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Edinburgh – Day 22, October 31, 2010

Today was again spent walking around the city on foot. A part of the area covered by the tour bus yesterday included a road called the Royal Mile, which I wanted to walk along. I didn’t walk the length of the road, but only a part that I thought was more accessible to me.

The weather again played in my favour and walking around didn’t feel tiring at all. I think Edinburgh could be a very nice place to live in, not least because it has a very interesting mixture of modern commercial outlets intermingled with classic architecture and monuments that serve to create a very special atmosphere. I walk here and can’t help but think that it must be similar in some ways to other major European cities in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, etc. where life and history have been coexist in a very appealing manner. No wonder they’re all so popular as tourist destinations.

I’m not quite sure of where I’m going tomorrow. I’ll sit down later in the evening and sift through the options list. I have been considering going to the Isle of Arran, said to be Scotland in miniature, but the ferry service from Ardrossan to Brodick seems to have been suspended for a day or so some time ago due to weather conditions. Seeing how the weather has been fine these last couple of days leads me to believe that worse is in store in the next few days, in which case the ferry service may be erratic, so I’ll have to investigate that a little more before I make up my mind.

StrandedMike

Edinburgh – Day 21, October 30, 2010

I caught up with a friend today and we spent the day taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour of some of the main attractions in Edinburgh including the Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum and Holyroodhouse Castle (not necessarily in that order, though). Some of the exhibits in the War Museum inside the Edinburgh Castle premises were fantastic, but not having enough stamina to look at everything closely meant that we didn’t spend a ton of time within the castle, even though the exhibits and views over the city were quite good. It was quite windy up there, not to mention chilly being a dry day, so we were both glad when we good out of there and got ourselves hot coffee at a café nearby.

Walking along the city streets had us pass by a Scot dressed in a full kilt, standing on a busy street corner playing his bagpipes, much to the joy of most passers-by, especially tourists who couldn’t get enough photographs of theirs taken with him, to which he would graciously agree.

The Scott monument in the city centre is extremely distinctive and stands out among all the other buildings, being a very different colour from them. I’m not sure whether the dark stone which the monument seems to have in abundance was a design choice or a result of many years of existence among the elements, but it sure does give a very strong presence to the structure, which means it is impossible to miss if it occupies any part of your vision while walking around the streets. A 3 pound entry fee allows you to climb to the top through a narrow spiral staircase in the middle of the monument, which again is always crowded, particularly at the topmost section where there is space for no more than eight to ten people at most.

Luckily the weather today remained good throughout and despite the cold winds blowing it was great to see Edinburgh (well, most of it’s most popular places) with the sun shining on it.

 

StrandedMike

Edinburgh – Day 20, October 29, 2010

I came to Edinburgh today and thankfully the Youth Hostel here wasn’t hard to locate. It was a short walk from the bus station. The hostel itself is quite a departure from the others I’ve stayed in so far, mostly up in the highlands. It’s much larger, has a huge number of rooms, and is open all day long. I’ve grown quite fond of these hostels, funnily, and I do believe they make it so much easier for someone on a budget to travel around a country such as Scotland in relative comfort and security.

I rested for a short while after checking into the hostel and then proceeded to take a walk on the streets of the city. The architecture is certainly distinctive and has elements such as the few cobbled streets, especially in the old town, that speak of days gone by. It’s also very crowded, and the whole place seems to have been overrun by people from out-of-town, looking to capture some of the enigma that Edinburgh, as the capital of Scotland, is associated with. I was admittedly one of them, although being alone allows me a certain degree of detachment from the whole process, while retaining the curiosity and willingness to explore.

Once again, having no fixed agenda or desire to only see the monuments, but rather giving into whatever I feel like doing at any point of time allowed me to catch a faint tune while I was taking a walk through the Princes Street Gardens. At first it seemed as if I was hearing things, because even as I stood at the same spot where I thought I had heard the sound, all I could make out was the wind ripping across the branches and leaves of the trees nearby along with the cackle of a group of youngsters chatting nearby. Just as I moved I heard the sound again, and this time I was sure I wasn’t imagining stuff. It sounded like a flute or a saxophone, and as I followed the notes over the air, I found this young fellow standing in the middle of the walkway in the park playing his instrument while resting on the railing besides him. I shall refrain from stating the instrument he was playing because, frankly, I don’t know and I didn’t ask him. All I know is that the music he was playing was extremely good, and seemed perfect for the late evening ambience that prevailed at the time.

I sat down close to where he was playing and stayed there for 15-20 minutes, while people crossing both ways stopped, listened for some time and then walked away, or paid no heed to the beautiful sounds being created by this young fellow and his instrument, and went on with their (rather loud at times) conversations and walked right past. His tunes were melodious and soulful, and he seemed to be quite proficient in his playing, as one who has spent years practicing their craft. The music I heard sitting there that evening was a great way to get introduced to the city on my first day there. It never ceases to surprise me how having music can alter the way we perceive the world around us at any given point in time, irrespective of our own mood or state of mind. It was great timing that I was there when he was playing, because as I later found out he wasn’t a regular there, but was only playing for a short while on his way to the west of Scotland where he would soon commence his new job. Thank you, Ano (I hope that’s how you spell your name) from France, for making my first evening in Edinburgh such a great one.

StrandedMike

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