This trip started like so many others do; 4 of us at the airport bar,
waiting to board.Actually, the trip began
with Deltas new service from Atlanta to Edinburgh, Scotland.As you may have read before, as much as wed
like to visit Europe in the warm months, we always find it difficult.Summer time is when everybody wants to go to Europe,
so we generally save those destinations for the cool months.But new service appeared to offer new opportunity.The flights to Edinburgh during the first
few weeks looked good, so our travel buddy N. started talking things up.As usual, we faced the leave Thursday come
home Monday versus the leave Wednesday come home Sunday dilemma.So of course, we decided to leave Wednesday and
come home Monday.Because of a last minute
illness, BJ would not be able to accompany us; it was going to be me, N., K1 and K2.I had traveled with these women before, but never
as a group, and never without BJ.We all
decided that once we got our cycles synchronized, everything would be fine.Additionally, our friend David arranged a business
meeting in London starting the Monday of our planned return, so he arranged to
fly over Thursday evening, with his sister in law, Marlene, and hook up with us at our
hotel.Back to the airport bar; we shared a
table with a delightful gentleman who was flying to Shannon Ireland that night.Or so he thought.After a three hour delay (we got to share the table longer than expected
since we took a 90 minute delay ourselves), his flight cancelled and our flight boarded.We took our four business class seats together, and
after a welcome glass of champagne and a few glasses of Spanish red wine for the ladies
and Italian red for me, (on top of a good bit of red wine at the airport bar), chicken for
N., pasta for me, it was lights out.
Arriving refreshed (after 6 hours of sleep) in Edinburgh,
we quickly cleared customs and headed out to the lobby to hit an ATM and pick up our
rental car.Before leaving, I arranged an
inexpensive 1 day rental with Thrifty, since we had agreed that we would like to spend a
day and night in St. Andrews.Although
none of us are golfers, the group had decided that there would be enough
history (aka. bars) to keep us happy for a day or so.Although slightly off-airport, we quickly arrived
at the Thrifty counter (in the lobby of the Quality Inn Hotel, and right next to the site
of the HUGE Royal Highland Festival (more on that later).After a 20 minute walk around of the car, where the agent showed me
every possible feature of the car (prompting N. to ask Are we buying this car, or
just renting it??) we jumped into a beautiful, 6-speed, turbo-diesel, power everything,
full-length-moon roof-equipped Peugeot 407 station wagon and headed north.
Traffic around the Highland Show was awful, and the roads are very
confusing, so it took all 4 of us to navigate out of town.Once away from town, across the ForthRoadBridge, the
miles started to click away.In less than an
hour, with N. and K1 both looking a bit green (neither likes to ride in a car, and both
prefer the front seat) we stopped in the lovely town of Cupar for lunch, and, you guessed
it, a fine Scottish beer (Belhavens Best).Interestingly,
the Belhavens Best Light, which I ordered, was darker in color and richer in flavor,
than the Belhavens Best.As it turns
out, the Light for Belhavens means light alcohol; 3.5% instead of 5.5%.We grabbed a few sandwiches and sat down in the pub
to watch the World Cup.Thats when the
bartender told us that his satellite dish was down and we wouldnt be able to watch
the game there.Pounding down our beer, we
jumped back into our car and drove the last 10 miles or so to St. Andrews.
We parked on the street, asked a construction worker where HE would
go if he was going to watch a football game (a sports bar called Ma Bells) and
sat down just in time for the kick off of USA
versus Ghana.After the game (we
lost), we drove the 2 miles out of town to our home for the night, the lovely Spinkstown
bed and breakfast (http://www.standrewsbandbs.co.uk/spinkstownfarmhouse.htm
Here we learned why it had been so difficult to find a room in St.
Andrews; this entire week is Graduation Week at St. AndrewsCollege.There are 2 ceremonies each day for the week.That also explained why we saw so many lads in
kilts, and lassies in black robes and mortar boards in town.After dropping our bags, we headed back to town for a glass (or two) of wine
at the Fairplay Bar, while we decided what wed do for dinner.The consensus was that Ma Bells had been fun,
inexpensive (relatively) and had excellent television availability (since there was
another soccer game coming on at ), so we headed back there.
