Monday, August 11, 2008

A Coolish Morning in Edinburgh

So, it is day two in Edinburgh. We are about ten minutes away from the train station, near the Royal Mile. We are going to spend the day in the lovely city of Edinburgh and get on the train for Dundee tonight. We will spend Sunday in Dundee and get back on the plane on Monday. I am very happy to make it back to Edinburgh. It is one of my very favorite cities. It looks like a beautiful morning, rainwashed and sparkling.

We got up relatively early and made our way down to breakfast.

This is a view of the inside of the teeny little elevator. I am not sure exactly why I would need to take a little rest on the 7 second trip, but ... it is good to know that there is a foldy-down seat if you need one.

One of the selling points of this hotel was the fact that we get a Scottish breakfast. I am aware that this differs from an English breakfast. I am a big fan of breakfast and feel a kinship with a culture that sees breakfast as important. Toast and coffee does not breakfast make in my opinion. We walk into the dining room and spy Rowan. She is waiting for us.

I am game to try everything, so what you see is my breakfast of scrambled eggs, baked beans, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding and something else that I can't remember. I think it was some type of sausage that I had never tried. I am generally not a sausage eater, but the sausage is nice and meaty ... it does not call to mind mysterious leavings. I am becoming fond of baked beans and eggs.

Rowan writes:
Morning is again – sigh – rainy. I get up early and go down to breakfast. There is a lovely array of items on offer. I am sensing a ‘food cooked for me by other people’ high radiating within my slightly chilled core (I have chosen to sit right by the window, for meterological and nosy-parker reasons. But the windie seat is always the cauldest ane in the hoose.)

I survey the smorgasbord of proscribed fried fare, which is just what the doctor prescribed. One with a Ph.D in an arts subject with little interface with dodgy lipids depositing themselves in narrowing arteries. Knowing about the perils of things doesn’t stop people doing them, nevertheless. A lot of medical doctors over here smoke and drink too much.

I pondered thus, building up a good head of steam on the cognitive dissonance front, and deciding on just how much I could heap my plate with, before I begin to look greedy in front of Bob and Wry. I know they will not skimp, and try everything they fancy – but – they stop when they are full. I recall a visit to a self-service buffet restaurant with my mother, sister and brother, when we were in our teens. It was an ‘eat all you like for a fiver’ situation, with large chunks of gammon steak, lovely bowls of potato salad, and a fabulous selection of puddingy items. I still remember the stomach cramps which assailed me, holding on to the hotel banister, as I groaned my way out into the street. Michty! :0O That was baaaad. Now I have developed a little self-control. (No, that needs qualifying. I haven’t. But I have reserves for when I’m in company.

I am sipping my third cup of tea, craning my neck to watch the breakfast news on the TV behind me. I ought to move, but I like my hidden corner spot, watching the raindrops pooling on the glass, and am hoping that they will throw everything they have into the fray, and thus be forced to throw in the towel, just when we are sortie-ing out into the streets of Embra. I pray for nice weather for our stravaig.

Wry comes into the breakfast room with his notebook. I am glad to see that he is accessing his inner luddite in this way. Bob soon follows, and we fill up our plates. I think I ate two sausages, black-pudding, beans, scrambled-egg, a hash-browny thing, and undoubtedly, bacon. Maybe a mushroom or two. Certainly, toast. My memory is conveniently drawing the curtain of amnesic decorum over how many slices.)

Breakfast is yummy, and I am enjoying myself very much. It is so nice to be out and about with my friends who are curious about everything, and have a well-honed sense of the bizarre, relishing the quirky and extraordinary features which append to everyday life. I recall being lectured by a lady in a garden centre, on how to keep an african violet alive. (They look gorgeous, but it is really too cold from them here, and they turn a horrible pulpy brown in a week once you get them home.) Bob was with me, and I had trouble keeping a straight face, knowing she would be inwardly giggling heartily at my outward attempt to maintain a veneer of polite British sang-froid, agreeing that I had simply been at fault on the flora maintenance.) There are such quirky moments around each corner, and the day is all before us.

Bob says:
Wry jotting down his thoughts. I feel a little bad for him, because he is easily chilled and his hands are probably like ice already. However, the day beckons and we get ourselves sorted out and check out.

Some nice flowers liven up the lobby. Our plan is to take our cases to the train station and check them in and then explore. I am excited by the thought of seeing Edinburgh Castle, St. John's and St. Giles again. I know that Wry will enjoy seeing everything and that Rowan and I will be remembering our last trip and seeing new things as well. The hotel is in a little square with a little plot of lawn in the middle.

