So, on Monday, May 23rd, I arrive in Edinburgh. On Tuesday, I go walkabout (and rideabout) and see stuff. Then we get to Wednesday…
Wednesday, May 25th (and Thursday, May 26th)
To explain this, I need to back up a little. My primary credit card, the one that gives me my frequent flyer miles on American Airlines (and associated fliers), was due to expire in May. I’ve been paying attention to this for about a year, and figured that, when they sent the new card, I’d have to ask Sarah to express mail it to me at wherever I was at the time. It probably arrives just before the beginning of May, maybe a week in the mailing system… no problem.
Oh wait! Problem! Sarah no longer lives near our P.O.Box, and doesn’t get there all the time, particularly not just after the end of tax season (a busy time of year for an accountant). So, she’s having the mail sent to her new place in batches. So, between one thing and another, it’s not until May 18th that it arrives at her place. *Maybe* it could be sent to Zagreb before I leave, but that seems like a tight schedule — and it’s nearly twice as expensive as sending to Edinburgh, $90-$120 instead of $55-$85. She could send it to my Irish address… but the card expires on the 31st, and it would be good to have a few days leeway to change online services’ info, to have some padding in general, etc. So I ask her to send it to my Edinburgh address, and it gets scheduled for a Wednesday delivery. No problem, I think. I won’t mind having a day to veg, out of my 7 non-travel days there.
So, Wednesday morning, I check the tracking info: it’s in Edinburgh, out for delivery. I know from long experience that, in LA at least, that could mean it will show up at 6pm, so I settle down to play Fallout. A new block of content had been released a few days before I left Zagreb, and I had downloaded it and started playing it there, but I was kind of eager to make more progress, so that I could avoid spoilers on Twitter and YouTube. I made sure not to put headphones on, so I could hear the buzzer. And I waited.
To summarize most of a long story, here’s the status update I sent to Sarah on Thursday:
Just FYI, in case you were wondering why I haven’t sent an e-mail saying “Got it!”, it’s because I haven’t.
- Waited around all day yesterday, got nothing. Checked the tracking site, and it said “Delivery Exception” with no details.
- Called them after the 6pm “Deliver by” time, routed to “Scott”, who said he’d look into it and call me back at 9am the next morning.
- At 10:20am I called Scott back, and he said he’d look into the exact time of delivery today and get back to me. And, in response to my question, he said he didn’t know why it had failed but he’d look into that too.
- At 3:30, I called him, got his voicemail, and left message saying (a) still not here, and (b) “You were going to get back to me?” He called back shortly, said he’d pursue it, but he promised it would be here today.
- At 6:09, I checked the site again, and there’d been another Delivery Exception at 4:49, again with no explanation of why.
- Called Scott back, left message saying “I think we need to have this held someplace tomorrow where I can come get it, because it’s not being delivered, and you guys don’t seem to know why not, and I actually need this.” He called back, said he was *so* sorry (actually sounded kind of sincere, this time!), and said they would hire an outside courier to deliver it to me tomorrow, since nobody knew what the actual problem was, and he’d call me back first thing in the morning with the delivery time.
- We shall see.
So, there we are. On the plus side, having two days at home meant that I did get a chance to finish the main questline of the new Fallout 4 DLC, so now I don’t have to worry about major online spoilers. So, yay that! ¯\ _(ツ)_/¯
Scott didn’t call me back on Friday morning, as he’d promised — again — and I was going to call him a little after 10, again, to see what was up. But at 9:55, the local courier they’d hired rang the doorbell, I ran downstairs and signed for it, and it was, indeed, a Citibank credit card. Yaaay! I sent Sarah a confirmation e-mail, hung around a bit longer to snack on something, and then headed out to sightsee.
Later, I played a bit of phone tag with Scott, who called while my phone was out of reach to be sure I’d gotten the package. Which, I guess, is cool. But it does seem as if he would have gotten the delivery confirmation — so, really, the only time he called back in a timely fashion is when he knew I wouldn’t be berating him? Anyway, I called back, got his voicemail, and said, basically, “Thanks, I’ve got it, appreciate your help.” Cheerfully. Because it’s not like getting mad would get me my 2-1/4 days back, and anyway I don’t really do “mad”. Futilely peeved is about as close as I get, and I’d rather take the high road than the ineffectual one.
