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Scotland: Edinburgh



Thursday, August 13, 2015

While I was getting dressed, Tom went out to feed the parking meter outside our hotel.  Edinburgh is a very old town and they didn’t plan on parking lots when they built it.

Their system is – you find a ticket box with confusing directions and put some amount of coins in it.  If you’re local, you can get a mobile app. The machine spits out a voucher that goes on the car dash. We did it wrong the night before and ended up getting 2 vouchers to put on the car.  The police woman was coming by and we explained to her why there were the 2 vouchers.



Then we went into the little restaurant there for breakfast – we’d paid for it when we checked in.  At first, I thought the usual cereal/fruit/yogurt spread was it but then they came and asked about eggs and hot foods so we had quite a meal.

At check-out the hotel staff let us move our car into their tiny 6-car lot behind the building when we said we were touring Edinburgh for the day.  That would save us some time and money running back to the meter.

As it turns out, Tom hadn’t quite put enough in the meter to cover breakfast, so we had a ticket when we went out.  :(



It was for £60 or $92.57 at today’s exchange rate.  We paid it that day to get the 50% discount rare for early payment. <sigh>

We walked back up toward the Castle to find our double decker bus and got all the way to the Royal Mile before we found it.  We were able to sit on the top, although not together for a while.





Highlights included:

  • Palace of Holyroodhouse.  This is at the end of the Royal Mile.  We were lucky in that Queen Elizabeth was in residence – so we couldn’t go in :(  She was there for some ceremony that was taking place in a couple days.
  • Scottish Parliament.  This building is really strange looking.  I have some pictures in my slideshow at the end of this post.  The good thing is that it’s right across the street from the Palace but I doubt that the royals ever walk.  They probably don’t hike up the Royal Mile, either.
  • ScottSir Walter Scott Monument. The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It is the largest monument to a writer in the world. It stands in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, opposite the Jenners department store on Princes Street and near to Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station, which is named after Scott’s Waverley novels.The tower is 200 feet 6 inches high, and has a series of viewing platforms reached by a series of narrow spiral staircases giving panoramic views of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. The highest platform is reached by a total of 287 steps (those who climb the steps can obtain a certificate commemorating their achievement – we didn’t!).
  • Old Town. The Old Town (Scots: Auld Toun) is the name popularly given to the oldest part of Scotland’s capital city o fEdinburgh. The area has preserved much of its medieval street plan and many Reformation-era buildings. Together with the 18th-century New Town, it forms part of a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
  • New Town. This is a central area of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. It is often considered to be a masterpiece of city planning It was built in stages between 1767 and around 1850, and retains much of the original neo-classical and Georgian period architecture. Its most famous street is Princes Street, facing Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town across the geographical depression of the former Nor Loch.
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Grassmarket. It’s a historic market place located directly below Edinburgh Castle and forms part of one of the main east-west vehicle arteries through the city centre. The view to the north, dominated by the castle, has long been a favorite subject of painters and photographers, making it one of the iconic views of the city.
  • Edinburgh Castle.  I loved how we could see the Castle from everywhere.  Look down an alleyway or a close and there it is looming over the city.
  • Greyfriars Bobby.  I had never heard of this until this bus tour although we had walked by the statue 3 times already!  On our 4th pass-by, we saw several people taking pictures of the statue.  I guess they knew. Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for supposedly spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films, and a prominent commemorative statue and nearby graves act as a tourist attraction.
  • The Elephant House.   Opened in 1995, The Elephant House has established itself as one of the best tea and coffee houses in Edinburgh. Made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle. J.K. Rowling started to write parts of Harry Potter here. A huge sign on the entrance let’s you know the following: “This is the birthplace of Harry Potter”. To be fair to you, this isn’t 100% true!https://youtu.be/NNNMq3ht0kQIan Rankin, author of the bestselling Rebus novels, and Alexander McCall-Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and other series of novels, have also frequented The Elephant House, as well as many others throughout the years.
  • The house of Sir James Young Simpson, 1st Baronet (7 June 1811 – 6 May 1870) at 52 Queen Street..  He  was a Scottish obstetrician and an important figure in the history of medicine. Simpson discovered the anesthetic properties of chloroform and successfully introduced it for general medical use.
  • The house of Alexander Graham Bell. He lived from March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922  and was a Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone.
  • Our driver also pointed out that Edinburgh was actually 2 cities, one above the other and we could see that when looking down all the bridges.  We were usually on the top but there was more going on below.

This video pretty much covers what we saw on the bus tour:

After we’d been all the way around the bus tour, we got off at the Royal Mile and hiked up to the Castle.  There was an ice cream truck on the esplanade that warranted a stop :)

I have to say that inside the castle, everything goes uphill.  It takes about 20 minutes to make it to the top and I just couldn’t make it, thanks to Cushing’s energy issues and my leg biopsy.  I felt so guilty.  I had wanted to get to the top to see the Scottish National War Memorial.  I know my grandfather’s name is inscribed in the Book of Remembrance there.  I felt really terrible that we had gotten so close and I just couldn’t make it the final trek up the hill.  Hopefully, I can be stronger another time and see this.

The ice cream truck doesn’t show in this video:


Rick Steves video on Edinburgh, including inside the castle.


After sitting and resting for a while, we headed back down the castle hill, the Royal Mile and down the street towards our hotel.

