Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Second Day In Edinburgh

Okay, so the cooked breakfast wasn’t as good as Briar Cottage’s by a long stretch, but there was a much wider continental selection, so I suppose it’s horses for courses.

Anyway, this holiday must be doing me some good; after breakfast as we were getting ready to check out, Brett gave me a long kiss which really got the juices going. One thing almost lead to another, but alas bills had to be paid, fathers had to be met in reception and tourist things were waiting to be done...

So we headed off to the castle. We didn’t head there straight away of course; oh, no, first we wandered the streets of Edinburgh for a while as Brett scoured the tour-bus itineraries to find out where the nearest stop was that would take us to the castle in the shortest time. After some faffing about, we got on one which took us back to the terminus on Waverley Bridge and then we got on another which eventually deposited us at the top of the Royal Mile.

One crucial thing that I had forgotten about since being a tour manager was the queue for tickets; as a TM you are pre-booked, so can use the priority window and the whole thing takes less than five minutes. As just another Joe Public, we queued for half-an-hour to give them our money. Absolutely nothing had changed inside the castle since I was last there (which I think was probably with Brett at New Year a few years ago.) We followed the spiral road some of the way and then Jim took off up the Long Stair and ended up at the summit, skipping half of the tour which we then partially completed on the way down.

There was more low cloud today and the view over the city was very hazy so there were no good photographs to be had. The one o’clock gun seemed to attract everyone’s attention, although possibly because there seemed to be a special guest with the Governer of the castle who I think was probably David Cameron.

One thing I did notice– here and at Glamis also – is that the tours don’t really present any coherent timeline of events. They are route-driven telling you about different periods and events in history depending on what you are looking at, but not pausing beforehand to give you any kind of overview in chronological order. Personally I think that doing so would give you a framework into which you could fit the titbits and dates that they then proceed to toss at you in rapid succession.

After returning our audio tours and determining that there were no chocolate liqueurs in the gift shop (Jim is determined to take some home; I suspect he may end up back at Fortnum & Mason’s where I bought the originals) we walked back down the Royal Mile, pausing briefly for lunch, to the Dynamic Earth exhibition.

There was major déjà vu here, as the large pavilion which serves as the café and ticket desk for the exhibition is virtually identical to the one at the Saga Headquarters; it’s almost as if Norman Foster had copied the plans for one, changed the flooring material (sprung wood at Saga, stone at Dynamic Earth) and resubmitted them for the new building!

The subterranean exhibition was an interesting and informative summary of both the geology/tectonics and the biosphere of our planet though; it was a little heavy on the kid-friendly gizmos – lots of flashing lights, hands-on interpretation, video-screens and attendants telling you when the next time machine would be leaving – but still educational. I am glad that I am never likely to meet the earliest known scorpion in the flesh (it was about a foot long!) and I have discovered numerous curious fact-lets (for example; there are more species of snail on the planet than there are species of mammals and birds combined. And did you know that Magnolia is the oldest surviving flower? I shall never be cruel about pale-cream coloured walls again!)

After emerging into the light again we debated what (if anything) to do next and settled on the adjacent Palace of Holyrood House, the official Royal Residence of Scotland. This turned out to be an interesting tour; I hadn’t realised how much court life and design in the seventeenth century had been influenced by the Bourbons at Versailles, but the layout of the State Apartments and a lot of the Court Etiquette seems to originate there. The whole place also looks a lot more pristine than places such as Glamis or the Butes’ house at Cardiff, I suppose because it is still a working Palace rather than a museum of one; if the drapes are getting worn, HM just orders new ones. After all, you don’t want your fellow Heads of State tutting over threadbare carpets when you have them over for dinner-and-a-trade-deal evening, now do you?!

Once we were through with Holyrood, we hopped a taxi back to the hotel to collect our luggage and head south to Hexham. Not a moment too soon, either by the look of Jim who nodded off in the back seat en route. We arrived without incident around eight and settled right in. My only concern is whether the sheep bleating from all directions will keep us awake…

No comments: