Saturday, September 17, 2016

Good Afternoon, Ediburgh! (Edinburgh, Part II): UK 2016 Post 9.5

Edinburgh, Part II

Walking down the historic Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace is a walk through its history. Between touristy kitschy shops selling tartan hats with fake hair attached to them you find centuries old pubs, dark and ominous looking alleys called closes that once housed gardens and livestock, churches, and the Scottish Parliment building. It was really hard to imagine that in the 17th century there were 70,000 people living in the vicinity of the Royal Mile in crowded, and in most cases squalid conditions with some buildings reaching 14 stories high. Gone were the charming wood structures and gardens of Medieval Edinburgh, which was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1544 in a not so subtle show of power. Today it feels quaint again, without a high rise in sight, restored and remodeled in the 1880's by Patrick Geddes- inspired by the Royal Mile of 500 years earlier. You can still see today why King David I established the Royal Mile and remodeled the existing hill fort in 1124- it feels like the center of the world, high up on the once active volcano, with an uninterrupted view for miles around- a natural place to put down roots.

Looking down the Royal Mile in the evening

Kilted man outside the Scottish Parliment

Above and below: entrance to Scottish Parliment

I started to have my doubts as we made our way down the slope that is the Royal Mile that The Palace of Holyroodhouse was really there. I thought for sure we'd see it well before we actually got to it- how can you hide a palace from view? Well, my friends you can. You don't see the actual palace until you've entered the gates, it is not seen from the street. After you pass through the stone arch of the gatehouse off of Horse Wynd street and stroll down the Abbey Strand you find yourself in a large courtyard called the forecourt. Behind you is a statue of Edward VII (son of Queen Victoria) erected in 1922 by George V., but most striking besides the palace itself is the 19th century Victorian Forecourt fountain by Robert Matheson. It's mini gothic looking spires, intricate carvings and details are impressive. I learned later that it is a replica of the 17th century fountain at Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots and the earliest surviving Scottish royal palace.

Walking towards the gatehouse entrance next to the Queen's Gallery at Holyroodhouse

Statue of Edward VII in the Forecourt

In the Forecourt of Holyroodhouse.

The fountain

Clearer view of the fountain with Arthur's Seat in the background 

Entrance to Inner Court

Above and below: Inner Court

In 1501 the royal residence was built on the site of a guesthouse belonging to Holyrood Abbey, built and established in 1128 by King David I. The ruins of this Abbey can be wandered through at your leisure, but first I recommend touring the actual palace. The palace is the official residence of the monarch in Scotland but what interested me most and the purpose for taking the time to tour the structure is its connection to Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary occupied the royal apartments in the north-west tower from 1561 to 1567, when she was forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son, the future King James VI (later James I of England). It was in these private apartments that she witnessed the murder of her private secretary David Rizzio by her jealous husband, Lord Darnley. You can tour these untouched apartments and see the very nook, called her supper chamber,  where she sat at dinner with Rizzio and four other courtiers moments before he was dragged away from her table and stabbed 56 times in the adjoining chamber (his blood stains are still visible on the floor in the room where his body lain).   History comes alive in places like this. The narrow, winding "secret" staircase leading to her chambers, her bed in an ornate room, her cozy prayer niche, the glorious warm wood paneling of her outer chamber, these are the places that felt most intimate and real. The rest of the palace is sumptuous but I found it quite cold. It doesn't feel like the kind of place you can sit next to a fire and read a good book in.  Touring Mary's apartments was the highlight for me and worth every penny of the admission. Of course there were no photos allowed but you can do a quick Google search to see the interior of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and of Mary's rooms in the palace.

We exited the James V tower and entered the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. Partially in use until the 17th century it was left to fall completely to ruin in the 18th century after a storm in 1768 caused the roof to collapse. It has been proposed several times over the ensuing 2 centuries to restore the abbey but so far that has not happened and I would assume it won't. There is something quite beautiful about a ruined abbey, and being able to wander around the roofless nave with only one or two other people present was something special.  

Looking back towards Holyrood Abbey and our only real bit of blue sky that day.

