Monday, November 05, 2007

Edinburgh

It may be interesting to note that Edinburgh is one of a very short list of cities I have ever been to twice. It is also one of the first cities outside of North America that I ever went to, back in 1998. One could make a decent argument that it was here that the potential and real interest in foreign travel were first revealed to me. As such, I have always remembered Edinburgh as being a great town of fond memories. Was it to keep that reputation upon a second visit by a now much more experienced traveller? Actually, it was. I really do like Edinburgh. That is helped in large part by our current host Ivor, who happens to be a 6th cousin of mine. He is an amazingly hospitable host and has taken us on very long walks around Edinburgh the last couple days. He has a very strong knowledge base about the history, etc of the city (must be all the editing of textbooks that he does) and has given us brain overload :)
The first night we accompanied him to a meeting of an old club he belongs to and ended up playing skittles at a pub claiming to be the oldest and having started in 1360. There is some debate about that but even so it is old and full of culture. Skittles is really old bowling. There was a tiny area behind what looked like a secret door containing 2 little lanes and a couple tables. We are still arguing about whether or not the lanes are shorter but I think we've agreed they are the same width as currently used in bowling. The balls are the same except they don't have any finger holes and someone had to stand at the back to pick up the pins and roll the balls back. It was great fun.
As the weather has been clear (though really cold and windy) we have spent most of the daylight hours on walking tours led by Ivor through many neighbourhoods and graveyards. The graveyards here are particularly creepy with lots of skull and crossbones carved into the tombstones. Edinburgh seems to have quite a few interesting and creepy stories and the setting just seems perfect for so many of them. It's not very big (maybe 1/2 million people) and not all that pretty (in terms of colourful or lots of palaces) but Edinburgh castle has one of the best settings of any city castle I've ever seen. The castle sits exposed on a rocky outcrop easily seen from everywhere. On one side there is a more gently sloping grade that has been built up. There is a road called the Royal Mile leading downhill from the castle to the royal palace about 1 mile down the hill. The old city is along that road and to the south, while the new city is to the north across from a little "valley" that has been turned into a park. Most of the old buildings are stone block quarried locally but the stone itself had different shades to it so at least it isn't all exactly one colour. The cityscape is great from the new town and there are several hills nearby also with great views, particularly from Arthur's Seat. We also went to an organ recital in St. Giles cathedral (the main one right on the Royal Mile). It was ok but the whole time I was thinking about how much I wanted to hear him play Final Fantasy tunes :) Overall, it has been a brilliant visit though a far too short one. I think we all are interested in geneology now too.
Ammon

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