Written by Praskipark on 15 Nov, 2012
The street sculptures outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh are some of the weirdest I have encountered. The first time I saw them was just before I entered the cathedral. My husband didn’t want to enter the church so he stayed behind trying to figure…Read More
The street sculptures outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh are some of the weirdest I have encountered. The first time I saw them was just before I entered the cathedral. My husband didn’t want to enter the church so he stayed behind trying to figure out what they symbolised. I hadn’t a clue and from the steps of the cathedral, they just looked like giant sized lumps of black, shiny metal.After I had finished my tour of the cathedral I went out to look at these three statues that were designed by Scottish artist and sculptor, Eduardo Paolozzi. They were placed in this position in 1991 on the pavement opposite the church and at the top of Leith Walk. The piece of work is called, The Manuscript of Monte Casino, this is where the artist’s Italian family came from.In the Second World War German troops invaded the town and took over the famous abbey, British and American Forces were unable to defend the town, Polish soldiers stepped in, many, many lives were lost but in the end the Poles were victorious. I know this from the inscriptions on a beautiful monument situated in Warsaw commemorating the bravery of the Polish 2nd Corps.Paolozzi’s set sculpture isn’t as beautiful as the one in Warsaw but it is certainly interesting.The three pieces consist of a hand holding a spherical object, a foot with split dimensions and a large object with a metal bar running through the centre. The three piece sculpture symbolises a journey or pilgrimage. The hand is outstretched, ready to give or receive hospitality.The foot represents travel and if you look closely at the hand you will see two locusts, one on top of the other. This may be a biblical reference to the swarm of locusts in the Bible.The statues do have a surreal quality about them but at the same time I can see the classical outlines. They are very large in size and I should imagine extremely heavy. I believe they were cast in a foundry in Germany.Paolozzi was born in Leith, and perhaps he wanted the sculptures placed near where he used to live at Crown Place, near to the old station. In 1943 he was a student at Edinburgh College of Art and called up for army service the next year. Later on he went to Slade School of Fine Art in London and then worked in Paris for three years from 1947 to 1949.In 2005, Paolozzi was awarded an Honorary Degree by Edinburgh University and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. He was 81 years of age when he died in 2005. If you would like to know more about this fascinating sculptor then pop into the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh where you will find a recreation of his art studio. Don't miss out on viewing this three piece sculptur either, it is fascinating. Close
Written by Praskipark on 06 Jul, 2012
Edinburgh Airport is another airport where we spent several hours passing time. You might think I am a bit of a skinflint when I tell you that instead of booking into a hotel for the night we chose to stay overnight in this airport.…Read More
Edinburgh Airport is another airport where we spent several hours passing time. You might think I am a bit of a skinflint when I tell you that instead of booking into a hotel for the night we chose to stay overnight in this airport. Our flight from Krakow didn’t arrive until after midnight so I thought it would be okay to get a few hours kip in the airport, get up early and wander around the city to take some photographs before catching our coach to Newcastle. I had checked hotel prices out before this trip to UK to see Bruce Springsteen in Sunderland and wasn’t really happy about paying out £100 when we had already spent so much money on the previous trip to Shanghai and other costs relating to coming to UK. I also knew at that time of night a taxi would be involved so to keep costs down we decided our night’s stay would be in this small and reasonably pleasant airport. As soon as we had left the plane and stepped into Arrivals we decided to go to the area that is marked, ‘Before Security’ to have a look around for comfortable chairs; ones where we could lie down. We only had one rucksack so no heavy luggage to carry around. Caffè Nero was the first café I spotted and although the prices looked a bit steep for a coffee I was gagging for a drink. The seating area here was comfortable enough to sit and have a drink but not to go to sleep although on the other side of the café were some squashy leather chairs in bright red and long seating against a wall where you could stretch out if you needed too. It was nice to see a young Polish girl serving behind the counter too. It was just like being at home in Warsaw except the coffee prices were more. People were sat in the red chairs so I spent the whole of the time watching their movements hoping that they would move on and leave the chairs to us. At this time around 1am there were only a handful of folks wandering around. Smoothie jazz music was playing softly which I didn’t mind but I could see my husband was getting irritated as he’s never been crazy about the singer out of Simply Red.There are other food outlets on this floor but they weren’t open, like EAT and the Turnhouse which is a Wetherspoons Bar and Restaurant. There were no signs of people leaving their comfy seats and the music by this time had started to jar my husband’s nerves so off we went back to Arrivals to look for more seats. The only ones available that weren’t connected to Costas and the like were the purple covered chairs lined up outside the baggage collection point. Desperate for a bit of shut eye we