Fri 9 Aug - Edinburgh, Scotland

A day filled with stories of colorful characters including a young boy named Harry...

Today we tried another group providing free walking tours called Sandeman's New Europe. The tour started at 1pm meaning we had a bit of spare time in the morning. So we walked a bit more... Edinburgh New Town in the morning and Edinburgh Old Town in the afternoon. This is how the day turned out...

Going uphill from our apartment we turned left onto Regent Road and were shortly at a grey crumbling old wall that announced there was an old cemetery behind it. On the top of an escarpment?

The Old Calton Cemetery was grey and crumbly inside too and we could imagine some good horror movies could have been filmed here.

Further uphill we found one of Britain's first public parks, Calton Hill. The map showed a North Viewpoint, a summit and various trails so we happily wandered in to explore.

The view to the north over the Firth of Forth. We have no idea how it got this name but it is the waterway due north of Edinburgh. We will explore later.

In the distance you can see an iron bridge for the train to cross the Firth of Forth and another bridge further away.

At the top there was a monument, not sure to what and Nelson's Tower.

Hans did well to climb onto the monument. The first step was a decent 1 metre lift. Too easy.

Di was too "short assed" to follow. But such a pretty picture from above...

View from the top, towards Edinburgh Old Town and the Castle.

Time was approaching noon and we thought that we better have something to eat before the walking tour would start at 1pm and go for up to 2 1/2 hours. So for something speedy we went to the Food Court inside St James Shopping Centre just across the road from our apartment.

Or so we thought... This was the first time ever that we experienced a "food court" with one (1) food outlet.

Oh well, we tried "Family Favourites" as we didn't want to muck around and... had a baked potato with a shockingly awful tuna mix on top. Disappointment. In addition, when Hans took the photos above for blogging purposes, he was told off from taking photos by some security guard as that was "policy". Needless to say, we are very unlikely to be back...

Here are another couple of buskers we encountered on the way to the starting point for the walking tour.

These black dudes sang and played "Ain't no sunshine" to a very funky but slow beat.

Peter Pik, from Sydney, Australia, played "Europa" by Santana and he did it very well.

This guy played absolutely nothing and not even the copper to the left was impressed and looked away.

You know you're in Scotland when these things are advertised...

The tour started and our guide was Paula from Washington DC who claimed to have a Puerto Rican father and a Scottish mother. Regardless, she knew her stuff and was a great story teller. We liked her a lot.

Paula did well dodging crowds as we criss-crossed the Royal Mile into various "closes" and back streets, and no matter what the crowd she still was clear to hear by speaking in a strongly projected voice. Everything our London guides were not.

BTW, the main structure in the background is St Giles Church where Sean Connery was knighted to become a Sir and apparently there is a statue of an angel playing bagpipes inside.

Edinburgh Writers' Museum... Free to enter so we may be back... Another interesting building.

These are the spectator stands for the Edinburgh Royal Tattoo just off Edinburgh Castle to the left. Apparently, the Tattoo only runs for the month of August but erecting and taking down the stands take another 5 months or so meaning that the stands are there for pretty much half of any year.

And from another angle... And yes, we have tickets for the Tattoo for Wednesday night :-)

Whilst hearing about the castle we got a quick intro to the "Stone of Destiny" and important Scottish relic (a slab of sandstone) taken by England in 1296 and returned finally to Scotland in 1996. However it was temporarily back in Scotland in 1950 when a student activist named Ian Hamilton broke into Westminster Abbey with some mates and nabbed it. Paula related a fun story about the comedy of errors this became and we laughed. It now resides in the castle. We plan a castle tour another day.

The walking tour moved on to Greyfriars Kirkyard. A place of some significance...

This is Sir George Mckenzie's, mentioned above, mausoleum. Sir George was the head of the local prison here and was usually referred to as "Bloody McKenzie" due to his way with everybody but in particular his brutality towards the prisoners. A bloke like that may also create legends and ghost stories in a place like Scotland...

Apparently a homeless person entered his mausoleum some 20 years ago to get shelter from the outside... and fell through timber boards to land of whatever remains there were of "Bloody McKenzie".

Ever since that incident, a number of people have experienced strange and sudden feelings in its vicinity and claim his poltergeist haunts the graveyard. The mausoleum is locked now, but the timber boards were never replaced and metal bars are now covering the hole where the homeless person went through. You can see all this is you peek through its opening.

Part of our tour focused on a moderately successful author who wrote her first two books inside this establishment, The Elephant House, a cafe which overlooked Edinburgh Castle as well as Greyfriars cemetery. Inspired by what she saw from there she wrote about a boy wizard...and a school called Hogwarts or something...
Di could see the references to the books and movies when we saw Heriot's School for children and noted some similarities with what she had read there. Hans however was not in the know.
Some familiar names around the cemetery for fans of these books and movies - Professor McGonagall. Apparently her mentor suggested walking around an old cemetery for inspiration.

And Tom Riddell here is not an evil wizard...

Another good story from Greyfriars Kirkyard is about Bobby the Dog. This is Bobby's memorial as he was not allowed to be buried inside the grounds. Note all the stick offerings...
The story of Greyfriars Bobby...
Apparently, the statue of Greyfriars Bobby is one of the most photographed in Edinburgh. Everybody likes a feel good story.

Victoria Street looking west...

We also visited the Grassmarket area where many public executions took place, not a happy place, except one good news story of Maggie Dickson. She was famous for being hanged for allegedly having an affair and murdering her newborn baby from that affair. The good news - the hangman stuffed up - he hung her, proclaimed her dead and then she came to in a coffin and escaped. They recaptured her but some bright wit realized that she had served her sentence by being "hung by the neck until proclaimed dead" so she walked free and also free of her unhappy marriage.

Well, the walking tour took some 2 1/2 hours and we thought that it was very engaging indeed. We then wandered across to North Bridge for tea and scones at Patisserie Valerie. Hans enjoyed his Earl Grey tea by the look of it...

We wandered past Sainsbury on St David Street to pick up a few groceries and then went back to our apartment for a break and later dinner which was Penne Al Salmone for Hans and French Onion Soup for Di, all cooked by the family's Master Chef and that is not Hans.
After dinner, as it was a Friday night, we decided to go out for a few drinks and check out a couple of pubs that we had seen earlier today and that looked nice. First off was Cafe Royal.

Cafe Royal had a very nice interior and here is Hans ordering drinks.

A somewhat limited range of beer at Cafe Royal including no IPA (India Pale Ale) meant that we moved on next door to The Guild Ford Arms. Also, this pub advertised music from 9pm and we stumbled in just a few minutes before that kick off.

Us in the bar. Much better range of beer here including at least 2 IPAs on tap. Hans was happy. Di went for the Scotch of the Day testing out local delicacies.

The men in black, well most of them, started playing a sort of easy listening jazz. First off was the song "Wonderful". Fun for a while but it quickly became a bit same same.

We left after finishing up our drinks and wandered around a bit for some twilight photography as the time now is around 10pm. Great light. This is Balmoral Hotel.

Looking across North Bridge from Edinburgh New Town to Old Town.

The temperature was quickly dropping and we decided to call it quits after a fun night out. A final shot looking up the floors of our apartment building. The first bike is suspended at our landing on the 4th floor.

A big day and time is now 11pm so good night from us.


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