Freebie Day in Edinburgh

After a quick and unexciting breakfast at the B and B, we took the bus directly to our new favorite coffee café. Amazingly, there are fifteen Starbucks in the city of Edinburgh, but our closest fave was not one of them. It must be something about the street across from the coffeehouse that draws us here. We are still holding off on initiating our Edinburgh Pass until Monday. We bought the 3-day pass for 45 pounds each. If we start it on Monday, we are good to go through Wednesday and we leave on Thursday.

There are so many free things to do in this marvelous city that one could keep fully entertained without the pass or if on a strict budget. We are watching our pounds and in no relation to weight for once, since the ATM card would not work. Scotland has its own paper currency, which interestingly enough can be printed by any Scottish bank. Three banks do so: The Bank of Scotland (founded 1695), The Royal Bank of Scotland (founded 1727) and the Clydesdale Bank (owned by National Australia Bank) Being part of the United Kingdom the English pound is legal tender. If you have any Scottish paper currency, use them or turn them in for British pounds before leaving the country, as they are not tradable for other currencies once you leave. To read more see http://www.siliconglen.com/Scotland/1_7.html

After a fuel up on java, the first stop was The People’s Story Museum, where pictures are allowed, but you must sign a form stating they are for personal use only. In some cities it may be referred to as an ethnographic museum, but it does not transcend time as far as most ethnographic museums do. The museum is located in what was once the Canongate Tolbooth from the 16th century. Unlike an ethnographic museum, this one is based on oral histories, people’s memories, and a wealth of written information. The collection utilizes all of this background information to tell stories of people’s lives during work and leisure time starting with the 18th century and continuing to present day. What I find most fascinating is the multisensory experience with your eyes, ears, and nose brought into the discovery of Edinburgh living. The address is Canongate Tolbooth, 163 Canongate, Royal Mile.

Next door is the Canongate Scottish Church and graveyard. The church is plain inside being Presbyterian, but the grave is the eternal home to some famous Scots. Robert Ferguson, a poet of importance and mentor to Robert Burns, another legendary Scot poet, is buried here. Ferguson died at an early age and was penniless. Though they had never met, Robert Burns paid for his gravestone. For more on burial grounds in Scotland visit this site http://www.headstones.fsnet.co.uk/

A stones throw away, literally, is the Museum of Edinburgh or The Huntley House Museum. It is directly across the street from Canongate Church. If you have a desire to learn the history of Edinburgh from prehistoric times to present day, this is the place to visit. Again, photos are allowed, but you must fill in a different form from the one above. The building is from the 16th century, but had been expanded in the 17th and again in the 18th centuries. Address is: 142 Canongate, Royal Mile.

As you walk up the Royal Mile, there is a grand shop specializing in bagpipes. The owner is very friendly and a walk in to explore is rewarded with an amicable greeting. Then short distance further at 42 High Street, still the Royal Mile, but the name changes, is the Museum of Childhood. It was opened in 1955. According to our guide on the Haggis walking tour, this was the first museum of its kind in the world and the man who started it did not like children. This museum will bring any adult back to his or her childhood instantly, regardless of nationality. There are games, toys, dolls, and stuffed animals that are bound to spark memories of a treasured gift from one’s past. There are a number of toys carrying me through time as far back as four years old. It is just as much fun to eavesdrop on other adults as they reminisce to their children.

Ron wanted to visit the Botanical Gardens, which he had read just opened a special tribute to the Queen Mother who died in March of 2002. Queen Elizabeth was married to King George VI and was mother to Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch. With our all day bus pass, getting to the gardens was relatively easy, though Ron was uncertain as to the stop to get off. With his usual keen sense of direction, we left the bus right by a café where we had a coffee first. The entrance to the gardens was less than a ½ block away.

There is an expectation in my mind that a botanical garden will be filled with seasonal flowers, but this was not what we found. Although, there was a sumptuous variety of greens with the trees and shrubs, flowers were not the order of the day. The Queen Mother’s Memorial was a fitting tribute, the interior consisting of seashells collected by schoolchildren.

Leaving the gardens, we found two used bookstores to mill around in, looking for a book for a friend in Budapest. We thought we hit the jackpot when they had it on their computer, but it was not to be found on the shelf. Dejected, we headed in the direction of our temporary home.

Outside of some center, not exactly a shopping center, but we were unable to ascertain what it was. Outside, there were statues of two giraffes. The artist Helen Denerley created these creatures in 2005 and titled them Dreaming Spires. This lovely poem was written in a circle around their feet.
“A people who live between earth and skies
Each his own religious steeple
keepinga lighthouse with his eyes”
Roy Campbell 1946

Watching our pounds, but not caring too much about our weight, we ventured to an Italian buffet all you can eat restaurant. There were no seats to be had, so this was a good sign. For the same price as a dish in a non-tourist restaurant, we were able to sample a variety of pastas, lasagna, vegetables, and desserts.

Being too early to return ‘home’ we took the bus to the end of the line to see the Royal Britannica Yacht, but were seduced into the mall to see a movie instead. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 started at a time when we thought we could catch the last bus homeward bound. Who knew they had 30 minutes of commercials before the movie credits started to roll (without assigned seating as in Hungary). There were no sub-titles either, imagine that? Well, 2 ½ hours later, we were doing the marathon to find the last bus just waiting to leave its station for the last time this night.