Monday, October 24, 2011

Northumberland and Edinburgh: Part 2

Sorry for the delay in posting.  Dan and I just moved into our more permanent house and we don't have Internet yet.  We hope to get connected this week though, so I'll be back to posting more regularly soon.

So, where were we?  Oh yes, we had just finished a nice pub lunch outside the Bamburgh Castle and were headed to Edinburgh.  We used VRBO (vacation rental by owner) for the first time, and I have mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, it can be a lot less expensive than a hotel, but a lot higher quality than a hostel.  On the other hand, since you are renting from the owner, it is up to that individual what amenities to supply.  We heard from some of our friends who swear by VRBO that most owners provide some kitchen staples (bread, milk, eggs,etc.) and some other nice perks.  Our owner went really bare bones on us.  We didn't even have Internet, which I think is kind of basic.  But, that's why it's so cheap.  At least it was fairly close to downtown (1.5 miles) and we were able to get around really easily.

Getting to the actual flat was pretty difficult initially though.  We first had to drop by the owner's house to get the keys to this flat and exchange money.  This required us driving right through city center.  I had never been to Edinburgh before, so I wasn't prepared for the HUGE hills and tons of traffic.  Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but as new manual drivers, it was very challenging.  Fortunately, Dan did a great job and got us to the flat in one piece.

For our first night in Scotland we walked all around the Royal Mile just getting a feel for the city.  We went to dinner at one of the oldest pubs in town called "The World's End."  It got its name because it used to be built right against the wall of old Edinburgh.  For the people living inside the walled city, that really was the end of the world.

We tried the vegetarian haggis, which is a local specialty.  I think something got lost in translation.  I'm sure it would have been much more exciting if it were meat.  We also tried a couple of pints of the local beer.  Delicious!

After dinner we went looking for a whiskey bar and found a great one called the Albanach.  This bar had over 200 different kinds of whiskey!  We tried four different Scotch Whiskeys that averaged around 20 years old.  It's definitely an acquired taste, and I can't say that I've acquired it yet.  But it was a really fun experience.

The next day we went up to the Edinburgh Castle.  The castle is huge and beautiful!  As English Heritage Society members, we got in for half-off and also got a discount on the audio tour.  I'm glad we took the audio tour because there is so much history behind every stone.  We saw the crown jewels and watched a re-enactment of a criminal hanging.  It was very interesting (and gory!).

Re-enactment of hanging in Castle
 We spent the afternoon taking a walking tour of the Royal Mile.  It was billed as the "hidden secrets" of the Mile, and it delivered!  Our tour guide was fantastic and really showed us what life would have been like hundreds of years ago.  It was fascinating to see how much of the city has changed, and how much has stayed the same.

At night we got some incredible views of the castle and found a tiny little pub where folk musicians gather.  We stayed around a little while to hear some of the traditional Scottish songs.


The next morning we climbed up Arthur's Seat and were rewarded with spectacular views of Edinburgh!  We actually drove most of the way up and hiked to the summit.  Thank goodness, because just that little bit of climbing was very strenuous!  There aren't really any clear paths; you just have to climb your way up using your hands and legs.  It was challenging.  The views were awesome though.

And that's it!  Just a short, sweet trip to Northumberland and Edinburgh!

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