The pizza that we had seen on the menu at lunch was, sadly, sold out,
so it was sandwiches and salads (and wine, of course) for tonights dinner.Around we headed
back to our B&B (it was still light outside, until almost ;
and light again by !) where we shared a bottle of wine or
two in the lounge, then off to bed.
Friday we were able to sleep in, since we didnt have to have
the car back until around , and Davids flight was
running a bit behind schedule.Our hostess had
advised that breakfast was any time between and .Then
she let us know that she already had someone at 8:00, so we selected 8:15 for breakfast.Most of the group went for the full Scottish
breakfast (much like the full Irish breakfast, or the full English breakfast) and were
stuffed by the huge bowl of fruit that was delivered before the cooked food arrived.We met a lovely couple at the table who were in
town for their daughters graduation (She wants to take a year off and be an au
pair in the USA, preferably near Boston.).We then headed over to the Old Course at St.
Andrews since our hostess had suggested that we have a cup of coffee in the 19th
hole because it has lovely views of the course.
After shopping in the pro shop, we stopped in the lounge for a Bloody
Mary.Were sorry.We dont serve alcohol until .Do these people
even UNDERSTAND golf!!???Around we piled back into the car and began the drive back south, stopping to
top the tank off, and to let the back-seaters get some fresh air.With much appreciated assistance from the
passengers, we got the car back on time, and loaded into a cab for a short ride to our
hotel for the next 3 nights, the Corstorphine House (http://www.corstorphinehotels.co.uk/booking.html)
, where we (thought we) had reservations.The
taxi dropped us off less than 10 minutes after David and Marlene had gotten to the hotel.That was fortunate, since we were all together when
we learned that the Corstorphine didnt have any rooms!(That Royal Highland Show had taken most available rooms in Edinburgh
this weekend.)After a quick phone call,
however, the Corstorphine had arranged us a family room (quad) and a double
room at their sister hotel the Cumberland.The Cumberland had been N.s first
choice, but she could never get rooms confirmed there.After buying an all day bus pass, we road about 2 miles closer to town, to our
hotel.Perfect!The Cumberland is in a much nicer, more convenient location, near the
Haymarket train station.After checking in and
dropping our bags, we walked off towards town center, stopping at The Grovesnor for lunch
and a Tennants beer (or two).
Continuing in, and up, we arrived at the heart of Edinburgh,
the old EdinburghCastle, where we enjoyed a fascinating tour hosted by a
Scot named Jim.
After the tour, we wandered down the Royal Mile (a
shopping street) stopping at the Worlds End bar for some refreshment.Here we asked several local folk if
they had been to the Royal Highland Show.After
more than one blank stare, we decided that perhaps we would skip the show as well.Putting together everything we learned about it, we
decided that is was an agricultural show, and, while hugely attended, it was attended
mostly by the rural, farming folks who come into Edinburgh just for the show.As we started moving back towards our hotel, we
walked towards an area described as quaint, Deans Village.It was certainly quaint, but was residential only;
no shopping, no stores, no pubs.Our next
target was the Dalry Road area, where we had heard that there were several
excellent Italian restaurants.We settled on a
little place called Il Tricolore (63 Dairy Road);
perhaps 10 tables, with the manager, his wife and daughter out front, a chef in the
kitchen, and the World Cup on TV.The food was
excellent, as was the service, even though the manager looked like he was running laps.After dinner, we headed back to guest lounge at The
Cumberland, where we shared several bottles of wine with Ian, from Belfast (who
greeted us with, Good evening.I am
DRUNK.) and later, 3 friends from the Shetland Islands, who WERE in town for
the Highland Show.The Shetland boys had just
returned from Glasgow, where they had seen the Eagles in concert!!Around (just
recently dark), our group headed off to bed.
Saturday morning, we again met for breakfast around .There were several
full Scottish breakfasts, a couple of vegetarian breakfasts, and two or
three continental breakfasts.None
were particularly memorable.If you stay at
the Cumberland, dont fret missing breakfast.After breakfast, the 6 of us struck out for the HolyroodPalace
area, which took us along the Royal Mile again.
