Friday, March 11, 2011

Edinburgh: the rest

Poor Baby Jonah has ended up in our bed at some point in the night. I feel for him, because he wakes up in his pack n play and doesn't know where he is or what time it is. It's a good thing we have a King size bed, because Jonah has become a bed hog. We eventually just got up before him this day since he was taking up the whole bed:

On Wednesday Jonah and I took it easy because all the fun was catching up to us. We walked around a little and rested in the morning. Then we went to the Storyteller Center for lunch. They have a nice bookstore, a cafe, and a really nice storytime venue for telling traditional Scottish stories. Unfortunately, they only do storytime once a month so we didn't get to hear any stories. Jonah LOVED playing at their storyboard, though. And I loved letting him play while I ate my lunch! We learned about some new Scottish stories and got a few books!

Then we went to the Museum of Edinburgh, which was pretty small but interesting. They had a model of the city from the 1600s that showed how the city had this big wall around it with a gate letting you in on the main street that we are staying on. I had never noticed a wall, but I walked outside and sure enough, there one was! Goofy that I had to see it in a museum before I noticed the real thing. We went to the museum of childhood next, but it was kind of a tease. It was all these antique toys, but you couldn't play with any of them. It was like torture for a child. Plus, there was a whole room of dolls just staring at you with their creepy eyes so vamanos, we got out of there.

That night we went to eat at Browns to have an English meal. I had Shepherd's Pie for dinner. It was better than the one I make that I refer to as "cowboy pie" because I make it with ground beef. This one was made with lamb Yum-O. I had Sticky Toffee Pudding with Clotted Cream for dinner, which tasted like a sweet bran muffin with toffee sauce and sweet butter. It was good, too. That night there was a lady at the restaurant who kept staring at Jonah. She finally came over to tell us how lovely he was, and entertained him for several minutes while we finished our meal. He is just so irresistable. She came back later and offered to play with him while we had desert! He has so many admirers. We had already finished, but told her we could meet her for dinner the next day so she could play with him while we ate ;)

On Thursday morning Jonah and I went to the Parliament building. Scotland only just got their own Parliament in the late 1990s! Before that they had been under the English Parliament. They are so proud and really try to encourage people to be involved in their government. The Parliament is still required to defer to the English Parliament on some issues, like issues of defense, but can make decisions for most of Scotland's laws. The building is this goofy looking modern building that takes up a whole block. It's supposed to be shaped like a stem with leaves, and it looks sort of ridiculous. The weather was crazy that day! Between 9 and noon it had been sunny, rained, sunny, rained, hailed, and then sunny again. You cannot count on the weather here. That afternoon we met up with Katie and her boys again to go to a playgroup. Jonah needed to get out some energy and he had fun crawling all over the floor, getting run over by the big kids, and crawling over the babies. That evening when Ted got off, we all decided to climb to the top of Calton Hill. It's a steep climb to the top, with a nice view of the city. There are also several monuments on top that are cool looking.

Finally, Friday Jonah and I had to do laundry! Yuck and it took forever and wasted our morning. This afternoon we went to the Botanical Gardens. It was such a nice large green space. We had tea at the cafe there, which is the most kid-friendly restaurant ever. They even had a play area inside. When Ted got off work we brave d the bus system to go to Portobello, a small beach town on the North Sea. The bus was actually really easy and convenient. Portobello was a sweet little area with little kids playing all over the place. It seemed much more like a little family beach neighborhood. It was SO SO cold, I cannot even describe. Here is a picture of me and Jonah at the beach! I am freezing my tail off, but you will notice Jonah has a little Sauna. He is bundled well, but he has a rain cover over his stroller that keeps out the wind and keeps him nice and toasty warm.

Tomorrow we are leaving Edinburgh to drive north through the Highlands to Loch Ness! Hopefully we will see a monster!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Edinburgh day 4, part 2

My last post I finished while Jonah was taking his afternoon nap, but we have been busy this afternoon. We took the afternoon to go to Holyrood Palace, which is the official residence of the Queen when she visits Scotland. She comes in the summer (smart move) so the palace is open for visitors when she's not in residence. The palace was built in the 1300s, and I'm not really sure why because they had the castle just a mile up the street. I guess you need a palace too, when you're a King. The Monarchs of Scotland have been in and out since, depending on who was in power and who was kicked out. Now it's used by the Queen and other foreign visitors who are conducting state business. It reminded me of Versailles, all old fashioned and stuffy looking, so it was hard to imagine that it is actually a functioning palace some of the year. There was a throne room where the Queen actually sits to conduct official business. The chair was just a big arm chair, not really like a throne.
You're not allowed to take pictures inside, so here is one I found online:

The gardens outside are big and beautiful, but you're not allowed to go out on them during the winter. In July, the Queen actually has a huge garden party with 3000 guests.

