Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Lowland Diary, Day 5 (Spot the Monkey!)

Welcome to a special "spot the lucky monkey!" edition!

As promised, today featured a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, as well as some unexpected surprises.

Among the things I'm getting sick of: Eggs. We get a complimentary breakfast at the hotel (yay!), but it's basically a nice-but-repetitive buffet. Today, I skipped the eggs for the first time and just had some lox on toast.

But I digress.

So we began the day at the yacht, which is more of a very small ocean liner than a yacht in the coastal Americas sense. This was the vessel that took the Queen all over the world, so it had to be ocean-going. And of course, it was stunning inside in many ways.

The royal dining room seats 56, is covered in gifts to the Queen from leaders of various countries she visited and, now that the ship has been decommissioned, can be rented out for corporate events. I caught them preparing food through a porthole, so something must have been going on.

They also, oddly enough, make fudge on it. And sell it. I bought some, but tragically, I lost the last little bit - the bag fell out of my pocket in a taxi, I think. Fortunately, I'd eaten about half of it already, and shared most of the rest with Mom & Dad.

Strangely, the Queen and her husband had separate, but adjoining cabins - the only bed-for-two on board was in the "honeymoon suite," which people such as Charles and Diana used on honeymoon cruises.

There was also, to my delight, a lucky wooden monkey on board. Can you find him?

Yup, that's him, down in the lower left corner.

Oddly enough, the vessel is moored down at one end of the city - the Firth of Forth, or as I keep calling it, the Fourth of Fifth - behind a shopping mall.

Yeah, a mall. So I've been to a mall on top of everything else.

And I still don't have a decent gift for Marisa. Even my parents are getting on my case about that.

But, in fact, to some degree it's my mother's fault that I don't. More on that in a moment.

First, on our way back from the yacht, we stopped at the Writers' Museum, much to my father's delight. There are permanent exhibits on three of Scotland's great writers - Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson (what, did you think he was American?) - and a seasonal exhibit, which is currently on Scottish PEN. Sadly, no pictures allowed.

I think it was that cab ride that cost me the last of my fudge. Tragic. It was really delicious, too. Probably very bad for the diet, though.

On the way back, my Dad and I stopped at the old Scottish Parliament, where you can see lawyers pace the great hall talking, so their conversations can't be heard by others, due to the acoustics.

Today's theme, by the way, is "no pictures allowed." Too bad, this place has an amazing ceiling.

Then we popped into that Games Workshop store for sec, then back to the hotel to meet Mom for lunch.

Anyway, after a stop for lunch at the appropriately named Filling Station, it was time for a walking tour.

This is how I managed to not go shopping.

The walking tours ran until about 9 PM local, and the shops close by 6ish. It was 4:30, and my Mom decided it was time to do the tour.

Of course, by the time it was over, there wasn't much shopping to be had. Well, coordination of plans was really never a family strong suit, I don't think. It's their trip, anyway. I'm just along for the ride.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the tour was delightful. Remember how I mentioned how all the alleys here are called "closes"?

Well, this was a tour of "The real Mary King's Close." And I get the feeling part of the reason they were called "close" - again, like "close, but no cigar," and not "close the door" - was because the buildings really were close on either side.

See, the "real" Mary King's Close is... underground! As many as five stories down the hill beneath the Edinburgh streets.

It reminded me of Seattle's underground, but with slightly less hysterical dialogue, and a lot more restoration and realism.

Again, sadly, no pictures. If you like, I could replicate one by photographing a dusty corner of my hotel room or something. I mean, it's underground buildings. They're dirty. And the ceilings are very low.

Anyway, the story goes something like this:

People used to live in tall, skinny buildings in Edinburgh, before somebody got it in their head to build a giant mercantile center atop the whole lot, and they bricked up and reinforced the streets, built atop them and started over.

So the poor people - and unlike Seattle, we're talking 1600s here - lived at the bottom, where the sun didn't shine, and the rich people lived higher up.

Which was probably good for them, since people still emptied their bucket toilets out windows onto the street. Yum.

Anyway, the tour took us all throughout this little section of the city, up and down, with ghost stories and the old timbers and stone roofs and stuff. Super-duper cool.

Then I got a look at a few shops, but nothing caught my eye and some I wanted to see were closed.

I did see enough to realize I can't tell the difference between a 10-pound 100% cashmere Tartan scarf and a 30-pounder. I mean, besides $40. Sigh.

And now, it's 6:45 PM local and I'm here, waiting for dinner.

There might be an update later, if dinner's exciting. Otherwise... tomorrow is another day! And I have no idea what we're doing, except that I'm doing some shopping. Or else I may be walking home from the airport on Saturday.

Well, probably not. My baby's not that kind of girl. But why take chances?

On to the final part!

1 Comment:

Marisa L. B. said...

Sillymunkee. I'll still pick you up from the airport. Even if you don't get me 500 souveniers. I got major attitude from one of my first graders. He's going to Disney World. I asked if he would get his teachers presents (kidding around) and he said, "What am I, your servant?" Needless to say, he got in some trouble! Love you!