Day 4 Recap: Edinburgh, Part I

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Monday, August 8: Day 4 Travel Recap – Part I {Lessons: Stay longer, sleep more, bring less luggage.}

Laney and I were up very early to make our 7 a.m. train that left from King’s Cross (Harry Potter fans will understand our excitement) to Edinburgh, Scotland. We took the 205 bus from Edgware Road Station to King’s Cross. If you have luggage, the buses are great. No stairs!

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It was a 4.5 hour train ride to Edinburgh, Scotland. The ride was an event for a few reasons.

We were able to cram all of our “stuff” into our bags and suitcases, but mine ended up being some clunky, bulging thing. It wasn’t necessary large, since it was the smallest carry-on suitcase out there, but it became bulky. It wouldn’t even stay standing up straight. It also didn’t fit all of the things I accumulated, so I had to stuff things into tote bags. Three of them. Ah, exactly the scenario I had tried to avoid.

The luggage issue and early morning start time were not in my favor. At one point, I was seriously stuck in the train’s aisle with my luggage. I think Laney gave up trying to help and just started to laugh. I’m sure it was funny. Some nice girl grabbed my bag for me and I was able to get to my seat.

Once we got to our seats, I was bummed to discover they faced backward instead of forward on the train and had a very small window. If you buy train tickets, try to request better seats. If only I had known! {I had a very unfriendly ticket person when I bought those train tickets, and in my irrationality, I thought, “He did this on purpose!” which I’m sure was not the case. Just next time, I’d be more knowledgeable about requesting better seat assignments.}

Not a biggie. The back of the seats show the seat reservations – when people are getting on and off the train – so we were able to grab better seats after a few stops. This was a good move since the train ride is very picturesque. {We also found a stack of UK tabloids on the new seats that kept us entertained for a few hours.}

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The North Sea crashing into the cliffs on the east side of us, and the beautiful hills and farmland and little villages on the other. Yes, good seats are a must.

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Okay, and now I must admit that Laney and I knew next to nothing about Edinburgh. Our time was so busy, I was pretty much planning things a day in advance {except for hotels, which I had booked in advance}. Laney thought the city was pronounced, “Edin-BURG instead of Edin-BURR-UH”. All I had to add was that “I heard it’s very old and has a castle.”

Needless to say, we rolled into Edinburgh and I think our faces were plastered to the train window, going “Oooohhhmyyyygoooodddd, didyousthatcastleandthatspirethingandthecoolbuildings!”

We felt like we had fallen into a fairy tale. We were instantly smitten, maybe more like punch-drunk in love with the place at first sight. We dashed off the train – I grabbed Laney’s suitcase because it was on top of mine and I was off first while  she grabbed mine, but my wheels didn’t work very well, so she kept dropping it and blocking people’s path off the train. Oh, it was hilarious, but we finally made it off the train platform.

Since we only had one night in the city, we acted fast. Not a minute to waste in this place.

Okay, I watched our pile {mound?} of luggage while Laney bought a few guidebooks at the train station’s bookstore. We even took a taxi to our hostel.

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Get out! My first taxi ride in the UK.

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Me likey. I admit it.

We got to our hostel, which was a converted church to stash our luggage until our 2 p.m. check-in time. It was ever so cool.

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However, the hostel worker was less than thrilled with the amount she needed to stash – which I totally understand. I felt a little embarrassed and apologized.

However, she couldn’t let it go! She had to take three steps – no lie – with our luggage. She would pick up a piece {something small, like my daypack}, ever so slowly, then groan with it. Very loudly. I’m like, what the…..???? Finally, I just moved them for her. I thought, maybe she’s had a bad day and/or has a bad back. Or maybe we just deserve this treatment, us over-packers.

But the kicker was when she said, “I don’t get you people. I never travel like this. Blah blah…” She went on this rant, which I did not think was the way to greet people who just arrived in town. Even ignorant over-packers like the two of us.

I tried to explain that,  “One, I’d been in London working for the month. I have budget stuff and books I need to get back to the States.  It was colder than I imagined in London and I had to buy some warmer clothes. Two, this is actually exceptional packing for Laney.”

I’m not sure she found it as funny as I did. I think Laney was in the loo during this situation. When Laney returned, she did give us a city overview, map, and told us about a great walking tour.

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Look, I think this family had more luggage than we brought with us! It made me feel better.

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We went to lunch at a cute place on a corner in the city center. I ordered a croque-madame, getting ready for Paris!

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As we sat outside and read guidebooks, we realized that there are something like 14 festivals going on in Edinburgh. The town is normally about 450,000 and swells to 1.5 million during August.

So it is a big deal.

We just happened to fall into the greatest town with the greatest weather during the greatest month of the year.

And there were so many great sights to see without all of the festivals in town. We literally wanted to do every single thing we possibly could in the town, and that is how our executive decision came about: we will forfeit our sleep to see as much of this city as possible.

After lunch we decided to try to conquer the castle first.

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Laney and I are like small children, and we got detoured by the ice cream truck in the park. That goofy grin is more like, “There’s sunshine and a castle on a mountaintop. I’ve got an ice cream cone. All is good.”

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Laney on our little “shortcut” hike up to the castle.

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We actually got to the top of the castle, and the line was pretty long. Since we wanted to do the 1 p.m. city walking tour, we bought tickets to tour the castle for the next morning. This was brilliant planning on our part because the line the next day was – like Buckingham Palace – crazy long.

Instead,  I dragged Laney to The Scotch Whiskey Experience. It was just down from the castle and I was hankering to check it out. I’m into these type of tours after the Guinness tour.

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We got in a cart to ride around for the first part of the tour to learn about the process and steps to making whiskey.

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This part was kind of psychedelic.

