Trip Journal - Edinburgh




Edinburgh -- 7 & 8 July 1998

The next day, Gordon told us a story that Alberto had told him about seeing a ghost while practicing for a concert late one night. He was all alone and when he turned on the organ, all of the chairs in the auditorium started flipping down, one by one. Alberto turned around and noticed a man standing near him. The noise of the seat flipping continued and Alberto called out imperiously, "Well if you intend to listen, would you kindly sit down and be quiet?" At that, the room went silent. He played his piece through and when he was done, all the seats flipped up again and the man had disappeared. Alberto found out later that the "man" he saw had been curator of the building and had emigrated to Buffalo, N.Y. Apparently, some time later, Alberto happened to be in Buffalo, was driving past a cemetary, and on a whim went in and found himself standing in front of the man's grave! That's Alberto.

We spent the next two days recuperating and didn't really do all that much. I made dinner for us on the 7th, gnocchi with vegetables and sundried tomato sauce. On the 8th, we walked around Edinburgh a bit and had tea at the Balmoral.

Scone Palace -- 9 July 1998

We got up early to catch a ride with Gordon as he went in to work up in Perth. Its about an hour commute for him each way. The plan was to use our rail passes to take the train back. The first thing that went wrong was that Paul forgot the rail passes, or rather he was the one who remembered that we had forgotten them, so he took the blame. Luckily we were only a mile or two out from the apartment, but Gordon got all stressed out on having to backtrack,and Paul felt bad. I felt uncomfortable, but I couldn't see that it was so terrible. When we got to Perth, it felt like Paul and I were a bit disjointed. It started when Paul thought I was wrong about how far Scone Palace and Dunkeld were. I had just looked it up in the book, so I knew I was right, but he kept worrying at it like he thought I was wrong. Or so I perceived it. So I handed him to book to let him see. Next we had a little struggle over what to do in Perth while we waited for the Tourist Information to open. It sometimes seems to me as if Paul just goes off in some direction just to have a destination, and it usually feels like I haven't been consulted first. So we walked aimlessly for a while, and then I said to Paul that I thought we were disconnected. These are supposed to be the magic words, where we drop what we're doing and work whatever it is out, but most of the time they put Paul on the defensive and he goes into Solution Seeking Mode, which makes me more upset. So we know the dance and we did it again. We're getting quite good at it now. We're getting faster at going through it so we can get to the real issue at hand however. The problem on the road, of course, is that you're rarely in a private corner when you need to work something out. So we worked this out on a park bench in the middle of a pedestrian zone in Perth. Yeah. There were a few tears but it was over quickly. The only thing that really made me angry was that Paul asked me if this whole thing wasn't being blown out of proportion because I hadn't done morning pages. Like he was asking me if I had my period. I didn't do morning pages and I'm fine.

After the reconciliation, we went to tourist information and they told us the right bus to take to get the Scone Palace and where to catch it. The also told us that there was no official bus stop, so we'd have to just flag down the bus to get a ride back. Paul has a theory that some of the people you see in Britain are really trolls, and after waiting at the bus stop in Perth, I think he may be right. A woman got in the queue right behind me, but something didn't feel right. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. The woman looked old and not very handsome and something about her face made me think of a troll. I think some of them have stopped living in the forest and have integrated into society. But you can spot them if you look really hard. We got off the bus at the side entrance to Scone Palace, which our bus driver told us was the shortest walk in to the Palace. We were even more grateful to him after we saw that then main driveway is over a mile long.

Scone (pronounced skoon) Palace is a beautiful building in its own right, but it also has a huge amount of cool Scottish history associated with it. Kenneth McAlpin was king of the Scots form 843-58. He was the first to unite the Pictish and Celtic clans of scotland under one rule. He also brought the "Stone of Destiny", the crowning stone of the Kings of Dalriada to Scone, from which he ruled Scotland. The stone had been used since the 500s as the sacred stone over which Dalriadan kings were crowned. Queen Elizabeth is a descendant of Kenneth (for her family is Scottish) and the 57th successor. There are many stories surrounding the Stone of Scone. It was supposed to have come to Scotland with the Celts when they migrated from Spain, and some say it came originally from Egypt or even Jerusalem.

