Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | November 19, 2019

EU Go, Girl! Adventures in Europe: Part # 12

Another few days in Scotland, and though it doesn’t feel like home, I don’t exactly feel like a visitor, either. This is a nice change, as is having all my things in the same hotel for several days on end. I do like to travel to lots of places, but there’s definitely something to be said for not living from a suitcase.

The past few days have been a combination of laid back and eventful in turn. After my Highlands tour on Thursday, I’d made plans to climb Arthur’s Seat with Yvonne and Peyton from my goEUgo redline tour. I puttered about in the morning, then made my way to Holyrood Park to meet them after stopping to buy a Ridacard (electronic bus card with my picture on it and everything) for a week. It was windy and rainy, so we made the call not to climb that day, and instead went for coffee, since the teahouse we’d hoped to go to was full. Peyton and Yvonne indulged me, and we went to the Elephant and Bagels coffee shop where I ate many a bagel while writing in a little corner back in my uni days. I had, alas, just eaten lunch (haggis, neeps and tatties!), so no bagel for me, though I may go back and grab one for old times’ sake in the coming few days.

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Stuffed and on display, Dolly the Sheep, the first successful clone.

After that, we did a bit of wandering around Victoria Street for a bit, so I could look for Christmas present ideas, then we stopped into the Scottish National Museum. We thought we had an hour, but it closed at 5 pm not 5:30 as thought, so not much was explored this time. It was neat to see the fashion exhibit on the first floor, and there is the stuff Dolly the Clone Sheep, which was rather cool to check out in our brief time there. Entrance is free, so the short time didn’t set us back any!

 

After that, we continued with our post-Arthur’s Seat plans: dinner at the Sheep Heid Inn’s pub, one of the oldest if not the oldest continually-operating pub in Scotland. It was a good meal with good company, and I’d very much go back again. The chicken and leek pie I had was amazing, and the three of us also split the sharing dessert platter – five amazing dessert selections. Then it was buses back to our respective stays, with Peyton and Yvonne kindly helping me navigate. I’m doing okay on the public transit so far, but that first day I was nervous and my sense of direction is ALWAYS dicey at best.

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One of the works on display: Dunnator Castle by Walter Hugh Paton

Saturday I didn’t get up to much, either. I’d hit that point where I kind of just wanted to stay in my room all day, but also felt that I was wasting my time if I didn’t go do something. Also, I did have to do something fairly crucial – laundry. The in-house laundry service here is EXPENSIVE. It’s eleven pounds for one dress! Instead, I did a whole load, washed and dried, for about eleven pounds (possibly twelve, I’m not certain how much I spent on the drier in the end). I did have to take a bus to get to the laundromat, as there doesn’t appear to be a lot of them in Edinburgh anyway, but I made it and have clean clothes enough for this last stretch of time. Then, I made my way to National Art Gallery for a while, taking in the art.  The collection is good here, and it’s also free! I love that about the United Kingdom – they make galleries and museums accessible to everyone!

After that, I felt I’d appropriately left my hotel long enough, so went back for the evening. I also wanted to get an early night, because Peyton had let me know she was planning on going on another tour on Sunday, and so I decided to join, and so did Yvonne! So we made our way to Rabbie’s Cafe for our small coach tour with Rabbie’s, the same tour company my parents and I went to Skye with, years ago. It was just as great. Only 7 of us on this small group tour, and our guide Dave was funny and engaging. He also made the most of the daylight hours, taking us to a few scenic stops on our way to Jedburgh, where I went in the ruins of the old Abbey. The entrance fee came with an audio guide, and it was neat to learn about the history of the place. After that, it was off to the Borders.

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It’s me! In England! By a big rock that says England, because I’m in England!

For some reason, I had in my mind that a Borders tour would be one “border” of Scotland on the seaside, so was ecstatic to realize we were going to cross over the Scottish border into England. I’d never been into England! And now I have! We went to the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, then on to Vindolanda, the ruins of an ancient Roman fortress. It’s being excavated on an ongoing basis, in part because of the Vindolanda Letters being found there. These are the ancient remains of old letters on wood, showing regular, every day life in the area.

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Lanercost Priory, lit by sunset

After Vindolanda, we had just enough daylight time for one more stop, the Lanercost Priory, and old haunt of James the Second of England, also known as The Hammer of Scotland. Only part of the church has remained in use over the years, so it is partly preserved historic building, but also partial ruin. Very interesting dichotomy!

From there, it was time to make our way back to Edinburgh, through a long, beautiful sunset. Yvonne and Peyton made their way back to their campus for game night (their professor designs board games and the students get to test them out, how cool is that!) and I went back to crawl into bed, because the weather was looking like it might be nice the next day, and I had PLANS.

Those plans? To finally climb Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”. You can drive up part of the way, but I did the hike from the bottom up, all the way to the peak. It was hard, especially since I am not in the greatest shape and, sunny or not, it was a bit frosty out and therefore slippery at times on uneven ground (and the last bit is steep!). But I made it! I pushed myself all the way up to the very summit, and with rewarded with panoramic views of the city and beyond.

After that, I made my way back down via a bit easier route because I thought it would take me closer to my bus stop (spoiler alert! as ever, my sense of direction is terrible and it did NOT). I made it, however, in more than enough time to head to the One Spa, where I’d booked the Escape. There are no pictures allowed, of course; no one wants to be subject to strangers taking photos of them in their swimsuits. It was the perfect escape after my hike, however, with a lovely pool that swims out to the outside, plus various things to try out in the thermal suite, from saunas to those thermal chairs I liked on my cruises and more. It’s not cheap at 75 pounds, certainly, but there’s no real time limit. I stayed the recommended three hours and no longer, but mostly because I hadn’t eaten lunch and needed to get food in my tummy more than I needed to stay in the glorious rooms. I would certainly do it again; a nice treat once a trip.

As for today, it was mostly personal things. I met an old tutor for brunch, then made my way to see another local friend at the bookshop I used to haunt/got some work experience with the owner/freelance editor (said friend). After that, I did some more shopping – Dad, your present is covered, but that’s all I’m saying! – then back to the hotel. Tomorrow will be more of the same, more or less – though I do plan to do some of the shopping at the Christmas Market, which I’m excited to do! Also, learned today that whoever I called at the front desk the other evening was mistaken – Crowne Plaza DOES do in room service whether their restaurant is open or not, which means I got to do pyjama dinner tonight. Very pleased (and not just because I bought my own wine this time).

 


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