Zaterdag, 20 januari 2018
Op bezoek bij uncle Jim en aunt Laree
Emma wilde wel graag weer een tripje doen, Mariecke is altijd wat
moeilijk, maar we hebben haar toch zo ver gekregen. Maar waarheen deze
Het beste is het dan om even op de website van het vliegveld in Nantes
te kijken naar wat de vluchtmogelijkheden zijn, en laat Edinburgh nou
mooi een bestemming zijn. Maar twee keer per week rechtstreeks, maar
da's prima. De volgende stap is kijken wat er allemaal te zien en doen
is om te bepalen hoe lang ze het beste kunnen blijven. Er is dus
behoorlijk veel te zien en doen, maar de stad is kleinschalig en dat
betekent dat het ook allemaal makkelijk lopend is te doen.
Ook de transfer van en naar het vliegveld is prima. Tja en dan de
accommodatie. In eerste instantie hadden we een Travelodge bij het
station op het oog. Maar dan zit je toch maar op een simpele kamer,
reviews waren wisselend (geluidsoverlast en dat is voor Emma een "no no")
en toen ben ik eens gaan kijken naar ietsje verder weg van het centrum.
Ik vond een mooie B&B precies tegenover de dierentuin, bushalte voor de
deur en niet ver van zowel vliegveld als centrum. Samen met de meisjes
gekeken en toen hebben Mariecke en ik de boel gereserveerd:
- ze vliegen met Ryanair, koffers ťn
handbagage, een gereserveerde stoel en priority boarding, het hoeft niet
op het goedkoopste om het ietsje prettiger te hebben vinden wij.
- een week in
een mooie ruime kamer aan de rustige achterkant van het huis, incl.
Ik heb natuurlijk Jim geschreven en ze
zullen elkaar vast eens gaan ontmoeten. Ik ken Jim langer dan dat ik
mijn kinderen ken, maar zij hebben elkaar nog nooit ontmoet, grappig!
Ook zullen ze minstens een georganiseerde tour gaan doen naar de
Highlands, en misschien nog wel een tweede tour. We hebben nog even tijd
om dingen uit te zoeken, ze gaan 11 juni.
Door al het uitzoekwerk heb ik wel zin om er zelf ook eens heen te
When we arrived
last night, the weather was nice: blue skies and nice temperatures (for
Mariecke). This morning, not so much. It was cloudy, which is always a
pain in the ass for taking pictures, and we even had some raindrops,
albeit small ones.
We started at
Princess Street, where we werenít too sure in what street we could get
on a #6 bus. We did eventually find it, only to end up on a bus where
stops arenít announced and no real idea where to get off. We ended up a
street and a half too far but whatever, we eventually found the Royal
Down the Royal
Mile we went, in the general direction of Holyrood Palace but turning
toward Dynamic Earth just before. The Dynamic Earth building looks nice
but it is utterly dwarfed by the daunting ďhillsĒ behind it. One of
which we were supposed to climb; the operative word being ďsupposed toĒ.
Holyrood Palace was on the planning first, where everyone was so
engrossed in their free audio-tour that they werenít too spaced out to
be annoyed at all the no-picture-signs. Well, I wasnít listening to the
free audio guide and I was annoyed. Also, there were too many people.
Like, really crowded.
I have decided
though that the ruins of an old abbey are going to be a feature in my
future garden. They looked very nice, despite the obvious, you know,
decaying state they were in.
From there, the
idea was to head to the Regent Gardens, which we eventually skipped
altogether, but on our way there, we detoured through a cemetery, the
name of which Google refuses to tell me. But those people had a great
view. We walked past the Burns Monument, which had a locked gate (so
much for visiting monuments, eh), and found the entrance to Calton Hill.
