Day 2 in Glasgow

Glasgow, United Kingdom

Woke up to sunshine streaming through the windows and thought it was a dream. The weather folks were correct for a change.

Went downstairs for breakfast, not that we were overly hungry after last evening’s dinner.  Lots of people in the dining room this morning.

The remainder of the day was uneventful. My aching back / hip was at its worst, so we just hung out around the hotel today. Luckily we had a chance to go around town the past couple days and see things or this would have been a real disappointment.

Relaxed in the lobby lounge with a couple of kir royales and the newspaper for a while in the afternoon.  Funny watching how people aren’t sure how to deal with an 80 degree day.  Outfits are everything from shorts and short sleeves to turtle-necks and jackets.

Dinner was at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, which happens to be attached to the hotel. We both had delicious meals. Sue’s filet and my steak were both tender and tasty; and cooked to perfection. We had a nice bottle of Argentine Malbec that went perfect with the beef.

After dinner we went up to the room to relax before traveling back to Edinburgh tomorrow.

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Anniversary Day in Glasgow

Glasgow, United Kingdom

Today we are celebrating our 37th anniversary. Where have the years gone?

We’re going to start out the day on the Hop on – Hop Off bus. It’s a bit overcast, but no rain is predicted, so it should be fine. The next few days are supposed to be warm and sunny, but we’ll wait and see.

Glasgow is a lovely city. The majority of the buildings are more modern with some older more stately buildings scattered around town. It was once an important ship building and train engine building city; these days, there are more banking and call center jobs than laborer jobs.

The river Clyde lazily flows through the city. There are many parks and walkways along the riverbanks for people to enjoy.

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Bridge over the River Clyde

Our first hop off is at the Glasgow Transportation Museum. Like all the government museums in Scotland, admission is free. This Museum houses a large collection of transportation vehicles including cars, bikes, motorcycles, trains, trolleys and boats.

They also have a tall ship – The Glenlee – berthed in the river. It was an interesting visit. Sue suggested we dress as pirates and take the ship out for a while, but I’m afraid I was the party pooper in that plan.

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Ahoy Matey

A gaggle of school children arrived, which signaled it was time for us to head back and hop on the bus. Timing is everything as the bus was just arriving when we walked outside.

The bus continued around the route passing by sites such as Glasgow University, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the Glasgow Cathedral, SSE Hydro and The Armadillo – the two music events centers. Overall it was quite nice.

Glasgow is more spread out than Edinburgh, but the public transport is very efficient. Along our journey, we came across a statue of the Duke of Wellington; and much to Sue’s chagrin, pranksters had used a traffic cone to give him a hat.

There was a bit of a pale hanging in the air with the Manchester incident. Such a tragedy. Folks in the UK are not so happy about the policies related to letting anyone in. Sounds like being home.

So we had enough of the bus, time to head to the hotel to relax before dinner. For our anniversary dinner, we chose a restaurant called “Cail Bruich”.

Grabbed a taxi to the restaurant and our driver had never heard of the restaurant – though he knew to correct my pronunciation when I showed him the address information. Cail Bruich is gaelic and means “Eat Well” – and we did.

Inside it was not what we had expected. Given what we had read, we thought it might be a tad snobby, Instead it was just the opposite. The people were very friendly, especially our waiter who guided us through the dining experience. The meal we chose was an eight course tasting menu with wine pairings. The courses were not huge, so you could enjoy them without feeling stuffed. The wine pours were also good but reasonable; there’d be no staggering home this evening. Suffice to say, we enjoyed it very much. It was a wonderful blend of flavors and textures. Yes, it was yummy!

The cab ride home was quick and uneventful. We basically went across town for less than £7.00.

So in summary, Happy Anniversary to us. Here’s to the next 37 years. Love you babe!

 

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Off to Glasgow

Glasgow, United Kingdom

Up early to clean up and pack for check out. We will be spending the next three nights in Glasgow. It’s hard to believe that the first week is over already. Check out is a matter of waving good-bye and saying thanks for everything. Then it’s off to the Waverley Train station.

We’re a little early, but we found seats and bought some snacks – so we’re all set. We sat next to a delightful woman and chatted about our visit and she offered up a couple hints for places to check out when we return to Edinburgh.

