Another gloomy, overcast day in Scotland. Perfect for a walking tour!
Yet again, I was unable to charge my phone overnight in my room so I had to take a leisurely breakfast while it charged.
Today I just had some coffee, figuring that the Piemaker was just down the street, so I should go there. Better quality food and a bit more affordable.
I got into a small talk with a local gal who also needed to charge her phone so we shared a table and outlet.
She was a nice Scottish lass, very talkative and friendly. Fringe Fest was her time in the city when she went out every night to catch a performance.
We talked awhile, me drinking coffee, her screwdrivers. She gave me a few hot spots to check out in the city, namely Princes Street Gardens and university area for free views.
I was given a list of shows not to be missed for the next couple days. She was less enthused when I suggested we check them out together.
“Oi, my boyfriend would not go for that. Neither would my girlfriend, ha!” She replied. “But you are cute, keep asking girls around here, you’ll be fine!” came the reply as she snatched up her phone. Swing and a miss.
I’d located a walking tour that met in the city square not too far away. I should have time to get a pie and make it by meeting time.
For some reason, I see stairs as a personal challenge by architecture to me. It’s as if they are taunting me, trying to tell me there are too many steps up and I shouldn’t bother trying to ascend them.
Wrong again stairs, I win.
I was in luck again as the Piemaker had haggis rolls today so I was finally able to try haggis, a dish I’d heard of for years.
It wasn’t bad! It wasn’t good either. I wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered haggis to me, but I wouldn’t seek it out.
Haggis= all sheep organs chopped up with oats, onion and spices, boiled in sheep’s stomach. Sounds great, eh!?
I also had a traditional English meat pie which was great. Reminded me of Salisbury steak wrapped up in a roll.
Now fortified, I made my way to a statue to start my walking tour. Always look for a free walking tour in any city you visit. They are always great and led by real people who live there.
My guy was a stout man, wearing a beard and kilt. He looked like he would’ve walked around with a sword too but it wasn’t socially acceptable anymore.
Instead he carried a walking stick that was as tall as him. A true renaissance man.
He had a booming voice and a tendency for using the joining statement, “nonetheless…” to unite his stories about the history of Edinburgh.
We paused for a while at a statue of David Hume, where people touch a toe for good luck which polished it compared to the dull green hue the rest of the statue had turned due to years of exposure to the elements.
Passing under an arch we were in a 4 story building’s courtyard. We then got a lesson in social standing in old Edinburgh.
If you were working poor, you stayed on the bottom floor, due to the practice of people tossing their waste into the street, you got to smell that all day and night.
The very poor stayed in the attic, no heat, very little insulation from the elements.
The wealthy stayed in the middle floors, above the stench of the street.
Robbery, theft was fairly common in these days so builders would create an oddly placed stair that you only noticed going down, thus if you were trying to make a quick escape or just leaving, you may miss it and break a leg.
We did pass by the castle where we were informed that cannons were placed there for looks only, they never fired them back when the castle was in use.
Queen Elizabeth I felt that a castle should have cannons so they added some.
As we circled the castle there was a large line of people waiting to get into the stadium. It was the country’s tattoo festival.
Not that kind of tattoo, bagpipes. Groups of bagpipers from all over competed to be the best group in the land.
They take the term tattoo to refer to last call at pubs who took to playing a regiment’s corps of drum as a way to get soldiers back to their barracks at a reasonable hour.
In Dutch they would say doe den tap toe (turn off the taps). Try saying that phrase in English quickly, sorta sounds like tattoo.
We soon made our way to a cemetery where I learned that JK Rowling wrote about Harry Potter while living here.
See would usually write in a coffee shop after strolling through this cemetery.
Many of the headstones were smooth due to age and erosion, but a couple had new headstones as Rowling borrowed the names from these headstones for characters in the book.
While she wrote these books in a particular coffee shop, one grew tired of being asked if they were the coffee shop where Rowling wrote they put up a sign, “Rowling didn’t drink coffee and write here.”
She actually did pop in for coffee there, saw the sign and promptly signed it, “And I never will,” and left.
Our tour ended in hangman’s square where we heard about the lady who was hanged but survived.
Reading the letter of the law it only stated ‘hung by the neck,’ nothing about til death so she was a free lady and opened a pub overlooking that very square where she almost died. Soon after the law was changed, “hung by the neck until death.”
I’d done a spot of research about the craft beer scene in the city and other than BrewDog, there was a small micro-brewery named, The Hanging Bat.
Very modern pub, pretty sure food was served on just thick, round cuts of wood, not plates.
Still they had some good beers here. I even recognized a couple of guys who worked at BrewDog having pints.
It was around end of work day time so the pub filled in with nicely dressed people. I still didn’t miss work, not yet.
Exiting the now full pub, I was in search of reasonably priced food. The Bat did have food, but it seemed like small bites, appetizers.
Ah here we go, a potato shop. Looks to be a brick oven of foiled, baked potatoes. There must have been 30 toppings from haggis, chicken salad, to standard cheese, butter, chives.
I got a potato with an ungodly amount of cheese, he just threw a literal handful of cheese on it. He may have been working with the Scottish dairy industry.
It was good and I was able to chat up the owner who told me some cool facts about the city, country. He really loved Scotland. He said Glasgow and the highlands to the north were worth a trip.
Soon enough, I’d take him up on his offer by going west, to Glasgow.
On my walk home, I again was struck by how cold it was, especially as the sun went down. 50’s in August is quite unusual for a Texas boy and I couldn’t image a winter if that was the avg temp in the heat of summer.
I caught a couple of performers on the walk back, and man, they really could vamp, promising an amazing trick, coming up soon, just need a few more people…
It was literally like sitting through a 10 min ad on YouTube for 20 seconds of content. I caught a fire breather show this night.
I was at my pub and tonight was their weekly pub crawl so it was very crowded. I was soon joined by some English kids at my table who were waiting to go on the crawl.
These types of things go on all the time and while they are usually great way to meet people, it was mainly a occassion to get black out drunk. Not my scene.
The organizers of the trip were setting up, one had a bottle and as each person was checked in, he poured a shot into their mouths. He had a spigot so it was a slow pour.
He soon came around to our table and got the English kids before asking me why I wasn’t going and I said it wasn’t my thing. He said I should at least have a shot, open wide!
I’m not sure what it was, maybe grape vodka, but I recall it was purple liquid.
Soon the place was empty and I sat charging my phone, watching fubol.
This bar had big windows with shutters that were open this cool night. A guy yelled hey at me and motioned for me to join him outside.
We talked a bit, I had taken to carrying a lighter so I lit his cig. Soon he said we should go next door for 1 more pint, on him.
No sooner than he set foot into the door, the bartender said “Oi, out, out, out mate. We can’t keep doing this,” as he strode over ready to physically remove the guy who just turned and left mumbling under his breath.
I’m not sure what he did but he was banned from that pub. The bartender apologized, I said I had just met him and didn’t know his story.
I had a pint as they were calling for last drinks. The bartender recommended I come back in a couple of nights, they had live, traditional music.
It was back to raining as I left the pub, at least I only had to go a couple of doors down.
Another fine day in Edinburgh! Tomorrow was Arthur’s Seat.
Beer: The Kernel Brewery Table Beer
Song: Jesus and Mary Chain Head On