Quick post here about the YES! campaign… For those who don’t know, this past September, 18th 2014 Scotland had a vote on whether they would declare independence from England. All while I was there during the month of August, the campaign on both sides was going on. YES! stickers, posters, banners, flags, etc, etc were everywhere! Much less “No Thanks” paraphernalia were seen, but as we now know, the “No Thanks” vote won. While my friends in Edinburgh were for the “No Thanks” vote, Anna and just about every Glaswegian I met while there were for the YES! vote. So while I was there, of course I had to help campaign:)
Literally this just meant sticking YES! stickers on a variety of places, and especially over any “No” stickers that were found, lol!! Though personally I don’t have and didn’t have an opinion on which way the vote went (since it’s not my country nor business to have an opinion) it was fun to support my friend’s opinion while there.
I will say it was interesting that the silent majority were the ones to win… There was very little “No” campaigning going on, while the YES! campaigns were literally everywhere and in every town/city I had gone to! Interesting indeed…
Goodness, there are lots of things to say here… !! First I will start with what I have been told about Glasgow long before I ever got there from several people in the States: Beware Glasgow!! Seriously I had one friend tell me that Scotland in general was quite dangerous and that I should keep my head down, don’t speak to anyone and I should be fine. Statistically there is some validity in that because apparently Scotland is the #1 producer of heroine. And where there are the super hard drugs, there is a higher volume of potential for danger and violence. But as we all know, danger and violence exist everywhere. So I wasn’t going to let anyone try to scare me out of visiting Scotland!! And honestly I never ran into any violence or danger in Scotland at all! There were a few bar fights and a fight with a convenience store clerk, but I promise I didn’t use any violence in any of those situations!!
When it comes to Glasgow specifically, yes, even the Glaswegians (Weegie’s for short) have fear of certain areas and of certain people… Beware the Bams and Neds!! There was actually a third category of people, but I can’t recall what they were called… If memory serves correctly Bams are more dangerous than Neds. Bams are easily recognizable… They are usually always spotted in two or more, they always have shaved or near shaved heads, and they have at least one if not several scars on their faces from knife fights. These people are best avoided altogether because even my friend from Glasgow says that if you get in a tangle with one of them, there is no way to escape not being stabbed. And it doesn’t take any provocation from the individual either! As I’ve been told by locals (and my friend) you could simply be standing around minding your business. If a Bam spots you though and for whatever reason doesn’t like the look of you, they come over to pick fights with you. Joy!! Again though, while I saw several Bams about, I never saw any violence or was never harassed myself. Bams are also generally younger guys. I guess you could compare them to street thugs with nothing better to do than start trouble… Neds on the other hand are “grown-up” Bams… They are just an older generation who are calmer and less likely to start violence, but are still thugs in their own way. I guess you could say Neds and Bams are like pit vipers… Pit viper babies immediately bite and inject overdoses of venom in any little thing that strikes them as being a threat whereas adult pit vipers pick and choose what is really a threat and only deals out enough venom to subdue the threat… Hmmm…
Moving along… the East End is also known to be dodgy by locals… When I was working in Key West, I had a couple of younger kids visit from Scotland (aside from my friends from Edinburgh whom I met there) who knew Glasgow very well and I asked them to write down places to go or avoid in Glasgow… the East End made that list! Along with other areas including Drumchapel, Priesthill, Nitshill and England, LOL!! Places to go in Glasgow included Byres road for pubs (did that for sure!) and Lochlomond (to be talked about later).
Now that you have a little bit of an interesting introduction to Glasgow, I’m going to back up a tiny bit to getting there… I arrived via train at the rear-crack of the morning (aka 9am) from Oban to Queen’s Station. And I was met just outside the station from my very good friend Anna! Anna is a local born and bred Glaswegian who one day will have a book and or movie made about her life, because seriously she’s traveled over 80 countries and had some of the most amazing/crazy stuff happen to her!! I met Anna while living in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. We were neighbors, became good friends, kept in touch and when I was going to Scotland, since she just happened to be there as well, of course I had to go to see her!