Also on site are the ruins of an Abbey that was torn down by a Protestant mob in the 1600s. It was really breathtaking. The weather had been rainy and drizzly this afternoon, and made the ruins seem quiet and lonely. You could even see the gravemarkers for some of the kings.

When Ted got back we went to dinner at The Elephant House, which is a little cafe that JK Rowling used to sit and write at when she was first writing Harry Potter. I read many times that she used to sit with her infant daughter in a stroller. It was a cute cafe with a great view of the castle. I could imagine her sitting there writing about Hogwarts and looking at the castle.

The bathroom graffiti was awesome! I wish I had taken my camera in there! At the top of the door said "Dumbledore's Army" with a huge list of names. There were quotes from the books and notes to JK Rowling all over the door. Pretty much the best bathroom graffiti ever.

Day 4 in Edinburgh

Oh my word it was so cold today! The wind was freezing us! Jonah and I went to Edinburgh Castle today after his morning nap. It was so interesting! The castle is on the top of the hill at the beginning of the street. Jonah and I took the free tour to learn all about the castle and its origins, so here is your Scottish history lesson for the day! (mostly for me so I will remember our trip)

The castle was built on the top of a hill in the 12th century by the Scottish King Malcolm (I cannot keep all these kings straight!) This king is the son of the Malcolm who killed Macbeth, and who the play of MacBeth is based on. The English took it in the 13th century, but it was reclaimed by King Edward. He recognized that he couldn't hold it from the English so he burned the whole thing down so they couldn't have it! It was rebuilt in the 1300s with only the chapel of the original structure remaining. The crown jewels are kept in the Castle, which was really cool but kind of pale in comparison to the English crown jewels, no offense. The history is interesting though. The crown jewels are believed to date back to the 800s when they crowned the first Scottish king and contain the crown, the scepter, and the sword, but the current ones are from the 1500s (still the oldest crown jewels in Britain). The "Honours of Scotland" also includes the Stone of Scone, which is just a big rock that the new King used to sit on to get coronated. Some people say it is the stone of Jacob, from the bible. I see why the Scots hate those English, though. In the 1200s, the English took the stone and kept it in Westminster Abbey under the throne to symbolize that they were powerful over Scotland. Can you imagine? That's like if the British took the Declaration of Independence and put it under the throne to say they were still powerful over America. The stone was only returned to Scotland in 1996 by Queen Elizabeth, who I guess figured she might as well let them have their rock back if it was so important.

The jewels stayed at the castle until they were smuggled out in the 1600s to protect them from Oliver Cromwell. They were finally returned in the early 1700s when it was decided that Scotland was under English rule and part of the UK. The crown goes to open Parliament when Queen Elizabeth is in town. I suppose they actually belong to her now, although the Scots are adament that the crown jewels stay in Scotland. I feel like they are saying, "Okay you can pretend like they are yours if it makes you happy, but they are staying here."

The Castle also contains a barracks where the prisoners of the "American war of Independence" were kept. It took me a while to realize that the Castle would have been under British control at that point in our history! We were fighting for our Independence from the English, and Scotland had tried and won and tried and failed many times already. All the dates for the end of British reign over America were 1781, when the British officially released control over America. I thought that was funny because we learn in school the date 1776, when the Decleration of Independence was signed and we declared our own independence. I thought it was funny how we learn 2 seperate dates depending on how we look at it.

Sadly no pictures because I forgot my camera. I know! I'm not used to it, usually Ted takes the pictures but he was stuck in some classroom somewhere. But probably warm, though.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 3 in Edinburgh

Jonah had a rough night so we slept in and got up after Ted left for class this morning. We had a couple of errands to run, like go to the pharmacy to buy diapers (nappies as they say). Then Jonah and I went to the National Museum of Scotland. I like to do that museum first and get some background history on the place I'm visiting. It was really cool and interesting, and baby friendly. I could have brought the stroller, but I just carried Jonah in his carrier.

The museum went through the history of the Scottish people. It seems like from the earliest history Scotland has been all about keeping other people from taking over! No wonder everything is about Freedom. The Roman Empire tried to take over, but they actually failed because it was too far away. There was a school group of 7 or 8 year olds and one of the museum guides was giving them an interactive lesson on gladiators. It was so funny, and they were really cute. They were so genuine and interested, I wonder if children in the US would have been like that in a group of their peers.

The next section was about the different people who settled in Scotland to become the Scots: the Picts, the Anglo-Saxons, the Scots, Vikings...that's all I remember. They all lived together and conquered each other to become the Scottish people. The Gaelic culture emerged in the north and the islands and developed a lot of art and music. The museum had a small harp that the Gaelic people played, it was one of my favorite things.

