Friday, August 30, 2013

Edinburgh, Scotland

Stop #4: Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is probably one of my favorite cities in the world, at least in the top 5. What a fabulous place! This is definitely a city that I would live in if given the chance, just fantastic!

Kim & at the bar
We arrived in Edinburgh later in the evening, after a long day of touring Belfast. Throughout the trip, we have been taking short flights on EasyJet and RyanAir to get to each new city. It was cheaper and less time consuming that taking trains and ferries everywhere. I would highly recommend EasyJet. They were prompt, clean, and friendly. RyanAir isn't bad, it's just like being on an informercial the entire flight! And it's not quite as clean as it used to be, but it works, and it's open seating like Southwest. Both airlines require baggage fees, but if you pay online when booking your flight, it's cheaper than at the airport. They are both very tight on their weight limits and carry-on policies, so you have to be aware before heading to the airport, especially if you are on a time sensitive basis.
Church on High Street

Fun night out!
Once arriving in Edinburgh, we took the Airlink bus into the city, which has a few stops along the way, but will terminate at Waverly Station, which is right in the middle of the city. Luckily, our hotel was only a few steps away. We stayed at Motel One. What a great surprise! This place was fantastic, just like the city was going to be. They have amazing rooms, very swanky, yet affordable, and they have a great late night bar area within the hotel. They are opening more of these hotels around Europe, and next time I go overseas, this is the first place that I will look up to stay!

Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands
We checked-in, grabbed a drink at the bar, and headed to our room to refresh and make a plan for the was Saturday night after all! After doing our happy dance about the great accommodations and enjoying our cocktails, we headed back to the bar to gather information about where to go for the night. The bartender was very friendly and gave us a lot of great, and some not so great recommendations. We headed out after a couple of shots and went looking for some fun. We headed up the hill to High Street, which is the main "old town" street in Edinburgh that leads to the Edinburgh Castle. There are lots of bars and clubs along this street and the place to find some fun. We finally found a great outdoor bar, had a beer and made some friends. As the night went on, the bar was moved into an upstairs bar area with great music. People were dancing and having fun, it was just one huge party and it didn't matter who you were, everyone was just having fun with each other and dancing like maniacs. As the night wore on, we realized that we had a tour the next day, but we were having so much fun, it didn't matter...

Loch Ness
The next morning, it wasn't so pretty! Booking a tour first thing in the morning is a rough thing to do!  for us, there was a Starbucks across the street from our pick-up point, so we could grab something to get us going. The tour that day was to Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands. It was going to be a long day on a small bus full of annoying people, but at least we were going to see some amazing things. The first stop was in a small town where we had some tea and pastries. On the way up to Loch Ness, we learned about the history and stories of the Scots, and stopped a few times to see bagpipers and the beautiful mountain scenery. Our tour guide Sarah was great and very outdoorsie, so I was able to get some great ideas for amazing hiking trips in the future.

We finally got to Loch Ness and took a boat ride out into the Loch (lake), obviously looking for Nessie. Unfortunately, we didn't get any sightings of the "monster", but it was relaxing and there was quite a bit of wildlife along the shores and in the cliffs above the loch. Upon return, it was back to the bus to make the long trip back to Edinburgh.

Upon arriving back in the city, we went and signed up for a tour of the Mary King Close. We then dropped off our belongings at the hotel and went to grab dinner before our Murder Mystery tour

Murder Mystery Tour
of the city. Kim wasn't too thrilled about the tour at first, but I was so excited to learn about the dark history of this mysterious city. Edinburgh has a dark past, and the buildings and feeling in the city emulate this. It reminds me a lot of Prague, kind of creepy, but very comfortable at the same time. We had a quick dinner at a pub and headed to our tour. The tour guide was dressed up like a vampire and his sidekick was just something creepy. It was pretty humorous and our group got plenty of stares along the way. As we walked through dark alley ways and stood in corners of the city, our guide told us about the history of the city and all of the death and destruction that took place during the plagues and other battles that the people fought. It was a great time and a fun way to end the long day.

Edinburgh Castle
The following day was our day to explore Edinburgh before heading off to our final destination. We first had our tour of Mark King's Close. Edinburgh was a very crowded city at one point, with people building upwards just to fit more people in. They were living in filthy conditions, throwing their own waste out the windows multiple times a day and having to walk through it to get to and from everywhere they went. Once the plague hit, it spread like wildfire because of the waste in the streets. People were dying everywhere and each close (narrow street) was being quarantined as the plague continued to spread. At one point, the developers of the city made some big decisions and decided to cut the multi-story buildings down, leaving only the bottom floor or two, and paving a new street over the top, essentially burying the old city underneath where they planned to build the new one. The Mary King Close is the one underground area that is still reachable. You are able to walk through what was once a street and many houses where people once lived. It is said to be haunted, and you can feel the sadness in this area where people once lived and died. This is definitely something that you should see while in Edinburgh, just to really understand how the city began and became what it is now.
Edinburgh Castle at Night

Edinburgh at Night
After touring the close, we headed up to see the Edinburgh Castle. We have both seen many castles, but this one is the focal point of this city and something that we felt we should walk around. It wasn't all that it lived up to, in our minds anyways. It was neat to see, but if you are in a time crunch, it's not a vital part of touring Edinburgh. We then hopped on the bus and rode it around the city, seeing all of the other major sites. Edinburgh is definitely a city that has so much more to see than you can imagine and takes more time than you might originally plan on taking. Overall, we felt like we got a good feel for the city and we know that it is a place that we will both return to one day.

Time to move forward, which means a bus ride back to the airport and our flight to the final destination of the trip.

Edinburgh--Amazing, magical, beautiful--definite travel destination!

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