Wednesday, October 5
Sadly, today is the day we head home. We’ve been gone almost 3 weeks. In some ways it feels like we have been away for twice as long, yet in other ways it seems like we just arrived in the UK a few days ago.
We’ve had a great holiday & made a lot of memories that will last us a lifetime. It may take me that long to sort through all of he photos we took. If we invite you over to see some “slides” of our trip you’d better bring your pajamas ’cause it might take a few hours to get through them all.
We took a commuter flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam. More photo ops! We’re tired but happy.
I’m not exactly certain of our route but I believe the photo below is of the eastern shoreline of Southern England in the Flamborough / Bridlington area as we were getting ready to fly across the English Channel. We hope that someday we can take a driving tour around the perimeter of the county. But this is the last time we’ll see the UK for a while.
One last thing before we “sign off”. Catherine & I both really enjoy watching the TV show “Rick Steves Europe” on PBS. On our last few trips we have purchased his guidebooks for the areas we have travelled to. These books are excellent! The information they provided added so much to what we got out of our trips. If you are planning a trip I recommend you take his guidebook along with you.
Looking forward to catching up with you soon!
Now it’s back to “auld claes & porridge” for us. This is an old Scots saying meaning old clothes & porridge – the holiday is over, now it’s time to go back to work & everyday life.
Tuesday, October 4
We got up early & walked up to the castle, hoping to beat the crowds. It turned out that a few thousand other people had the same idea 🙁
The original parts of the castle were built over 1300 years ago and through the centuries it has been renovated & expanded numerous times.
We joined a guided tour of the grounds. The guide was excellent & had so much historical information, facts & figures to share that it left our heads spinning.
The views of Edinburgh from the castle walls are spectacular.
We toured the great hall & saw the Crown Jewels of Scotland. Unfortunately no photographs were allowed in the main room.
After braving the crowds at the castle we got back on the Hop On/Hop Off bus & toured the “New Town” part of the city. This area is full of beautiful Georgian style buildings & has broad streets & numerous parks. It has a much different atmosphere compared to the Old Town part of the city where we were staying.
We even found some time to do some shopping in Jenners, a classy department store just a few steps away from the Sir Walter Scott monument.
It was a treat just to walk around inside the store.
On the way back to our hotel we stopped by the Writer’s Museum of Edinburgh for a visit but nobody was home. Maybe next time.
Monday, October 3
After we finished our tour of HMY Britannia we got back on the bus & headed to the Royal Mile & a general walk around the Grassmarket Square area. The architecture here is fantastic. The photo below is of Holyrood Palace at the “bottom” of the Royal Mile. This where the Queen stays when she’s in town – no reservations required for her!
The palace is built on the site of an abbey/monastery founded in 1128. By the time we arrived at the palace we were pretty overloaded with information so we passed on the tour.
The photo below is of a building just up the street from the palace. I love how the architect incorporated the clock tower inbetween the buildings. No matter which way I look in Edinburgh I see something interesting & want to take another photo. Thank goodness for digital cameras or I’d go broke developing 35mm film!
The photo below shows a promenade with sidewalk cafes created on the rooftops of the shops on the street below. This is on the way to our hotel in Grassmarket Square.
We had dinner at a small cafe called “The Elephant House” (see photo below). It’s just a small place on the George IV Bridge & it would be very easy to simply walk past it if you weren’t looking for it. The decor & the menu are very basic but it’s a neat place & the food is good. What helps to make this place special is that JK Rowlng wrote parts of her first Harry Potter novel here while stretching out her coffees. Ian Rankin also had his crime fiction hero “Inspector Rebus” have coffee & lunch here in at least two of his novels. It was neat to sit here having a pint & a jacket (baked) potato for dinner and thinking about these famous writers & their characters.
After dinner we headed back to our hotel to absorb all we had seen & learned on this day. Looking out our window, it was almost hard to believe that we were looking at Edinburgh Castle all lit up above us.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) we visit the castle!
