Tuesday, April 21, 2009
If it isn't Scottish, it's crap!
Boy and I picked Edinburgh to spend our honeymoon in mostly because it is ridiculously scenic. Edinburgh is comprised of an old town which has been there more or less forever, and a "new" town which is still a few hundred years old. It has a massive castle carved into black, craggy rock. The Royal Mile leads down from the castle to Holyrood Palace and is studded with shops and pubs. Just a bridge-span away is Princes Street in the new town, full of newer, more modern shops and cafes. On the other side of the Royal Mile is the university area, where we found some really unique little spots. As if that weren't enough for options, underneath the old town there are 180-something underground vaults, some of which are considered very haunted and used for creepy ghost tours (of which we took THREE!) and others which house pubs, restaurants, clubs, etc. Edinburgh really is at least four cities in one.
We stayed at the Bank Hotel on the Royal Mile, about halfway between the castle and Holyrood Palace. The location literally could not have been more perfect . . . we were right off the South Bridge, a street that joins the new town, old town and the university area; and more or less directly on top of the network of underground vaults. The hotel was adorable . . . it was built, as the name suggests, as a Bank in the 1800s. It has been recently converted to a hotel with a bar on the ground floor. Our room was front facing and looked out over the Royal Mile . . . we had a double window that opened into the room which was awesome, if not entirely pigeon proof.
On our first full day in Edinburgh, really as our first act of being in the city, we had a baked potato with beans and cheese for breakfast. What? Stop looking at me like that! Kristin from Camels and Chocolate had recommended this little Tatty Shop which just so happened to be 4 feet from our hotel and we just so happened to have woken up too late for the hotel's breakfast. We had coffee with it to make things more breakfast-like, ordered from a Starbucks barista who was just about floored that we were from Los Angeles. Sorry, dude, but I believe it is YOU who happen to live in the coolest city on earth, not us!
We toured the castle, which was really a fantastic educational experience, thanks to their stellar audio guides. About halfway through our tour we wandered into the Scottish Regimental Museum which had us in its thrall for almost an hour . . . Boy reading every little detail of the battles and uniforms and me enjoying the hell out of the bagpipe music and trying not to break into a spontaneous jig.
That evening we took the first of our three ghost tours, with Mercat Tours. This tour, SO FREAKING COOL. They gave us electromagnetic readers and let us wander around the vaults, scared shitless of course. And Boy and I were the only ones to pick anything up on our monitor! AIEEEE!!! Of course, I spent the next 4 days convinced something had followed me out of there which was not so fun. But, overall awesome creepiness rating? ELEVEN.
We followed up the tour with an awesome dinner at The Witchery. After which we met some friends in town for a few drinks, or ten, and wound up finishing the night at 3am in the basement of a pub listening to a few very drunk Scottish people singing drinking songs from the corner of the bar. That was pretty rad.
It was on our way home from that pub that we realized something very odd was happening in Edinburgh . . . a rugby match, set for the next day, vs. Ireland. Which explained all the SINGING going on in town. And at least some of the drunkenness!
We woke up the next morning to the distant sound of bagpipes, that grew closer and closer until we finally realized that there was a BAGPIPE PARADE making its way down the Royal Mile directly under our window. Having been thusly woken, we dragged ourselves out of bed and explored new town, climbed the Scott Monument and took in yet another ghost tour, this time the Haunted Edinburgh Underground tour given by a great guide and culminating in a masked man jumping out from the darkness and scaring the shit out of us all. Everyone politely screamed but me? The loud American? I screamed THE F WORD.
On our final day in Edinburgh we took our last ghost tour, through The Real Mary Kings Close. It was a little Disney-fied, but much fun and not entirely without the creepiness factor. Having been on two other tours so far, I was well and truly convinced that something was up underground in Edinburgh (and, you know, that something may have been FOLLOWING ME). So, basically, I had a death grip on Boy's hand through the entire, very tame and almost kiddie tour. We did a run through of the Scottish Tartan Weaving Exhibit after (fun! free!) and finished up the day with a Scotch tasting. Not to insult anyone's national beverage or anything, but Scotch? Not so good. Our tasting included 4 varieties that got stinkier and stinkier as we progressed. We finished up with an Island Scotch, which tasted like the inside of a well used running shoe. I'd been doing a good job up until that point of keeping my gagging to a minimum, but the Island Scotch did me in. Boy, on the other hand, pronounced it magical and wonderful and immediately went to the attached shop to buy THREE BOTTLES OF IT. He is weird.
Our last dinner in Edinburgh was really freaking awesome. Kristin had suggested we try Greyfriars Bobby near the University and we obligingly went, but were told that the chef was "off until 7!". We puttered around the neighborhood for a bit and stumbled upon Monster Mash, which was really some of the most fortuitous stumbling we did on our entire trip. I had veggie sheppard's pie, Boy had haggis, neeps and tatties and we left so full we practically had to roll ourselves down South Bridge back to The Bank.
In all our carousing through Edinburgh we'd walked by this little club a few times and noticed that it seeemmmeeeddd to be sort of our kind of place, except that everyone was way, way younger than us. On our last night we'd ascertained that there were indie bands playing there so we decided to go. It was like the first day of high school, very much "OH MY GOD WILL THE HIPSTERS LAUGH AT US?". Of course, being the old, seasoned, emo-saur hipsters we are Boy and I blended in just fine. Except for that age thing . . . the drinking age in the UK is officially 18 but really, nobody bothers checking. We were the oldest people there by quite a lot, but fortunately, I think the drunk 16 year olds were too self involved to notice.
All in all, a pretty rad honeymoon, I think!