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.
- 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.
- Sir 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!
Ian 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.
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
Thursday, August 6, 2015
As these things go, of course Tom’s computer stopped working. There was a deadline to be met before we left and the HP PC was finally dead.
Michael had given Tom his old Mac from 2010. There was nothing wrong with it, other than being several versions old. I wanted to be able to easily transfer files to the Mac, in case I ever got the PC working again. (Insert evil laugh here!)
I started upgrading the OS which seemingly took forever but work needed to be done so my 2015 Mac was commandeered.
Thankfully, all the important files are in the Dropbox so work could continue.
Most of this day was hectic, getting Tom set up on his “new” computer. He’d had it for a while but never really used it. Now, it was essential.
I knew we were flying through Amsterdam and this video started appearing on my Facebook feed. I’m never a good flyer and I don’t think I could have made it though this Amsterdam storm:
Friday, August 7, 2015
The new/old mac finally finished the OS upgraded. Because this computer hadn’t been used with Dropbox before, it was taking forever to index files. We packed it up anyway. Who knows what kind of internet we would have in Scotland anyway.
I got my Mac back. Hooray! There had been some discussion of Tom using my computer on the trip and I’d take my older Macbook Air but that changed just before we packed up. Hooray, again!
Earlier in the month, I’d had some biopsies done. The one in that post was the one I was “traveling with”. If anyone looked in my carryon bag, they’d see mostly bandages, Neosporin, other medical stuff.
Luckily, I’d checked out the temperature in Scotland and found that the high was usually about 60° so I’d packed actual long jeans and shoes instead of my regular sandals.
We left for the Dulles airport about 3.
There was some ticket confusion. Our ticket said it was Delta, so the taxi driver dropped us off at the Delta area. They sent us off to KLM instead. The kind ticket agent moved us around so we could sit together – and checked our bag all the way through to Edinburgh. Hooray!
I had been a bit worried about picking up our suitcase in Amsterdam and taking it to the next gate but that was no problem now. Major yay! A note for the future – our new dermatologist, the one who is doing the biopsies, travels often to Scotland and leaves from Philadelphia – direct to Glasgow. If/when we get to go back, I’ll look into that or going from New York.
I followed directions and got through security just fine with no one finding my secret medical stash. Tom, OTOH, had stuff in his pockets…
We still got to the gate with plenty of time to spare since our flight was at 5:30 Eastern Time. The times are going to get confused since Amsterdam is 6 hours ahead and Scotland is 5 hours ahead.
Our flight was fine – one of those planes with 8 rows of seats across. 2 by each of the windows, an aisle, then 4 in the middle. The seats were quite comfortable, near the restrooms, had USB jacks. We got dinner and breakfast as well as a snack.
We arrived at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at 6:42 am on Saturday (their time, 12:42 am our time). We wandered around the airport a bit and came across V!ZZ!T D-Pier (the D-Pier means D Concourse). This store is sort of an airport Walmart. They seemed to have a bit of everything, including a small grocery store. I could have gotten wooden shoes but decided against them.
From the T-shirt selection at V!ZZ!T, I learned that marijuana is legal in Amsterdam. The local maps also showed exactly where the red light districts were located. When I got home, I mentioned this to my mom who said that they’d been on a tour of Amsterdam which included the red light district.
Amsterdam is a brave new world but we weren’t there long enough to leave the airport!
Our “Delta” flight, AKA KLM left for Scotland at 9:55 am (3:55 my time). I wasn’t sitting with Tom this time. When filling out Customs paperwork, I noticed the passports of the 2 women I was sitting with. One was from China, the other from Brazil – all of us on our way to Scotland. What a small world we’ve become.
We arrived at Edinburgh Turnhouse Airport at 10:25 Scotland time – 5:25 am, my time. Customs and Immigration were a snap, as was getting our suitcase.
The rental car was an absolute fiasco. I had reserved one online through a company William Shatner advertises. I didn’t know the names of any rental car companies in Scotland and the price of this one looked good so…
We went outside the airport and walked what seemed forever to the Car Rental Centre. We got there and it was buzzing with people – probably all off our plane. The circular enclosure was filled with car companies like Avis, Alamo, National, Hertz, Budget, all names I knew. The name on my reservation wasn’t there anywhere. Tom went to one of the desks and they had no cars available. All the others had long lines.
The phone numbers on my reservation paper didn’t work, possibly because I was using my cellphone and calling from the states.
I left Tom with the bags and set off looking for a pay phone. Finally found one by the far exit. We had no coins so we tried using a credit card. There was no central information number that we could find. Basically, we got nowhere with the pay phone.
Tom went back in the building and was gone so long I was considering what my options were. He finally came back and said he’d rented a car from Europcar, as well as a GPS. The price was considerably more than our nonexistent other car.
