Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 5 - We Bail, Escape to Linlithgow and are rewarded on two fronts

Well, it’s a ridiculous time to be awake. Hubby’s still asleep but I need to sit up for a bit to ease the discomfort of lying on this bloody bed. I’m over it. Seriously over it. Over the hot room. Over the periodic surge of water forcing its way out of the shower head. Over the door rattling if there is any sort of breath of air movement somewhere. Over it. I have been doing a little journaling but increasingly I am distracted by searching for available accommodation options around the Royal Mile for the next 2 nights. I’m seriously concerned that our enjoyment of the two biggest ticket items on our Edinburgh agenda, the Tattoo and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, will be ruined by fatigue and that come Sunday Hubby will not be safe to drive. If we’re going to act, then it has to be today. Tomorrow is too busy.
Success. There’s a room free right where we want to be… and they promise a comfortable bed. Deal. I do my risk assessment. It’s more expensive than where we are but even if a range of potential problems arise we’ll still be better off logistically. The move makes absolute sense from every angle. It’s worth every penny and the hassle it will involve. I toy with the idea of discussing it with Hubby, website sitting open poised waiting for a final call but in the end I just make an executive decision while he snores and present him with the solution when he wakes up. The planning and logistics of this trip are all down to me, why change now. No problem. We’re out of here as soon as possible after brekky. What a relief. What a massive freakin’ relief.
Our host calls us a taxi. Well actually it’s a car from Edinburgh City Private Hire Ltd. The car looks good and the driver is well presented. Unfortunately In the rush dressing and packing to get out of here I must have slipped on my invisibility cloak by mistake. This prick speaks pointedly to Sir and won’t make eye contact with me or interact with me in any way. I shall try and refrain from drawing conclusions about ethnic or religious motivations based on appearance. He doesn’t respond to anything unless it comes from Hubby, so we go through a ridiculous pageant of me telling Hubby what to say. Oh well. They will get my review. I’ll be making that a priority. For now, I’m just glad to be out of here.. and really… calling this prick to take us away rather than a proper taxi service is the final failure on the part of our accommodation. FFS.
We pull up outside our residence for the next couple of nights and head in to reception where we are greeted by a friendly young man who really makes us feel welcome and explains the quick way to get to our room after pointing out that reception is open 24/7 so don’t hesitate to contact them if we need anything. 
We drop our bags quickly and at my insistence we both fling ourselves down on the bed to try it out. Ah.. Heaven.. Now I am determined to do something fabulous today. Something you’d fly to the other side of the earth and pay hundreds of dollars a day for the privilege of experiencing. Unfortunately the moving accommodation thing has cost us some time and it is now about 10:30. First we head down to the day trip place on The Mile to ask a question I think I know the answer to but it’s worth making sure. Any half day tours we can take in the afternoon? Nope. The latest departure is 9 am. Clearly you really need to book those the day before. OK. With that option officially ruled out, we decide to go with option B. Linlithgow Palace. Let’s go.
I’m starting to recognise things but Dr Google is still on the job and Hubby is acting as interpreter. We pass the Balmoral Hotel and round the corner heading for the station, but not before I quickly snap a photo of the Duke of Wellington complete with bird poo dribbling down his face. How undignified.
It’s exciting to wander down into new territory and the bustle of Edinburgh Waverley, the only railway station in the world named for a novel, as is made clear on glass panels here and there. This element of the station design looks interesting if somewhat repetitive but I’m intent on getting on our way as quickly as we can so we don’t linger.  We use the escalator option to go down Waverley steps and as we glide towards our future the tension and irritation of the morning wash away in the anticipation of the day ahead and the stimulation of finding a new aspect of the city to explore. 
It’s no problem acquiring two return tickets to Linlithgow and the Historic Scotland website has provided directions for finding the palace from the train station. We’re counting on it not being far to walk.
You know us well enough by now to anticipate that I might bungle the simplest of logistical tasks and despite the clear instructions given by the girl on the ticket desk, I manage to lead us onto a train, right destination, wrong stopping pattern. But all is not lost, we learn that even the most stupid of tourists can easily correct their mistake by changing at Haymarket without loss of time, and in fact, we saved time by getting a different service that came along before the one we would have caught from Waverley. I knew that, it was all part of the plan. She ducks.
It’s a quick trip to Linlithgow and I spend the time admiring the wildflowers blooming along the rail corridor and in adjacent fields. Making our way out of Linlithgow station we check the map posted on the wall and find that it is indeed delightfully simple to find to the Palace following the signs provided. The day is going well. 
A short delay while we capture the cobbled square at Kirkgate and we turn up the pretty lane admiring a beautiful flowering begonia in the scrap of garden outside the manse.
The stone wall displays the line of succession to the present queen and the modern spire on St Michael’s Kirk makes a powerful statement, an artistic metaphoric reference to Christ’s crown of thorns. 
James V’s formal entrance way, bearing the various honours and denoting a transition into the elevated realm of royalty continues to have the desired effect all these hundreds of years later. We feel duly humbled. 
There’s only the slight jarring note of numerous cars parked on the cobbled yard, which we mostly take care to diplomatically exclude from our photo journal.
It’s a simple matter to flash our Historic Scotland Membership card and get our member’s entry ticket along with advice about a chronological route to take around the ruins and to take a good look at the fountain because it’s the oldest in Britain. We emerge into the fountain courtyard and linger, soaking up the atmosphere. The fountain would originally have been painted. It’s very old, but has been extensively restored. 
Stonework all around has suffered the ravages of time and presumably harsh winters and the process of freezing and thawing can be blamed for the blunting of the original detail of ornamental masonry features throughout the site. I can’t help but wonder why this palace was abandoned and what an investment of a few billion dollars might do. This place would be unbelievably magnificent roofed and restored to its original state at the era of construction for each wing. It’s impressive enough even now.
We spend an hour and a half or so exploring the ruined castle, pondering the Queen’s bedchamber, birthplace of sovereigns, and venturing up to sit in the small but delightful tower room, admiring the views across the landscape and down across the ruined palace, trying to imagine Margaret Tudor sitting here in contemplation. Perhaps she also had occasion to watch a gull perching sullenly in the rain. 
On our return to ground level Hubby finds a seat while I explore the North Range with its wonderful great hall and adjoining kitchens then we regroup and I show him what I saw via the images on the camera. What a spectacular place this must have been back when it was a working palace. It is very atmospheric.
Our palace explorations concluded Hubby goes to take a seat in the church and wait for me while I have a quick squiz at Linlithgow Peel. I admire the statue of Mary Queen of Scots and I learn with some excitement that the two little islands in Linlithgow Loch are the remnants of crannogs.

