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I'm exhausted and heading to bed. It's 2am here and we have to be up early. Here's the latest; not my best but I can barely think at the moment.
Day two – July 9th
After my first Scottish breakfast which consisted of Sunnyside up eggs (the ones that look like little suns) a piece of bacon that looked more like a slice of ham, hot tomato (my favorite!), mushrooms and baked beans (really? That one threw me) Wendy and I headed out. We decided today we would be doing the bus tours around the city. We finally got out and about around 10:30 or so, jumping the local #23 bus into the City Centre to find the line of tour buses hungrily waiting to gobble up the tourists. There were four lines total and with the amazing Grand ticket, we were able to hop on and off any of these four buses. It’s too bad there were no purple ones because they truly looked like the Night Bus from Harry Potter.
The weather was all over the place today but it cooperated for the most part. There was worry that we’d get to Edinburgh Castle (our first stop) and it would be cloudy or worse – rainy. The bus route on the way to the Castle showed us other places we wanted to head back to, including St. John’s Cathedral and the adjoining St. Cuthbert Cemetery. We made a mental note to head back that way.
We jumped off the big red bus and strolled, well maybe stumbled would be a better description, up to the castle walls. Luckily, we got away with some nice moments from the Scottish skies and were able to take some nice pictures from afar. It was 13 GBP to get in and we didn’t want to see it that badly. We walked the surrounding area, filled with store touting the best Scottish crap around, and saw St. Giles Cathedral – a beautiful church steps away from the entrance of the Castle. Inside, the silver-piped organ with red trim dominated the foyer. I think there was someone playing it because it sounded like a mistake was made. That made it even cooler. We couldn’t take pictures inside the chapel, but outside we snapped away.
Back to the bus. We paid 15 GBP so, damn it, we were going to get our money’s worth. The best tour was with the actual person prattling on about the Scottish monuments as they cruised by. The minute you were able to snap the picture, it was out of site. Needless to say, my selection from the bus was very low. The most notable missed photo for me was the little dog statue on Chambers Street. His name was Greyfriers Bobby. This little dog lost his master when he was 2 and ended up following the funeral to the cemetery and stayed on his grave for 14 years. That’s the abbreviated version of the tale but it’s pretty cool –enough to make a monument to the pup and name a pub after him. Unfortunately, I have no picture, so you’ll have to take my word on it.
We also learned of the murdering duo that were paid between 10-15 GBP (depending on who was giving the tour) to bring in corpses to the local doctor. This physician had 500 students that needed cadavers in order to learn human anatomy, so these entrepreneurs went around gathering dead bodies to sell. Then, one night, they accidentally killed someone they’d been arguing with and realized that that was a whole new business venture. Eventually, one sold the other out and he was convicted of 17 murders. I’ll try and find their names but it was pretty brutal.
For me, one of the highlights today was making our way through the St. Cuthbert cemetery on our second pass. I don’t know what it is about the grave markers but I find them fascinating. The whole area was straight out of a movie with the dirty stones and faded carved lettering. The grass was a squishing sponge-like material that looked more like Astroturf. Throughout, various flowers were scattered; shades of purple and yellow. Even a bright orange buttercup. Marking the entrance was a huge 20-foot Celtic cross filled with green moss from age. It was a magnificent guard, standing in front of the hundred fifty+ year old stones. If you looked hard enough, you could see the Castle in the background. In fact, the cemetery was the best place to see the Castle and we ended up taking several shots of it through the stones. It rained, it got cloudy, the sun beat down on us all in the span of 25 minutes. I thought Chicago weather had a hard time making its mind up!
The tour suggested a visit to the free museums in the city – the National Gallery and the Scottish Museum of History. I’m always up for the art museum, and I love to find the Monet works, so we finally found our way to the Gallery. Of course, this required walking to find it. Lots of walking. And stairs. We did find it and they had three of Claude’s pieces that I’ve never seen before – one of the haystacks, and two harbor painting with boars. Beautiful. The museum itself is rather small but still brought the tourists in.
We then got directions to the Scottish museum which included WAY too many stairs to get to. We wandered the first floor, looking at the ancient carved stones that they’ve found all over the Isles. I can’t wait to see them up close in their natural environment. Another quick trip through the museum –including a replica of Mary, Queen of Scots tomb and a retired guillotine called ‘the Maiden’– and we were on our way.
Hunger pangs started to gnaw at us so we decided to look for food. Unfortunately, we didn’t know what to eat or where to get it. Eventually, we ended up back at Mark and Spense (where we changed our money earlier in the day), grabbed a sandwich and drink and jumped back onto the bus to get every pence out of that ride. We ate and enjoyed the tour, minus the freezing part. Oh, did I mention the weather changed, again? Sitting on the top part of the bus when it’s so windy/chilly isn’t the best of ideas but it’s the best way to see the city and learn the history through the architecture and locations.
As the bus toured, our guide pointed out some of the Harry Potter stuff –including the Elephant Castle (I may have the name wrong) where JK is said to have penned the famous novels. She also attended university there and the idea of Hogwarts is supposedly based on George Heriot School, close to where she went to college. They are all very proud of JK here and it shows.
The tour ended around 8pm and we were cold and wanted Indian food. We finally found a little place down the road where we had samosas and chicken tikka masalla as mini-appetizers. Just enough to tide us over. We then knew it was time to get home.
But we didn’t know where we were.
We wandered up and down the streets, looking for our #23. I saw a sign at a bus stop that said it was no longer running for the evening. We were tired and wanted to get back, but shelling out money for a cab seemed the wrong thing to do. So we walked. Forever. And ever. Blisters formed on our feet and we looked like little old ladies hobbling around. Everywhere was uphill, but even in the few spots that were downhill, it hurt. We stopped a bartender and another local but finally ended up looking at the map again to figure out where we were. Eventually, we figured it out and as we were about ½ mile from ‘home,’ we saw the #23 bus head right towards our B&B! We deflated just a little bit after realizing that we could have spared ourselves the additional pain but the 9 miles we walked today will do us good in the long run.
Now, we’re getting our final preparations for tomorrow’s trip to Rosslyn Chapel and Melrose Abbey. The bus will come and pick us up at 8:30 and we’ll be gone most of the day with that tour. It was something Wendy and I had looked at, so that fact that we can actually do this is very cool!
More later! I need some sleep before tomorrow!