I bought a ticket for the "hop-on, hop-off" tour bus.
This is a fleet of topless, double-decker busses with tour guides.
The make a circuit to all the sights in the city and run about every
10 minutes. First stop: Edinburgh Castle.
This photo doesn't
do the place justice. It looks from the city like it's a mile in
the sky. It commands the area with 100's of cannon and could house
15,000 people. The rock has been inhabited since 600 BC - and probably
before that. There are several great museums in the castle, but
the place I spent the most time was the "Black Guard"
museum. The Black Guard is the Scottish regiment in the British
army. Now the relationship between Scotland and England is a little
bit tense to say the least. The Black Guard has been seen as "dispensable"
by the English, and has consistently been given the toughest, most
dangerous duties in battle since the 16th century. They have, as
a result, some amazing stories of heroism and bravery in battle
ranging back over 400 years.
It rained most
of the morning, but it was a gentle rain and I had my rain jacket
on, so I stayed on top of the bus. It was pretty warm, so I was
comfortable. By early afternoon however, the sky was blue once again.
The Royal Gardens
in Edinburgh is really impressive. I was very surprised to see palms
and ferns growing in places. It turns out that the temperature in
the valley where the garden lies rarely drops below 40 degrees (F).
This is because there is a natural inversion created by the steep
rock walls on both sides (with the castle on top of the south side)
and the fact that the valley floor is actually about 100 feet below
sea level. This led to an interesting talk with Mrs. Awes, one of
the volunteers at the garden about the weather in central Scotland
in general. It seems that the ocean currents keep the temperatures
moderate year-round. It very rarely (maybe once a year) falls below
freezing in Edinburgh, and is usually 40 F or above. This was a
surprise to me, because they're about the same latitude as Traverse
City, MI (a place where it is below freezing more than occasionally).
Next stop: the
Scottish Whiskey Museum. Free samples at the end! The sad thing
is that I don't have any taste for whiskey at all. It was a fascinating
tour though - the stuff smells much better than it tastes. I bought
a sample pack of Glen Fiddich 18 year old scotch. Chances are I'll
have it for years, so there's another reason to visit me in Colorado.
I also bought some Cuban cigars - genuine Cohibas - for 5 pounds
each ($7.50). Both the liquor and the cigars will go through customs
in my golf bag. If I end up in prison, please forward my "Sports