In 1296, after the death of William Wallace and the defeat of Robert the Bruce, Edward I of England took the stone back to his country. And it was only returned to Scotland last year, as a sort of peace offering associated with Scotland having gotten a partial separation from Britain. Scotland now has the right to its own Parliament, but there is speculation that the country could decide to secede altogether, since economically they are in a position to be able to do so, because Scotland has both oil and whiskey.

However, no one really believes that the stone that came back from England is really the Stone of Destiny. Not that there is any suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of England. You see, the Scots are known for being incredibly skilled at hiding things that they don't want to be taken away. The Templars are said to have hidden many of their important documents in a Church in Edinburgh. (On one of the pillars of this Church, there are apparently instructions about where the documents are, if you are able to read them. X-rays have been done, and there is something there, but they can't just tear down the Church, so the mystery remains...) The French government also houses its important government documents in Scotland, because it's known to be a safe place. So, the commonly-held belief is that when Edward demanded the stone, one was cut to look like the original and it was given to Edward, while the original was hidden away somewhere. Edward, who was a fop and a fool, and not known for his strategic talents, as we all know from "Braveheart", announced his intention to come and take the Stone in twelve days time. Plenty of time during which the cunning Scots could have made a good copy and found an excellent hiding place for the original. This theory is born out by the fact that tests done on the Stone show it to be made of a red sandstone that is very similar to the one that the Scone Palace is made out of, and not some stone found in the East.

So where is the original, if this theory is true? No one knows. It was hidden too well and was never found. Sir Walter Scott easily found the Crown Jewels after they had been hidden for years in the Edinburgh Palace. Maybe the Stone will turn up someday as well.

We were told at Scone that the first King to be actually crowned was Alexander III. During the ceremony, the following blessing would be given: "Benach de Re Albann, Alexander, MacAlexander, MacWilliam..." which meant God bless the King of Scotland, Alexander, son of Alexander, son of William..." and all of the King's lineage would be recited at least back to the 500s. (An interesting point for me was that Alexander (1249-1286) was King some 200 years after poor Edgar (brother of St. Margaret) didn't get to be King because he had been born in Hungary not England. It doesn't seem so terrible to me that Edgar wasn't crowned, since none of the other Kings were at that time either. Or maybe "crowned" is just a euphemism for being sworn in, or whatever it's called for Royalty.)

From the time that Kenneth MacAlpin brought the Stone to Scone, all Scottish Kings and Queens were crowned at the Palace. There is a little hill on the grounds called Boot Hill, which was apparently built by men who wished to show their loyalty to the new King or Queen; to do this, they brought with them soil from their homes in their boots and emptied it out on the hill. What I want to know is, did they wear the boots while they were filled with soil?

The inside of the Palace is beautiful, filled with original furniture, paintings, and tapestries. There are tapestries that Mary Queen of Scots (reigned 1542-67) made while she was in exile at Scone. Mary had a hard time of it. She was only six days old when she became Queen, and was crowned at nine months. She married at 16, became Queen of France as well as Scotland at 17, and was widowed by 18. She made a disastrous marriage to Lord Darnley. In 1567, he was found dead, and the circumstances were highly suspicious. Then, just three months later, Mary married the Earl of Bothwick. Whether it was true or not, everyone believed that Mary and the Earl had schemed to get rid of poor Lord Darnley, and Mary's career as Queen came to an end. She had to go into exile at Scone. Another interesting tidbit about Mary is that there is a rumor that her son, James, who became the next King, is not really her son. During excavations of the Edinburgh castle, a baby's skeleton was found near Mary's chambers. It is suspected that Mary's own son died at birth, that this was kept very quiet, and the newborn child of another woman in the castle, a servant, perhaps, was taken as Mary's own child.