dumped the rucksack on the floor and tried to lie down. The was a small gale blowing through the area where the luggage conveyor belt was and it was cold especially to me as I had only just come back from the sweltering heat of China. At this point I felt a bit fed up being cold and tired; I wish we had booked a hotel room.Other people were sleeping and some were snoring but I just found it impossible to sleep no matter how much I tried to get my legs into a resting position. After about 30 minutes squirming around, I wandered to the loos to have a wash and clean my teeth. The toilets here were basic and clean nothing to get over excited about. By the time I had refreshed, my husband had woken up wearing a very grumpy face. I think you can guess what we did next. Yes, that’s right, trundled upstairs again to see if those travellers had vacated the comfy chairs. No, they hadn’t and by now this was getting ridiculous as we both needed to rest as a long week lay ahead.Across from Caffè Nero there is another coffee shop which sells sandwiches, soup, juices and salads. I think it is called EAT. The café wasn’t open, the serving area was boarded up and the chairs had been placed on top of the tables but there were free long seats against the wall. Already two people had lain down and were sleeping. We decided to join the club and give it a go. We both felt like a couple of tramps on the run but really didn’t care. Slowly the music floated away and within seconds we were asleep until 5.30 am when a lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m sorry but you will have to move now as I have to open up the shop.’ Bleary eyed, I looked at her and apologised for sleeping in her café. She smiled. I roused my husband and the other two guys who were snoring their heads off. 5.30 am and the coach to Newcastle didn’t leave until 10.30. I reckoned if we had a cup of coffee and another wander around it would take up another hour and then we could leave the airport to catch the bus to the city centre. Seeing that I had crashed out in this café I thought it was only polite to buy a drink and something to eat. I was surprised when the lady gave me a cup of coffee on the house. She said it was because I was her first customer but I think she must have felt sorry for me. Still, it was a nice gesture. The coffee was cheaper and tastier than in Caffè Nero and the sandwich selection was enticing although I didn’t buy anything. My husband purchased a bottle of fresh orange juice and he said it was delicious.Walking back down to Arrivals we saw that WH Smith had opened its doors so we went to buy cough sweets and a newspaper. I wasn’t impressed with this store; it was pokey and cluttered and the assistant looked worse than I did. He must have been suffering from sleep deprivation too. I asked if there was a Boots chemist on this floor and he said that it was through on the other side. Seeing that we weren’t departing from the airport I left it and went and sat down to read the paper. By this time the airport was getting busy, people were arriving to catch early morning flights to foreign climes, trolley assistants were delivering trolleys to form orderly queues near to luggage carousels and bustling cleaning supervisors were being bossy and ordering staff around to clean behind chairs. The lady in question even came to us and asked us to move so she could pick up the row of seats with a colleague to clean underneath. At this point I had had enough of Edinburgh Airport and decided to walk outside into the cold, brightly lit morning sun. Directly in front of the doors was a sign for Airlink 100 buses. The early buses run every twenty minutes and others run every 10 minutes. There is an office here too where you buy the tickets before getting on the bus. Ticket prices cost £3.50 for a single ticket and £6 a return ticket. I was pleased when the bus arrived, it was a double decker and I wanted to sit upstairs at the front so I could get a good view. It’s a nice journey to the centre and in a way you get a mini tour of Edinburgh thrown in. If you needed to catch a train you could catch the same bus to Waverley or Haymarket Stations.How did I feel about staying overnight in Edinburgh Airport? I didn’t enjoy the stay very much at all. The airport is only small and there aren’t a lot of activities to keep you occupied unless you love eating and drinking. Only a couple of cafes were open early morning so this is something to bear in mind if you need to stay in the early hours. We couldn’t find any lounge areas comfortable enough to sleep in so staying here for a long time is out of the question. I would probably fly to Edinburgh again if I had to but I definitely will book a hotel this time if I have to stay over. Close
Written by proxam2 on 28 Aug, 2011
THE FERRY (as it's known locally) lies on the south shore of the one of the narrowest parts of the Forth Estuary, directly opposite North Queensferry, its neighbour on the Fife coast. As the most convenient place to cross the Forth from Edinburgh to the…Read More