Now you know why I went to Glasgow:) Because honestly, if it wasn’t for her being there, I don’t know that I would have had any other reason to go on my own. Glasgow is an industry town. It’s not necessarily very pretty nor is there really a whole lot to do there from the tourist perspective. But since I was lucky enough to have a local perspective (via Anna) I had an absolute grand time there! Of course most the time we were intoxicated, but only had one day of a real hangover!! So all in all, I think we did pretty well;)
In the interest of not rambling on for decades, I’m going to break down the activities once again to links so I don’t drone on too long in a single post:) Oh, and if you are looking for Glasgow pictures… I didn’t really take any:( I’m terrible at taking pictures in places where I’m living more than visiting… And with having a friend there, it felt like the former… But, I did take pictures at Loch Lomond and Lochgoilhead:) So skip to those sections if you are looking for pictures of surrounding areas.
The second guided tour I took in Edinburgh was for the Real Mary King’s Close. The tour office was located on the street level just off the Royal Mile, not far from the Castle. But the tour itself went through homes, found not terribly long ago, beneath the current streets and homes….
Of course way back then the homes we walked through were at ground level. But as people started to build more, instead of scraping old places and starting new, they simply lopped off the roofs of the old homes, built a new “ground floor” and simply built new homes or buildings on top of the old ones. But this practice of building homes was forgotten about until some workers of the City came along and rediscovered all the homes (now underground) and turned them into a tourist attraction!
The tour was quite fun but for those who have any claustrophobic tendencies, they may want to skip it… The way down was a bit tight, but once in the rooms I didn’t think it was too bad. But then again, E said she really didn’t enjoy the tour because she felt claustrophobic. So be warned people!!
Anyway, our guide from start to finish played the part of a young man who lived way back when and sadly died at 23 from some horrid plague. He told great stories of how the people lived (Gardy Loo!!) and the various plagues that afflited that age. He was humerous and witty and played his role well! We went through spaces that looked like a single room but were told it was a whole house for several families!! Other areas were for animals and others still for the rich. Each room was recreated to reflect the kind of people that would have lived in each room… But perhaps the most interesting of all the rooms… That of a little girl ghost…
When the spaces along Mary King’s Close were rediscovered, several measures were taken to make sure the spaces would be safe for tourists to travel through. During projects of reinforcement, some workers would describe strange things or sightings of a little girl quite often in one area of the rooms… So one day, a psychic was invited to go through the rooms. She didn’t pick anything up of note… Had no strange feelings or pulls of any sort… She couldn’t find a single odd feeling anywhere… At this point she was in the room most known for sightings but still, nothing.
She was getting ready to leave when all of a sudden she turned around and saw a little girl in the corner of the room. Now, mind you, at this point of the story we are all in the room itself and the “corner” where the girl was spotted standing was RIGHT BESIDE ME!!! Yea, I got a little chill for sure when he pointed only a few inches from me!! Anyway- the little girl was crying so the psychic asked her what was wrong. The little girl said that she was sad because her parents had died and that she was also sad because she could not find her favorite toy to keep her company and comfort her! The psychic was so moved by this that she left the rooms, went shopping for a doll, returned to the room where the young girl was crying and left the doll in there. From then on, none of the workers ever reported any further sightings or disturbances.
Even now, people from all over having heard of and knowing of this story in advance bring the little girl gifts and toys to play with! In the room today there is a stack of hundreds and hundreds of little toys and trinkets! So many are brought in fact that the staff has to sometimes clear toys out to make room for others!! The original is still there though:)
Needless to say, I would recommend this tour for sure! Though it was a little on the pricey side for the one hour, it’s definitely worth the fun!! Oh and sorry for the lack of pictures here… I can’t recall if they weren’t allowed at all, or if I was just too engrossed in the tour to care to take picts…
After the tour of the Royal Mile, our guide took us up to the castle and shared lots of fun facts with us about it… My personal favorite is about the Stone of Destiny…
Ironically enough, before going to Scotland I was visiting with my horse trainer, who is like a second family to me, and she was telling me about a movie she saw called the Stone of Destiny. It took place in Scotland and it is based on the true story about a group of Scottish student nationalists. The Stone, which was where Scottish Kings were traditionally crowned was stolen by King Edward I of England in 1296 and placed under the throne at Westminster Abbey. In the 1950’s the group of Scottish student nationalists succeeded in stealing the Stone back from Westminster Abbey and returning it to it’s righful place: Edinburgh castle!! Quite a fun story to say the least!! So while I had heard about the Stone of Destiny before I ever went to Scotland, I had of course forgotten exactly where the Stone was… So needless to say I was quite tickled when I heard that it was indeed in the Edinburgh Castle!! The Stone, to say the least is quite large and heavy looking and is currently encased in a glass display next to the Crown Jewels. No pictures were allowed to be taken of it sadly, but it was really cool to at least see it!!