Queen Victoria once stayed at Scone Palace, for one night only. Luckily, she gave the family plenty of warning, two years in fact, so that they could get ready. The table and chairs, dishes and silver- and glassware that are in the dining room were all purchased for the occasion, and the suite of rooms where she stayed are exactly as they were the morning that she left them. The bedroom's a bit fussy for me, but the boudoir is nice and full of strong, primary colors that she apparently adored. It is rented out now for teas and luncheons. It's tough to be a royal family fallen on hard times. Actually, I think the Earl and his family may have donated the Palace to the National Trust. It's a sweet deal, because you and your family are allowed to live there until your name dies out, but you don't have to pay for any of the upkeep. The Trust does that, which is why they rent out rooms and charge an admission fee to get in. My favorite place in the Palace is the library. (Anyone out there surprised?) There aren't any books on the shelves anymore; instead, one of the Earl's pottery collections is housed there. Apparently, he didn't like for his guests to have to eat off the same plate twice. But the best part of the library was the two turrets at either end of the outside wall, one with French books and the other with English. Each had little benches to sit on, a fireplace, and windows all the way around. And shelves of books of course. They were darling. There was also a music room with a pipe organ and a hall of family photographs. Outside there are peacocks running around on the expansive lawn, both the traditional colored ones and a few albinos. We ate sandwiches out on the lawn. The peacocks seemed to have a routine where they bullied guests into giving up part of their lunch. They were very bold.

We went exploring the grounds after that, and saw the family graveyard and a spectacular pinetum, which is an arboretum which contains only pine trees. This one was started in 1848, and contains some 150 year old giant sequoias from California, along with about 50 other pines from around the world. The gardens are vast, huge places, divided up into huge "rooms" separated by hedges and fences. Each "room" contains a different thing. The pinetum is one, the rose garden another, and in another a terrific maze built our of red and green hedges. We also found a field with a few families of Highland Kyes (Highland Cows). The youngsters were quite friendly.

We had planned to go to Dunkeld after Scone, but we ended up spending the whole day there, and that evening we got a train back to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh -- 10 July 1998

Paul was reading "The True Confessions of a Justified Sinner" by James Hogg, which was recommended to us in the bookstore as a quintessential example of classic Scottish writing. The story was set in Edinburgh, and contained a scene in which there was a riot in a pub on Cowgate and all the people fled to the High Street and disappeared into all the little closes that connect to that street. Paul wanted to go look for the Black Bull, which was the name of the pub, and was described as being between two closes between Cowgate and the High Street. We did find a pub by that name, but its at the end of Haymarket now, which is just off the end of Cowgate. Cowgate is pretty empty nowadays, with boarded up buildings, churches converted to homeless shelters and drunks. Haymarket has some great cafes and restaurants though. It is this long open square where the city of Edinburgh used to conduct its public hangings.

Nearby, at one end of the George IV bridge is a statue of Greyfriar's Bobby. He was a Skye Terrier, which is a breed particularly noted for its loyalty. In 1858, when Bobby was 2 years old, his master, a policeman, died. Bobby stayed with the body through the funeral, and afterward, every day, Bobby would go out to the cemetary at Greyfriar's Kirk and lie on his master's grave. The towns people tried to drive him away, but he was persistent. Finally, Bobby was allowed to live in the cemetary and stay with his master, which he did until his own death in 1872, at 16 years of age. The Greyfriar's cemetary is very old, with a lot of tombstones in Latin. Many of the tombstones are quite large and are situated right up against the rear walls of the houses which run along the edge of the cemetary. Some of these stones even cover their windows! I'd have been a little upset if that was my house. There is also a little grave stone for Bobby, with a brief synopsis of his story. There's a little shop there next to the graveyard devoted to dog lovers. The two women who run it are very knowledgeable about all things canine. The first question they asked was whether we had a dog, and what breed. Then the recited all the information they knew about Skye Terriers, the Disney Film about Greyfriar's Bobby, etc, etc. There were also newspaper clippings pasted on the walls about the making of that film. Wacky, but sweet.

