Scotland, Day Seven – Edinburgh, Day Three

Friday, May 31

I woke up even earlier than the day before, shortly after 3 AM, and again the sky was already lightening.

Early Morning Edinburgh

At a more reasonable hour, we had a little breakfast at Black Medicine Coffee – excellent fruit scones and espresso and, interestingly, a Native American motif. We then tooled around town for a bit. Along the Royal Mile, we found barricades and police patrolling. We posted up in front of the City Chambers,

Edinburgh City Chambers

To watch the homecoming parade of the Scots Guard. These colorful gentleman led the parade,

Homecoming Parade

Followed by these squared away soldiers.

Scots Guard

They were shouted to a halt by a couple of fearsome sergeant-majors. Then shouted into alignment and parade rest for the speeches. Then shouted back into marching formation. And then shouted off down the cobblestoned road (where hopefully they would get the opportunity to rest their feet).

You can watch a short video here. It’s all very solemn and formal but I laugh a little every time I watch the part where they have to dress themselves into straight lines. The little scuttling movements are especially comical with their big stompy boots. It’s interesting to note that this technique seems to be used the world over. It looks kind of silly but it appears to be the best method that anyone anywhere can devise. I also felt a little déjà vu. At OCS, I remember being in formation for quarters, three squads facing inwards, and doing everything we could not to make eye contact. We were all wound pretty tight and if we met each other’s eyes, we’d then be having to stifle nervous laughter.

After the parade, we walked to Waverley Bridge to take a hop-on-hop-off Majestic bus tour to Leith, the port of Edinburgh. This area had turned rough after World War II but has been the focus of urban renewal efforts in recent years. Cruise ships now dock here and the former pleasure craft of the Royal Family, the Royal Yacht Britannia (nearly as large as a cruise ship) is permanently moored here.

Royal Yacht Britannia

We also saw the Royal Botanic Garden, home to 70% of all known species of plants.

Royal Botanic Garden

We ate lunch and wandered around town a bit more and decided to take another tour on board one of Mac Tours great old open top buses.

Mac Tour Bus

We got a glimpse of the Scottish Parliament building.

Scottish Parliament

These structures on the side of the building are window seats like this.


From an elevated vantage point, such as the nearby (dormant) volcano called Arthur’s Seat, the buildings are supposed to look like the branch of a tree.

Mac Bus Tour

I guess I can see the suggestion of a leaf motif here. There’s an interesting article detailing the contentious process of designing and constructing the buildings here. Hopefully after the referendum in September, the focus will be on the future of an independent Scotland.

We had an early supper at Pancho Villas, which offered decent Mexican food with good vegetarian options. The owner was born in Mexico and it would have been interesting to hear how she ended up in Scotland.

On the way back to the hotel, we happened to pass Armstrong’s Vintage which I’d forgotten was on my list. It’s probably for the best since, if I’d had more time and energy, I’d have had to buy another suitcase. I settled for a nice blue plaid (of course) scarf of, I think, gabardine wool. We hit a couple other stores and bought a few souvenirs and last minute purchases – another Proclaimers CD for me and a lambswool scarf for each of us and then headed back to the hotel to pack.


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.