It was quite a
climb up Calton Hill, and once we got to the top, Mariecke had the smart
idea to just walk around and eventually settle on a bench. I, on the
other hand, thought it would be fun to climb the Nelson Monument and
arrive, utterly breathless at the top. But it was worth it. I could see
pretty much all of Edinburgh; Princess Street, the spire of St. Giles,
the different ďhillsĒ of Holyrood Park, including Arthurís Seat that we
will not be climbing (letís face it, itís not a hill, itís a mountain. I
also suspect they turned it into a park because there wasnít anything
else they could do with it.), the sea on several sides. Too bad for the
clouds. And when I joined Mariecke on her bench we (and everyone else
there) watched as they shot Jurassic World 3 on a student budget. It was
By the time we
left there and started making our way to the Scottish National Portrait
Gallery, the sky was slowly clearing. We got sidetracked into a tea and
coffee shop where the first thing to catch my attention was a key lime
hot chocolate canister. Wish we could have tasted that. The Gallery,
compared to the one in London, was a bit of a letdown in regards to the
paintings but we sat for a while as Mariecke drew.
By the time we
left, the sky was practically blue and the sun was shining. Mariecke
didnít want to do our walk all over again just for my pictures. Though
my feet were killing me too at that point.
mean I didnít spend the next hour walking around Waterstones. I picked
up a stack of books and put some back and got some more. I ended up
buying a stack of five, none of which were in the original stack. Not
once, but twice did people approach me thinking I was a member of the
staff, asking me about a book or something. That was weird! But fun. Iíd
work in a bookshop, especially if there are employee discounts. Then,
finally ready to go, Mariecke announces she couldnít find the sciences
books. Those were in the basement she didnít even know existed, so we
went there and got sidetracked for another fifteen minutes or so. But I
did get Mariecke a Christmas present and Mariecke got me one.
We got a gift for
Mom and Jacky earlier already, so we only need to find something for Dad
and Grandpa. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the weather will be better earlier
By the way,
Edinburgh is not flat. AT ALL! I totally thought it would be because on
the map there are no hills. But like, I knew Edinburgh castle was on a
hill, which it is, and Arthurís Seat was a hill, though it turns out to
be a very big hill. But the rest of the city consists of big hills too:
like, what the hell? The map lied to us. I was seriously surprised!
The sun and the
time difference still have me confused. The sun rises too early, and
when you hear people moving about you obviously think itís time for
breakfast. Turns out, it wasnít. I got Mariecke out of bed and ready to
go to breakfast at just after seven before she pointed out what time it
When we were out
the front door, we made a slight change to the planning, skipping the
first part of our walk because we wanted to beat the lines at Edinburgh
Castle and because we had seen the huge hill it was on. We still had to
climb the hill but in a more direct route, and we didnít beat the lines
but we got there before opening so everyone was still waiting outside.
You have an
amazing view from the Castle over the city, which I think is sort of the
main attraction. There were quite a few follow-the-flag groups of kids,
Asian people, and Spanish people, but Mariecke and I moved around
quickly enough that we always stayed one step ahead of them. Yay!
We got Granddad a
card, a magnet for on the fridge and I got a travel cup from Edinburgh
before we dove into some big, multi-level big tourist shop where they
had a lot of plaid scarves (or can you can them tartans, even if they
are scarves?) The wool ones werenít nearly as soft as the cashmere ones
but those were way out of my budget. So, we left again empty-handed. The
Harry Potter merch is also available in a lot of places. Wands and
scarves and mugs and more. Too bad (or fortunately) I missed that Fandom
From the Castle,
we went down Lawnmarket/Royal Mile a bit, which is a nice street. Old
buildings, tourist shops, and no cars allowed. Eventually down South
Bridge and North Bridge, which was a mess with work but where we did go
into a few shops, just to have a look. Past the National Museum of
Scotland, and to Marieckeís art shop. It was a tiny place and,
considering she only got one sketchbook, quite expensive too.
We had our Subway
lunch with a Starbucks coffee and a view of the University of Edinburgh.
More walking, more walking, entering a few shops and leaving again, we
eventually ended up at Blackwells. Thatís a bookstore for those who
donít know. As soon as we walked, Mariecke went for the table of Buy One
Get One Free. She ended up with Danteís Inferno, Paradise Lost and
Purgatory (weird choice, I know). Meanwhile, I had gone downstairs
(Young Adult, cafe, and the toilets). I may or may not have gotten too
many books but there was a 3 For 2 promotion and you canít just get one
book then. So yes, three books with a special promotion and three more
just because. No more buying books from now on. Except for a
Scottish-English dictionary, if I can find one. Mariecke will allow me
(like I need her permission) to buy the Martian (that movie with Matt
Damon as botanist stuck on Mars) if I find it in the edition I want.
