Edinburgh – Buses and Tears

Breakfast in our new B&B is hot and delicious, blue skies beckon beyond the dining room window.

Having found our bearings in Edinburgh with the afternoon walk of yesterday our intention is tour the city in search of points of special interest. Bus tours in Glasgow had proved to be an ideal and quite humorous way to scout out locations.

Perhaps we have been too hasty in eschewing such options in the past. It is only fair we allow the bus tours in Edinburgh a chance to solidify our opinion.

Fair weather seems to be nipping at our heels once more. Crisp cool air has Pam wrapping herself in layers whereas I just open my shoulders, chest and lungs and stride on.

A marriage of sweet opposites, she does not understand my explanation ‘my skin is cold but I have a fire burning deep within’.

‘Surely the definition of being cold is having cold skin’ she laughs.

Each to their own and me to mine. We wind our way through the streets towards Grassmarket much more confident today in finding our bearings.

Grassmarket is part of Edinburgh old town, today the street is lined with bars and shops. We stop to take pictures of the square and Edinburgh Castle on the hill above.

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Similarly to when we were walking the streets of Paris I have to constantly remind my self to look up, look up. Edinburgh has much architecture of old adorned with statues, stone reliefs, gargoyles.

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Passing the notorious Brewdog bar where they serve lethal 37% alcohol content Brewdog beer I place a marker in my mind’s map for a return visit.

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Grassmarket becomes Cowgate, we walk on under the A7 which has a bridge with accommodation quarters built underneath.

Just past the bar where a cow apparently transcends chemistry, biology and physics we turn left into the narrow Blackfriars road and walk uphill to the Royal Mile where we once more turn left then right at the A7.

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Look up, look up, look up.

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Shop fronts are becoming dismayingly similar everywhere in our homogenous modern world. Unique preserved fragments of cities inhabit the upper facades and roofline.

Crossing the wide North Bridge over the glass roofed buildings of the train station and shopping mall offers great views of the Regent Gardens to the East where the Dugald Monument, The Nelson Monument and the National Monument of Scotland stand atop Calton Hill.

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We turn left onto Princess Street and make our way up to the junction of Cockburn Street where the enormous intricate soot blackened towers of the Scott Monument thrust towards the sky.

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A bagpipe playing busker in full Scottish regalia provides appropriate acoustic accompaniment for the occasion as I do my best to capture the grandeur of the monument digitally whilst Pam buys tickets from the nearby booth.

Similar does not mean the same. As we rush through the streets without pause the commentary is missing the wry wit we so enjoyed in Glasgow. I do my best to capture shots of statues and buildings as they whizz by.

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At least we have managed to glean a better understanding of Edinburgh locations than we ever seem to do by looking at maps. I guess for us this is the real purpose of such tours. So far the vote for bus tours stands at one for great and one for OK. The jury is still out. Maybe a bus tour around London when we get there will settle the argument.

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Our tour loop deposits us back at our departure point. Pam makes her way across the road to the nearby shopping mall with her jaw clenched in a manner I understand well.

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She eventually returns looking much relieved and to my surprise states that she wants to eat lunch in the mall food court.

Descending into the bowels of the subterranean mall my ears are accosted by the dreary Muzak corporate know nothings insist will keep us all buying, buying, buying. The food court is busy selling crap food you can buy anywhere in the Western world.

‘You drag me half way round the world to eat shite in a place like this’ I unfairly accuse my darling wife, completely ignoring the previous six months of exotic food and travels.

I am throwing a sulky tantrum. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

Pam just laughs at my momentary ridiculousness.

Out under blue skies once more I swiftly regain my normal good humour as we climb the winding uphill Cockburn street back to the Royal Mile where we turn right and head towards Edinburgh Castle.

Pam photobombs my carefully aligned shot of metallic fruit baskets atop street posts.

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The columns and statues surrounding St Giles Church are left in our wake.

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Once more we find ourselves in the bitumen forecourt of Edinburgh Castle where the annual performance of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held.

Paying our entrance fee grants us access to the cobblestone path that takes us under Portcullis Gate before leading up and around the thick stone walls above.

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Climbing stairs to our right allows grand views of Edinburgh New Town from the walls. To our left buildings of the castle proper stand atop the ancient volcanic peak now known as Castle Rock.

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The path forms a concentric circle, we enter the inner sanctum of the shell via Foog’s Gate.

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Defensive walls, massive cannon such as Mons Meg and the semicircular Half Moon Battery compound the natural defenses of Castle Rock. No wonder this imposing structure was never breached in its long history.

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To the West the weather has changed dramatically and a stormy squall is rushing in.

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Seeking shelter we tour the interior of the Royal Palace where an informative synopsis of Scottish history and historical objects culminates inside the layered steel walls of a genuine vault that safeguards the Honours of Scotland, the Crown, Sceptre and Sword of State.

Nearby the Great Hall displays weapons of armaments of old within its halls.

Rain is still falling after we have toured these displays and make our way to the Scottish National War Memorial which occupies a converted barrack block on the north side of Crown Square.

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This sculpture and gargoyle adorned building contains honour rolls that bear fallen soldiers names listed by regiment. Since the last time Pam had visited Edinburgh Castle the honour rolls have been expanded to include the Scottish soldiers killed in action during World War Two and now include the regiment of her grandfather on her paternal side.

Pam spends a long time in search of her grandfather’s details and finally succeeds.

Despite the signs forbidding photography we take a photo of the page which draws the attention of one of the hall custodians. Seeing Pam’s tear streaked face he kindly say’s ‘he turns a blind eye to family matters’.

Outside Pam tells me how happy her father Ian would have been knowing that his father has been honoured in this way.

Her tears mingle with the rain as we walk the streets home.

PLL

Mick and Pam

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