Wednesday, October 3, 2007



We flew Dublin to Edinburgh on the 3rd at 3:10pm via Ryan Air. Our hotel was at 5 West Register St. We saw the Edinburgh Castle and I went on a tour of The Real Mary King's Close. We visited the Modern Art Museum and I climbed the Scot Monument and Calton Hill which has the Nelson monument which requires a small fee. We flew Edinburgh to Munich on the 10th at 12:50pm via Easy Jet

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

Mike and I wake up when Schmidt walks in. I shout "Get off me Mike!" because I think I'm sleeping naked and Mike has me pinned. Both are true, but the addition of a beautiful blanket diffuses the situation.

We have breakfast and finish Caroline's milk. We went through 4L of it. For this I am sorry. We start to head out, but before we go to the hallway to put on our shoes I look out the window: It's pouring. Cats and dogs. We grab our coats and hightail it to the bus station after having to, very conveniently for me, stop and buy a latte to get change for the bus.

We get on a bus. The bus driver is super friendly. He tells us all about how to get where we're going, that he'll call us when it's time to get off and transfer and then CHATS with us. Super nice guy. We ride the bus until he shouts - it's still pouring and there's way fewer people on the streets than yesterday, but still a lot - and then get off. We stand under a sign for the bus we want and wait until it appears. The first driver shakes his head and points to the "Out of Service" sign. The second smiles at us, tells us to climb on and drives us around the corner where the line starts, rather than the end point, which is where we are. He asks us where we're from and he's from Romania (!!). The city is crawling with nationalities trying to get a piece of the boom.

The next bus driver is as nice as the first one and shows us where to get off and then gives us directions around the block to our destination. It's stopped pouring by this time. Where are we headed? Do you think I would take Mike to Dublin but not to the Guinness factory? :)

On the way there we're stopped by a blonde woman in an Audi looking for parking. The only reason I'm mentioning this is because her skin was orange from selftanner. It's a phenomenon: orange skin. The richest dressed women with the nicest handbags have the orangest skin.

We race around the Guinness factory's 7 floors from 11-12:15. Our flight is at 3pm and Caroline's house is a 45 minute bus ride away and her house, and our stuff, is half way across town. After Mike drinks his free pint in the rooftop bar that overlooks Dublin with Joyce quotes all around the windows - James Joyce - we catch a cab. The cabbie tells us all about the real "Dubbers" and the problems the posh women create as they try to dash across the road for a sandwich and about hanging out in the St Stephen's green on Sundays when he was a kid. We get to Caroline's. The cabbie says, "You better start leavin'."

We race to the apartment, grab our stuff, say goodbye to Caroline, run to SPAR - the food/drug store - for some sandwiches and catch the bus. We get to the airport, suffer the obligatory wait and arrive in Edinburgh 15 mins early.

We catch the bus to downtown and find our hostel. The second we hit the street they call Princes Street I was happy. Then we climbed the 74 stairs to our hostel, which is on the 5th floor, past the RAB Social club door - their floor smells like pot -, past the Centre City Hostel - their floor is lit and clean - and into a painted, dim, disorganized receptiony looking place where our visa doesn't work and the key they give us needs some serious convincing to get us into a room whose floor terrifies me and where the carpet is pulled up in the corner. I wouldn't recommend it to a rat, and neither has anyone else, which has saved us from stepping on rats.

We ditch our stuff and I navigate us to Mussel Inn, where I had dinner with Joyce a couple of years ago, by memory. We have a marvelous meal. Then we go in search of a phone card - it's my mom's and Mike's dad's birthday - call them and then sleep.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

Mike wakes up and jiggles me out of bed. We eat the food we bought the night before at Sainsbury - a grocery store. It's good. There's Scottish strawberries. Then we buy a tour guide with 3 suggested walks around Edinburgh.

Mike likes climbing things and I like doing things that I'm familiar with, so we climb Arthur's seat. It's a tall hill in the centre of town that's been preserved as a park for the public. We walk through Old Town to get there. An old man helps us find the hill.

We climb to Arthur's seat with a lot of stopping and panting. I try to mask my needing a break by pretending to be a real connoisseur of skylines. Mike is not fooled. When we get to the top he scrambles around in the marvelous sun and the buffeting wind and I sit on the side that's protected from sun and wind in a very precarious position, and eat a nasty granola bar. (We make better granola bars than the British) Mike comes to find me to say that he's found a "different" way down the hill and wants to try it.

We follow some very faint paths to the base of the hill. At the bottom there is a wall 8 ft high that we're at the top of. If you look down you see road. Two old men were walking on the path across from the wall when I came to stand at the top of it. One of the men suggested I try jumping - into the road - and was kind of disappointed when I suggested I could slide down on my stomach. The other old man, the kinder of the two, pointed to a spot 10 m up the hill from where I stood where there was a slope I could climb down. I climbed down there, much to the first man's disappointment.