After a beer at a nice little outdoor café near the palace, we
agreed that we would like our next beer to be on the water and thought that
something called the Leigth Walk would be entertaining, since it ended at the harbor.We walked, and walked, and walked.Although the map showed a footpath along the River
Leigth, we could never find it.Instead, we
ambled along a busy street not unlike Buford Highway in Atlanta; a
very ethnically diverse road with fast food shops of every kind.After about 6 miles, we made it to the harbor, only
to find a very American-style shopping mall.We
looked around and settled on an outside table, overlooking the harbor and the royal yacht,
at The Zinc Bar for lunch.(If you miss it,
dont fret.)Since we felt like we had
all gotten our exercise, we elected to take the bus back to town center.Once we got back to town, we settled in at
Olivers WunderBar just in time for more soccer; Germany versus Sweden.
David and Marlene, who apparently arent as fond of beer as the
rest of us, headed out on their own to check out train schedules (since they were heading
to London on Sunday) and then took a side trip to find a church that was central to the
book The DaVinci Code.After watching Germany
defeat Sweden, the 4 of us started walking back to towards the Haymarket, where
we had seen (smelled, actually) a Nepalese restaurant where we (thought we) had agreed to
have dinner.To make a short story boring, we
eventually hooked up with David and Marlene at The Kuhkukeri (after a little wine and
soccer at the Haymarket Bar) and enjoyed a wonderful, filling, and reasonably priced meal
of various curries and stews with rice.Leaving
the restaurant, we saw a beautiful rainbow over the city.
Back at the hotel afterwards, we again shared a little wine with 2 of
the Shetland Islanders, before our bedtime.
Sunday morning, a bit of miscommunication had the boys at breakfast
at and the girls, uh, still in bed at .There was no real hurry
today, though, since David had a flight to LondonCity airport, and Marlene had a -ish train.Once we were all finally up and about, David jumped
on the bus for the airport, and the rest of us headed for the Waverly Station to catch our
train(s); Marlene to London and the rest of us to Sterling where we
planned to spend the day.
Sterling is an absolutely darling little town less than an
hour from Edinburgh (and about 30 pounds, round trip for 4 people, if done as a
day trip).In Sterling, we (of
course) stopped for a beer on the way up the hill to the beautiful SterlingCastle.
We spent several hours inside the castle, taking in the sights,
including a falconer.
Afterwards, we headed back down the hill to find a pub with
televisions; today England was playing Ecuador and we werent
sure how the Scottish crowd would react; but we knew we wanted to see it!Stopping at ONeills (an Irish pub in Scotland),
we found a table, and the first pitchers of beer Ive ever seen outside of the U.S.Any time the English soccer players performed
well, about half the crowd at ONeills cheered, and the other half booed.It was very entertaining.We hit the train back
to Edinburgh Haymarket station, and stopped into La Partenope (http://www.edinburgh-festivals.com/cityguide.cfm?id=57972003&vid=2743)
for a little more Italian food.We were all
frustrated to find this sign, less than 300 yards from our hotel.
Back at the hotel, we finished the last of the wine and headed off to
bed.Tomorrow we (thought) we were (all)
Monday morning we awoke late, cleaned up, checked out and jumped on
the convenient Express Bus to the EdinburghAirport (3 pounds each; only 2
stops from our hotel to the airport) and checked in for our flight.Prior to going to bed last night, we had checked
the flight and it was showing 19 business class and 6 coach seats available.When we checked this morning, it was 3 business
class and minus 26 coach.This prompted
everyone to check in with an S2 priority.The
S2 helped N. and I get home, but sadly, we were forced to leave the 2 Ks.AND I WAS IN COACH!My word!Fortunately
K1 and K2 made it (with S2s) onto Tuesdays flight, only a day behind
schedule.Reminder to self: Europe is for
the winter, Europe is for the winter, Europe is for the winter.
As a side note, and adding on to N.s observation about prices:prices in Scotland, like the rest of the U.K.
are very deceptive.Take a bottle of wine, for
instance.In the U.S., a bottle of
Brand X wine might be 7.99; in Europe, that same bottle is 7.99; and in the U.K
its also 7.99.The problem is, in the U.S.
that 7.99 is a penny short of 8 dollars.In
most of Europe, its 7.99 Euros, about 10 dollars, but in the U.K.,
that 7.99 is just short of 8 pounds, which is about 15 dollars.The prices can sneak up on you.That B&B at 45 per person per night
doesnt sound bad, until you realize thats about $160 per night.