THE FERRY (as it's known locally) lies on the south shore of the one of the narrowest parts of the Forth Estuary, directly opposite North Queensferry, its neighbour on the Fife coast. As the most convenient place to cross the Forth from Edinburgh to the ancient capital of Dunfermline, it's thought the crossing was in use even before Roman times (the Romans had a harbour and settlement along the coast at Crammond). However, it's the association with St. Margaret, an Anglo-Saxon princess who married Malcolm Canmore (King Malcolm III, the man who killed Macbeth) from whence the name derives.After her marriage in 1070, Queen Margaret set up a church in Dunfermline which became a place of pilgrimage leading to increasing demand for transport across the Forth Estuary. The Queen's Ferry, operated by monks from Dunfermline, was a free service provided for pilgrims to Dunfermline and St.Andrews.The town became a 'burgh of regality' in the 14th century, giving it rights to hold markets and an annual fair which ensured its prosperity.By the 17th century, it had become a busy sea port, trading in wool, coal and hides - and importing wine, silk, linen and timber from Europe and Scandinavia. In 1627 Charles I granted the town a charter making it a Royal Burgh and freeport. Again the town prospered, as can be evidenced from the large number of good quality buildings from the 17th century which still survive intact. In fact, the old town is a conservation area with a great number of listed buildings.Into the 19th century, the town declined a little and the industrial revolution almost passed it by. That all changed in 1883, when the building of the Forth Rail Bridge and the influx of its 5000+ workforce brought a renewed prosperity to the burgh.With the first World War came the establishment of the Royal Navy destroyer base at Port Edgar, just to the west of the town.An interesting and little-known fact is that on the 16th October, 1939, South Queensferry (or some battleships moored off-shore) was the scene of Nazi Germany's first bombing raid on Britain. Indeed, the first Nazi planes shot down over Britain were shot down that day. The (rail) Bridge was constantly attacked, but obviously survived.By the 1950s the 'Queensferry Passage Ferry' was the busiest in Scotland, with around 1.5 million people using it annually. In 1964, the Forth Road Bridge was opened, and 900 years of life as ferry port came to a sudden end.These days it's a desirable commuter town for Edinburgh, as well as a busy destination for day-trippers.With new housing, it has grown considerably over recent years, but the old town still retains its ancient charms.THE HIGH STREET in South Queensferry offers an authentic and atmospheric glimpse of the past...if you can catch it at a quiet time that is. Parts of the higgeldy-piggeldy High St. narrow to no more than a car's width in places, causing the traffic to bottle-neck and, together with the bustling crowds, this can diminish the experience a little.It's far less busy in the evening.The High St. is quite unusual, in that it has a stepped cross section which was designed to cope with the steep slope to the shore. This results in elevated pavements on the inland side of the street. Houses line the elevated pavement, whilst shops are housed, cellar-like, underneath.These eleveted pavements are call East, Mid, and West Terrace with The Hawthorne Hotel being situated on West Terrace, just next to The Tolbooth (the big tower).The oldest surviving building in THE FERRY is St Mary's church, which dates from 1441, and was used as a monastery and hospice before the Reformation; whilst one of the oldest houses is Black Castle (1626), on the High St. When the sea captain who owned it was lost at sea, his maid was accused of inciting a beggar woman to cast a spell on him. Both women were burned for witchcraft.The High St. is lined with some classic, old fisherman-style inns and hostelries, many of which I've tried over the years you'll be less than overwhelmed to read. Most are full of character, although many have gone a little 'trendy' in recent years.Restaurants abound too, with Bella Vista, and its dining room which precariously overhangs the crashing waves below, being one of the best located.Probably the most popular establishment for eating and drinking, is The Hawes Inn. Directly below the (rail) Bridge, at the very end of the street, it was in room 13 of this famous watering-hole that Robert Louis Stevenson penned 'Kidnapped'.As if that wasn't enough, the Inn also features in Sir Walter Scott's, 'The Antiquary'.They do a nice drop of beer too!There are a number of interesting shops lining the High St., selling all manner of goods: from everyday establishments such as butchers and shoe shops, to galleries and shops selling designer-wear, quality gifts, and the ubiquitous tourist tat.On the second Friday of August, the day before the annual Ferry Fair, a weird apparition can be seen stumbling through the streets of the Royal Burgh. Completely covered from head to toe in burrs, and holding a flower be-decked staff in either hand. This 'thing', is THE BURRY MAN. His arms are held outstretched and have to be supported on either side by two attendants who help him on his duties throughout the day.This 7-mile journey begins from the Town Hall and proceeds to his first port-of-call which traditionally is the Provost's House (A Provost is the Scottish equivalent of a Mayor). This is where he's given his first of many drams.AROUND and ABOUTThe town has its own MUSEUM on the High St. Among other things, this has good displays on the construction of both the famous bridges.http://www.cac.org.uk/venues/queensmuse.htmHalf-an-hour offshore, lies INCHCOLM ABBEY - the best preserved monastic building in the country. A Ferry operates from the town from April to November.http://www.cyberscotia.com/inchcolm/Just outside town is HOPETOUN HOUSE, Scotland's finest stately home.http://www.hopetounhouse.com/In the neighbouring parish of Dalmeny lies DALMENY HOUSE, home to the Earl of Roseberry.http://www.dalmeny.co.uk/A little further along the road towards Linlithgow is THE HOUSE of the BINNS, another stately home and the residence of Tam Daylell MPhttp://www.scotlandforvisitors.com/binns.phpSick of stately homes? A bit further on brings us to BLACKNESS CASTLE which has been used for a location in a number of movies, including Mel Gibson's Hamlet.http://www.caledoniancastles.co.uk/castles/central/blackness.htmJust over the water at North Queensferry, is DEEP SEA WORLD, where you can dive with sharks...sounds like fun.http://www.deepseaworld.com/There's even a beach to the east of The (rail) Bridge called 'The Shell Beds' - strange, because it's made up of fine, golden sand, not shells. Perhaps it's because there's a massive oil-pumping platform out in the estuary here. North Sea oil is pumped from tankers to giant underground storage tanks just north of the town before continuing its journey to the huge petro-chemical works up river at Grangemouth.