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Published: August 2nd 2015
We have arrived in Edinburgh from Massachusetts with just a couple of minor mishaps on the way. Landing at Heathrow for our London stopover last night was a little rough as we teetered on one wheel before thumping down on the other and rocking side to side a fair bit. Hadn't experienced that before. A long wait for a "Hotel Hoppa" bus ensued, but as we had plenty of time, we decided to be proactive and get directions to the terminal we would need the following morning. "Virgin Atlantic to Edinburgh departs from terminal 3." Wrong! This morning we arrived at terminal 3, waited for 20 minutes or so in the Virgin Atlantic bag check line only to be told we should have gone to terminal 2, since it was a domestic flight. Fortunately we could walk there and had lots of time (unusual for us).
The other unfortunate event was that someone stole an iPhone charger and our electricity converter kit from my suitcase. Baggage handler for British Airways at Logan or Heathrow? Although these little annoyances put a bit of a damper on our spirits, it's hard to be down for long in the face of the
charm and exceeding politeness of the British. Going through security at Heathrow (which was even more stringent than US security), there were many rules posted about just what type of plastic zip bag one should put small liquid containers in. I thought I'd better check with an attendant, so I showed her my rather travel-worn Ziploc.
"Oh, that's just lovely, Dear. Thank you very much."
TSA take note.
In Edinburgh we checked into Ibis Styles Hotel, which is located pretty conveniently in New Town, a relative term for the part of the city built about 300 years ago(!) to provide better living conditions than in the tenements of Old Town. For anyone planning to visit the city and get around on foot, the prime location, or point zero that you'd want to be close to is probably Waverly Train Station near the intersection of Princes Street and Waverly Bridge.
We found that Fodor's guide to Edinburgh was very accurate and helpful in planning our itinerary.
Good sites to begin with for an overview of the city and its history are the Museum of Edinburgh and The People's Story at Canongate
Tolbooth . As a bonus, they're free. The main impression they left us with was that Edinburgh was one of the dirtiest, poorest, and most crime-ridden cities in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Certainly different today! Both of those attractions are on the Royal Mile, which runs from Edinburgh Castle in the west to Holyrood Palace in the east. The whole stretch is "tourist central" with lots of restaurants and shops selling everything Scottish, including full kilt regalia for those so inclined.
Another spot we had to see, given Wayne's vocation, was Canongate Kirk and the grave of Adam Smith. Other famous Edinburgh citizens through the years are the writers Robbie Burns, Robert Fergusson, Robert Louis Stevenson, and J.K. Rowling.
For our dinner we sought out some veggies after two days of airplane food and sandwiches. Henderson's Salad Table on Hanover Street had a wide array of salads from which you could choose 2, 3, or 4 at reasonable prices, along with a whole-grain bread and dipping oil. We felt quite detoxed after that. Highly recommended!
On our second day we took advantage of the unusual sunny weather to climb Arthur's Seat.
It's a beautiful hike that takes about an hour each way, starting from Holyrood Palace, following a path beneath the crags facing town and making a final steep climb to the seat itself. We were glad we got an early start, because on a Saturday morning the top got pretty crowded by the time we started down. Great views of the whole city and over to the Firth of Forth.
An easier climb but another excellent view of the city is Calton Hill, close to Waverly Station. On top are some interesting monuments and buildings including one that is supposed to look like the Parthenon, in recognition of Edinburgh's nickname of Athens of the North (for its intellectual atmosphere).
A favorite story of Edinburgh is that of Greyfriars Bobby, a little Skye Terrier who was so loyal that he guarded his master's grave for 14 years, fed by the townspeople. There is a statue of him near Greyfriars Bobby pub which supposedly provided much of his food.
Speaking of food, we spent the afternoon on a food tour which allowed us to try some Scottish smoked salmon; black pudding and venison pate; haggis, neeps
(turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes); a cheese and meat platter; and cranachan (dessert made of raspberries and oats in cream and whiskey sauce. The last was my favorite, but the haggis was surprisingly good, like a grainy sausage or hash.
We finished off this day of walking with a free ghost tour at 7 pm, which leaves from St.Giles Kirk on the Royal Mile. Guide Ben gave us some good stories about the seedier side of Edinburgh history such as the notorious pair of grave robbers called Burke and Hare who made their living selling bodies to Dr. Knox for his anatomy lectures. My pedometer read 30,000 steps at the end of this day - about 15 miles, a new record!
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