Edinburgh – Easter 2012
The best part about living here is how easy it is to get away.
Matt was a Marine, who worked for/with/on the President’s helicopters. He travelled, for 5 years, wherever the President went. This made my wanderlustful heart insanely jealous – which is a terribly ugly trait in a girlfriend. I’ve always wanted to forgo a wedding and spend whatever the cost on a Scandinavian cruise/honeymoon instead, seeing as this may have been my only way to get to the motherland. Weddings are a money trap and, anyway, I have the rest of my life to create ‘the best day(s) of my life’ with Matt.
In any case, I definitely got my wish…heh. And a man who appreciates my wish to see/do/travel. At the first mention of Easter vacation, we decided to make full use of Ryanair and booked tickets to Marseille. We chose Marseille because it was the lowest cost to a coastal town. I may have tried to convince Matt that I speak enough French for us to get by…but nothing gets by him, including – apparently – my inability to even speak English that well.
On travel day I had grown hesitant and we didn’t seem excited to go on our first trip. Weird, right? Well, when dropping off the dogs before heading to the airport, I received a text from Ryanair saying “No flights to France. Air traffic control strike. Call **** for a refund” Wha-?
We still left the dogs, but went home and jumped online to see that our options were either a refund, or exchanging the tickets to go to a different place. After a quick search of available flights, and weather predictions, we decided to forgo the wanted beach vacation since all of Europe would be under a cloud that weekend. Then we saw Edinburgh and both had giggle-fits and decided we were going to ‘Mother-Effing Scotland! Yeah!’
Best turn of events EVER. Even though we left a day later and I suddenly came down with a vicious cold. Matt says he didn’t feel good either… he also says, “Tell them that we spent the entire time trying to feel better by overdosing on Scottish tea and experimenting with what scotch would make us feel better fastest.” True story.
For the record, the best scotch was Glenkinchie, sampled at Edinburgh Castle.
Speaking of castles, and cafés, we made it our mission to see tons of castles. When you spontaneously go on a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to go-but never thought you’d be able to-so you never spent the time really looking up what to do there…you figure things out as you go. Castles and Scotch became our plan.
Disclaimer: New camera…possibly amateur pics…
Thursday morning, bright and early, our little hotel (which was really just some converted dorm rooms on University of Edinburgh’s campus) served us a wonderful traditional Scottish breakfast (Matt had haggis and blood pudding EACH morning), and we set off on foot to explore the entire city. The hotel was about a mile or so from The Royal Mile, so we walked…but had a shoddy map and no real idea of where we were going. The plan was to get to Edinburgh Castle.
Here’s what: I had a nasty cold settling in, right? It was only slightly warmer than a Swedish winter, and Matt decided to only bring and wear his new hiking boots…which ended up being a size or two too small. Just remember all that…then know we decided that shit wasn’t going to stop us from having a good time. Our motto: “We are in M****F**** Scotland!”
We quickly and idiotically passed The Royal Mile and ended up under the North Bridge. Then we kept walking until we ended up at Calton Hill, with monuments and some seriously awesome views.
From there we spotted Holyrood Palace (I looked
in vain for Harry) and Edinburgh castle, got our bearings corrected, then headed to the castle.
On the way, we stopped for tea, enjoyed a delicious scone, and then were cut off by a man in full kilt get-up…who I then paparazzi-followed for a couple blocks trying (unsuccessfully) to get a good shot of. Katie=No Shame.
Edinburgh castle is…awesome. Coming up to face it, Matt said it was the first castle he’s seen that actually looks like a “real castle” (Swedish castles aren’t all stone and crenulations).
It’s old and completely overwhelming. The views, the beauty, the history…we spent the entire day there wandering around, each listening to our audio guides, and trying to just imagine…
At lunch, I was having a hard time breathing, we were cold, and the line to see the crown jewels was long. We hadn’t seen everything yet and didn’t want to leave, so Matt suggested we go get some tea and lunch at the castle’s restaurant. Really? I’ve never been one of “those people” who eat at such places. Too expensive, too grand, too much, whatever…but I was desperate for some warmth and tea. I ordered a beloved hot tea and a sandwich, and Matt ordered the tea time special of small finger sandwiches and sweet treats galore. Plus…the Glenkinchie. I don’t like whiskey at all, but a little sip of that cleared my sick face right up… if only for a moment.
After the castle, we were lured to a wool shop that also had bus tours to some other part of Scotland. We weighed our options and decided on the castles tour in Northumbria (I know that’s England). Then we proceeded to have an impromptu pub tour on our mile long walk back home. It may have involved sampling different Real Ales, scotch whiskeys, a death-metal pub that was super friendly, and a pub quiz at The Maltings that included too many questions about America, which…despite that, The Haverluk’s still lost… Good fun!
Friday, we set off on our tour, stuffed in the very back corner of a mini bus with a guide named Eric – who Matt and I both fell in love with – and set our sights on magical places.