And anyway, Wednesday and Thursday were rainy. I’d have enjoyed being out in it, but there are advantages to not, also. And it was a nice view to wait by.
Friday, May 27th
So, at around 11, I head back out into the city. Before I set out, let me re-add the city map, for easy reference.
(Ignore the comment; as usual, it repeats when you reuse an uploaded image.)
So, my objectives today were to go get lunch, and go to a museum.
I was actually heading for the World’s End Cafe, which we’d passed on the tour bus.
The World’s End is so named because because it used to be just inside the city wall, so it was as far as the citizen’s world went. The story and a bunch pretty good pictures are here, and that website is extra amusing because the writer went for the same reason I did: the movie of the same name, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the last of their Cornetto trilogy that I mentioned way back in one of my first Chiang Mai posts. And the writer discovered the same thing that I had simply assumed, that this bar had nothing to do with the movie. It’s just a great name. Better than the food, IMO, from my single sample size. I don’t even remember what I ate now, I think it was a haggis and leeks sort of thing, vaguely adequate, with a dessert called cranachan that I think was not terribly well made — too tart, and the flavors didn’t blend at all, just stared balefully at each other across the dessert cup and blended in my mouth and stomach only unwillingly — like some weird metaphor for the English and Scots in the city around me. (I had it someplace else, later, and it was quite nice, so I think that World’s End just had more poorly integrated ingredients, and being bused to my table had not reduced their mutual intolerance.)
I did see this, on the way out:
So, lunch having been accomplished, I wandered down to the Princes Street Garden — that little green bit between the New and Old City sections in the map above — to visit the Scottish National Gallery, Scotland’s main art museum.
I ended up visiting 3 different museums, in my few days here, and one of them twice, because the museums here are free to enter. Talk about a progressive city! It actually supports its citizens enriching their lives! The wonder of it! One of them, the National Museum of Scotland, did have a special exhibition that had a fee — but I get ahead of myself. Anyways, the National Gallery wasn’t super huge, but it had some good stuff. The usual selection of religious art, that no European museum would be complete without, but often with weird aspects that leave you scratching your head a bit.
We now pause for a moment of legitimate respect.
And, back to our regular program, already in progress.
I got a little curious about this bit of history. Lord Robert Manners was one of 17 children of the 2nd Duke of Rutland, from a set of 8 he had with his 2nd wife. He was born around 1721, and had a long and distinguished military career, and several children with Mary. So, he’d have been about 36, and she 19, when they married — which, depending on his good health (and temperament) might not have been too disagreeable.
Curiously, I found a Wikipedia entry that said Lady Robert Manners inherited a manor house in 1788, which would be 6 years after Robert died. Perhaps she inherited it from him, and the dates are slightly off, or perhaps she was the heir of someone else, friend or relative. (Orphaned just means that her parents died, and not that all her living relatives were gone and she grew up in an orphanage.) And she seems to have been well known in society, because the entry for Mary Bruce, Countess of Elgin, describes her entering London society through her grandmother, Lady Robert Manners.
So it all sounds very Jane Austen. She seems to have had a long and well-respected life, and I find myself pleased, for no especially relevant reason.
After this, I walked home, stopping at the local market for something dinnery. Which was not this:
Saturday, May 28th
One of the things you often do as a tourist in a strange city is go to the theater — or so I’ve heard, never having done it much myself. But Edinburgh is famous as a center for the arts, and it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity. So, on Saturday, I managed to get out to see this in the late morning:
I’d been a bit worried I’d miss this, but figured it probably had enough legs to last until I could make it to Edinburgh. And indeed it did. The local cineplex was in a largish complex with eateries and some sort of live performance, stage-based show in the building next door — I don’t remember noticing what that was, as I didn’t note any significant keywords on the marquee (“Thor”, “dragon”, “lasers”, “magic ring”, etc.). I bought some coffee ice cream at the theater to tide me over until lunch, and splurged for the super-special theater seats. Unfortunately, the seats were nice, but were way far back from the screen. So I went back and traded them in for regular, closer seats. If I want comfy seats and a small screen, I’ll just wait till the movie streams. And the movie was great! Great actors in well-established, fairly well written roles, relatively few flaws, and very punchy-splodey. And *so* much better than the comic book “Civil War” event that it was theoretically based on, which had a deeply flawed premise that I won’t burden you with the description of. (Ask me separately, I’m always happy to (a) explain fictional storylines, and (b) vent about why they’re stupid.) This was not deeply flawed, only mildly flawed, and plausible outside of that. So, yay!