Right across the street is the Royal College of Surgeons.

Rowan and Wry admiring the building.

Rowan writes:
Once out in the street, we notice that we are in a quadrangle which contains the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. How fab! I wonder if Alexander McCall Smith might be in there, quietly writing, as he is a Fellow. Joseph Lister was one of my greatest childhood heroes. I read loads about him, trawling through the medical history section, long before the days of the internetz. There will shoorely be lots about him here in Edinburgh, where he trained. Lister was the happenin guy on the antiseptics front. He pioneered aseptic surgery in the miasma-tastic days when you could make a pot of soup out of a surgeon’s apron, albeit a fatal one. Lister consulted Pasteur, and was at the forefront of acknowledging and wiping out dodgy micro-organisms. He selected phenol (carbolic acid) as his chosen media for washing instruments, and exposed the dangers of using porous natural materials as instrument-handles. He developed a spray which he used prior to operating. We are as little sad that the museum is closed. Maybe we can see it on a future stravaig.

Bob says:
The flowers are peeping out, even though it cannot be considered spring at all.

Daffodils -- one of the images I will carry with me of the UK. I think that Rowan said that the other flowers were snowdrops, but I am not sure.

Looking back toward the hotel.

I imagine that medical students live here, but that may just be in my imagination.

Once again, I am impressed by the cleanliness of the streets. Not a trash bag or tag in sight.

Down a stairwell.

We set off down the road at a nice clip, enjoying the morning. It is coolish but not freezing. It is not far to the station.

A typical row of buildings.

The front of the College.

I liked the statue of a skeletal hand holding what I assume is a bone saw.

More rows of buildings.

My Latin is rusty, but I liked the architecture.

The inscription up a little closer.

The train station is in the distance.

I liked the look of this building.

Here is a better shot of the detail on the building. I liked this, because there is a long-standing Scottish tradition of education. I think that the Scots have the highest degree of education per capita in .... something. Europe? The world? Prolly.

Wry peering into a music store window. I wonder if we will be wrestling an instrument case onto the plane. I envision a melee at the security line.

A look over the side of a bridge. You can see the water in the distance.

I resist the impulse.

Rowan and Wry have not yet started tugging on my sleeve trying to get me to pick up the pace. This is how I know they love me. This view is worth it, though.

I love to just peer into shop windows. I love that it is not like a street in California. Even the small differences are pleasing.

Barber poles are not red and white.

I don't know what a USB dongle is ... but it makes me laugh. I might need one.

Lovely architecture.

Waverly Station is coming up.

This is Calton Hill, off to our right.

It is the home of the Scottish government buildings. I wish we could go over and see the Parliament building, which is supposed to be wonderful. Holyrood Palace is over that way, as well.

As we get close to Princes Street we are treated to this odd spectacle. It reminds me of the shops on Melrose Avenue in LA -- they have names like Unique and Risk and Shine and Clash. Just a bit of an incongruous note.

Daffy-dils. The window boxes in front of the hotel we walk past are filled with them.

The lamp post over the entrance to the train station.

Walking down the ramp. I feel like Christopher Robin, with Winnie-Ther-Pooh, going bump, bump, bump behind me. Rowan and Wry are far ahead of me, as I have been taking pictures. I can see them talking and laughing.

A nice Victorian detail. We deposit the cases, get some cash at the ATM, give ourselves a shake and set off.

Rowan writes:
So much to see in Edinburgh! We head off to visit St John’s and St Giles, and are aiming to hit the height of the Castle at lunchtime. Yay! St John’s is such a beautiful church. Bob took some amazing shots of the interior last year, and I am looking forward to seeing it again. I know Wry has loved St Paul’s (I am still suffering from evensong-envy) and I am keen to see his reaction to one of Scotland’s finest churches. I love that St John’s has an intimate feel, in spite of its splendour. Its beauty is harmonious, delicate, and decorous, all for the glory of God. No-one could accuse it of Gothic-piledom, an accusation occasionally hurled, rather unfairly, at its compatriot, St Giles. (The hurlers have an agenda. Jist sayin.) Anyway…I sort of think of the church body, St John’s as it’s finely woven lace robe, and St Giles as it’s imposing embossed leather shoes, massive and anchoring, yet wonderfully wrought.

