Interludium: Dùn Eideann – part two

Another belated entry. Saving the galaxy from the Collectors is time-demanding business, and throw in a cranky FACS instrument, some memory B cells which hold the right to remain exclusive and a bunch of utterly suicidal angst-ball germinal centre cells on top of it all, and you have a representative overview of the things which keep me preoccupied these days.

Wednesday:

After a day of typical “tourist stuff” we had another marvelous breakfast at the Bield – a pleasantly lengthy affair as we were getting to know two German ladies staying at the B&B as well. Talking to them was lots of fun, and it was almost noon before we managed to get to the city centre once more. Despite setting a pretty vast scope concerning objectives to cover during our five-day stay, we realized that we didn’t really have any plans for Odin’s Day.

First stop: Barad Dûr!

A partly burned out building which reminded me remarkably about a certain dark tower…

After criss-crossing through charming little alleyways appearing out of nowhere, we headed for a quick visit to the Scottish national gallery – can’t get neglect the chance to admire some art! Photography wasn’t allowed inside, which isn’t to say there were no pictures taken at any point, which isn’t to say mr. Boyfriend got never got caught taking said pictures, which isn’t to say he was being entirely honest when he sweetly told the guard he had deleted them all.

Beware of the dramatic chip-Lise!

Wednesday’s adventures continued with further exploration of the Royal Mile and some mandatory shopping ranging from whisky to hats to cheeses. And Crabbie’s, of course. Words cannot describe how much I fell in love with that drink. The ginger beer I am used to is of the variety that hardly can be called beers at all; mostly ginger-flavoured soda or imported brands like Bundaberg and Fentiman’s which still aren’t the kind of stuff you’d order in a bar. I could go on at some length about the universal yumminess of Crabbie’s Ginger Beer, but I can already hear the get-on-with-its and so I shall. Where were we? Yes! The Royal Mile. Despite being a total tourist trap, I found it a pleasant walk, and we did quite well dodging the ubiquitous souvenir shops. The Grassmarket, on the other hand, was quite another experience with its abundance of specialty stores (HATS!!!!) and restaurants and pubs.

Wrong. Just… Wrong…

Once in a while, however, strange coincidences occur. As we were traversing the old town, I kept scanning the signs of every establishment we were passing by. While we were planning our trip, I asked around for recommendations about things to do and places to visit in Edinburgh and this was where Twitter-acquaintance, @thremnir (or Nick Larter, if you will), mentioned the live-music pub called Bannermans. So, still on the lookout, we passed through a pretty hidden-away street and this was where I suddenly caught glimpse of a sign which unmistakably read “Bannermans”. However, I had barely read the first syllable when we heard someone yelling “HEY YOU! You two! I saw you on the Royal Mile earlier today and you like you have a great taste in music. My band is playing at eight and you should come!” Yup, that definitely sounds like a good idea. Not that we had any idea what kind of gig this would be and what kind of music it would involve, but the guy was definitely of the alternative-looking sort, so something appealing didn’t seem too unrealistic.

And impossibly long flight of stairs leading down a hill. The stairs were called… Jacob’s Ladder. Knowing it’s movie namesake, that name evokes more than just a pinch of eeriness. The walk was nice, though!

Further adventures involved walking, walking and some more walking and we got to see some rather charming spots around Calton Hill before we returned to the Royal Mile, briefly visited a cosy pub called The Jolly Judge, and then went for dinner at the Witchery. The Witchery almost requires a post of its own. A luxury restaurant just outside Edinburgh Castle with the most wonderful interior I could have imagined, it was totally out of a fairytale. The food was exquisite and the waiters were such nice guys. A particular mention goes to “the wine-guy” (I sadly didn’t catch his name), whom we had a long, nice what with, and who gave us some nice recommendations and sound advice.

By the time we had finished our meal, it was almost 8:00 pm and a concert still sounded like a good idea. By the time we were back at Bannerman’s, we recognized the guy from earlier on and grabbed a table with his band; Nightmare Frequency, an industrial act. They turned out to be a really cool lot, and Damien (yes, that was his actual name, believe it or not), the drummer, was into many of the same things as we are. Mission accomplished: Befriending cool Scotsmen!

