ok, it’s been too long now since we’ve been to scotland.  where has the time gone?  what have i been doing?

the last time i posted, we’d finished biking and spent a day in pitlochry and saw blair castle, then traveled to st. andrews, the home of golf.  after spending a night in a fancy b&b there, we took the train to edinburgh.  we checked into our b&b, the Elmview, which was the NUMBER ONE RATED B&B ON TRIP ADVISOR in edinburgh.  i think they even made the top five in…europe?  the uk?  top five somewhere.  this must be a lot of pressure, being the #1 b&b in a town chock full of them.  the place was  really nice, and when we arrived, there was a big decanter of sherry which we drank.

we had walked and walked and walked from the train station.  at first we had to go uphill but at least it wasn’t like going on a bike uphill (pushing a bike uphill), but damn, those suitcases were heavy, even on wheels.  and the way was very steep.  we reached the top point, in the middle of town, and the place was crawling, swarming with tourists.  this was sunday afternoon and we thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad on monday when we’d be walking around.  this was a silly thought on our part.

anyway, once we reached the top it was all downhill from there but i was slightly grouchy about having to trudge along.  not so much to say LET’S TAKE A CAB.  we finally arrived and drank lots of sherry and things were much better.

that night we had dinner in a little pub down the street from our b&b and it started raining really hard on the walk to the place and by the time we got there we were pretty drenched and glad to just be out of the rain.  it was a cheap meal, but quite good.  plus we were dry.

the next morning, monday, we got up and had breakfast at the dining table with the other guests.  once again, our host, Robin, was chagrined that kevin didn’t want anything more than porridge.  this was really fancy porridge, mind you, with madeira-soaked currants or something decadant like that.  robin brought out a little picture of the day’s special that his wife robin had made; it was something like a crepe filled with salmon and marscapone.  something very delicious, and i had it even though i wasn’t really in the mood for something rich in the morning.

our table-mates were cheerful people.  one couple was from LA and the others were german, in town for a wedding.  we sat around and talked for a while, and then headed out for the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.


there it is, but we DIDN’T HAVE TO RIDE OUR BIKES up to it!  yeah!  the walk up wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked.  Robin had told us we should get there early because of the huge crowds but Nici acted like he was being silly.  she was very very wrong.


this is the approach to the castle; can you see the white unicorn there on the left?  i wonder how much a job like that pays.


the crowd didn’t seem so bad…until we got inside the walls and realized there was a ridiculously long line.  oh boy.  kevin stood in line and i wandered around and then finally went into the gift shop.  i realized that for more money we could buy some kind of multi-day pass that included other castles and historic sights.  we weren’t going to be able to use the passes, but it might be worth it to get right inside.  i went out and consulted with kevin, who had been standing in line for over a half hour and hadn’t even gotten halfway through the line.

we decided it would be worth it, so i went back and got the tickets and we got right in.  this castle is very famous and consequently very very crowded with people.  here’s a view of town.


it wasn’t a castle with a wall and a castle inside; this was a multi-building affair, really huge.  here’s a tiny portion of the crowd.


this is another shot of the New Town, which was Georgian, not exactly new.  we just didn’t have time to explore the New Town, but Robin had told us that it wasn’t really worth it to visit.  we did take the bus through the next day, and that was enough.


this is a…it’s a chapel, that’s what it is.  some queen who was then made an..angel?  no, they’re not made angels, they’re made…saints.  saint margaret?  i think saint margaret.  maybe this is the oldest building in edinburgh.  in scotland?  in the UK?  i definitely knew all of this a few months ago.  it was a tiny little chapel, and packed with people.


this is a little graveyard for dogs who belonged to people who worked at the palace.


this is a giant cannon that they shot off every day at one o’clock.


i like this picture a lot.


here’s the view down the Royal Mile to the sea.  that hill there on the right is something kind of famous- it’s called ARTHUR’S SEAT –  and in the rick steves book he recommended walking up it.  we didn’t.


another building at the castle.


here’s some of the throngs of people who gathered for the cannon-shooting.  gobs of people, but then they all quickly dispersed after it happened.


both these statues were at the entrance to the castle.  one is william wallace (braveheart) and the other is Robert the Bruce.  i don’t know which is which.  i’m guessing that the first one is wallace, because the second guy looks more like a king.



here is a picture of the biggest scam i encountered in scotland.  actually i don’t think there were any other scams.  how did i hear about the Witchery?  i can’t remember.  i found the restaurant’s website and WOW, it looked FANTASTIC.  really, really cool and interesting with all kinds of…interesting and cool stuff inside.  plus there was an online guestbook and it appeared that many many celebrities had been there and LOVED IT – people like matt groening and catherine zeta jones and just pretty much many many celebrities.  it seemed that it would be a little bit pricey, but as i said, on the website it looked REALLY REALLY COOL.

so i made online reservations way in advance.  when we left the castle we saw the restaurant, which was just a bit down the street.  we looked in and it looked…ok.  but maybe this was just the outer room or something?  but i started to have a bad feeling about it.


and then…we walked and walked, down the royal mile.

