Thursday, June 17, 2010


By Claire
There’s something wrong here. It’s hot! We are struggling with what to wear. Do we bring rain gear just in case? Tank top? Shorts? That’s what everyone else is wearing.

We took a 4 hour walking tour today with our usual Free Europe Tours and enjoyed it immensely. We even went on to a pub with our guide, Stephen, who assisted us in our food and drink orders. Chuck was brave and tried the Haggis. He not only loved it, but I even took a taste and have to say, as long as you don’t know what’s in it, it’s quite good. The problem is, I do know what’s in it.

We arrived this morning at our deluxe campground, the Edinburgh Caravan Club site, €20. It's wonderfully located with a bus into town that takes about 20 minutes. We were doubly glad to find out we can extend our time here to four days. When I first called to make reservations, we could only have two nights. It's been really difficult getting used to having to book everything in advance.

Campground reception

We hurried to get set up, quickly made a couple of sandwiches then took off to catch the bus. Running into another couple from the campground, we ended up walking with them and talking on the bus. Jill and Mike are from Exeter, England, and this is their second trip to Edinburgh. They were very friendly and helpful and we promised to get together tonight.

We parted near Princes Street and made our way to the meeting spot for our tour. Stephen gave us a 10 minute history lesson covering 43 million years. He was great--funny and informative and he really knew his dates! We found ourselves at the Mercat (Market) Cross where Royal proclamations have been read since the 14th century and criminals were punished in former times. When Queen Elizabeth dies, it will be announced in Scotland 3 days later on this spot. The delay is rooted in tradition--that is the time a fast horse and rider took to travel there from London for official announcements.

Mercat Cross

Punishments were severe. A person stealing turnips would have his ear nailed to the Mercat Cross for a period of time while bystanders threw rotten food and dumped the contents of chamber pots on his head. They could leave but only by leaving behind a chunk of their ear. This would permanently mark them as a criminal and there were social consequences: the occupations open to such a person were pirate for men and prostitute for women.

We wandered through Old Town, enjoying the beautiful architecture.

Royal Mile

This is a statue of Charles II who was not loved in Scotland. He wanted to show himself off to advantage so he was depicted wearing Roman armor and riding a small horse in the hopes that it would make this small man look large.

The Heart of Midlothian was a toll booth. In current times there are two rival football teams; one, Midlothian has this as their logo. When the two teams meet, the rival teams fans try to spit on the heart while the Midlothian fans try to prevent this. Apparently, it's easy to identify who is a local and who is a tourist since only tourists walk over this spit-ridden heart while locals skirt it.

Stephen told us about a very popular drink in Scotland, Irn Bru. Naturally, we had to try it during a break. This radioactive orange drink is very high in sugar and caffeine and tastes a bit like bubble gum. It even has quinine, which is apparently illegal in the U.S.

We stopped at the Grassmarket, a popular place for Hen and Stag parties, much like our bachelor parties. It was originally a place where grass was sold and cows were brought to market. It was also a famous location for hangings. One woman, Maggie Dickson, was pregnant with another man's child. She hid the pregnancy but the stress caused her to have the baby at 7 months. He died 3 days later and though she could have put his body in the river, never to be found, she couldn't do it and instead buried him wrapped in her shawl. His body was found and she was identified by her shawl and sentenced to death. Her crime? Hiding her pregnancy. She was hung and her body carted away in a coffin. Soon, she revived and was brought back to be hung again. As the crowd cheered the spectacle, a lawyer spoke up, pointing out that her death sentence had already been carried out. A judge confirmed this and since she was officially dead, she was now free to marry her lover. She did and they lived happily together for 40 years.

For Harry Potter fans, this is the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote her first book.

We went to Greyfriars Cemetery where we saw the grave of John Gray, the night watchman who died in 1858. His dog, Bobby, was so loyal, he stood guard by his master's grave for 14 years.

People had a great fear of being dug up and their bodies used for anatomy lessons. Therefore, they would pay someone to stand guard over their grave for a period of time. This is where the term, "Midnight Shift" came from.

Another fear was being buried alive. They would have a string tied to their finger and attach it to a bell above ground. If they "woke" up, someone would hear the bell and dig them up. This is where the term "saved by the bell" came from. If the person was seen later walking around, alive, someone might call them a "dead ringer" for the person who died.

We continued on our journey, taking in this beautiful city.

Sir Walter Scott monument

I fell in love with the Princes Street Garden. We all sat under the shade of a huge tree while Stephen finished up the tour. We were hot and tired but felt that we had seen and learned so much about Edinburgh.

This flower clock even has a cuckoo in the little wooden house.

Some of the best views of the castle were from the park.

And finally, Chuck's Haggis. Our dinners were only £6 each including a pint of beer.

We found Mike and Jill, having exchanged campsite numbers, and spent a couple of hours talking, with another promise to get together again. They're here until Sunday. It's always great to meet other, like-minded people and we had some good laughs about traveling in a camper.

Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead. ~ Scottish Proverb


punkingee said...

Ohhhhh, I miss Edinburgh. I'll follow-up with suggestions for places to visit. I miss Edinburgh.

Paros Shepherd said...

Chuck, you come from my ilk....I liked haggis, too! Of course, that would be the Wallace in me! Glad you are enjoying Edinburgh....the weather is cooperating for you! (If I remember rightly, the pictures shown of the Queen when at Balmoral in August!..usually shows her in headscarf and woolen cardigan!) Of course that is a wee bit more north.... I am really enjoying the photos...England was stunningly beautiful. So green, so lush and the gardens were so lovely - and the houses....I would love to live in one of those stone houses you saw in the small villages. I will be fascinated to see more of Scotland. My heritage on my father's side is from there. If you pass through Cupar on the way to St. Andrews, wave and say "hello" to them. Ha, ha. Most of them are 6 feet in the ground! I remember seeing their gravesites and most of the beautiful headstones had been toppled over....which displeased me. Was it vandalism? I hope not. Waiting for the next blog....and interesting history lessons. Oh yes, when we were in Edinburgh I remember going to Holy that is where Mary Queen of Scots hung out. Etc.

Karin on Paros

elisabetta/umbria said...

Too funny! when I saw the "burrrrghhh" I thot that was code for you being cold ~ got me!

Yes I had to google haggis b/c i didn't know what was in it. As long as the innards are fresh and cleanly processed, i think it's all cultural conditioning, like snails or raw oysters(?) Anyway, I've been saving ur posts for "dessert" and they've been yummy. (Man that rocket-fuel lookt evil, tho')