Did you ever have a family vacation where your parents never let you sleep in, and you had to be up so early to hit the road and take in the sights, and for the love of all things if only there had been just a little bit more sleep you would actually remember what the vacation had been about?
This is not that kind of vacation.
Neither Andrea nor I are what you would call morning people, so even though there's plenty we want to see in Edinburgh today it will not be at the expense of sleep.
So, yes, we had a good night's sleep last night--after two big spiders were killed before bed, nothing like a bit of drama for two arachnophobes--and a nice unrushed morning before walking down to Epicures for breakfast.
Dessert for breakfast was tempting, but we needed something like porridge and a traditional Scottish breakfast to fortify us for our city adventures. Two years ago, Jason and I had Easter breakfast here with Andrea. Today, it's just us girls having breakfast before taking the subway to the train station.
We arrive at the station with time to spare since the trains had been delayed due to some problem earlier in the day.
Eventually we're on our hour-ride through pretty countryside, and by early afternoon we're walking onto the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is different from Glasgow in that it is a tourist destination. People don't usually tour Glasgow except (occasionally) to see the university. Edinburgh, however, has the castle, the national museum, the government houses. It also has the Royal Mile, famous as the the main road that climbs up towards the castle. It's lined with shops and tourist stops. And bagpipers.
And it's a castle! Just like last time, we opted not to tour it, but instead just take in the views around it before walking down. (I didn't take a ton of pictures of the castle grounds since I have many from our previous trip, so for other views of the castle visit my blog post here.)
As far as I know, the flowers are always blooming in Great Britain. I've been four times now, and every time it's late March/early April. I do not mind that my memories of England, Scotland, and Ireland will always be filled with daffodils and pansies, marigolds and flowering cherry trees.
The main thing we want to do today is take a Harry Potter walking tour, and since that isn't until 5 pm, we have some time to wander around.
Don't you just love all the stone work? Cobblestone paths, rock walls, stone houses...it's such a different look than what I normally see.
We walked back through the town and then up Calton Hill to get expansive views of the city. Since it's Saturday we pass quite a few wedding parties going into churches, coming out of churches, walking up Calton Hill for wedding pictures. It's fun to see wedding parties because the men are often wearing their traditional Scottish kilts. Love it.
Calton Hill has a few very Greek looking monuments, earning Glasgow the nickname "Athens of the North." The main structure is the National Monument, which Andrea and I--with a bit of effort--climbed up on.
The view from here back towards the city:
King Arthur's Seat is a geographic formation that requires a proper hike. St. Andrew's House is where the Scottish government meets (the Big Government News is whether or not the Scottish people will vote for independence from the United Kingdom; it is a HOT topic, as you might imagine). The Dugald Stewart Monument is another Greek-looking structure, and then off in the distance is Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument. The view is quite impressive, stretching even farther to the right but I cropped the photo (you can also click on the photo to enlarge it for a better view).
Then turning even more to the right you get a view of the bay that leads out into the North Sea.
After our excursion up the hill, we walked back down into the city, deciding to pop in to the National Museum of Scotland (it's free! hooray!).
It is an absolutely gorgeous building. Really. It's the Audrey Hepburn of museums, and you can't help but gawk and take photo after photo.
It also has an exhibit devoted to extinct and endangered species. Hello, poor Dodo bird. We hardly knew ye.
Then after a brief wander through the museum we were back across the street waiting for our walking guide. Just before starting on the tour, we see a darling little statue and a heart-warming story to go with it.
This little skye terrier became famous in the 1860's after he was discovered at the grave of his master John Gray in the Greyfriars Cemetery. Year after year, Bobby the terier refused to leave his master's grave and stayed loyal and faithful for 14 years. People from all over the city regularly visited Bobby, and the city eventually adopted him and buried him in the cemetery when he died. His dog collar is in the Museum of Edinburgh, and the story of Greyfriars Bobby is written on a huge plaque outside the Greyfriars Bobby Bar, as well as this darling statute. Even a Disney movie was made about this heartwarming story. For those skeptics out there: recent research suggests that this story was a hoax, but you have to admit it's a good story nonetheless.
So that's Greyfriars Bobby.
Next up? Some literary nerdiness. I understand if you want to scroll on past the following several pictures, but if you do love all things Harry Potter, well then, join me for the Potter Trail walking tour that meets outside Greyfriars Bobby's Bar at 5 pm.
Our guide Richard starts us off in Greyfriars Cemetery where Rowling found inspiration for the character names McGonagall and Tom Riddle. McGonagall was a terrible poet who is buried here, and the book's Tom Riddle...
was named after Thomas Riddell (Rowling changed the spelling) buried here with his family. I wonder what he'd think about people flocking to his grave because he was turned into an exceptionally wicked villain.
Through the cemetery gates we get a glimpse of George Heriot's School, said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts.
Not only does the renaissance architecture with its turreted exterior provide inspiration, but the fact that the students of the school belong to one of four houses (Lauriston, Greyfriars, Raeburn, and Castle) just like the students of Hogwarts.
We make other stops: at Edinburgh University to whom Rowling gave money, but also at aptly named streets.
Of course, we stopped at The Elephant House, where, while sipping tea and allowing the ambient cafe noise to entertain her baby girl, Rowling wrote large portions of the first Harry Potter book .
Once she became too famous, though, Rowling couldn't write in cafes. So she finished the final book in the Balmoral Hotel. She was so thrilled to be done writing that she scribbled a celebratory note on a marble bust of Hermes: "JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11th Jan 2007." The room was renamed the JK Rowling Suite, and if we'd had an extra $2000 we could have stayed there.
Um...maybe next time.
We stop to see Rowling's handprints,
then finally ended up overlooking this charming street, which could have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley.
We bid our excellent guide goodbye, and before catching the train back home we decide to have dinner at Deacon Brodies Tavern, perfect for people watching since it's right on the Royal Mile. It also has the distinction of being the former home of William Brodie, a man whose night and day personality inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's literary Jeckyll and Hyde.
Dinner was fish and chips (and, oh, the fish was so good--huge pieces of haddock), hard cider, and although there were a lot of desserts we wanted to try, we settled on a traditional Scottish dessert called cranachan (CRAN-uh-hahn) that was delicious though not very sweet.
So with tummies full of good food, good drinks and good stories, we walk to the train to pass quietly back through the darkened countryside to Glasgow. A short subway trip, a walk up the hill, and we are back in Andrea's flat.
Are you ready for some countryside views after two days in the city? Well, then have a good night's sleep because after church we're driving to England to see the Lake District.