being in edinburgh, a city full of many lovely historic things and lots to see, i reaffirmed my feeling that i don’t like big crowds.  as we walked down the royal mile, there were crowds and throngs and hordes of people.  and mostly down the royal mile were…shops.  lots and lots and lots of tourist shops, and most of them sold plaid things.  all plaid, all the time. we went into many of the shops, but soon they all started to look alike.  we went into a church, we saw many historic things…and then we were hungry for lunch.

we tried to go into the historic deacon brodie’s pub but it was hot and crowded.  we walked down a side street…and there was YET ANOTHER PIZZA EXPRESS.  pizza express, the delicious outstanding pizza place we’d found in st. andrews the day before and lo and behold, it’s a delicious chain all over the U.K.

as we lunched, it rained a lot and we were glad to be inside.  when it stopped we went out and walked and walked and walked some more, all down the royal mile.  the sun came out and it was a lovely day.  we didn’t make it all the way down to the end of the mile because we had reservations at the Witchery.  we walked back to our b&b, but this time took a different little street, and there we found an amazing cheese shop.

kevin took a picture to document it.  i had just read about this place in a guidebook that had been in our room at the B&b.  it talked about the fabulous cheese selection, plus the fact that they readily give out free samples.


the book WAS NOT EXXAGERATING.  we went in and i gawked at all the cheese, and told the woman we wanted to buy a bit of a smoked kind and she said, “well, THIS kind is actually better,” and she lopped us off a couple of slices…and then she just kept giving us samples and i just kept buying more and more cheese – not huge quantities, because we couldn’t save it, but lots of different ones.  a cheese smorgasbord.

we walked back to the b&b and i said maybe we should skip the restaurant and stay home and eat cheese, but we decided to try the Witchery.  We got back, cleaned up, and took a cab back to the Royal Mile.

the restaurant was beyond disappointing.  the only patrons there when we arrived was a couple from the south and their mother.  a very young couple showed up after a while.  the place wasn’t interesting, wasn’t unique in any way, and the food wasn’t nearly as good as the delicious pizza we’d had earlier.

lesson learned – WEBSITES CAN LIE.  BIG TIME.

like i said, though, it was just so damn good, that website.  oh well.

here, i just looked it up and this is a blurb.  doesn’t it make you want to go there?  liars, big fat liars.

Located in an historic sixteenth-century building at the gates of Edinburgh Castle, James Thomson’s Witchery is the most atmospheric and spectacular dining destination in the city.

A unique location,stunning interiors and superlative food, wine and service create memorable and magical dining experiences for locals, visitors and celebrities alike. Ewan MacGregor, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jack Nicholson and Clarissa Dickson Wright have all succumbed to its charms, with Andrew Lloyd Webber calling it the prettiest restaurant ever!

Originally built for an Edinburgh merchant in 1595, this historic building on the Royal Mile now includes the jewel-like Witchery diningroom, the spectacular Secret Garden and a collection of totally indulgent and opulent suites on the floors above and in an adjacent historic building.


but the day ended perfectly, and it was far from over.  besides the superlative cheese shop, the big highlight of the day occurred after dinner…we walked back to our b&b, and then set out for a movie theater.  “Harry potter and the half-blood prince” had recently opened and we figured it would be fun to see it in the U.K.  Our b&b host, Robin, told us about a movie theater called the Dominion, that had leather couches and served alcohol.

we decided to walk to the theater, and the neighborhoods just got nicer and nicer.  by the time we reached it, we were in a very swanky part of town.  and the theater – everything we’d hoped for an more.  big blue leather couches, and kevin and i got a big couch all to ourselves.  we ordered a couple of hard ciders at the candy counter, and sat down in complete luxury.  for some funny reason, everybody also got a complimentary little tube of pringles potato chips.

we waited as the theater filled up, and finally there were a couple of previews.  then…nothing.  can you imagine that happening here?  nope, it almost always runs like clockwork.  it didn’t seem like this was anything out of the ordinary, so we just waited, drinking our cider and munching on our pringles.  after a while the movie started.  it was great, a great experience, a fine way to end the day…but still, not over yet.

when we left, we asked the theatre owner if it was safe to walk back to our b&b so late at night.  he was dressed in a tuxedo, and he was Mr. Dominion; the theater had been in his family for three generations.  he said he’d gotten the idea for the couches and the alcohol from a theater he’d been to in vermont!  he assured us that it was safe, but then an older lady interrupted and said she’d walk us to the bus.

so we started walking, the old lady, me and kevin, and the lady’s niece.  we walked and walked and talked…she was very friendly, just as everybody in Scotland was, and she wanted to know all about our ancestors and i tried to explain that i didn’t really know a lot about them, and felt bad that i didn’t.  but she was happy to talk and talk, and we walked down really nice streets that were almost completely dark.

we ended up walking all the way back instead of taking the bus, and when they turned to go to their house, the woman was very specific about which way we needed to go to get to our b&b.  very nice, friendly, accomodating scottish people.

we would spend one more day in Edinburgh, then back to Glasgow for one night.

more soon.  my goal is to post all the rest of the photos before halloween.  so i have a week, that’s doable, right?  not that i have anything to do to get ready for the party in a week…

ok then,

saturday evening grace.