13 October, 2018

Edinburgh - Day 3 (Creepy History Tour)

On our last full day in Edinburgh, we let the kids have a slow morning before heading out to explore.

Clara would not leave Maillee alone
We bought a day pass for the bus so we didn't have to walk as much. Spoiler alert, we still did a lot of walking. We took the bus toward the Royal Mile, and grabbed a quick bite to eat in a bakery. By chance, we stumbled upon The Elephant House, which is where JK Rowling did a lot of her early writing. 

We then stopped in a Harry Potter themed shop to look around. I've been reading the series to Miles and Lily at bedtime (we just started book 4), and they love it. Of course, they wanted to buy everything, but settled for sweets. Jelly slugs, Bertie Bott's every flavour beans, and a chocolate frog for Clara.

Then it was time for the Gory Stories tour that Jessica had found. Unfortunately, children under 5 weren't allowed, so Matt hung out with Clara while the rest of us learned gross history about Edinburgh. 

This is where our tour began

The tour consisted of the remaining six of our group, the tour guide, Artemis, and two trainees. Artemis did a great job keeping the kids' attention (with quite a bit of poo talk, naturally), and I found the information interesting as well. 

We started out by visiting a few of the nearby closes (those little alleyways I mentioned last time). Artemis explained how in the 19th century, the buildings could be 12-13 stories high (but not built very well), and of course there was no indoor plumbing. So everyone who lived in each apartment (which were mostly one room) would do all of their bathroom business in one bucket. People on the top floors didn't want to walk downstairs every time to empty said bucket, so they'd save it until the evening. They would open the window, shout, "gardyloo!," and dump the contents into the street. This story was the highlight of the experience for the kids.

We heard other history as well, including stories of witch hunts, body snatching, and being buried alive. Then we were led into the Blair Street Underground Vaults, where things were a bit creepy. 

The South Bridge was built in the late 1700s, and had a series of arches underneath. It looked something like this:

The sides of these arches were enclosed, and the vaults were divided up for businesses. However, those tenants didn't stay long, as the walls hadn't been waterproofed. Once legitimate business moved out, the poor moved in, along with more unsavory enterprises. 

Eventually, the vaults were filled with rubble and forgotten until the 1980s, when they were rediscovered and excavated. They are now used for tours like the one we joined. The lighting was low, and we weren't allowed flash photography, so I have few pictures.

Artemis shared that certain rooms have high paranormal activity, and told us about a few of the ghosts that hang around. (Side note: I'm definitely sceptical about these things, but you can be your own judge.) The kids were surprisingly brave in the face of these creepy revelations, even when told about Mr. Boots, who is not a particularly nice spirit.

At the end of the tour we went into a museum-type room, with more information and artefacts from the excavation. There was even a table full of things that we could touch and explore, which I thought was great for the kids.

This is getting a bit long, and I still have loads of pictures to share from the rest of the day. But I thought that the Gory Stories experience was a pretty cool way to get the kids interested in some of the history (which I like to hear about, although with a bit less poo). I receive nothing for my opinions here, I just like sharing. Anyway, I'll stop here and finish out our first Scottish adventure next time.

09 October, 2018

Edinburgh - Day 2

On our first full day in Edinburgh, we woke up, fed the kids, and grabbed coffee for the adults before setting off for the Royal Mile.

It was nearly a mile to get to Edinburgh Castle, which is at the top of the Royal Mile (just over a mile, actually). It was cool to walk and get a feel for the city, and I loved how it all looked so old and unique.

When we came within view of the castle, there was a small farmer's market set up. We wandered around, looking at all of the stalls before moving on.

The castle is set high on a hill, and we had a little farther yet to walk.

Finally, we walked up a set of stairs and we were on the Royal Mile.

Right away, we spotted Camera Obscura, which Jessica had told us about as a fun kid-friendly place. It's an interactive museum with five floors of optical illusions and such. We headed inside, and were told to go to the top floor for a show.

Playing in the mirror out front

We were lead into a dark room for a camera obscura demonstration. It lasted about 15 minutes, and it was pretty cool. The bigger kids even got to go play on the table when the staff member was finished talking. We then explored the roof before going inside.

See all of the chimney pots?

The views from the roof were great, and inside was loads of fun for the kids and adults.

After leaving Camera Obscura, we walked around a bit more before everyone realized how hungry we were.

We chose our lunch location because it was close and we were ready to eat. Matt opted for the full breakfast, one of his favorites, only this time it came with haggis. It was sort of a mealy-textured sausage thing, and it actually didn't taste too bad.

That's the haggis

I had some sort of vegetable croquettes
Playing around after not eating much

We all felt better after food, rest, and a drink, so we continued down the Royal Mile. We stopped here and there, let the kids run around, and bought overpriced water in Starbucks in order to use the restroom.

The plaque above Lily's head is shown in the picture below

These little alleyways were everywhere

At the bottom of the Royal Mile is Holyroodhouse Palace, which is the Queen's house in Scotland. We hadn't booked a tour, so we didn't get to go in. There was a cool wave sculpture nearby, and we let the kids play on it for awhile.

Next to the Palace is Holyrood Park, and the peak of these hills is called Arthur's Seat.

There were two paths to use to get up there - one about halfway up, and one going to the very top. We chose the easier looking one since we'd already been walking all day.

Somehow Miles and Lily had plenty of energy to hike, although we took breaks. Clara, however, was more tired, and Matt carried her half the time.

But these views were worth it. (To me, maybe, since I wasn't the one carrying the toddler.)

The kids played some more on the way back down.

Back at the bottom of the hill, we decided to split up for dinner and do a little family time. We walked back past Holyroodhouse Palace and the Scottish Parliament to find a place to have dinner.

The Palace

Scottish Parliament

We spotted a small cafe at the bottom of the Royal Mile, so that's where we ate. On the way, we had let the kids pick their souvenirs.

A Highland cow and great panda of Scotland

By the time we finished eating, we were tired and ready to get back to the Airbnb, so we just took a taxi. We meet Maillee and family, and the kids played a little bit before going to bed. The adults did try to plan just a little for the next day, then we all went to bed as well.