After the movie, watching people leave the theater, it suddenly struck me as weird to think that they all spoke my language. Like, natively even! You know you’ve been traveling for a while, when that’s a standout sensation.
So, it was about 1:45pm and I walked back to the city center:
(I should mention that walking about Edinburgh had a slight irritation about it, as my back had gone a touch wonky just before I left Zagreb, and has remained so ever since, and that sometimes bugged my knees as I walked. They were a bit stressed at the end of my Holyrood hike on Tuesday, and I was a little worried about walking around with my luggage on my back. But I made it to Edinburgh Ok and — spoilers! — made it to Ireland just fine after.)
While I can’t say I had time for a lot of reading in Scotland, this was a nice place, and I did read here, and I can even make out what I was reading. So, it does seem like I’d be rather letting down the side if I didn’t discuss it. The book was Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, by Dominica Malcolm.
It was a very broad collection of variations of scifi/fantasy type stories written by asian-pacific authors, things like: Australian post-apocalyptic stories, Korean urban fantasies, retellings of Chinese myths, and the like. Some stories were more my thing than others, but all of them were well written, and some of them I’d have liked to see more of. And, being short stories, it was easy to read one or a few, here or there, as I had time during these couple of weeks of travel. So, well worth it, and I’d buy a sequel anthology, if they made one.
After lunch, I went around the corner to the National Museum of Scotland, which was as free as the National Gallery. (Scotland is quite the nation, no denying it.)
There were several sections to this museum, but I ended up not staying long. It was already close to 5pm, and the museum closed at 6, and it was free, so I figured maybe I’d come back before I left and see the rest. They had a special exhibit on The Celts, that charged admission, and I really wanted to see it but I didn’t want to spend the cash on something I only had an hour to enjoy.
There were nice nice views on the walk home:
I confess that the other reason that I left the museum when I did was that I was cranky. It grew on me during the day, but hit harder while I was in the museum running out of time, and only got stronger on the walk home. The reason was this: I had Sunday and Monday still in Edinburgh, and then Tuesday I traveled to Ireland — and my plan was that in August I’d go off to Amsterdam, and then to Berlin, before going home.
But I liked Edinburgh. I’d liked it when I’d been there before, and I really liked it now. It has the kind of good vibe you get from places like SF, without feeling like an overwhelmingly large city. It’s got art and science and green and lovely temperatures and good food, and I’d planned to be here for 7 solid, non-travel, days of sightseeing and I’d lost 2-1/4 to sitting at home, so now I was down to 4 and a bit.. I was keenly aware of all the places I wouldn’t be able to go, in the two days I had left, and more and more I didn’t want to leave. Well, I mean, I was clearly going to Ireland on Tuesday. But I was really starting to want to blow off Amsterdam and Berlin for the fall, and just come back here. Suddenly, the idea of going back to countries where English wasn’t the native language was horribly unappealing. It just seemed like so much *work*!
I kept trying to tell myself that I should stick with the plan, that I was planning to be in Edinburgh in 2017 anyway and I could just do it then. But I just couldn’t shake free of not wanting to leave, and was getting super crossed and tense and sad about it.
So, on the walk home, I decided: screw the rest of Europe, it could wait a year. After Ireland, I’d come back to Edinburgh, and just enjoy the rest of the 2.5 months here, before returning to the U.S. for the holidays. And, poof! All the stress vanished. After that, I’d think, “Well, I mean, I could stick to Amsterdam and Berlin, what’s the harm?” But it didn’t have any traction. This was where I was coming back to, end of story.
Since then, I’ve booked my post-Ireland plans, and you’ll see them on the Itinerary page. I’ll leave southern Ireland, travel through Dublin, out to Glasgow for a month, and Edinburgh for the remaining 6 weeks. Then back through Dublin, which has cheap air fares to JFK, and home to LA. Next year: Spain or Portugal to start, then Berlin, then Amsterdam, then maybe Scandinavia, Edinburgh for a month in August for the Fringe Festival, and who knows after that?