Pretty soon, England started trying to take over and never stopped. The museum had relics from William Wallace (Braveheart) who tried to fight of those English guys but failed. It also had a guillotine that beheaded people on the middle of the main street that we are staying on. There was a section on the reformation that talked about how the Kings of Scotland would pretty much decide what the religion of the day was. The people supported Protestant queens and kings, and when one of the Kings made the Episcopal bishops rulers of the church the Scottish Presbyterians had to meet in secret and wear masks. in the 1700s, the English took over and made the English Parliament rule over both Scotland and England, with a Parliament in Scotland. I think the Scottish people are still obsessed with freedom from England, though. We were talking to a guy at the hotel who was asking us about New Orleans, ans he asked us if the people in New Orleans and the surrounding areas wanted independence from America!

We went back to the hotel to take a little nap and give Jonah a break, because then we were going to have tea with Katie! Katie is a friend of a friend of mine and she has been giving me lots of tips about traveling in Edinburgh. She is an American living here with her husband and 2 little boys. Jonah loved getting to play with them! And we both loved getting to see her little Edinburgh flat and hang out with our new friends!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Edinburgh Day 1 and 2

We made it to Scotland! It was a bumpy ride but we are here more or less. We left New Orleans Friday morning to go to houston and then Newark International Airport. Those flights went well! Then we left Newark for Edinburgh. We thought Jonah would sleep through because it was his bed time, but there was too much going on! That was a rough flight and we were all sleep deprived when we got here, but knew we couldn't just sleep or we would be in trouble. We arrived Saturday morning and toughed it out by walking around for the day.

Saturday we walked along the Royal Mile, which is the stretch of street between the Queen's Palace and the Castle of Edinburgh. We plan to go to both at some point. Our hotel is right on the mile, and it's so nice because we can stop in and give Jonah a break whenever we need to. We went to a shop that sells tartan paraphenalia from the different Scottish clans. Ted claims his family is from the Cochrane clan, although I fell asleep when he was telling me the story of how he knows this. Because I was jetlagged, not because it was boring. Probably. This shop has all kinds of stuff with the Cochrane crest and tartan on it. It also has weaving looms where they make the fabric for kilts! We went to bed early so we could be ready for the next day!

Today we woke up early and had a traditional Scottish breakfast. It's pretty much just bacon and eggs, but they do have 'haggis' which is like a meat and veggie patty. Ted had some but I am not adventurous at breakfast so I passed. We went to Hollyrood park. It used to be a volcano, but is now a great green space with hills and ponds. We weren't able to go far because we had the stroller and a lot of it was unpaved, but we plan to go again for a little hike if we have a chance. Then we went to church at the High Kirk of Scotland. It is supposed to be the birthplace of the Scottish Presbyterian church. Let me tell you, you pay so much more attention to the Sermon when the pastor has a Scottish accent. I felt like I was in Brigadoon. I was worried about taking Jonah into such a formal church, but he did well and everyone loved him. I went to stand in the back because he was talking and one older lady said "Don't take him out, he's lovely!" :) Fooled another one!

We had lunch at the cafe and it was my favorite meal so far. Everyone here drinks coffee at lunch, so I had coffee and ham and cheese sandwich. So weird, no one would ever do that at home. This afternoon we went to the Scotch Whisky Experience to see how they make Scotch and have a taste. I learned a lot, including that Scotch is pretty disgusting and I can't think of a thing that would make it palatable. We learned they make Scotch by cooking down Barley and mixing it with water to ferment. Then they add yeast, distill it and voila, a drink that burns like you're drinking a match. They don't actually have a distillery, but they had a fun little ride that goes through how they make scotch. It was fun, and Jonah loved it. The we went to the tasting room to learn about the 4 regions they make Scotch: the Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside, and Islay. Each region makes Scotch that has a different flavor. They also make blends. I tasted a blended Scotch because it is supposed to be milder. Well I would hate to taste a bolder one. I took several sips, but I just couldn't finish it. Ted finished his, mine, and tasted 4 other ones. He used to chug Tobasco, so I'm not surprised.

Fun Scotch facts we learned!
Scotch is Whisky made in Scotland, while Bourbon Whisky is made in Kentucky. I wonder if you could make Scotch sauce and put it on bread pudding and maybe then I could palate Scotch.

Scotch gets its flavor from the soil and from the barrels it ages in, like wine. It evaporates as it stays in the barrels, with 40% evaporating after 25 years. Thus why aged Scotch is more expensive.

In the 1800s, Scotland made it illegal to distill alcohol without a permit, just like in America.

During Prohibition, people in the US couldn't get American Whisky. It was much easier to get Scotch, so it spread to America.

This place also is residence to the larges Scotch collection in the world, over 3,000 bottles. They were all unopened. That guy has a weird philosophy on life. I just wanted to go take a swig out of those bottles on principle. And hate every minute of it. Blech.

The Royal Mile

The Park

Me and Jonah with all those bottles of expensive unopened Scotch.

Me and Jonah playing at the kids area of the Scotch Experience.