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Entries about edinburgh

The Inn of Disappointment

BY MURIEL

sunny 15 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Walking up to Arthur's Seat

Walking up to Arthur's Seat

We awoke to sunshine (finally!), and eager to get out in it, we packed up and were out of our place within an hour and a half, which is no mean feat when there are four adult-like people clamouring for one bathroom. We were rewarded with an uneventful navigation through the construction-riddled streets to our planned walk of the day: a trek up to what is known as Arthur’s Seat, after the famed round table king. This promontory lies right at the edge of Edinburgh and rises 250 m above the city. It is covered in lush, green foliage with patches of yellow Scottish broom augmenting the jade (with apologies to John Stadt, who feels Scottish broom is a blight upon the earth). The crowds of people at the top didn’t deter us from enjoying a stunning 360 degree view. This grand hill is a beautiful addition to the city, truly one of Edinburgh’s highlights.

Scottish Parliament Debate Chamber

Scottish Parliament Debate Chamber

Close to the base of the hill is the fairly newly built Scottish Parliament building. Scotland went without its own parliament for almost 300 years, until 1998, when it wanted more authority from the British Parliament. Now, the Scottish people answer to both houses (or is it the other way around?), and support both MPs in London and MSPs (Ministers of Scottish Parliament) in Edinburgh. It may seem like just another layer of bureaucracy to some; however, it does provide the Scottish regions their own jurisdiction over all matters except foreign policy, immigration, social security and defence. While an eyesore on the outside (in my opinion), the building is very appealing on the inside, with its many windows allowing streams of natural light to complement the oak wood angled every which way. The debating chambers are very modern, with the best in technology and design. Members do not have assigned seats but most will sit grouped along party lines. The translucent person-shaped figures etched into the walls signify transparency in government (although, interestingly, the shapes also resemble bottles of malt whiskey).

With our short self-guided tour complete, we returned to Winston (the car) and headed south, saying goodbye to Scotland and hello to England once more. The scenery got greener and the temperature higher the farther south we travelled, both good signs. When we arrived at the place we had booked, it was out in the country and neither of us could remember why we had chosen this particular location, seemingly an hour’s drive from our next day’s planned excursion. However, we trusted ourselves and our planning and knew an answer would present itself soon. When we were greeted by the grizzled innkeeper and escorted through the tired, smoky hallways to our room, the trust started to wane. We checked into the family room, which was essentially a double room into which they had put a set of bunk beds. Now we really doubted ourselves and got out the computer to determine if we could cancel the accommodation and try for somewhere else. However, we could not get WIFI in the room; the innkeeper informed us it was ‘iffy’ and that we should try his bar downstairs. When we confirmed that our room was not refundable, we tried to determine why we had booked this place. In looking back at the reviews, we saw nothing but high ratings and glowing reports from previous guests. Was this the same place? Ben stuck his head in another room and reported that it seemed nicer than and not as crowded as our special ‘family room.’ We also noted that several of the reviews mentioned the large, tasty full English breakfast that comes with each room. Maybe that was it – maybe I was starving when I booked this place and threw all judgement out the window, hoping the food would overcome all demerits.

Durham Cathedral Overlooking River Wear

Durham Cathedral Overlooking River Wear

Leaving the girls in our ritzy place, Ben and I went into nearby Durham to try to find some tourist information. We could only find a map but the trip was still well worth it. Durham presents itself as a cute, tidy town, complete with the UK requisites of cathedral, castle, bridge and slow, winding river through its centre. It is also home to several colleges and a university so, with the sun out, the town was chock full of students and tourists enjoying shopping, sightseeing and walking. We couldn’t say no to that so we navigated the riverside path, taking in the cathedral afterwards. Its particular claim to fame is that the Venerable Bede is buried here although his tomb was off limits. Noting that time was marching on, we reluctantly returned to our lodgings and our abandoned children.

Pub Fare: Twice Cooked Pork Belly

Pub Fare: Twice Cooked Pork Belly

Since our room didn’t come with a kitchenette (again, I ask, why did we book this?!), we would have to go out to a restaurant. The kids convinced us that since the food reviews were good, we should eat at the pub in our inn. Fortunately, the trip was not far. Downstairs, we ordered steak and ale pie, fish and chips and twice cooked pork belly with crackle (you would have liked it , Mom). The portions that came were enormous and very tasty. Yes! At least we could relish the food. The pub was well patronized and we were next to a family party celebrating someone’s eightieth birthday so the atmosphere was festive. Ben moved to allow someone to wheel the old celebrant out in her wheelchair; as the wheeler tipped the chair back doing a wheelie down the ramp, the woman gasped and onlookers smiled, with Hannah commenting that it was like something out of a sitcom.

And now to bed, as Hadrian’s wall beckons tomorrow.

Posted by KZFamily 11:02 Archived in England Tagged scotland edinburgh england durham tangier arthurs_seat Comments (1)

A Rainy Day in Edinburgh

By Hannah

rain 6 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Britannia: State Dining Room

Britannia: State Dining Room

Since we only had one day in Edinburgh, we spent the time visiting two of its most famous attractions, HMY Britannia and Edinburgh Castle. Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia was the ship that the Royals sailed on for 44 years. It's travelled over one million miles, which is more than if it had sailed around the world once each year it was in operation.

The top level was where we got to inspect the bridge. This was the command centre, run by the Admiral, and was full of vintage knobs and dials and tubes that all looked very impressive and bewildering. Behind the bridge sits the Flag Deck, where the numerous signal flags were stored. There were about 2000 flags on board at any one time, as well as extra material in case it was necessary to make one.