Because the feet
were tired and because there were two very comfy couches, we stayed
there for another half hour or so to read. Unfortunately, that now means
I want the Fantastic Beasts book. Oh wellÖ Once the feet had recovered a
bit, we went to the National Gallery of Scotland, which we had planned
to do early but that would have involved going down the hill we had
climbed to go to the Castle, and then climbing it again to go back to
We have this
thing where we walk around for a bit and then claim a bench while
Mariecke draws and I go take pictures. So, Mariecke tried to draw The
Honorable Mrs. Graham. From a distance. Without her glasses. I took a
few pictures of her for detail but it is safe to say that the
resemblance isnít what it could have been. By the time we were done in
the museum, it was late enough to go back to the B&B and not feel like
we had wasted the afternoon away. Weíre allowed to head back at five,
Tour Day today.
Getting up extra early. In fact, I was wide awake at 03: something
because the sun rises at 4:25 and itís light way before that. So, I lay
awake cursing the useless curtains in the room until 05:00 and then
managed to get another ten minutes here and ten minutes there. But yes,
sleeping here is a complete failure so far.
When it was
finally seven, I could get up and had to hurry Mariecke along. We made
it to the meeting point so early that we nearly got on a Loch Ness Tour
instead. Ha. So, we had a little extra time to stand in the wind.
Apparently, hurricane Herbert (or something like that with an H) was
We didnít get
picked up by a Ness Bus like we thought, but instead by a Hairy Cou bus.
The bus driver was nice and started us off with a few puns (Mountains
are not only funny but also HILLarious) as he drove us out of Edinburgh
and toward the Kelpies at Falkirk. In Scottish mythology, kelpies are
water horses that, when you touch and ride them, you canít let go and
they will carry you into the sea. The Kelpies (the sculptures) are two
giant horseheads, 30 meters tall and out of metal (not stone like
Mariecke suspected). They were built to commemorate the effort of the
horses during the construction of the canal.
As we were
walking around, the wind was nearly blowing us away (even birds were
going backward instead of the usual forward). At one point, I stumbled
back and bumped into the fence behind me. Had the fence not been there,
Emma, her bag, and her camera would have gone for a swim.
From the Kelpies
onto to Stirling Castle, the gateway to the highlands. Lots of history
about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce (different from the movie,
which is relatively historically inaccurate), most of which I had
already learned in my Scottish class at UVic and could not really be
bothered to remember.
It was very
windy, especially on top of a hill, with a view all around. From the
river where Wallace defeated the English, to the Wallace Monument and
the Kingís Knot (supposedly where King Arthur had his Round Table). Very
busy with groups of children and teenagers on school trips, which
Mariecke and I cleverly avoided by going where they just came from.
However, like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle looked more like a
fortified manor than your stereotypical castle.
After the castle,
back on the bus, following the road that basically divides the Lowlands
and Highlands. Then suddenly Marty, the bus driver, took a ride and we
were driving over a winding country road. He tried to drive on the left
but we were still in the middle of the road. Obviously, it hadnít been
made with buses in mind. We stopped at Lake Menteith for a quite photo
opp and history lesson.
Lake Menteith is
one of the only two lakes in Scotland (everything else being a loch).
William Wallace was betrayed and sold to the English by Lord Menteith.
The Menteith family grew up in the area and, because they basically
betrayed Scotland, the loch was renamed a lake to shame the family for
all eternity. The Scots sure know how to hold a grudge.
From there we
went to Aberfoyle for lunch. There was a delicacies-and-pie
shop/butcherís, where be got a homemade sausage roll and chicken and ham
pie that tasted more Indian than like chicken and ham. We walked around
for a bit, got to see some sheep and mailed Granddadís postcard (letís
see if the Scottish mail is faster than the Spanish mail).