Leaving Holyrood Abbey

Looking at the ruins of this once great abbey

After leaving the abbey ruins you find yourself back in the Forecourt area and at the entrance to the gardens. Unfortunately for us the gardens on the grounds weren't open for the season yet, so we couldn't wander the paths. If you've been following along with my UK blog posts then you'll know that I've mentioned before the pros and cons of off season travel. The biggest "pro" and the reason we do it time and time again is that places aren't as crowded. I've had whole abbeys and castles to myself, not another tourist in sight, I've sat in tiny chapels next to the ghosts of memories of kings and queens completely alone, and read centuries old illuminated manuscripts with only my husband at my elbow. The "con" of off season travel is of course weather that is less than ideal and places being closed or closing quite early. You have to weigh what is more important to you when you travel but my husband and I prefer less crowds and cheaper accommodations at the expense of closed gardens and the ocassional grand house not accepting early visitors. While I was upset to miss Alnwick Castle a few days earlier, being alone in the ruins of Holyrood Abbey made up for it. 

We still had to bulk of the day in Edinburgh to explore but at this point it was nearing lunch time and we were ready to eat. I'd love to say we picked a local restaurant or pub to calm our appetites but in the end we found ourselves at a Starbucks. Of course this was my doing. I wanted a coffee and a bathroom in whichever order I could get them in. Public restrooms are hard to find in Europe unless you are at a tourist spot or train station and once you've left that location, good luck! Your best bet are cafes and restaurants and those don't come free. So we plopped ourselves down with coffees, sandwiches and the all important bathroom code on the receipt. One of the things I really liked about Edinburgh is that a lot of the businesses were actually not at street level. Quite a few cafes we went into were on what we would call the 2nd floor, but in Europe is referred to as the 1st floor. This gave you lovely views as you sipped your beverage and ate your food. This particular Starbucks (Edinburgh Royal Mile) took up both the ground floor and 1st floor (2nd floor in the US). You order on the ground floor and then go upstairs to get a lovely view of The Royal Mile below.  We enjoyed our sandwiches and planned out the rest of our day in Edinburgh. 

Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse were the only things that I knew without a doubt that I didn't want to miss while in the city of Edinburgh. I also planned on buying a pair of Dr Martens boots as my souvenir, so that was on the list of things I wanted to do while there. Lucky for me there is a big Dr Martens store right on Princes Street, (... And, unlucky for me they were out of my size in the shoes I wanted- cue sad trumpet sound...)

The World's End pub

We left The Royal Mile, but not for the last time that day, and made our way back across the North Bridge to Princes Street, where the action is. We walked up and down Princes Street so many times that day. Stopping to listen to bagpipers on the corner, taking in the huge monument to Sir Walter Scott, dodging busy city dwellers, and coffee- always more coffee.

Old town Edinburgh with the Castle in the background

Princes Street, monument to Sir Walter Scott on the left

The spires of the monument to Sir Walter Scott can be seen from just about everywhere.

 As I've stated in an earlier post, I was a tea drinker on this trip- you can't be married to a native Yorkshireman who hasn't had a proper cuppa in 7 years and not drink pot after pot of tea in these two weeks, but Edinburgh was different- I needed the coffee to keep me going, we got up so early and had to be on the go, go, go until 9pm. Somewhere during our repeat treks up and down Princes Street we went into a Starbucks that arguably must have the best view of any Starbucks. Right there on Princes Street one level up from the road itself was a beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle seen through beautifully ornate huge windows. I also had a funny interaction with the Italian barista who took my order which made it all the more memorable. He was such a cliche with the thick accent and flirtations, telling me I was a beautiful lady with a beautiful name. In over exaggerated motions he wrote my name on my cup with an extra flourish of dots and swirls. Seeing as he was in his early 20's I'd take the compliments and run with them, pretending that he didn't say that to all the ladies.     

The view of Edinburgh Castle from the Princes Street Starbucks

We sat and enjoyed the view in delightfully oversized chairs, sipping coffee, and gleefully using the free wi-if. We planned to watch a movie to break up our day a bit since we still had hours before we had to catch the train so we checked out our options and took screenshots of the maps we found. It's a bit easier these days to not stand out like a tourist with a big paper city map in hand. We could discreetly blend in looking at our smartphones just like everyone else. I can't remember if I mentioned this before but I did definitely notice that Britons are not as enthralled with their smartphones as Americans are. They do definitely use them, but I didn't see a single person take a photo of their food in a restaurant, their lattes in a cafe, or take selfies. It was quite nice to see people having conversations, look ahead while they walked down a sidewalk and not texting while driving. I'm sure all of our bad habits have been imported but I just didn't see it the way that I do at home.  Although, while they may not be as distracted by technology they are naughty little litterbugs, so we all have our faults.  

