August 4 – 7, 2016
There are some places that, once visited, forever after feel familiar and welcoming.
Edinburgh is one of those places.
I have no set schedule and no definite plans for this weekend other than to A) meet up with Stuart and Amanda, and B) overload on bagpipes and men in kilts at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
As I review my pictures, I see this weekend as a jumble of snapshots: excitement at flying into Edinburgh directly over the Firth of Forth,
delight at passing customs without difficulty, and the long queue for the bus ride into town.
I see landmarks grown familiar from my previous visit:
National Gallery of Scotland
Ferris Wheel on Waterloo Place
Nelson Monument, National Monument, & Calton Hill
[Sir Walter] Scott Monument
And marvel all over again at how medieval Edinburgh Castle appears as it perches high on its hill.
I remember the pleasure of staying in my favorite hostel: hanging out in the bar on Thursday night, writing a blog post in my dorm room on Friday morning, writing another in the lobby on Sunday morning.
I remember people: street hawkers thrusting fliers for Fringe Festival events into my hands, a woman singing Hallelujah in the park outside the grocery store, the thump thump thump of a nearby bar open late.
Most importantly, there’s the excitement and delight in reconnecting with Stuart and Amanda, who have come up to Edinburgh from Yorkshire to see me and attend the tattoo.
It is incredibly good to see them both. Some of my happiest memories of house-sitting in Hebden Bridge last summer and fall are of Sunday teas with Stuart and Amanda. We’ve stayed in touch with the occasional postcard or Facebook update, but it’s been 9 months since Amanda dropped me off at the Manchester airport, and I have missed their company.
I meet them for an afternoon drink on Friday, which turns into two drinks, which turns into dinner, which turns into a few more drinks until somehow it’s midnight and we’re having one last drink in the hostel bar.
I don’t remember most of what I drink, but Amanda knows what I like and always orders me something delicious. She’s the one who first introduced me to gin that I actually like. And ever since that fateful summer’s day, she’s taken it upon herself to expand my gin palette at every opportunity.
I do remember that Amanda talked me into trying a bite of Stuart’s haggis. Apparently one doesn’t eat the container it’s served in, which I did not realize and goes a long way towards cancelling out my gag reflex. The haggis is surprisingly good! One more check on my “seasoned world traveler” list.
Stuart and Amanda also find and book us the perfect place to have lunch on Saturday: the Queen’s Arms in Newtown. It’s everything a pub should be: quiet, old fashioned, and lined with books!
The food is fabulous without being break-your-bank expensive. Best of all, it feels far away from the madness that is Edinburgh on a Fringe Festival weekend.
We split up after lunch. Stuart and Amanda are off to an armorer’s shop, and I’m off to the National Museum of Scotland. It’s the one place I didn’t see on my first trip here last fall.
The first sign of eclectic things to come is this odd statue outside the Museum:
Inside, the Museum is just as weird. There’s a science and technology theme at one end, fashion and home décor in the middle, and natural history at the other end.
I start in the science and technology section, which is full of interesting things to look at. Things like the Wylam Dilly locomotive, one of the world’s two oldest surviving steam engines;
a Stewart Ford SF2, Jaguar R3, and Red Bull RB02 formula cars built in 1998, 2002, and 2006;
the oldest surviving color TV in the world, built in the US by General Electric in 1946 and made possible by Scotman John Logie Baird’s work in transmitting color images;
several models of single-seat planes;
and last, but certainly not least, Dolly the sheep on her very own rotating pedestal. She made international news in 1996 when she became the first mammal successfully cloned from an adult cell.
After the fascinating, if odd, collection in the science and technology wings, I’m both curious and a little afraid of what’s in the other two exhibits.
Thankfully, the clothing and home décor section is more like a proper museum, with gorgeous custom-made furniture rescued from various mansions and estate sales, and all sorts of fabulously ostentatious serving dishes.
This game dish made in the 1840s is just one of the many, many dishes on display.
I also really like this Alter of the Annunciation, made of silver and ebonized wood in 17th century Germany.
By the time I’m done with the “treasures” exhibit, it’s an hour before closing and I’m still struggling to process the various inventions from the technology wing. I decide on a quick breeze through the natural history wing before hitting up the gift shop.
The natural history exhibit is mostly taxidermy animals and skeletons, with a section on volcanoes and earth science. Nothing I haven’t seen before, although this crystal geode from Brazil is far too stunning to ignore.
Just before I head to the gift shop, I pass this feast bowl from Atu, one of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.
And yes, what you’re seeing is a feast bowl the size of a small boat. With a capacity of 300 gallons, it was used to serve food at communal feasts and came into the museum’s possession in 1895.
I have a good time telling Stuart and Amanda about Dolly and the other ridiculous exhibits at breakfast the next morning. They’ve found a donut shop not far from the main bus depot, and we spend a leisurely 45 minutes chatting about this and that.
Just before we say goodbye, Amanda and Stuart present me with three carry-on approved bottles of my favorite brand of Edinburgh gin: two bottles of rhubarb ginger and one bottle of raspberry. I’m sure there’s a stupid grin on my face the entire time I’m walking to the bus stop.
As my flight to Dublin takes off, I try to summon a feeling of guilt for not doing more “touristy” things with my weekend. There are a ton of things on my “If I’m back in Edinburgh” list, and aside from the museum I didn’t cross a single one of them off my list.
But no matter how much I try to feel guilty, I simply can’t do it. After the last two weekends in Dublin and Belfast, I needed some down time, and that’s exactly what I got in Edinburgh.
Of course, it wasn’t all rest and relaxation. I did do one big touristy thing, something that’s been on my bucket list for years. But that’s a story for next week’s post. ; ) (Hint: it involves men in kilts. And bagpipes. And fire.)
Up next: An evening at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo!