Our Scottish Adventures

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy New Year! We're currently suffering from severe internetlessness after having moved house (yes, more on that later! I promise to post pictures of home once we've cleaned up nicely and we have sufficient bandwidth to upload an image or two), so my apologies for only sending out bloggy New Year wishes now.

We got to celebrate New Year's Day with a seven-hour drive up to the Land of the Haggis to meet Richard and Aaron who have been a-visiting from Sunny South Africa. The drive was heaps of fun, complete with many stops at 'services' (what we'd call 'rest stops'), hunting around for travel pillows, and hilariously awkward vending machines that indicate the particular nuances of the various areas we stopped in. We ate awful burgers, drank take-away coffee in the car and laughed hysterically at the ridiculous town names we passed by. There was a terrifying moment when I realised that we were out of mobile signal range for about two hours but I think I can be forgiven for my reliance on technology at that moment because we were winding our way along country roads with no lights in the middle of the pitch-blackness of nightfall!

Edinburgh was rather different from what we were expecting. It was dark, grimy and layered. The buildings were montaged to form a giant structure that rose and fell out of the earth in various shades of brown and grey, and the cars were constantly streaming around the oddly circular roads.

And just when you weren't expecting it, the world turned topsy turvy and in the middle of a busy intersection, a little stone house rose out of the greens and looked like it had grown out of a seed:

I wanted to have this little abode, but it wasn't very accessible nor would it easily fit into our car boot, methinks.

Aaron and I discovered the most fantastic vending machine in the world which certainly deserves a mention: a Ben & Jerry's vending machine in the hotel lobby. Yes - ice-cream. It involved a  vacuum suction cup on the end of a robotic arm, a freezer, and tiny tubs of Ben & Jerry's goodness dispensed in the flavour of your choice. The novelty cost a whopping £3.00.

We did the sightseeing and touristy things in Edinburgh, like walking along Princes Street and visiting all the kilt-makers along the way. Here's Richard trying on some fun Scottish merchandise:

We also hunted down the best place to eat Scottish Food which happened to be the highly-recommended Monster Mash. Their speciality is sausages and mash. The décor was a bit uncomfortable with black and white contrasts, but it had a nice diner feel about it and the food was delicious! Here's Richard's giant Scottish pie:

... and Graeme's McSween Haggis!

Haggis, Turnips and Mash.

How Very Scottish.

We even made our way into the Edinburgh Castle which is atop a giant hill that requires much huffing and puffing. Here's the Castle from way down below where you can see it perched on its vantage point:

See? There it is... all the way up there.... and you have to walk there. Anyway, we got there nice and early, got our tickets without much fuss, and happily wondered around the castle buildings enjoying the history, the sights, the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Book and Whisky Shop. I thought it was particularly funny to have a shop in the castle dedicated to such apparently opposite products, but no! It was quite the norm inside, with patrons purchasing trinkets, tokens, whiskies and tour books.

Here's Graeme walking alongside the turrets of the castle. It's so very high that you get quite a sense of the sublime when you're standing at the top overlooking the expanse of the city.

It's quite terrifying to think that this castle was occupied in times when it was necessary to have cannons lined up alongside the walls. 

... and they're not little cannons, either.

The view from the Castle top is rather spectacular, as you can imagine. Here you can see the remnants of the famous Scottish Hogmany celebrations:

The shopping centres and market arena were still in full swing! I love the juxtaposition of the architectural structures in this image. The massive gothic spires are sandwiched between neon-lit amusement rides, and are backed by a hodge-podge of commercial buildings.

It was alarmingly cold in Edinburgh, and even more so on top of the biggest hill! Here's Aaron and Richard, all wrapped up warmly while we mission around.

And here's us, also wrapped up warmly in our thermal scarves and jackets. We are both recovering from 'flu here, so we're not feeling particularly photogenic. Richard and Aaron chose the wrong time to be visiting the UK: the swine 'flu pandemic was at an all-time high, and poor Aaron ended up with Night Nurse and Lemsip!
This was almost a very funny picture but Aaron moved at the last minute :) The castle was finished off with regal elements like this in every nook and cranny, and it created a rather beautiful and loaded historic experience. I particularly loved the paintwork on the walls inside the castle (paintwork restored):
It's not as as elaborate or as gilded as the castle buildings in Cardiff, nor as Gothic and dark as the palace in Prague, but it's certainly majestic in its own right and is well worth a trip! Many of the museums in and around the castle were closed but we were all so very tired and 'fluey that we were quite happy to meander down Royal Mile to enjoy the spoils of Starbucks and other treats.

Edinburgh has a lovely Gothic feel about it - not just in the look of the buildings or in the architectural influences, but in the actual city itself. Perhaps it was just the time of year, but the whole city seemed alive with  ghosts and spectres of a forgotten past. A bizarre comparison, but see what I mean here:

This enormous grave marker is magnificently dark, and the tree created the perfect backdrop for the enormous gravity I was trying to capture. This was alongside the castle walk, near the train tracks, and opposite some of the largest retail space in Edinburgh.

You pass this street as you walk down the Royal Mile with all the other tourists. It is, they say, where cows were taken to be slaughtered. It's particularly close to Mary King's Close, an underground street festering in Urban Myth. 

Bell-towers, stained domes, leafless tress, circling birds, winter skies. I'm having a field-day here!

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