I'll keep this next part brief as there is probably nothing more boring than hearing someone yammer on about walking down a street and going to a movie theater. This is what I will say: it is very expensive to go to the movies in Edinburgh. Actually it's probably expensive in any city, but wow, it's really expensive there. We went to the Vue Cinemas inside the Omni Centre, saw the prices and walked right back out. We had to weigh what we would rather spend the money on: movie tickets or entrance fees to a historic site. I for one will vote historic site each time, so off we went and left the Cinema in our rear view mirror. 

Looking up the Playfair Steps to New College in Old Town Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Looking back towards New College

Our next stop was the Scottish National Gallery. No matter how many times I've seen masters like Rembrandt and Raphael in person I still find myself in awe at their work. The artwork is beautiful to look at but I'm most interested in getting as close as possible to see the brush strokes and colors close up. I imagine the painting process and how I might replicate it. The great thing about being an artist married to a fellow artist is that we can both get lost in the art and not have to worry about the other getting restless or bored. We admire very different artist and different styles so we're not often entranced by the same works but we can understand the need to stare for long periods and take it all in. If you get the opportunity to see a Rembrandt up close and personal do yourself a favor and get in close- it will be flawless, I promise you. 

We wandered quite a bit at this point. There are really only two things I regret not seeing/doing while in Edinburgh upon reflection: Arthur's Seat and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It was way too cold to hike Arthur's Seat and I'm embarrassed to say that I mistook the Prince Street Gardens for the Royal Botanic Garden because I just wasn't paying attention- and they closed literally as we walked up. I didn't even bother to properly check the sign so there were with time on our hands and only 1.5 miles from the actual botanical gardens. One of these days I will actually check a giant Victorian conservatory off of my bucket list. I'll bring a bedroll, a pillow and just settle in. It just might have to be the Palm House at Kew Gardens. Future trip!

Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Gallery lit up at night

We finished out our day eating deliciously naughty Cornish pasties full of mashed potatoes and cheese in the train station. By this time we had walked 17 miles (tracked with my trusty Fitbit) and were tired but surprisingly not achingly so. It never fails that at some point during a long day out in a city Daniel will inadvertently attract the attention of someone who has seen better days, and this day was no exception. I think his kind nature shines like a beacon to those who society shuns. My husband is incredibly generous and will give you the shirt off his back and his last dollar. It's put him in some real sticky situations in the past and makes me very wary. So, there we were like sitting ducks in a semi crowded train station eating pasties when a very, very drunk early 30 something man who was definitely down on his luck planted himself in the empty chair next to Daniel. He proceeded to talk Daniel's ear off, spill his pint of beer and play us some music on his portable boom box (they still make those?!) all the while getting more and more agitated. I had to draw the line when he stood up and was essentially looming over me while I sat and he ranted about various things. He was finally distracted enough that we could make a hasty exit without upsetting him. It was really sad to see- he wasn't that old to be so down on his luck. I suspect he was a nice lad when sober- I wish they'd cut him off a few pints earlier. Daniel never feels threatened in those situations, he's over 6 ft tall and knows how to defend himself, but me on the other hand always feels vulnerable and freaked out. I suppose we balance each other out. He keeps me from yelping at every shadow and I keep him from just walking down dark alleyways. City mouse and country mouse got married. 

The train back to Berick-upon-Tweed was uneventful and we found ourselves back at the Country House Hotel without incident and grateful for a warm bed. We had done our Northern adventures and now it was time to make our way South.

*for videos from our day in Edinburgh please view Cheer Up Old Bean Facebook page HERE

Friday, September 16, 2016

Good Morning, Edinburgh! (Edinburgh, Part I): UK 2016 Post 9

Getting up before the sun is not my idea of a good morning but when you have a date with your 22nd Great Grandfather you get up with a smile gosh darn it and apply some make up! The night before we had let the reception desk know that we wouldn't be making breakfast as we were leaving before breakfast was to be served. They were kind enough to pack us a sack lunch/breakfast to take with us on the train, which was such a nice added touch and very welcome. 