Sunday, May 29th
At long last, promised in a blog entry so long ago it seems very nearly unto a week, IT is here!
I would have a hard time attempting to describe much at all about Edinburgh Castle, because there is simply too much. It has always been the central fixture of the battles between the English and the Scots, because it’s such an obvious strategic target and defensible fortification. And yet it managed to change hands with remarkable regularity. At one point the English had control, and a Scotsman delivering meat to the soldiers dumped his wagon in the middle of the opened gates so that the Scottish guerilla fighters could rush through and retake the castle by surprise. At another time of English occupation, the Scots scaled the cliffs under cover of storm and retook it. Once, they half destroyed it to render it unusable to future English invaders (who did retake it and rebuild it). It’s seen the birth of English monarchs (notably, Mary Queen of Scots bearing James the VI here), and the murder of young princes, and it gets 1.4 million tourists a year now, so their sacrifice was clearly not in vain.
I’ll leave the real description to the wiki page (with its massive bibliography), the Historic Environment Scotland (which has a TL;DNR version of the castle’s history), a nice historical archive of pictures here, including this view from above that gives you a pretty good idea of the layout:
Wikipedia kindly lays out what every building is, in detail:
And of course, there’s always Google Images.
I picked up an audio guide, and got lots of details as I walked through, and there were elaborate signs with even more details. The pictures in those links above should be giving you a pretty good idea of what it all looks like, but here are a few I took that I liked:
(I can tell you, though, that I was standing at E on the map.)
I have a picture of one that *is* currently in use, The One O’Clock Gun, at point F, but someone made a video so let’s use that instead:
The castle has a bunch of buildings, including former royal quarters and weapons halls, current regimental museums, and such. Some are in active use, some really just serve tourist functions.
OMG, I just remembered what’s been itching at my mind about the Firth of Forth. Th-Fronting! This is that thing where some British people — mostly male, originally Cockney but now also commonly in the north of England too — pronounce “f” as “th”. Like “wif” for “with” and “ovvah” for “other”. Here’s a short example:
I’ve been watching a lot of Fallout videos the last 9 months, and for whatever reason, a lot of my regular YouTubers are younger English guys who talk like this all through their videos, like this guy, Davey:
Anyway, imagine living near here with that, and always talking about “the Firf ov Forf”? That was stuck in my head the whole time I was there, “Firf ov Forf”, “Firf ov Forf”. And now, 2+ months later, I’ve been writing up Edinburgh and going, “Wait, there was something, what was it?” and obsessing about the rhythm of the sound. Th-fronting. Ov course!
(Side-note, or maybe side-side-note: I can never remember that it’s called th-fronting, and I keep thinking of it as “t-thwacking”. ‘Cause I’m adorable like that.)
Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Edinburgh Castle.
Anyway, I stopped for lunch in the commissary at 12:30 (building G, formerly the “cartsheds”), which you can just make out in my last picture, on the left past the trees.
Fortified, I continued onwards:
I can’t tell you how often I tripped across things lauding the “discovery” of the “lost” Honours of Scotland by the heroic Sir Walter Scott. Here’s what happened, the entire epic tale, distilled to the best of my ability into the crucial points you need in order to fully understand the heroism of all those involved:
- The Honours were hidden in the castle during a fight with the English, to keep them safe.
- Some years later, in 1818, after they were 1 big happy kingdom, someone thought it was Ok to get them out again.
- Sir Walter Scott went to the room where they were supposed to be.
- He opened the chest they were supposed to be in.
- They were there.
My gods, what a story! I laughed, I cried, it’s a part of me now.
[So help me gods, that’s exactly what happened. And WOW did they make a big deal about this, despite adding not even 1 piece of information beyond what I laid out above that would make it sound more dramatic. My FedEx delivery had more drama.]
So, with that bit of legend told, I shall exit the castle, stopping by famous Throne of Scone on the way out.
And, from here, I began my walk home.
Done, for now.
I really thought I was going to finish my Edinburgh time in this entry, but I’m up to 5500 words and I’ve got one more day of museums to go and then my departure. So, maybe I save that for the next one, and let that be a short one. It’ll be in the next few days. I’m determined to wrap up Ireland before I leave my current place, in under 2 weeks, so wish me luck. 🙂