Tony Spearing's site

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An email on Edinburgh - February 2004

Hi Leigh


So you've been up to The Smoke this week? Gower Street? I don't like the Underground much, just something you have to use to get where you want to go.

How did the christening go? Or I hope you enjoy it, depending on when you read this.  Friends we met in Bali !  I've got friends, met mine in the pub down the road.  We do though have a few friends we have met in various parts of Europe.  The latest was last year, where the first woman we spoke to in the hotel in Corfu knew our local Vicar and his wife. The Bus Tour As to Edinburgh, a great place to lose a few days, we visited the Castle, walked most of the Royal Mile, went on a Ghost tour, did a trip round the Royal Yacht Britannia and walked miles around the City.  The weather was kind, only one afternoon of rain, the rest clear sky and mild temperatures .

The hotel was a bit posh, which unfortunately made it expensive to drink, but we were on full board so we set off in the morning with a hot breakfast inside us and ended the day in the restaurant with an excellent meal.  It was right in the centre just a half mile from the Castle so very nicely positioned.

[ Side story: Twiddly in Aprica, North East Italy, also hot, slides down slope without gloves and scrapes hands.  Following day falls over hurts arm and has to be piggy back skied down mountain (no idea how far, suggest 50m) on Instructors back.  Various other complaints follow although she seems to be 50/50 on whether she's enjoying it or not.]

By the time you read this she'll be back home after a 26 hour coach ride, explaining to me why her phone bill is so high for last month.

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The Castle

The Castle is well worth a few hours, it stands at the top of a hill, very steep on three sides, but the fourth a long slope to the Holyrood Palace down a road called the Royal Mile.  In the Castle there is a building dedicated to the Scottish War Dead and I managed to find the page mentioning William Earl, killed at Ypres in Belgium, during WWI.  He was my Grandmothers brother and I have his service medals on my wall.  I am somewhere between 12.5% and 25% Scottish as my maternal Grandmother was born in England of Scottish parents, it's very useful being part Scottish, their marriage, birth and death records are so much better than ours.  Much easier to prove a line.

Edinburgh Old Town is very interesting but very commercial with one shop we went into being owned by Indians (with Turbans not Tepees).  Most of the assistants in the shops seemed to be Americans, Australians, South Africans etc, all presumably travelling the world.  That's good, Charlotte wants to travel, it would be nice to see she can get work and prolong her stay.  We saw a Church called Tron Kirk that when we went inside was a Visitor Centre for an underground street, with the underground street on display in the middle of the Church.

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The Ghost tour

So Tuesday night we have dinner early and then walk back into the Old Town to go on a Ghost tour in the underground vaults.  Our guide is five minutes late.  Her opening remark, just to Sue & I was ' I'm sorry to be late, I had a lady faint on me during the last tour.'   About twenty and wearing a long black dress with a cloak, she was a history student from Warwickshire.  Starting from the afore-mentioned Tron Kirk, in the middle of the Royal Mile, we set off for various nearby sites of interest.  In was a fine but cold night with about ten of us, Sue & I being the only English and definitely the oldest.

We stood very close to a wall while Felicity explained the ancient practise of throwing your sewage into the street with a cry of 'GardyLoo' to which the RAPID reply of 'Hold your hand' would buy you a few seconds to dodge out of the way.  I had expected a bucket of water to come flying over the wall but no, this was not a frivolous tour.  We walked across the car park that concealed one of the mass graves from the fire or plague or something, I forget quite what.   Then walking a few hundred yards further, mostly I think to disorient us, to end up at the entrance to the vaults, a simple very non descript door in a narrow road called Nistry Street.

Here Felicity recited more blood curdling and sickening tales about various families who had been tortured after being accused of being involved in witchcraft.  All this in a room littered with very real looking instruments of torture.  Then on to the Vaults, effectively an underground street discovered by a student several years ago.  This consisted of a long corridor or alley with four or five large vaults.  We set off fearlessly with just the tiniest amount of emergency lighting in the alley and one torch firmly held by Guide. Rough Stone Circle One vault contained a pagan temple, they had moved from one of the other vaults because there had been to much 'activity', one was empty, one had a rough stone circle in it that we were advised not to step into, nobody did.  Then into the final vault, the one with the poltergeist, woman were instructed to stand only on the right of the room as the spirit didn't like woman but tended only to affect the left side of the vault.  Several times Felicity turned off the torch while she recounted more tales of previous visits and attacks on the people on tour.  I meanwhile, am closest to the entrance to the vault, so I am aware of the occasional tiny scraping in the alleyway.  I reckon it must either be a rat or someone about to jump out on us.  It wasn't a rat, and just because you think someone is about to jump doesn't make it much less scary when it happens.  So the jumper jumped and screamed, we all jumped and screamed and Felicity said 'We do like to release the tension with a good scream'.  AAArrgghhhhh!

That ended the tour so we climbed out of the vaults into the upstairs bar of one of the local pubs, for a small medicinal drink.  It was quite an entertaining hour and a half.  Felicity was very good as the Guide playing the whole thing on three levels, the over the top tour guide, the concerned tour guide issuing health and safety warnings 'If you think you're going to faint tell me sooner rather than later, then I can get you out quickly'.  Then as we walked round she would chat to us as herself, mostly trivial things, but then looking back, with some atmospheric stuff thrown in which therefore had more credibility than if it had been said by the 'Over the Top Guide.  Very well done.

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The Royal Yot Britannia

I had honestly expected it to be bigger than that that.  Very nice looking ship but not as big as I'd expected.  A very good tour though, well laid out with a good audio guide.  Some interesting little facts, the name Britannia is not painted anywhere on the hull, and she was the only ship in the Royal Navy with a dark blue hull, as opposed to black.

Walking round she certainly shows her age, the Formica reminded me of the inside of a caravan.  The electrics were....em...old.  Cable trays everywhere, and she mostly runs on 220VDC, I bet that packs a punch!  The difference between the working side and the Royal side was quite a contrast, as you would expect.  I could happily live on the Royal side, it was very warm and inviting, a shame she had to go. The Bell Deck All of the rooms are still fully kitted out, apparently it took three and a half hours to lay the table in the State Dining Room.  56 places, I think, and the cutlery all laid out with a tape measure.  What a monumental waste of time!  I've attached pictures of Sue & me on the Veranda deck standing next to the doorbell.

In addition to the above we walked round the Nelson Monument, the Observatory and a few big Greek type things, all at the top of a big hill with magnificent views of Edinburger City.

Now, remember that word that begins with S? [Shopping:Ed] I can't, but Sue reckons she's going back with Charlotte at some time.  Why?  Just about every named store you've ever heard of is on Princes Street within half a mile of each other, I must admit, it did look like a good place to shop.

That's all for now, we're off to pick up a very tired daughter.

Good holiday though, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tony


Additional material Nov 2009

You know I said Charlotte would love to come for the shopping.  Well, her brother got married on 12th Dec 2009 and the hen night was held in Edinburgh, sometime in November, the details are a tightly guarded secret.