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Then we learned about the different regions that make Scotch and how it affects the overall flavor. Some taste like tannin, others vanilla-like. One region had a banana-like flavor.

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Then, we went into the tasting room. Wow.

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I’m completely blown away, snapping away like some paparazzi person.

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Our tasting table.

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More Laney and more bottles.

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My glass {which we can keep as a souvenir}.

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It’s like noon.

On a Monday.

It really hit me, “Yes, I’m on vacation because how often does one get tickets for a castle and then goes on a Scotch whiskey tour?!”

At one point, Laney called her husband – who adores Scotch, unlike Laney {in fact, I drank most of hers} – to tell him what we were up to. I think he was a little jealous. Sorry Judson! Next time, you must come with us. Because there will be a next time.

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In another room, they also had the “expensive” bottles on display. Who knows how much these bottles cost?! I guess most of them were from one guy’s private collection. They won’t say how much they are worth.

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Right after our tour, we met up with our free city tour guide on the Royal Mile in the center of town. Brendan, an Irish student who studies engineering in Edinburgh, works for the New Europe tour group and is awesome.

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The tour lasted for three hours – so here’s some of the highlights.

The gorgeous Royal Mile.

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The town’s center – see it all decorated for the festivals.

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The Heart of Midlothian. It used to be where executions took place, but now if you spit on it is said to bring you good luck and a return visit to the city. Hmmm….regardless….we spit on it often during our visit.

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Go Laney! Spit girl.

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On Victoria Street. So pretty. However, Brendan just told us a story about a serial killer who killed prostitutes and sold their parts to the medical college back in the day, as well as a woman who lived after the city tried to hang her. She later opened a pub on the street perpendicular to this one.

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Then we had our snack break. Ha! I spotted some more interesting chip flavors.

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And this is the fashion in the UK! Tiny shorts and black tights. I saw it all over town.

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After that we went to a graveyard. Our tour sounds sort of grim, but really it was quite fun! And very informative.

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This place is supposed to be extremely haunted. Spooky.

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And here lies Greyfriars Bobby. A police officer adopted this dog. After the policeman died a few years later, the dog never left the grave. Then a grave-keeper took care of him, and he lived in the cemetery. He was later buried around, but not in, the cemetery.

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People bring all sorts of animals and gifts to the grave.

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And Bobby is even a statue!

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We also learned about the “Stone of Destiny” in Edinburgh that has a prophesy stating “wherever the stone lies shall rule Scotland”. It was just returned to Scotland from England in 1996.  This stone is 1000 years old, so it has quite a history. Including some college kids stealing it in 1950. I am leaving out so many other things we did and saw, but this post is getting quite long.

The tour ends with a discount at a local pub. I really wanted to try haggis.

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We also tried out some Scottish beer.

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We loved them. Favorite beers of the trip.

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Okay, and here’s our haggis, which we decided to split in case we didn’t like it.

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Haggis, if you are not familiar with Scotland’s national dish, contains sheeps’ “pluck” {heart, liver and lungs} with minced onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt, and stock. It’s traditionally cooked in the animal’s stomach {I think they now use casing} for about three hours. Our’s was served with mashed potatoes, caramelized onions, and rosemary. We weren’t sure what those round things on the plate actually were?

It was tasty, which sort of surprised the two of us. We both enjoyed the dish!

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As we planned our our night/next day – the waitress was even so nice to write down a list of all her favorite pubs on a napkin! – I told Laney that I wanted to hike to Arthur’s Seat.

Um, she shut that down.

It was a bit further away once we looked at it on a map.

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After dinner, we returned to our hostel. Our room was tiny, but very nice. Bunk beds! I got the top.

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The hallway was wild. We felt like we were in The Shining.

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We both checked our e-mail and did a little work in the lounge, which was awesome. It was large with a lot of tables. It had a kitchen and a bar.

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This guy in the blue was also from Louisiana, like Laney. He thought that was just wild and couldn’t stop talking about it. I think he just liked chatting with Laney!

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Later that night, we went to some of the places that the waitress recommended. Then, we happened to – again – stumble right into the festival at night: big party, music, dancing, bars, comedy, theatre shows, etc. We ended up seeing a 1 a.m. comedy show, Late & Live. So funny! I think we got to bed around 5 a.m.

We took a taxi home. Laney’s corrupting me.

Total Sleep Time: 3 hours

Previous Recaps – London Stage RecapDay 1: Laney arrives and walks all over LondonDay 2: Laney Switches to Sneakers, Day 3: Camden Market & Playing Scrabble in the Heath

Coming up! – Day 5: Edinburgh, Part II

About Sarah

Always thinking about my next meal.
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14 Responses to Day 4 Recap: Edinburgh, Part I

  1. Jeyna Grace says:

    Those are really nice pictures!

  2. Loved reading about Edinburgh. My sister-in-law is from Scotland and her and my brother just got back from Edinburgh. Now I want to go so badly after seeing your gorgeous pictures!

    The hostel looked cute. I love staying at them in Europe, even if they are small and very basic.

    • Sarah says:

      Oh, how cool! Edinburgh was my favorite part of the trip. I could live there! I’d love to explore the rest of Scotland as well.

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  5. domestikate says:

    I’m from Edinburgh and have loved reading about your visit! So glad you fell in love with the place! Your photos are fab – I especially love that part of the trainline, where the ground just falls away to the sea from the side of the train! Oh, and the round things on your plate next to the haggis are oatcakes, a savoury biscuit made from oatmeal. We eat them with cheese, pate, soup, that sort of thing. So now you know!

    • Sarah says:

      Oh, we just adored Edinburgh! I didn’t want to leave. It was one of the most magical places I’ve seen. How lucky are you to live there!

      And thank you so much for getting us in the loop on oatcakes. We really liked them, and were curious what they were called.

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