Monthly Archives: June 2014

Scotland, Day Six – Edinburgh, Day Two

Thursday, May 30

We were on the last leg of our trip and since the Scottish National Gallery was my only must-see, it was nice to slow down and just wander. We took a couple of bus sightseeing tours and wished we’d done that in other cities. They can be a bit touristy but it’s an affordable way to get a quick overview of a new city – plus, you have to sit down the whole time.

The days are so long this far north in the spring. I woke up at just before 4 AM and looked out to see the sunrise.

Edinburgh Sunrise

We got up a few hours later and took a walk after breakfast. Edinburgh Castle is even more imposing than Stirling.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Looms

We listened to a piper near the Scottish National Gallery.

Piper Busking

We were pretty museum-ed out but the National Gallery owns a few Gerard Ter Borch paintings so I couldn’t miss seeing them. And I almost never take photos in museums but A Singing Practice features the lovely shimmering satin dresses that I love so much.

A Singing Practice

As we walked around, the museum staff asked us to carry our bags either at our sides or in front of us. We wondered if they’d had issues with pickpockets. I could see why since it’s easy to get engrossed in such beautiful artwork.

The National Gallery also owns two Van Goghs. Olive Trees was painted while he was in the asylum at Saint-Remy.

Vincent van Gogh - Olive Trees - Google Art Project

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

and Orchard in Blossom in the year prior.

Vincent van Gogh - Orchard in Blossom (Plum Trees) - Google Art Project

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There are interesting differences in the paintings pre- and mid-asylum: less and more movement and energy, finer and coarser brushstrokes, even thinner and thicker layers of paint. I’m sorry for the pain that led him to Saint-Remy but I think his paintings benefitted from the agitation and turmoil. Orchard seems anemic and lifeless by comparison.

They also had a series of amazing embroidered panels called The Progress of a Soul by Phoebe Anna Traquair. Each panel is about six feet tall and almost three feet wide. From left to right they are, The Entrance, The Stress, Despair, The Victory.

1 The Entrance  2 The Stress  3 The Despair  4 The Victory

Every inch within the frame is stitching.

Phoebe Anna Traquair, The Progress of a Soul, Panel 4  Phoebe Anna Traquair, The Progress of a Soul, Panel 3

We rounded out our morning of culture with a glass of wine and some tasty pasta and at Bella Italia.

The afternoon led us around Edinburgh and through the Peace Garden at St. John’s Episcopal Church. The flowers in bloom added life and color to the sober tombstones.

St Cuthbert Bluebells

St Cuthbert Columbine

St Cuthbert Poppies

St Cuthbert Allium

We had a great time on the rest of our trip and I knew we’d miss things here and there but I do wish we’d timed it differently. We were too early for one of my favorite British comedians, Bill Bailey,

Bill Bailey

and too late what looks like it would have been an entertaining ballet.

Edinburgh Ballet

It was interesting to see more mundane bits of the old city in doorways.

Old Edinburgh

We both are looking forward to our next trip to Edinburgh. I think we might start here and we could easily spend a week or two before we would be ready to move on.

We had supper at Mother India’s Café near our hotel and headed back to our room.

Up next: our last day in Edinburgh and the end of our adventure.


Scotland, Day Five – Stirling, The Wallace Monument, Edinburgh

Wednesday, May 29

We hiked up Abbey Craig to visit the Wallace Monument, the memorial for William Wallace, aka Braveheart.

Wallace Monument

Patches of bluebells,

Bluebells on Abbey Craig

And wild garlic grow under the canopy of trees.

Wild Garlic on Abbey Craig

The Wallace coat of arms hangs over the entryway.

Wallace Coat of Arms

And a statue of Braveheart is installed on the corner of the monument.

Wallace Statue

I’m thinking there was some artistic license taken when they cast Mel Gibson in the role.

The monument also houses memorials of other important Scots, notably the economist Adam Smith.

Adam Smith

I accidentally ended up walking to the top of the monument. There were exhibits on each successive floor of the monument so I kept trudging higher and higher. The second-worst part was the spiral stairwell, which looks like it’s kind of glued onto the outside of the structure,

The Wallace Monument, Stirling

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

had giant openings on the sides I could practically fall through. Okay, so maybe they weren’t quite that large but it was pretty drafty. It took a major effort to climb almost to the top. I managed a quick snap through one of the crenellations,

Crenellation Wallace Monument

Then I turned the corner and found that it opened right up to nothing but air and it was over and done with for me.

Wallace Monument (HDR) (8038771807)

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I beat a hasty retreat down a floor until Jim finished sightseeing and then we made the trek back down to ground level.

We spent the afternoon exploring Stirling Castle where we got to see tapestries being woven just as they were 600 years ago. There’s an interesting video here.

We had a little lunch and then got on the road to the final destination, Edinburgh. Rather than try to find parking for two days, we checked into the hotel and then drove back out to the airport to drop off the rental car. We hopped on a the AirLink, a double-decker bus and rode back into town. The two-story buses seem to be a popular mode of transport.

Double Decker Bus

We strolled around town for a bit before supper and came across this busker with his assistant, a droopy lab holding a hat out for tips. (Some of us have a soft spot for dogs, apparently.)

Labrador Busker