On the way back, a hoodie outside a store caught my eye.  While we were looking at it, a guy asked if he could help find my size.  He had just been walking up the street but he was the shop owner.  We went in and found something even better, with a matching one for Tom.  I ended up also buying a cap and some other stuff.  While I was looking around, I realized this was the same store where we’d bought the junk food for dinner the night before.  I had been so tired/hungry that night I hadn’t even noticed that they sold hoodies, tshirts and stuff.

The shopkeeper spent a lot of time with us, looking in the back for the matching sweatshirts in the correct sizes.  When he was done, he threw in a package of Walker’s shortbread for free!  I wish I could remember the name of this shop so I could give it a good review on Trip Advisor.  We save all our receipts, so hopefully I can find that name.

We continued on our way and a guy with sequined gold dress came running out of a doorway.  I sure hope he was part of the Fringe Festival!

We got back to the Edinburgh City Hotel to get our car and I found I’d become mayor.  :)



So, that really made my day.  LOL

The drive back was pretty uneventful.  We had some of the shortbread and I have to say it wasn’t nearly as good as mine.

When we got back to our place, I found out why.

We saw those  tent people by the side of the road again. Gypsies?  I couldn’t get a picture again.  I’ll have one more time to try this on Saturday.  They’ve been there at least 5 days.  Surely, the police have seen them.

Back to our place!

It turns out that Walker’s uses whole wheat flour and I use rice.  They use sugar, I use confectioner’s sugar. Other than that, the ingredients are the same.  The flour, butter, confectioner’s sugar and a bit of salt.

Walker’s is definitely not bad, just different.


My shortbread mold

Shortbread used to be my standard Christmas gift for local people but they mostly can’t eat shortbread anymore due to the butter, the sugar and the salt. <sigh>

When I was a kid, my dad’s congregation had a lot of Scottish members.  One of the worst insults that could said was “She makes her shortbread with margarine“.  What an epithet!


My slideshow for today

Costa Rica, Day Nine: August 23, 2014

This was another easy day.

When Tom was making reservations for Costa Rica, he set out searches on both RCI and Interval.  We had one week here at Coco Bay Estates, then we were going to move to Flamingo Beach Resort.  That was ok, sort of.  Then a second week became available here but we kept the second week at Flamingo and gave it to friends, Bev and Pete.

We mostly spent the morning online checking Facebook, I worked some on a final exam that is due at 9:00 am Monday – UK time on a Coursera course – and trying to figure out how to get to Flamingo Beach Resort.

flamingo-routeWe had all kinds of maps, including the Google one at right.  The trouble with all of them is the route numbers.  None of the roads here have signs that say what the route number is, or the name of any street.

The little directions that come with that map were also no good since we were to go through the towns of Filadelfia, Belén and Huacas.

Luckily, we had been through Filadelfia before, when we went to Palo Verde but the other ones had no signs letting us know where the town limits were, “Welcome to Huacas” signs or anything.  The maps would be better if they said turn right at the fruit stand or something.

We rented a GPS when we first got here but today it had trouble acquiring satellites and we would be driving along and it appeared to suddenly download new (or updated) software, then restart.

But, as always, we persevered.

2014-08-23 11.28.15 2014-08-23 11.28.29We set out about 11:30 am.  Before we even got to the little town, we saw an odd sight.

That boat, aptly named Fear Not,  is being towed by that backhoe(?).  The boat is taller than the electrical wires above so the guy on the left, in orange, is standing up, holding up the electrical wires with a piece of wood.  The woman is holding a piece of aluminum or metal.


We retraced our steps towards the Liberia Airport but when we got to that fruit stand, we turned right instead of left.  All new territory now.  Between the in-and-out GPS and sporadic signs to Playa Flamingo, after only one wrong turn, we made it to our friends place about 12:45.

flamingo_beach_resortWe met them in the lobby and then went and had a very nice lunch in the little outdoor restaurant.

We went out on their beach (white sand) and got a view of the buildings just up the coast.

I have to sat that their place is much nicer than ours on a whole – room is smaller – and more friendly/helpful people around.

Here, we’re kind of by ourselves on this mountain and have to drive to even get to the pool.  Most of the “staff” here seem to work for another company which is selling timeshares/vacation clubs/something slimy.  More on that later.

Our front light is still out and our elevator may or may not be working after nine days here.  We still have our 15 issues since day one and some new ones have been added.  Those will be in a summary after we get home.

But, I digress.  We had a great time with our friends but had to head home at 4:30 or so since it gets dark at 6:00.  On the way back we were stopped by police for a routine traffic stop.  Tom said it was right around Costa Rican Mother’s Day when all the family gathers at home.  That may involve drinking and/or fighting which may have triggered the traffic stop.  In any event, they let us go after seeing Tom’s driver’s license.

Most of the drive went well except when we went around a corner and there was a kid skateboarding in the street.

We got back to our place just as a big storm was brewing.

2014-08-23 17.57.50 2014-08-23 17.57.47 2014-08-23 17.57.45 2014-08-23 17.57.42 2014-08-23 17.57.28 2014-08-23 17.57.10 2014-08-23 17.57.07


And there was a huge thunderstorm.  The power went out on one wall where modem, router and telephone is.  Then the fridge went out but it came back fairly soon.

Someone came to our door to ask if we’d reported a fire.  Uh, no.  We wouldn’t be sitting around if the place was on fire.  We don’t even have a phone to report a fire.

Finally, our modem, router and phone came back and all was well for another day…


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