Well, I’m back everyone! It was a busy week, full of lots of fun, but of course as always, I am happy to be home. Traveling is wonderful. I love to see new places, experience new things, and learn something I didn’t know before. But at the end of the day, I just want to sleep in my own bed, with my own oversized blanket and many extra pillows. It is one of the many reasons I wish the Doctor would just pick me up for my vacations already; I can go anywhere I like, bring all of my clothing, sleep in my own bed, and never worry about having room in my suitcase to bring home souvenirs.
Today, I will keep it simple, and just share with you a few things from my trip.
1) I love Touristy Crap.
I know, you are supposed to pretend you don’t want to see the ‘fake’ tourist stops, or buy anything from the shops aimed at the tourists with dirt cheap prices. Screw that. I love the touristy things. Not only is it awesome to step into a shop that jokes about the cultural stereotypes, but you cannot beat the ‘everything is on sale’ prices. I love when a culture is willing to make fun of themselves a little. Scotland knows everyone thinks of kilts and Nessie, so they sell Nessie in a kilt. It’s just knowing what people want and giving it to them. The shops win in the end as they laughingly walk away with our money, finding our lack of exchange rate knowledge hilarious.
Its not just the shops I love. I genuinely enjoy the tourist trap destinations. I’m in Edinburgh for only a few days. I can’t get to know the entire history, or the real everyday culture in a short time. I know most people from the city most likely avoid the Royal Mile unless they work there. I’m not trying to be a local, I am trying to see a place I never have before. Tourist traps are designed to take your money, yes. But they are also there to give you a small glimpse into a place, something that will make you want to come back another time.
2) I ate haggis and didn’t die.
Technically I am Scottish, somewhere back in the line. Now enough time has passed that, up until this trip, we held a perfect balance of Scottish and American culture in my family. My brothers occasionally will wear kilts (some of them anyway) but no one ever ate haggis. Well, I decided I was going to do it. I was Scottish, in Scotland, it was required. I have no idea exactly what is in that picture (the menu said Haggis, Natties, and Mash with a Whiskey sauce), but I ate it all. The orange stuff tasted kind of like cauliflower, the white was obviously potato, and the haggis itself wasn’t bad. The flavor certainly didn’t tell the truth of what kind of meat goes in there, but the texture was not pleasant to me. It seemed as if someone had cooked ground meat on the stove, like you would for tacos, and then stuck the cooked meat together in an attempt at meatloaf. I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t think I ever will again.
Haggis definitely did not win my vote for best food I ate in Scotland. I expected it to be fish and chips, something I shouldn’t eat, but love enough I eat like crazy when I travel, but it wasn’t even close. Don’t get me wrong, there was good fish to be had, but my favorite meal was a quick snack we had at the Elephant House. We stopped in for my Harry Potter obsessed Big One, and went to have a cup of tea. We ended up there three times, and if we hadn’t needed to pack on our last day we might have ended up there again. On the third trip, we were killing time before a tour, and getting a drink and snack. A person behind me in line was eyeing the pastry case, which with my gluten problems I had mostly ignored. She mentioned a blueberry coconut sponge cake and I may have involuntarily moaned that it sounded delicious. When the kind staff informed me this it also happened to be gluten free, I instantly ordered a piece. I might be willing to live in the Elephant House and eat that cake exclusively for a while. It was quite possibly the most amazing thing I have ever eaten. I’m pretty sure I will dream about that cake for years to come.
3) The entire city is uphill.
Do you see that gorgeous view? Yeah, I worked for that view, harder than I have ever worked before. There were points walking around the city when I wasn’t sure I would ever recover. By the end of the trip, I was absolutely certain my ancestors left Scotland because we were not built to travel on hills. Or maybe that is just the lazy, out of shape, could live off of blueberry coconut sponge cake, modern American I am. As much as I loved the city, I may need to replace my feet now.
4) I took the tours.
We took three walking tours while we were there, and honestly, I kind of wish we had taken more. The first was a the guided tour of Edinburgh castle. We didn’t want the audio tour, since there is something taken away from a family vacation when you are all listening to different parts of a tour with headphones in. We happened to walk up just as a tour was leaving from the front, so we hopped along to hear a little about the castle as we went. Let me tell, you it was awesome. Not only was the guide funny, but I was enthralled with the history he shared. Hearing a story about how 31 Scotsmen took back the castle in the dead of night, against a large English army was inspiring. It was also cool to actually see the Stone of Destiny, and hear it’s history from someone who seemed to feel the connection personally.
The second tour we took was the Potter Trail, a free tour put on by University students. I didn’t expect to like the tour much. I am a fan of Harry Potter, but not an obsessive fan the way Big One is. We mostly took the tour because it was important to her, and in the end I loved it. It was more than just the little stuff listed on the website. Gemma was a charming guide, who laughed and joked as she shared stories, and was completely willing to geek out with all of us.
Our final tour was a paid tour, again one I did because my husband thought the walking tour would be fun. We were supposed to learn secrets of the Royal Mile, and it was amazing. We had been walking around for two days already and didn’t realize how much we walked right past without ever knowing it was there. She took us down the little alleyways, showed us the oldest walls in the city, walls that once surrounded the city. There is a heart, made of bricks outside a cathedral, I had stepped on many times, never realizing it marked the site of an old prison. The architecture I had looked at many times and simply thought to be pretty took on new meaning when she gave us the historical context.
In the end, the tours gave me a little taste of what the city used to be, and it is now. I was left with a desire to learn more, and really, what else could they ask.
5) I want more.
I watched the sunshine on the waters of Leith. I walked along roads that had been soaked in history. I drank my tea in the same room where much of Harry Potter was written. I left Edinburgh feeling relaxed and inspired. I’ve often told my husband I would like to retire to Scotland someday. With every trip we take, I wish for that more and more.