A Travellerspoint blog

Edinburgh 2

View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

Nice to sleep in a bit and not have to worry about getting our luggage in the hall before 730, not having to eat breakfast before you're really ready, no-one else to worry about but us. Check out of The Knights Residence is 11am. We meet Judy for goodbyes and then cab it to our next accommodation, The Light House Hostel. Can't check in there until 3pm so we stash our bags, check emails and make a battle plan for the afternoon. I had already booked a Ghosts & Ghouls walking tour for tonight with Joanne and Steven who we'd met on the bus.
Cabbed it to Elephant House where J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. They have an author's bulletin board with excerpts from books in which they are mentioned. Ian Rankin's The Falls mentions Rebus and Siobhan commandeering a table at the back with a view of Greyfriar's Kirkyard. Sure enough there it is looking all spooky and dank in the genuine Scottish rain that is pouring down. Lorri stays put in the Elephant House while I figure out how to get to the Kirk. What we could see from inside is several stories below the street level we are on. Found the entrance and wandered into the church. Beautiful pipe organ and a coffered roof, lots of wood carvings so I just sit and soak up the atmosphere. At the door I ask a guide where Bobby is? George proceeded to give me a personal guided tour with a history lesson or two or three. Hutton-famous geologist, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mackenzie_(lawyer) (< ERROR: the link title is too long!), the graves whose names inspired other HP characters and of course all about Bobby. Then he took me into the padlocked section where the Covenanters are buried. Now that's a history lesson and a half. This area was a long grassed lane with huge gated crypts on either side. As we walked it didn't take any imagination to feel like I was being watched. We turned at the bottom to look back at the gate. It was like those horror movies where the door you want to get to is soooo far away. This is also where the Black family crypt is complete with 4 foot serpents flanking either side of the name stone.
By this time I am thoroughly soaked so head back to Elephant House to dry off a bit. We decide to cab it to Holyrood Palace, the Queen's official residence when she is in Scotland. This castle is not included in the passes that we have so we decide to cheap out. Lorri stayed in the cafe while I walked partway around the Palace. Took pictures of Arthur's seat. It looks easily as high as the volcano I climbed in Iceland. We've climbed a lot of castle turrets and I'm just not that interested in the view from the top.
Next stop an O2 store where the tech checks out both our phones. He decides that our problem is most likely a service limiter in place by TBaytel. So now to try and call Canada, ICK!
No-one has a land line so we'll have to use a pay phone. Back at the hostel I decide I'll go look for a pay phone, get a few groceries for supper and a bottle of wine. Found a little grocery store, bought pasta and a frozen chicken korma. The grocer tells me he thinks there's a pay phone just around the corner. In Scots "just around the corner" is about three blocks away. At least it's out of the rain! Whee a credit card slot! Nope, doesn't work. Deposit 20P. Ok I've got a few 20P coins. Deposit one, dial TBaytel's toll free number PLUS all the extra digits required to call Canada and I actually get through. Immediately I'm asked to deposit more money. Before I can get the next coin in I'm disconnected. So then I try the number listed on the wall to use when you have no coins. Now I'm told that British Telephone will not allow international calls from pay phones so I give up. Ah, liquor store right across the road, gotta get me some of that. As I walk towards the crossing a bus goes by and soaks me. Aaaarrrgggh! F*ck the wine!
Back to the hostel. Oh wait! I forgot to tell you about the hostel. We booked a twin room. Translation 2 twin beds, NOT. The website had no picture of the room we booked and like sillies we didn't ask to see the room first. A twin room at this hostel is a double with a single bunk above. Yah right! The host graciously suggested switching rooms with 2 girls down the hall who were in a four bed dorm. He didn't mention that it wouldn't be just 2 as the room was fully booked for that night. By the time we figured that out the switch had been made. Remember Lorri is feeling slightly less than 100% and we just left a luxury apartment hotel. So now we're paying for a private twin room but we're in a four bed dorm. Chalk it up to an adventure. More on the hostel in Edinburgh 3.
Made supper, just for me because Lorri's stomach is still doing the Highland Fling, and I head for Mercat Cross to meet the Ghosts and Ghouls tour. Mercat is how the Scots spell market. This was the town centre where trading, torture and terminations took place. Our guide is Lydia from Austria. She's probably at least 5' 10" but she has this huge pile of orange dreads wrapped like a giant bun on top of her head and she's wearing a long, hooded black, woolen cloak. Very much the part. The tour took us down into the South Bridge Vaults. South Bridge originally crossed Cowgate, another street. Tenements were built on either side of the bridge and another bridge was eventually built above that. The original is no longer visible from the surface. The vaults of the bridge were used as merchants' storage rooms until they discovered the vaults leaked and they were abandoned. That's when the less desirables and the homeless moved in and some of them have never left! We finished in a pub, also underground, where Lydia told us a few more gruesome stories and then for the second time on the tour blew out all the candles.
Back at the hostel I'm the last one in but the lights have been left on dim. Grab the iPad and head to the kitchen because Allie and I have a Skype date.