Catching up with Hubby in St Michael’s Kirk we follow the self guided tour using the laminated leaflet provided to us when I came in. The most remarkable feature is perhaps St Katherine’s aisle where an apparition is said to have warned the King not to go to war against the English. A warning that he ignored and that resulted in the disaster of defeat at Flodden. Today this area is dominated by a modern glass window by artist Crear McCartney that was installed in 1992.
Time now to head back to Edinburgh. Strolling back along High Street I take a spur of the moment decision to have a look in the Artisan Chocolates and Fine Patisserie. Oooh… I’ve not seen sweet little desserts of such fine quality anywhere since we frequented Blue Sucre in Paris in 2012. There’s a deal where if you buy four you get them for £2.50 each. The spectacular looking fruit gateaux and pretty little pandan leaf dessert topped with a macaroon are bought separately. Luckily they are only small, because we’re not holding back in this place.  The patissier / chocolatier, Sebastian Kobelt, is on hand and offers us a sample of his salted caramel truffle, which I observe in all honesty as easily the best salted caramel truffle I’ve ever had. There’s a stack of other flavours and I read the descriptions on the thoughtfully lightweight little jars:
Passionfruit Truffles: Tangy passionfruit caramel with a hint of coconut in a white chocolate shell
Salted Caramel Truffles: soft butter caramel with sea salt and vanilla in a dark chocolate shell
Banoffee Truffles: smooth banana caramel in a dark chocolate shell and a crust of digestive biscuits and caramelised rye bread
Cranachan Truffles: oat crusted whisky and heather honey truffles with a raspberry centre
On the counter are stacked Dulse Caramel Truffles: our best selling salted caramel truffles infused with Mara seaweed and a hint of grapefruit zest. I get one of those too and although the sale is assured I am offered a sample. Marks and Spencer are apparently planning to market these.. mmm, that’s gooood. You don’t notice the extra element in the flavours at first, it creeps up on you. Later I discover that the cranachan truffle is the same, at first strongly raspberry, but at the latter end the whisky element emerges. Sebastian's truffles are spectacularly good.
Our trip home is uneventful other than that I staged a rebellion against Dr Google. Ballsy don't you think given my track record so far. This time I have a sign backing me up. We head up the oh so very atmospheric Fleshmarket Close and emerge right bang on where we need to on the Royal Mile. 
Safely here in our room at the hotel catching up on yesterday’s journal, Hubby, reads me out the details of our tasty little treats, pops a sample of each into his mouth for savouring with an air of regal indulgence as he waits for me to be ready for the next description. What a shame they don’t keep long enough to take them home to the family. Oh well, we’ll have to nibble on them occasionally as we go along on our way. Sebastian was right, it will keep us calm and sane while we’re travelling!
We have a little while to wait for the next train and I can’t resist the opportunity to sample the first two of our desserts. Both sublime, but the pandan leaf item was truly spectacularly good. Mmmm pandan.. so delicious.
We toy with the idea of heading over to Dunfermline, we’ve probably got time and the Carnegie Museum website says it’s less than 10 mins from the station, but discretion proves the better part of valour and Hubby’s limping a bit, so we decide to invest in rest following a quick lunch from the German wurst hut outside our new digs.
Sigh, we have no fridge here, we’ll need to just eat our four little desserts now. What a shame. ;-)  We nap for a couple of hours then I wake to the sound of some spectacular drumming in the square outside. Our room is pretty quiet in the main, but the drums are loud. It’s only 9 o’clockish and the drumming is good and very much appreciated by the crowd. Refreshed, I take the opportunity of catching up on the journaling I had to abandon to make our getaway this morning and eventually succumb to temptation to wander downstairs on my own to see what I can of the show outside. I’m a bit late and they are packing up. I head across to La Favorita pizza hut and get a margarita to take upstairs for dinner. The atmosphere along the Mile is electric in the dark. This is the way to do the festival. Here in amongst it where you can easily dip in and out as you like.  Staying in Leith was convenient for our special dining evenings, but time over I think I’d choose to just base here in the heart of the old town, and that would be my advice to others. Just pay up and do it. It’s worth it.

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