2011 UK and Ireland travel blog

Fleshmarket in Edinburgh

Fleshmarket 2

Only 3 kinds of haircuts in Edinburgh

Sr Walter Scott's Memorial

The grand Balmoral Hotel

Stevenlaw Close - the only Law

Cockburn Street

Down the Royal Mile

Up the Royal MIle

Corrie and Pat

Steve Corrie and Joan



Hadrian's Wall

The Bath House at the Wall

Andy Dufresne's Oak Tree- ha ha

Windermere - will be taking his boat trip on Friday

Windermere 2

This is another of those two part entries because last evening at this hotel, by the time we got back from dinner our 24 hour 10 pound WiFi charge had expired. With an additional hour tabbed at 5 pounds, there was no way these Scotchmen were squeezing another farthing out of us. I don't get these Scots, they are so cheap but they seem so smart. The other day when we were driving into Dunfermline we noticed a sign on a lovely small cafe advertising "fish teas", now I know the Jews are clever making wine out of fish e.g. cherry herring, but tea out of fish? Now that's something.

Anyway we woke up in glorious Edinburgh with a whole day to explore this intriguing city.

A word to anyone out there contemplating a trip to these isles: do not stay at a Jurys Inn hotel. We stayed at one in Belfast and two nights here. They will nickle and dime you to death and these are not high end or even mid level hotels although they are always packed. Joan & Mother went for the hotel's breakfast buffet as always but I no longer do so. I hiked up the Royal Miles's High Street to Starbucks for a venti with a shot of espresso. All was well, a glorious morning. Unusually high temperatures for this time of year and as the day would unfold with stifling humidity. Back from breakfast Joan & I packed up some of our laundry, called a cab and sped off to close by, too far to hike to launderette, dropped off our bundle and turned the cab around back to the hotel. We fetched Mother and caught an Edinburgh tour bus for a guided trip around this marvellous city. Mother is finding it increasingly tough to walk around these steps and hills and distances for any length of time, so these tours are perfect for the general overview. Our guide was the best yet. A retired, probably late 60s Scots gent with a wonderfully droll sense of humour completely devoid of any trace of political correctness. Edinburgh is filled with squares, cathedrals, grand hotels, castles and statues. With a rich ancient history dynamic and apparent, our guide's commentary regarding the city's evolution and the stories-behind-the-stories with his dry wit had the entire double decker chuckling continuously. One story comes readily to mind. Passing a rather striking and grand statue of King George IV we were informed that the sculpture took a rather large slice of "poetic license" with its result. The tall slim warrior presented being quite unlike the actual George IV. For he was the subject of the old nursey rhyme "Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry".

The real George IV was barely 5'2", had a 50" waist and horrendous halitosis. At aristocratic functions the female nobility would have to line up to kiss this wretched monarch: the holding of-so long breaths causing the tears. Such is the monarchy. Diana and now Kate finally adding a much needed revival in appearance field. Some of these royals, well I've seen prettier faces eating hay.

For a nice general view of Edinburgh we had a good tour. As the tour guide was sitting and narrating directly across from me we soon developed a banter, an exchange of oneupmanship witticisms. Moving along into his explanation of the evolution of the tribes and foreigners that developed the Scots Nation, I just had to ask him about the Roman-in-the-Gloman. Well he gave me the double eye roll but I noted that he recrossed his legs, made a new ass-groove in his seat, suppressed a smile and filed away this tidbit for future use. You're welcome!

The tour was an hour and we saw the major attractions. At the end of the tour we had to hike back up to our hotel, so Mother was quite drained. While Mother rested Joan and I walked up to Princes Street the big shopping area and then to the Walter Scott monument, hiking up all those stairs to get a fantastic view of Edinburgh. Back to the hotel, get Mother for lunch at a nice little Spanish tapas bar, take Mother back to the hotel and then Joan & I hiked the Royal Mile up to the glorious unbelievable Edinburgh Castle.

The Royal Mile is the road from the bottom of the incline at Holyrood Castle, where the Queen stays when visiting to the top where is the Castle. This is Edinburgh`s High Street. Bustling with people well into the night it is a marvel of activity. Joan & I toured the castle, but I cannot fully or adequately explain its wonder. All I can say is go to Edinburgh and see for yourself. I wish we could show some photos of the views and the magnificence of and from the Castle, but that tad of my Polish heritage meant that I forgot to recharge the camera. We have no photos of or from the Castle.

Joan & I hopped into a cab, retrieved our laundry went back to hotel and had a couple of really cold ones at the bar: a really hot and humid day, rested for about an hour and then retrieving Mother went down to lobby to meet Corrie Boucher. Corrie is our daughter`s longest and closest friend who now lives and works in Edinburgh. We have known Corrie since she was little girl and love her dearly. Hugs and greetings and then we all head out for dinner up the Royal Mile. Corrie is a delight, always has been. Her special sense of humour, her vibrant zest for living and adventure have always thrilled us. And now seeing her as the dynamic lovely young woman she has become made our evening with her even more special. She especially humoured us with her rendition of the term of being Shitfaced. In long ago times in Edinburgh, as with all European cities, slops foulness and muck were all chucked into the street. As would be expected this soon became quite a concern: what with pigs and cattle also housed in lower premises. So a law with encacted that chamber pots could only be emptied at 7AM and 10PM. Well as it happened the bars and pubs emptied at 10PM. Now of course the locals were well versed with community customs and stayed against the buildings, but alas the poor Irish emigrants. Announcing the thrusts of the chamber pots with a GARDE LA LOO from above

an Irish sot would be alerted to look up and thus the term being Shitfaced was born.