Once everyone was
back on the bus, Marty took us to Go Ape (pretty sure itís just the name
of the park/forest) and personally guided us to a waterfall. Now, all
waterfalls are spectacular if they have enough water in them, but this
one, plus the forest setting, looked exactly like the one Kara and Norm
took me to at Gold Stream on Vancouver Island. So, if Mariecke wants,
she can cross British Columbia of her list and no one will ever know the
waterfall, we went over the Dukeís Pass, which looks very stereotypical
highlander, with the hills/mountains and heather and general wild
landscape on either side of the road. It was even a bit misty, which
made it all look like in the movies. This part of the Tour came with a
history lesson on Rob Roy MacGregor, which I had also already learned
about when I was at UVic. The movie with Liam Neeson is pretty accurate
so watch that if you need a history lesson.
At the other end
of the Dukeís Pass were Lake Achray and the best thing about the whole
tour. The hairy coo (pronounced /quu/). There was already another tour
bus there but Marty assured us he had a trick to get the cows to come to
us. Now, let me back up a bit and mention that Mariecke and I saw him in
the supermarket at Aberfoyle with about two kilos of carrots, which we
assumed were simply groceries for dinner. They werenít for dinner but
for lunch, just not his lunch. The cooís lunch. Three ladies with long
reddish brown hair and horns just slightly shorter than a Texas
Longhorns. They also had kind of short legs but they were adorable.
And loving the
We went to Loch
Katrine for a bit, where we could go for part of a walk around the lake,
which part of our group did. Mariecke and I didnít go all that far,
turning around to go and have some tea at the cafe. But it looked nice.
If weíd had more time, I would have dragged Mariecke along for a boat
trip on the lake.
Alas, as there
was more to do, we were soon moving on. As we were driving through
Callander, we got treated to another historical fact (they found the
remains of a Roman camp there, from before they retreated back to
Hadrianís Wall) and another pun (If you are looking for love, Callander
is a great place for a date [Marty was happy that his puns were at least
met with groans rather than complete silence]). We only drove through
there on our way to Doune Castle. Only five of us chose to visit Doune
Castle rather than the Whiskey Distillery (even though Iím pretty sure
most of the kids on the bus couldnít legally drink). Doune Castle has
featured in Game of Thrones as Winterfell in S01, even though I didnít
see that in there, and it has featured in Outlander as Castle Leoch,
which I totally recognized. It was a shame the castle was shy and hiding
behind the many scaffolds though.
On the way back
to Edinburgh, we only had one more detour (completely unplanned and only
because someone asked for it) to a viewpoint from where we could see
Forth Bridge and the other two whose names were never mentioned, and if
they were, I have already forgotten. Apparently, itís the only place in
Europe (or was it the world) where you have a 19th-century bridge, a
20th-century bridge, and a 21st-century bridge all next to each other.
Once we were back
in Edinburgh, Mariecke and I went to Yo Sushi for a rather expensive
dinner but we are allowed once in a while. Besides, Yo Sushi is the one
with the sushi on the moving sushi bar throughout the restaurant, which
in itself is fun to watch. And we had a view of Edinburgh Castle in the
evening sun. At that point, all traces of any possible storm had
vanished after having pestered us all day. But even the weather couldnít
mess it up for us. The tour was great, and Iím glad we didnít do the
Loch Ness tour because it would have been ridiculously busy.
On to tomorrow.
Not quite as
early today and not nearly as much on the planning. We took our time
getting from the B&B to Craigmillar Castle. It was quite an adventure by
bus. Not all buses announce their stops and stops arenít named the same
on the Lothian website and the app. Not to mention some drivers donít
even know the names so you canít even ask them. But we got there without
too much trouble.
apparently also featured in Outlander, like Doune Castle yesterday, and
I did recognize the courtyard with its two trees inside. It was nice to
walk through, up and up until you are at the top. Looking down, it
suddenly seemed a lot higher. But from the top you also had a view of
Edinburgh Castle and, of course, Arthurís Seat. It is funny to see when
you are walking around and ducking under arches that you end up in an
open room without a roof but a perfectly intact fireplace. Goes to show
where the priorities lay during construction.
