Category Archives: Scotland

Art in Edinburgh–galleries and t-shirts

6th June 2013

Taking the sun in Edinburgh

Taking the sun in Edinburgh

The centre of Edinburgh really is a lovely place on a nice day, I can imagine it would be awfully cold in winter, especially if the wind was howling up through the middle. The gardens run through the centre of the city, sort of dividing the Old and New Town – I played ladies and had a coffee and cake there this morning while watching the world go by before heading to the Art Gallery.

While I was at the Art Gallery I overheard one of the staff explaining to someone the free shuttle bus between there and their GOMA site.  I’d actually been wondering how to get there, so another problem solved. There was a wonderful thee man band busking outside the gallery while I waited for the shuttle, so even waiting time was put to good use today.

Part of the outdoor land art at Edinburgh Modern Art Gallery

Part of the outdoor land art at Edinburgh Modern Art Gallery

It’s funny how sometimes a grumpy person can make everyone else feel the same way and other times everyone just laughs at them. The guy driving the bus really wasn’t picked for his personality, he had absolutely no interest in anyone or anything on that bus, just grumped every time someone came along to ask a question and drove the bus like a madman. There were lots of half laughs and raised eyebrows along the way, another great people watching episode. Anyway, surprisingly, we all arrived in one piece. Of the modern art museums I’ve visited recently this was probably my least favourite. I’m not sure why but the quirky signs outside grabbed me more than anything else. Caught the courtesy (that’s a misnomer) bus back with mostly the same people and we all commented when we got off that it must have been close to finishing time because his driving was even more speedy this time. Oh well, he gave us something to laugh about.

I wandered in and out of a few souvenir shops back in the city before heading home, what a hard life!!

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The place where it doesn’t matter if you have a lisp

7th June 2013

Sometimes this being high tech just doesn’t pay off, I booked a bus and boat tour to the Forth of Fife online and kept a copy of the confirmation on my phone and ipad – no room for a printer in the backpack. You can fly all over the place without a printed ticket but  the ticket booth attendant where all the tourist buses pick up HAD to have a piece of paper before they would give me my ticket. The fact that they could plainly see my confirmation meant nothing – without it printed out they weren’t going to do anything.

Thank goodness again for my OCD need to arrive with miles of time to spare. The ticket guy told me about a place where I could print an email, so off I went at a million miles an hour. Got there and asked, no, they don’t have anywhere to print it, but she pointed me up the hill a couple of blocks to another place where she thought they would be able to do it. Another heart attack inducing sprint later I got the same answer – this was not looking good! But then another guy at this place poked his head around the corner and said he was pretty sure a cafe just another half a block further up had an internet cafe upstairs. By this time I was almost ready to give up and just go buy another ticket but I figured I still had time so I’d give it a go – yay, third time lucky!! A couple of pounds later and I was set – and my return trip back to the ticket booth was downhill!!

Cruise boat leaving us on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

Cruise boat leaving us on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

Whew, got back with about 5 minutes to spare! Then it was a nice half hour ride down to the bridge with commentary along the way. There didn’t seem to be that many people on the bus for the size of the boat but another bus arrived and all these little old ladies started pouring out, chattering away in the most gorgeous Scottish accents, the boat was certainly full once they all boarded. I perched on the end of one of their seats and ended up having a wonderful chat with some of them, then ran up and down the stairs getting brochures for one of them, then another two, then another eight – because, of course, they all wanted one each to take home!! They were really lovely though and kept passing everything I said down the line like Chinese whispers – “she’s Australian, you know”, “travelling on her own, you know”, “ooooh, very brave lass isn’t she”!!

Forth of Fife rail bridge, Scotland

Forth of Fife rail bridge, Scotland

The gorgeous rail bridge was the main thing I wanted to see. I hadn’t even heard of it until we drove into Edinburgh the other day, but it’s an amazing structure, built way back in 1890 and still going strong.

I also took the opportunity to spend some time on Inchcolm Island, it’s in the middle of the harbour and has ruins of an old abbey as well as some WW2 remnants to explore. The boat lets you off and you catch the next one going back an hour or two later. I asked one of the island staff if it was okay to head up the hill to some of the WW” bunkers because there seemed to be an awful lot of seagulls flying around. She said I’d be fine so long as I stuck to the mowed path – that should have been warning enough, really, I should have read more into those words than what she said.

Seagulls on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

Seagulls on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

I headed off (along the mowed path) and not too long later seagulls started squawking and flying around but I thought they’d get used to me. Then a bit further on, I got my first seagull poo down the front of my coat, but I thought, okay, that’s a bit of bad luck, I’ll put my hood up and kept going. Then they started dive bombing me, so I put my bag on top of my head and went a bit further. But they weren’t giving in, and I didn’t know what to do, I must have looked an absolute dill, with my bag on top of my head, doing circles, trying to decide whether to keep going or give in and go back. I finally used some common sense gave in and started back down the way I’d come, yelling at them like a bloody loony tune. I honestly thought they wouldn’t keep it up but they got worse and by the time I got away from them my coat and bag were absolutely covered in seagull poo.

So, back to the island staff office to try and clean up – guess what, they have no running water. They gave me a bucket, a couple of bottles of water and some disinfectant wipe things and left me to it. Oh my god, have you ever smelt seagull poo – it pongs. I wouldn’t have worried so much about cleaning my coat then and there except I really needed to wear it as it was freezing, and also because it smelt so bad. I kept finding new bits everywhere I looked, down the back of my jeans, on my joggers – but I was so relieved to have had the hood, none on my hair, that really would have been the pits.

That little episode put paid to my plan of spending some quiet time sketching the abbey ruins, although I still had time for a good look around them. The boat trip back was much quieter without the dear old ladies for company, just a few seals and puffins as well as the bridges to admire.

