Nov 11, 2005

Day 8 : City sights

The weather gods finally caught up with me. It was a very cold, grey and miserable looking morning. It was raining, the same light, drizzle that seemed non-stop. Why wouldnt it just pour down heavily like in India and be done with it?

HMS Britannia, since it was much closer to the hotel was the first stop. I went around, dutifully admiring the various rooms where royalty wined, dined and honeymooned. Only surprise was how small the rooms actually were, the Queen’s bedroom for example. The sun lounge was nice.

Since the plan was to stay only one day in Edinburgh, SR suggested an open top bus, AS had always wanted to ride in one, so we hopped in. It turned out to be a very good idea. We could choose from one of the five different routes. The live guide mentioned a lot of interesting tidbits about the local life and history that I would have missed otherwise. The architecture was amazing. How could they have possibly preserved the buildings for so long so well, I kept wondering. “Obviously they have ordinances that doesnt allow people to rebuild stuff. But how long must they have had it for,’ I exclaimed. The buildings in the old town were at the least 300 years old, but still standing. They do love their old buildings! In India it is predominantly the places of worship that are preserved and the rest are demolished ruthlessly.

After hopping on and off in a couple of routes covering much of the new town, [Does every town have a regents street?] which was ofcourse two hundred years old, SR declared he was hungry. SS seconded, (AS never gets hungry). So we headed towards a mall and got some noodles. Throughout UK, I felt it was quite vegetarian friendly, Scotland malls didn't seem so much so, but I did manage to get something. I sat there absorbing the sights and the sounds. The mall wasnt as clean as one would have expected. The accent was harder to grasp, but it struck me once again how people everywhere are essentially the same - tha family with the young children, the two old ladies probably friends since high school, the working men and women munching down a quick lunch -same fears, same hopes.

The rain had stopped. So I headed towards the royal mile and the Edinburgh castle. There was a splendid view from the top, I clicked a few pictures. Every stone seemed to reflect history, of course more space was given to Mary, Queen of scots. The castle seemed bloodied to me - figuratively speaking. The walls seemed to echo unfullfilled wishes, sadness and failure.

I noticed with surprise someone arranging chairs in a hall - apparently its given out for weddings and such.

Scots played an important role in the Mysore wars. It was fascinating to see Hyder Ali’s sword and a bunch of memorabilia from that time. Col. Baird’s sword - the one his soldiers gave him, to show their displeasure of the inadequate official reward - was beautiful. I saw quite a few regimental museums through out my trip. We hardly have that in India, though some of the regiments have more than a couple of centuries worth of history.

Walked the royal mile stopping in some tartan shops. It was almost time for the last trip and I noticed with dismay we were the only folks in queue. I wondered if they’d cancel the trip, but they didn't, and the guide patiently answered all my questions. We covered a lot of the old town. Saw the stunning and modern parliament.

She talked of a Sikh family’s huge house and the Diwali celebrations there every year. She talked of Harry potter and the school where James Bond studied [”Sean Connery went to this school?” I exclaimed. She gave me a disapporving glance - “Bond, not Connery”]. I asked her about the architecture differences between the new town and old town and she pointed to me the windows, the pillars etc. We crossed the many bridges crisscrossing the city, watched the lights come on, shivered a bit in the cold wind and finally the bus came to a halt.
Later, walked a bit on the streets looking at various statues. Pitt was from here? Christmas shopping had started here too, commuters were rushing home, the wind was cold. My chapped lips looked quite bad, red and peeling all over, I was looking like a female vanara from Ramayana.

I vaguley tried to calculate what day it was.

Got into a regular bus and got back to the hotel. Met CL later and sat up talking to him late into the night. I told him excitedly I did eat the gingerbread. He is so widely traveled, including India and Tibet. It was fun to exchange notes.

I crept up to the room almost near midnight. I am going to have to skip the plan to travel north. SR had mentioned we wouldnt have enough time to get back, otherwise. I sighed looking at the mall from the window.

November 11, 2005