MaiTaiTom Gets The Royal Treatment…Two Weeks Exploring London and Scotland
DAY EIGHT – A Hill Of A Climb, Thankfully Not Open Yet, “Tracy Fell Off The Cliff!”, Edinburgh’s “Folly”, Show Off, Are We In Athens, Honest Abe, Fantastic Foyer, Cheese Please, The Path Less Taken, St. Bernard Without Rum, The Village Idiot, Not Quite As Bad This Time, The Last Supper, Drinks With Deacon, Princess At Princes, The Apple Of Our Eye, Cyder House Rules, Our Favorita Italiano and Cheers To Edinburgh!!!
Our our last day in Edinburgh, I started with a great brioche French toast courtesy of Louise at Millers64, while Mary enjoyed a scrambled egg and salmon on a bagel. I think Kim and Tracy had porridge, but I was too busy eating. We needed fuel, because it was time to climb the steps up to Calton Hill, one of Scotland’s first public parks.
Robert Louis Stevenson once proclaimed, “Of all places for a view, this Calton Hill is perhaps the best.” Before he had a construction cone placed on his head, philosopher David Hume lobbied the council to construct a walk “for the health and amusement of the inhabitants,” so we decided to take the “Hume Walk” first thing on this Sunday morning.
We scaled the steps across the street from the Old Calton Burial Ground, and Louise’s French toast gave me just enough energy to make the journey to the top of this hill, which is volcanic in origin. On top, the first thing we came upon was a giant tower. The Nelson Monument commemorates Admiral Lord Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars, and who also was at the helm of the Seaview in Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea (although it’s possible that could be another Admiral Nelson).
I like towers, but on this morning I really didn’t feel like taking the 143 steps to the top where it’s said you get a commanding view of Edinburgh. Of course, I couldn’t admit that. We read a sign stating the tower would not open until noon. Inside my head I shouted, “Yes!” Outwardly I expressed frustration to my mates telling them how disappointed I was that we would not be able to climb to the top of this magnificent edifice (hopefully, they’re not reading this).
Soon Mary and Kim meandered away somewhere, while Tracy walked down a very small and steep trail for a better view. Meanwhile, I made my way to another vantage point. Five minutes later I returned, and there was no sign of Tracy.
I ran…let me rephrase that…I walked as quickly as these old legs could go (of course, it was uphill), and breathlessly blurted out, “I think Tracy has fallen off the cliff!” Sometimes I can be a little overly dramatic. As we hurried back to where Tracy had almost certainly plummeted to her death, we saw…Tracy. I might have overreacted to her absence, and, ironically, she gave me a death stare.
In any event, we turned around just in time to see Mary hopping up on that Greek-looking structure. “Show off, “ I yelled to the in-shape and nimble Mary.
She was now standing on the National Monument, also known as “Edinburgh’s Shame” or “Edinburgh’s Folly.” In an attempt to emulate the Parthenon in Athens and to commemorate Scottish soldiers and sailors killed in the Napoleonic Wars, celebrated architect (and, by his name, someone who displayed terrific sportsmanship) William Playfair designed plans for this building sporting 12 Doric columns. It was to be a great monument for the city, which had been dubbed the “Athens of the North.” Sadly, funds ran out, and it was never completed.
Before taking the steps down, we passed by the Portuguese Cannon, a 15th-century brass cannon that traveled the world until it was presented to the city of Edinburgh in 1886. It was placed up here the following year.
Taking one last look at the sweeping views from Calton Hill, it was time to get the hill out of here.
We weren’t surprised to once again run into Mr. Hume’s large cylindrical tomb. I had read, “Hume was a noted atheist, prompting rumors that he had made a Faustian pact with the devil; after his death his friends held a vigil at the tomb for eight nights, burning candles and firing pistols into the darkness lest evil spirits should come to bear away his soul.”
There, standing in front of us, was none other than Honest Abe. As it turns out, Lincoln’s statue (built in 1893) commemorates the Scots (there were only six of them) who fought on behalf of the Union during the American Civil War. His is the only memorial to a U.S. president in Scotland.
…it was only about a ten minute walk to our next destination, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (1 Queen Street…free admittance). I guarantee when you enter into the Main Hall of this red-sandstone, geo-Gothic building dating from 1889, you’ll let out a “Wow!”
The Great Hall “introduces the visitor to key figures and events in the history of Scotland through its elaborate decoration. Around the first-floor balustrade, a processional frieze against a rippled, gold backdrop shows 155 figures from Scottish history. They march around the hall in reverse chronological order, from the 19th century through to Stone Age man.
“It includes royalty, military, religious and political figures as well as explorers, inventors, poets and artists all from Scotland’s past.
“The procession starts with the author and historian Thomas Carlyle, who played a significant role in the establishment of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery in London.”
You have to see it in person…words and photos do not do it justice.
The Donor Window was installed in July 2012 to coincide with an opening by the Queen as part of her Jubilee tour of Scotland. “It includes 13 portraits, including that of HM the Queen, as well as symbolic bouquets of flowers which represent the trusts and corporate donors.”
The rooms are, like the Scottish National Gallery, very colorful, complementing the artwork.
…to Queen Victoria…
…one gets a better glimpse into their lives and the history of the country.
