I kicked off 33 (a third of a way to 99!) with a trip to Edinburgh to visit my good friend Caroline, who is incidentally moving to NZ herself soon, so it was the last chance to catch up in this hemisphere for the foreseeable :(
This was the weekend Storm Desmond hit the UK. It wasn't nearly as bad in Edinburgh as it seemed it was in Northern England/Southern Scotland, but it was certainly cold and rainy enough for anyone's liking. There's definitely a charm to winter lights and traditions when it's miserable outside and dark from 4 pm which you don't get somewhere like NZ though, so it's not all bad.
|At like 5 pm|
We began my birthday with a solid morning of shopping, hurray! And I actually found like 5 dresses and a pair of shoes which fit and looked good, which is something that basically never happens on the Continent, where everything is always too small or unflattering on me or just not my style. Then lunch at Wagamama's and a trip to the Edinburgh Dungeon in the afternoon.
To be honest, I was not expecting great things from the Dungeon. I thought either it would be a pretty dull display of old torture instruments which we've all seen before, or incredibly cheesy. It turned out it was cheesy, but it was done with such a spirit of fun and sort of a nudge and a wink that let you know it didn't take itself too seriously. And it wasn't just pitched at children - I'm not sure there even were any on our tour. It involved going through various rooms and meeting actors who told/reinacted either real stories from Edinburgh's past (think Burke and Hare the bodysnatchers/serial killers) or spooky tales (ghosts, cannibals etc.) mixed in with attempts to spook you (flickering lights, things popping out). There was plenty of audience interaction as well - they seemed particularly keen on picking on poor Jules.
We had a Scottish dinner - I tried haggis, in the form of deep-fried haggis "bonbons". I don't know about the full-on served-in-a-sheep's-stomach version, but this was surprisingly good! It doesn't have the odd texture that turns me off things like boudin noir and just pretty much tastes like a richer kind of mincemeat. I actually ended up having it twice more - once on top of a meat pie (which was soooo good) and once with a "full Scottish" brunch.
The next day, the storm had blown the clouds away and it was beautiful and sunny, although quite cold. We took advantage of this to go on a free walking tour, which again I recommend. Our guide was young and enthusiastic and did a good job of taking us through the history of Edinburgh and Scotland in general, and hitting the highlights around the old town, including the tale of Greyfriars Bobby, which I knew already, but still brought a shameful tear to my eye as he recounted it.
|A piper in front of a statue of David Hume and the beautiful St Giles Cathedral|
|View of the city with the Christmas market Ferris Wheel|
|Jules in Greyfriars churchyard|
|More Greyfriars views|
|At the height of the body snatching epidemic, some people had grates like this installed to protect their loved ones' graves|
|Me and Greyfriars Bobby, sniff|
In the afternoon, we drove to nearby Rosslyn Chapel, of Da Vinci Code fame. I did see the film ages ago, but can't remember whether they show much of the main chapel, or just the crypt. Anyway, it is absolutely covered with amazing stone carvings on every inch. You don't need all the mythology about Templars and so on to marvel at it and enjoy finding the interesting little scenes, plants and beasts carved into the stone.
|Outside Rosslyn - it ends with this abrupt wall plus Victorian add-on because they only managed to build half of the original design in the Middle Ages and then just capped off what would have been the central axis with a wall|
|I managed to sneak one photo inside|
|It was dark by the time we came out, and lit up in a fetching shade of pink|
Sunday finished with an evening at the pub and an amazing Indian feast - and I amazed myself by loving everything we ordered (about 10 small dishes for sharing). I don't like curry, so tend to be somewhat wary when it comes to Indian, but evidently I should be more open-minded. Monday was a quiet day with the aforementioned brunch before getting our plane home.
Well, that's the bare facts of what we did, but it was the company that really made it. It makes such a difference seeing a city with friends who live there, and it was really a wonderful birthday weekend.
|Remember those murdering, body-snatching guys? Yeah, they named a strip club after them. You couldn't make it up.|