This week I am 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.
Day 3 (June 3, 2015)
We were on our own as Taylor was working at Steampunk Coffee in North Berwick where she’s been employed for most of the year. It was probably a good thing as Wendy and I were still quite tired from our travels and slow to get moving.
I was up before Wendy and went to the hotel cafe downstairs in a search for coffee. Unlike the U.S. where coffee is considered a God-given right and every hotel has fresh coffee in the lobby for free, I’ve found that in the UK they make it really hard to get just a cup of coffee in the morning. You have to go to the cafe and be seated where they will be happy to provide coffee as part of the expensive continental breakfast or bundled with your ordered meal, but just a cup of coffee is something they don’t really do.
I journaled and checked my e-mail before returning to the room expecting that Wendy would be up and showered and ready for the day. Instead, I found her still asleep and struggling to wake up. I helped her get out of bed and into the shower and then went for a stroll while she readied herself for the day.
I walked up Victoria Street and then over to the Royal Mile. I did a little window shopping as I walked a good long ways down the mile before turning to make my way back up the other side of the street. The Royal Mile is packed with tourist shops, restaurants, whiskey shops, kilt makers, and pretty much any other kind of vendor catering to the whims of the large tourist trade. I found everything to be pretty expensive compared to the States, especially considering the exchange rate which meant that one pound cost us about $1.60 on average.
I returned to the hotel and found Wendy close to being ready. Once she was we headed out and made our way back to the Royal Mile, stopping at a small French patisserie, La Barantine, on Victoria Street to get Wendy a delicious chocolate pastry. It would prove to be a regular morning stop during our entire stay. We headed to the transit station to get our bus “ride cards” and then did some of our touristy shopping for postcards and such. I’ve been doing a little reading on my Scotch-Irish genes from my mother’s maternal great-grandfather who was a McCoy. It appears from my research that McCoy is a sept of the McKay clan and so I bought myself a McKay tartan scarf.
We toured St. Giles cathedral and I paid the 2 pounds for the right to take pictures inside. The stained glass windows were amazing as was the ornate decorative architecture. Wendy and I spent a good long time walking around and looking at everything.
We made our way up the Royal mile to Edinburgh Castle which sits on a tall hill with an expansive view of the city and the area. We opted not to spend the money to take the tour but looked around the entrance area and looked out at the scenery around.
It was getting to be mid-afternoon at this point and we were getting a little hungry. We made our way back to Grassmarket where our hotel is located and had lunch at the White Hart Inn Pub across the street where we’d had a pint with Taylor the night before. It was traditional pub fare but the food was good and they had the French Open playing on the telly. Novak Djokovich was taking it to Rafael Nadal while Andy Murray was making pretty quick work of David Ferrer.
After the leisurely lunch we walked a good hike to a Tesco grocery and got a few things to enjoy in our room. We returned to our room, stopping on the way inside an interesting little hat shop, Fabhatrix. We tried on a lot of hats and there several that looked adorable on Wendy, but we were just looking. Once back in the room we relaxed with tennis on and waited to hear from Taylor. She texted us to meet her at Waverly station at 6:15 and so we made the 15 minute hike to the station to meet her.
The weather had been much more pleasant. The sun was out most of the day with a high around 60 degrees. Wendy and I decided that Edinburgh reminds us a lot of Chicago as the wind off the North Sea feels a lot like the wind off Lake Michigan. When the sun was out it felt warm and the breeze didn’t bother us so much, but if the sun ducked behind some clouds the wind suddenly felt very chilly. I was amazed at how it could rain in fits and starts all day, even when the sun was shining.
Taylor had made reservations for us at a new restaurant called Maker’s Rest but upon our arrival and a view of the menu Taylor wondered what happened to the pizza that looked so good on their website. She inquired to find out that they changed their menu and, as the rest of the menu didn’t strike our fancy, we opted out and headed to the bus stop. Taylor led us to her favorite pub in Edinburgh, the Queen’s Arms where we had planned to have an after dinner drink. We ate there instead and were glad we did.
The Queens Arms has a warm, hospitable atmosphere and feels like a place you’d find on Diagon Alley. Edinburgh, by the way, is where J.K. Rowling lived and wrote Harry Potter, so the city is full of Harry Potter references wherever you go. The atmosphere she creates in the books in places like Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and Hogsmead feel very reminiscent of Edinburgh.
The food was upscale pub fare. Wendy and I enjoyed some really good bread with dipping sauces (oil/vinegar, hummus, and salsa verde) which was very good. We split a delicious burger with Scottish cheddar. Taylor had some very interesting lamb bites on a bed of greens and hummus. I enjoyed a wee glass of Caol Ila 12 year single malt Scotch which was really potent, but extremely good. As with the day before we enjoyed conversation with Taylor. For me, the highlight of the week was simply to be with Taylor and to catch up on her year in Scotland. Her path has had some major twists, turns, inclines and valleys over the past couple of years and it was good just to hear her talk about the condition of her heart and how God has been growing her up. As the conversation flowed, dinner gave way to an after dinner bottle of wine and we found ourselves embraced in the Queen’s Arms a good long while that evening.
“It was really fun to have the ‘rents in the ‘burgh this past week. If you are lucky enough to know them personally, then you know that one thing they do very well is dinner. It is never a quick thing. It is an event. This is something I have especially missed about them: the way they engage in sitting around the table, filling stomachs and emptying wine glasses, laughing and sharing good conversation for hours late into the night. I was definitely thankful to partake in a lot of that while they were visiting.” – Taylor (from her blog Love, Taylor)
It was 10:30 when we finally left but the last light of day had not yet expired. The sun is up about 17.25 hours of the day at this time of year in Edinburgh which is a little hard to get used to. We walked back to the Hanover bus stop, said good night with a warm embrace and caught our respective buses. Wendy and I made it back to the hotel contentedly tired and ready for bed.