(Actually, that's BP, not Shell!)Linlithgow, with all it's attractions, is just a few miles distant.And remember, Edinburgh is just 8 miles away, with the Kingdom of Fife just a quick jaunt across the bridge.But, if not the best, then most definitely the biggest attractions in The Ferry, are the FORTH BRIDGES.It's impossible to escape their gigantic presence over the town. It's also impossible not to be impressed. Surprisingly, unless you are directly underneath one of them, the noise level isn't all that great, but you won't ever forget they're there!In conclusion, SOUTH QUEENSFERRY is probably an ideal place to stay if you want to see some of the attractions of East central Scotland, including Edinburgh, but don't want the hassle of staying in the city.Or, if your in the area, it's a fine place for a day, or evening, out. Close
Written by jipp05 on 27 Nov, 2010
Edinburgh is a magical city with world class attractions and sites that there is so much to see and do. However it can quickly become expensive visiting so many things and this is where the Edinburgh pass can help you. The pass cost's £26.50 for…Read More
Edinburgh is a magical city with world class attractions and sites that there is so much to see and do. However it can quickly become expensive visiting so many things and this is where the Edinburgh pass can help you. The pass cost's £26.50 for a one day pass, £39.00 for a two day and £51.50 for a three day pass. It is quite expensive but if you are planning on visiting quite a lot of attrctions then it will easily pay for itself. You can buy a pass online but the easiest way to get it is to visit the Edinburgh visitor's centre which is located on Princes Street right next door to Waverly train station. If you buy it here the friendly staff will advice you on the best sites for you to visit and answer any questions you might have. I bought mine at the visitor's centre and although there was a massive queue it was worth it as the ladt behind the counter was extremely helpful and even phoned up a few places to double check some queries I had. The pass doesn't become valid until the first time you use it so you can pick it up any time without worrying that you aren't making the best use out of it. It has a chip in it just like a debit or credit card so when you visit your first attraction you put it in the machine and it is electronically time stamped from that second. It is valid until for the time period but even if there is only 10 minutes left on the card you can still visit somewhere and spend the whole afternoon there as long as you enter before the validity expires. There are some decent attractions that are free to enter with the card including the Dynamic Earth exhibit, the Camera Obscura, John Knox House, Edinburgh Zoo and the Botanic Gardens. You can also experience some tours such as the terror tour which takes you into the purported haunted vaults under the city streets of the medieval old town. Unfortunately some of the most popular sites aren't included in the card such as the castle which has to be paid seperately for. Buying the Edinburgh pass only makes sense if you plan to visit as many of the attractions which have free entry with it as possible otherwise you end up spending more on the card than you would visiting the one's you wanted to. I liked the card as it gave me the chance to do a set list of sites that I might not otherwise have bothered to visit. I did still have to fork out to visit the castle which in my opinion should really have been free with the card. Another advantage of the card is that if you get it and visit the sites you can bypass any queues for the exhibits that are included in it and go straight to the front which was nice. It also offers free transport on the airport bus which saves £3.50 for a single. It comes with a good guidebook and map and there is also a section where it lists all the places you can use the card to receive discounts and these include restaurants and shops as well as attractions. If I visited Edinburgh again I wouldn't bother getting the card but as a first time visitor it gave me the chance to get a good understanding of the city and see plenty of sites as it forced me into squeezing in as much as I could so I wouldn't feel like I had wasted my money. Close
Written by flyingscot4 on 26 Aug, 2009
Leaving Calton HillAfter you climb down from Calton Hill, you can head straight for that big pointy thing that's right across the main drag of Edinburgh. This is Princess Street, the demarcation line between the hippies (Old Town) and the yuppies (New Town). You'll be…Read More
Leaving Calton HillAfter you climb down from Calton Hill, you can head straight for that big pointy thing that's right across the main drag of Edinburgh. This is Princess Street, the demarcation line between the hippies (Old Town) and the yuppies (New Town). You'll be able to tell the difference right away because the hippies have got all the really good stuff except it's really, really old and falling apart good stuff. The yuppies have got all the new stuff; it's only a couple of hundred years old. The hippies have the upper hand though, because they have the castle and you never saw so many big cannons aimed right at New Town. Good guys win!!! Anyway...The Sir Walter Scott MonumentThe Sir Walter Scott Monument is the pointy Gothic thing, and Sir Walter is sitting right inside with his dog (us Scots love our dogs). Scott was one of the good guys. He wrote "Rob Roy" and "Ivanhoe," so I have nothing bad to say about him at all. He was a rather large character