It took quite a while to find where the car was located in the huge lot but we finally found “our” silver KIA. Being a newer car, the windshield was slanted so the GPS couldn’t be used. It didn’t talk anyway, so I’d have to be looking at it all the time.
We turned on the car and it had a built in GPS already – which did talk. I set it up for where we were going – Macdonald Craigellachie Chalets, Dalfaber Village, Aviemore, Inverness-Shire PH22 1ST Scotland. Naturally, It couldn’t find that so I settled for Aviemore PH22 1ST just to get into the vicinity.
It seemed we drove forever and there was lots of traffic, which the GPS called “Attention. Traffic situation ahead.” Ok, how do we get out of it? There’s no way out. 😦
Dobbies Garden World Kinross had a nice little restaurant/tearoom and we got to sit by the window. I ordered coffee americano which is your basic coffee with a shot of espresso. I don’t really remember what I had to eat but I think it was a sandwich of some sort.
Continuing on the M90 we saw a guy in a roadster with no roof stopped by the side of the road with a huge golf umbrella covering him and the inside of car. We also saw a couple people camped just off the highway. Apparently, they were living there for a while because I got a picture of them and their tents when we were heading home a week later.
We got off the M90 towards Aviemore and started looking for the Macdonald Craigellachie Chalets. We went by the Macdonald Aviemore Hotel which wasn’t it. Our GPS took us through town. We missed the turn, crossed a railroad crossing and made a U-Turn near some sort of golf course. We went down the little road and ended up in an industrial complex. I guess that’s where the Aviemore PH22 1ST was.
When making the U-turn, I’d seen a dark brown sign similar to the one on the Macdonald Aviemore Hotel and thought they might be related so we went back there.
That place was Macdonald Spey Valley Golf & Country Club. We parked and went inside to see if they knew where the Macdonald Craigellachie Chalets were. The desk person didn’t know but asked someone else who said we were in the right place. Go figure.
Apparently, they call where we stayed Luxury Woodland Lodges at Macdonald Aviemore Resort.
You’ll find our 4-star Luxury Woodland Lodges nestled amongst Macdonald Aviemore Resort‘s ancient Caledonian pine forests. Our 18 deluxe Highland lodges combine luxury with outdoor living; after a day of adventuring in the surrounding mountains, store your bike or skis in the woodshed, order a pizza delivery from Giovanni’s – our onsite Italian restaurant, and settle into your woodland home-from-home in front of a cosy wood-burning stove.
Enjoy long summer evenings with a drink on your private deck, take a stroll to one of the resort restaurants nearby or for the more energetic take a walk to the Craigellachie Nature Reserve. Alternatively guests have use of Spey Valley Leisure’s 25m indoor pool, complete with wave machine and flume.
Each of our lodges sleeps up to 6 people in three en-suite bedrooms. Lodges include:
- Living Room with flat screen TV, DVD player
- Gallery Kitchen with a 4 ring hob, microwave, fridge, toaster, Nespresso coffee machine, tableware and cutlery
- Breakfast Table with 6 chairs
- “All-in-one” cupboard with iron & board, high chair/travel cot for the “wee ones” and vacuum cleaner
Ground Floor – 1 King with WC, Bath and separate shower & 1 Twin with WC & Shower
First Floor – 1 Double with WC & shower
- Beautiful pine forest setting
- Sleep up to 6 people
- Storage for bikes, skis etc
- Luxury bathrooms with separate showers
- Access to 25-metre swimming pool
- Free Wifi Powered by The Cloud
My description is somewhat different. Part of it will show up later in my Trip Advisor review.
First off, there were spiderwebs. Place could use some work. No phone, key didn’t work, Internet didn’t work.
We had trouble with the keys opening the door. There was no phone, so Tom went back to the main building to get a maintenance person to help us. The Maintenance Guy showed us how to work the keys. I figured out wifi. Still no phone. I took some pictures of the exterior and interior.
It was so cold out and in. I went in the various rooms and turned the little heaters on. Only in the bedroom could we control the temperature. The other rooms were on and off. The bathroom was heated only by a heated towel rack. I was picturing myself getting out of the shower, losing my balance and grabbing for something, that towel rack and being fried.
I was exhausted and took a little nap. Tom watched the tv and it blew a fuse. We didn’t realize that until next morning when fridge, microwave didn’t work.
We ventured into town to go to the Tesco grocery store. One of the first items I came across was haggis pizza which we didn’t get on general principle.
I was too tired for dinner so I just had Scottish breakfast bread, similar to Bajan salt bread. Tom had popcorn.
At bedtime, I was still cold so I took the comforter from “Michael’s room”. We called it that, even though we knew he wouldn’t be there. That room ended up being our walk-in closet since there wasn’t much space anywhere else.
All pictures from today