In the pictures below you will see a few of the inside of parts of the castle, and one where there is a plaque in honor of Queen Elizabeth… You will also note the date however that it was in 1993… Why is it that there is a plaque in honor of Queen Elizabeth (seemingly the first Queen Elizabeth since there isn’t a II on the plaque) dated 1993?? It is in fact in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, however, since Scotland never recognized Queen Elizabeth I as their queen, to them, Queen Elizabeth is their first Queen, hence no “II” on the plaque…
The one o’clock gun… I already mentioned this bit in the section of Calton Hill, so I won’t drone on it again… However in this section you can see the pictures of the original cannon that was used to mark 1 o’clock, as well as the cannon used today (shoots blanks) to mark 1 o’clock:)
Ugh!! And I’m absolutely going to muck this up… But there was an interesting legend that revolved around St. Margaret… Basically it was a love story… As the tale goes (hoping I recall it right!) St. Margaret (originally from Hungary) was very much in love with her husband and had earned the respect and adoration as a kind Queen from many of the Scottish people. However, there was some fallout with some of the Scottish countrymen over religion… She was of one religion (Protestant???) and they another, and well, you know how those religious disputes tend to end in not so great a light… Anyway, St. Margaret was basically shunned over the religious disputes and it got so bad that she wasn’t able to leave the Castle.
While in the castle she got news that her husband died in battle and was to be buried. Loving her husband as much as she did, she requested that when she died that she be buried along side him. When she did pass away (not long after he died apparently) those still “on her side” wanted to grant her last wish of being buried by her husband, but those against her refused. Her body stayed in the chapel of the castle for three days until some people “for” St. Margaret in the middle of the night, snuck her body out of the chapel and to her husbands gravesite where they buried her. The townspeople “against” St. Margaret heard what had happened and got furious. They went to the gravesite to dig St. Margaret up, but to their astonishment were unable to actually lift her out of the gravesite! Her body had somehow become so heavy they were unable to get her back out! So they had to leave her, despite their best efforts. So as the legend goes, the townspeople were unable to move her body because her love for her husband was too strong, even in death, to allow them to take her away from him. Awww…!!!! 🙂
But seriously people, don’t quote me word-for-word on the above legend as I’m sure some bits aren’t quite correct!! And if any of you happen to hear the legend yourselves, do tell me how it’s supposed to be! Lol!!
Before getting into this section I will say that when it comes to Zoos in general, I have a love/hate relationship with them… I love them because one is able to see so many different kinds of animals that would otherwise never be possible to see, but I hate them because in a way zoos are exploiting the animals too. I don’t doubt for a second that people who work in zoos absolutely love the animals and want to do right by them, but while it’s great to see a polar bear or chimpanzees, etc., I wonder if we are doing right by them taking them out of their natural habitats… Again, I know that many zoos work hard to recreate the various animals natural habitats and that in some cases in the wild so many of the animals are on the endangered list so perhaps the only way to continue the species is because of zoos, but part of me wishes we didn’t have to interfere so much… If it wasn’t for us destroying the animals natural habitats or hunting them to near extinction then we really wouldn’t have a need for zoos at all… If only it were a perfect world… Perhaps at this point as well the whole debate is moot because so many of the animals nowadays are born in captivity to begin with and could never survive in the wild as they are supposed to… I just wish it wasn’t that way… But wishing doesn’t do any benefit to anyone or any animal… I also realize that in my buying a ticket I’m supporting the efforts of zoos, so I’ve no right to dislike them since I’m supporting them… Basically as you can see zoos to me open up a huge can of debatable worms!! Love them and hate them… Grrr!!