Dino!

Damien who’s into roleplaying, Warhammer and thinks geocaching sounds cool!

Time for some music!

First band out was Trauma Inc, an industrial metal band. Both bands put on a hell of a show, and truth be told, I haven’t enjoyed myself so much at a concert for a long time, and that says a lot. After a couple of hours of pounding, angry industrial beats, we were invited to the after-party. It was impossibly tempting, but by the end of the day, it was time to get back and to bed (sadly enough). Another great day in Edinburgh was at an end.

Thursday:

It was hard getting up this morning. Luckily, breakfast was once again a delightful experience which involved more chatting with the Germans. This morning, two fellow country-men had joined us at the table as well, and turned out to be nice people as well, at least based on our brief acquaintance. Speaking Norwegian to someone who wasn’t Jan Tore felt slightly strange, though.

As opposed to Wednesday, our plans for the day were crystalline this time; Arthur’s Seat, the great hill surrounded by lower hills and crags in the middle of the city. (On a side-note, if I get around doing some Silmarillion-related stuff soon, Arthur’s Seat is almost Himring-esque).

After picking up supplies at Tesco (conclusion; I’ve heard too many Tesco jokes; a grocery store shouldn’t produce fits of giggling) we headed for the hills, not running, sadly. The trails to the peak come in three varieties: light (read: boring), intermediate and insane (bordering on dangerous). We went for the second one as it provided a bit of steep hill-climbing and some lighter legs without getting boring and with great view all along. The peak was pretty crowded, but the view made up for it all; it was amazing!

Soon…

The Keeper of the Sacred Tesco bag

The crags surrounding Arthur’s Seat

I regret I didn’t follow the example of the teenage boys next to us and climbed on top of that thing

Green; Apokalypse approves! (that vain little bastard…)

<Insert epic soundtrack of choice>

Here comes the part where we get utterly and confoundedly lost. Oh look! What a charming little stone wall! OH LOOK! There’s a trail passing through there, let’s walk off in some random direction after we’ve passed beyond the wall! (Don’t tell me you didn’t see that one coming…)

Six hours after departure…

With sodden clothes and aching feet we find ourselves back at the Bield. What a trip! Getting lost isn’t such a bad thing in a relatively small city such as Edinburgh, even with said clothes and feet taken in to consideration. I bet we hadn’t seen some of the spots we passed had we walked down nicely back from where we came. Adventures are tiring business, however, and it was clear there would be few further endeavours that day. We did go to the Last Drop in Grass Market, though, to try haggis. And… *drum roll* I loved it! To  be honest, I wasn’t all that skeptical about it in the first place; to me it just seems like sausage tucked into a different part of the gastrointestinal tract. The haggis was served with whisky sauce which enhanced the already yummy experience. However, after a more-than-decent meal, we decided to call it a day.

Friday

Departure. Sad, but inevitable.

An American couple joined the breakfast table alongside the German ladies this morning. They were fun talking to and said we were some of the strangest people they had ever met. I tend to take that as a compliment. It was a bit sad saying goodbye to the two Germans and Ken and Linda, all whom I had grown fond of during our week at the Bield B&B.

Our plane didn’t leave until late, though, so we had time for one final adventure. I’ve talked about storming castles earlier, and the beautiful, medieval Craigmillar Castle was ripe for the taking. Some 15 minutes by bus away from the city centre it wasn’t as run down by tourists as the more central sights by far. While we were there, I think I spotted three or so other families.

Craigmillar Castle has been left pretty much as it was at the time it was deserted, meaning large parts of the castle are partly ruined; roofs caved in and removed long ago, kitchen overgrown with grass, but I could still vividly imagine what it would have been at the time it was still inhabited. The oldest part of the castle date back to the 14th century where the Preston family who were barons in the area at the time erected parts of it. Throughout the centuries, Craigmillar Castle passed between several noble families and is particularly known for it’s connection to Mary, Queen of the Scots.
Craigmillar Castle proved practically labyrinthine, and we spent an hour or so exploring every single, hidden corner of the castle. Had we had more time, we would have stayed even longer. I only try to imagine how playing hide-and-seek back in the days would have been like!

