Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Thirteenth Post In Total)

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When we arrived to our flat in the area of Leith in Edinburgh (pronounced Edinborough) on Friday, June 8, we moved in, and I went around the corner to a city grocer's to pick up some food for the next few days, especially for breakfast.  We did this everywhere we stayed for a few nights -- so far in London, when we were there from the first Wednesday night to the following Wednesday morning, and now Edinburgh, where we would stay until early Monday morning.

I pre-purchased most of our tickets before we left California, which allows skipping the lines at almost every place. Usually this means you have to arrive at a scheduled time for your visit, which we did Saturday morning, June 9.  It's about a 25 minute to the center of Edinburgh and the castle opens at 9:30am.  The castle is at the end of what Edinburgh calls the Royal Mile, the main street of its old town.  One can easily spend the entire day or more between Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.
From the bus stop, we zig-zagged our way together up to the castle, the most distinguishable emblem of the country of Scotland, that dominates the skyline of Edinburgh.  It was a gigantic line that we skipped past because we didn't need to buy tickets.   The entrance gateway is flanked by statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, that open to a cobbled lane leading to a narrow tunnel ending with a metal portcullis gate, which dropped in front of the castle in the case of attackers.
By the eleventh century AD it was established as the principle royal residence in Scotland.  Now it houses the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, St. Margaret's Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, and the Scottish Crown Jewels.  What stood out to me is it's high position on volcanic rock with an amazing view of Edinburgh and beyond, including the Firth of Forth, and the very birth room of King James VI of Scotland (King James I of England), to Mary, Queen of Scots.
We visited the day of the celebration of Queen Elizabeth's birthday.  The band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland played, along with bagpipes.  They fired a 21 gun salute to the Queen with three 150mm howisters.  We also viewed the changing of the guard.
The royal mile is an almost exact mile between the castle and Holyrood Palace.  Not only is the royal mile crammed with interesting shops and historic sites, but also some of its famous side streets.  There is an impressive statue there of a native son, Adam Smith, the economist who wrote The Wealth of Nations.  He also lived on that street for a time.  The Scottish Parliament is on the royal mile.  The house of John Knox is there, and can be toured, the Father of the Scottish Reformation.  I visited a cemetery that also had the grave of several well known Scots, including Adam Smith, but I was interested in the tombstone of Horatius Bonar.
The street performers were talented and funny.  We stopped for coffee at Cafe Nero, a competitor of Costas in the U.K.  We visited many, many shops with lambswool or cashmere scarves, wool being a major industry in Scotland.  We finished the mile about 5pm and took the bus back to Leith.  We ate pizza at Pizza Express, right next door to our flat.  On the other side of the restaurant is a tavern called the King's Wark, which was an original royal residence and armory for King James I, and a sign marks this reality.

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