The station at Berwick-Upon-Tweed opened in 1847 on the grounds of the derelict Great Hall of Berwick Castle which was demolished to make way for the railway station. The railway platforms now stands where King Edward took an oath of allegiance from Scottish nobility in 1296. Only in Europe would you be waiting for a train at a station that stands on such historic grounds and not blink an eye at it. 

The remains of Berwick Castle across from the railway platform.

We arrived at the station around 6:45 am for a 7:18 am departure. It was a cold morning but we were ready with hats and scarves. We were prepared for a long day of walking in Edinburgh. Our tickets were the cheapest day trip tickets we could get which meant that the times were odd. We were due to arrive in Edinburgh at 8:07am, an hour and a half before Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse opened which meant we would have a lot of time to kill when we arrived. 

Our train coming in to the station.

Our train left the station right on time and we settled in for our 49 minute journey.  One thing I couldn't get used to while on this trip is the lack of personal space in the UK. I'm so used to space in the United States, as well as the fact that I feel like Americans have an unspoken personal space rule where we don't stand too close to one another. I don't feel like this was the case in the UK (or in Europe in my experience). You sit next to strangers, pretending that your legs aren't touching, you crowd together in queues, and eat your food nearly touching elbows with your neighbors. This was not more true than sitting on the train at a table across from a complete stranger, our knees practically touching. It's a good thing I hadn't planned on using the table myself as he had his laptop, breakfast and morning paper strewn all over it. He spent a good part of the journey on the phone to a colleague and we pretended not to be directly facing one another.  It was awkward at best, but at the same time I think it was only me feeling awkward. I looked around and nearly everyone was sitting closely to a stranger and most people had on headphones or a nose in a book that very much screamed, "Don't talk to me!", which honestly I would have been doing too if I wasn't sitting right next to my husband and didn't need to put up an imaginary wall. I suppose it's something that you just get used to and I suspect Europeans don't even notice it.

About 20 minutes into our journey I had a sudden jolt and realized that we hadn't done our pay and display parking ticket back in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The whole point of our weird train times was to avoid an overly expensive day and here we'd left one of the most important things out. I turned to Daniel, looking pretty ashen (I told you I can take things from 0-60 in a second- mountains out of mole hills, people!), and told him my revelation. Normally Daniel is pretty cool and collected but this had him jumping to my level of anxiety. The thing we were most worried about wasn't a fine but the fact that our rental car might get a boot. We don't have them where I live but apparently larger cities in the US and in the UK use them- instead of your car getting towed or ticketed your car gets a large yellow clamp that locks on a car's wheel, immobilizing it until you pay to have it removed. We didn't fancy the idea of having to figure that out at 10pm when our train was due back at Berwick-upon-Tweed's station. Also, we didn't have a working mobile phone and much like in the US, pay phones have all but disappeared in the UK, so we would have had no way to call to pay the fine and have the boot removed. So, that was our dilemma as our train sped further and further away from said car and the reason for our anxiety. We spent the remainder of the train journey stressing out and wondering what we should do.

When we arrived at Edinburgh Waverley station we alighted our train and went in search of a pay phone. We were able to get the phone number for the station at Berwick-upon-Tweed on the train while we had limited access to wifi and now we just needed to find a phone to call and hopefully pay our parking over the phone. Try asking if there is a pay phone in 2016, you get some really odd looks and people searching their memories. We were directed outside the station by an employee and felt relief when we saw it. Whew this would be easy. Not so fast. We opened the door to the phone box and there was the receiver dangling from the phone and cracked in half. Back into the station we went in search of another phone. It took us nearly an hour to get the situation resolved and it was only with the help of the kindest women at the information desk that we finally got it worked out. She let us use her personal mobile phone and even called around for us to make sure we had the correct phone numbers to call. 3 separate phone calls later and we paid for our parking over the phone, avoiding fines and wheel clamps! Alison Weir, you're our hero! (And yes, I contacted her superiors to tell them how awesome she was!)

