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Day 4 – Edinburgh in the Rain

This morning started off with another fine Scottish breakfast.  We got to sleep in an extra 30 minutes and didn’t have to be to breakfast until 7:30 am.  After breakfast, we headed to the bus and we were off to Edinburgh for a city tour on the bus.  Our Edinburgh guide, Jenny, directed our driver around the city as she gave us the history of the various sites.  Key sites included Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse (Pronounced holly-rude-house, meaning Holy Cross) Palace, and the Royal Mile, which is the stretch of street between the two.

Edinburgh Castle is the site of the famous Scottish Military Tattoo, although it only happens in the summer and fall.  It’s quite an amazing fortress, built on the top of volcanic rock.  We were able to go all through it and see the Scottish Crown Jewels, old prisons, a 15th century chapel, and what should have been an amazing view of the city.  The weather decided not to cooperate today.  There was dense fog that limited our visibility to about a hundred yards.  There was a slight mist coming down as we walked toured the inner areas of the castle.  About the time we wrapped up there, the fog began to lift…and the rain began to fall.

As the rain fell, we walked down the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle toward the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which serves as the official residence of the of the King or Queen in Scotland.  Currently, that is Queen Elizabeth but there are discussions about Scotland trying to become its own nation.  Historically, when Scotland had a King, they would crown the King at Edinburgh Castle and then celebrate in a procession to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  Trust me, the confusion of how Scotland falls into the United Kingdom is quite confusing.

Along the Royal Mile are all kinds of historic buildings.  Most of them have been converted into apartments, pubs, and shops.  We used this opportunity to shop for souvenirs.  It was kind of strange because a lot of the shops are owned and run by Indian and Asian people.  I guess in my mind I always pictured that EVERYONE in Scotland would be the stereotypical Scottish person.  A lot of the stores carried the same stuff so it was all about trying to find the best deal.  It was also difficult getting used to the exchange rate.  Scotland uses pounds for their money and one pound was roughly the equivalent of $1.75.  That meant that when you saw something for $15 and though it sounded reasonable, it was actually more like $27.  Lots of things were put back on the shelf after doing the math.

We stopped and ate lunch at a pub along the Royal Mile.  Mom had Fish and Chips and I had Bangers and Mash (Sausage and mashed potatoes).  The food was good and the atmosphere was nice but the service was pretty slow.  There was also some obnoxious beeping that happened randomly that was driving me crazy.  It sounded like buttons on a watch but I couldn’t see anyone messing with their watch and it went on for like 10 minutes.  It reminded me of when you hear a smoke detector chirp and you’re trying to figure out which one it is.  For those who watch Modern Family, you’ll probably laugh at the mental image of Phil trying to track down the smoke detector that comes to mind anytime I’m reminded of that.  Once we paid our bill, we went back to shopping.

Dad had given Mom money as a gift to buy herself a nice ladies kilt because the one she bought at the Renaissance Fair didn’t fit right and she had returned it and she has wanted one really bad.  We spent a while going into and out of the off-the-rack shops trying to find the purple tartan she wanted in the size and length she wanted.  None of them had it so we ended up in a few shops of kiltmakers comparing quality and cost.  Mom finally decided which one she wanted and went through the process of being measured for her custom kilt!  It’ll take about a month to make and then they’ll ship it to her house.  She’s very excited to get her kilt and I’m sure she’ll be wearing it everywhere she goes!

We had to meet our tour bus at 5:30 pm for the last ride back to the hotel.  We walked in the pouring rain down toward where we were to meet the bus.  We were about 2/3 of the way down the Royal Mile at 4:20 so we decided we’d wrap up shopping and head there so we’d get there in plenty of time.  After walking all the way down to the Palace at Holyroodhouse, we realized that the meeting place was actually about 1/3 of the way back up the Royal Mile on a street that runs parallel.  We didn’t think to check that detail on a map until we got all the way down.  We still had over 30 minutes to walk up there so we did.  There was road construction and we took a wrong turn since half their streets don’t have signs.  We started running out of time.  Since Mom needs to walk at a pace she’s comfortable with, she told me to run ahead to the bus and have them wait so we wouldn’t miss it.  I turned the corner toward the bus about 2 minutes after the scheduled departure time.  The bus was still there…but it was pulling out! I got in front of it and when the driver saw me, he pulled over.   I told him I had to run back to walk with Mom and we’d be right back.  She wasn’t very far behind, so we got on the bus about 4 minutes late and we were off to the hotel.  Pheww!

We got back and we were cold and wet.  Mom took a shower while I went to the indoor heated pool.  When I first got there, I saw they had a sauna and steam room so I went straight there to warm up.  After I came out, I relaxed on the deck chair to type this post.  Mom is probably in the room muttering about not having Fox News on the TV!  I’m going to take a swim, grab some dinner, and head back for bed.  More to come tomorrow when we travel to Belfast, Ireland by way of a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride.

Photos from today are at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/94310362@N03/sets/72157644439671621/