Monday, July 26, 2010

An American in Edinburgh

Wait, you might ask, If there was nothing to do with the program for a week, what did I do with myself?
Well, first of all, I slept in. After leaving at 6:00 AM Sunday morning, and class gatherings at 8:30 or 9:00 on both Monday and Tuesday, it felt really good to sleep in 'til about 8:30 on Thursday. I then allowed myself to get up and around leisurely, occupying myself with preliminary packing and other pursuits until 9:30. Then I grabbed my raincoat and my bag and had a quick jaunt down to the village Dalkeith to eat breakfast and (this will sound silly) procure a couple of small stuffed elephants wearing kilts. They are absolutely adorable elephants, and they are wearing kilts from Scotland, so I refuse to be ashamed (you are laughing with me, right?).
I was being very strategic with all of this, even if it is silly. Dalkeith is a small enough place that pretty much everything is only open from 9:30-4:30, with the lone exceptions of the grocery stores, which are closed by 8:00. Since we always left around 8:30 or 9:00 each morning and got back at the earliest around dinner time, this was somewhat frustrating, not only to those who wanted to buy groceries, but also to those who just really wanted elephants (aka me). So being able to go into a Dalkeith store for the first time of the trip was an added bonus to sleeping in.
I only took enough time to deposit the elephants back in my room with my other things (I think you'll understand that I did not want to carry a bunch of elephants around all day, even if they were cute and wearing kilts) and brush my teeth before I headed back out, this time to Edinburgh.
I caught the bus into Edinburgh, got off, walked around to the train station, and caught another bus, this one headed out East to a part of town known as Holyrood. Believe it or not, I did not go to Holyrood because it's where the Scottish Parlaiment resides in a building that will keep tongues wagging for some time (not in a good way). I went to Holyrood to see the Palace, where the Queen resides when in Scotland, and the Abbey ruins that are on the Palace grounds, and the pretty Park that surrounds both the Palace and the Abbey. I also stayed in Holyrood for a piece of freshly made Scottish shortbread, but that's another story. I made my way through the modern parts of the palace, wondering if they just removed the crowd lines when the Queen is in residence or if there were other differences. Then I climbed a pair of winding stairs and found myself in the domicile that belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. Not only were her bedchambers on display, but also examples of needlework that she made while awaiting trial and a lock of her hair that was presented to Queen Victoria. After descending down another flight of sprial stairs, this one thankfully being wide, I found myself in the ruins of the abbey. I had hoped that it would be in the same condition as the Dunfermline Abbey (if you missed my description of that earlier, check out the post "What I did for fun in Scotland"), but alas all that was left of this one was the Nave. Curiously enough, although the abbey dated from the 12th century and had been ruins for quite some time, it was evidently a popular place for stone memorials and even a few burials during the late 19th century. From the open doorway of the abbey the park was visible, so I wandered through it for a while. I've heard that every Spring the Queen holds a tea party there, and I can imagine it to be a very pretty one, with all the flora and fauna.
After my wanderings were concluded, I made my way back to the bus stop and caught the bus back into the center of Edinburgh. When I asked two elderly ladies if they knew an easy way to get to the Museum of Scotland, they didn't know themselves but wanted to help me so badly they not only discussed the different options amongst themselves and anyone else waiting at the stop, but also made a point of asking the bus driver. By their help and encouragement, I knew not only precisely which stop to get off at, but also the location of a stop for the bus I wanted to catch. While waiting for the bus, I peeked into the nearby Museum of Childhood, and an Indian store that was having a marvelous sale. Then I caught my bus and took it down to the National Museum of Scotland, which is possibly the same entity as the Royal Museum, although I am not entirely sure about that. They are, at any point, housed in the same building, which is partly open and partly under renovation. It of course features several exhibits on the general history of Scotland, but also surprisingly has a little bit of everything else as well. They did a great job of integrating activities for younger audiences into their spaces, such as dress-up areas near cases which held magnificent old clothing from all parts of the world. I was really surprised at how much material they owned from all parts of the globe--more than once I wondered, "and how did this end up in Scotland?!?" For instance, in the gift shop, I found out that there is evidently a papyrus farm rather near Edinburgh, which supplies the museum store with a good supply. I also had an elephant alert, as at the end of an exhibition showing the variety of exhibits that will be available after renovation there was The First Known Example of Taxidermy, a small juvenile elephant which is from what has since then been discovered to be a second subspecies of African Elephant, which is smaller and prefers forests to plains. I'm almost beginning to expect elephants wherever I go, at this rate.
I helped close up the museum at about 5:00, then walked up the long stretch back to the bus stop I wanted. Since this was the longest stretch of walking for the entire day (I had been trying to give my legs a rest when possible), it of course had to rain. Thankfully, I pretty much lived in my raincoat while I was in Scotland, so I was well prepared. I just discovered that the shoes I was wearing had less grip than they used to (they're really comfy shoes I've used for a few years now), so I avoided going downhill and almost skated to my bus stop.
After I got off in Dalkeith, I headed over to the pub where we first ate on Sunday evening (it's one of the few places open at the hour of 6:00). There I had the curious experience of getting hit upon by someone quite possibly three times my age. Thankfully, I bumped into some friends who invited me to join them at their table, so I had a pleasant dinner after all. Then I walked back down to the house, got almost everything packed up, and went to bed.
The next morning I got up before 6:00, got about and finished packing. My goal was to leave around 7:00 or 7:15, and it was at 6:57 that I dropped my key in the waiting box and headed out the door. I rolled my suitcase all the way up the hill and through town to the bus stop, caught a bus pretty quickly, and rode all the way in to the train station in the middle of town. I picked up my tickets, hung around for a bit to eat breakfast, then caught my train back to London, where I stayed for a few friends whom I shall leave nameless on this blog (if they are reading this, I cannot say Thank You enough!). My next post shall pick up on my daytripping adventures to Oxford during minibreak. But first I am taking a "minibreak" from the computer lab and am going to go grab something to eat!
This image courtesy of Microsoft ClipArt

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