Edinburgh -- 11 July 1998

I woke up feeling like something wonderful was going to happen. Maybe it was just because it started out a gorgeous, sunny day. I told Paul we should go out looking for an adventure. We didn't really know where to go, so we started out in the bookstore on Princess Street, where Paul got the book of Scottish short stories he'd been eyeing when the Hogg book was recommended to us. Then we headed out to Victoria Street, and fount a book of Scottish fairy tales in a second-hand book store there. Victoria Street is lined with cute little shops of all kinds. There's a brush shop, a cheese chop, a lace shop, etc. Very eclectic and trendy. But we still hadn't found our adventure and I was getting impatient. We decided to get some food there, only it seemed like there was no place for us. By the time we walked up and down haymarket 4 or 5 times, looking for the right table in one of the outdoor cafes, I'd begun to get very embarrassed at the idea of the people sitting outside at the tables snickering at us wandering aimless and lost. I got frustrated at Paul for not being able to settle on a place, although i don't know why it was up to him. Then, finally a table became free in one of the places we wanted to be at, do we grabbed it. But it was next to a table full of rowdy, foul mouthed boys and no one came out to wait on us. Then Paul saw the table we should have taken open up, at an Italian place a couple of doors down. So finally we had something to eat - pizza and drinks. Then we decided to go to the park over the train station. I would write in the journal and Paul would play his recorder. he played a song with a lot of high notes that the recorded has trouble playing, an that was hurting my ears. I asked him to play another song, quite nicely, I thought. But it upset Paul. We had a good discussion about it, and Paul realized that his playing was all tied up with whether people were pleased with him. He had wanted to create an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone else, instead of playing just for his own enjoyment. This led to our realization that both of our struggles that day were really about feeling at home in the world, which we hadn't been doing. So that was our adventure, an adventure of the spirit.

Stirling-- 12 July 1998

We debated about where to go; I wanted to take Paul out to Armstrong country, but the trains don't go there. Irene though we should call Alberto and get him to take us out in a borrowed car (Gordon was in Chippenham for the weekend), but as it was Sunday and he had to play an organ concert, that didn't seem like it would work. We had ruled out Sterling the night before as being too hard on Paul's knee, but in the end, that's where we decided to go. We took the train and headed first to the castle, which in my opinion is the coolest one around, because they let you go everywhere - up on the walls, in the towers, etc. They've been doing a lot of renovation since I was there last, not all of it great, but they expect to have the reconstruction done by the year 2000. There will be a huge celebration in the Great Hall on New Year's Eve 1999. They have a harp player in the old church, and they've recently discovered some plaster paintings on the walls there. We wandered on the wall walk, where we saw some "ancient graffiti". Apparently it was the fashion for Kings and Queens to have their initials carved in the wall when they came for a visit. It's very elegant graffiti. While we were in the church we eavesdropped on a would-be actor/ tour guide who told a wonderful story about the ghost of the castle. The telling of it was so good, he had us spooked in broad daylight. Apparently, the king had a Duke (forgot the name) over for dinner, and late at night they quarrelled, and the kind stabbed the guest to death. The king and his servant then threw the body out the window to the grounds below, where it made a sickening squelching sound and blood oozed out of it. You don't want to be wandering around the garden where the body was thrown in the coldest months of the year, when the mist rises up. The ghost will make sure you never come back. If you want to hear the really good retelling, you'll have to go look up this tour guide. While we were out on the wall, we saw down below the old English Garden, which is being redone. You can see the terraced earth laid out in geometric patterns. And a couple of fields over, there were strange terraced mounds in the black earth, and we couldn't figure out what they were. We asked at tourist info, and after a phone call, she told us that the mounds were fill dirt from a road construction project near by. We felt a bit silly. We also got directions to the William Wallace Monument, and then headed out to walk up to it. On the way, we heard bagpipes playing, which we'd been hearing all day from the castle, but now we were quite near. There was a policeman directing traffic, and he hustled us across the street saying "Hey diddle diddle, come to the middle". It was so sweet. We walked through a tunnel to a big open field and discovered that the closing ceremonies to the Stirling Highland Games were just concluding. Hundreds of pipers in full dress filled the playing field, playing in unison. If only we'd known!

