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Friday, July 21, 2017

Sorry, Nessie, but Britannia Rules

Britannia rules the waves

Next time, Nessie.

The original plan had been to make a day trip to Loch Ness. But after a week on the road, the idea of a four-hour-plus drive from Edinburgh to look at a long, narrow (albeit scenic) body of water didn't hold the same allure as it had when we were planning our British journey. The steady rainfall that Tuesday morning also made the idea of spending several hours in a car seem like an unpleasant proposition. So instead we let our daughter make the decision as to what to do for the day in Scotland's capital. Her first choice was to visit Edinburgh Zoo, which was less than a twenty-minute drive from our hotel. After parking the car and picking up our tickets, the girls prepared themselves for the Scottish summer:

Edinburgh Zoo opened in 1913, and according to Lonely Planet "is one of the world's leading conservation zoos", pointing to its captive breeding program for such endangered species as pygmy hippos, red pandas and Siberian tigers. What impressed Amber, however, was the chance to see penguins and monkeys:

My daughter discovers Irn-Bru (pronounced "Iron Blue"), Scotland's other national drink:

A red panda:

Speaking of pandas, two of the other kind (the giant panda) are the main attractions at Edinburgh Zoo. Entry tickets include a time to see Tian Tian and/or Yang Guang, who have lived at the zoo since 2011. When we showed up at the appointed hour, however, neither one could be seen. The staff allowed us to return periodically, and eventually Yang Guang made an appearance...sort of. Bloody overgrown raccoons:

The highlight of our visit for Amber was the 2:15pm penguin parade:

From Edinburgh Zoo, it was another twenty-minute drive to Leith, Edinburgh's seaport and home to the Royal Yacht Britannia, our daughter's other choice of something to do in lieu of Loch Ness. The Britannia was the former yacht of the royal family, from its launch in 1953 to its decommissioning in 1997. The admission price includes an audio guide (Shu-E made use of the Mandarin one) that provides a comprehensive description of the ship and the onboard lives of the family that made it (one of their several) homes:

The captain takes the helm:

The queen's Rolls-Royce:

For tea time, I had to make do with a cuppa. My wife, not being the designated driver, could enjoy something a bit stronger:

"Time, gentlemen!" The stuffed corgi is part of an activity for the kids - if they can count the correct number of corgis (the Queen's favorite breed) hiding on the Britannia, they'll receive a small prize. Amber found them all and was given a badge at the end of the tour:

The racing yacht Bloodhound, which was owned by the Queen in the 1930's:

Our daughter was satisfied with the day's destinations as we drove back to the hotel, then had dinner at Mamma Roma Restaurant. No longer behind the wheel, I could finally relax with a bottle of fine Italian beer:

As for not seeing Loch Ness, we now have a very good reason to return to Scotland and give the Highlands the time they deserve. I would even drive 500 miles to get there...:

...and Irn-Blu will get us through:

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