Edinburgh, Scotland Day 1

April 25 2018 Wednesday Day One!

Trip planned. Ready. Set. Go.

My friend, Marianne and I have a few trains to catch  (me from NJ)  before we can even get to JFK International Airport. Eventually, we will land in Edinburgh, Scotland!

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I take the train to Penn Station to meet her in NYC and then its the LIRR to the Jamacia hub and the Air Train to JFK airport. This is the quickest and cheapest way to go. We got the tickets for the LIRR ahead of time ($10 RT) Then you need a Metro Card to use the Air Train.

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Leaving early enough is a good idea. You never know how trains will run. We have plenty of time so a bite to eat at the airport is the plan.  Buffalo Wild Wings is not out fave spot but salad works. A glass of wine tops off the meal, but $14 for wine!  That’s New York for ya.

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We fly Delta and luckily get a seat between us for our 7 hour flight which takes off at 10PM. Free meal and drinks await! I’m a happy flyer!

At long last we arrive! We take the Air Link bus (right outside the airport) to Center City and Shandwick Place. Its only 4.50 (pounds now) and takes about  1/2 hour. We are staying at the Principal Hotel in Charlotte Square. The weather is perfect and the Hotel is beautiful! We cannot check in yet so we go for a walk to Waterstone’s bookstore and cafe for lattes and scones. (caffeine is essential to stay awake this will be a long day!)

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Next, we decide on the Hop On, Hop Off bus. Yes, its touristy but its a good idea when you have to stay awake longer due to the time change and long flight. We walk down Prince Street and find the ticket booth by the bridge where the bus leaves from. (easy!) and also decide to purchase tickets there for the Edinburgh Castle (at a discount) which we will do another day. The tour is about 1 1/2 hours long and very good. The driver is also our guide and fills us in on history along the way. We now have a “lay of the land” for Old Town and New Town. It’s a great walking city and very easy to get around.  At the last 14th stop on Royal Mile we get off and of course need to find a pub! This is SO NOT hard as there are dozens! We decide on “NO 1 High Street Pub” and have a glass of wine  (yes, its time) and hit a few shops along the way.

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After a long day, we walk back down Price Street and finally check into our lovely hotel. It’s heaven. (this trip was btw, booked thru Expedia, hotel and flight)  Everyone is so helpful. They even give us a convertor plug since both of ours do not work.

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Next, its off to dinner around the corner at Contini.  Recommended by the hotel staff. Great Italian restaurant. Added plus a handsome waiter from Greece. We dine on appys, Risotto, pasta and of course, wine. Are we in Italy or Scotland?

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An adult beverage after dinner at the hotel bar.

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We asked the bartender who this guy is….no one knows!IMG_1239

It’s been a long day. Time for ZZZZZZZ’s in our comfy  Scottish beds!

 

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Off To The Highlands and Lock Ness- Day 2

 

April 26, 2018 -Day Two

Before leaving the USA, we booked a day trip for the day with the Hairy Coo Bus  Tour through the Highlands of  Scotland.  Got lucky again with beautiful weather. Blue skies, sunshine and white puffed clouds  wake us this morning.

We meet up at the Deacon Cafe (Uber) at 8 AM,  only a 5 minute ride to the Royal Mile. There are about 25 of us for the tour. Out driver, John, is hysterical. A thick heavy Scottish accent carries us through the day as he tells tales of Mary Queen of Scotts and beheadings! We laugh and listen to Scottish music and other favorites of Johns’s, like the Game of Thrones. This will be a long day as we plan to return at 8:30 PM.

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Our first stop is the Deanston Distillery for  the whiskey tour. Marianne and I opt to skip the tour and have coffee, sandwiches and scones instead. Others, however, have no problem downing a few ounces of Scottish whiskey at 10 AM!  We chat with a young couple from NYC (of course!) She is a  research scientist at Columbia and he is an actor  who plays Aaron Burrs son in the broadway play Hamilton! (we meet up with them later in the day too on the boat tour).

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We are now driving thru the Central belt of Scotland. Everything is GREEN!  Sheep are everywhere! It’s breathtaking. We pass huge stainless steel sculptures of Kelpie Horses on the side of the road.  I am feeling like I may have a stroke since  we don’t have enough photo stops but I do the best I can and take deep breaths.

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On the drive through Callander , John points out the best hardware store ever!

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Another stop is at Glen Cove for a photo shoot! Yeah!

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And, of course, the final destination awaits! A boat tour to spot the LOCK NESS MONSTER! (This is where you use your imagination.) We walk the grounds in town too to see some sites and enjoy a Scottish IPA on board ship!

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Of course, it wouldn’t be a day without seeing the Hairy Coo’s!

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Our awesome tour guide and driver John sharing some food!

IMG_1301The last hour or so of the tour, we stop for ice cream, play some silly game of John’s called Busokie and see a huge double rainbow!  This is the way to see Scotland!

Finally we reach Edinburgh and its time for dinner at Babas, at our hotel.

We order wine and small plates and share. Turns out to be the best meal of the week. Roasted carrots, cauliflower, hummus and pita. Unbelievably delicious! A+ to the chef!

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A nightcap at the hotel bar!  Goodnight Scotland, until tomorrow!

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Edinburgh Castle – Day 3

April 27 Saturday 2018

Up ar 8:15 AM. We are off to see the Wizard! Umm..I mean Castle! It’s a massive stunning fortress of stone and bricks. The  defender of the nation and home of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tatoo. The stronghold is the most besieged place in Britain providing sanctuary for many kings and queens.  Countless treasures  are protected by the castle  walls.  Smell the gunpowder at the One O’clock Gun fires if you wish. And just happens to be around the corner from our hotel, the Principal. We have a great view.

