Enchanting Edinburgh part two

Hello, it’s me again, harping on about Edinburgh some more!

Day two and I woke up in my hotel feeling refreshed and ready for a full day of sightseeing. I got ready, grabbed my Belvita Breakfast Biscuits and headed off down Princes Street to the tour bus stop outside Waverley Station.

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I prebooked tickets for a hop on hop off bus with Edinburgh Bus Tours. It was £55 but I could hop on and off three routes, the red City Sightseeing bus and the green Edinburgh tour which both concentrated on the central sights, and the blue Majestic route which went all the way out to Leith. I also got fast track entry into three attractions, Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse Palace and the Royal Yacht Britannia, and it just so happened that these three were top of my wish list.

I decided to start furthest away from the city and work my way back, so I jumped on the Majestic bus and grabbed a seat on the open top. Admittedly there was a roof over about a third of the top deck, but it was mostly open, and I was warmer than I was on top of the open top bus in Malta! Bizarre weather for February, in Scotland! I was given headphones so I plugged in and listened to the commentary as we drove.

Soon we arrived in Leith and I hopped off excited to see the Royal Yacht. The way they’ve arranged this is really good. The entrance is on the top floor of the adjacent shopping centre and you enter the Yacht via a gangway straight on to the top deck. As you finish on each deck you go back down the gangway and down a flight of stairs to the gangway on to the deck below. An audio guide is included which gives you loads of interesting info.

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On the top deck, fairly obviously you find the bridge and an open deck which must’ve been fab for all those honeymooning Royals in warm climes. Four Royal couples chose to start married life aboard Britannia. Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones sailed around the Caribbean for six weeks on her following their wedding in 1960 and Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips endured twenty foot high waves and severe sea sickness on their 1973 honeymoon also to the Caribbean. Prince Charles and Princess Diana sailed round the Med and the Greek Islands for sixteen days in 1981 after they tied the knot. The state room that they slept in is the only one to have a double bed, which Prince Charles specifically requested for their honeymoon (somewhat ironically given subsequent events!) Finally Prince Andrew and Fergie enjoyed five days cruising round the Azores following their 1986 nuptials. I would recommend that anyone considering marriage doesn’t go anywhere near Britannia in the weeks following their marriage given that in the working lifetime of the Yacht, all those Royals who honeymooned on her ended up divorced!

Next deck down are the state rooms of the Royal Family. The Queen and Prince Phillip had adjoining rooms, both with single beds.

Both were decorated specifically to each occupant’s preference.

Throughout the ship you will also find various reception rooms, some of which are available to hire. I imagine it costs quite a few pretty pennies, but how cool would it be to hold an event on the Royal Yacht? I did wonder how they vet the requests because I noted that there were plush carpets throughout most of the rooms and I don’t think they’d take kindly to some raucous hen do spilling red wine everywhere!

Speaking of alcohol, there was no shortage of opportunity to enjoy a few jars or tots. On the upper decks there were sophisticated bars where the Royals could’ve relaxed before dinner.

And further down you find your pubby type drinking establishments more aimed at the navies where they could wind down after their duties were done for the day.

There were more than two hundred and fifty crew on the Royal Yacht including a military band, all headed by an Admiral.

Their living quarters were somewhat less palatial than those of the Royal Family.

Except the Admiral, of course, who had his own separate quarters near the bridge that were much more suited to his rank.

The ship was built with the dual purpose of being used as a hospital ship in times of need, and it could be completely converted within a week if the need arose (which it never did).

I loved wandering, and wondering, around the Royal Yacht but I had a lot to fit it, so I headed back to the hop on hop off bus, which turned up bang on time, and headed back towards the city and Holyroodhouse Palace.

Holyroodhouse Palace is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh, and she spends a week there every July (lucky lady) to undertake Royal engagements and investitures. The photo above is the fountain at the entrance to the palace. The water only flows when the Queen is in residence or on special occasions to save it from damage. It’s forbidden to take photos inside the palace so I’m struggling to remember everything that I saw, but I was left with an overwhelming feeling of awe. It’s a wonderful place to visit, full of history and legend. Its walls are covered with the most fantastic tapestries and paintings.

Mary Queen of Scots is probably the most famous former resident. She lived at Holyroodhouse Palace from 1561 to 1567. I walked through her bedchamber with its tiny bed (which must’ve been uncomfortable given that Mary was six feet tall) and through to the outer chamber. This is where Mary was eating her dinner on 9th March 1566 when she witnessed the brutal murder of her private secretary David Rizzio by her jealous husband Lord Darnley and his henchmen. He was stabbed fifty six times! Clearly jealousy is a powerful weapon!

Bonnie Prince Charlie also resided here for six weeks in 1745. He came to claim the throne of Great Britain. It seems he was quite a character! You can walk through the Great Gallery which he used to greet his audiences by day, but then transformed it so he could party the night away in the same space. He slept in the Lord Darnley chamber and the very bed he slept in is still there.

