Tuesday, May 31, 2022

5/31 Edinburgh Castle

I had planned to visit this ancient stronghold this morning, but unfortunately, all the tickets for morning had been sold out, so I was not able to get a ticket until 2:00 pm.  That gave me an opportunity to sleep in a bit.  It had really been cold last night and was expected to be cold and rainy today, so I wore a short-sleeved shirt, a light cotton jacket over that, and my rain jacket over the whole thing.  (Cold is a high of 54℉ with some wind.  It does feel a bit warmer when the sun comes out, but you can tell from my photos that mostly the sun stays hidden.)  

Walking around this town is a lesson in architecture.  Luckily, most of the old buildings in this city are protected.  The incredibly impressive building below is the Balmoral Hotel.  It was originally built in 1895 as a railroad hotel and is directly across the street from the main railroad station.  It is also well-known as the hotel where J.K. Rowling stayed for six months to finish her novels.  Note that this hotel is very expensive so this was AfTER she sold her first novel!

Not sure what this is, but it is impressive.

I had walked about .6 of an uphill mile, so I was pretty beat by the time I got there, except it was too early to go inside, so I found a small cafe to get something to eat.  It also was full, other than one table for four that looked as if they were getting ready to leave.  

I had been chatting with an older man from Lancaster who had brought his grandson to Edinburgh for the day because it was a school break.  While we had been waiting, I suggested that we share the table that looked like it might be empty soon.  The waitress was going to break the table into two smaller tables, but I told her to leave it as it was because we were all going to share.  Sharing a table is a great way to meet interesting people!  And it was great to talk to both the grandfather and his almost-13-year-old grandson!  

Onward into the castle, in spite of on and off sprinkles.  The following are some views of the castle.

One thing that made this castle a secure fortress was that it was built on volcanic rock, as you can see here.

Lots of views of the town from this high rock!

Uh, this does not really look like a historical cannon, but I am guessing it can be fired.

Lots of soldiers like to wear medals, but this one started out as an enlisted man and won so many medals, he could not possibly have worn them all. 

This room was filled with historical battle ribbons, as well as some regimental silver.

This is the inside of the oldest part of the fort--St. Margaret's Chapel.  It is very tiny, but impressive.

Most of these buildings were originally barracks and also part of the royal apartments.

I find ceilings sometimes more impressive than the things below them.

Headed back to my hotel, after a quick stop to get a lemon iced tea at Starbucks and a salad and dessert take-out at Pret a Manger.  Only problem with the salad is that I thought it had chicken in it, but it turned out to be tuna, so I only ate part of it.  (Gnawed on the chunk of Dutch cheese I bought and had a couple of crackers to go along with it.)  Walked the entire .6 mile back to hotel.

Following my GPS back to the hotel led me to what are called The Scotsman Steps.  Oops, last thing I need are more steps, but here is the entrance to this several level curved staircase.  I do not want to fall on this trip, so I was very careful and made it down OK.

This is the tower of the steps from the bottom. 

Very glad to get back to my hotel and recharge my cell phone.  It has been going dead each day, so I really need to get one of those charging packs since I have not been successful at finding a place to charge it during the day. 

Tomorrow morning, I check out early and take the train to York.  I have a car reserved there and plan to spend a couple of nights touring the city.  Once I have the car, at least I will be able to use my car charger during the day.  I have lots of spare batteries for my camera, so no danger of running out of power for that.  

And Friday, I will check in at the cottage I have reserved at a farm where my great-great-grandfather worked and lived when he married my great-great-grandmother in 1845!  Not sure where they lived together, but they had a son soon afterwards and emigrated to Canada right after his birth.  I have the cottage reserved for a whole week and plan to take photos of all the church gravestones and do more research on them both. 

Fitbit says I walked 10,077  steps today for a total of 3.95 miles!

Monday, May 30, 2022

5/30 Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland

Staying in another HUB hotel for the three nights I am here in Edinburgh.  As I mentioned before, these are tiny rooms, but have very good free internet and a big screen TV, as well as very comfortable bed and bedding.  Started off my first day in Edinburgh by sleeping in almost until noon and by taking a cab to the National Museum of Scotland.  I was here way back in 2008, but this place was under a major renovation at that time, so I have been looking forward to coming back here.  

Only problem with this visit is that it is horribly cold here (highs of 54 with a strong wind) and is expected to rain today and tomorrow.  We only got a sprinkle today, but I am not looking forward to visiting Edinburgh Castle tomorrow because a lot of it is outside.  Brrrr.  I am really glad I have some jeans and a long-sleeved shirt to wear.  I really need to find a zippered sweatshirt to wear under my lightweight rain jacket.


Actually, my first stop in the museum was the cafe where I grabbed a very large sandwich and Coke with ice.  (Note: Getting it with ice is a real bonus because few British put ice in cold drinks, so places are not used to serving it, and not all cafes even have ice.) 

This is the atrium of the museum.  Nice looking building.  This museum covers not only the history of Scotland, but science, industry, art, and a lot of other things.  I focused on the history section.

The first thing I saw in the museum as I was headed to the history section was poor, old Dolly, the first cloned animal anywhere!  Mostly, I think she looked a bit shaggy and could have used a cleaning and brushing.  I wondered why her legs were so skinny until someone pointed out that she had had a lot of blood tests in her lifetime, so they had been kept shaved!   

A hoard of Roman coins and the jug they were buried in. 

There was a nice exhibit on Mary, Queen of Scots.

I had heard of putting the thumbscrews on someone, but I did not realize that there really were thumbscrews!  Ouch.

Some random photos of exhibits:

And some belongings of James VI.