Since we had purchased fast track tickets  ( no waiting on-line) the first day we arrived, it was easy. Just a short walk (up a big hill, but not too bad) to the castle. (Go early we arrived at 9:30AM..the crowds thicken about noon)  We had a bit of rain but not much. Raincoats and umbrellas were needed thou since you explore inside and outside. An audio guide was a good idea too. And yes, we saw the crown jewels! (Nothing compared to my jewel box at home.) A good morning exploring the grounds.

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Peaked in at the Witchery but decided not to partake. Pretty cool inside thou!IMG_3462

 

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IMG_3444 And given the cold temp (about 40 degrees) we opted to buy warm hats and indulge in a cappuccino in the Castle cafe.

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After leaving the Castle, ( stayed about 3 hours) we walk along Royal Mile once again and checked out the bagpipers and St. Giles Church.

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Then it was time for  glass  of wine at the Advocate! Cool pub but aren’t’ they all?

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Back to New Town for a walk down Rose Street (so beautiful)  by our Hotel.

IMG_3485And then its off to the Georgian House for a tour. (a highlight of the trip for history buff Marianne!) We really enjoyed the  short movie there and the rooms showing how life was there back in the day!

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After a long day, we check back at the hotel to get ready for the next event- The GHOST TOUR!  It’s also free (optional donation and so worth it!) We meet in front of the Royal Mile Coffee house on High Street at 7PM. They have tours at 5, 7 and 9:30 pm. It runs about 2 hours and covers a lot of area. The tour guides are acting students and they really do put on a good show. We hear stories of murders, beheadings, cannibalism  and other criminal acts. We end up at the graveyard! I hope I don’t have nightmares tonite!

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For some odd reason, we are now both craving pizza! A walk along Rose street we search the pubs for a bite to eat, but find out that food is no longer served after about 8:30 Pm in the pubs, only adult beverages.  Luckily, we find GUSTO around the corner from out hotel. It’s perfect and they serve pizza!  We are happy travelers now.  Life is good in Edinburgh and so is the pizza.

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Good Night Edinburgh!

 

 

 

 

Mary Kings Close, Literary Pub Tour, Museums….Day 4

April 28,  Saturday , 2018

At noon we get a  glimpse into 17th century tenement life in Edinburgh, just a 5 minute walk down the Royal Mile.  Four hundred  years of history,  myth’s, legends and stories of the deadly plague epidemic are just some of the tales told on our one hour guided tour. www.realmarykingsclose.com

Mary King’s Close is a great contrast to the splendor of the castle. A walk though a perfectly preserved “close” ( a very narrow street) takes you inside former homes of real families who lived in  “Auld Reekie” ( the “real” in the name is due to the people discussed in the tour being genuine inhabitants of the close, thanks ot local records).

The conditions that these people lived in were horrifying, to say the least. Worth a trip inside to see what it felt  like to live in those times. Not that you would want to!

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Afterwards, Marianne visits the Palace of Holyroodhouse, home of Scottish Royal history ( history buff satisfied!)

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I opt for the Writers Museum (free). Much enjoyed. Studied some history and read some works by on Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Muriel Spark.

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The sun is still shining, so walking the Royal Mile is once again in order. So is stopping in at the Albanach for a pint  and to continue people watching and warm up a bit.

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We reserved dinner  for 5:30 at Chaphraya on Rose Street in New Town.  If you t go, be sure to reserve! Great Thai food with many vegetarian options too. Beautiful inside with great views and outdoor seating when its warm.

www.chaophraya.co.uk/edinburgh

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And finally, its time for our EDINBURGH Literary Pub Tour! (booked ahead online)  Once again , a bit chilly at 7pm. So glad I bought a hat and gloves!  The tour was definitely worth it. I think it was about 10 US dollars. We meet up on Royal Mile and the tour is about two hours ending at Cafe Royal in New town. Our guides were very talented, smart and funny and scary! It was drinking, thinking and entertainment! A good time had by all as we visited 3 pubs during the evening. www.edinburghliterarypubtour.co.uk

We met lots of interesting folks during our walk. A couple of guys doing a walking tour thru the highlands for a week. They will hike in the frigging cold and sometimes thru rivers! Yikees! Brave. But the bravest and most fun of all was meeting Anna. A gorgeous, adventurous, 20 something from Argentina. We chatted at the Cafe Royal, our last stop on this cool pub tour as we shared some adult beverages (she drank her first shot of whiskey!)  She had studied in Paris and was also learning another language.  But the best was hearing of her solo travels. “Did you ever hear of couchsurfing” she said. “Yup”, I answered. Well, that was how she rolled and to top it off, she hitchhiked through the Scottish Highlands the previous day! I gave her my card and hope she gives me and Marianne a buzz. She has never been to NYC so we are hoping to give her a tour. And she can stay in one of Marianne’s spare rooms, not the couch!

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Buses, Trains, Planes, Memories of Scotland. Day 5

April 29 Monday 2018

Boo- Hoo. It’s time to leave this beautiful city. Up at 6:30 AM , we have time to catch the AirLink bus down the street from our hotel – a 10 min walk to Shadwich Place for the  8:15 bus. (same way we came here)  Its 4.50 pounds (we paid cash)  and only a 1/2 hour direct to the airport. Our flight is not till afternoon so its chill time once we get there.  Here are some of my favorites shots from this great trip! (with my new Canon G7 X Mark II camera that I am loving BTW!)

The night of the Ghost tour!

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The Castle and the Moon!

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Gotta google the story of Maggie Dickson! She was hanged  for killing her infant child and lived through the hanging!- (so. of course they had to name a Pub after her!)

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/d/maggiedickson.html

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Crazy beautiful architecture!

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So worth the buses, trains and planes to visit this beautiful city with my good friend..

Until next time Scotland!!!