Well, we have left Spain, after living there for a year, most of our time spent in Gijón, and our last month spent exploring Andalucía. In a future post I will expound on what my time living in Spain meant to me, but for now, we are no longer Spanish residents, and back to using our US Passports to travel around. While bittersweet, our first stop on our European summer vacation takes Jesse and I (and her aunt Harriet and cousin Hannah) to Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom.
We arrived on a rainy afternoon, and after a quick stay in an airport hotel, we made our way to our rental apartment near Calton Hill. We were greeted by our friendly host, a native Scot, who gave us a quick overview of the city, and we were off. Our first stop was a walk to Calton Hill. There are many paths to walk up and take in all the structures and sites on the hill itself, and then view the city, Firth (estuary) of Forth (which is the river through the city), and the green hills that surround Edinburgh. We were joined by many fellow tourists as we snapped pictures and enjoyed the cool weather as we walked and talked.
My favorite moment was when I was trying to get a picture of the cannon below; there was another couple taking pictures and I did not want to be in their shot, so I asked if they wanted me to move, and the woman in the couple responded with, “this is our cannon.” So I laughed nervously, and said “really?” wondering if she was a bit loony; but she continued, “We are Portuguese, and this is our cannon, read it,” and she motioned to the placard near the cannon. It indeed was a Portuguese cannon, and I laughed, and they laughed.
Afterward, we walked toward the Royal Mile looking for a Scottish restaurant where we could try some Haggis. We found one not too far down the mile, and ordered a bunch of plates to share, including the aforementioned Haggis (which came with a killer whisky sauce). Haggis gets a bad rap and many will not try it, but we all did, and really enjoyed it. So when in Scotland, its a must try, you might (and probably will) like it.
Our next day was the tour of the Edinburgh Castle, which is quite famous and at the end of the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile splits new and old town Edinburgh (though new town is still from the late 1700s) and is packed with people, cafes, tourist gift shops, kilt and tartan sellers, cathedrals and other monuments. It is lively and fun to walk.
Keep an eye out for the John Knox House and the Moubray House, thought to be the oldest homes in Edinburgh; I only noticed because I saw a group and a tour guide standing out front and I listened in for a bit.
It was a cold and windy day as we approached the castle with our tour group; we had a an excellent guide who was informative and animated, and made the experience all the more fun (as well as interesting and educational, as a history lover I was enthralled). She told us about Robert the Bruce and William Wallace (and why Bruce was much more important than the movie Braveheart made him out to be), told us the history of the One O’clock gun and how it saved the city during the war; that the Scottish national animal is the Unicorn (which can kill the English Lion), and to make sure to visit the Scottish War Memorial, St Margret’s Cathedral, and the Scottish Crown Jewels, along with the Stone of Scone (or its cooler name, Stone of Destiny), and if we were hungry, to grab a bite at the cafe. We did it all; and definitely recommend trying all the cakes at the cafe (or at least sharing them with friends and loved ones).
We were also there toward the end of the day, so had a lot less fellow tourists to get in the way of pictures, I highly recommend visiting the Castle later in the day.
On our walk from our apartment to the Royal Mile we passed by the Canongate Kirk, which is a 17th century chapel and cemetery. While the chapel was closed, and the cemetery has seen better days, it was still calming to stroll through and see the hundreds’ year old tombstones, and the tiny pink leaves everywhere that looked like snow.
Also near our apartment was the famous Hollyrood House Palace, but it was closed, so we could only take in the massive structure and gate from the outside.
Our last day we visited the National Museum of Scotland, which is a must see. Entry is free, and there are so many things to see, and such a variety of completely different exhibits, models, planes, stuffed animals and underwater creatures, costumes from the world over, race cars, bicycles, and so much more; it is a feast for the senses. Here are just a few of my favorites.
There are also multiple floors of Scottish history, and on the roof we could see the whole city. It is a remarkable museum and should not be missed.
Jesse and I really wanted to eat some Indian Food while in the UK, so afterward we found a place in new town and walked downward toward a pedestrian street, where we ate some excellent Indian food, and were treated to a different view of Edinburgh Castle, this time from below.
Very full, we took a black cab back to the apartment and prepared for our very early flight the next morning, sad to leave Edinburgh (but not sad to leave the cold, windy and rainy weather). A great trip made even more fun because we were able to enjoy and explore it with loving family!