Over the next week I will be publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which took place this past week, June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.
Wendy and I left Iowa on a gorgeous, cool, early summer afternoon. We flew United out of Des Moines to Chicago O’Hare at 2:20 p.m. Had a 2.5 hour layover in Chicago before boarding a United 757-200 for our 6:00 p.m. flight to Edinburgh. We were in the next to last row of seats but thanks to a snafu there was no third traveler in our row so we were able to spread out a bit!
We both watched movies on the way over. Wendy watched “Still Alice” and I watched “Fury.” We tried to get some sleep but were largely unsuccessful. The result was that we landed in Edinburgh and our bodies were experiencing 12:30 a.m. ready for sleep but it was 7:30 a.m. in Edinburgh and we had a full day ahead. Hoo-boy! Here we go.
It was rainy, very windy and chilly when we arrived. The airline pilot in his final comments at descent said, “If you are golfing today I hope your tee time is in the late afternoon. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very windy round!”
Wendy and I collected our luggage and took turns cleaning up a bit in the airport loo. Per the excellent, detailed instructions Taylor sent us, we grabbed a tram from the airport to St. Andrews Square. Taylor texted that she might not beat us there and to hang out in the square to wait for her. It was very windy and chilly so we took up standing behind the square’s small cafe building for a wind break. It was only a couple of minutes before we spotted Taylor running towards us. Big hugs all around. It was so good to be hugging her.
We made a generous, up-hill hike towards our hotel. We stopped at the bus terminal to get a week “ride card” but there was a long line and the computers crashed, so we opted to stop later. We walked up castle hill against the wind pulling our suitcases. It was the best workout we’d had in a long time! Dropped our suitcases off at Apex City Hotel. The hotel is on Grassmarket, an old street at the base Edinburgh Castle known for being the site where people were executed. It’s not a gorgeous street lined with pubs and restaurants. Once our bags were dropped off for safekeeping we ventured out into Edinburgh for the first time.
We were both extremely impressed with Taylor’s knowledge of the city. She was an amazing guide and seemed to know every shortcut and back alley in the city. She said that most of her friends from Edinburgh laugh at her as she knows the city better than they do. Later in the week Wendy, Taylor and I were musing about the way we travel. I tend to be given to simple exploration rather than lots of detailed preparation. Taylor said that was how she learned the city. For weeks she simply walked, and walked, and walked everywhere and explored every nook and cranny. She obviously found a lot of cool things.
Our first unexpected stop was Armstrong’s, a vintage clothing store just down the street from our Hotel. It was like a crazy, huge costume shop filled with all sorts of historic and vintage clothing from different periods. We were stunned by all that they had and had a lot of fun exploring the shop.
Our next stop was a hike through Greyfriar’s graveyard. Taylor at first was going to walk past it, and then remembered that a couple of the graves in Greyfriar’s were how J.K. Rowling named a few characters in the Harry Potter books. We went looking for them and didn’t find them, but we enjoyed walking through the graveyard. It was so interesting to look at the different gravestones. At the top of the hill outside Greyfriar’s is a statue of a small dog known as Greyfriar’s Bobby. The story goes that the dog guarded the grave of his master for 14 years until his death and the locals would feed and care for him. His statue is a popular tourist attraction now.
We walked some more and Taylor led us to Dovecot Studios which is an old bathhouse now home to one of the world’s foremost tapestry studios. Master weavers at Dovecot team with the world’s leading contemporary artists to design and make some really amazing tapestries. We started by going through the gallery and then took a break for a cup of coffee in the coffee shop. By the time we were done the observation gallery was open and we were able to walk around on a balcony that surrounds the weavers’ studio and watch them work. It was fascinating. I’ve never really considered weaving tapestries as an art medium. Shame on me. I could have sat and watched them all day.
The sun was making intermittent appearances as we made our way to the Royal Mile. I needed to exchange some currency so the Bank of Scotland referred me to an exchange on the Mile. We found it and then decided it was time for lunch. Taylor led us to a pub just off the mile called Arcade Bar, Haggis, and Whiskey House. It was a lovely little pub. Taylor and Wendy had fish n’ chips. I opted for lighter fare and had a cup of cream of garlic soup. I was SO excited to find they had Amstel Light on tap. Amstel is one of my favorite beers and you can’t find it on tap anywhere in the U.S.
Wendy and I were starting to fade and needed a little break, so we headed back to the hotel to check-in. It is a nice boutique hotel and our room was very comfortable. Wendy found the French Open tennis tournament on the telly and the three of us curled up on the king sized bed for a cat nap. Taylor introduced us to an Irish comedian on YouTube which we really enjoyed.
It was enough of a rest to give us a second wind. We headed back out to visit the Camera Obscura museum which was more fun that I thought it would be. At the top of the museum is an antique camera obscura. Mirrors and lenses mounted on top of the tower project an image of the city onto a concave table many feet below. The operator can rotate the mirror/lenses which rotates the image on the table and you get a 360 degree view of Edinburgh. Each floor from the street to the tower is filled with different optical illusions, camera tricks, and hands-on exhibits which were a blast to experience.
It was late afternoon and both Wendy and I were feeling a bit zombie-like. We stopped at the White Hart pub across from our hotel and enjoyed a pint while we sat at the bar together. It was so good just to be with Taylor and to have conversation with her. We nursed our pints as we talked. It was 7:30 p.m. and Wendy and I had essentially been up and going without sleep for about 30 hours. We hugged Taylor good-night, staggered into our hotel room, and slept for 12+ hours.