who walked with a limp from a bout with polio as a child. He had periods of great success and huge failure, but he is remembered for things that he brought about through his determination as well as for his writing. He was responsible for bringing the tartan and kilt back into fashion and ending Proscription and his letters were responsible for the Bank of Scotland continuing to print the country's currency. It was through his continuous insistence that a search for a bricked-up room in Edinburgh Castle was initiated. The search culminated in uncovering the Regalia (Royal Jewels) of Scotland, which remain on exhibit in Edinburgh Castle.Jenner's Department StoreJenner's Department Store. Would you believe that this was the world's first department store. A lot of people have to thank Mr. Jenner and his buddy Mr. Kennington for going to watch the bang tails (horses) race one day for which they got fired. Neither one of them knew at the time that they were going to become big time Scottish entrepreneurs. All they were just trying to do was to get enough money to go back to the track and win back what they had lost. So anyway, they got rich and famous and then Kennington retired. After Kennington had been dead for 12 years, old Jenner decided that it was time to take his old buddy's name off the marquee. Then it was just Jenner's until 1892 when it burned down, and then it was just ashes. Fortunately, it was ashes with insurance and it was rebuilt and reopened in 1895. Ultimately it became the oldest independent department store in the world which it stayed until the Frasiers bought it (in 2005, would you believe). (Don't tell anybody, but I heard that the Frasier's made all their money rustling cattle and/or sheep back in Rob Roy's day, but that's just a rumor.) The Scott Monument and the Princess Street GardensThe Scott Monument and the Princess Street Gardens. Those crocuses were beautiful and it was February. The Princess Street Gardens separate the Old Town of Edinburgh from the New Town. The New Town is from the "New Town" period which didn't start until the 1760's when the Old Town was old. That's when the famous "Yuppies of the 1760's" appeared and wanted to leave Old Town because it was old and smelled of smoke and sewage so they went across Charles Bridge, started their own New Town, and pretended the Old Town no longer existed. Talk about noses in the air. Anyway, they weren't too bright. It appears that these people got lost a lot in Old Town so when the built New Town they built it on a grid with squares and streets that were easy to figure out. It backfired on the planners though, because they couldn't use the old excuse of, "I got lost coming home" after stopping off and trysting (I think that's a dance) with their girlfriends. So it was the poor people who got the last laugh.John Knox HouseJohn Knox House. Boy did he ever start a lot of trouble. I really don't want to talk about it because when I get into religion I always get in trouble and I'm in enough now.Paisley ClosePaisley Close. Closes are little openings to little alley's with little shops and tenements. Isn't that quaint? A young lad named Joseph McIver was apparently playing with his trucks and fire engines when the tenement next door collapsed (killing 35 people, unfortunately). Everybody went home and got their picks and shovels and steam shovels, and started digging because they heard him shouting. He cheered on the diggers by calling cadence and shouting, "Heave awa‚ chaps, ah'm no‚ deid yet." I guess they got him out because he was heard to use some pretty strong language at the diggers for being slow and I heard that he got a huge settlement from the city. They had the lawyers even in 1860. On top of that, he even got his face put on the archway. Who wudda thunk it? The Mercat CrossThis is the Mercat Cross. It was used for communication to the population. The "Hear ye, Hear Ye" guy would do his thing around the town and then come to this monument and wait for a couple of weeks until the population showed up and then he read the proclamation so that everybody knew what right they were about to lose. Besides that it was the center of the market where you could get stale and rotting stuff and get e-coli before you even knew what it was. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, they lopped off a bunch of heads here and other such stuff like a gallows and all that. It was a really popular place to just stand around and watch. It's almost like the sidewalk cafes we have today.Edinburgh Castle EntranceThis is the entrance to one of the truly great "working castles" in the world. There is always an active duty regiment stationed at the castle. The "Honors of Scotland" are kept, exhibited, and protected here. These are the Crown, Sword, and Scepter of Scotland and the oldest regalia in Europe. The history of the "Honors" is a fascinating story in itself culminating in their rediscovery due to the instigation of a search led by Sir Walter Scott.Above the entrance to Edinburgh Castle is written the motto of the Queen's Regiment and the Official Motto of Scotland. It reads, "Nemo Me Impune Lacessit" ("No One Assails Me With Impunity"). Another way of putting it is in old Scots, "Wha daur meddle wi' me?" In contemporary English, I suppose one could say, "If you hit me, I'll hit you back." Are they serious? About 30 minutes before the castle closes for the day you will see modern day British soldiers walking inside the castle and around the esplanade. Most are carrying machine guns. They're protecting the Crown Jewels of Scotland. You bet they're serious. In closing...After going through the hundreds photographs that I have made in Scotland over the years, and spending time to write some of the first tips and travelogues, I was proofreading a paragraph when I thought, "This reads like a travel guide. That's what I read to put