She was telling us about her son-in-law, who is in the military. He was Prince William’s boss while he was serving as a helicopter ambulance pilot. At a function that they attended, everyone was addressing William as Your Highness, but when her son-in-law approached, William chirped up – “Hi Boss!”

She was such a nice woman and very much how we have found all the people we have encountered here.

Our train was due to arrive soon, so we headed over to the platform to wait. The trains to Glasgow run frequently, so there are only four cars to our train. The ride is quick and smooth, cutting across to the west. We arrived right on schedule at the Glasgow Central Station.

Our hotel is called the Hotel Indigo and is only three blocks from the train station. Just a five minute walk and we were checking in.

It seems like a nice hotel. The building was originally an electric building built in the early 1900’s. There’s a nice lounge in the lobby and the hotel houses a very nice steakhouse that I’ll report on Thursday.

The room is nice. Not quite as large as the apartment, but still comfortable. There is, however, a large walk in shower that looks inviting before dinner tonight.

We went to a restaurant named ‘Gamba’ this evening. They specialize in seafood and it came highly recommended. We lucked out as the restaurant is only about five blocks away from our hotel, so we were able to walk over. We were greeted warmly upon our arrival and seated straight away in a cozy little nook.

We were immediately presented with an amuse-bouche to whet our appetites. We started with a nice kir royal before ordering. Everything on the menu sounded delicious, so it made the selection process difficult – but in a good way!

Sue went with a beetroot, goat cheese, sautéed onion and pureed apple soup followed by grilled rock bass. I chose the crabmeat with siracha aioli followed by grilled halibut. We accompanied our meals with a nice bottle of Chablis. The recommendations were spot on. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the prices were once again reasonable.

Took a nice walk back to the hotel where we enjoyed relaxing for the evening.

 

 

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Hop On – Hop Off – Day 2 – Holyroodhouse Palace and New Town.

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Today we’re off to the other end of the Royal Mile to see the other royal attraction – the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is still used today as the Royal residence and as a tourist attraction when not in use.

We made our way over to the bus station to learn that the palace is closed today. It seems that Princess Anne is in town for a function and is using the palace. Oh darn! We’re still able to view the artwork in the Queen’s Gallery, but won’t be allowed on the palace grounds.

The bus we took over had live narration as we tooled around town. Anne talked quite a bit but we’re not exactly sure she followed the script. We would pass by before she would mention a place. We only caught up when the bus had to pause for a few moments while the driver sold tickets. Jeesh!!!

Since the palace is closed, they gave us free souvenir booklets as keepsakes, which was nice. Arriving at the Queen’s Gallery, we found that the current exhibition is called ‘Butterflies’. The artist loved the metamorphous process and bugs and reptiles. It’s a good thing it was a free exhibit. Eye rolls and snickers were coming from more than just us.

Back to catch the bus we go. We rode the circuit until we reached the New Town area. The New Town section was built in the late 1700’s and was the place to be – think indoor plumbing.

We decided to divide and conquer. Sue was going to visit and tour ‘The Georgian House’ while I scoped out a pub for liquid refreshment and dinner when Sue returned.

Sue loved her visit to the Georgian House. Having read regency novels for years, it was right up her alley. There were guides at every area that would describe the room and answer questions. She made some instant friends!

In the meantime, I settled into ‘The Printing Press’ Pub and became acquainted with some Scottish gin. Move over gin & tonic with lime, today it was gin, tonic, fresh herbs and grapefruit. Very refreshing. I had two whilst waiting for Sue’s return.

The menu looked good, so we stayed on to grab a bite. I’d say it was a bit of an upgrade to normal pub food. I started with a smoked trout salad followed by a spiced duck leg and chips. Sue went with a warm goat cheese salad followed by gnocchi with roasted garlic and asparagus. I know what your thinking, those two poor souls are scrambling to eat properly, fear not, we are doing well.

Just two more times will I have to scale the stairs at Mount Warriston. Up tonight and down tomorrow.

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The evil stairs of Warriston’s Close

Since we move on tomorrow, we decided to just relax for the evening.