Ok, I’m off my soapbox… I’ve been to several zoos around the world at this point and I must say that while some were VERY disappointing and I felt really sorry for the animals (Costa Rica Zoo in San Jose) I thought that the Edinburgh zoo was quite well done! The habitats for the animals are very spacious and the grounds go on forever!! Thanks to E I was able to score a discounted ticket for the zoo and literally spent about 9 hours walking every inch of the zoo! The variety of critters was impressive and again the habitats themselves were spacious (for those critters that need the space!) and the animals seemed generally content. I must say my favorite bit (aside from the big cats) was the baboons! They were so darn entertaining that I could have watched them alone for hours on end! Just watching the interactions between the, probably 50 or so, baboons was better than any reality show on TV today! There was drama, comedy, action, and lots and lots of mating!! Must have been the season I guess… Anyway, if any of you reading this are fans of zoos, I do recommend the Edinburgh zoo.
Oh, and by the way, if any see the Wild Cat, I want to hear about it!! Apparently there is a running joke among people who have visited the Edinburgh zoo where they say that though there is a habitat for the Wild Cat, there isn’t actually a wild cat in the habitat because no one has ever seen it!! Personally, I have seen it and had I known about that running joke I would have taken a picture to show K&E, but alas I didn’t… I actually spotted it twice. The first time did take me quite a while to find it because it was curled up sleeping way up high in a tree. It was about mid-day the first time I saw it. Then later as the zoo was starting to close I made my way back to the Big Cat area and saw it on the floor of the habitat awake and having a sip of water.
Sorry I’ve no pictures to share for this section… I did take a few pictures for myself but find it a bit exploitive to post them up… I know, I’m odd!!
One of the very best things about Scotland in general… The surrounding nature!! Edinburgh is no exception!! It is surrounded by groups of hills that many take advantage of for fun daily hikes. In the case of some, you could definitely tell that the surrounding hills were a daily exercise for them because they were running up them while tourists (including me) huffed and puffed their way up!
One of these groups of hills, located not far from Holyrood Palace (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) is Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of the surrounding hills that make up Holyrood Park and has a height of 251 meters, or 823 feet at it’s peak. Honestly the climb really wasn’t all that bad, with the exception of a small bit that consisted of jagged rocks that I personally did a slight shimmy down, just so I wouldn’t bust my rear on the ground, lol!! The views from the top of Arthur’s Seat are absolutely phenomenal!! I’m a great believer now that aerial views are much better than close-ups!! At the peak of Arthur’s Seat is literally a little white stone chair that many of the tourists clamored to get on and get their picture taken with it… I skipped that part…
In any event, I’m going to now embarrass myself by K&E because I honestly can’t recall the exact story behind Arthur’s Seat… Even looking on Wikipedia (yes, I tried to cheat!!) didn’t ring any bells… Sorry K&E!!! I mainly just recall that it was called Arthur’s Seat because it was a great point of view to be able to sit and see any oncoming threat to the city… Anyway, according to Wikipedia there is some fabled connection between Arthur’s Seat and the location of Camelot during King Arthurs reign… But, well, I can’t specify much more than that by memory… You will just have to look it up on Wikipedia yourselves if interested!
Another great aerial view of Edinburgh can be found at Calton Hill. It is basically a hill in the center of Edinburgh, just beyond the east end of Princes Street (quite well known for the shopping!!) and has fantastic views of all of Edinburgh!! In fact, this area is the favorite spot of E’s and while she did try to get us up there, we weren’t able to because they have closed it down to car traffic. But foot traffic was still allowed, so on a later day I returned there to take some pictures.
Calton Hill has several iconic monuments and is the headquarters of the Scottish Government. Monuments include the National Monument, which is designed after a Greek Pantheon but was never actually finished… The Nelson Monument which at the wee top has a little flag pole at the top of which has a metal ball… This monument was basically used to send signals to the shipping boats in the bay. How might you ask? Well, one such example was to alert the ships in the bay of what time it was. Every day at 1p.m. a cannon from the Edinburgh castle is fired off (yes, this still happens today). When the cannon fires off, the vibration in the air is so strong that it knocks the ball on the mast of the Nelson Monument to the base of the mast. People on the ships in the bay are posted to watch the mast of Nelson Monument and when they see the ball drop, they know it’s 1pm! Now, I can’t say that ships today employ their timekeeping by this method, only that they used to in olden days… But they do still fire off a 1pm cannon from the castle today daily. Anyway, another interesting little monument is a cairn that has a stone from the castle of Robert the Bruce. Just a wee bit more of history there…
One of the very BEST things about having friends who live in the places you visit is the “behind the scenes” or “only locals know about…” areas!! Since I was fortunate enough to have two fabulous friends living in Edinburgh, I was given quite a few fun tours around the city and surrounding the city!!