Monday, October 3
We started our 2nd day in Edinburgh by purchasing a 2 day pass on the Hop On/Hop Off city tour bus system. We have found that this is a great way to get around a large city & see all the sites. Then we can return to the sites that interest us most & spend more time exploring.
Our first stop was HMY Britannia. This beautiful ship served Queen Elizabeth from 1953 to 1997. It is now retired from service & is permanently berthed in Edinburgh as a floating museum accessible to the general public. I cheated a bit with the photo below (copied from Google) because I couldn’t access this particular view of the ship during the tour. All of the rest of the photos in this post were taken by Catherine and I.
The public charitable trust that now owns & cares for Britannia has done an excellent job setting it up for tours. We spent about 2 hours touring the ship & enjoyed every minute of it.
An interesting fact that I learned right away is that the helm for steering the ship is actually below decks. The navigator on the bridge calls steering commands down to the helmsman through a communications tube. This is done because the bridge is so visible & exposed to attack. The same goes for other British naval ships. You learn something new everyday!
The photo above is the lounge facing the stern. Apparently the Queen & Prince Phillip were quite involved in the design & the decoration of the entire ship. They wanted it to be well done but not ostentatious.
The dining room & adjacent receiving lounge are beautiful. It’s neat to imagine all of the history that has occurred on board this ship & all of the dignitaries & world leaders who have met the Queen & dined here with her.
Even the engine room is immaculate. We could not get right down into the works but the viewing windows gave lots of opportunities to see pretty much everything. Britannia traveled over 1 million nautical miles in her service to the Queen & the royal family. The ship also traveled to Canada at least 6 times.
After we finished our tour we went up to the tea room on the top deck & had a tea & a latte. Perhaps we were siting in a location where the Queen & the Prince had their tea occasionally.
My latte looked so nice that I didn’t want to drink it – but I eventually did.
If you ever get to Edinburgh, make sure that touring HMY Britannia is on your list of things to do.
Sunday, October 2
After visiting the Falkirk Wheel we continued on to Edinburgh. The first thing we needed to do was to return our rental car to get the Enterprise Car Rental location at the city’s central train station. This meant driving the car right into the middle of the city. We chose this particular drop off point because it is only a few minutes’ walk from our hotel.
Thankfully the GPS got us there without much stress. I figured that we drove about 1,200 kilometres since we picked up the car in Liverpool 8 days earlier. Back home we would not think too much about driving that distance in only a day or two but it was quite a challenge to do this on the “wrong” side of the road, with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side of the car & on many roads that are much narrower than what we are used to. I really enjoyed most of the driving parts of our holiday & would not hesitate to do it again.
When we finally got to our hotel we were pleasantly surprised at the location & at the view from our room! I took the photo below from our hotel room window!
After we got settled in we went out to get something to eat & explore the neighbourhood. Our hotel is in the Grassmarket area in a part of the city often referred to as “Old Town”.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city. Every time we turned a corner there was another stunning view. I was taking so many photos that I drained two camera batteries.
We walked down the Royal Mile, the main street that starts at Edinburgh Castle & ends at Hollyrood Palace, the Queen’s residence when she is in the city.
At approximately 1/3 the distance down the Royal Mile is St. Gile’s Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh. For the Church of Scotland (i.e. the Presbyterian Church) this particular church is the equivalent to “Westminster Abbey”.
St. Gile’s was founded in the 12th century. The present church dates from the 14th century & was extensively renovated in the 19th century.
The church is beautiful inside & out. There are several massive stained glass windows & the ceilings are intricately decorated & painted.
As it turned out, our timing in visiting the church was great as there was an organ recital being given early that evening. It was really neat to hear the organ played to its full potential.
Catherine & I had an early dinner & returned to the church for a wonderful recital that lasted about an hour. Visiting St. Gile’s was very special to Catherine & me as we felt that Dad was there with us too.