Weds. Apr. 5th, 2000 Edinburgh

5C/41F Sunny, Sunny, Sunny Cold,Cold,Cold


Wake up bright and early to try out the Scottish Breakfast this morning. Our landlady is charming, particularly when you consider she'd just had a tooth pulled. Our room is enormous, beautifully decorated and at the very top of the The Stairwaysteepest stairs I've ever seen. The bannister is vertical in several places. Oddly enough, the shower works great too!

The Scottish breakfast is egg, sausage beans, tomato, ham and a "potato scone" which is a bit like pita bread. There's also porridge as an option, but we decided to wait and try that the next day as there was too much food already.

Our plan was to hit the TIC, book a tour to Ness, pick up brochures and another map and then take the hop-on, hop-off bus tour. We were able to purchase all of the tickets at the TIC, including the Guide Friday bus tour. The propaganda news boy outside stops to chat while we're waiting for the bus, and asking our opinion on various problems in the country. When we point out we really couldn't say, as we're not from around here, he points "of course you're not. You're English, aren't you!" We all get a good laugh as we admit we're horrible Americans, from California, no less.

Arthurs Seat Rode that around to see what was what, and what to do first. When we first went by Holyrood Palace Arthurs Seat looked like a nice jaunt, but by the time we'd finished everything else our feet were screaming at the thought. Edinburgh Castle is built on an extinct volcano, and The Royal Mile is the basalt ridge that runs down from it, with all the little Close and Wynds running down from that. It's not quite as bad as walking thru San Francisco, but after several hours it feels like it. Another quirk we found ourselves with was that "The Green Man" took on a whole new context. As the traffic patterns are so different we tired to use crosswalks and cross with the light (or with a giant pack of other people so it's be a massacre instead of just a hit and run). The Green Man went from being an ancient mythological symbol to being what we waited for when we were crossing. I'm sure we must have had many people certain we were insane as one of us would call to the other 'We have a GreenMan in this direction, lets go this way'.

We got to the castle about 12:30 and caught the One O Clock Guns 1 o'clock gun salute. You can feel the whole castle shake. I think it's a wonder the platform hasn't broken off and slid down the hill. We toured the "Honours of Scotland", St. Margarets Chapel (the oldest building) and then popped down the hill to the Whiskey Heritage Centre. Alas, the next tour wasn't for 45mins and we didn't feel like waiting there that long, nor like walking back up the hill on our tired feet later on.

Edinburgh Castle We did try to find "Pride of Orkney" there, but no go. They called the manager, who had heard of it but had no idea where we could get it. We were given the name of another distillery near Orkney and it was suggested we call them, perhaps they'd have some info. On a lark we stopped into a speciality shoppe we passed. They suggested a few places by Waverly Station we should try. So...down to the other end of town, and the first (second?)(third?) shop at Waverly gave us more info and sent us to a place in the mall. They didn't have it in stock, but called their other branch. The other branch hadn't yet restocked the "PofO", but they did carry 'Pride of Islay' from the same distillery. As it was a special request from Pat, we decided to see if it was comparable. AT least we were getting more info with each stop! And once again back up to the OTHER end of town (to a place 4 doors down from the first place we asked) in search of the mystical Pride of.. scotch. The shopgirl looked it up for us, but the write up didn't sound like it would be what Pat was looking for, so we admitted temporary defeat and went in search of food before our 7pm Ghost and Ghouls walk at St. GilesMercat Square.

We found a neat little place down the close, around the Wynd, thru a door,up 3 flights of back steps and there was the little pub over a restaurant with deep fried everything. (My Chicken Kiev, Lens fish & chips,the breaded mushrooms, and I suspect possibly even the garlic bread :-) But good even so. Had another pint/latte and a smoke before going back down to get the last of the sun before the walk started.

A giant cemetery Our guide Rosie arrived a bit before 7pm dressed in a long black cape. She started us off explaining about torture during the Cromwell period and asked for the help of 2 Englishmen. As there was only one she asked Len to fill in, and the rest of us played the angry mob. The "Englishmen" were soundly whipped to the cheers of the mob, and then Len had his throat slit and his tongue cut out for proposing a toast to the King (alas, the camera was buried in his pocket, so we got no pics), and the other gentleman had his ear cut off and was left to bleed. After this merry romp we started off on our tour. The car park behind St. Giles was once a burial ground, but they were all moved elsewhere to make room for the cars. She then walked us to Mary Kings Close where 400 people were bricked in to die of the plague and starvation if the plague didn't get them. This happened during the warm summertime and the stench became troublesome so something had to be done with the bodies. As some of the buildings were 14 floors the found it was easier to just hack them up and toss them out the windows. No one wanted to live there afterwards, strangely enough. One family did, but kept seeing headless bodies, bodiless heads and all manner of bits o' people. They lasted 8 years, and when they finally left the block was razed and the Town Council building was built in its place.

Our bedroom We spent more time in the old town than the new, but we did seem to find ourselves on Princes St. often enough. All those lovely shops you know! The tour ended in the underground vaults (under South Bridge) and several of us went with our Guide for a "traditional" refreshment in a candle lit back room of a pub. The tour lasted about 90 mins or so and was really good. Our guide Rosie has a flair for the theatrical, slitting throats with an evil grin, whipping the English with great relish, and able to do a very credible shriek in the dark.

Our feet were throbbing to death as we began the long uphill trek home to our B&B. And oh my, the climb up those stairs to our room! We shall certainly sleep well (if somewhat sorely) tonight.

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