Bob says:

We come up and out of the station. The castle is on our left and the shops on the right. I still think that Jenners has a great look.

To our left, the Royal Mile and Princes Gardens. In front of us is St. John's and Edinburgh Castle. We stop for a few minutes to take pictures of each other, but it is pretty windy and cold. What looks like grins in the pictures are actually our jaws clenched because of the loud chattering of our teeth. I am very glad of my hat and scarf.

I think that this is the Royal Scottish Academy Building. I am sad that we don't have time to check it out. Next time for sure!

Down the steps into Princes Street Gardens. It is beautiful. The last time Rowan and I were here, it was winter and there was an ice skating rink and a Christmas fair. Now it is almost spring.

It is as otherwordly as Mars to my desert-seared eyes. You can see Edinburgh Castle crouched in the distance.

St. John's is at the end of the walkway.

The Castle atop of the Gardens.

There is a lot of history, just taking a nice stroll. This was a plaque along the walkway.

As we walked along, there was a nifty bench, somewhat of a war memorial. It is shown in three parts.

Another, closer shot of Edinburgh Castle.

I liked the juxtaposition -- the play park in the shadow of the church and castle. I wonder if the parents and children marvel at being at the foot of such history.

Some trees think it is spring. As we start up the steps back up to the street, we are surprised to see a lady amidst a flock of pigeons. Myself, I am not so fond of pigeons, because they are flying germ vectors. But I am not British. Feeding the pigeons seems like such a British thing to do. If you did that in LA, angry passers-by would pelt you with bags of day-old bread. However, there is something a bit different and rather charming about this pigeon feeder.

See it?

There is a cat amongst the pigeons! It is a wonderfully quirky thing, and we all grin at each other and shake our heads.

I liked the contrast of the shapes -- tower and tree.

We get to St. John's and take a little time to wander around outside. The gravestones are still lovely and solemn.

We do not tread close enough to read the inscriptions.

There is a little gated graveyard next to the church.

Reluctantly, we leave the grounds and head inside. On the way in, Rowan and I are sidetracked a little.

Rowan writes:

There is a sale of amber jewellery in St John’s church hall. Bob and I peek in, pulling open the heavy wooden door, and letting it bang for a second, before realising its weight. We apologise for making the jewellery-sellers jump, and then survey the attractive goods on offer. We are very abstemious, and refrain from purchasing anything. We drift into the church, and Bob and Wry drift about, taking photos. I think Wry maybe made some notes.

There is a lot to see and one just has to sit still and soak it up, at times. St Johns is a very special place, where, although visitors come and go, there is a real sense of the Spirit, truly humbling and uplifting at the same time. I need to come back here more often. Bob and Wry wander driftily and disappear, but meet up as congenially as ever. It is nice to watch how happy and relaxed they are.

Bob says:
Rowan and I lose Wry, but we meet up again, and wander around the church. It dates back to the 1800's and is a marvel of light and space. It is just lovely. There is a virtual tour here. It is worth the look.

Here is the layout.

Last time we were here, we missed the Chapel.

Rowan in contemplation -- soaking it up.

This looks older than it probably is.

The organ.

The colors are so light and clear.

I light candles for the children.

It does look a little fairy-land like.

St. John's is famous for its ceiling, which is supposed to be reminiscent of Westminster Abbey.


And more details of the work. I admit to playing with my camera a bit. I am really liking it.

Hard to imagine that this is stained glass, isn't it?

One of my favorites.

The Lamb of God.

Although it is late morning, it is a wonderfully peaceful time. Wry is walking around in quiet contemplation. Rowan is off in another corner, gazing at a stained glass window. We wander away, or call attention to something as it suits us. I am happy to see Wry jotting notes in his journal.

I look over and see that Wry has made it over to the Chapel, which Rowan and I missed when we were here last. We peep in.

It is a little dark, but this is a close up of the stained glass on the far wall.

And a plaque over the door.

We notice an increase in the visitors and I look toward the back of the church. I am charmed to find a little group of bekilted men. There is going to be a wedding! I think the most nervous looking of them is the groom. The men are all very handsome and handsomely dressed. I think it is a marvelous place to get married. I pray for the soon to be couple -- that they are as blessed in their marriage as I have been in mine.

The bride and groom will kneel here, I am thinking. It is a nice thought.

We decide it is time to leave and do so. Of course we manage to lose each other and spend some time wandering around looking. It is a nice morning and so I don't mind. Too much.

On to the Castle!