Monday, August 12, 2013

I didn’t know it was pronounced Edin-Burra until I heard the lovely Scottish lilt of our train announcer.  I was supposed to just change trains in Edinburgh and head back to London, but I think it’s rather silly not to stay over at least one day and see part of the city.

As soon as I step out of the station one word comes to my mouth – “Wow.”  The horizon is just filled with the soaring spires of old buildings.  And to my left a grand, dark-stoned tower that eats up the sky.  I can’t help but walk straight to it.  Turns out it’s a memorial to Sir Walter Scott, who wrote “Rob Roy” and “Ivanhoe,” among others.  Scotland must really, really love this guy to judge by his memorial.

I’m super tired after the games at North Berwick, but I make myself scope out a bit of Old Town before heading to my hotel room.  Old Town is the oldest, most beautiful section of Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Castle is here as well.  Tomorrow, after a good rest, I’ll go back and really explore.

So I’m walking to my hotel and I pass a restaurant called The Conan Doyle.  And on the wall is a plaque informing me that just across the street is the birthplace of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!  I walked right past it on my way to Old Town and didn’t even know it!  Love when stuff like this happens!  They don’t tell you the exact address of his birthplace, but they do tell you there’s a memorial right across the street from it.  So I’m thinking it’s gotta be either 12 or 14 Picardy Place.  I’ll have to look it up when I get to my room, see if I can find out.

I don’t know what it is, but whenever I’m feeling out of place or lonesome, as soon as I come across any bit of history about writers I feel immediately comforted.  I’ve always loved books and reading.  They became my escape when I was a kid.  I felt safe inside all those stories.  And seeing Mr. Conan Doyle’s memorial today made me feel so warm.  And so proud to be a writer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013  

Got up early and walked to the train station, dropped my luggage off in storage.  £9 per item!  £18 total to leave my stuff with them.  Not even a discount if you’re a ticketed passenger!  They know you need it, and they take full advantage of it.

But it’s nice to stroll into Old Town unfettered.  First thing I do is look for a place to eat breakfast.  I find a pub called The Royal McGregor and order the traditional breakfast, take a seat near the door so I can watch the people outside.  By lucky coincidence I’m in Edinburgh during their annual festival, so there are a ton of performers out on the streets – comedic acts, singers, actors – all trying to get people to come to their shows that evening.  As I’m waiting for my breakfast a woman walks in decked out in costume – a big poofy skirt and her face very elaborately painted, with beads and jewellry all over.  Very strange.  She sits down in the corner and orders coffee.  People pass by her and say hello like it’s just a normal day and everyone dresses this way.  I can’t help but smile.

Then the waitress brings my breakfast.  In England a traditional breakfast includes fried egg, baked beans, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, and toast.  But in Scotland, apparently, they add haggis and black pudding.  Well.  At first I was going to ask the waitress to leave these lovely items off, but then I thought – come on, be fearless!  When are you ever going to have the opportunity to try fried blood and sheep’s heart again?  That’s right – black pudding is made by cooking blood with a filler like pork fat and oatmeal until it’s congealed.  Congealed...  Oh boy.  Haggis is a mince made from sheep’s heart and lungs and boiled in the stomach lining of the sheep.  First I try a bite of the black pudding.  Very dense and mealy.  Doesn’t taste like anything I’ve ever had.  I can only describe it as a very "dark" flavor.  Nope.  Won’t be having that again.  Now the haggis.  This has a similar texture, but softer, ironically more like a pudding than the black pudding.  The flavor reminds me of corn beef hash in a way, but with an aftertaste that I don’t like.  Something bitter and sweet at the same time.  Nope.  Won’t be making that for my friends anytime soon, either.  But I tried them!  And the rest of my breakfast was deeeelicious.

Then off to explore what they call the Royal Mile.  Stretching from Edinburgh Castle at the top of Castle Hill all the way down to Holyrood Castle.  This is the section of Edinburgh they call Old Town.  The street plan has been preserved from medieval times!  I didn’t go inside either of the castles, just admired from outside.  I think I’m a bit castled out.  Had much more fun walking up and down the Mile looking at the old buildings, discovering more history, and watching the street performers.  I passed by a café that was once Deacon Brodie’s workshop.  Brodie was a very talented cabinet-maker who lived in the 1700s and was greatly-respected in Edinburgh society.  But by night he led a secret, much darker life.  He robbed the houses of the very people who were his customers to finance his gambling habit and support his many children, plus two mistresses.  When he aimed higher and tried to rob His Majesty’s Excise Office, he was caught and sentenced to hang.  But there are two even more astonishing details about his life.  First, he was hanged from the very gibbet he designed.  He proudly boasted to the crowd that the gallows upon which he was about to die was the most efficient of its kind.  Second, his life was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Seems Mr. Stevenson’s father had had furniture made by Brodie.  Small world.

With only about an hour left till my train leaves for London, I have one more mission to fulfill.  I’ve decided I want an authentic, Scottish-made scarf.  There are so many different colors to choose from but I buy a beautiful tartan-colored one – you know, those Christmas colors – soft, rich reds and greens.  Now I feel like I have a little piece of Scotland to take away with me.

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The Royal Mile from Castle Hill

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Memorial

 


Pammy
08/15/2013 5:22pm

Awesome! There must be so much inspiration there! Love hearing all the history and weird connections!

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Vicki
08/16/2013 2:49am

I know, right? I'm such a history geek. I LOVE finding those little plaques that tell you who lived there and what they did! The Brodie place really intrigued me. And knowing that Sherlock Holmes' creator was born here! Wow.

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Zell
08/15/2013 5:57pm

What a wonderful post, Vicki! Truly, I felt transported to Scotland...and am missing it very much. (sigh)

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Vicki
08/16/2013 2:52am

I wish you were here, too. :( We must plan a trip together in the future. I think it would be such fun to come here with a fellow Anglo geek. :) And there's still so much I won't get to see this time around.

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Zell
08/17/2013 6:36am

I *do* hope we can pull off a future trip together! Love the term "Anglo Geeks"! Yep. That shoe fits; I think we need to wear it!

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Vicki
08/17/2013 9:39am

Mine's a size 6. hee hee

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