Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Edinburgh Day 2; Heading Home

DAY 11: Friday, July 17, 2009

As I mentioned in my last post, after our three super-intense sightseeing days in St. Andrews, Edinburgh and North Berwick, we opted for a more leisurely day on Friday as opposed to getting up early and taking the train to Stirling for more castle exploration. Instead, we slept in a little bit, then went out to breakfast at a little place called Gourmet Grub on Rose Street, a very cute street in New Town with lots of restaurants and pubs. Eric had a full Scottish breakfast (which included baked beans this time!), and I had scrambled eggs and bacon on biscuits, which was served with a side salad! A side salad for breakfast? Interesting.

Eric's breakfast: black pudding, potatoes, tomatoes, fried egg, bacon, sausage, mushrooms and baked beans

My breakfast: scrambled eggs and bacon on biscuits with a side salad

We then set out to do our casual exploring. We headed back to the Royal Mile to do some shopping, walking through another portion of the Princes Street Gardens on the way. Edinburgh is a very cool place - we enjoyed the scenery as we shopped, although the rain did its best to put a damper (get it?) on the day.

Very cool looking street

We even ran into William Wallace! We just see celebrities everywhere, I'll tell ya what.

After doing a little souvenir shopping, we visited the Scotch Whisky Experience ("whiskey" is spelled without the "e" if it's Scotch - something I learned from the Experience!). That was fun! It started with a little ride that talked about the whisky-making process. Then, they gathered a group of us into a room with a guide who discussed the various types of Scotch whisky from the four regions in Scotland, and how they differ. We were then able to choose which region we would like to sample whisky from. They poured us our glasses then took us into the collection room, which was wall-to-wall whisky bottles! It was really cool. There, our guide talked to us about how to taste the whisky (swirl it, "nose" it, etc.), then we were let loose to sip our whisky and check out all the different bottles in the collection room. It was really fun! And that whisky was STRONG. I couldn't finish mine!

The Scotch Whisky Experience

Ready for the ride portion of the tour

Look at all those whisky bottles!

Sipping our whisky in the collection room

After the Whisky Experience, we stopped for a few more souvenirs then grabbed lunch at a burger place called Wannaburger. This place had MUCH better milkshakes! Then, we went back to our hotel for a bit. Eric spent some time at the fitness center in the sauna, steam room and pool, while I took a nap.

We just sort of killed time until dinner, which was very late! We had dinner that night at The Witchery, right by the castle. We knew we needed reservations, so we tried to make a reservation when we woke up Friday for between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. However, the earliest we could get a reservation was 10:00 p.m.! Can you believe that?! But, we had really wanted to eat at this place, so we did it.

The Witchery By The Castle

The Witchery exterior

We actually ate in the Secret Garden, a very romantic portion of the restaurant on a sort of walled-in patio. The atmosphere in there was fabulous. It was lit almost entirely by candlelight, and the walls were covered with beautiful tapestries. There were gorgeous roses and statues scattered about, and the service was exceptional. It was quite the place!

Thanks to the romantic candlelight, you will be spared pictures of our food, but not the description! We of course started with a bottle of wine. For appetizers, Eric had the haggis, neeps and tatties, and I had the most incredible scallops with red mullet tempura and passion fruit beurre blanc. For the main course, Eric had the fillet of Scotch beef with green beans and dauphine potatoes. I had organic salmon wrapped in potato with roast chicory, parsley and lemon oil. For dessert, we split a honey heather parfait with fresh strawberries. YUM. It was a delicious dinner!

Eric at our candlelight dinner (you can't make it out, but he is wearing a Baird tartan tie he bought as a souvenir! He looks so handsome in it.)

Outside the restaurant after dinner

As dinner wore on we became nervous about our walk home, as we watched the rain pour down outside the restaurant windows. But, it wasn't as bad as it looked. We still were walking home in the rain, but it was tolerable. I would say we enjoyed our walk as we reflected on our wonderful vacation.

When we returned to the hotel, we started packing up then went to bed as soon as we could - when dinner starts at 10:00, you tend to get to bed pretty late!

DAY 12: Saturday, July 18, 2009

We got up and checked out of the hotel around 8:00 a.m., then walked a couple blocks to pick up the bus to the airport. We had no trouble getting checked in and to our gate with plenty of time to spend our last British pounds on snacks for the flight. Our flight departed around 10:55 a.m., and by 1:30 p.m. New York time we were back in the States. Just like that, our wonderful trip had come to an end!

Sad to leave!

The usual reminder still applies: there are TONS of Edinburgh pictures (from both days) on MyLifeAsALawyersWife.Shutterfly.com. I have not had time to caption them yet, and won't get a chance to do so until next week when Megan leaves, but they're up there if you want to check them out and guess what things are!

Thank you so much for bearing with me as I relived our trip. I cannot even describe what an incredible experience it was. Everything was just even better than I expected - from sightseeing in Budapest, to the most fun wedding ever, to gorgeous St. Andrews, to busy Edinburgh, to scenic North Berwick. Every single thing far exceeded my expectations. We are so lucky to have had this experience.

And now we've been hit with the travel bug! The only question is: where to go next? Time will tell!

Monday, July 27, 2009

North Berwick

My friend Megan is coming today! She will be staying with me all week, and I'm very excited about it. And after today's post, there is only one more day of vacation left to recap. I've got that post all ready to go and will post it tomorrow as planned, despite Megan's presence. But, then I'll be out of here for the week while I show Megan around town! And I'm sure you'll be glad for my silence for a little bit after this posting rampage. But for now, the show must go on!