Posted by DawnaL 14:04 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)


It's SO Harry Potter!

View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

That's what Allie said when I was still trip planning and it is. Lorri and I had lunch in Elephant House overlooking Greyfriar's Kirkyard where J. K. Rowling started writing. George from Greyfriar's Kirk gave me a personal tour of the graveyard and showed me all the headstones that inspired HP characters names. Every street and close looks like it could have been used as the setting for Diagon Alley. You could spend weeks here wandering around this beautiful city.
We arrived the evening of October 2, my birthday! Judy's Celtic Journeys included a night at The Knights Residence, billed as luxury apartments and they were. We had a 2 bedroom apartment, king size beds, living room, dining room, kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine, huge bathroom and all the food you'd need for breakfast. Real coffee, milk, OJ, butter, jam, bread. Well that place really spoiled us because our next stay was in the Light House Hostel but more about that later.
It's my birthday and our plan was to listen to music somewhere that night. Lorri has been sick since September 29. Not going into too much detail but she's been feeling pretty "crappy". That and her ankle hurts, her hips hurt and her knee hurts. She crawled into bed shortly after arriving at the hotel. I did a load of laundry, drank a couple glasses of wine while listening to a piper somewhere outside. Aaaahhh, Scotland! Around eight I woke her up to say I was going out to find the pub our bus driver had mentioned that had traditional music every night, Sandy Bell's. The hotel concierge had given me directions and I started walking. Found the pub and took a seat at the bar. I have NEVER walked into a bar all by myself! Ordered a pint of Bitter and Twisted, gawked at the other patrons, admired the 30-something bartender and just sat. A couple close to my age sat down next to me. They weren't Scottish and we started chatting. They are with a bus tour, they're from Rochester, NY and had an evening free to themselves. Musicians started trickling in around 915 and the music started shortly after. This isn't a performance venue, it's a session place. Much like the sessions Pierre Schryer does at home but with more audience than musicians and way more beer and talking. The music was wonderful. I lasted til around 1030 when I could feel myself fading. Walked in the other direction figuring it would be a circle back to the hotel. Bought a packet of crisps in a tiny shop, found a bench with a view of Edinburgh Castle and people watched for a bit. I did not get lost and made it back to our hotel safe and sound.

Posted by DawnaL 14:59 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

Icenikween on Instagram

Still technical issues with pictures

But you can see a few pictures I've posted to Instagram. My user name is icenikween. Leanne has been "liking" them already!

Posted by DawnaL 01:12 Comments (0)

Celtic Journeys

A bus tour with Americans

sunny 17 °C
View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

We met the group this past Sunday. Here it is Wednesday already. We spent the last 2 nights at Culloden House just outside Inverness. This is where Bonnie Prince Charlie spent the night before the Battle of Culloden. We've seen Fort William, Beauly Priory, St. Kilda's Kirk, Well of the Seven Heads, Wardlaw Mausoleum, Fraser Castle, Elgin Cathedral, Dean's of Huntley Shortbread factory, Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Culloden, Clava Cairns and Urquhart Castle. If Mary Lou is reading this she might grin. We got onto the catamaran Jackobite Warrior from the wharf at Urquhart. We're watching the castle as we move away onto Loch Ness and then the bagpipes started. Granted it was a cd playing but I'm grinning and tears are rolling down my cheeks. It was just a WOW moment!
Tonight we are at Banchory Lodge Aberdeenshire. Tomorrow, Edinburgh.

Posted by DawnaL 10:01 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Ladies of Lallybroch International Gathering

Inverness September 27, 2014

sunny 15 °C
View From Reading to Reality-An Epic Journey on DawnaL's travel map.

I've now met women who are more fanatical about Diana Gabaldon's Outlander book series than I am. Hard to believe but it's true!
We met the group at Inverness Castle in front of Flora MacDonald around 9 Saturday morning. Margi's husband, Richard, had hired a van that held about 16 people. We all piled in and set off for Clava Cairns. My first visit to Neolithic ruins. Lorri and I stuck our heads through the cleft in one of the standing stones for a photo op. No time travel occurred. Elena from Wick did an excellent job of explaining what is known and what can be surmised about the cairns. Next to Culloden Battlefield on Drumoisse Moor. I teared up watching the re-enactment video. The screens surround the viewer so it's like being right between the 2 opposing armies. Dinner that evening was at the New Drumoisse Hotel. Tiaras at each place setting, Outlander themed soap, a Gathering bookmark and Pocket Jamie and Pocket Claire. Introductions, we are truly an international group. Canadians, Germans, Finns, New Zealanders, English, Scots and lots of Americans. 32 in all. We finished the evening with a "secret Santa" gift exchange. Everything Outlander themed s one how or other. Back to our garret room in Inverness around 1130.
Tomorrow we meet the group from celticjourneys.us.

Posted by DawnaL 09:45 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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