Sunday, March 5, 2017

Awed in Edinburgh - Scotland with my son (4)

This post was originally written at 29 juni 2013 om 18:45

I had looked forward to the last leg of our train journey enormously, as I have read and seen so much about Scotland.  But...reality differs from screens, and stories can be romanticized. In this case the Scottish borderlands turned out to be...pretty boring, actually.

We left The Lake District with pain in our hearts, as we could easily have spent another week there. But Edinburgh beckoned. So we travelled back to Oxenholme and there boarded the train for Waverley Station, together with Philip and Mrs Nag, two Ozzies from Sydney, who were 'doing' Europe in three weeks. He was sweet, she found fault with everything. For example the lovely room at our Windermere B&B, which she pronounced "so tiny that you couldn't swing a cat in there". (No...but why on earth would you want to, I wonder?)

I watched the landscape from our window, and saw yellowed grassland, sheep, and neglected white-washed cottages. Not very romantic and certainly not exciting. But the entry into Waverley Station made up for the boring journey. Coming into Edinburgh past those Victorian and Georgian monumental buildings, and the Monument, and seeing Edinburgh Castle on that craggy rock simply took my breath away. I couldn't wait to start exploring, but first we had to find a bed for the night. Here we were in luck, as Mrs Nag had booked a room in The Travelodge, and they had one for us as well. We quickly threw our bag into our room, and rushed out into the city.

It had been raining off and on whilst we were on the train, but the sun now peeked through the clouds, resulting in that typically British custom of pretending it is high Summer even though it is only 8 C, and all those pretty girls throwing off their winter clothes and parading through Princes Street in bare arms and legs. I kept on my Dutch winter coat, thanks.
Within 10 minutes we met our first kilted Scottish piper. And then the second. And the third. No question about it, this was Scotland!

We decided to visit the castle first, though the admission was a shock. We bought two tickets anyway, and spent hours walking through the history of the British army. (Why would a pacifist walk through halls and halls full of army memorabilia, you may wonder? To tell you the truth, I don't have a good answer to that...But I did sign the condolence register for some poor 19 year old who had stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan the day before.) The cellars were the best bit. Here they had kept their prisoners of war, amongst whom many Dutch sailors, some as young as 8 years old. 

Outside, in one of he courtyards, there was a youth orchestra playing their little hearts out. The funny thing was that they had decked themselves out in orange boas, orange wigs, red-white-blue bunting and paper crowns. How very insightful, as this day was the Dutch coronation of prince Willem-Alexander.  But a bit weird, as well. And, as I remarked to my son, looking as ridiculous as (normally) only our fellow countrymen can look. As I said this, a woman in front of me, with an orange Heidi-wig-with-orange-wooden-clog, turned around and gave us a flyer. Ah...the orchestra turned out to be from Haarlem (a town not far from Amsterdam). She invited us to Reid Concert Hall for that evening, where they would perform a free concert. We went, and had a smashing time.
The Noord-Hollands Youth Orchestra

The next day we wanted to visit the Botanical Gardens (always a favourite). But we couldn't take the bus, as we didn't have any 50 pence pieces, and the bus driver couldn't make change from twenty pounds. Shops and pubs being closed still, this meant having to walk there, and getting lost, and sopping wet. But it was worth it. 
Afterwards we spent two hours in the Scottish Museum, where there was an exhibition about the Vikings In Scotland. Two hours was ample for the exhibition, but not enough for the rest of this wonderful museum. We ran through the Egyptian hall, and then were politely but firmly evicted.

Time for a bite to eat, and a wee dram (I had promised myself this. When in Scotland...) We ended up in a pub named The Huxley, and I got some advice about an independent brewer who brewed a beer called Caesar Augustus. With hints of oak and flowers...gorgeous! The Huxley became our home away from home. We were never going to leave it again! After hours and hours in the company of Caesar Augustus, I decided that the dram wouldn't be needed anymore, and that frankly it would be a good idea to try to find a bed. And I was sharing mine with my son...
When we reached The Travelodge, the Polish construction crew underneath our window just fired up their concrete drills. Ah...that's why the street had been closed for all traffic. Ah...and they worked all night, in Edinburgh...I spared a drunken thought for Mrs Nag. Imagine having a room large enough to swing a cat in, but having to share it with a bunch of Polish concrete layers.

Somehow it seemed poetic, our first night in Norwich without a wink, and now our last night in Edinburgh sleepless as well.
When we put down on Schiphol the next morning, it rained.

This concludes our rambles around England and Scotland some years ago - way before Scottish Independence reared it's head and Brexit. I have a firm wish to go back to Scotland and explore The Highlands. I'll keep you posted.