Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Edinburgh Castle

Heather--We've been spending a delightful several days in the countryside of Bath, England. In fact, the place we were staying at was so country, that we didn't have internet. So now we have several days to catch up on!

Let's see, I believe we left you hanging at our apartments in Edinburgh. We arrived late at night and were confused because there were two buildings, neither of which we could get into. So Dad left most of us with the luggage and went on a foray with Raquelle.

(Raquelle's comments---we went around to the front of the building. A little sign on the door explained that the front desk was only open from 8 to 8, and if you arrived after that, kindly call this phone number. Oh, and the nearest phone booth was across the street, down the hill, up five flights of stairs, past three monkeys, across a small pond, and up inside a giant Redwood tree. Or something like that. :D We were VASTLY THANKFUL that Dad had an international cell phone with him, so we didn't have to go scouting around in the dark for a mysterious phone booth.

Upon contacting the receptionist, she gave us a number to punch in to open the door. Inside the little lobby were several key boxes, two of which had Dad's name on them. Another set of numbers were punched in to release the keys. Ta-da! Now all we had to do was bump around a little and decide with of the two buildings was ours, and at last we made it inside with all our luggage.)

Heather---This lodging was a real apartment with kitchen, living room and washing machine. Grandma and Gramps had one apartment and we had another down the hall. It was nice to spread out our stuff and flop into bed.

Supposedly American Express was going to buy breakfast groceries for us ahead of time, but no such luck. So Dad and Gramps got up early the next morning and went to the Tesco across the street for eggs, bacon and juice. And bread, butter and jelly. I almost always got ready first, so I ended up being the "lucky" person to try to figure out the dinky kitchen. However, I finally managed to cook the eggs and bacon, toast the bread and find the dishes. Everyone congregated in our apartment for a nice breakfast together.

(Raquelle's comments---unfortunately, there was only one skillet, which we used to fry the interesting-looking bacon. It was thin sliced, like American bacon--a lot of European is thick-sliced and is basically like a piece of ham---but cut in large pieces which wiggled and woggled and cooked unevenly. In the end we had an unsightly heap of slightly-charred and slightly-underdone pink stuff. :D And, there being little grease, in the meantime we undertook to scramble eggs in a saucepan. As far as the eggs were concerned, this was fine. As far as the saucepan was concerned.......let's just say that some poor housekeeper is probably still scrubbing it. Because, of course, they didn't have a dishwasher. :D)

Heather---Then it was off to Edinburgh Castle! Canon Court Apartments were supposedly within walking distance, but it was a European's idea of walking... a couple miles of city streets. So we took the bus instead to the Royal Mile. That's the main street in Edinburgh leading up to the castle. It is cobblestoned and very picturesque.

It was a lovely sunny day, with a bit of brisk wind. We passed many shops and ancient looking buildings, heard a bagpipe or two, and generally were feeling in the spirit of things by the time we got to the top of the hill. Well - maybe Grandma was a little tired. However, she kept up admirably!

Dad bought tickets while Raquelle and I took pictures of the statues of Wallace and Bruce on each side of the castle gate. Then we all headed through the massive gate to start our tour.

Edinburgh Castle is a massive, impressive place. It's built right on, or I should say, into a volcanic mountain top. The word that comes to mind is impregnable! There had been a castle on that spot since Roman times so the whole place looked pretty ancient. There's actually a small town inside the castle gates.

Raquelle's comments--There is quite a variety of things to see. There is an ENORMOUS cannon, called Mons Meg, that fires cannoballs about the size of a beach ball. Really. They say that some of the balls were shot as far as two miles. There is a quaint little dog cemetary, where various mascots are buried. There are the ruins of an old section, King David's tower (no, silly, not THAT King David....a Scottish King David), in which the Honors of Scotland were secreted for a few years during World War II, in case of bombing.

Let me explain about the Honors of Scotland. It's the crown, sword, scepter, and Stone of Scone (on which kings were traditionally crowned since somewhere around 1200). They had an interesting history, of which some of it I can't remember. But at one point the Scots were worried that the English would take them, so they were hidden away sometime in the early 1700s or 1800s (I forget exactly). They passed into legend somewhat, and it was simply said that they were hidden in an old chest in a certain part of the castle. About a hundred years later, Sir Walter Scott received permission to look for them. Sure enough, after forcing open the chest in a certain room-----there they were. Cool.

