Breakfast is included with the room and is a buffet of hot or cold so we stocked up with a big breakfast before heading to the train station. This time we were lucky and the train went to Queen Street instead of Central so we were where we needed to be right away! The day return ticket to Edinburgh was £7.50 and leaves every 15 minutes or so from either end of the line.
Less than an hour and we're pulling into Waverly station. Wouldn't you know, it's starting to spit rain already. There are city tour buses on Waverly bridge just as you come out of the train station so that's what we did, another hop on hop off tour. Once around the circuit and then decide where to get off. We had to sit inside the bus instead of up on the upper deck and the guide came inside as well. The bus was loud and noisy and drowned him out a bit so we didn't catch everything he said.
By the time we started on the second circuit, the rain had almost stopped. We got off at the stop for the castle though we weren't going inside because we knew the Globus tour included that next week. We did go up to the Esplanade for a look out over the Prince's Street Garden but then decided to go into Gladstone's Land. It's a National Trust house right on the Royal Mile, not far from the castle. It's a 16th to 18th century tenement house with a half a dozen rooms furnished with guides in each room to tell you what all the antiques are and how the merchant who owned the house would have lived there. It was very interesting and well worth a look.
We also found out about a traditional Edinburgh "symbol". There was a double heart design inlaid into one of the cabinets and we asked the guide about it. It's a "Luckenbooth" she said, a double (sometimes you see a triple) heart with a crown on top. These designs were sold mainly as pins out of booths in the market, locked up at night so that they could be left on the market area. Locked booths. . . Luckenbooth. The pins were sometimes attached to babies' blankets for luck and they also symbolize love and friendship, basically the Scottish equivalent of the Claddagh I think. I have to have one but I want a ring, not a pin!
Lunch next and we ended up in the Deacon Brodie's café on the Royal Mile. Brodie was a well respected Edinburgher by day and a thief by night. The café is lined with murals depicting his life and trials and tribulations. He was caught eventually and hanged in 1788 by a scaffold of his own design. The food was ok, the server at the counter rushed and brusque.
We walked around the Royal mile, poking into shops along the way. We explored into the catherdral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St. Giles where John Knox preached in his day. This cathedral is smaller than the one in Glasgow, more square in shape but a bit more decorated on the outside with a coronet style spire. It dates from 14th century after an earlier church burned. The crown spire was erected in 1495 and Charles I granted it cathedral status in 1633. Again, more lovely stained glass, including one designed by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Interesting to see the different styles from the different periods. In one side tomb the sun was actually shining in through the window and throwing a multi coloured reflection on the wall above the memorial. Yes indeed, when we emerged, there was blue sky by God!
We walked across the North Bridge (Edinburgh has 6 bridges, none of them go over water!) Down into Prince's street gardens to have a bit of a look. The floral clock this year is a Millenium pattern. There's also a sweet little cottage on one end probably for the park caretaker. We walked and sat for awhile. Then decided that since the sun was out, we might take the city tour again to see some of the sights under blue sky for some photos. What a difference! It was interesting too, we have been on board for three different guides, each of them told us the same basic info but also each of them had a few different stories to add or a few different details!
We walked down Rose Street, squinting into the now lowering sun, and trying to decide on a pub or restaurant for dinner. Most of the ones we looked into were a bit too smoky but we came to a cross street and found a place that had a pub on one side and a restaurant on the other, slightly below street level, called the Victoria and Albert! We really enjoyed the food! Just sausage and mash but it was piping hot, with savoury onion gravy. The décor was nice with tapestry covered both benches, burgundy walls and a low ceiling.
We caught the 7:30 train back to Glasgow and a taxi back from the train station. Tomorrow, more Glasgow and meeting the tour members tomorrow night!
We took the bus downtown this time and tried to get off near the post office but traffic got so bad we ended up a few stops away. Decided to walk along the pedestrian section of Sauchiehall Street . Window shopped, poked into a few jewelry and book stores and decided to have lunch in the Willow Tea Rooms, designed by Art deco architect Charles Rennie MacIntosh. Every aspect of the tea room was designed by him right down to the dishes and cutlery. High ladder backed chairs and stylized roses and decorations. The afternoon tea with four quarters of a sandwich each with different fillings, a currant scone and dessert with tea or coffee for £7.95. They served it on a three tier chrome caddy with doilies on each plate and white dinnerware.
We walked up short very steep Douglas Street to see the Glasgow School of Art, also a MacIntosh building. It's very sleek and has his trademark windows containing many small panes. We peeked in the front entrance hall but there was a fee for a tour round the building and we decided just to browse in the gift shop where we each ended up buying a few prints.
Down to Sauchiehall and Buchanan streets more shopping. We meandered along to George Square under the ever darkening cloudy sky, bought a few postcards and these canny little popup maps of Glasgow and Edinburgh in the tourist information center and decided to head back to the hotel. Our evening meal is included with the tour as the tour officially starts today as people arrive. The meet and greet is at 6, dinner at 6:30. We leave tomorrow morning on the bus at 8.
The meet and greet didn't go exactly as planned. We were supposed to have a separate room for the half hour but a wedding party arrived at the hotel early so that was scuppered and we crowded into the hotel bar. We met a few fellow tourists fairly quickly, a lovely newlywed couple in their 40's and a senior couple from Ontario traveling with their daughter and son-in-law. Our guide is Peter, a nice man late 30s or early 40s, a Londoner and our coach driver is Alec, who appears to be in his 50's and a Scot. Our prayers to the travel Gods appear to have worked, The crowd isn't *all* seniors and so far those we have met aren't "weird" That's a reference to something a tour guide told me once years ago, he prays to the travel Gods before each of his tours . . . "Please let them be normal!"
Dinner was pretty good and we got to see the bridal party on their way through the dining room to the private rooms, most of the males of all ages, including a little one in his stroller in kilts! I do so love full dress kilts! One man had a plaid over his shoulder and a lot of silver medalions and pins. The Clan Laird perhaps? :)
Back to our room to pack. Nice that someone else gets to lug the bags for a week! So the tour proper begins tomorrow.....