Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | November 22, 2019

EU Go, Girl! Adventures in Europe: Part # 13

It’s been five weeks, and it feels all too short as my adventuring comes to an end, even though part of me is beginning to be ready to be at home again. Tomorrow morning, I set out for Paris – at least, for the airport – where I will overnight before heading to Canada the next day as far as Toronto, then home on a third day. Getting anywhere from Yellowknife can be a bit of a process!

I’ve tried to squeeze in some more adventuring without overdoing it, though there’s still things I didn’t manage to do in Scotland that I thought I might, such as head to the zoo, check out Aviemore and North Berwick as per suggestions I’d received, or go back to the Scottish National Museum. I will have to make a point of not waiting another 14 years before coming back!

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Christmas Market!

Wednesday, I started my morning with the Edinburgh Christmas market with Peyton and Yvonne, who’d bussed down from Dalkeith to check it out. After a Belgian waffle from one of the vendors, we explored the market, stopping at the booths for some Christmas shopping. I didn’t go on the rides this time round, though I was thinking of trying the giant ferris wheel again. I think it’s a different one than fourteen years ago – I remember the pods being bigger and sort of rounder, and it doesn’t seem as tall. Perhaps that’s just memory though. I was thinking I’d go back and go round once, but there were just so many other things to do!

After the market, we found a nice place to eat lunch, a pub called the Black Rose Tavern. I want to give it a nice shoutout, because this was the first place I’d seen in Europe that made a really, really pointed effort about being accessible. They offer audible as well as braille menus, have notes about service dogs being welcome (and have water bowls for them!) and how they make an effort to try to seat those using service dogs in quiet places, more out of the way places to help avoid bystanders trying to pet them when they are working. They also note their bathroom is narrow and not wheelchair friendly, but have made arrangements for patrons to use a neighbouring place with more. The service and the food was good too!

For the afternoon, I had coffee with another former teacher, which was lovely. Then I made my way back to my hotel long enough to pick up the bottle of Prosecco I had chilling, and I made my way to Dalkeith. At lunch, Yvonne and Peyton had mentioned it was the last game night, and when I said, “That sounds fun, I kind of wish I could go!”, they said anyone was welcome, and urged me to join. So I did! Once in Dalkeith (about 45 minutes by bus), I was able to grab a sandwich and mango for dinner before walking to the campus, which is really Dalkeith Palace. We played a game called Isle of Skye, and it was very fun! I’d have liked to play another round, but instead did the wise thing and bused back since it was getting late. Dalkeith also has some fun history, I think, that I’d like to look into more!

Thursday, I had decided, would be a castle day. I started my morning with a bus to the Craigmillar Castle, a ruin more on the outskirts than the better known Edinburgh Castle. It was really quiet there, only a few other tourists because it was more out of the way, but really fun to explore. Mary, Queen of Scots, had convalesced there, and it may have been a favourite spot to come for hunting, though the history is a little spotty itself there. I liked poking about and would definitely go back again.

After the first castle, I bussed back toward the second castle, making a stop at the nearby Elephant House Café, where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter series, for brunch. I had quiche lorraine with salad and potato salad, and it was very good! Then it was off to Edinburgh castle for more exploring.

More of Edinburgh Castle is preserved than the Craigmillar Castle, and it was neat to wander around, especially since I got the audio guide to learn more of the history. From the room where James the VI of Scotland (and I of England) was born, to the beautiful War Memorial, to St. Margaret’s Chapel, to the Scottish Honours (crown jewels and Stone of Destiny) to the panoramic views of the city, there was so much to see! I saw as much as I could before having to be back for my dinner plans. Plus it was getting a bit chilly, as the wind is a bit piercing that high up! There won’t be any pictures of the Honours or the War Memorial, of course; photographs of those are not allowed.

For dinner, I went to Origano, a lovely Italian place, with my friend Jennie, an editor I’d sort of interned with back in my uni days. It was lovely to catch up (though the visit a bit shortened because I took the bus in the wrong direction – of course I did – and wound up needing a bit of running about to find the meet up point). The food was good, the company even better. The we headed over back to the bookstore near my hotel, because Jennie had worked on the latest issue of The Evergreen, and it happened to be launching at Topping and Company that night! So I got a fun literary evening too, before heading back up to bed.

Today, I crammed in a little more touristing, and a little more personal too. I started by bussing to Marchmont Crescent, just to see the place where I once lived. The Chinese takeaway place my BFF and I loved is still going, as is the paint-your-own pottery place we tried out once. Then I had brunch – late breakfasts and dinners seem to be a travel theme for me – at The Birchwood, a lovely little restaurant that came up on a Google search that was lovely and just down the street.

After brunch, I checked out the Writers’ Museum in Lady Stair’s Close, as small and cute as I remembered, with things like a hat that might have been worn last by Sir Walter Scott or a key like one he’d been given, as well as some other paraphanalia owned by Robert Louis Stevenson and other Scottish writers. Then I made my way to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, a spot I’d wanted to check out, because portraits are my favourite kind of art. I love seeing what people looked like and wore, and learning about historical figures but also just historical people who had their portraits painted. After that, I stopped to do some souvenir shopping on Princes Street and a teeny bit more Christmas shopping before making my way back to the hotel to pack.

My bags are mostly done, and I have a taxi booked for the morning. The trek home starts all too soon. So off I go to bed, to be as ready for the journey as I can.


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