But the best
thing about that castle was the cat that showed up when Mariecke paused
to grab something from her bag. It wanted cuddles and attention and
followed us to the front gate of the castle, where it basically waited
until we were done. The second best thing was the games room, where
Mariecke and I tossed rings until one of us scored. Mariecke won.
there was another castle planned. Dirleton Castle all the way up in
Dirleton, which is quite the bus ride away from Edinburgh. It was quite
the adventure; the bus that takes you there isnít part of the Lothian
buses so you have to buy another ticket, which you need to have enough
coins for. But we took the express line so it was only about half an
hour drive (unlike the return, when we took the scenic route and it took
over an hour to get back to Edinburgh.)
was built on top of a rock (like all other castles in Scotland it would
seem) and by three different families from the 11th century to the 16th
century. Again great open spaces with fireplaces intact but nothing
else. Also, the number of latrine closets was impressive. More than I
have seen in any of the other castles together. Haha! We even got some
sun while we were there.
Now that we have
reached the end of our Scotland Explorer Pass, I think it was totally
worth it. It cost about £30 to get a three-day pass, but we saved just
as much if not more because we had it. Plus, we could always walk
straight in without needing to join the ridiculous lines to buy tickets.
So yes, my tip when visiting Edinburgh, see if the Pass might be worth
getting. If/When I come back to Scotland and do more like a road trip
(plans and dreams, I know), Iíll get it again and do even more! YAY!
And thatís all we
did today. We wanted to do some shopping on Princess Street but it was
very busy, so we decided that weíll do that tomorrow morning because in
the morning everyone is still in bed and the shops are open but empty.
Just the way we like Ďem.
Talk about a slow
afternoon, Princess Street had been too busy for our liking so were
started our day there. While most people were still in bed, we started
our shopping trip at Marks & Spencer, where we managed to spend just an
hour (which I know because I happened to look at the time).
From there we
went to Primark, stopping at Superdrug and the Body Shop along the way.
After all that, a drink at Starbucks and onto Waterstones. Yes, I know,
I wasnít allowed to buy any more books. And I havenít. We sat there for,
at least, three hours but probably longer, with tea, a panini, and
books. Mariecke bought some more books, I, on the other hand, grabbed
Fantastic Beasts on a shelf in the Harry Potter department, and just
read that until I completely finished it. By that point, Mariecke was
getting a little bored and wanted to head back out to Princess Street.
Of course, the
skies chose that exact moment to open up. It had been raining on and off
the entire time, but when we walked out, it really came down. We went
into an accessory store where we looked at the sales bins. They had some
cute things but the prices werenít prices I associate with items on
sale; they were ridiculously high. However, I had seen a cute bag so
back to Primark we went in the search for something similar. This time,
Primark was basically bursting at the seams. But success! I found a bag,
not similar to the one I had seen before but worth having.
We didnít do much
more after that because the rain kept up. We bought something for dinner
and headed back to the B&B. So, we didnít get to see Dean Village or the
Botanical Gardens. If the weather is good tomorrow morning we might do
either, if not, I just hope it wonít rain in the afternoon for our City
of the Dead tour.
Of course, now
that we are back at the B&B, without any plans of going out again, the
clouds have left and the sky is blue. Un-freaking-believable.
Because of the
bad weather yesterday, we didnít do anything. However, as it wasnít
supposed to rain at all today, I wanted to do something so that we
didnít completely waste the morning away either.
So, I took one of
the walks we still hadnít done and decided we would do that. Mariecke
wasnít too thrilled at first, but I saw her take a few pictures, meaning
she came around. The walk took us from Princess Street to Dean Village,
which really is a cute part of Edinburgh. Itís obviously old like the
rest, but cuter, less grand. Village-like, I suppose.
We walked through
there and the walk to us under the Dean Bridge and next to the Water of
Leith. From there, a short walk through the Dean Private Gardens and to
St. Bernardís Well where the Goddess Hygieia watches passer-byes like a
cat (as a matter of fact, we came past a house that had a cat watching
us through the window).
