A lazy day
We didn’t have to leave the hotel until 9:00 AM today. 9:00! Can you imagine? That means we could sleep until 7:30!
Seriously, it’s been a while since we’ve slept in like this. Combined with an early night last night, it was fantastic…and we could have slept more. But we got up, showered, did not have to pack our bags, had breakfast, and met the group on time for departure to Edinburgh Castle. Roxy was not her usual perky self this morning; she was out drinking last night with some of the others and seemed to be feeling the after effects 🙂
Our bus driver also had the day off (EU regulations demand it), so we were all given day passes for the Edinburgh transit system (well, one of them; there are at least two), and Roxy took us to Edinburgh Castle. She gave us our entry tickets and left us to our own devices.
Approaching Edinburgh Castle
Pamela and I wandered through the castle, which was very cool, because unlike Cardiff Castle, it’s not just an outer wall – it’s full of buildings and streets inside like it would have been originally, so it feels a lot more real…you can get a sense of how it might have operated. There’s been a fort on Castle Hill since at least 600 AD. (Quote from the information sign: “Three hundred heroes rode to their doom after a year drinking in a hall on the castle rock” — doesn’t that just sound Scottish somehow?) I gather that the current castle setup was started by someone named King David I in the 12th century, but the only building that remains from that period is one church. The castle’s been invaded several times so most of the buildings have been knocked down and rebuilt over the centuries.
Buildings in Edinburgh Castle
Also in the castle, we wandered into an impressive-looking building called the War Memorial. It was built after the First World War, and has of course been turned into a memorial for the Second World War and later wars as well. On the inside, it was absolutely stunning. It’s like a church inside: all stone arched ceilings and stained glass windows and engravings and such. I didn’t expect anything at all like it, and was quite blown away. Unfortunately, because photography is prohibited inside, I can’t show you what it looks like. But I can relay the engraving that was in the room dedicated to the unknown soldiers, which really struck me:
Others also there are who perished unknown
Their sacrifice is not forgotten
And their names though lost to us are written in the books of God
The Scottish War Memorial
Next we went to the tower that held the old Scottish crown, scepter, and sword, plus the Stone Of Scone, aka the Stone Of Destiny. There are whole big complicated stories about these: they’ve been lost, stolen, recovered, broken, repaired, hidden, found, modified, and so forth over the ages. The most modern bit is about the Stone Of Scone. This is just a rectangular chunk of rock from a place called Scone. Historically, all Scottish kings were crowned on it. Back in the 13th century, King Edward I stole it from Scotland, and it was only just returned in 1996! (There’s a lot more to the story; look it up if you’re interested.)
Edinburgh Castle’s “main street”
A snail I found in the flowers
By then, I was getting hungry and Pamela was getting bored, so we skipped the rest of the castle and headed out. We were looking for a place to eat, and actually ended up in a Pizza Hut; we’re still feeling unwell and we just wanted some familiar food that we knew would fill us up. It did the trick, and then we went wandering the Royal Mile — a stretch of road full of various shops — and did some souvenir shopping.
Edinburgh, we’ve decided, is an extremely pretty city. It’s just really beautiful to look at in most of the older part of the city. Part of this is because it’s a very hilly city…which also makes it kind of tiring to wander around. So we certainly took our time. It was really nice to not be in a hurry for once. We had the option of getting back to the hotel for a free dinner at 7:00, but other than that we had nothing on the schedule.
A lot of people rub this toe.
So after shopping, we ended up at an unusual place called the Camera Obscura. This is a tourist attraction centered around…well, optical things, is the best way I can describe it. There are optical illusions and holograms and stereoscopic photos and a maze made of mirrors and all sorts of stuff. One highlight, for me, was this hallway that you walk down that’s basically a catwalk through a big round tube. The room is dark and the inside of the tube is covered in coloured lights, and it’s rotating as you walk along, and it’s absolutely disorienting. It’s a very weird feeling, and you need to grab onto the rails because you’re convinced that you’re tipping over.
Pamela’s very bad day
The reason for the name “Camera Obscura” is because of what’s on the top floor: a dark room with a white table in the middle, with an image of Edinburgh projected onto it from a mirror and three lenses on the room of the building. This gives a live image of what’s going on outside, in quite clear detail: you can easily recognize people walking on the streets below. An employee controls the “camera” and points it in different directions around the city, so you get a bit of a city tour thrown into the mix.
And then you can also go out onto observation balconies on the top floor and look over the city. There are binoculars and telescopes up there too. Overall, it was a surprisingly neat thing to do for almost two hours, and a nice break from the cultural and historical stuff that we’ve been immersed in for the last week.
Edinburgh, viewed from the top of the Camera Obscura building
We headed back to the hotel then and spent some time just reorganizing our bags and going through receipts and things, making sure we had records of what we were bringing back to Canada and how much money we owed each other and whatnot. Then we headed down to the hotel dinner to check out the menu, decided we didn’t feel like nibbling at another weird British meal that we were only half-interested in anyway because we weren’t feeling great, and agreed to walk across the street to a conveniently located KFC. Along the way we met another member of the group who had reached exactly the same conclusion :-). So we ate, went to the pharmacy and bought ourselves some drugs, went to the grocery store for snacks (yogurt and chocolate milk), and returned back for a relaxing evening.
So really, today was a vacation from our vacation! We both needed it, and we’re feeling better now than we did yesterday at this time, so that’s promising. It’s an early morning tomorrow, back on the road and going to Loch Ness! (I think.)