Iceland & Scotland Day 3: The Old Town
Much to the girls' (and my) satisfaction, we got to ride the double decker buses today! As there were no seats left, I stood at the front, gazing out the window as the city whizzed by. I've always wished the US - but particularly the South - had a better, more widely-used public transit system as my favorite part of traveling in Europe is people-watching on buses or the subway and not having to drive. I'd become so accustomed to standing up on the halting metro that I simply leaned against the wall of the bus without needing to hold on to the hand rail (yeah, I'm totally cool.)
Our destination today was the Royal Mile, the streets of the Old Town, and after some meandering we found Edinburgh Castle. Of course, we didn't think to buy tickets beforehand so we had to stay in line, but they sure do queues here better than we do in the States; we'd have been waiting for hours with how long that line was! Naturally, it started to pour and carried on until just before we left the grounds, suddenly revealing a deep blue sky speckled with fluffy clouds.
Probably my favorite building of this castle was the Scottish National War Memorial, which honors all of the fallen soldiers of Scottish regiments from WWI, WWII and recent conflicts. The building itself looked the most medieval castle-like on the outside, and the memorial inside with books listing the names and ranks of the soldiers was a neat piece of history. A die-hard Merlin fan, I also enjoyed exploring the Great Hall (which was actually quite small) envisioning what the hall must have looked like lined with rows of knights genuflecting to the king. As the running joke between Erin and I is that I'm the royal prat, Arthur, I may or may not have stood at the front as close to the throne as I could get a pretended I was giving and order to my knights.
I have in my daily travel notes "Braveheart picking nose." I'm not totally sure how to seamlessly work that into the monologue, so here it is. In context, as we left the castle we saw a Braveheart look-alike presumably busking, except that instead of attracting onlookers, he was digging for gold.
That aside, we finally found some lunch at a veg-head place, which turned out to be quite delicious. I had chickpea, abergine and [something] koftas in a curry sauce with sweet potatoes and a fabulous raspberry loose leaf tea. More than ever, it sure made me want a teapot so I can always feel that sophisticated.
The nice people of Scotland prevailed again, this time in the form of our bus driver insuring that we got off at the right stop to explore the Royal Botanical Gardens as we were mildly lost. When we got to the gardens it had just stopped raining again, so the birds were singing and the already fresh air smelled deliciously of water. The blue skies did not hold and we ended up getting drenched in a downpour, hiding out in the woods to try to avoid the unavoidable soaking. As I have no rain coat or hat, I was already on track to get wet, so I decided to forego the umbrella, too, to simply enjoy the free shower, emboldened by the intoxicating freshness of the Scottish afternoon rain. We were supposedly looking for a maze, but we never found it, instead creating our own maze walking around in circles when we thought we were making progress. As I've said, none of us seems to have much of a sense of direction: put us all together and we're bound to go the wrong way the first couple of tries.
We rode on the top of the double decker bus, commandeering the very front seat so that we had a perfect towering view over all of the other tiny cars. The monotonous whirring of the engine all but put me to sleep and I'm convinced that I could simply lie down over two seats and be out before we even got to the next stop.
After a round of gin - the card game, not the drink - that seemed never to end with the 7 of us, we ventured back out for dinner, searching for a Thai place to satisfy everyone's interests. Though I love Thai food, I wanted to continue trying local fare, so when we passed a pub just down the street from our intended Thai restaurant, I decided to ditch the crew and eat there instead. Best decision I made all day! I had my own isolated seat in the corner of the bar, a futbol game on the TV right in front of me, and the food had to be the best of this trip so far. I'd never had "pie and mash" but that was the only thing on the menu with the only choices being what flavors of each to get. I chose "Moo" (a shephed's pie with English beef and real ale gravy) and "Mustard" (mash hand mixed with dijon mustard) with a side of chutney (three flavors: tomato, Victoria and onion.) Combined with a Belhaven ale, the meal was superb; I all but licked the plate. My last dish of the day was a lemon tartlette served with optional custard, which I emptied over my tart.
No luggage as of yet. We're leaving this hotel tomorrow morning so it seems I will have to wait to pick up my luggage at one of the airports, depending on where it still is. But, this time I'm traveling with people who do actually have luggage, which means they have clothes aplenty to lend! And by "they" I mean my aunt since I don't quite fit children's clothing anymore.
I may actually go to bed at a reasonable time around midnight for once. Typically when traveling in Europe its much closer to 3:00, not because of the time difference because I always adapt quickly, but because I love to stay up late when I don't have to work the next day. Tomorrow evening we will be on a ferry to the Shetlands, so it's highly unlikely I'll be able to post.
TTFN, ta ta for now.