Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chapter 4:No, THAT'S The Castle

I don’t care what continent you’re in, 4:30 in the morning is early. That’s what time we had to get up to catch our transport to the airport for our trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. We made it (with time to spare) and took the short flight, enjoying a few of the British tabloids along the way.

Getting on the flight, though, was another story. I was wearing slacks with a second “hidden” pocket to keep my passport, which seemed like a great idea when traveling. Unfortunately, even the minute amount of metal in the zipper was throwing off the security checks. I went through one check. Then another. Then the full-body x-ray. I’m pretty sure I was one step away from a “turn your head and cough” security check, but thankfully they passed me through before I had to take off my Oscar Goldman pants.

Once we arrived, we took the bus to the George Hotel in the City Centre (no, spell check, here that’s correct) and checked in. We could tell very quickly we were in a nicer hotel than the Phoenix in London. A bath. A king-sized bed. Washcloths. A television with an all-sports channel. Life is truly good in Scotland.

We had lunch first, quesadillas at a Cuban restaurant (because, really, what’s more authentically Scottish than a chorizo quesadilla? At least it was two-for-one). We then decided to walk over to Edinburg Castle, the main attraction in the city. We walked out of the hotel and looked over Princes Street Gardens, trying to get our bearings. Mary Beth pointed out one of the bigger and more ostentatious buildings in the green, asking if that was the castle.

“No, I think that’s the castle,” I said, pointing to the right and seeing the huge – well, castle, on top of the large hill.

Without missing a beat, Mary Beth turned around.

“We’re taking a cab,” she said, hailing one before I had much input in the matter.

If Nebraska means “flat water,” then it’s pretty clear Edinburg translates into “steep and hilly with slick cobblestones when it rains.” It’s very nice, and the people are incredibly friendly, but you’re going to get a workout walking around the place.

We took the cab into the castle, paid our way in, and began exploring. It was a chilly, misty day, which seemed very authentically Scottish as we explored the royal home. We saw the cannons that guarded the castle, the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, and the very impressive war memorial built after the Great War with the 1920’s architecture and spectacular statue of the archangel Michael to match. We even got to see the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny on display. Scotland’s Crown Jewels weren’t quite as amazing as England’s, but they were impressive nonetheless.

As we left the castle, the rain had turned from a quaintly-authentic drizzle to a just-plain-cold-and-miserable rain, so we headed back to the hotel. On the way back, we reflected that Scotland really had a lot in common with Native American tribes back home. Both Scottish people and Native Americans have their own, unique culture outside of the dominant culture in which they live, both were occupied and conquered by a larger nation, and both continue to have one foot in both worlds.

We recouped at the hotel, then went back out for dinner and for me to watch the Champions League match between Manchester United and Marseilles. That’s football, which we in America call soccer, for those of you unaware. On the recommendation of the concierge, we went to a “proper pub” on Hanover Street called Milnes, and the atmosphere was everything you would expect in a Scottish pub.

Except, of course, they weren’t showing the game. Although coming from a sports bar culture like America it was hard to fathom, the barkeep said that football games “cause too much trouble” and there’s only one in the area that shows the games. So, after I finished my pies (yes, I had a steak and kidney pie, but I drew the line at haggas), we went down Rose Street (a cool little alley filled with shops and restaurants) to a place called Elements.

When we got there, it’s clear it wasn’t a sports bar. The furniture and clientele were far from sports bar, with plush gold couches to sit in and raspberry pavlova to eat. The game was on an HDTV, which was inside a gold picture frame. The sound of the game wasn’t on, so instead of hearing the commentary, we listened to what can only be described as a folk cover of “Disturbia.”

Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe it.

We watched the first half and headed back to the hotel, to prepare for our last day in Edinburgh. I’m not sure what exactly we’re going to do, but it likely won’t be as weird as tonight.

Pictures from today are in a new album here.


Lori Safranek said...

I'm loving this blog, Pat! You are a terrific writer. Glad you're both having such a good time.

Joe Runge said...

Beautiful photos Pat -- it looks like a movie set