Putting the Pass into Action

Today, we initiate the Edinburgh Pass. As we use it, I am going to deduct the entrance fees that we saved by using it to see if it was worth the money. I realize there are things we will use it for that we normally would not pay an entrance fee for and these things will be noted also. To start the Pass, you just need to sign the back and use it for the first time. There are three days of transportation included, but they are not Pass dependent. In the folder with the pass are three cards with the months of the year, days of the week, and various years. In order to use a transport pass for a particular day, you just scrape off the coating on a particular day, similar to instant lottery tickets. You show this to the bus driver each time you get on a bus. There are no trams or subways in the city, so this is a limited option. Pass cost 45 pounds – minus transport for three days at 6.90= 38.10 balance. By-passing our regular coffee fix, we first went to the Queen’s Gallery, by Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the Queen when in Scotland. The admission to the gallery was 5 pounds. The current exhibition was Canaletto in Venice, featuring the work of Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768). King George III purchased the collection in 1762. Over seventy drawings of Venice were on display along with some paintings. We had never heard of this artist prior, but the drawings were minutely detailed with cross-hatching and small singular lines. However, being that the whole collection was of Venice and only Venice, it did get tedious after the first room. No photos allowed. Everything in this gallery is from the Royal Collection and changes. 38 pounds 10 – 5.00 for entrance fees = 33.10 balance.
Although the work of this artist woke us for the day, the next stop was our java hut, where we sat outside in the brisk air and sunny morning gearing up for the rest of the day. Also in the Pass is entrance to Unfolding Pictures: Fans from the Royal Collection. When we asked about it, we were told the card did not include entrance to the Palace, so we were under the impression this gallery must be in the Palace itself. We did not see it. The Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center, located at 354 Castlehill on the Royal Mile, is another place we would not normally pay to visit. Although, with the Pass, entry was free, so we forced ourselves to make the stop here. Note that the pass is only valid here until 12:30 pm. We arrived at 11:30 am. Entrance is 8 pounds 95. After a brief guided instruction of how to sniff the bouquet and sip scotch like a connoisseur, we were each given a dram of scotch in specially designed scotch glasses to demonstrate our learning. The glasses were a souvenir gift and a box for carrying it was included. It was impressive that the glass did not have any advertising on it. From here we were led to a room to watch a short movie on the history of scotch and then on a ride through the events of scotch history. The tour lasted about 1 ½. This is not something I would otherwise seek to do, but admittedly, it was very interesting and worth the time spent. Savings on the ticket was 8 pounds 95. This now brings our Pass balance to 29 pounds 15. Being up this far on the castle hill, we walked to castle to take pictures, but the Military Tattoo has started, so the courtyard is filled with bleachers. This event is sold out in February for the August shows. Tickets go on sale December 1st. We had no clue as to what this was, but those who were in the know were so excited about it, it was infectious. We made our way the Tattoo gift shop to find out more. This the 57th Edinburgh Tattoo celebrates the Army in Scotland and features the largest gathering of Pipes & Drums demonstrations in the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle. Over 37 countries are represented and visitors number over 217,000 visitors with 35% of them being foreign visitors. With this event going on, the queue for the castle was more than a Royal Mile long, so we did not pursue this. We had been there in 2001 and it was not part of the Pass. The views are breathtaking from the cliffs. Camera Obscura is part of the Pass and we went just out of curiosity. It is very close to the castle and saved us 6 pounds 95 on the Pass. The major attraction is on the rooftop, in a room where there is the Camera Obscura, the star attraction. Long before video cams, a Scottish female optician designed this obscura. Using multiple mirrors, and a wok shaped mirrored bowl, the guide can twist and turn the mirrors to show current movement of people and cars on the streets of Edinburgh. The guide gives a presentation of the history of the city and while he or she is talking, people are ‘magically’ picked up off of the bowl and placed back down again. The show is short and the rest of the center is filled with optical illusions obviously delighting children of all ages. There was no elevator visible, so reaching the rooftop would be impossible if mobility challenged. The stairwell up the five flights is narrow. The running Pass balance is now 29 pounds 15 – 6 pounds 95 = 22 pounds 20 to go. Ready for some grub, we ventured over to the Comedy Room off of the Royal Mile where they had 2 for 1 lunch specials after 3:00 pm. We each had chicken curry and a beer for a mere 8 pounds, not part of the Pass. Naptime was the logical follow-up at this point, so we went back to the B and B with our transport cards. I did some writing and checking e-mails while Ron took a nap before the evening’s adventures. We were fortunate to have WiFi access in the B and B, so this saved us from going to Internet cafés. After Ron’s snooze, we had to rush off to the next Fringe event, TapEire, an Irish tap dance event. When Ron first mentioned this, I thought he had said it was Irish dancers, so I had Lord of the Dance in my mind. I could have not have gotten this more misconstrued. There was only one dancer on a plain stage. He wore a black shirt and pants, so there were no visuals other than a camera focusing on his tapping feet on a monitor above his head. The man can tap, although my analogy is tap is to dance as rap is to singing. His musicians were two men who played spoons, sticks, and a wok type pan. A further insult for the evening less than enjoyable, we were cramped in the balcony since we arrived too late for lower seats.
At the university, we had noticed that Mummenschanz 3X11 was performing as a Fringe event. I had remembered this troupe from my days on the East coast. They had played in NYC for a number of years, but I never did get to see them, but had always been curious. We were able to get tickets for our last night here, Wednesday. On our way to our last Fringe piece for the evening, we walked by the statue for Grayfriar Bobby. This legendary, yet real dog lived the last of his days by his master’s grave, after the master died. There are many children’s books written about this little dog and he is mentioned in the Edinburgh Museum.
The Sperm Monologues was our last play of the evening. The premise is that a series of men, who were sperm donors, were able to video tape a message to their offspring for the child to view when he or she turned 18 years old. Some of the messages were hysterically funny, some sad, and some profound. There were only three actors who changed costumes, but their performances made you believe they were different men entirely. It was an enriching experience. On the way home, we walked past Elephant Café where Harry Potter was born! So after our first day, we had a balance of 22 pounds 20 left to use on the EP to recoup our investment of 45 pounds.