The lovely Alison Weir, our savior that morning in the bright orange coat

With that situation finally resolved I decided I was in desperate need of a latte. I had been a tea drinker pretty exclusively up until this point but knowing that we had 13 hours of wandering the city ahead of us, caffeine of the coffee variety was in order. I walked into Costa Coffee in the station and ordered a soy latte. At the register was a girl in the early 20's that just didn't sound like she was speaking English.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned in previous blog posts, but I don't have full hearing in my right ear. It's an occupational hazard of almost 2 decades of doing hair so I had been nervous about being able to understand the people of Scotland. This was my worst nightmare come to life (okay slight exaggeration but I feared this would happen), there I was alone without Daniel to interpret and I had no idea what this girl had said. I said, "Pardon?" She repeated herself and again it sounded like a foreign language. Honestly this had nothing to do with my hearing problem and everything to do with how she was speaking the English language. Her accent was so heavy and she was speaking so quickly I don't think a person with full hearing would have understood her either. So what does one do in this situation? You just smile and say, "Yes." She then said (which I heard perfectly) "That'll cost extra." I just said, "that's fine" and wondered what I'd just agreed to. You know what? That was the best damn latte I've ever had! I have NO idea what I really ordered because I don't know what I added on that cost extra. I told Daniel what had happened as I sipped my delicious coffee and he said that she must be from Glasgow, as apparently Glaswegians are known for their strong accents. I was afraid it was a sign of things to come for the day but thankfully I had no problem hearing or understanding anyone else I encountered in Edinburgh.

Bagpiper on the Royal Mile as you walk towards Edinburgh Castle.

St. Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile

Misty and cold as we approached Edinburgh Castle

Feeling properly caffeinated and much lighter, we left the station in search of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. Our little parking fiasco ate up a good amount of time that morning so we actually didn't have to kill too much time waiting for Edinburgh Castle to open. As we lined up to get tickets I spied the statue of my ancestor Robert the Bruce. I had been anxiously waiting to see the statue and have my picture taken in front of it. I know that's a totally nerdy and touristy thing to do but as an amateur genealogist this was a big moment to me. The statue is modern but what was important to me was what it represented.  Pretty cool moment for me.

Lining up to get in. Statues of King Robert the Bruce (left) and Sir William Wallace "Braveheart" (right) at the  entrance

Great (x's 22) Grandfather Robert the Bruce. 

The ultimate tourist. I didn't care who stared, I had to get this photo!

We took a guided tour of the castle which is about 30 minutes long and then you're let loose to explore on your own. The guided tour was really helpful to get the feel for the castle grounds. There is so much history and more than one structure on site so it was nice to get our bearings through the tour. Ewan, our tour guide, had a lovely Edinburgh accent that was a joy to listen to. It made the tour that much more enjoyable. Our tour wrapped up in Crown Square which is surrounded by some of the most important buildings at the castle. We chose to go into the Great Hall first. Completed in 1512 the bright red room has hosted royal banquets, been barracks for soldiers, a military hospital, and undergone Victorian restoration. Fortunately for us the hammerbeam roof is the original, made from wood imported from Norway. Scientific analysis has shown that the oak timbers were felled in 1510 and then shipped to Edinburgh. I can't even explain how beautiful this ceiling was in person.  I did my best to get photos that would show the detail and magnificence of this room and the ceiling, it was such an impressive start to Edinburgh.

Walking up to the Portcullis Gate.

Looking back at the entrance 

Following our guide Ewan on the Argyle Battery

Above and below: walking up to Foog's Gate

Crown Square, looking at the entrance to The Scottish National War Memorial.

The oak hammerbeam roof of the Great Hall.

The red of these walls was gloriously bright. 

Detail of the hammerbeam roof

This photo is blurry, but it's the only one I took of the thistle stone corbel, one of many Renaissance designs on the corbels

Pistols on display in the Great Hall.

After the Great Hall we made our way over to the Royal Palace, birthplace of King James VI, son of Mary, Queen of Scots. As we crossed the Crown Square a group of small schoolchildren were milling about in their darling uniforms. I was in utter shock as I stood freezing and I mean freezing my friends and these young children were in shorts and knee socks! I turned to Daniel and told him that I couldn't believe that I was shivering and they had bare knees. His answer? They're hardy natives. Guess I'm just a wimpy California girl (although Daniel my native Yorkshireman was also freezing, I've decided that children just feel no pain).