Enter Craigmillar Castle

The inner courtyard

Dungeons and hidden rooms and narrow corridors – I love Craigmillar Castle!

Up, up, up to the top!

What was once the upper floor of the tower house.

I loved the tree inside the inner courtyard

The top of the castle provided a great view

I don’t know and I don’t want to know

Graphic evidence: The sun exists in Scotland

After some last-minute shopping, it was time to head out to Edinburgh airport and at last wave farewell to a city I had come to love over the course of only a few days. The flight turned out to be delayed by an hour or so, and we only barely caught the last bus back to Oslo city-centre. It was a fantastic trip, and I can’t wait until next time we get the chance to visit Scotland. Next time, I hope to travel around  Scotland in its entirety and see more of that lovely region.

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Interludium: Dùn Èideann; part one

I’m back! Summer tends to do this to me; I find simply no urge or will to do anything worthwhile, not even anything scarcely worthwhile. So, now that I’m done playing Mass Effect (loving it; almost beaten it) and reading Harry Potter (for the first time ever, believe it or not – there will be an entry about it) from dusk to dawn and instead find myself back in the lab, ready to do some science, it’s also time to resume blogging activity. Here goes!

Once in a while, a time comes when one must simply follow the urge to follow in the footsteps of one’s ancestors. A time when you must travel across the sea (in the belly of a steel bird; no longships were harmed in the making of this holiday) to the land of the Scots to rape, pillage and burn.

BURNING THEIR WOMEN! RAPING THEIR CHURCHES!

No…

Wait…

That isn’t quite how it goes…

Sorry about that! You’ll forget about that part, right? …Right..?

What I did, though, was that I did in fact travel in the belly of a steel bird to the good ol’ city of Edinburgh together with Jan Tore, and Apokalypse, the fox, for a nice little holiday – much needed, I dare say.

Monday:

INCONCEIVABLE!

That. Is. The sun! Perhaps the forecasts were wrong? Perhaps there is a meagre that  chance our days across the sea won’t simply wash away? This looks good! Blimey! Still in Norway!

Our journey starts at Torp airport and Toblerone. Why Toblerone? I have wondered about that quite a few times; what’s the deal with duty-free and Toblerone? I think I could write an entry of its own about the phenomenon called “Toblerone on the border”. But enough about that for now (Toblerone is omnomnom, by the way). Jan Tore and I head towards the bar and are served by the sulkiest and most hostile woman I’ve encountered behind a counter for a while. However, her attempt at en-souring the mood was a failure, and then there were beers.

Not for us, mainly, as we happened to have a little alcoholic amongst us. Of the red and fluffy variety.

Enter Apokalypse!

Apokalypse – the furry alcoholic

Nobody expects the fox-inquistion; Apokalypse thinks a fox would look better on the cover rather than a lion

Well aboard a blue and yellow steel bird, our journey

begins for real.  The nigh-two hours between Norway and Scotland pass quickly thanks to books and gaming devices and as our plane descends through the clouds above the land of Driving on the Wrong Side where I quickly realize that my hopes of decent weather were in vain. However, searing summer sun wouldn’t feel right for the UK, anyway (I wonder how often they get that?). Well through the passport control we grab a taxi and soon find ourselves at the Bield Bed & Breakfast, Orchard Brae, Edinburgh. We’re met by Ken, and led to our room, which was both incredibly cosy and well equipped with tea-and-coffee-making-facilities. It’s late, but our mission has been accomplished; we’re in Edinburgh!

On a side-note: I’m of that opinion that you should always learn something when visiting new places; first thing learned: It’s Edin-burrow, not Edin-burg. Who kept me in the dark on this one all this time?

Tea-and-coffee-making-facilities!!!

Tuesday:
Waking up to the best breakfast I’ve had in ages, we’re off to explore the wonderful city of Edinburgh. Of course, there were plenty of buses and that sort, but then, buses are for the craven and faint of heart! So instead, we set off in some random direction which we believe is roughly the right way to the city centre.

