Day 4 found us whizzing through the Northern English countryside and crossing into Scotland. We arrived in Edinburgh in the early afternoon, ate a bit of lunch, checked into our very nice hotel, which was referred to us by our good friends, the Schleiffers, who had previously stayed in the hotel last summer. It was a near perfect stay in a beautiful city in a gorgeous country. The feel of the city is best described as a dynamic, youthful spirit.
We hopped on the red tour bus which circles the city and lets you hop on and off at stops. Unfortunately, we started our sightseeing too late and by the time we climbed the steep road and reached Edinburgh Castle, it was too late to tour. We snapped a quick pic from atop and decided to head down. That’s on the calendar first thing the next morning.
(ETA: This cool picture showing the castle in the background.)
We walked a bit of The Royal Mile down to the High Kirk of St. Giles. There’s a folklore legend that if you spit on the brick heart on the sidewalk, you will have good luck. All but Brad let the loogies fly, and some people may have spit more than once (not I!). Squid should have plenty of luck now, and hopefully more for the rest of us too.
After an early dinner, we were done for the night. I think jet lag has hit the kids today, so we’ll sleep in a bit in the morning. We need all that energy for a big day tomorrow at Edinburgh Castle and the rest of the city.
Day 5 was a full day, once we were up and about. We breakfasted at a charming little cafe across the way from us, and my American husband and kids all ordered the American breakfast. So predictable! I felt very cosmopolitan with my Scottish scone and tea. The castle was the first order of business, and it did not disappoint. Brad and I fondly remembered our visit to the castle 21 years ago on our honeymoon, and I’m happy to report that we now have more fond memories. The kids ran around and completed the kids’ quiz sheet, which made sure to keep them occupied, entertained and educated (read: not fighting).
The Scottish crown jewels were amazing to behold, as was the ceremonial daily firing of the one o’clock gun. Guess what time they fired it? Yep, one o’clock. It stems from a long ago tradition to help sailors find their bearings. I took some video of it, so let’s see if I’m able to load it.
After the walk about the castle, and peering over the edges for gorgeous panoramic views, we partook in our ceremonial daily ice cream from the ice cream truck in front of the castle. This was a new memory but just as fond. We went for a bit of fun next and ended up in Camera Obscura. It’s basically a fun, hands-on science museum for the whole family with emphasis on visual effects. Touted as the #1 rated sight on Trip Advisor, that was enough convincing for us. The big attraction is the camera obscura at the top of the building which was built by a female scientist in the 1800s. Through lenses, you get a 360 degree panoramic view of Edinburgh. Add in a mirror maze, computerized visual effects morphing your face into a chimp or baby, a vortex tunnel, lots of MC Escher and Escheresque pictures, it was a huge hit with the kids. Brad and I enjoyed it too but I enjoyed the kids’ reactions as much, if not more.
We finished the day with the rest of the tour bus, and strolled about the city to dinner. We’ve enjoyed couple of hearty, delicious Italian dinners that I’ll convince myself were authentic. They spoke English with Italian accents, so the food must have been too, right?
Since this is originally a yarn blog, I’d be remiss in not showing you any yarny goodness. Besides, this is the truly exciting stuff. First off, I finished Brad’s socks I started months ago for this trip. Good thing I finished them while we were here. I think I’ll call them the York to Edinburgh socks; I was binding off while in Newcastle, instead of peering through the windows for a glimpse of their football stadium.
Up the street from us was a lovely little yarn boutique named K1. I stopped in on the first night but it was right before they were closing. I suspect they get a good amount of non-knitter touristy traffic, and I didn’t have much time to shop, nor did I feel that warm of a reception. It was a good thing I went back the next evening, because I had a better experience. The shop girl (just wanted to write that, as sexist as it sounds) was American and had arrived in Edinburgh in October. You could already hear the Scottish burr emerging in her speech. There was a small knitting class going on in the middle of the shop too, and all were friendly and cheerful.
I settled on a bit of Aran weight Artesano alpaca/wool blend for Sweetie Boy’s cap. Fickle boy decided he didn’t want the dark brown, but grey instead. I decided to grab some purple to stripe for him too, since purple seems to be his color du jour as of late. I also may have picked up some blue angora blend for a scarflet, but since I have in the past loudly proclaimed for all to hear that I am neither a knitter of blue nor a lover of angora, I shall neither confirm nor deny this existence of this yarn in my suitcase. (Right now, we’re training to Manchester, and I love the fact that every time we pass grazing sheep, the kids yell, “Sheepies, Mommy, sheepies!” Sheep Watch 2011. Gotta love it! BTW, this is called using your powers for good, not evil.)
I had been toying with the idea of going to a knitting group while in Edinburgh, and had even done a bit of research on Ravelry.com for meet up days and times. I inquired at the shop about the Tea Tree Tea knitters, and one of the gals mentioned that the shop is only 2 blocks away. With my recent yarn purchases in hand, my blood was pumping and I decided to head over to the group. Ashamedly, I knocked on the locked door and when I explained my plight that I HAD to knit even for 15 minutes with them, they unlocked the already-closed shop door and let me in. Imagine this exchange through the window and my gesturing with knitting-like movements and pulling out my ball of yarn. They were cheerful and friendly and maybe taken aback by the crazy American knitter lady, but I can say that I knit for a short while in Edinburgh. I was sad it ended so quickly, but I could tell they were a good lot… friendly to all with all the right kind of yarn and pattern speak. I got a good tip on an Old Maiden Aunt silk/cashmere/merino wool blend knit up into a lovely shawl that apparently the Loop store in London carries. I’ll need to make extra sure I can get there next week.
Remember at the beginning of the post where I described it as near-perfect? We set the alarm early so we could catch the direct train to Manchester. We allowed ourselves 45 mins to throw our stuff into the suitcases before grabbing a cab. Sweetie Boy had just stepped out of the bathroom after his shower when the fire alarm went off. At first we thought it was just our room, and tried to wave away the steam that we assumed set off the smoke detector. That’s when we heard door shutting in the hallway and people leaving their rooms. Evacuation time! We thought it surely meant we would miss our train, but after hearing some business about a pot or hot plate left on, the fire brigade cleared the emergency and we were safe to return to the hotel after just 5 minutes or so outside. Whew! That was a close one but we caught our taxi in time, and boarded the train with 15 minutes to spare. I’m now entertained by the foursome of middle-aged men who are traveling toether and enjoying their pints of beer at 8:30 in the morning.
Next stop, Manchester where we pursue the nation’s and our love of football!