I was taken to Leith where the Royal Yacht Britannia is. That is the Yacht that the Queen of England used to travel around in. It has now been decommissioned and is only used as a tour yacht with a restaurant on board as well for those wishing to dine like a queen:) However, the yacht does stay permanently docked. It no longer travels around… In fact, it was due to the cost of fuel to have it sail around that prompted the Prime Minister (I believe it was Blair who did so) to decommission the yacht so that the Queen could no longer use it… His stance was that it was too expensive for the taxpayers to keep up with.
In the bay near the Leith area there is actually a little island that was carved to look like a ship!! This was a tactic used by the Scots to prevent people from coming into the Bay. An approaching ship would try to sneak in, but then see an intimidating ship in the harbor just ahead and turn away… Needless to say, the “ship” was actually quite harmless, but it did it’s job!! Clever Scots!!
Which by the way, I never really realized how many innovators are Scottish! The list literally goes on and on of Scottish inventors!! Among them Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) and Alexander Fleming (discovered penicillin)!! Or maybe it has something to do with Alexander’s…. lol!! Just joking! But seriously the list of Scottish inventors goes on and on… Oh and a little fact to mention about Edinburgh in general, it is world renowned for medical and medicinal advances! A ton of discoveries in the medical field that have created vaccines, medicines, antibiotics, and anesthetics have come from Edinburgh! Quite impressive!
In any event, other areas I was driven to include the neighborhood and buildings that inspired the movie Trainspotting with Ewan McGregor. The area has since been cleaned up a bit, but it was interesting to see nonetheless.
I was driven in style in K’s Porsche over to Queensferry, where a marvel of a bridge from an esthetic and engineering point of view is, then across the bridge to North Queensferry where the Prime Minister has a house. Now there are actually two bridges that go across to Queensferry… One is a car/truck/general vehicle bridge (they are also in the process of building a new one just beside it) that basically looks like a mini golden gate bridge and the other more alluring bridge is the tram bridge! That one is quite impressive from an engineering perspective for sure!!!
I was taken to an area just off the Royal Mile called Grass Market where the Edinburgh Witch Trials took place and it has the spot where the last burning of a witch occurred… and perhaps MOST importantly, I was taken to the most fun hole-in-the-wall pubs in Edinburgh for some much needed pints of beer!!! Yum!!! Which reminds me as well, for those wanting to travel in the UK, probably the BEST deal for food and drink is the WeatherSpoon chains… There are several around Scotland (not sure if they are in England as well) all called WeatherSpoons XYZ, meaning they all have a unique name, but the word “WeatherSpoons” is always in there so you know it’s part of the chain… Anyway, you can get a meal and a pint for like 7 pounds!!! Just Brilliant!!
So, every year in August Scotland has a HUGE celebration known as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It is basically a festival that now stretches just about the entire month of August and it brings together the worlds best talents of musicians and performers from over 46 countries!! One of the performing acts of course is the Royal Edinburgh Military. They play the bagpipes and march in unison and at the very end of the show there is a lone bagpiper who stands at the top of the castle wall. His performance is followed by the shooting of a cannon and then fireworks. Guests from all over the world come to see this celebration, which has been going on since 1950 or so, and plan at least a year in advance in order to get tickets for the event at all!!
Needless to say, despite my description above of what the Royal Military Tattoo is, I never actually was able to see the performance while there, lol!! Alas, the event has been described to me by K&E, and I was able to read a little bit of the history while standing in line waiting (and hoping) that some tickets became available on “the day of” performances. In addition, during one week of the celebration the event was filmed and it is broadcast on TV worldwide so that all can enjoy it. I did catch a snippet of the show when I Was in Glasgow weeks later, but didn’t really see the whole thing.