Even though seagulls have slipped even further on my list of bird I like, sometime you can be lucky – this is only, I think, the third time I’ve had access to a washing machine where I’ve stayed – so coat, bag, jeans and joggers all went in together for a good clean. Lesson learnt for today – don’t trust bloody seagulls, EVER.

 

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Discovering the buses and the Britannia in Edinburgh

5th June 2013

Aha, I went to the train station just nearby and asked about catching a train to the city, the nicest man at the ticket office gave me a map, took me outside and showed me where to catch a bus to town. Much easier and cheaper than the train he told me. So, armed with my new-found information I then caught another bus from the city down to the port area to see the royal yacht Britannia.

It’s the funniest thing, you go into a shopping centre to access the yacht – who’d have thought? They have the gift shop in the shopping centre, it’s massive, and as the centre is right on the water, they have steps and gangways connecting the two, amazing.

HMY Britannia, Edinburgh

HMY Britannia, Edinburgh

I’m sure it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I was really keen to have a look at it, also, it’s something a bit different to most of what I’ve been seeing. I even had tea and cake in the café on board, not sure I was sitting where the royals sat but you can’t have everything can you.

She was built in 1952-3 and sailed over one million nautical miles and there’s not one nut or bolt or whatever holds ships together on here outside skin. That’s about as technical as I get – the bit about nothing marring the outside skin stuck with me, it’s something I wouldn’t even notice but supposedly is quite significant.

Rolls Royce on board the Britannia

Rolls Royce on board the Britannia

The Rolls Royce car in a special garage on the deck was something you don’t see every day either. Why wouldn’t you take your car with you on a sea voyage? Considering she was decommissioned not that long ago, or so it seems to me, it seems quite dated and not overly elaborate . I remember my family having plastic saucer chairs just like the ones on board. I can’t see we had the same standards or quantity of china or silverware though.

Plastic saucer chairs, Britannia

Plastic saucer chairs, Britannia

I had an absolutely great time traipsing around from top to bottom and yet again was sorely tempted in the souvenir shop – but I didn’t break, yay me!

I got back to the city okay but went too far on the next bus. I’d asked the driver if he went near the train station close by the apartment, yes, he said, so on I got. Well, we might have gone near it but we didn’t see it so I was merrily sailing along, way past where I wanted to be. I started to get worried when we went on a bloody freeway – crap, where the f$*k are we going? Anyhow, at the next stop I asked the smug looking so-and-so, and he let me off and gave me directions on how to get back.

He would have to be about the tenth male in England to give me that “how has she made it this far” look. But, on the bright side, I only had to walk back about 15 minutes – I should have just walked from the city, I’d have been better off. Ah well, another lesson learnt today – don’t be lazy – just walk!

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First day in Edinburgh

4th June 2013

Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a terrace house until Glasgow, I’ve admired them for years and have always wondered what they’d be like inside. Well, I stayed in one in Edinburgh too, in a studio apartment on the ground floor, and it was just gorgeous – except for being able to hear the people in the lower floor apartment getting it on one night! I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like I’m doing something wrong when I can hear other people’s intimate moments, like a voyeur or something – oh well a pillow over the head does wonders.

My first sight of Edinburgh Castle

My first sight of Edinburgh Castle

It was just a ten minute walk (if you didn’t get lost) to the centre of town. My first morning walking, I visited the red light district, saw lots of interesting signs for lap dances and similar fun, but was too concerned with getting back on track to take any photos. It’s always the way isn’t it? You think of these things after the fact, or at least I do.

Anyhow, I wasn’t too far off course and next thing you know I was at the base of the walls of Edinburgh Castle! Mind you, it took another ten minutes to walk around to the front to get inside. It was the longest queue I’ve come across so far and the hottest too, the weather is just perfect.

Heading to Edinburgh Castle through the stadium for the Tattoo

Heading to Edinburgh Castle through the stadium for the Tattoo

Edinburgh Castle is not at all as I expected. I always thought it was just a castle, but it seems more like a little settlement perched up on a mountain in the middle of the city. There’s an enormous paved area outside the walls where the Edinburgh Tattoo is held in August and they seemed to have half the grandstands erected already. That was my first surprise, that the tattoo is held outside the castle walls.

Waiting for the cannon to fire at Edinburgh Castle

Waiting for the cannon to fire at Edinburgh Castle

You could easily spend all day wandering through the different parts of the castle and all the other buildings. I had a lovely lunch at one of the eateries, overlooking the city; it felt like it was a million miles away but really only a few minutes walk. I’d read somewhere that they fire a cannon each day at 1pm so when I came across a huge crowd of people, with cameras and phones held in the air, all pointing in the same direction, I used my amazing powers of deduction and figured they were waiting for the cannon to fire. So, instead of doing the same thing, and because I couldn’t see the cannon either, I started filming them, they were so intent on capturing the exact moment. I almost dropped my camera and wet my pants all at the same time when it went off, it was an absolute monstrous bang! I was in good company though, just about everyone had the same reaction.

Second and biggest surprise was that NOTHING in Edinburgh is free! Everywhere I went I was paying entrance fees, which is normal really and I usually don’t even comment, but having just spent a week in Glasgow where there are free museums and attractions all over the place, it came as a bit of a rude shock.

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

I had wandered down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile from the castle, and as you can only window shop, without buying anything for so long, I headed to the National Museum of Scotland. What an unbelievable place, it’s huge and full of Celtic, Viking and Roman history as it relates to Scotland, as well as science and technology, art, you name it, there’s a gallery for it here. I just love wandering the streets. looking at buildings and people, but honestly I could have spent days instead this building instead of just hours.

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