Part of the exhibit on the history of the Scottish weaving and mining industries.

After my museum visit, I headed to what is called The Royal Mile.  It is quite a touristy area, and along with the Castle, it is often the only parts of Edinburgh most tourists see.

UK parking style.

If you ignore the many tourist places along this road and focus on the buildings, it is a very interesting place.

By the time I headed back to the hotel, the wind was really getting stronger and making me cold.  Need to go shopping for something else to layer.  Last thing I did tonight was pre-register for the car I have reserved for Wednesday and buy my train ticket back to York that morning.  

I have been choosing to buy a first-class ticket because it is worth it for me to get a more comfortable, reclining seat that is by itself on one side of the train.  In other words, there are two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other side.  Much more comfortable.  Also, you get a bigger tray and also a free meal and drinks throughout your journey, assuming it lasts longer than 70 minutes.  When I walked in, for example, I was offered tea or coffee, and soon after we left the station someone came by to ask about alcoholic and cold drinks, as well as provide us with menus to select our hot dinner choices!  There are also snacks available several times during the trip.  

The only problem is that first-class can be expensive.  The regular price for London to Edinburgh is £325, but there are special fares so it pays to keep checking.  I bought my ticket to Edinburgh the night before and paid only £189, and it ended up being even cheaper because I got a 50% refund for the train being late. Train to York on Wednesday will cost £69, and I will get drinks and a full, hot English breakfast on the 2.5 hour trip.  NICE!!!  Check out the menu here:  https://www.lner.co.uk/the-east-coast-experience/first-class/menu/#Dinemenu

Today, my Fitbit says I walked 2.38 miles and took 5,978 steps--hardly anything compared to my days in London.  And dinner was the rest of my sandwich from lunch and a Coke from the bar in the hotel

Sunday, May 29, 2022

5/29 Greenwich to London & High-Speed Train to Edinburgh

Most of today was taken up by travel.  I took the Uber ferry back to London, but sat inside this time because it was really cold this morning. 

I got off at the Embankment Pier, intending to find a cab and take it to the train station.  Luckily, I had made my reservation for 3:00 pm, which gave me lots of time to get there.  

I had intended to catch a cab near the pier to take me to the National Rail station at King's Cross Station.  However, there was a HUGE Jubilee family bike riding event through most of the heart of London that included tens of thousands of people and lasting all day!   Most roads were closed in the middle of the city, so I ended up trying to walk out the event area.  I could have taken the nearby subway, but as usual I would have had to navigate several sets of stairs carrying my two heavy suitcases--not doable. 

Anyway, I walked at least a mile until I found a HUB hotel, similar to the one I am staying in tonight in Edinburgh.  The two young women at the desk helped me with my heavy bags and called a cab for me.  Whew!  

King's Cross station is the one in the Harry Potter movies where Platform 9 3/4 is located.  The magic families pushed their luggage carts through the magical wall and found the Hogwart's Express on the other side.  Below is the line to get photos taken of this faked-up platform that is complete with a luggage cart.

Just some photos of the rail part of the station. 

Lots of places to lock up bikes securely.  


Here are two of the newer high-speed trains that go all over the country at speeds of up to 125 MPH. 

My train, but I was there too early, so I went outside to find a place to sit. 

I had had only a sweet roll for breakfast, so I stopped at this Pret for some fresh-squeezed OJ, and an almond roll.

My snack stuff.  Unfortunately, what I did not realize that first-class passengers got a meal soon after boarding, even though it was only 3:30 p.m. By that time, I was not hungry, but I will know to ask about when the meal would be served next time.  

Seating for first-class, by the way, was two seats on one side and one seat on the other, so I had lots of room.  Funny to be sitting in a fast-moving vehicle, however, without a seat belt. I managed to get a bargain rate of £189 for this one-way trip.  Expensive, but I wanted to try this fast train.  Actually, I could have flown for about half of this, but that would have involved getting to airport and waiting around for plane.  This would be easier and faster.

This train moved at an average of 105 MPH, but when we got to York, we were told that the train had a technical problem, and we all had to get off and get on a different train for the rest of the trip to Edinburgh. 

This really presented a problem for me because I could not find a lift to get over the stairs to the next platform.  Two gentlemen grabbed my cases, which was very nice of them.  The new train was similar to the original one, but made more stops.  This resulted in our arriving in Edinburgh about 30 minutes late. 

Imagine my surprise this evening when I got the following email from the rail company: 

"We’re sorry that your journey from London Kings Cross - Edinburgh arrived late. Compensation to the amount of £94.50 is due for the delay.

To claim your One-Click Delay Repay simply click here: https://LNER.co.uk/one-click?id=7389-83df-e1-0-0050560126f9, and you'll be compensated back to the card you used to purchase this journey, in the next five days. If you chose to donate to our charity partner (CALM), clicking the link will automatically donate the compensation to CALM."

I clicked on the link, and it said I would get a refund to my credit card within 5 days!  Amazing!!!  And I even got an email afterwards thanking me for clicking on the link for a partial refund.  Cannot believe how polite these British are!!  (And can you imagine Amtrak doing that??)

My Fitbit said I took 7,407 steps and walked 2.92 miles today.  Most of the steps and distance occurred when I had to walk over a mile in London dragging my luggage until I found a cab out of the bike ride event area!  Whew!  

I am in another HUB Hotel in Edinburgh tonight and for the next two nights.  Dumb thing I did for the day is wait at the Edinburgh train station taxi stand line, and then looked at my cell phone to see how far the hotel was.  Duh, turned out to be only 600 feet away, so I walked that huge distance!!  FYI - It is really cold in Edinburgh tonight.  Brrrr.