Scotland, Part 1: Spot 23

Well, I’ve congealed a lot of the nearly 400 photos I took, so here’s the first part of the trip. I’m putting most of the pictures below the fold so as not to tie up the bandwidth of folks who ain’t interested.

I have to say the nice thing about flying right after a terror plot is busted is that the over-head bins are completely empty. It’s nice to get on a plane and not be assaulted by feisty travellers who define “two carry-on items” as “a large purse, a large bag, a medium sized wheeled suitcase, a garment bag, and a laptop case.” Gawd, those people bug the beejebus out of me. Anyhow, there was none of that on this trip. No lipbalm either, come to think of it, which was a bit of a drag; you know the terrorists have won when they take away Chapstick!
After many hours over the Atlantic we landed in Edinburgh and grabbed a cab into town and this street

where our hotel was. This street looked exactly as I thought it would, with all these cool tract-townhouse thingies curling off into the distance. But what the hell is up with all those cars parking on the wrong side of the street?
My bride correctly figured we needed to get our clocks set correctly, so as soon as we were checked in we took a tour of the Royal Mile area, both to get our minds acclimated to the place and to keep ourselves awake until we could go to bed at a reasonable time at night so that our bodies would get used to the new time zone, as well. And it was during lunch that I stumbled upon the insidious secret that enables the UK to continue to exist and its demonic symbol was everywhere: £. Seriously. You get off the plane all foggy brained, and you see a lunch menu where the entrees are priced at “10” and you think “well, 10 bucks, that’s a touch much for a ham and cheese sandwhich, but what the heck, we’re on vacation, so eat up kids” and you don’t realise that the price is in pounds, not dollars, and you’re now spending almost $19 for a sandwhich that seems to be made solely of butter. Food is incredibly expensive, and all I can say is thank God I lost my credit card at the airport before we left so that my Bride had to pick up all the meal tabs…in fact, she had to pay for everything. Woo-hoo! Am I the King, or what?
Anyhow, the next day we strolled down Princes Street on our way to the Castle and saw lots of these

Double-deckers are very cool, and they really are the best way to get around town, and by far the cheapest. You can get an all day fare for under $5 (£2.30, I think it was) and it’s well worth it, as cabs will kill you, cost wise. And the busses are everywhere and go everywhere, and they seem pretty safe, as we saw lots of youngish kids (9-10 or so) getting on the busses in pairs to go various places. It took awhile to sink in, but then I realized why all the busses are doubles: there are no wires. Anywhere. Not one. No electric wires or phone wires or even telephone poles are to be found. Wiser minds then my own assure me that this is because all of the wires are buried in conduits in the street, but frankly I believe that the absence of wires is from Maggie Thatcher’s fiendish place to implant radio control devices in the mind of everyone, so that they would respond to the orders beamed to them from the satellites that Reagan was supposed to have put aloft during Star Wars; she kept up her end of the bargain, at least, and as a bonus managed to rid the country of wires.
Immediately after I had this intellectual breakthrough my Bride let out a sigh of joy which caused me to turn about and see this:

Edinburgh castle really does dominate the city. In a fit of silly exhuberance, we decided to walk across the dell you see in the foreground (which used to be a stinky stinky garbage-and-excrement filled Loch whose odors gave rise to Edinburgh’s nickname of “old Reeky”) and climb directly up the hill to the castle. My goodness, was that a silly idea. We found a nice trail, but it was a steep and switch-backy climb and we were huffing and puffing by the time we got to here

the entrance to the castle. The castle is very cool to walk about; they have excellent tours and lots of well-marked historical sites and tidbits. It is also still under the aegis of the military, and the sight of all these 15th century torture devices combined with men with submachine guns really helped to keep the kids in line.
Its location affords some lovely views of the city, as well:

And there you can already see the clouds and mist starting to work their way in.
But the whole point of a castle is the cannons

Remember that picture; in an hour or so we returned there to watch them fire off a round from a modern howitzer that they have. They do this at 1 pm everyday, and you’ll see how much the weather changed by then.
As with any good historical site, they have lots of neat stuff from the different eras when it was in use. I’ve heard alot about Mons Meg before, and I was very excited to see this cannon from the mid-1400s:

My Bride informed me that in the course of her research for our trip she happened upon a story that said a rather amorous couple conceived a child inside Mons during the 18th century…

Right behind Mons Meg is the oldest part of the Castle, Saint Margaret’s Chapel, which dates from the 12th century

It’s quite lovely inside

The page I linked to above says that it is availible for small wedding parties, and that brings me to another point which became very obvious while we were there: Scotland is a land of many beautiful churches, and is the home of my Presbyterian faith and is thus very important to Protestantism as a whole. But it sure doesn’t seem like anyone actually goes to church there anymore. Most churches that we saw that were still intact were used as “Community Centers” (sorry: Centres) or were gift shops or restaurants; very few, well, none that I recall, really, were actually focused primarily as, you know, houses of worship. Aside from the mosques.
Anyhow, we took the kids downstairs and tried to get them locked up in the dungeons but the darn doors wouldn’t budge, and by this time it was close to 1 pm and we had to go up and see them fire off the modern howitzer they keep there to help set people’s watches.
Remember how it looked when we got there?

Here is the exact same spot (from a slightly different angle) just a few hours later

I got that just after it had fired; you can still see all the smoke curling about.
The rain started to come down now, but heck, it’s Scotland, so we left the Castle and headed down the Royal Mile to see more sights. I had to visit Spot 23 and to see his house in person, as my Bride has had a print of it hanging in our home for as long as we’ve been married. And so we made our way around the side of St. Giles church, where he preached for many years, to the parking lot and Spot 23

with its simple, bare brass marker. There is no writing, no inscription on that piece of metal, no fancy engraving or carvings or even words to mark the final resting place of the man who so clearly defined the Presbyterian faith apart from that of the Roman Catholic faith, the man who argued for so many hours face to face with Mary, Queen of Scots, the man who lived in this house

which is, in fact, the only surviving medieval private residence in Edinburgh, and is just a block from St. Giles. Yes, if you work in the Courthouse in Edinburgh you can park your little car atop the final resting place of the earthly remains of John Knox, and I can’t help but think that that is just as he would like it.
We kept walking down the Royal Mile through the rain and made our way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is a neat place in and of itself, mind you, but what appealed to me the most was the attached Abbey which collapsed sometime in the 18th century, I think:

There’s something about being in ruins like that on a foggy, misty, rainy day which is just too cool and puts chills far beyond that which can be solely laid at the feet of the weather down one’s spine.
Even though it was raining rather steadily we strolled about the grounds and gardens, which were very pleasant, and we could see that our friends up on Arthur’s Seat were having a rather damp day as well:

We then had a very wet walk back to the hotel, and found a wonderful Indian place whose curries were just the thing to drive away the damp and chill.
Thus endeth the day.
Oops, I almost forgot the present I bought for my sister-in-law:


8 Responses to “Scotland, Part 1: Spot 23”

  1. Suzette says:

    Well, amen and hallelujah. No carry-ons. My dream come true.

  2. Rob says:

    Great pics, Bingley. Edinburgh is high on my list of places to visit some day.

  3. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Thanks for the photos, Mr. B, but I hope you got another cup like that for THS.

  4. Wah. I am seething with jealousy. I would love to go to Edinburgh again.

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  6. Cullen says:

    Fantastic stuff, Bing. I too am jealous. Looks like it was a fabulous trip.

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