Wednesday, August 25, 2010

July 11: Edinburgh

We started the day with a breakfast that included haggis, a happy and filling surprise, and I think it made David happy that we liked it so much.  Once downtown we wound our way around the backside of Edinburgh Palace. It was an especially foggy day, thick clouds hanging low into the city, swallowing the tops of spires and buildings.

Up at Edinburgh Castle we had the wind to contend with, along with various entertaining tourists.  (One couple made their way around the castle grounds, the guy oohing and ahhing as he snapped photos of his girlfriend posing in slightly over the top, sex-kitten ways.  We casually followed behind for a few minutes to fuel our giggles.)  All gusts and giggles aside, the view was amazing, despite the fog.  We walked in and out of various rooms containing everything from specific battle memorabilia and arms to the royal apartments, looking over the royal family's old family photos and trying to imagine living in this place above the city.

Not far from the castle was the museum, Camera Obscura, where we entertained ourselves with a different kind of museum, altogether.  The museum is named after the lens it holds at its center, something by which we could spy on passersby below, strolling down the Royal Mile.  We learned a little history about the various locations of sister lenses like this, and the lens' story, itself.  But mostly, we just had a little fun playing for a while before moving on down High Street.

Lunch!  Already, you ask?  But didn't you have haggis at breakfast time?  Why yes, yes we did, but passing by The Baked Potato Shop seemed like a non-option.  If we were gluttons any one day of this trip, this was the day.  At this fantastic, little shop on could order any number of toppings on their potato, sized small, medium, or large. As it was a vegetarian establishment, we justified eating before we were quite hungry by calling it healthy.  At any rate, Chris' potato got a quick warm-up after receiving its cheese, onion, and pineapple, while mine only required the two hearty scoops of Greek salad to be complete.  Sounds a little off, I realize, but the taste was right on target.  There was something jarringly delicious about eating cool, fresh vegetables and feta cheese marinated in red wine vinegar with a blob of buttery, hot potato.  Did I mention a medium potato from the Shop was nearly as big as my face?  We may have been hurting a little afterwards, but it was worth every bite.

The Scott Monument
erected in honor of Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott

Looking down the Royal Mile

As we waddled down the street we stopped here and there to watch or speak with some of the street performers who call the Royal Mile their office.  Jo had told us about a couple, in particular, the night before, so it was fun to seek them out.

This is the world's most pierced woman, and she was more than happy to pose for my camera.  Of course I paid her a pound for her cooperation.

Noticing the increasing number of signs posted along the road forbidding parking for some important "exercise," we inquired inside a convenience store about said exercise.  Maybe we'd be there for some unexpected treat.  It turned out Her Majesty was due in on Tuesday, and this was the road she traveled to reach her house, Holyrood Palace at the end of the Mile.  The guy behind the counter said if we asked a cop they wouldn't say so, but that everybody knew what the signs meant, though her specific time of arrival was kept secret.  Kind of cool, the Queen of Britain being in town on holiday the same time as us, but we had plans to be in Glasgow on Tuesday and besides, who wants to sit around all day in hopes of catching a glimpse, modern royalty or not?  So off we went, on down toward Holyrood, itself, taking notice of the growing number of armed guards patrolling the area.

We walked around the outer borders of Holyrood, snapping photos of the magnificent vacation home and the beautiful hills behind it.  On the back side we came to a great, open park where people were flying kites in the distance or throwing Frisbees for their dogs.  One man ambled along with his dog, a big, slow-moving Doberman who turned out to be a 14 year-old pup named Nelson.  I try my best not to be one of those dog-crazed people who approaches strange animals without thought of their disposition or their person's wishes, but it's very difficult for me not to gravitate toward dogs when I see them out.  I'll casually move closer, looking at anything but the pup I want to pet, gauging said dog's notice and reaction to me, trying to catch the eye of the person attached to raise my eyebrows and motion toward the pooch, a silent request for puppy love.  I thought I'd made good eye contact with the big black dog suddenly loping toward me, and leaned down to reach for a scratch when he flew right by me, to my disappointment.  Seeing this and knowing exactly what I was up to, Chris just shook his head and smiled. We kept walking along the side wall of Holyrood, but this dog was intent on torturing me and my need for dog contact - I was missing Heidi.  Eventually our paths intersected with his person's and I complimented him on his cute dog.  Then I asked if I could pet him.  The man said he was surprised Nelson hadn't come over to me already, which slightly hurt the feelings of the part of me that assumes all dogs can tell how much I love them. So over Nelson ran at his person's request, ready for my eager scratches and pats.  The man's name was Andrew, and he wore a metal (music) T-shirt which spurred conversation about the metal music fest Chris and I had just been to in Prague.  Talk of music turned to talk of travel, which lead us into talk of Portugal and Andrew's vineyard in Porto, a city in the north.  A half hour later, we'd made another friend in Edinburgh, and one who seemed eager to help us out with a Portuguese trip in the future.  We haven't yet visited this country, and now that we've got the contact information of someone who knows it well, it seems more likely that we'll go.  And even more likely that we'll visit his vineyard while we're there :)  Andrew gave us the name of a local wine vendor who sold his wine if we wanted to try it, and we parted with a farewell handshake, pat on the head, and one more trip added to the list.

Holyrood was securely walled in, but the guards watched every person carefully who strolled close by.  I surprised us, then, how incredibly friendly they were when we approached with questions concerning whether or not we could pass.  The first guard's post was at a drive at the back of the palace, and we stopped to make sure we could cut across to get to the open park.  She said we could as long as we weren't hiding a vehicle.  Chris pulled the liners of his pockets out to show we were clean, we all chuckled and we walked on.  After parting ways with Andrew and Nelson we came upon another guard hanging around the mouth of a narrow alley that ran alongside Holyrood's wall, leading out to another road we wanted to get to.  When we asked if we could walk that alley, unsure about security issues, he said we could, as long as we promised not to scale the wall.  We promised and he laughed as he waved.  I love the people here.

As it was after six and anything with visiting hours was closed, we took a very long walk from Holyrood to Leith, what we heard referred to as the rougher side of Edinburgh, to stop by the room before finding dinner down by the docks.  As we made our way toward the water Chris pulled out the map to make sure we were on the right road.  As he did, a rather burly woman who approached walking the opposite direction made us both jump when she gruffly yelled at us, "What are you looking for?"  We replied, "A place to eat dinner," and she pointed up the cross street we'd reached, then down it.  "There's a place there, and there's more down that way.  You've got a lot of choices!"  We thanked her, she smiled somehow without smiling, and everyone went on their way.  Even when they scared you, these Edinburghians were super helpful.  We walked until we found the old harbor of Leith and ended up settling into a table at The Ship on the Shore.  Ready?

Chris ordered the smoked seafood plate, which, he says would have been better hot, but was good nonetheless.  I salivated over seared scallops over tiny green beans, sweet potato mash, and a piece of caramelized pork belly.  HOLY CRAP, it was fantastic.  That with Bulmer's summertime special, pear and apple cider, and I was maxed out on tastiness for the day.

Who said Scottish food was bad again?


  1. I am sooooo hungry! Pork belly again? Buttery baked potato with greek salad on it? Seriously. And who does she thinl she is gettin the street blocked off for her... the Queen of England? Oh wait....

  2. Enjoyed the pix and the stories! Thanks!