The Bield – truly a home away from home

Sweetie looking mildly gruff. C’mon, you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself! Smile! 🙂

Smile, I say! 🙂

Despite the Bield B&B only lying a mile away from Princes Street, I think we spent well over an hour getting there. I was already falling in love, there was a charming house or store or church around every single corner, and soon, we hit the Waters of Leith.In fact, I don’t think I’ll say much about it, have a look instead! (Oh, and I think we managed to spot one of the fabled albino squirrels! CUUUUTE!)

I just found charm incarnated!

Neither flood, nor wet socks nor chill of feet can keep us back from the Waters of Leith

Awe-inspiring bridge. (There’s a cache nearby! Sssssh!)

Possibly millstone, definitely cool (the stone, I mean)

Everybody sing; Postman Pat, Postman Pat!

Had we had more time, we would have explored some more along the river, but a couple of geocaches later and narrowly escaping seriously sodden feet, a landmark familiar from so many photos suddenly filled the skyline; Edinburgh castle!

On our way up the hills surrounding the castle, we found another geocache, and Jan Tore thought we could finally achieve his prime goal of this trip; besieging at least one castle and its surrounding towns and villages. After zigzagging through a virtual sea of tourists, we find ourselves across the bridge and inside the castle, and don’t you believe we managed to kill a few hours there as well? Let me make one thing clear, I think Edinburgh Castle is a lovely castle in itself. However, the over-abundance of souvenir shops and general tourist-magnet image thwarts some of the fun (and having said that, I loved being there – tourist traps can just be a bit much sometimes). Almost every single corner of the castle was scrutinized to much detail, and a quick look at the crown jewels was more or less mandatory. And of course, you can’t visit a place like this without getting away with some new historical facts embedded in your cerebral region; something which I’m never averse to. We ended the visit with afternoon tea at the tea lounge inside the castle walls. Thus ended our siege of Edinburgh castle.

Time for pictures!

Creepy thingies! Taken inside the War Museum which could provide both some interesting scraps of Scottish history, the less peaceful parts, obviously, several pieces of weapons and armour/uniforms, art and a temporary exhibition featuring the history of protheses.

Nice armour!

The great hall; a beautiful and majestic thing decorated with countless weapons and just…stuff! I had lots of fun studying the different coats of arms displayed after one another along the ceiling.

Arm thyself!

Afternoon tea-time! Like a sir! *insert meme here*

As we were in the neighbourhood, our quest led us down the Royal Mile. Mr. Boyfriend added rare whisky to his inventory before we headed towards the Camera Obscura, which was practically one big playground. As one might expect from a house of illusions I felt dazzled and confused more than just once. Particular mention goes to the Vertigo Tunnel; a narrow bridge passing through a circular tunnel filled with rotating lights. I knew theoretically the vertigo reflex can be triggered by what I choose to call silly tricks, however, I hadn’t ever experienced it myself. At first I thought it couldn’t be that bad, but when I walked onto the bridge, it felt like the whole world was spinning wildly and I had to grab onto the rails to prevent myself from falling off. Yikes…

Let’s try again! Eyes closed. This is going really well. Until the moment where a pint-sized menace nearly knocks me over – eyes open – aaaaaand here we go again!

Playing around on the floor featuring many pinhole camera installments

Jan Tore just got Ned Stark-ed

Watch where you’re going!

At the end, we attended a demonstration of the camera itself. Some things never get old; such a spying on perfect strangers and pretending abuse of said strangers. The woman responsible for the demonstration was particularly funny!

After some exploring around the Royal Mile which featured a trip to Games Workshop (which apparently had been overrun by Norwegians lately), we got the directions to some good pubs from the guy behind the counter. We were both thirsty, and there can’t be any Scotland without beer, so directions sounded good. The pub we finally landed at wasn’t either of the ones we were tipped about, though, but all the same turned out to be a nice, little pub named Salsa which didn’t allow people in football colours *snigger*.

The Royal Mile

Day two in the lovely city of Edinburgh was at an end, and so is this blog entry. The latter part of our holiday will be up as soon as Jan Tore has finished editing the pictures from said latter part, and of course, when I have a little to spare of that fabled thing called time.

To be continued…