To be honest, and to my embarrassment, I kinda had a teeny little panic meltdown about seeing the show. Instead of sticking to my usual attitude of “if it’s meant to be it will happen”, after going early and standing in line to get tickets (sometimes people would simply turn their tickets back in for resale due to unforeseen reasons that no longer permitted them to attend) and failing to get tickets yet again, I had a freak out . But thanks to the sound and calming wisdom of E, I was talked off the ledge and what began then was what I’d like to consider the theme of traveling Scotland from then on… “I must leave something to come back for”. And trust me when I say, there is a TON of stuff to go back to Scotland for (and I’m not just saying that because of the numerous yummy men with their sexy accents living there;)) !! A month was simply not enough , but rather is was barely enough to just scratch the surface!!
Just a little bit of interesting history on the word “Tattoo”… Basically, the origins of the word Tattoo go back to the 17th century when British troops were fighting in the Low Countries. At the end of the day the duty officer would go around making sure each post was manned before the sounding of the Last Post. A few drummers would accompany him for this task and if the soldiers were missing from their post, the ritual beating of the drum would ensue basically signaling to the soldiers (who were in town at the local pubs) that it was time to return to their posts or quarters. The Dutch innkeepers would then turn off the liquor taps and say “Time’s up!” or in their language: DOE TEN TAP-TOE, basically meaning no more booze for you! The drummers would continue to drum until all the soldiers made their way back to their posts for the sounding of the Last Post. Eventually Tap-Toe (last call!) evolved into the word Tattoo!
The Fringe Festival
The Fringe Festival… well honestly I’m not sure of the orgins of this festival, but what I do know is it coincides with the Tattoo for about the entire month of August as well! So really, tourists are able to experience two separate festivals in only one month if visiting in August!!
The Fringe Festival is basically a huge collection of artists, musicians, actors, performers, magicians, singers, dancers, etc, etc from all over the world who come and perform all along the Royal Mile for several of the “old town” blocks!! The street is filled from morning till night with tons of performers just every which way you look! It’s quite an amazing experience and honestly could keep one busy all day every day of the festival just checking out each of the performances! People filled the streets handing out cards announcing or rather advertising various shows and where the venue was to take place. Some of the shows were free (aka the ones I attended- but remember “free” is a term for “expected to tip performer at the end!!”) and others were anything from 5-12 pounds a piece.
I ended up attending one solo play about how making good decisions was actually bad for you… sounded interesting but sadly I found it rather dull. The other venue I attended was for the Man of Steal… This was quite a great performance!! Very informative to boot! Basically it’s put on by a professional pick-pocket who works for the police and does these shows to educate the public on how to protect themselves from thieves. I can’t say much more about it than that as we were all sworn to secrecy about the details of the show, so I will stick by that and leave the description at that:)
By far, however the BEST performance I saw on the streets of the Royal Mile during the Fringe was Joel Grainger… I was just coming out of a building after having bought a ticket for a tour of the Real Mary King’s Close and I had about a half hour to kill. I walked on the street and was lured by the sound of a voilin. I love voilin music to begin with, so I walked toward the sound and on a stage erected on the side of the street was Joel Grainger. He was the only musician present, but due to his technique of “live-looping” he was able to play every note of a song LIVE! He played “somebody that I used to know” by Gotye and Pachebel’s Canon in D in all their glory!! I’m not going to be able to describe his technique of live-looping to do him justice, so you are just going to have to check him out for yourself… I know he’s on YouTube, and though I don’t Facebook, I know he is. If any of you are fans of the violin, you MUST check him out!! Google “Joel Grainer Fringe” and you will see one of his performances there from this past festival:)
Though I really wasn’t expecting the Fringe to be going on in addition to the Tattoo, it was quite a welcome surprise! I could spend days on end just going up and down the Mile watching for new acts or collecting thousands of info cards on the various performers. Quite impressive!! Not to mention the tons of kiosks that were set up everywhere in town featuring everything from handmade jewelery to paintings to cashmere items, etc, etc! I highly recommend for all those planning to go to Edinburgh, though it will be a more expensive time of year, make your trip in August!!! And for goodness sake- learn from me and get your Tattoo tickets in advance! Or don’t and just figure it’s something to come back for:)
Sadly, my pictures for this section really lack in what they should have been… I was just too engrossed in watching my surroundings and being present for them to take pictures I guess…Sorry!!