DAY 10: Thursday, July 16, 2009

We got going pretty early Thursday morning so we could catch an 8:30 a.m. train to North Berwick, which is about a half hour away from Edinburgh. We arrived shortly after 9:00 a.m. Eric was scheduled to play golf around 10:00, so we had just enough time to hit the tourist information center and pick up some maps (and pause to marvel at the scenery around town) before getting him checked in at the North Berwick Golf Club.

Ready for more golf!

So scenic, and the day has only just begun!

I debated about whether to have another day about town by myself while Eric golfed like I did in St. Andrews, but decided instead to tag along and "caddie" for Eric. I must say, North Berwick is absolutely gorgeous. Yet another little seaside town, with beautiful water views. The golf course follows along the water for a ways, so I figured tagging along with Eric was a good way to take in the scenery and spend time with my husband. Plus, I had never even really been on a golf course before! So, off we went.

Teeing off - look at those forearms!

Gorgeous views along the golf course

Beware: coastal erosion

See that big hill in front of him to the right? We're going to climb that bad boy later.

Putting with the Bass Rock - one of North Berwick's most notable landmarks - behind him

Me as the caddie

Eric played well (he broke 90 again) and I enjoyed being able to watch him play! I kept score and helped with his bag, too. I was a good caddie.

After golfing, we walked along the water towards the Seabird Centre, where we planned to have lunch. On the way we admired the town, talked about how crazy the Scots swimming at the beach were (hello, it must have been in the 50s, windy and cloudy - HARDLY beach weather), and checked out the sites. We saw St. Andrew's Old Kirk, which was first built in the 12th century. We also saw a beautiful Celtic cross by the water that serves as a memorial to a 19-year-old girl who drowned trying to save the life of a young boy. How very sad.

North Berwick

Crazy people! This is not beach weather!

St. Andrew's Old Kirk

Celtic cross memorial

We had lunch at the Seabird Centre: ham and cheese baguettes with "crisps" and more St. Andrews Ale. We ate outside on the patio overlooking the water, despite the chilly temperatures and wind!


After lunch, we caught a bus to Tantallon Castle, about two miles outside of North Berwick. We had to actually ask the bus driver to stop there, and when we returned, we had to flag the bus down like a cab! Crazy. The castle was more ruins, sort of like St. Andrews, and very cool. It sits right on the edge of a cliff (something new and different) and has beautiful views of the Bass Rock.

Tantallon Castle

At the castle

Bass Rock

At the castle with Bass Rock behind me

We really enjoyed exploring this castle, too. We spent about an hour and a half roaming around, checking out all the nooks and crannies.

Castle ruins

Window and steps

More castle

Tower entrance

And get this - there was a tower you could climb up in, by way of a crazy scary ancient spiral staircase. You would come out at the top of the castle for some beautiful views. And...I DID IT! I made it to the top! Of course, I promptly plastered myself to the wall and wanted to cry, but I was up there. Go me!

Look how high up I am! (I WAS higher - this is when I started making my way down after I wanted to cry.)

Eric at the top

Views from the top

Hooray for me! I did it!

After an hour and a half we had seen all there was to see, and had to head back out to flag down our bus (which only came by every 90 minutes!). We made it back to North Berwick and dove right into our next task: climbing North Berwick Law, the 600+ foot dormant volcano!

Um, there's thieves about? What does that even mean?

North Berwick Law

When I read about Berwick Law online, it sounded like a nice little hill with pretty views that would be a nice, easy climb. In actuality, it was a little more intense of a hike than we expected (Eric especially - he wore flip flops!). But, the view was totally worth it. I didn't think it would be as I climbed, but when we got up there, wow. I was so glad we did it.

Path to Summit sign, partially obscured by Scottish thistle

Um, okay. Also, those little dots on the grass down there are cows. Hi, cows.

Taking a break part of the way up

Climb, climb, climb

I made it! What a victorious day for me.

At the top! The arch behind us is a pair of (replica) whale jawbones, first placed there in 1709.
In more recent environmentally-sensitive times, the real whale bones were replaced with fiberglass ones. So, no whales were harmed in the making of that arch.

Eric towering over North Berwick

Us and bonny Scotland

We spent quite a bit of time at the top of the Law, admiring the view and taking pictures. Then we made the long climb down. We made our way back to the Golf Club to pick up Eric's clubs, which he had stored there for the day. We looked for something to eat, but were unimpressed with our restaurant options and were so worn out. So, we just caught a train back to Edinburgh. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for Italian food at Bella Italia. We had bruscetta, a delicious chicken pasta dish, a bottle of wine, and some amazing desserts.

Penne Pollo e Crema: chicken, pancetta bacon, roasted peppers, red onion and penne pasta baked in a white wine and cream sauce

My dessert: milk and white chocolate mousse, layered on a truffle base with fresh cream

Eric's dessert: Brownies with vanilla and toffee ice cream with chocolate crunch and wafer curls

After dinner it was back to the hotel to crash yet again. We were so tired. I think our long days of non-stop sightseeing fun were starting to take a toll on us. We decided to scrap the Stirling trip plans for Friday in favor of sleeping in and a relaxed day around Edinburgh. So, for the first time on our trip, we went to bed without setting an alarm clock for the next morning!

Up next: Our last day!

Reminder: More North Berwick pictures on MyLifeAsALawyersWife.Shutterfly.Com! Lots of scenery and castle pictures especially.