Back outside, I came to the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. This was a grand mediaeval abbey, and although it is now in ruins, from what is left, you can imagine how grandiose it once was. The photo ban is lifted for the abbey, and you don’t have to tell me twice!

There’s a great view of Arthur’s Seat from the front courtyard of the palace. Next time I find myself in Edinburgh, I will definitely attempt to get to the top because the views must be stunning.

Next stop, Edinburgh Castle. So, back on the hop on hop off bus, this time the green Edinburgh Tour. This one had live commentary rather than prerecorded. I wasn’t on the bus long, but I learnt about Greyfriars Bobby.

Bobby became famous because after his owner of two years died and was buried in Greyfriars Cemetery, Bobby slept on the grave every night until his death fourteen years later. He is commemorated in this statue and his grave can be found in Greyfriars Cemetery also, not far from his owners.

Isn’t that heartwarming?

Edinburgh Castle looms over the city. There’s not many places you can’t see it from. It was a Royal residence as early as the twelfth century right up to sixteen thirty three, but from the fifteenth century it was used less and less as a residence and it was principally used as a military base.

There’s evidence inside of the Royal connection, not least through the presence of the Scottish Crown Jewels. No photos allowed, but they’re pretty impressive, although perhaps not as much so as I anticipated. I think I was dreaming of something like this.

I peered into the tiny tiny room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI (and I of England). It’s got incredible painting on the walls and ceilings.

I’m sure she wasn’t really paying attention to that whilst in the throes of labour!

The castle was fortified to the hilt. This cannon could send its contents flying two miles away. TWO MILES!

I have to include this next photo of another cannon purely because I like the photo!

I don’t think I did the Castle justice. I paid for the audio guide, but having spent all day listening to audio guides and absorbing oodles of interesting information, I’d reached saturation point and I couldn’t take much more in. Perfect excuse to go back!

Now, after all this historical culture, I decided it was time for some more up to date exploring – Harry Potter! Of course! Edinburgh is the home of JK Rowling, and Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are fictionally (I think, although as a muggle, I may just not be able to see them) located somewhere in Scotland.

I’d already seen for myself where a lot of the inspiration behind Harry Potter must’ve come from. As soon as I arrived in the centre of Edinburgh, I said to myself (actually out loud I think) as I trotted down Princes Street ‘Hogwarts could NOT have looked any different!) This is what you see as you head away from Waverley Station.

Doesn’t it just look like Hogwarts could be hiding behind the more modern buildings?

Then as I looked around Edinburgh, I saw the spires, turrets and arches of Holyroodhouse Palace …

… the Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle …

… and the Scott Monument in Princes Park …

… and I knew without a doubt that Harry Potter could only have come to life out of the imagination of someone who knew and loved Edinburgh.

I found the elephant house which is the cafe where JK Rowling wrote some of the early books.

I didn’t have time to go in – another thing on the list for next time. Apparently the toilets are daubed with Harry Potter themed graffiti.

I sauntered down Victoria Street which is said to have inspired Diagon Alley …

… and I searched Greyfriars Cemetery for the grave which allegedly gave rise to Tom Riddle, who as any devotee will know, became Lord V …. nope, can’t do it! He who must not be named!

I spotted various miscellany dotted around Edinburgh that made me wonder if JK had seen the same and used them in her writing.

In the castle I saw this crest …

Slytherin?

In Princes Park there’s a statue of Allan Ramsay, the poet.

See his headwear? Did JK see this and imagine a creature living in that scarf? Is that how Professor Quirrell came to be?

A unicorn at Holyroodhouse Palace. This is not an isolated unicorn. They’re all over Edinburgh because, I learnt, the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland! Did this spark all the magical beasts (and where to find them!) in Harry Potter. You saw in part one all I learnt about faeries on my walking tour. It seems perfectly natural now that JK’s imagination gave rise to all these magical, mythical animals.

By now I’d clocked up nearly twenty thousand steps so I was feeling in need of a quick pit stop and then my bed! I found Makar’s Gourmet Mash Bar which I had previously researched on tripadvisor so I gladly fell into a window seat to rest my weary bones.

When in Rome and all that! I had to give haggis a try while I was there. I’d already enjoyed several Irn Brus (although they were in plastic bottles and I’ve since learnt that it tastes much better from a glass bottle) so I upped the Scottish ante and ordered mini haggis, neeps and tatties (otherwise known as haggis, potato and turnip) which promised to be a perfect beginner’s option for those new to haggis.

Yum! It didn’t last long! I followed this up with Bonnie Prince Charlie char-grilled chicken in a whisky, peppercorn and mustard sauce. You get to choose from eight different kinds of mash and I opted for Scottish cheddar/chive cheese mash.