On the second level we saw the Admiral's suite, which was very spacious and included a separate cabin for sleeping and its own washroom. We also got to peek inside the bedrooms of the Queen and the Duke, both of which, to my surprise, were very simple and ordinary looking. There was a sun room that had a view of the deck and bow of the boat, as well as a honeymoon suite which had being used by four royal couples, all of whom divorced.

Crew Bunks on Britannia

Crew Bunks on Britannia

We made our way down to the third level, the most luxurious of the yacht's four decks. There was a sort of lounge and bar here for the crew members, where they could relax and drink and play games. One of these games was called Wombat Tennis, which involved throwing a stuffed toy wombat into the ceiling fan and then batting it around the room once it was released. The toy had originally belonged to a lady-in-waiting, who apparently assumed that it would be in good hands upon the Britannia. We saw the State Dining Room, used by the Royals and their guests, and the various gifts from around the world that lined its walls. At one end of the room stood a long thin narwhal tusk, presented by Pierre Trudeau when The Queen visited the North West Territories. We were happy to have this small claim to fame amongst the artistic carvings and impressive swords and other international keepsakes. The State Drawing Room was also quite impressive, complete with a baby grand piano that had been bolted down to keep it from sliding around the room.

The final level was where all the behind-the-scenes workings of the yacht occurred. It was home to the mail office, sick bay, operating theatre, laundry room and engine room. Here was also where the mess and barracks for the petty officers, Royal Marines sergeants, and Royal Marines band was located. The barracks were very tight and cramped, with three-high bunk beds and lockers stacked to the ceiling. We saw a number of stickers decorating the barracks, many of them maple leaves.

It took a little longer to return home than we thought. We got rather turned around on our way back, and ended up taking the same corners several times before rediscovering our parking lot. However, Mom and Dad have adapted to situations such as these, and were so calm that Abby didn't even realise that we were lost until Dad told her. On an unrelated note, she decided to stay home as the rest of us headed out again to visit Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle War Memorial

Edinburgh Castle War Memorial

We didn't explore the whole of the castle, as that would've taken hours. The castle sits on top of a hill, towering over its surroundings and looking quite impressive to anyone approaching it. Inside the castle walls is almost like a little village, where you make your way from place to place walking across stone streets and squares. We visited the prisons used to house prisoners of war from all over Europe and America. There was a large war memorial to soldiers known and unknown, its walls covered in the names and dates of numerous battles that the Scottish had fought in. The real highlight of the tour, however, was seeing the Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Crown Jewels, and the Stone of Destiny, upon which many kings and queens have been coronated.

We returned home and had Scotch pies for dinner, which were very yummy, though not homemade. Tomorrow we will bid farewell to Scotland and come back to England, where we'll have barely more than a week before it's time to head over to the mainland.

Posted by KZFamily 10:52 Archived in England Tagged edinburgh england castle britannia Comments (2)

Edinburgh Wins by a Royal Mile

by Ben

overcast 10 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Newborn Lambs

Newborn Lambs

We left the higher latitudes (around 58 degrees) to head to the cultural and political capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. As we headed south and traversed the Pass of Killicrankie the temperature dropped to a mere one degree and snow began to fall. It seems spring comes quite late to these parts.

By the time we got within 50 miles (yes we measuring our trip in imperial units during this part of our trip) of Edinburgh the temperature had risen to a more tolerable 10 degrees and the snow and rain had ceased. We took a little detour from the highway to find a nice place to picnic. We stopped amidst some pastureland that hosted a sizeable flock of sheep. The sound emanating from so many sheep was unfamiliar to our ears. The cacophony of deep and high bleats in various staccato rhythms sounded comical. The sight was that of innocent beauty since there were such an abundance of newborn lambs. We also saw quite a few ring-necked pheasants which I was unsuccessful in photographing but at least witnessed firsthand which I can't say for the red squirrels that the residents of the area are so protective of that they have produced signage for the squirrel's safety.

Scots Protecting their Squirrels

Scots Protecting their Squirrels

Our apartment, in the heart of Edinburgh, was easy to find but difficult to get to as many streets are being torn up to install new tramlines. A few passes through the neighbourhood finally revealed an unobstructed route and we were soon carrying our bags up six flights of stairs. Our location couldn't be much better. We are a few blocks from Edinburgh Castle and the beginning (or end) of the Royal Mile.

The kids chose to stay home while Muriel and I walked the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. It is a walk that takes you through some great architecture, notwithstanding the blackened stonework from centuries of coal burning. Edinburgh used to be called "auld Reekie" from all the chimneys in the city burning coal. At the end of the Royal Mile is the Queen's official residence in Scotland, Holyrood Palace. I would be curious to know what the Queen thinks about her new neighbours across the street; the Scottish Parliament. No greater juxtaposition of architectural styles could be imagined. The "modern" architecture of the Scottish Parliament leaves a bit to be desired. I think Elizabeth might be forgiven if she is spending a little less time at her Edinburgh residence these days.

Scot on the Royal Mile

Scot on the Royal Mile

By the time we got to the end of our walk I was thinking that I must be pretty tired from our car ride as the distance seemed much longer than two miles. I found out from Muriel that The Royal Mile is actually one Scot's mile long, which is 1.12 statute miles or 1.81 kilometers. The mile as a unit of measurement was not fully standardized until 1959. I guess you can't say Scots are cheap on distance.

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Just a reminder to all our readers, you can click on the photo gallery on the righthand side of the blog and see what we have been seeing in our travels. Please feel welcome and encouraged to leave comments. Your comments on our blog posts are great motivators to keep us writing and feel connected with home. Thanks for participating in our travels.

Posted by KZFamily 12:58 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh Comments (8)

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