There is also a very old chapel, Queen Margaret's chapel. It dates to the 1200s, I think.

We ate at a restaurant inside the castle and felt very medieval, although the food wasn't all that great. :D Gramps and I ordered pork and apple sausages. They were GHASTLY. Of course, maybe that was period correct for medieval food......who knows?????)

Heather---After spending most of the day at the castle, we headed back down the Royal Mile. All of us were interested in looking at the shops. I wanted to buy a kilted skirt, Raquelle wanted a plaid SOMETHING (she hadn't decided what), Mom wanted some wool sweaters for her and Dad, Gramps wanted some cigars and Grandma wanted to look at everything on general principles. I was lucky enough to finally find a shop with the skirts I wanted and they were on sale! So I bought two. Raquelle found a lovely plaid wrap and Mom found herself a sweater. The cigar store was closed unfortunately. And Grandma needed a nap, so we all headed back to the apartments.

Raquelle's comments---at the store where I bought my wrap, I was fumbling around with my cumbersome little pouch that contained my passport, credit cards, money, and all other Essentials Which Must Go In A Small Pouch That Can Be Pinned Into Your Pants Pocket. :D After being clumsy for awhile I rolled my eyes at myself and joked, "Stupid American tourists!" to the clerk.

"Actuallee," she said, in thick brogue, "I LIKE Amereecan tooreests!!" Heh heh, betcha she does! They spend money!!! :D

We opted to try cooking on our own, rather than eating out, so Mom and Dad trekked to the grocery store. They returned with a few side veggies of coleslaw and potato salad and some interesting-looking hamburger patties. The packaging assured us they were 80% beef. Speculation ran amuck amongst as to the other 20%. Sawdust? Chicken beaks? Dried peas? They were odd, stiff little things and looked sort of like you would expect fake toy raw hamburger patties to look. (You know how you played with toy chocolate chip cookies and toy fried eggs when you played house as kids? You know, that kind of stuff. :D)

We cooked them rather dubiously and added a little salt, as that was the only spice on hand. There was ostensibly pepper but it had obviously petrified in the container sometime before the flood, so it wasn't especially useful. However, to our immense surprise, the patties actually tasted quite good. They were juicy and tender and had a great flavor.

So, what DO you suppose was the remaining 20%????

Afterward, in a heroic burst of virture, I washed the dishes.

Grandma had been pining for a cup of tea, so Mom and Dad had also bought some of that at the grocery store. After they got back, we discovered an entire jar of teabags on the counter. Ah well, we're stocked for tea!!!

Heather--After dinner we sat around and chatted for a while and then everyone headed for bed. After Grandma and Gramps left for their rooms, we conceived a brilliant idea. All of us wanted to do a little more shopping and Gramps still hadn't got his cigars. But our plans for the next day were to go to the Falkirk Wheel and Dunfermline Abbey--and also pick up rental cars. So our plan was to get up early and go back to the Royal Mile, while letting Grandma sleep in since she was getting tired. Mom wrote out a note to this effect and told Raquelle and I to deliver it under their door without waking them up. Turns out they had a mail drop on their door so we shoved it in there and felt very clandestine as we scuttled back down the hall. Then, to bed!

Stay tuned for the next great adventure!!! Will the Sheen family make it through their boat being lifted through the air from one river to another? Will they survive driving on their own in European traffic? And what about the break-in next door in the middle of the night????


(Oh, and Raquelle is in the DEPTHS OF DESPAIR because her NEW digital camera BROKE today and the lens won't advance. She has wept pots of tears and is staying up late blogging in an attempt to cheer her desolate soul and stop herself from weeping more pots of tears. Sniff. Sni-IIFFFF!!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!! Oh dear, there she goes...........)


Jennie Chancey said...

What a great blog, Sheens! I've just caught up today and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Y'all kept me in stitches with your descriptions and stories. I totally agree with your assessment of the people on the London tube. The only time last year that someone cracked a smile was when a young man sat next to us and admired the twins. ;-) Other than that, though, we found Londoners very friendly and happy to help us with our cumbersome double stroller--so nice! We look forward to seeing more pictures! Cheerio, Jennie

Raquel said...

Seeing as how you're in Europe the other 20% could have been much more interesting than sawdust... Cheval meat, anyone? :-)