Double yum! I couldn’t finish it, although I really tried hard, and I had no room for dessert.

It would appear that I had rather a lot to say about Edinburgh, and I haven’t even mentioned the zoo yet! I think I’ll save that for another day because regular animals (impressive as some of them were) seem rather misfitting next to unicorns and other magical beasts. Suffice it to say that I had an amazing, awesome, outstanding day. Thank you Edinburgh!

Christmas Gatherings

Oh dear!  It’s been a while again!  Does anyone else find in the run up to Christmas they have too much to keep in their head all at once?  I’m a perennial list maker, but at Christmas I have lists coming out of my ears, and if I don’t, I forget everything that I’m supposed to be keeping in my head!  I haven’t put ‘write a blog post’ on a list because I thought it was so ingrained in me to do it now, but the things on my various lists have kept me away from Green Girl Gardener!  I’m struggling to remember what I’ve been up to since we last spoke, so thank goodness for photos – I’ve just perused my camera roll to remind myself!

I’ll start where I left off at the end of my last post, my gym Christmas do.  My Secret Santa gift was successful.  I don’t know the recipient very well, but I thought that she seems a fun, Christmassy kind of person, and I know she has young children so I decided to get her novelty tree decorations from Paperchase.  I stupidly forgot to take any photos and now I can’t remember what they all were, but they definitely included this lovely unicorn.

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I managed to just about squeeze three decorations into this lovely Gingerbread Man gift bag.

21E60A4C-8805-40CD-96FB-C28B0B2A4723I love Paperchase so much, I can browse in there for ages, and now the bigger Next stores often have a Paperchase in them, as well as a Costa, so I could literally spend hours in there and even have refreshments to keep me going!  If I get chance to pop out this week, I think I’ll see if they have some festive broccoli in the Paperchase near work because I think there is still a little bit of room on our tree.

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My Secret Santa gift was amazing. Someone had certainly done their research because I got these great gardening inspired gifts.

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I think I’ll plant something in the mug – it’s too nice to keep hidden in a cupboard!

The Christmas party was held at a lovely venue called the Old School House near Lichfield. We had lovely food and a night of dancing to get us in the festive spirit.

This week was also my work Christmas event, which I organised so I was feeling the pressure! Luckily it went pretty well and I think everyone enjoyed themselves – some possibly slightly too much given the size of the number on the bar bill!

We started by doing an Escape Room. We had the ‘Jingle Bells’ package which meant we got a mince pie and a couple of drinks included with our game. We had four teams and two played a war inspired game and the other two teams became samurai warriors. Only one of the teams managed to escape, and it wasn’t mine! I’ve really enjoyed the other two escape rooms that I’ve done, but I was in one of the war teams and I struggled this time. It started off well and we soon solved the first couple of clues but then it got really complicated, so much so that even when it was explained afterwards I still didn’t know what we were supposed to have done. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all!

After this we went for lunch at Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse which is on the twenty fourth floor of the Cube hotel in the Mailbox, a commercial centre in Birmingham. The food was a bit of a mixed bag. I chose prawn cocktail to start and it was one of the best prawn cocktails I’ve ever had, juicy prawns, crisp iceberg lettuce and plenty of creamy marie-rose sauce.

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I followed that with traditional turkey with the trimmings and this was a bit disappointing. The veg was lovely, julienne carrots, roast parsnips, the obligatory Christmas sprouts and crispy roast potatoes, but the turkey was made into a roulade with stuffing and it was stuffing overload but not enough turkey.

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I rounded it off with lemon tart with vanilla ice cream and that was pretty tasty but it could’ve been more more lemony. You can’t please everyone, can you?

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After we’d eaten we swapped our Secret Santa gifts. I had perfect gifts.

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I commented to my colleague that whoever had me obviously knew me well as I got cat and teddy bear themed pressies, and he made the very good point that it could’ve been anyone in the office.  He’s right, I don’t hide my love for cats and teddy bears!

There were great views from the top floor, especially as the sun was setting.

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This weekend I made my annual pilgrimage down to Surrey to see my Mum, Granny, Aunt and Uncle and one of my cousins so we could swap cards and pressies. It was really lovely to see them and, as always, I’ve come back thinking I really need to make that journey more often. It’s so nice to be with people that you love, and who love you. With my family being so far apart geographically, I don’t get to experience it very often. Life always seems to get in the way, we’re so busy that time goes by and before I know it, another year’s gone and I haven’t visited. Maybe I’ll add that to my New Year’s Resolutions – make time to see my loved ones more often.

The pile of presents under our tree is growing.

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Look at that big snowman sack! That one’s for me from my Mum. How exciting!

I hope they all like the gifts I’ve chosen for them. I guess we’ll find out on Christmas Day.

