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All Aboard the Edinburgh Express


Over the course of a round the world journey, there is no way that a person will be able to spend the proper amount of time in each city they visit, to truly do it justice, and experience the full flavour that it has to offer.

For us, Edinburgh definitely falls into that category. Although admittedly our entire tour of the United Kingdom has, by design, been a quick one, the Scottish capital was a place that deserved much more than the two days we had to offer it. It was no surprise that this stunning city has been named a World Heritage Site.

With only two days to spend before flying out to see friends in Liechtenstein, we knew we had to move fast, and so we did!

Immediately after jumping off the bus in downtown Edinburgh, we headed to grab some food. We picnicked in the East Princes Street Gardens, in the shadows of the gothic looking Scott Monument (apparently not in my honour….some character named Sir Walter Scott. All the best, I suppose, as the spelling wasn’t right anyways), and the Edinburgh castle along the horizon.

The first place we stopped was Edinburgh University’s College of Divinity. Incredible architecture, and as with most things in the city, a real spooky undertone, this would be the kind of place you could envision Harry Potter being educated.

We then tracked down the Royal Mile, basically right around the corner, and headed towards the Edinburgh Castle. By this time in the UK, both Shawna and I were feeling a little bit of a need to budget a bit tighter, so we only ventured into the castle grounds as far as we could for free. The cool thing about being along the Royal Mile (the old city’s Main Street), is that you really don’t need to spend a lot in order to get a feel for this place.

Edinburgh Castle

Walking down the Mile, you will encounter dozens and dozens of what they call Closes. Think of these as tiny communities or alleyways. Most of these Closes were extremely narrow, and built 6, 8, or sometimes 10 stories high! All sewage was collected in a bucket, and then thrown out the window to the “street” below, where it flowed downhill (because it’s rare that shit flows uphill) into the Loch (which is now the Princes Garden where we had lunch….now I know what that smell was.)

Goes without saying that life would have been a wee bit different back then.

Today these Closes have been converted into parks, apartments, and tourist shops, but a lot of the “Old City vibe” remains.

I had a quick beer at the Tollbooth Tavern, appropriately named because it was once, well…a tollbooth….but also a prison for a short period of time. And then Sara picked us up, and brought us to the door of our unofficial Couch Surfing host for the next two nights, Gillian.

Sara, Shawna and I headed out for a little Thai, before retiring for the rest of the night.

Day two took us straight back to the Royal Mile, and we headed East towards Salisbury Crag, a huge hill, which we hiked up and enjoyed a picnic lunch, on the cliff overlooking Edinburgh.

Next on the list was the Palace of Holyrood, which is where the Queen stays every time she visits Scotland. Not bad for a rental property.

As it turns out the Queen herself (without Freddy Mercury) was actually visiting, and we had shown up on the day of her annual Garden Party. This answered our questions as to why all the ladies were loitering around wearing fancy hats.

Apparently this Garden Party is an annual event that anyone can apply to attend. The process is done via lottery, and yes…you do get to meet the Queen. I think that Shawna will have applied at least 14 times by the time you are finished reading this post.

The rest of the day was spent touring Mary King’s Close (our one paid tour in Edinburgh), visiting cathedrals (religious or not, these are impressive), and drinking Guinness at Maggie Dicksons Pub, a local pub named for a older woman who slept with the boss’s son, got pregnant, left the deceased baby by the river, was convicted, hung by the neck until she was dead, and still lived to tell about it.

Yeah, that deserved a Guinness.

We needed to be at the Edinburgh airport the next morning by 5AM, so our final evening here was an early one. Despite the need for sleep, Shawna managed to receive a pedicure from Gillian before we went to bed, and now has the “prettiest toes” in all the backpacker land.

Ahhh yes, Guiness and pedicures….it’s a tough existence.

Tons of thanks to Gillian who gave up her living room to us, two total strangers, for a couple of nights. We couldn’t have asked for a better surfing experience.

And yes, although it was rushed, both Shawna and I know, Edinburgh is a place we would come back to. Likely our favourite within the entire UK, this is a city we definitely recommend.

But when you do come, just be sure to give it more than two days!

PS. If you still are looking to kill more time at work, check out an interview/article about us by our friend Dale….we even made the local paper!!!

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One Response to “All Aboard the Edinburgh Express”

  1. Collette July 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Ah, Edinburgh. For obvious reasons, it’s my favourite city in the whole entire world. Glad you guys loved it too! I’ve been to most of those places you mentioned, including Mary King’s Close. Neat! I love living vicariously though you.

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