myself to sleep at night." Other than eighth grade Geography, there is nothing more boring. So, I thought, let's have some fun with this. I have, and I hope that you have too.I also hope that I have not offended anyone in these glimpses of Edinburgh. If I did, it was unintentional and you have my sincere apologies. Edinburgh is my favorite city in the world and I have been coming here since the early 1960's when I was in the military stationed in Germany. In every visit to Edinburgh I can state unequivocally that I have been treated with wonderful kindness by everyone I have ever met. (Parenthetically, Allen at The Craft Collection, you still owe me a sweater.) It still kills me that the Tron no longer has sessions, but there will be others. And today while sitting here doing these pages, I know that I will feel the need to return to Scotland next year. I hope that I am still welcome. Close
Palace of Holyrood HouseThere are three views of Edinburgh that are spectacular. One is from the castle, the second is from "Arthur's Seat," and the third is from Calton Hill. Without trying to get into volcanic ash and lots of other stuff about which I…Read More
Palace of Holyrood HouseThere are three views of Edinburgh that are spectacular. One is from the castle, the second is from "Arthur's Seat," and the third is from Calton Hill. Without trying to get into volcanic ash and lots of other stuff about which I know absolutely nothing, I'll skip the geology lesson. Calton Hill is known for its' monuments to different Scots, the Old and National Observatory, the National Monument which was never finished because they ran out of money and England didn't feel like helping the old cause. I don't actually know if that last part is true, but it probably is knowing those tightwad English. Anyway, Calton Hill is a hill that you can drive up (assuming that you have something with a motor), or walk up steep stairs that will remind not to wear that tight underwear. When you get to the top you can wander all over and see the monuments. If you didn't read this before you climbed the stairs, then you will probably not have the water that you wish that you had remembered to bring. The people that did read this epistle are laughing at you right now.The Palace of Holyrood House or simply Holyrood Palace is the Queen's residence when she wants to do a little shopping and fence-mending in Edinburgh. Don't ever come to Edinburgh just to see the Holyrood Palace because if you do and the Queen decides to pop in, you are not allowed to pop in, which is pretty inhospitable. Of course, she IS English.The National Monument and Lord Nelson Monument.The National Monument is on the right and is just a few of the pillars they planned to build. Apparently someone called Edinburgh the "Athens of the North" and they took it seriously. They got a few built and then ran out of money. So, they dropped it. Lord Nelson is another thing. He was a great admiral or something and was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar, which I am pretty sure took place in a place called Trafalgar which is a square in London someplace. Anyway, they put up this monument that is supposed to look like an upside down telescope or periscope or something. Go figure.Dugald Stewart MonumentThe Dugald Stewart Monument with Edinburgh Castle unrecognizable in the background. Old Dugald was a famous Scottish philosopher who walked around talking to himself to lot. Drawings of him indicate that he had a pretty hefty sized nose and he was also famous for philosophical stuff and for comparing Edinburgh to Athens. Hence, the sobriquet as the "Athens of the North." Essentially, he was responsible for the idea to build the National Monument which went broke and you already know that story. I'm not going to talk about Edinburgh Castle because it is hard to see anyway. If I hadn't said something, I'll bet you wouldn't have known it was in the picture in the first place. What, you would have? Well, good for you.The Nelson MonumentThe Nelson Monument about which I have already enlightened you. That big rock formation is called, oddly enough, "Arthur's Seat." I don't know who he was, but I'll bet he had a big seat to go along with his big nose. If you look at the portraits of all these important Scots, one thing is common; they all have big noses. I haven't figured out yet whether the huge honkers is a Scottish trait or a Stewart (or Stuart, whichever you like) thing. I think that it is a Stewart thing because I don't have a big nose. Princess Street from above on Calton HillThe photograph is a view looking straight down Princess St. You can see the clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel. From the left, the things sticking up are St Giles Cathedral, St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, and Balmoral clock tower. Jenner's is right down there too, but I'll get into them in the next travelogue. I'll also get into the hippie and yuppie thing that is a territorial problem in Edinburgh.The Royal High SchoolBelow Calton Hill, and how we got here isn't important, is the Royal High School. My high school looked a lot like that, didn't yours? Mine was a little bigger and had a coliseum in the basement. I think the square thing with the pillars in the middle is where they all stand around wearing togas and stuff. I used to hate those things. Behind it is where they have the big gym with the lions to chase the track team. The lions serve double duty.St. Giles CathedralSt. Giles Cathedral. John Knox preached here, you know, and then he got the whole Presbyterian thing started. Boy did that start something. They built a statue of him inside; you can't miss it. And let's don't forget about ol' Martin Luther. He got his two cents in too. The Germans always have to horn in on things. Anyway, those guys and Calvin and a couple of others got stuff all stirred up and there were beatings, and burnings, and hangings and I don't know what all. And then, all of a sudden, Catholic churches weren't Catholic any more and then the Catholics got peeved and it all turned into a real mess. The Thistle Chapel in St. Giles CathedralInterior view of St. Giles Cathedral. This is the Thistle Chapel. These are the upper portions of some of the stalls and canopies of the King and his 16 knights. There are arms, crests, and heraldic symbols. It is not old; it's from the early 20th century. It is truly impressive and difficult to photograph. This picture was taken with a flat field 18mm lens (that's just for photophiles). Close