My Mum likes Chocolate Orange (it’s not Terry’s, it’s mine!) so I crocheted her a little cosie.

 

As well as our Christmas gifts, I also came home with some cuttings that my Mum has taken from her garden.

 

I scrawled all over the photos so I remember what they are! I have two fuschias, one hardy and one not, a salvia, a geranium, a spray carnation and something which may or may not be a ragged robin.

I’ll be sure to update on the progress of these cuttings when the stupid winter is over! Stupid stupid winter!

 

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my bloggy baby lately! Have you missed my updates or is everyone too busy trying to get ready for Christmas to notice? I promise I’m not losing my blojo (have I just coined a word? Blogging and mojo – yeah, doesn’t really work if you have to explain it!) I’ve just been struggling to fit everything in to twenty four hours each day, and that coupled with trying to reset my body clock to UK time and attempting to catch up on sleep after my globetrotting lately has meant no time for writing.

It’s not just my blog that’s had to be temporarily pushed aside, I only managed to get to the gym once in November and I’ve only been once so far in December. I’ve either not been here to go, or if I have I’ve been so tired I just couldn’t contemplate jumping around like a lunatic for an hour in lycra! I’m too scared to stand on the scales, and, let’s face it, December is hardly the most conducive time for healthy eating, is it, so I guess we know what the theme of my New Year’s resolutions will be!

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We have a table at work. It’s called the cake table. A table specially for cakes! It’s possible that it wasn’t put there with the intention of housing the office sugary delectations, but it very rapidly became known as the cake table when we took possession of it, and now no one would dream of calling it anything else! Seriously, it must be reinforced by the steel that we sell because for the past week it’s been groaning under the weight of Celebrations, Foxes biscuits, Turkish Delight and many other treats that are making my chubby bits chubbier!

My lovely friend and colleague Maria also has a steady supply of dib dabs, black jacks, fruit salads (does the healthy name excuse it? No? Bother!) and lollies in her Santa bowl on her festive desk (hope she doesn’t mind me pinching this pic from Facebook).

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She also surprised some of us this week with these lovely homemade gifts.

We wondered what she was going to do with the Gü ramekins that she’d been saving! Now we know!

We left work one day this week to find several men on ladders in the foyer decorating a massive Christmas Tree!

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How exciting! We’ve been in this office for six years and we’ve never had a tree before!

Its my gym Christmas party tonight (yes, I am still invited even after my lack of attendance lately!) and what with that and the festive atmosphere at work, I decided that today was a good day to climb up the loft and get Christmas down. Several pffftts later as I got rained on by dust and miscellaneous loft expulsions I had all the various Christmas paraphernalia down much to the surprise of Olive and Tinkerbell.

Apparently Olive thought the tree was delicious!

I decided to get in the festive spirit while I was decorating. It was before 10am so a little early for a Christmas Snowball (although I may have thrown caution to the wind had I had any Advocaat in the house, or lemonade for that matter), so I went with Christmas tunes on YouTube and a hat!

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Does anyone else have their mother’s voice in their head while decorating the tree saying, ‘don’t forget the back!’ No? Just me then. I used to wonder why she was worried about the back of the tree, but I get it now. I get it especially this year as I have finally achieved an adulting aim of having my tree in a bay window! Isn’t that a proper grown up thing? Firstly owning a home with a bay window, and secondly having the tree in it so it’s visible from outside!

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I have a particular order for dressing the tree. Our tree has integral lights so I don’t have to worry about hiding the wires, but I always wrap the tinsel round first and then step back to satisfy my OCDness that it looks even. Then I start with all my favourite baubles, all the ones that I’ve picked up from Harrods and various Christmas fayres over the years.

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This one was made for us years ago by our nephew. He’s nearly eighteen now so he probably won’t appreciate me including this!

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The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed this one in the full length pic above. I posted about this a few weeks ago when I made it from a kit given to me for my birthday. It looks lovely on the tree. Hopefully I’ll get time to complete the rest of the kit before Christmas (that may be wishful thinking given the amount of Christmas crocheting I have to do!)

I fill in all the gaps with our regular round baubles. Finally, the star has to go on top. Done!

Then I have to start upon the rest. We have a few homemade bits from my Mum. The tree skirt is her handiwork.

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As are these two.

I make an effort with our fireplace.

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The stockings were made by my Mum too.

I dot festivity around the rest of the living room.

Even the coati’s got in the Christmas spirit!

We had our kitchen and dining room knocked through this year to make a big kitchen-diner so I’ve extended the festivity to there too.

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This tree is new for my Little Box of Crochet advent calendar makes which I’ll show you when I’ve made all twenty four.

Right, I’ve got to dash – need to brave the shops to pick up my Secret Santa gift for tonight. Very disorganised, I realise, but I do at least know what I’m getting, just haven’t had time to get to the shops!