Our first full day of no plans in Edinburgh had only one plan. (Wait, does that actually work? Crap.) We had tickets to see Madness in The Evening with Henry’s family. I loooove madness (80’s nerd checking in!) and the Last time they played in Seattle Yulia and I ran into Henry and Kathy at the concert by chance. So when I heard they were playing while we were all in Edinburgh, I synced up and got us all tickets. Should be fun.
But for us this meant we had the whole rest of the day unplanned, so we slept in a bit and didn’t get out until we were actually hungry. We left the apartment, and went up towards Edinburgh Castle. It’s only 1 block away fro where we are staying, so it’s a perfect location to be (although a bit noisy with drunken Tourists and Scots all night) The castle sits atop a massive rock in the center of town, which obviously made it easy to defend originally. This created a series of windy steep streets all around the base, with some “Sidewalks” 20-30 feet above the road below. Stairs would sink into the sidewalk and you could pop out a door in the wall below in some areas.
High up on one of these we found a great breakfast restaurant to start at. It was *literally* a hole in the wall joint. They had healthy options as well as Scottish food (see what I did there?). Coffee was the most critical start, and they had Haggis on the breakfast plate, so I was covered. The girls had Avocado and Egg toast. I’ve noticed that everywhere has avocados on the menu. I’m not sure if the millennials have impacted Scotland, or if it’s avocado season nearby, but they’re everywhere.
After a bite, we checked the shops in the way up to the castle gate. There were a lot of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones themed stuff amongst the normal touristy Wool, Scotch, and Shortbread. (The three pillars of Scottish tourist crap, as decreed by Robert The Bruce in 1307) We ignored all that and just headed to the gates. The Gates to the castle were actually hidden behind a huge set of stands for the Scottish Tattoo, which we thought was a skin-and-ink festival, but actually is a term for a Military Festival that happens at the same time as the music festival The Fringe. There’s no time this trip, but if we come back in August, We should try to get tickets. Apparently they sell out almost a year ahead.
But we were really just focused on the castle, as we wanted time to look around. The line for tickets in was pretty quick, and we started up the long path to the battlements. The view is spectacular in all directions. We followed the tour map, and walked through the War Museum, past each of the historical buildings, and made our way to the top. The line for the Scottish Crown Jewels was already long, so I waited while Yulia and Sasha took pictures from the upper battlements and cannons. The line finally crept far enough where we could get inside the main building. This was good as we were already getting a chill from the wind that was whipping up. At least the rain hadn’t started.
Inside the main building, the line wound through the halls into an exhibit on the history of Scottish kings. The lines were actually moving fast enough that we didn’t study all the information, but they showed the progression of Scottish Kings, how the Jewels were made, and also how the jewels were lost for about 100 years until 1818 when they were found in a locked chest hidden in the castle. Obviously this was when men were in charge, because a woman would have remembered where she put them.
We finally made it around to the display room. What was notable was that the doors were all safe doors. The entire display room was the actual vault, and we filed in and through. The jewels themselves were a massive Sword of State, the Scottish crown, and the Scepter. They were really impressive, especially when you consider how old these are. These are the oldest set of crown jewels in the British isles. They date back to around 1540, but exact dates weren’t clear. In any case it was worth the wait.
We went back down and toured the rest of the Castle. The Main hall was impressive, and filled with swords, weapons, and armor. Naturally we toured the dungeons – a must for any castle. Even the dungeons had great views. Eventually we made our way through everything and out of the castle. The Royal Mile was crowded due to the festival, so we went down the hill and onto Princes Street. The girls wanted to get some shopping in, and princes street has the best shops.
Looking up from Princes Street to the castle above reminded us that this was a serious castle. I couldn’t imagine trying to scale those rocks only to then have arrows and boiling oil raining down. A lack of air support would really have sucked. Sasha was having trouble believing that the view was even real. It looked like Hogwarts from Universal Studios, of course, this is because J.K. Rowling wrote the first book in Edinburgh, and much of that world is modeled in Edinburgh itself. Sometimes real life is more unbelievable than fantasy.
Yulia and Sasha took off for some shops, and i went into a Starbucks for some terrible coffee, and to catch up on my writing. (Where do you think these posts come from?) I’ve started keeping a slim foldable keyboard in my shoulder bag. I was able to pop that out and update WordPress right from my phone. I looked a little weird, but hey, whatever works. Time went really fast and I managed to catch up a bit to my posts before they girls returned with a few bags of clothes. After all the walking around we were getting hungry, so we found a nice place about halfway up the hill and grabbed some food. It was mostly sausages and mashed potatoes (of assorted styles, but they also had fantastic Scotch Eggs (those are Semi-hard boiled eggs wrapped in Sausage and fried. ) Scotch Eggs are one of my favorites. I make them at home, but not this well. After all the we just went back to rest, as we had the Madness Concert later.
We met our group by the entrance to the park, it was right across from where we were shopping earlier. The park itself used to be a lake below the castle, but it’s all filled in now and a really nice park. Of course everything grows so well because the lake had been largely filled with human excrement, but just try to enjoy the nice plants, eh?
The crowds for the concert were really easy. it’s not a huge venue, and as an 80’s band, Madness brings an older crowd in any case. We filed in, grabbed a few drinks, and found a nice spot to stand and watch up and to the back. The amphitheater was excellent, so there wan’t really a bad place to watch. The beer went quick, so I ran down to pick up more. I needed to get five drinks for our group, but found that you were only allowed to take four. Thus the “Pee Tax” rule was created, where if you went to the bathroom you had to come back with four drinks.
This was an excellent idea.
We actually had a long wait for the opening act to start, and our new taxation plan was working nicely. These were also really light beers, so the beer economy grew at a sustainable rate. We also learned that the venue offered a bounty on empty cups of 1 pound for each 10 cups. A couple of Boys got into the act of collecting big stacks of cups and trading them in. Henry’s daughter started the same, and got busy with her new enterprise. Once we had a nice buzz going, the opening act came on, and at best they were OK. The weather had been threatening rain all day, and it also started a light drizzle while we were listening. It wasn’t a full rain, but just enough to remind us we had been drinking a lot of light beer and it was time to pay the tax.
Finally Madness came on. The opened up with their classic “One Step Beyond” The rain had stopped, the volume as up, and old white people who couldn’t dance began dancing. It was excellent. They ran through a full set, mixing classic songs with their newer album. They also are a fairly working-class band, and had their share of political comments as well. Yulia was surprised, but if you listen to their songs it’s in character. They didn’t play Yulia’s one favorite song “Rain” but she was impressed as they sound far better live that they do on their albums. I’ve listened to a lot of bands and that’s almost never the case. The set list was really long, and didn’t finish until close to 11:30 pm. After an encore or two, we all headed to the exits, Henry’s daughter was about 28 pounds richer at this point from all the cups, and we felt tired but great. It was so worth the wait to go.
Naturally, the security guards filed us out to the far side of the park, so we had a longer walk back to the apartment. Yulia and I left the group once our paths diverged, and found a nice pizza place up on the Royal Mile for a late bite.
Scottish Pizza is pretty bad, but what do you want at midnight?