Mike and I have a fabulous walk from Arthur's Seat to Cannon Gate, where we eat at a place called "Cannon's Gait". It was a stupid name, but a beautiful pub/cafe. Totally cool and totally good beer and food. We walk up the street and I get some knitted things from a store called raggamuffin.

Mike is super keen on seeing the Botanical Gardens, so we leave the East end of the city and walk to the North end of the city and around the Botanical Gardens - "like a zoo for plants". We go into the glasshouses and Mike searches them and their contents exhaustively. We take a ton of pictures of amazing plants and I keep thinking of the Meryl Streep movie with the orchids and this makes the place very sinister.

We're exhausted by the time we get back to Princes Street. We buy some grapes, tomatoes, cheese, popadums, chips and smoothie and have a picnic on our bed. Then I go to sleep and Mike lays on the bed, still, because his legs are too sore to move them.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

We wake up. I demand some time on the internet to catch up the blog. I have a latte and spend 30 mins trying to find a web applet that will convert Querty key strokes to Dvorak. (I type Dvorak and there's no easy way to switch if you don't have admin privileges)

Mike is bored with me typing and goes to the Scott Monument and climbs it. I get two chocolate pastries and a bottle of water and meet him, in the sun, at the base of the monument.

We take the path alongside what I think is the Leith river and up to the Museum of Modern Art. The walk is beautiful and flanked by nice river, amazing bridges and beautiful, old buildings. The sun is shining through the trees and it's a totally lovely morning.

We get to the Museum of Modern Art and walk around Landform, the award winning landscape. It's lovely and reminds me of the landscape architecture of the Victorian era - all levels with pools at the bottom - and Mike of mine tailings. We decide we're both right and go into the museum.

The water main has broken in the museum, so there's no lunch or washroom and since that's the two things we're most interested in, we head across the street to the Dean museum. After using the toilets we get directions to a sandwich shop and get there minutes before they close for the day. We learn, from being snoopy and eavesdropping, that there's a postal strike and then head back up the hill to the Museum of Modern Art. It's no great shakes, but it does prompt discussion between us.

We catch the bus back downtown and then the bus to Leith. We have a date to meet John Haxton, one of my OT collegues, for dinner and a movie. We ride the bus until I see something I recognize... I ask Mike, "Do you see a red boat?" He says, "No, but I see a white one." and I say, "that's it. We'll get off here, walk until we see a man, turn right at the place where Phil took us for lunch and then head over until we see the prow of the ship." Using these landmarks we arrive at Great Michael House and find Phil, Craig, Bruce and John there. We go have a drink at the pub on the corner. Mike and Phil really hit it off. They both have fond feelings for microcontrollers.

Mike, John and I head up Leith Walk to a pizza place that's just amazing. We walk up to the theatre and get tickets for The Kingdom, which is really well executed, but I didn't like. While we're waiting for the movie to start, John takes us to a church nearby and we see some neat sculpture of a hand and foot. It's hard to like, but maybe has more significance during the day.

Mike and I get home and sleep soundly.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

We decided the night before to take a tour of the countryside and get up at 7am to get dressed and call the place to see if they'll take us. The tour company is booked up, so we go back to sleep.

We wake up a bit later and Mike wants to go climb Calton Hill - a hill chock full of monuments - and I want to go shopping. We part ways and he struggles against the tourists that show up on Saturdays and I find the most perfect pair of black pants in the world.

We meet at the Elephant House, a pub/cafe. I apologize to Mike immediately: this is the place Harry Potter was born and it's crawling with Harry stalkers. We pay too much money for a crappy lunch and then take a picture of the outside of the building. Anyone interested in a photo of where JK Rowling first started writing?

Mike wants to walk the Royal Mile today - the other two days we did the other two walks described in the book - but first he wants to book the day tour to the Highlands. We walk up the Royal Mile and I become detached from him as I look in shops at tweeds and cashmere. One store, Ness, hits every nerve in the girly part of my brain and I spend the next 40 mins dashing around the shop looking at hairbands that match bags that match pins that match skirts that match sweaters that match wallets that match jackets. Mike buys me a present: a very pretty, tweed, purple skirt. (Although after the diet of purple I've been on on this trip - I have one piece of clothing that isn't purple - I may not want to wear anymore.) So, I'm in heaven: a new pair of pants and a marvelous skirt.

We walk up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle which is "not too busy", says the guy taking tickets, but is nonetheless crawling with people. We listen to the audio tour and, in true Mike Wood style, exhaustively search the grounds. I take a break at the end of the exhaustive searching because I'm exhausted, and buy a whack of postcards.

