I realize that it’s been nearly a month since returning from Scotland and I’m just now getting around to writing about the second half of our trip. What can I say? We’ve been busy.
Edinburgh was lovely, and only about an hour to the northeast of Glasgow.
I much preferred it to Glasgow. It wasn’t that Glasgow was unimpressive – it was – but it was also more urban and had less obvious history and fine architecture. Granted, we were only there for 2 1/2 days, so I’m sure that I missed a lot, but Edinburgh hits you with the full-force of its beauty right off the bat. The old buildings, the sculptures, the sea, the castle… like I said, it was lovely.
We arrived in the afternoon, found our short-term apartment without too much trouble, and moved our things inside. Chris headed out to the university shortly thereafter, leaving Joe and me to discover Edinburgh on our own. Our first stop: the grocery. Exploration is fun, but food is essential when you’ve got a little guy with an empty stomach.
Following the grocery, we marched out in search of the Royal Botanic Garden. I saw a sign for it somewhere on our drive in and was bound and determined to get to it before the skies opened up and we got soaked. The photo below doesn’t do the walk to the gardens justice. The buildings, even where we were (about a mile out of the city center) were beautiful and I found myself curiously reading the “for sale”signs on some of the homes (and then gulping when I saw the cost and hurriedly pushing the stroller along, ha ha).
Gloomy, eh? But still nice.
We trekked on. The Royal Botanic Garden was actually just to our right (you can see the fence in the above photo) but the entry was a ways off. It had just started to rain by the time we arrived, but no matter. My raincoat, umbrella, and the rain-fly for Joe’s pram took care of that.
I walked around as much as I could, taking what photos I could in the rain. The above photo is of the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden and features plants from various places she visited during her reign. I wanted to explore it a bit more, but the rain began to pick up and Joe was tired of his foggy view through the rain-fly. We wheeled back in the direction of the Welcome Center, but not before coming across this little furball:
This cheeky little squirrel practically sat on my foot, he got so close. New Zealand doesn’t have squirrels, so it was kind of a treat to see them again (and for Joe to see them for the first time).
The Welcome Center truly was a welcoming place. Joe was thrilled to be out of the pram and, as per his usual M.O., began to race around as soon as he was free of the straps. I purchased some postcards in the gift shop and had to put Joe back in the pram mid-way through selecting them. I thought he would be OK just sitting there, not strapped in, but the goober has figured out how to writhe and wriggle his way out and the next time I looked, he was gleefully running out of the shop and back to the main floor. The sales lady got quite a kick out of my “escape artist”. Joe was less pleased with my reaction, which was to pick him up, put him back in, and this time, secure those straps in place!
My little Houdini
The next day was Thursday, and Chris was done with all work-related events for the rest of the week. Hooray! This meant that he could explore Edinburgh with us, and that’s exactly what we did. We walked to the city center and down Charlotte Street to where it intersected with Princes.
Looking down Princes Street
Chris was happy to see a Costa Coffee shop and we waited on the footpath while he ran upstairs to grab some coffee to go.
We continued on our way. The destination: Edinburgh Castle.
Walking up The Mound with the Scottish Gallery in the background
Nearly to “The Royal Mile”
Looking down “The Royal Mile”
At Edinburgh Castle at last
The castle is well worth a visit. The views are spectacular. You can look out over Edinburgh all the way to the North Sea…
I loved touring the castle, and Joe did really well. He was able to run around some and I got to explore almost all of the nooks and crannies that my heart desired. My favorite spot was St. Margaret’s Chapel. I liked how the castle was a combination of ancient and modern, being used throughout both world wars.
The walk back took us along the Royal Mile and slowly back into the city center. We enjoyed seeing the sights and visiting different shops. Our last night there was a quiet one, with Joe and Chris heading out for dinner while I stayed in with an upset stomach (part and parcel of the pregnancy).
Our drive back to Oxford was long, but fun. It ended up being even longer when Chris got turned around while exiting one of the rest stops. I mentioned, “This looks familiar” and asked, “Are we going the right way?”, even pointing out some of the city names and miles on highway signs, but Chris either wasn’t listening or didn’t put two and two together, because it wasn’t till we’d been driving in the wrong direction for roughly 35-40 minutes that it dawned on him that we were heading back to Edinburgh. Whoops! People who know Chris well won’t be surprised by this. One time, he drove from Illinois to Michigan when he meant to be driving to Indiana. Another time he (along with the other 3 valedictorians from his graduating class) drove west across Florida instead of south as they’d intended. The most recent funny driving story was when he and I were on our way back from Iowa to Indiana. I fell asleep and when I woke up, I saw an unfamiliar highway sign and asked Chris where we were. He shrugged and said, “I don’t know”. What?! He’d apparently not looked at a map or street sign since I’d fallen asleep some 2 hours earlier and we were lost in Illinois. I’ve learned to just laugh about those things and, like Mary, I treasure these stories in my heart 🙂
Joe did a fabulous job in his car seat. He’s not used to riding in a vehicle and I was a little worried about car sickness, but it didn’t bother him in the least. I was glad that I didn’t have to sit next to him in the back for much of our return journey – only long enough to feed him when we didn’t want to make a full stop somewhere. He slept for a good portion of the time and when he was awake, was easily entertained with books, toys, and our singing.
That brings me to yet another funny side story. Chris has some interesting lyrics for familiar songs, and he was absolutely convinced that he was singing them correctly. All his life, he’s thought that the line in “Jingle Bells” about the horse and sleigh was:
Dashing through the snow,
In a wide horse open sleigh…
I started laughing and pointed out that it’s a “one horse open” sleigh, not a wide horse open sleigh. Chris said that all these years, he imagined the sleigh being pulled by a fat horse!
Later, we were singing through songs from The Beatles and got to “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride”, which in Chris’ mind has always been “She’s Got a Ticket to Rye”. Where Rye is and why she was headed there, he never quite knew. We were laughing so hard, and my teasing Chris grew by leaps and bounds when I found out that he had to go the bathroom and there were no rest stops nearby. Suddenly, everything was hilarious and Chris was dying to go to the bathroom, which only made the jokes seem sillier 🙂
All in all, we had a wonderful time in Scotland. My only complaint is that it was much, much, much too short. I would have loved to have seen the highlands (though I did see some highland cattle!) and I really wanted to visit the lochs, but we were advised to skip them because of the weather. I suppose that’s just another reason for us to return to Scotland some day.
*I have to add this little tidbit: while in Edinburgh, I definitely had occassional bouts of de ja vu from our trip to Dunedin on the South Island of NZ. Dunedin, as you may already know, was settled by Scottish immigrants from, you guessed it, Edinburgh. Dunedin derives from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh: Dùn Èideann. I could see why the Scottish settlers were reminded of home. The hills and countryside of Dunedin were very similar to Edinburgh. I’m happy that I can say that I’ve been to both cities and can see the similarities for myself rather than just reading about them.