Alnwick Castle. You may know this as the Harry Potter castle, which is cute and all…but I haven’t read the books or seen the movies. I know this castle as “Pippa Middleton’s possible boyfriend‘s family home”. That’s right folks, judge me all you want.
Anyway, the place is stunning. And…we happened to also eat at their restaurant there, too.
After our last castle stop, Eric was to show us Flodden Field…but, since this wasn’t his regular route, he had a hard time finding it. To be fair, the English countryside is very pretty and I didn’t mind taking a long joy ride around it, but it does look the same if you aren’t used to being there. At one point, there may have been a decision on Eric’s part to turn around on someone’s drive, and we may have backed into their medieval stone wall, and perhaps set a stone or two free…and perhaps left a part of the tour bus free to hang with those stones as well…but, if he’s not telling, neither am I 😉
Then, it was back to Edinburgh. I’d definitely say that Eric made the tour. He just further proved our suspicions that Scottish people are wonderful. I love tour guides like that! It was a great day, and as someone who despises being a tourist, I HIGHLY recommend taking some kind of Scottish bus tour. It’s all worth it.
So, the night that we arrived back in the city after our Castles tour (which took us down to Northumbria) we asked to be dropped off near the Grassmarket area. Well, we actually had no idea where we were at, but once we drove by the Brew Dog pub house, we yelled up to our fabulous chariot driver, Eric, requesting to stop.
Sidenote: I don’t think Matt nor I (and I’m speaking for him here, so take it with a grain of salt) knew how to properly say goodbye to Eric and our new friends from the bus tour. It was a bittersweet parting after a super magical day.
But, Brew Dog was waiting. That is, until we walked in and couldn’t even find the bar it was so crowded. So we skipped out and walked our tired selves back to the Grassmarket square to find a filthy pub to serve us fish ‘n chips and beer. Mission Accomplished.
After a less than fulfilling dinner (for me anyway) we took a late evening walk down The Royal Mile, yet again.
We popped into a quieter pub for another sampling of Scotch (Matt) and a hot tea (me). I always feel bad being low-key when we could be out meeting new people and soaking up some nightlife…but the quiet back corner with two hot cups of tea were just what I needed. That and some more throat lozenges, which we later bought from a nice old man who told me I was too pretty to be an American and that I looked like a proper Scottish Fiona.
The next morning we slept in a bit, and realized if you get breakfast later than 9 it’s a long wait. No worries though, Matt got his haggis on for the third day in a row, and we set off to climb to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.
Venturing up the “shortest but hardest” trail, we climbed, sweat through our layers, wheezed a bit, and probably scared some other tourists… Then we made to the top! And, oh the views!
After taking in the sights from the highest point, we decided to explore the rest of the park off the trails. You can wander around the old royal hunting area freely, and we had a good time bumbling down steep parts, sneaking up on birds for better pictures, admiring the locals’ dogs, until I saw, from afar, a flock of white.
Swans. Matthew! To the swans!
Hiking from St. Margaret’s Loch we passed Holyrood Castle and kept going straight up to the ridge of the park that juts out and leads to a steep drop off down a rock face. More stunning views, a quick photo shoot, and getting a little too close to the edge for comfort…
…and we had worked up a good appetite by lunch time. Setting off on foot, we walked back toward the Royal Mile and stopped for lunch at Holyrood 9A. We had a delicious burger lunch (honestly, get the falafel vegetarian burger…omgyummmm) with a
couple few beers (due to a crash-and-burn, full-pint-of-beer spill. Matt’s fault. Oops). Super nice staff, excellent food…now I’d like to go back today just talking about it…
After lunch we tottled around New Town a bit, stopping in a few stores here and there, but mostly it was an exercise in refraining myself from dragging Matt into H&M, TopShop, Zara, and Boots. I regret that now.
We stumbled into a street fair where crafters were set up and they were handing out free pints of beer (uh…yes please). Then we kept walking along Rose St. and Matt almost bought an all-too-expensive jacket from Barbour, which I was not going to discourage because, hell, I was in love with the menswear.
After another couple of hours on foot, we stopped at a random pizza place filled with pretty girls out for a bachelorette party, and sat by the window and people watched. Matt watched a Jason Segel look-alike walk back and forth, and we probably spent too long wondering if it was really him or not. Tired tourists.
The next morning, we caught our flight back home on good ol’ Ryainair. Thankfully, too, because I spent the next week parked on the couch with that lingering cough and cold. Edinburgh might be the best place in the world if being sick (me) and having way too small shoes (Matt) couldn’t even bother us for days.
We plan on going back soon, and often. I told Matt I needed to go shopping there, because at least the girls there have similar body-shapes to mine (unlike Sweden). He said he’d gladly go with me (score!). I didn’t think that excuse would work alone, but if it does, I’m not fighting it.
If anyone has tips on where to go, what to eat, drink, try, do…please let me know! And, like I said, if my Ma talks up her highland tour she’s planned, I’ll likely have another post coming that may or may not detail how to smuggle a “hailin’ coo” out of Scotland…