2014 Tour Kicks-Off in Edinburgh
Tonight as we dine on fish and chips at Whiski, an atmospheric pub filled with memorabilia evoking a time period from the early 20th century, we can hardly believe we left Boston last night. After an uneventful Aer Lingus flight to Dublin, we took an unusual connecting flight to Edinburgh. At first first glance, the plane looked a little scary. Standing far from the huge airbuses from all over the world, this tiny Aer Lingus regional plane had high wings with enormous propellers. Passengers exchanged disbelieving looks, but surprisingly, once inside, it was more modern than any plane I have been on. I suspect it was heavily refurbished to make it more desirable, but no worries, the flight was as smooth as can be.
We arrived in the city center at 8:30 am, too early to go to our accommodation, so we stowed our luggage at the railway station and headed into town. Our first stop was St. Gile's Cathedral, Scotland's most important church. Its Scottish crown steeple from 1495 is recognized throughout the city. Inside the highlights are beautiful stained glass windows celebrating the Scottish poet Robert Burns, a beautiful Austrian built organ from 1992, with tall gleaming pipes, and a statue of John Knox, the reformer and founder of Scottish Presbyterianism who preached there in 1559. My father's family came from Scotland and I grew up a Presbyterian. I lit a candle in his memory.
Lunch was at the Elephant House with a view of the castle. This is where J.K. Rowling spent long hours writing the first Harry Potter book. The bathroom walls were covered with tributes to the author from all over the world.
Before heading to our accommodation we visited a statue of Greyfriar's Bobby, a Skye terrier who, as the story goes, maintained a lonely vigil by his owner's grave for 14 years. the story was even made into a Disney movie in the 1960's. Today people touch Bobby's brass nose, now shiny from countless rubbings. for good luck.
Ou accommodation, 23 Mayfield Guesthouse, was built in 1874 and was the home of a tea merchant. Today it is a four star accommodation which blends the charm of old mahogany furniture and 19th century leather bound books, with modern amenities including a flat screen TV, hot tub in the garden, modern mini bar and tea and coffee making facilities in each room and a mirror in the bathroom which, when you tap it, tiny lights appear around it.
After a short nap and a quick dinner, we took a tour of Mary King's Close. It's an underground tour of a world which existed 400 years ago for 7,000 people, under what is today a government building. Our living history guide took us from one tiny stone house to another, all tucked into the alleys, and told us the stories of the resident who lived there.
Night has now fallen and it's time to head off to bed. Tomorrow we will tour the magnificent Edinburgh Castle.