.
I also don't like the cultural milieu here. This, like most of suburban America, is a driving area with very little worth going to within walking distance, let alone three or four nice local pubs in the immediate area. There are also very few cultural events that aren't expensive shows at the local arenas or performing arts centers other than clubbing/partying at bars & nightclubs which have never been my scene, especially since I live alone and am my own designated driver. I miss the free city-owned museums and other tourist attractions in Glasgow & Edinburgh. And in the 10 years I've been here, I've noticed that any community groups that may have cultural events that aren't too expensive don't do a very good job of advertising them so I'm sure that there's a lot going on I miss even though I check the local paper and events calendar regularlynot like in Glasgow or Edinburgh or even Portland or Seattle where local organizations seem to do a much better job advertising their events and offerings.
I kind of wish I had my job, and my townhouse with its shower with adequate water pressure to get rinsed off, but in Scotland (or Ireland) somewhere, but they're not. Oh well....