Yesterday’s rain precluded us from visiting Dean Village, but the weather on this Sunday morning was cooperating so we walked toward a path where we would take a mini hike along the Water of Leith. First we passed Queen Street Gardens.
We didn’t have a key.
In the village-like suburb of Stockbridge, outside of I.J. Mellis Cheesemongers (6 Bakers Place) a young man was toasting some cheese toasties, and we tasted a sample. Deeeeelicious!
Not content with that small bite, Tracy and I bought one each (these toasties also had mustard) and followed Kim and Mary to a nearby street fair. We ate our toasties as Kim munched on a Nutella crepe (healthy eating at its finest).
Far from the maddening crowd, this 1/2 mile, colorful and tranquil hike was chock full of flowers and plants…
…and a dog frolicking in the water.
It made sense we saw a dog since were coming to St. Bernard’s Well, where a natural spring was discovered in 1760. Some claim “that the water could cure everything from a bruised leg to total blindness.” Others described the taste as having the “odious twang of hydrogen gas or even like the washings from a foul gun barrel.”
The actual temple of St. Bernard’s Well (that has been restored) was designed by painter Alexander Nasmyth in 1789, and inside the structure is a depiction of the Greek goddess of health, Hygeia. I looked for a barrel of brandy, but alas this St. Bernard didn’t have one.
This is a great walk, and a peaceful oasis to escape to the country…
…while visiting the city.
After walking under Dean Bridge we were in Dean Village…
…whose name is derived from “dene,” which means “deep valley.”
The most famous building in this neck of the woods is Well Court, built in the 1880s, and it has been restored by the Edinburgh World Heritage. It was originally built as model housing for local workers who worked at the water mills.
Walking along one of the uneven streets, I came within an inch of falling on my face. “I guess I really am the Village idiot,” I mused. We went on…silently. I guess the nearby sign was really a sign for me to be more careful.
Suddenly we were at that same damn hill that had nearly caused my demise, but for some reason I navigated it easily this time (must have been that cheese toastie). We walked by The Mathers Bar from yesterday, and once again Beaver Cleaver was nowhere to be found.
Soon we found ourselves at a familiar spot…the graveyard at St. Cuthbert. After a couple of more photos, we made our way to the entrance, and on this Sunday afternoon the church was open.
I read the church was “inspired by the Italian Renaissance,” so being Renaissance men, Kim and I felt quite at home here. The church is also known for its Last Supper frieze (dating from 1906) curving around the apse.
I looked for The Village People at this booth.
We walked past The Black Watch Memorial on the Mound, a statue created in memory of the officers and men of the regiment who died in the Boer War, and hiked back to the Royal Mile where we purchased a couple of rugby shirts.
We decided all this shopping (15 minutes is an eternity for me) deserved a libation…
…so we entered Deacon Brodie’s…
…and enjoyed a pint.
At this point Kim and Mary departed to pick up the car that would transport us through the Scottish countryside for the next week.
Meanwhile, Tracy spied something unusual in front of Gladstone’s Land that she gave a hoot about. “Look,” she pointed, “There are a couple of owls.”
“Who?” I asked, but after one look from her I realized that line of humor was going nowhere. They were quite photogenic…and, being wise, they knew it.
My friend Andy had also told me about another pub he enjoyed near here, The Jolly Judge. A little whisky, and it was time to head back to Millers64.
I thought about giving her a piece of my mind, but when a burly security guard gave Tracy the evil eye for getting too close, we decided to move along.
We made a quick stop at the Apple Store to see why our brand new iPhone was freezing occasionally, and the Genius said we needed to push out the updates. Well, at least we got to see the Wellington statue from the store.
… and some cheese and crackers in the garden courtesy of the lovely ladies at Millers64.
We had a terrific time chatting with them and hearing about how they started in the b&b business. On our final night, we only had to walk about five minutes for dinner. It was time for Italian. La Favorita (331-325 Leith Walk) had been recommended by Louise, and it made for a great choice on our last evening. Not only was it close by…it was good (interior photo from internet).
Dishes from Calamari Fritti to Arancini al Taleggio e Pesto Genovese (incredible Risotto balls with cheese)…
…to a gnocchi special…
…to an out-of-this-world caramel pie dessert made this the perfect restaurant ending to our time in Edinburgh.
What a perfect four days it had been, and Edinburgh has moved up the charts for a future visit. From the taxi drivers to our b&b hosts to every restaurant and pub person we encountered, their friendly nature made this a memorable and enjoyable experience.
Tomorrow, we’d hit the road for a couple of famous castles and an island abbey visit before stopping at our first countryside retreat; an establishment that might include the most beautiful grounds of any hotel or inn we have ever stayed. Plus, any day where I can trot around castle grounds with a couple of coconut shells and act like an idiot is a very good day. “Run awaaaaaaaay!!”
Next: Mirror Mirror, Sterling Stirling, I Thought We Were On The English Tour, More Unicorns, The Full Monty, Your Mother Was A Hamster And Your Father Smelled Of Elderberries, Coo-Coo For Coconuts, Always Good To Have A Paper Map, Monumental Find, Boating In The Rain, Idyllic Island, Gorgeous Grounds, Change Of Plans, Callander Girl, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, I’ll Take Manhattan & The Loudest Peacock On The Planet