Written by NiceGinna on 04 Apr, 2009
After our one week home exchange in Carlisle, England, we headed for a two week exchange in Edinburgh, which we often called Edinbrrrrrrra, although the weather was pretty decent for May. It would start out chilly in the morning and then, around 5 PM…Read More
After our one week home exchange in Carlisle, England, we headed for a two week exchange in Edinburgh, which we often called Edinbrrrrrrra, although the weather was pretty decent for May. It would start out chilly in the morning and then, around 5 PM (!), it would warm up and the sun would be out and it was delightful until almost 10 PM. That shows how far north Scotland is. The days are much longer here than Nice or Chicago - Sunrise today was 4:47 and sunset at 9:34. Compare this to Chicagowith sunrise at 5:23 and sunset at 8:13 or Nice with 5:58 and 8:58. Edinburgh has more than 16 1/2 hours of daylight while Chicago has 14 3/4. Almost two hours more. Amazing. Great for exploring.Getting around Edinburgh was easy. We were staying in the Stockbridge area of the city, quite convenient although not center-city. The buses were easy to figure out and usually we took a bus into town in the mornings and then walked home, since we lived downhill, unless we were exhausted. The walks home were lovely, through beautiful crescent-shaped neighborhoods, lined with lovely townhouses with park areas in the middle.The city is built on many levels, with the Castle on a promontory high above the main streets and other areas, like Dean Village, below level. The main street is Princes Street, and nearby is a deep green where people sun and picnic on the nicer days. The Mound, just east of the castle, has beautiful buildings soaring high. It's tricky to walk around, much up and down and stairways, with funny little streets. It's a bit brooding with all the dark gray stone. It makes for challenging walking but great views.There are several interesting museums in the city and, like London, almost all are free, stretching your travel dollars. But the US dollar, while we were there, was very weak. We would have a meal and think, oh, that's not so bad - 40 pounds. Then we'd realize that it was $80. Luckily, the dollar has strengthened since then and the pound has practically collapsed, so that it's only 1.5 X for the conversion instead of 2 X. Close
Written by Red Mezz on 16 Nov, 2006
For some reason, Edinburgh isn't generally regarded as one of the great places to visit on a budget. And that probably has to do with the fact that for one thing it is on the British pound, which does immediately put budget travellers at a…Read More
For some reason, Edinburgh isn't generally regarded as one of the great places to visit on a budget. And that probably has to do with the fact that for one thing it is on the British pound, which does immediately put budget travellers at a disadvantage. But also the accommodation here is not cheap, so without a friend to crash with it could indeed be a pricey trip. However, once here there is so very much to do in all seasons that costs nothing or next to nothing that I'm of the opinion that it all evens out very nicely. And the Christmas and New Years celebrations are no exception. Most of the Christmas fun is free of charge for entry, or at least very reasonable. And even though there is admission and some costs for the Royal Bank Hogmanay Street Party, one of the best things Edinburgh offers over the holidays is free, in the 7 Hills Fireworks.
There aren't many places in the city where you can't see them... so no matter what you were doing or where you are at midnight on New Years Eve, just pop outside and watch them. They are a truly spectacular sight, being fired off from the seven hills surrounding the city of Edinburgh and around eight tonnes of fireworks being used each year. Though this is a wonderful (and free) thing to do and see from anywhere in the city... there are a few prime places that I will recommend. For the best and most amazing view of the fireworks spectacle as a whole there is little better vantage point than from the top of Arthur's Seat or the crags. If you want a memorable New Year's Eve that doesn't involve evening wear, then this is a great way to see in the New Year.
But keep in mind it will be dark and it's quite a hike to make in the day time, as well as the fact that it will be extremely cold and windy up at the top in January. Drinking before hand is definitely not a good idea. But if you are up for that adventurousness of it, I highly recommend it. But if you want something a little less work but with almost as good a view, the view from Calton Hill of the city is hard to beat, and the fireworks seen from here make an amazing sight. But if these two are still a bit too high, or too much work there is always Inverleith park, which has a wonderful view of the castle, or simply on the Bridges between Princes Street and the Royal mile. There is no traffic because of the street party so you can stand shoulder to shoulder with other locals and visitors (mostly inebriated) and sing in the New Year to the display of fireworks over the castle. But no matter where you decide to watch it from it's a wonderful way to spend the evening.
