Friday, July 6, 2007

Athens of the North

Hopping a train from Aberdeen, I set out for two nights in Edinburgh. This was the most open-ended part of the trip since I was on my own and, other than knowing where I was staying and what my guide told me were the major landmarks were, I was on my own.

I think I'm not alone in having Waverley train station as my first glimpse into the city. It covers the full city block between two bridges. Exiting on to Princes Street, I decided after fifteen minutes of Not Finding The Right Bus to get to the B&B, to hop a cab. My luggage did not complain and neither did my back. (My wallet might have.)

I arrived with a few hours of afternoon still to take advantage of, and found to my surprise that the town of Roslin was on the same bus route that went right past my B&B. Da Vinci Code mythology notwithstanding, I couldn't pass that up.

Roslin itself is teeny and ordinary and now just happens to get swarmed with busloads of tourists every day. It was an odd feeling to be chugging along with the crowd ("eh, they're all going to the chapel", said a local as he watched half the bus empty out"), but the ride there made for some pretty amazing countryside sights.
This is the view from the chapel parking lot (reverent, no?):

I found that compared with the 10 pounds at Westminster, I was much happier to pay 6 pounds admission to the tiny chapel, because it's clearly in need of restoration and must be just sagging under the weight of tourists. Scaffolding and a protective roof buttress the outside.

To see inside is somewhat humbling. Once you're in, there you are: no transcepts or aisles, just the church and a pretty unbelievable work of masonry. Each window has a story in it, carved into gargoyles and mini-friezes and ledges. I only took a few photos. It felt like trespassing, to overdo it. There's a much different feeling from St. Paul's and Westminster. Westminster especially is grand and extravagant and made for show: Rosslyn's intimate.

The rest of my time was spent mostly in Old Town and Princes Street, where most of the nice walking and older sights are. The streets are hilly and full of cobblestones, and spooky little closes where I imagined a lot of Dickensian trysts and muggings taking place.

Along the Royal Mile you can find approximately 4,793 stores that will sell you Rock Candy, shortbread, tartan blankets for 10 pounds (oh, if I'd had room in my luggage), kilts, sweaters, or even swords. My first night I had fish & chips with mushy peas (very practical! keeps them from rolling off your fork) at a pub near St. Giles Kirk. My second day, I walked around Canongate Kirk and its collection of tombstones and mausoleums.

Then, I made my way down to Holyrood Park and developed a death wish by climbing the hill. But ooh, you get a pretty nice view in the end. (More clouds. Blue sky. Happy.)

Staggering back, I had an hour and a half before the National Gallery closed, and had a fabulous time with the paintings (including an awesome tableaux of Achilles mourning Patroclus that I wish they'd had on a card). A great find was a little statue of Antoine Lavoisier in a nice down on the end. (I patted his toe. Thanks, man.)

Finishing up, I found an ice cream in the park, waved to the castle, and walked in the direction of the B&B until I found a Marks & Spencer. Loading up for dinner and pack lunch for the next day, I had an early night in. Again I saw plenty but, again, there's more for next time.


Marianne said...

Again, stunning photos...and love all the places you went and what you did (climbing hills,etc..ICE CREAM) the little shops, and oh, that blue blue sky.
Were those red poppies? Beautiful.
Alright...I want to go traveling with you...and all get to see the greatest stuff. We'll grab Kelly...Lady O, let's go.

Sarah said...

Lovely Edinburgh - you really captured the spirit of the city in these photos.