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Hop On / Hop Off – Day 1 – Hail Britannia!

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Edinburgh has a Hop On – Hop Off bus with three different routes. Our Majestic ticket allowed us to ride them all, plus it provided entrance tickets to the Royal Yacht Britannia, the palace at Holyrood and the Edinburgh Castle.

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HO – HO Bus

We’re starting out with the majestic route so we can visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. The ride is pleasant as we cut through the new town on the way to the waterfront. The ocean terminal where the ship is docked has been turned into a small mall with shops and restaurants.

The Britannia was commissioned in 1954 and wasn’t decommissioned until 1997. It was noted that the decommissioning ceremony was the only time the Queen cried in public.

The ship is quite large. We toured four decks, which included sleeping quarters, a state room, huge dining hall, crew quarters, a kitchen, a laundry room and notably, many, many bars. The ship was decorated very tastefully and was bright and welcoming. You could see why the Queen loved it so much.

There were many interesting photographs throughout the ship depicting the royals enjoying their time on-board. Also, many mementos from prior yachts and the persons who sailed them. It was a great sneak peek at another side of British Royalty.

We caught the bus back to Waverley Station and since it was still early, we hopped on another bus for a tour around the city. This tour took us through some of the Old Town and New Town streets pointing out places where historical events have taken place. It was a nice way to relax and see the city for an hour. I must say, they do an excellent job with the audio guides on the tours.

Afterwards, we headed back to the apartment to rest up before dinner.

After our meals of the last few nights, we decided to go simple. There is an Italian restaurant called Zizzi next door that we tried. A little pizza, some pasta and a nice bottle of wine capped off a good day. The thirty meters back to the apartment was nice too!

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Tour day – Rosslyn Chapel and the Scottish Borders

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Another tour day, this time we are headed south of Edinburgh. Highlights will include the rolling hills of the lowlands, a stop at the inspirational view point of Sir Walter Scott and then ending at Rosslyn Chapel.

We made our way over to the starting point in the drizzling rain; little did we know what weather lie ahead for today’s journey. Our driver / guide today will be Jodie. We have our full compliment of sixteen people loaded so off we go – cue the rain. It rained steadily the entire day, with a few bursts of downpours. While it surely took a bit away from the overall experience, it was still an interesting journey.

On our way to Sir Walter Scott’s inspirational point, Jodie shared some history of the area and told us the story of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary lived a rough life, even though she was crowned Queen at only 6 days old after the death of her father. She was married three times, imprisoned by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, and was beheaded as a traitor to the state at the age of 44. Luckily, we arrived at the viewpoint before the story became any more lurid.

Despite the rain, the view was beautiful. Definitely inspirational, especially for someone coming from the excesses of the city.

Back on the bus and off to see the first William Wallace memorial. It was an oversized statue built on a hill overlooking the valley. This one wasn’t our favorite as we had to hike about fifteen minutes in the rain to get there from the car park. It played into the itinerary, so we grumbled quietly to ourselves.

Our next stop was the town of Melrose. We had a little time to see this quaint little town and also Melrose Abbey. Melrose Abbey is where William “Braveheart” Wallace’s heart is buried. Since we’ve not seen the movie, we were forced to learn the true facts rather than the movie version. Interesting and definitely a hero of the people.

Finally, for us DaVinci Code people, the final stop on the tour – Rosslyn Chapel. Very charming little chapel on the lands owned by the Sinclair family, with much mystery surrounding it. Inside the chapel, floor to ceiling, are carvings that are still argued about today.

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Rosslyn Chapel

It truly was a site to see. Angels, devils, animals of every kind, people, fruit, flowers and mysterious faces everywhere. Yet, the stained glass windows kept it spiritual and warm feeling.

A couple of interesting notes: the chapel was falling into ruin and had actually been abandoned for a great many years. When the Dan Brown book came out, the Rosslyn Trust people were thrilled. The additional tourists it brought in helped bring in some extra funds for restorations. When the movie people came calling, the Rosslyn Trust people were ecstatic. The film makers helped out greatly with the restorations and additional tourist funds have allowed the trust to restore and protect the chapel for the future.

As for the supposed treasure, I think the chapel itself is a treasure.