We had a good time together, we said our goodbyes and hugs and photos from a newly charged camera. Corrie went on home and to new adventures like the young must and should.

Us oldies went up to hotel and to bed. Ah but then once, and I think it was just a couple of days ago we too were young and in Scotland and England and Europe with everything in front of us then. We three all turned in for the night.

So this starts today, Thursday September 29, four weeks. This morning in Edinburgh was exactly like yesterday morning in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is wonderful. A smaller less crowded and infinetly more polite version of London. But with most of the dynamic history of London so abounding and apparent. Joan & Mother for the breakfast buffet, me up to Starbucks. Then load the car and away we went. Now Edinburgh will always be so dear to us and especially for one reason. Of all the cities and towns we visited, Edinburgh was by far the easy to drive into, follow the streets and lanes, find the hotel, find the parking, and find the way out from. We were soon into the lovely Scottish Borders and then to the demarcation between Scotland and England on the highway.

A tall stone on each side of the highway (a Scottish highway is a wide road) to celebrate either the coming or the going. Scotland was so wonderful and full with wonderful friendly people. A land of both mine and Joan`s heritage and needless to say of course Mother`s we so enjoyed our stay. But as a last reminder of the lot of the independant traveller, a busload of Germans on a holiday package tour showed up at this demarcation wayside and as is their wont, soon dominated. Mother patiently awaited her turn for the photo in front of the great stone of the border, but was abrubtly shooed aside but a troop of obnoxious butt-in-ski and aged Hitler Youth graduate fraus.

We moved on into the wonder of Northumbria through the lovely hills and vales to find the remnants of Hadrian`s Wall. On the banks of the most beautiful River Tyne we found the old Roman fortress of Chester or Chesters, it was called both I suppose as not to confuse with the Chester near Liverpool. A spacious pasture, only the very tops of the fortress and the wall were uncovered, but the expanse was large. Enough of the 16 and 17 centuries old buildings and wall were revealed to give a real idea of exactly what was here. And in such a spectacular setting, the Romans chose well. Tall oaks were everywhere, especially upon and over the wide gently flowing banks of the Tyne as it made it`s way to Newcastle and the North Sea. As much as the ancient stones and structures moved me, so did the long pastures with the deep golden soft grass and so much the stand of the big old oaks. There really is something about big old oaks, the way the upper limbs so spread about, how the tree itself needs room. Oaks don`t seem to crowd each other yet seem to be happy lined up. Compâny but not crowded. Just away from the Roman stones I spotted a rather splendid oak at the end of a line and next to a stone wall. So I followed it down among where some sheep where grazing. Now I knew it was The Tree. And I found the stone where Red was supposed to leave me some money so I could join him and Andy Dufresne on that beach in Mexico but I guess the sheep ate it all. Ah that`s life as Sinatra said. After Hadrian`s Wall we headed west and through the mountains and narrow winding roads of the north of England. Such beautiful scenery. The pastures and fields all in neat checkboards that stretch far beyond what can be seen.

Now I thought an Irishman could build a stone wall up a mountainside, but these English!

A straight line right up a mountainside and I suppose right down the other side, about every 500 yards (they use yards and miles here) are these amazing structures. I guess the only differnce being that the Englishman got keep his while poor Paddy and three or four of his generation struggled to build his only to be stolen by the English nobility.

Oops! I guess that`s what our native Indians are complaining about too. We winded our way down through high mountains, winding roads and deep vales into the Lake District.

Even more spectacular this just has to be the most beautiful part of England. The hills and mountains, the forests, the glens and lakes and the narrow meandering, challenging roads lead us to tonight. Just south of Windermere and on the lake our hotel is in the tourist village of Bowness-on-Windermere. The hotel is terrific, the rooms are great and Mother decided to splurge and order room service for dinner. From the children`s menu of course, she gets a kick out of that and the portions are right. Joan & I headed up the into the High Street. It is almost all a rather older crowd, or there is the odd bald headed portly hippie with a ponytail escorting his braided mama in a skirt that resembles curtains. But it is relaxed. We had dinner in nice pub, upstairs with the windows open to let the nice lake breeze ease the high temperature and summer evening.

Joan had salmon (is it all farmed here) with the huge accompanying side dishes. If it is farmed Joan said it was one of the best. And she eats a lot of salmon. I had the real Shepherd`s Pie. And it wasn`t baaaaaaaaaaaad, if you know what what I mean. Yes with a variation of a sheep or it`s appendages, extremities or organs. A sticky toffee pudding with ice cream for desert then we strolled back to the hotel in the warm night. It`s so serene here, tomorrow morning we are taking a boat cruise on the lake before heading off to York.We are nearing the end of our trip. And of course are of many minds. But now it is late, so it is again goodnight from Steve & Joan & Patricia.

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