Besides housing the birth chamber of King James VI, The Royal Palace contains the Honours of Scotland- the Crown, Sceptre, and Sword of State. As you make your way to the exhibit you pass by exact replicas of the Honours. This allows you to get a close up view as well as touch them. We were paraded passed the real things and encouraged to keep moving along. They don't want you standing there too long. Fortunately for us it wasn't too terribly crowded so I got a really good view of the real jewels.   The Honours have an interesting history. They were created during the reigns of James IV and James V and used all together for the first time in 1543 for Mary, Queen of Scots coronation. Between 1651 and 1660 they lay hidden and buried at a castle and then a church, concealed from the hands of Oliver Cromwell. In 1707 after the Treaty of Union they were locked away in the Crown Room and forgotten until Sir Walter Scott discovered them again in 1818.  He broke open the oak box the Honours has spent 111 years hidden in, finding them them exactly as they had been left. Of course no photos were allowed of the real Honours but if you do a google search they'll come right up.

Above and below: bust of Mary, Queen of Scots

Panel commemorating the birth of James VI in 1566 in the Birthchamber.

Laich Hall

Also hanging out in the Royal Palace with the Honours is the stone called Scone, the Stone of Destiny. This nondescript block of stone belies its importance to Scottish history and the crowning of its Kings. This ancient piece of sandstone was so vital to the leadership of Scotland that it was taken as part of the spoils of war along with holy relics and the Scottish royal regalia by England's King Edward I in 1296. He took it for the purpose of having it fitted in a wooden chair and placed in Westminster Abbey where subsequent Kings of England would be crowned on it for the next 6 centuries. The stone was returned to its rightful place in Scotland on the 600th anniversary of it's removal.

We took a walk through the Scottish National War Memorial before heading into the tiny St. Margaret's Chapel. The oldest building in the castle as well as in Edinburgh, it was built around 1130 by King David I as a private royal chapel, dedicated to his mother, Queen Margaret, who later became a Saint. She died at the castle in 1093, only days after learning that her husband Malcolm III and their eldest son Edward were killed in an ambush near Alnwick Castle. This building was the only left standing when in 1314, King Robert Bruce (hey, Great-Grandad, hey!), ordered the castle to be destroyed beyond use for the English. The chapel was left untouched in reverence to Saint Margaret. It was such a lovely, intimate space to be in. I can imagine it wouldn't be on the top of the list of places to go inside on a busy day, as there wasn't much space to move in but on this sleepy March morning it was just right. Beautiful 20th century stained glass windows fit right in with the 12th century chevroned arch. In doing research for this post I found out that you can get married in St. Margaret's Chapel (as well as other sites at the castle). I wish I would have known about this 8 years ago when Daniel and I got married. I would have jumped at the chance for a ceremony in that sweet chapel. I told him we should renew our vows there and I just got a "I'm humoring you" nod, so I don't think that will happen. 

Exterior or St. Margaret's Chapel

Entrance to the chapel

The tiny chapel

The chevroned arch separating the nave from the chancel.

Stained glass window of St. Columba

Above and below: Stained Glass window of St Margaret

I reluctantly left the little chapel that was quickly filling up with people and we made our way over to the Military Prison, through the Regimental Museums, and the National War Muesum. I'm not interested in military history but there were lots of fascinating things to look at and I enjoyed exploring these places and exhibits. 

The recreated dormitories where prisoners of war slept

The bronze statue of Field Marshall Earl Haig, opposite the entrance to the National War Museum

The Dog Cemetery. Since 1840 it has served as the burial place for regimental mascots and soldiers' pet dogs.

Deciding we had explored all we could in the tight spaces of the castle we left the throngs of tourist behind to hunt down the most touristy of items: Clan tarten merchandise. I was on the hunt for Clan MacGregor and Clan Bruce scarves. Let me tell you how hard it is to find a scarf not made out of wool in Scotland. I am highly sensitive to wool, wearing it it feels like prickly pins that have been on hot coals- needless to say I can feel even the smallest percentage of wool in fabrics so I can't even wear a blend. I seem to be able to tolerate most cashmere garments (which is from goats and not sheep) but of course it is quite expensive. I didn't fancy paying over $100 for a scarf, even if it was beautiful and the appropriate clan tartan, so I settled on leather key chains after much searching and lots of dodging of "helpful" employees. 

With keychains tucked away we wandered down the Royal Mile leaving Edinburgh Castle in our rear view. Our next destination for the day was The Palace of Holyroodhouse.

(End Part I... Part II is on its way!)