Written by Red Mezz on 13 Nov, 2006
For a brief half of a week near the end of November and the culmination of the winter season and the beginning of the cities time to really shine in for the holidays the locals and visitors get to enjoy the vast array of treats…Read More
For a brief half of a week near the end of November and the culmination of the winter season and the beginning of the cities time to really shine in for the holidays the locals and visitors get to enjoy the vast array of treats in the French Market. Located on Frederick Street near the west end, the market packs into the little side street and fills with vendors come from France bringing a bit of foreign and exotic tastes to Edinburgh for the holidays. This is a great end of town to be in any way at this time of year, for shopping and sight seeing a like. The bustle of Princes Street doesn't lessen as you reach the west end, but the number and variety of shops and stalls, all decked out for the holidays increases, and the pleasant feel of shopping in a city that loves Christmas is only amplified.
Passing the cart selling the wonderfully warm and aromatic roasted chestnuts, you'll come to Frederick Street, and find all your heart desires in the way of French specialities. It is very easy to get caught up in the festive atmosphere of the place, and the beautiful array of choices... last year I ended up buying an obscene amount of olives that I have to admit were fantastic. Even if you’re not in the market to buy (and you might change your mind once you've seen it) it's great to wander down and see, not least of all for all of the free samples the vendors happily offer passers by. But if you are looking, there is a fantastic array of selections of olives, cheeses, breads and nuts and dried fruits and crepes... as well as other things like hand bags and home made candles and other gifts you may not be able to find in the shops.
It's a great experience to partake on a cold winter day in Edinburgh. You're right in view of the castle and being just off Princes Street there is often the sound of a festive piper or a local brass band playing Christmas tunes floating up the street. The market begins on November 23rd (which coincides with the Lighting up Festival in Edinburgh where all the cities decorations are lit and the official beginning of the season) and runs through until Sunday the 26th. Don't get this confused with the German market in Princes Street Gardens, which runs through until Christmas and has a wider variety of things. The French market is largely foods and things of that sort, and though is in town for a much shorter time, is great for picking up those little treats at Christmas.
Written by Red Mezz on 09 Nov, 2006
Though this is a slightly odd thing to review, particularly for those of us used to living in cities where popping in for a coffee on a cold day is a common and pleasant way to spend half an hour and two pounds, I decided,…Read More
Though this is a slightly odd thing to review, particularly for those of us used to living in cities where popping in for a coffee on a cold day is a common and pleasant way to spend half an hour and two pounds, I decided, while compiling this idea of what to tell others about this city in the holiday season today--I found myself sitting at just such a coffee shop and realized that as a part of the city's festive experience, this ranks pretty high. So for those of you who realize a Costa coffee on a cold day is a pleasant experience, at least from this you get where in Edinburgh is a particularly nice place to stop. This city, in all seasons, has no small amount of coffee shops and great little cafes that sell wonderful coffees, to warm you in the almost never-ending cold of Edinburgh, and it's pleasant to sit outside with on those rare sunny days.
But even so (as I noticed so distinctly this evening on visiting one of my favourite on Princes Street), these visits take on a whole new level of enjoyment when the weather is crisp and cold and everyone enters the shops in sweaters and scarves and quickly discards them to sit comfortably in the big loungey chairs that these places are so well known for. While I was sitting in the Starbucks at the west end of Princes Street this afternoon waiting for my hot chocolate to arrive, it really struck me (as it often does still even after having lived in this city for nearly 5 years) what an amazing place it is, and how wonderful a place it is to soak in and simply see. I know of few cities that do Christmastime quite as well as Edinburgh, and this was amplified today as I sat with hot chocolate on a second-floor coffee shop, complete with a sweater and book, looking out over the amazing view of the castle with all the leaves outside changing in the clear fall weather.
I've rambled on a little bit with my enjoyment of these moments that Edinburgh has to offer, but to get more to the point, this is a wonderful part of the city to experience, especially at this time of year. The upstairs Starbucks at the west end of Princes Street as well as the one inside the West End Waterstone’s bookstore are wonderfully laid out and have a magnificent view of the castle in the afternoon sun.
The Costa Coffee, on the second floor on the corner of Hanover Street, is a great one to go to at night with a fantastic view of the Winter Wonderland in Princes Street Garden. There is very little better to do on a day out Christmas shopping or wandering in the German market than stepping into one of these places and relaxing away from the bustle of the streets, enjoying the magnificent view that is Edinburgh.