We walked out to the road in the direction of the William Wallace Monument. When Irene and I came two years ago, we took a bus, so I may not have noticed then, but it seemed like every house on the road, easily 90%, were B&Bs. I suppose its become a profitable summer business here since "Braveheart" came out. It really wasn't as long a walk as I thought it would be. I found the Wm. Wallace Pub easily enough and remembered the shortcut up to the foot of the monument path. It looks as if its been paved since I was there last. Minivans were running people up to the top. I guess that's great for all the people who wouldn't otherwise have been able to get up one of the three paths (they have straight stairs, a rough path, and a winding slower path), but if you couldn't make it up the path, I don't know how you would make it up the 294 steps to the top of the monument. We took the slow, winding route to go easy on Paul's knee. Once inside, the tower is divided into landings, where there are exhibitions about Wallace's life. They have his Claymore, a huge two-handed Scottish broadsword, which is over 6ft. long. At some point on the way up, the stairs are open to the outside through window slits in the stone. The wind up there sings through them quite nicely. Sometimes it sounds like voices. At the top is a 4-sided lookout tower, open to all the elements. If it would ever stop raining, it would be a great place to come up at night. Paul and i figure that the staff probably do that (we would if we worked there).

We had to race back down because the tower was closing. I should have mentioned before what the tower looks like. It was build in the latter half of the 1800s, so its really a large folly. It was quite the fashion at that time noblemen and men with wealth to construct monuments to themselves. These monuments were called "follies". The Wallace monument was built during a time of romantic re-interest in all things ancient, of Sir Walter Scott and Ivanhoe. The monument is a huge, narrow tower built on the top of a wooded hill. It is covered with sculpture on the outside in a neo-romantic style. The stone is dark sandstone, and kind of gloomy. You can tell just by looking at the monument that William Wallace didn't meet with a good end.

We walked in the rain down to the William Wallace Pub and took a table in side up in the corner where we could see the rest of the bar. The pub is all dark wood with plaid-covered benches, chairs and stools and various William Wallace pictures, documents and quotations covering the walls. William Wallace is the national hero of Scotland, and this used to be just a pub for the locals until "Braveheart" came out. Now the place is regularly inundated with tourists, the prices have gone up, and the locals are starting to shift to another less popular pub down the street. Some locals sitting across from us asked us how the weather was outside, much to my surprise (It's raining! It's always raining!). Apparently one of the group, the drunkest I suppose, was proposing to walk to the next pub. We managed to convince him that it was much nicer to stay inside. There was also an appallingly drunk man at the bar, who Paul encountered when he went up to get us a couple of pints. He was reeling into people at the bar, waving his cigarette about dangerously and then alternately befriending and cursing out whoever came near to him. Paul was one of the lucky ones who got to be his friend for a moment. The waitress told us that this guy was not a regular, but his friend, the one with his arm around his neck trying to restrain him, he was a regular. She said they'd already called a cab, and were hoping that they be able to coax the man into it. While we watched the spectacle, the waitress brought us hot apple pie with vanilla sauce. Nothing else could have been so wonderful on a miserable rainy day. When we were done, we walked back to the train station and caught the last train back. We got in around 9:30 and I expected Gordon to be back from spending the weekend in Chippenham with Irene, but he didn't get in until well after midnight. He's a wild man.