Mike and I leave the castle after a few hours and head to the foot of it's drive, where an extreme biking contest is being held. Contestants ride their bikes down the flights of stairs that lead up to the Royal Mile from a lower street. We watch this for a while and then start exploring the street. We walk past yummy places to eat, neat stores and a cheese shop that I'd die to have a fridge for and end up back on the Royal Mile. Mike wants to take a tour of Mary King's Close - the basements of the current city that used to be the buildings of the current city - so we find the guides and book a tour. After that, Mike and I walk around trying to find a bookstore: we find three: meditation, music and photography, but none will sell me another novel. (I've finished Breakfast at Tiffany's) So, Mike and I part and I go back to the hostel by myself and get some toothpaste at Boots - their pharmacy - and find a bookstore and buy A Handmaid's Tale. Then I take a nap.

Mike comes home and wants to go out. We head out to a gorgeous Thai place we passed earlier that day, but they're too busy and instead head to a place called The Outsider, which I'm sure is a reference to a novel or something. It's a really cool place and the guy tells us to come back in 15mins. (He's great, by the way.. .the maitre 'd or whatever)

We walk around Old Town and find some new building sites and old schools and then go back and have an amazing dinner: Vegetabel Brochette, pita filled with coleslaw, sweet potatoes with pumpkin and swordfish steaks that were amazing. We shared a pear dessert that was to die for and the ice cream served with it has made us want to start making our own ice cream. We wandered home around 11pm, through the most partying city that I've ever seen... Until I saw Dublin... but this came a close second for public drunkenness. It was funny, though, because the goth kids, the Britney girls and girls dressed like they were from the 80s were all walking on the same streets as moms, dads and posh old ladies in white patent leather shoes.

We get home, Mike throws on his facemask while I read and then we sleep.

(OH! The shower was broken when we got home - they were all out of order - and I had to go in search of another shower and found a NICE one one floor up. It had a DOOR! LUXURY!)

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

Today we wake up at 7:00 for some reaon. We're off to find the Loch Lomond. Bet you thought I was going to ay the Loch Ness monter. We walk up to the Royal Mile to find some breakfast and I have a quiche that is mostly potato and Mike has a proper breakfast which is made of sausage, toast and some yummy haggis.

There was no contempt on the day that we went on our visit to the Scottish countryside. I thouhgt that it would continue to rain - it was raining when we got up and walked to breakfast, but by the time we got into the 16 person bus and underway it had stoĆ¼pped raining and by the time we got to the castle, Stirling castle, it had cleared. There were 13 ppl on the bus. On German lady visiting on an english course, 10 people from Spain and us. the driver's name was Karen and she was sooo knowledgeable about her conrty. There were tons of things that we passed that she could tell us about: the plants, the history, deer, almost anything we saw she knew about.

She told us that there was 5 million ppl in Scotland and that they have 40% of the land in the UK, so the have a lot of space.. and don't need a lot of roads. The roads she drove us over went from four lane highways down to one lane tracks on both sides that if you met another car on, they had to back up to the nearest passing place to let us go by. The entire drive was beautiful, paved and twisty.

Mike and I spent 2 hrs at Stirling castle, exhaustively searching the grounds. They are in the process of restoring the castle. It was used as army barracks until 1960 and lots of it had been damaged. Some archaeologists are also excavating the site to see if they can discover the history of the site.

Mike loved running around the various courtyards like a monkey, along the outer walls and through the underground passageways. We saw the kitchens, some amazing ceilings and tapestries. We got to the site before most of the tourists, but as we were leaving a group of people came up, all wearing baseball caps with viking horns on them, with a guide in a kilt. They were noisy.

We took off to a little town whose name escapes me now, but it's in between Loch Lomond and Stirling castle. WE had lunch there, but not before weaving around the scottish highlands, looking at some beautiful scenery and lochs and mountains and heather. It was a beautiful fall dayand all the ferns were turning brown, but turning yellow and red first. It was stunning.

Mike and I had some pop, some pastries, an orange and a thing of curry and chips for lunch. Curry and chips is strange. Then we got back in the bus and drove past many many Lochs until we reache Loch Lomsnd, which has a power station at one end. It is 15 miles long and 5 miles wide at the widest part. It was beautiful and Mike and I hiked alongside the Loch for a while, after stopping at the hotel and going pee. We met a couple of ladies, Fiona and Mary, who are retired, but lively and members of a hiking club. They were nice. Fiona liked my shoes.

We got back in the van and back to the city. I fell asleep, as per usual but Mike stayed awake and listen to the story that the driver was telling about Scotland. She told us all about Willam Wallace, Rob Roy and Robert the Bruce, the kings and queen of note and some other stories of sheep and cow stealing. We got back by 6pm and spent 2 hrs in a nice wine cafe where we had yummy tomato soup and goat cheese salad. They were super. Ecco Vino the place was called.

Then we went and watched the rugby match... I watched a bit, and then caught up my blog and then Mike came in, totally pumped, even though `we` had lost - Scotland is who mike identifies with. They were playing Argentina and we had just figured out who was who when I left. then we called our parents, because it was Thanksgiving. Mike left a message with his mom and I called mine. They were having a party, but we had a bad connection. Then Mike and I went to bed.

>> Munich

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