With this as our last stop, we journeyed back to Edinburgh and bid farewell to Jodie before heading back to the apartment.

Tonight’s dinner is at a restaurant called Michael Neave – Kitchen and Whisky Bar. This is another highly anticipated dinner (aren’t they all). Dinner was fabulous! The restaurant definitely lived up to the ravings we had heard – casual yet elegant, great food, terrific service and reasonably priced. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals from start to finish – ratatouille, scallops, lamb, venison and sticky toffee soufflés. Our main wine for the evening was a Mercurey Burgundy. On our way out, Sue even had a chance to compliment the chef.

Beautiful evening as we strolled back to the hotel – and it wasn’t raining!

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Edinburgh at night

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Tour day – St Andrews and beyond

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

In case I didn’t mention it, the bed is really comfortable in the apartment. That said, we got another good night’s rest before heading out on our tour this morning. Today we are taking a Rabbie’s Tour to St Andrews, which includes stops at the fishing village of Anstruther and the town of Falkland.

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Rabbie’s Tours

We meet the group at 9:30 am, which I’m sure surprises many of you who know our normal sleeping pattern. The tour group is limited to 16 people and the driver / guide Nik is terrific. Nik told us lots of stories along the way and was very entertaining, besides being knowledgeable. So while we’re driving along, he shared the following story.

Please skip the next paragraph if you’re easily offended.

So back in the day, Edinburgh was not so developed as far as plumbing goes. People would fill a bucket when they needed to go to the bathroom. When filled, it would be tossed out the window. To make things a little more civil, people would toss the bucket early in the morning or late at night. When they did, they would shout out “gar de loo”, which basically translates to “watch the water”. Well, people, especially sailors from other countries would come into port and go out and get drunk then walk back to their ships. Not understanding the local customs, they would unfortunately look up when they heard people shouting out “gar de loo”. And that is supposedly the birth of the phrase to be “shit-faced drunk”.

Onward, our journey took us down to the waterfront where we stopped to catch a glimpse of the three bridges that cross the Firth. One of the bridges, ‘The Forth Bridge’, is renowned for its design and strength and is a UNESCO World Heritage structure. Referred to as the train bridge, it’s a heavy steel girder bridge that was built after a rail accident in the 1800’s.

Our next stop was the fishing village of Anstruther. We made a short stop here to get the feel of a real Scottish fishing village. It was a cute and quaint little village, that is still in use, though not like in the olden days.

We continued our drive through some lovely land, green rolling hills with lots of sheep and cattle. Very idyllic and peaceful.

We arrived at St Andrews and it is a beautiful little town. Besides the golf course, it is also an University town. In fact, it’s where Kate Middleton and Prince William met while attending school together.

We walked through the town a bit and stopped at a pub for a bite to eat and a bit of refreshment. So our first pub meal was fish and chips with mushy peas. Mine washed down with a blonde ale and Sue’s with a large pinot grigio.

After our meal, we made our way through town and over to the old course at St Andrews, where we got to watch grown men act like children as they fulfilled a golf fantasy. Maybe someday I’ll get my chance, but for now we just watched. It was a cool, windy day, so they got the true Scottish golf experience. Our driver Nik, took the road which cuts across the golf course so we could tell our friends that we drove the first and eighteenth at St Andrews – albeit in a mini bus.

On the way home, our final stop was at the town of Falkland. Not well known except for one thing…. The filming of Outlander. We got to see the inn where Jamie and Claire spent their wedding night. Oooohhh…. It was fun as their were a couple of younger women on the bus that were Outlander devotees and were so excited to see the town.  After our stop, it was back to Edinburgh.

 

Once back in town, we stopped by the train station to pick up our tickets for Glasgow and then headed back to the hotel to rest until dinner.

Since we had enjoyed our meal the night before, we returned to Angels with Bagpipes, this time ordering from the ala carte menu. Not surprising, the meal was equally as delicious as last night. Such a great place to have right next door.

Tottered back to the apartment to relax and get aggravated by the camera issues. All in all it was a delightful day. A bit chilly, but we were prepared.

Tomorrow we’re off to Rosslyn Chapel and the Scottish borders.

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