Enchanted with Edinburgh
We are somehow on our 7th cruise (time flies when you’re traveling the world!) and this UK/British Isles cruise focuses on the British Open. For anyone that knows me my interests do not lie in sports, let alone GOLF, but 600+ specifically came on board this week to attend the British Open in St. Andrews. Unfortunate weather kept us trapped on the ship the first day we got here so we ended up extending our two day visit to three days! Woo hoo! A crew members dream!
The ship is too large to dock in a port so we have to tender or drop an anchor further away from the shore and take life boats “tender” boats to land. We started our Scottish adventure on the top, outdoor level of the tender boat on a beautiful and sunny Sunday. My California self cannot believe the words out of my mouth when 65 and sunny means “what a gorgeous day”, but that’s what summer in the Baltic and UK will get you! So we made it ashore, a local bus ride later, we were in now rainy Edinburgh. Supposedly Edinburgh experiences four seasons in one day, so you always have to prepare for anything with an umbrella and sunglasses in your bag at all time. I just kept saying it would’t be an authentic Edinburgh experience if we didn’t get a little wet, and nothing was raining on my parade! Perfect segue because as we got off the bus we found ourselves in a parade! It seemed to be some sort of African celebration, with bright costumes, colorful Lion King-esque head pieces and banners. We caught the tail end on Princes St. and then celebrated the cars being blocked on the closed streets as we rebelliously walked through them. Everything was so green and crisp, the architecture was very grey but beautiful and well maintained for how old I imagined it was. We wandered into West Princes Street Gardens after being lured in by drumming and all kinds of music. From the street, theres a ramp and staircase that leads you down into this park that is below the Edinburgh Castle up on this hill. It seemed the parade had ended and led everyone to the main open air auditorium within the gardens. The African celebration continued and we got there just in time to see the rain start and a dance of umbrellas start to pop open, almost as if it was a choreographed thing, as people scattered for shelter. We giggled and I had one of those magical, “I love traveling because this is only going to happen once” moments that the combination of the rain and a new city can often bring and we walked through the gardens. I was overwhelmed by the beautiful green in every direction and the looming castle just above us, it seemed like the whole world was in Edinburgh that day and I couldn’t have been happier. We definitely had landed there on a festive weekend day. We followed our nose out of the gardens and back on the street to a beautiful gothic statue, the Scott Monument.
We started moving in a direction towards the castle, walking down the famous “Royal Mile” street which was crowded with tourists and interesting street performers-mimes, musicians, bagpipes, costumes, statue-like people, there was everything. One fellow in all white (face paint included) patiently froze without even blinking on a bicycle while little kids poked him. One little Scottish boy looked to me and said “there’s no way he’s real, right?”. The only thing I love more than new accents in a foreign city are little adorable kids with those accents. We hustled through the rain and found ourselves in “The Elephant House”, aka the Birthplace of Harry Potter, as the sign on the window explained. Once we managed to wait in line to get an overpriced (but delicious) coffee, we found ourselves in the café that J.K. Rowling wrote the first and second Harry Potter books. (SQUEAL) Supposedly, she had spent her winters writing in there because it was cheaper to get a coffee then pay her electric bill for heat in her apartment. There weren’t any obnoxious signs saying “she sat here” with an arrow, like I had expected, and I thought that was nice. The windows in the main room looked out to the castle so it was easy to imagine her dreaming up Hogwarts and all the HP friends. I will say it had to have been WAY quieter and not so busy for her to get anything done in there.
It just so happened that the Edinburgh Jazz &Blues Festival was going on this month of July! Basti recognized one of the artists as someone he had seen at Berklee before so we made our way to the Festival Theatre to purchase tickets for that evening’s performance. YAY Edinburgh, fueling our musical souls! If we were gonna miss the Fringe festival (a world famous theatre festival all August long) then at least we were managing to soak up some awesome live music! And awesome it was, we saw a Scottish trio, Trio HSK, with Cory Henry a Brooklyn native who shredded on the keys. It reminded me a lot of Berklee jam sesh, about 2 ½ hours of guitar, piano and drums solos but overall very moving. Cory Henry was a solo pianist that had was gospel jazz, and Trio HSK was “academic” as Basti said, “non-intuitive &studied”, in a rock, jazz genre. There was more reading of sheet music and less soulfully felt, but I respect what great musicians they all were. Overall, it was money well spent, to be off the ship and experiencing the local scene. Once it was over it was about 10:30pm and we had four hours before our curfew so as we were planning on heading back to the ship, we bumped into the solo guitarist on the ship, our friend Gordon. So into a bar we went, and we found a goldmine: kilt wearing-rock and roll/ Scottish pub song-playing old men in a band that got the crowd moving and grooving, as we threw back some beers and celebrated feeling like free humans with the evening off! I thoroughly enjoyed Edinburgh with all it had to offer! It’s definitely on the top of my list of places I would like to go back to!