Our first day in Edinburgh was our first day back in a city in about a week and I think we have become so accustomed to just picking a place on the map, driving (on the only road) to it, and hiking around a bit for a big payoff, that we were a bit unprepared for having to make plans again, but being in a European city with no real plans is “old hat” for us, so we packed up the stroller and headed out.
At home, just about every morning we cook bacon or sausage and (slow) scrambled or fried eggs. If that isn’t enough protein, we have some sliced avocado and some berries (or what they are calling “forest fruit” over here it seems) or some other kind of fruit. There is coffee (which we order then roast and grind ourselves) which regularly comes with a biscotti (okay a cookie) and there is usually orange juice involved too if my mom hasn’t consumed it all yet. On mornings where we don’t make all this, Erin will whip up some kind of smoothie which is equally delicious and has the benefit of requiring far fewer dishes.
Right, so…I’ve been making the super protein breakfast at our place in Portree all week so we are all kind of looking to get down with some smoothies this morning. Plus, this is the first time we’ve seen rain on our trip, so just about as soon as we walked outside we are looking to get dry again.
We walked up over a hill to find the Grassmarket which is this old market area where they used to sell corn and wheat and also execute people for a fun family day out, but today is just a place for drinking the beers and cafes which is what human progress looks like everyone. Grassmarket, like our place and like just about every other place in Edinburgh is in the shadow of the Edinburgh Castle which has stood in some form, on the top of a big cliff-faced hill called Castle Rock, in the middle of the city since 1100 something. At the end of the Grassmarket is an intersection with the (apparently) famous Victoria Lane (now that we are down out of the highlands, things seem to be named after English monarchs again).
Victoria Lane is this windy little street that is super narrow and colorful and flanks the cliff side of Castle Rock. Apparently it was also the inspiration for Diagon Alley…you know that place in those books where the main male wizard guy didn’t end up getting with the main female wizard lady despite everyone totally wanting that to happen and instead he pulled a total tosser move and ended up with his best mate’s younger sister and even their creator admits that she got it all wrong (look it up)…ahem…We settled into a little place here called Hula Juice Cafe and drank all the carrot and kale drinks you can think of then browsed a few of the shops.
The weather broke (but would remain rainy and overcast all day) so we headed South towards a big green space on the map called The Meadows because, you guessed it, it had some playgrounds and it’s been about 6 paragraphs since we last talked about a playground so we are due. R and L made sure to dry off the slide for everyone with their butts, and Erin and I tucked into a few hot drinks and we just kind of kicked it for a bit, because honestly, we didn’t know what else to do. Ultimately we decided to walk up the Royal Mile.
The Royal Mile is a stretch of road that climbs the most gradually sloped side of Castle Rock from the new-ish-ly formed Scottish Parliment’s home to Edinburgh Castle, which is largely symbolic of the street itself. Regurgitating some things I’ve read: This stretch of road has been trod since people inhabited in castle and it was used as the approach for the sitting…erm…royal people. It’s so narrow though that all the building were forced to be built very high and as space and technology limited the height to which people could build, the road kept extending down the hill as new buildings were added…there was benefit and prestige in being located close to the castle I suppose. So, as you walk up the hill you can kind of see where more modern architectural styles blend and give way to newer ones. Most prominent is the differences between gothic and baroque styles (like St Giles’ Cathedral…of the Church of Scotland mind you…google Scottish Reformation to see how England’s neighbor to the north followed with their own break from Rome) and Georginian styles of most of the tenements that went up as the industrial revolution began. The street’s decent culminates in the ulta-modern Scottish Parliament building.
Perforating the street at regular intervals are little alley ways called a “Close”. Some of them are nothing, but some open up into nice views of the surrounding city, and other have stairs that lead all the way down the side of the rock. We found one that opened up into an awesome view of the Scott Monument down on Princes Street and another called Reid’s Close across from Reid’s Court.
But mostly, I’m sorry to say, this is a giant tourist trap.
This is were you find the chachkies and fake kilts and all the crappy souvenirs and T-shirts that say terribly stereotypical things about people or feature quotes from movies that Scots don’t even really like (yes, like Braveheart). We made the best of it by watching some street performers , notably a trio of elementary school aged boys playing bagpipes and drums, and a PG-13 rated escape artist who got into and out of a straight jacket on the spot (no pics of him because I was laughing to hard).
We ate lunch in a tiny place called the Southern Cross Cafe (where the waitresses kept giving each other very provocative back rubs) off a side street, but then raced back to our place as both kids were being pills. L because R told her that something (the Scott Monument) she thought was a castle was not a castle…thats right, thats all it takes sometimes…and R because he needs to ask who #2 works for.
After chilling out for a bit, which actually I think we all needed, we headed back out for a take-away dinner at Kebab shop (Erin hasn’t had street meat at all yet) around the corner, and walked to the Princes Street Gardens park on the opposite side of Castle Rock from our place for a picnic.
It was getting late in the evening so we mostly had the place to ourselves and the kids ate and played on the playground there. This was probably the best part of the day and stuck a pin in the idea we had been kicking around all day: Give us some food, a park, and each other and we’ve got everything we need to have a great day. Tomorrow, I think, we will try that out with Pandas.