Friday, August 04, 2006

First Full Day in Edinburgh

Our B and B only has five rooms, which is part of the charm and one of the reasons we returned. The other reason is that it is men only, gay men only. It is as delightfully decorated and modern as we had remembered from 2001. However, they only have instant coffee, tea, and hot chocolate for the hot breakfast beverages. Instant coffee does not agree with my sense of decorum as a breakfast beverage under any circumstances, so we headed out for a coffee shop. Not far from our B and B was the Holyrood Palace where Mary Queen of Scots lived her final five years. The Queen's Gallery is in front of it, but again, we were waiting for the Edinburgh Passes to begin before visiting these. Across from these is the Scottish Parliament. Scotland was granted permission to create its own Parliament in 1996, but it was finally established in 1998. Their primary jurisdiction is over health and education in the country. The building which initally was estimated at costing 4 million pounds, is now at 400 million and is not quite done yet. Ron was also distracted by the Mother Earth exhibit, but is was 8,90 pounds for entry, but free with the Edinburgh Pass when we start it up on Monday. From the travel notes, I printed to bring along, it did not get good reviews. Once caffeinated, we went to the Haggis Tour office on the Royal Mile to join their free walking tour with Martin, the tour guide. The tour is suppose to be 1 ½ hours, but with our questions at the parliament it lasted two hours. None of us had any complaints as Martin was a cheery young man with good information and the tour walked us down the Royal Mile to the Parliament, the Queen’s Gallery and then back up to the castle. Even if there were a charge, it would have been worth it. Ron gave him a 5 pound tip, but no one else in the group seemed to catch on. We were the only tippers. We had this penchant for finding some books by Scottish authors. Ron is extremely fond of Ian Rankin and I wanted more of Alexander McCall Smith’s works. Though he is not originally Scottish, he does reside here in the city now and is a prolific writer. We went hunting for used books stores, but did not find any that were whetting our appetites to buy. Most seemed to be antique books, not current titles. For those who have not experience the Fringe Festival, it is an amazing experience. In this, the 60th year, entertainers of all breeds swarm the city to present their talents. There are plays, music and dance performances, comedy routines, just to name a few. Events start in the morning and continue through the night. Venues are placed all over the city. I will pass on more information later. At the Fringe Ticket booth, having booked online, we were able to pass a long line of people when we went to pick up our fringe tickets. There is a special and shorter line for pre-paid tickets. From here we went to a youthful pub that offers lunch on a 2 for one special. By 2:30, we bought a day long bus pass, but went to the hotel for a nap. Feeling revived, we took the bus to Portobello, a suburb of Edinburgh that has a beach area. The beach is impressively massive having grown up on the Jersey shore. The water does not even begin to break its little waves until one has had a hike along the sand down to the water front. The floating barriers to warn swimmers seemed to be a mile out in the water. The tide was low enough to keep a small child feeling secure. Just as in my childhood memories, this beach area also has amusement parks. However, unlike my childhood, these amusements centered on games of gambling and not of childhood amusement. There was something paradoxical about this scene. The empty chairs with some refuse around their legs exhibiting lonliness, yet the "Welcome" sign next to it, really struck a cord. Sitting on a bench, enjoying the view of the water, the seagulls were enjoying our sharing our crackers with them. They were like faithful fans hording around a rock star waiting for some token of remembrance. Back to the city by bus, we ventured toward the castle district. With the festival starting, the city is visibly swelling. The streets around the Royal Mile are full of people at all hours of the day and night. Excitement is permeating the air, careers can be launched here, the next star of tomorrow could be discovered. But we ate a meatball sandwich at Subway. How anticlimactic can you get? Most restaurants close by 10:00 or at least stop serving by then. There are no exceptions for festival times, but then again, there is almost always a festival in this city, so they would never get a break. During the day, the streets are brimming with street entertainers vying for a spot where they can be heard out of the range of the other entertainers. They are all trying to mesmerize you into buying a ticket to their show at the festival, giving you a taste of their wares. The competition is hot and tough. There are hundreds of volunteers handing out cards, flyers, and even packets of seeds with ads for a performance they want you to attend. It makes you feel especially popular with everyone wanting a chance at your dance card. Back to the city, after the beach outing we went to the castle district and ate at Subway, a tasty meatball sandwich. Restaurants stop servicing by 10:00 the latest, but many earlier making a late dinner almost impossible. At night, the streets are only filled with tourists strolling amongst the historic buildings enjoying the flavor that makes Edinburgh unique. We were back to our bed by 11:00.

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