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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hoots Mon!

What you would expect to see on a Scottish street

Scotland - one of the ancestral homelands. Apparently, a branch of my mother's family can be traced back to the Orkney Islands, an archipelago off the northern tip of the country. We didn't make it that far on our U.K. trip (though I'd like to someday), but we did spend four nights in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. It was late on a Sunday afternoon when we pulled up to the Broughton Hotel, a friendly place with the added bonus of free parking:


After dinner, the girls settled into our room to relax but I was in Scotland! At the hotel proprietor's suggestion, I walked up Carlton Hill to take in the view of Edinburgh from a point 100 meters above sea level:





Arthur's Seat:


The National Monument of Scotland, dedicated to Scottish soldiers and sailors killed in the Napoleonic Wars and looking very much like an ancient Greek temple:


The view from our room on a Monday morning:


This window display was unfortunately the closest I would come to Scotland's national dish. But vegetarian haggis?


We began our exploration of the city in Old Town (as we seem to do in most European cities we visit), walking along the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, sitting atop Castle Rock. We entered by the aptly-named Entrance Gateway, flanked by statues of William Wallace on the right and Robert the Bruce on the left:




Taking in the view and understanding why the rocky hilltop made for an ideal spot for a fortress:


Amber poses with the One O'Clock Gun in the background, which (you guessed it) fires a time signal at exactly 1 pm every day except Sunday (and Christmas and Good Friday). We would be having lunch in the castle restaurant at the time the gun was fired that day- the insulation must've been very good because all we heard was a low thump, and not the ear-splitting sound you can hear in the YouTube video:





The interior of St. Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh:


My daughter in front of another projectile-firing weapon, the 15th-century siege gun Mons Meg:



The Scottish National War Memorial and the Royal Palace:



The Great Hall, built for James IV as a ceremonial hall and used as a meeting place for the Scottish parliament until 1639:


Amber was entertained by this guide's presentation on the Jacobite rising of 1745 and the history of the kilt; Shu-E found his Scottish brogue impenetrable (she would also later struggle with the accents in Yorkshire):


A break for lunch:


The One O'Clock Gun, taken shortly after it was fired:


In the Castle Vaults, located beneath the aforementioned Great Hall. They now serve as a museum on 18th- and early-19th-century prisons. Graffiti left by American prisoners of war include one of the earliest renditions of the Stars and Stripes:






We next visited the Royal Palace, home to the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels and the oldest surviving crown jewels in Europe. Also on display is the Stone of Destiny, which I'd previously seen on visits to Westminster Abbey in London in 1974 and 1996; it was installed in Edinburgh Castle on St. Andrew's Day in 1996. Photography is forbidden inside; images copped from Google will have to do:



Photography is permitted inside the Royal Apartments:


The Scottish unicorn and the English lion, symbolizing the union of the two kingdoms:


Showing off a Scottish bank note. We made sure to spend all of ours while in Scotland as some shops in England are known to refuse to accept the printed-in-Scotland pounds:



After spending most of the day in Edinburgh Castle, we exited the fortress and entered the Scotch Whisky Experience, an entertaining and family-friendly multimedia presentation on the making of Scotch whisky, and including the world's largest collection of malt whiskies. Taste-testing for the adults, of course (the kids get fruit juice) - it turns out my preference is for the Highland variety:





While my wife took a break (too much blended Scotch, perhaps?), I took Amber across the street to see the Camera Obscura. The camera obscura is a 19th-century invention that uses lenses and mirrors to present a live image onto a large concave surface. Kids love it (mine included) as they can pretend to be picking up the pedestrians on the Royal Mile outside:


Amber also had a lot of fun with the World of Illusions...:



...while Dad took advantage of the photo ops provided by the Outlook Tower, including the Scotch Whisky Experience building, the Royal Mile and Heriot's School:





The exterior of the camera obscura:


Returning to the world of reality and reuniting with mother, the three of us showed up at our appointed time to take the tour of the Real Mary King's Close. The lower levels of a medieval Old Town alley are now the locale of one of the most entertaining guided tours I've ever experienced, as we were taken through a town house from the 16th century and into the room of a 17th-century gravedigger, struck down (along with his family) by the plague. The 17th-century tenement room has its own ghost, a little girl named Annie who was abandoned in a walled-off room after she, too, was stricken with plague. Visitors can leave dolls and teddy bears for the poor child:


Photography isn't allowed on the tour, but we did come away with a souvenir family photo:



Emerging from the fear and filth of 17th-century Edinburgh back into the modern city, we popped into St. Giles Cathedral, which dates from the 15th century, to have a quick look before the High Kirk of Edinburgh closed for the day:



Outside the western door of the cathedral is the Heart of Midlothian, site of the Tolbooth, a former municipal building that was erected in the 15th century, only to be demolished some four hundred years later. You're supposed to spit on the heart for luck, but I couldn't convince the girls to give it a try:


On the opposite end of St. Giles is the Mercat Cross, where merchants and traders once met to conduct business transactions and royal proclamations were read aloud. It's a 19th-century copy of the 1365 original:


Dinner Monday evening was at an Indian restaurant, with my meal washed down with Scottish beer:


We ended our busy day by walking to the opposite end of the Royal Mile, where the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the royal family's official residence in Scotland) and the modern-day Scottish Parliament Building (pictured below) are located. We'd done and seen a lot on this Monday, and yet we only scratched the proverbial surface of what Edinburgh has to offer. There's a consulate in the Scottish capital, something to keep in mind as bidding season approaches. Och aye!:


As if there could be any other musical selection with which to end this post:



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