We walked through
Stockbridge Market, which was both crowded and smelled delicious. But,
lots of people in a tiny space is neither Mariecke nor my thing, so we
walked through it rather fast. From there, to St. Stephen Street, where
I saw a bookshop that I had found of a blog about interesting bookshops
in Edinburgh. We went in but I was a bit disappointed so we left.
We came to
another cute little street with little houses that we walked down to
take pictures before turning back. On the way back, there were two women
talking/complaining about two Asian girls who were taking a lot of
pictures, saying that often people forgot that people actually lived
there. Which I can understand, I mean these girls always act like they
are having a photo shoot and you donít climb on benches that are
effectively peopleís front yards.
that, we had a bit of a climb to Queen Street, before going downhill
again after that and back to Princess Street. Seriously, there are hills
everywhere. How did we miss that beforehand?
Then we met up
with Jim and Laree, the people behind the birthday and Christmas cards.
They never miss a single one and always add the amount of Xís of our
birthday. In my opinion, it was a little awkward at first but it didnít
last long. Mom was wondering whether we would understand Jimís Scottish
accent because she couldnít when they met, but I personally didnít have
any trouble. Lareeís American accent was easier to understand though.
We sat at Marks &
Spencer for an hour or so, before they walked with us up to the Royal
Mile, where we all waited at Starbucks a little longer. We didnít talk
constantly like I can imagine would have been the case with Mom or Jacky
but it was nice to meet them.
They left us at
St. Giles Cathedral where Mariecke and I had booked an Underground City
tour with the City of the Dead. At first when the guide started to talk
I was like ďthis canít possibly be goodĒ; it was sort of joking, sort of
serious kind of talking. But he had enough historical facts to be
interesting and to forgive his Ďjokesí.
The tour took us
down to the vaults under South Bridge, which had been built during the
Scottish Enlightenment, to allow the rich to get from the Royal Mile to
the University without having to pass through the biggest slum of the
city. It went right over it. The bridge has nineteen arches, only one of
which is visible, the others are all neatly tucked away between tenement
buildings. In between arches are the vaults. In the beginning, they
wanted to basically create the first underground mall there.
Now, as they
build the bridge by recycling other buildings, the vaults werenít
actually waterproof, and it wasnít just water getting through.
Basically, it was terrible for all the merchandise and when caskets of
gin (or some other alcoholic drink) burst, the merchants left. The poor
and the unfortunate took up residence under the city and letís just say
it wasnít great.
It was pitch
black down there, even with the guideís flashlight it was too dark to
see much of anything. He was quite serious about everything, pointing
out the fake skeleton, saying it was basically required to be qualified
as a haunted tour. But he was also quite serious about his paranormal
activity. The more he talked about the three most frequent paranormal
occurrences, the freakier it got. Then, in the room where there was the
most paranormal activity, the group sort of stopped at the front of the
room, the guy told his history thing and asked us to take a few steps
back. He talked some more, and again ask if we would take a few steps
back (at that point, no one really moved). Once at the back of the
vault, he told us he was going to snuff the candle and we would be in
total darkness and we would just stand there. No one was supposed to
move or talk.
At that point, in
total darkness, I closed my eyes (because thatís safer than staring into
the dark and waiting to see a ghost, especially after what he told us),
and counted while listening to the traffic up above. After
fifty-something seconds, the guide spoke up again, totally freaking out
two of the girls. He had walked across the vault in total silence
(because it had been completely silent), turned on his flashlight and
just said ďWell, thatís it then,Ē way too loud. That was practically the
end of the tour, though he did manage to add he is hoping the Edinburgh
University will let them expand their tour into the old morgues.
It didnít feel
like a long tour but it was easily an hour and fifteen minutes. After
that, the feet really hurt and we just wanted to head back to the B&B.
That concluded our trip to Edinburgh. We didnít do the Botanical Gardens
which I would have liked to do, we didnít go to Grassmarket (I admit, I
forgot to add that to the list of things to visit when Mariecke made the
planning), and we didnít climb Arthurís Seat (which was never going to
happen anyway). I really enjoyed the city and might come back, though I
would combine it with the rest of Scotland, renting a car and following
the brown tourist attraction signs.
Now there is
nothing left to do but finishing backing the bags.