Just a little quick post here on how exactly Edinburgh (and really all of Scotland) was formed as I found this to be quite interesting…
Millions of years ago the landmass that is today Scotland was actually South of the Equator which made the temperatures and terrain tropical!! Needless to say I would have been a happy camper to have lived on Scotland millions of years ago! In any event, as the years went on Scotland migrated to its current position and during the Ice Age was struck by several glaciers quite violently that ended up creating the landscape as you see it today with numerous mountains with jagged peaks. In addition the terrain is also littered with tons of dormant volcanos that died out during the glacier strikes. The city of Edinburgh is in fact literally sitting on top of a dead volcano… Perhaps the correct term is still “dormant” volcano even though there is absolutely zero activity from the volcano.
It is this unique placement of the city that gives it quite a bit of character… The Edinburgh castle sits at the apex or peak of the volcano and the main street, called the Royal Mile, gently slopes down the volcano (about a mile long) to ground level where the Queen’s Palace is. The Queen’s Palace or more correctly Holyrood Palace (aka Palace of Holyroodhouse) is the Queen of England’s official residence in Scotland. Along the Royal Mile from the Castle to Holyrood the street is lined with shops and homes that from the inside perspective only seem 5, 6 or perhaps 7 stories tall. However, from the valley perspective (i.e. standing on the outside of the city looking at it) the buildings seem 10-15 stories all. This is due to the sloping of the land down to the valley and the Scots not wasting any space in how they built things!!
The historic city was once surrounded by a wall that now only has a very small remnant left, and the main city or rather historic part of the city only connected to the valley (where the rest of Edinburgh eventually spread out to) through tons of “closes” which ran from the center (the Royal Mile) down to the valley. “Closes” were so named because they were simply narrow walkways or streets that were “close” together. And each close was named after the activity that occurred there. For example the fish Market close was where you would go to buy fish! Much more on closes later… But for now, at least you (hopefully) have a base idea on how Edinburgh was formed and a visual of how the city is situated:) Oh, and Edinburgh has been recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 1500s… Just to give a base idea of how old the city is as well:)
I’m quite excited to write about Scotland!! Primarily because well, since I was a kid, the one place I really wanted to travel to of all the places was Scotland!! And though I had obviously traveled to other countries first, it was always in my mind to finally make it to Scotland, and now I was:)
I can’t really take all the credit however, because in all honesty it was an encounter I had with two people in late March/early April of this year (2014) while I was working in Key West that really inspired me to get my rear in gear and travel there! Kevin and Evelyne… From the moment they came to my bar (which by the way I was coincidentally not even supposed to be working that night) it was like meeting kindred spirits!! They were supposed to be in town for several days but as life takes turns sometimes, they were only able to stay in Key West for one night, and that one night they happened to wander into my place of work and sit at my bar.
The conversations that ensued and the inspiration I took from them after hearing of their adventures around the world and simply just meeting them, well needless to say they inspired me finally do what I’ve always wanted: go to Scotland! To this day I feel indebted to them for giving me that little kick in the rear and for being the most incredible hosts anyone could ever dream for. I miss our conversations and hanging out with them quite a bit and can’t wait for the next time we get to come together!!
Ok, enough nostalgia for now… I left London after only two nights and took the train straight to Edinburgh. It was quite a long trip, but really it wasn’t bad at all… Watching the scenery change from the busy bustling city to more rural areas to absolutely stunning countryside’s really made the time passing unnoticeable to me.
I ended up arriving in Edinburgh on one of the coldest and wettest days they had had a while! But the again, Scotland isn’t really known for it’s warm and sunny weather, so really it was a proper introduction to the Country! Funnily enough (and luckily) however, the rest of my time there really was filled with several warmish and clear sky days! Very unlike Scotland apparently, but I really wasn’t complaining one bit!!
I was met at the train station by K&E and whisked away to K’s place and shown to my room, fit for a queen! For the next 2 weeks or so, I stayed in Edinburgh with the company of K&E and honestly could have simply stayed forever (were it not for Scotland winters being so cold!!) and just gotten a job and rented out a flat!! I loved Edinburgh (my Glasgow friends will hate me for saying so, lol!!) and for sure plan to get back there not only for my friends being there, but for the city itself!
There is obviously quite a lot to say about my time there, so once again I’ve divided it all up into subjects so as not to overwhelm in one post! Happy reading!!