A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5: A Hasty Scottish Goodbye and Return to Familiar Digs

in which your author hits the pause button on travel writing... for now!

sunny 50 °F

Sunday marked my last day in Edinburgh before departing for an overnight stay in Amsterdam, and thus I had a big decision to make regarding what I’d spend that time doing. I had heard wonderful things about Rosslyn Chapel, which is a 30 minute bus ride outside the city, but I also had yet to explore Edinburgh Castle, obviously one of, if not the, major landmarks here. I opted for the latter; as with visiting Paris in 2010, I don’t mind not seeing all the major sites of any given city because it gives me an instant agenda for whenever I may return. Prior to leaving for the morning, I grabbed a couple of shots of my room, partially to prove the fact that I wore my MacKinnon plaid tie in Scotland!

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I pop by my favorite corner café for a coffee and a caramel flapjack, and walk around the castle toward the Royal Mile.

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One recommended place I hadn’t yet ducked into was Coda Music, a delightful CD shop focusing on traditional music. (I can’t imagine something like this existing in the US, even for traditional “American” folk music!) I’m fortunate to find, and for only 7 pounds, a recording made at Sandy Bell’s (the music pub I’d visited a few times while here) way back in 1977, though being in the store makes me wish I were more familiar with the names and sub-genres of Celtic trad music.

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I round the curve and decide to give my favorite Edinburgh street corner one final pass, taking a few more daytime photos of the Scott Monument, contemplating when (if ever) I’ll come back to this corner. I head back up toward to the castle, choosing a windy, flower-laden path snaking its way around and overlooking a gorgeous view overlooking the city.

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I arrive at Edinburgh Castle and it takes about 20 minutes to wait in the ticket queue; I should have ordered one online! I’m a bit bummed to have to pay full price given that I only have time to stay for 90 minutes, but I find out there’s a 10% discount due to two of the exhibits being closed for renovation. There’s a sign marking the spot where the province of Nova Scotia, destination point of my Scottish ancestors from Barra, was given over to Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, Earl of Stirling, in 1625.

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The castle is well worth the trip. The city views are terrific, and the ancient rooms include the Scottish crown jewels and the room in which James VI of Scotland (James I of England) was born in 1566. Apparently the room was painted and decorated with the hopes the King would visit, and he never did!

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In the "Great Hall," a Queen Victoria impersonator and her consort add to the royal flavor; visitors (myself included) clamor around them like paparazzi for photos though we are all well aware she’s not the real Queen! (Oh, tourists...)

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I leave the Castle and make my way one last time down the top of the Royal Mile, stopping in to pick up some MacKinnon Clan souvenirs and decide against purchasing any of the tourist-magnet scarves priced identically at any of the cookie-cutter shops along the way. Walking past Grassmarket, I stop into a bookstore, pick out a nice Chardin book on traveling for my father, but then realize I’m out of pounds! The cash machine close by isn’t working, so I continue on my way toward my last lunch in town, stopping at another Shelter store in (unfulfilled) hopes of last-minute gifts.

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I have only about 30 minutes to order and enjoy lunch at the Cloister’s and decide on soup and veggie haggis spring rolls; had I more time I might’ve tried the Camembert Pie! The food goes down great with a stunning Plum Porter (would love to try to brew that at home!) and I hurry back to the flat to gather my things and make the 3:08pm bus to the airport, making a short video upon entering the flat.

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Due to my reading the schedule incorrectly, the trip to the airport is twice as long as I had anticipated, but thankfully I still have plenty of time to check my bags and catch my flight to Amsterdam. On the flight I befriend a chatty young female photographer who is leaving for Curacao for four months to work on a tourism project, and staying overnight in Amsterdam. Hello Katharina!

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Upon arriving in Amsterdam I take the train to Centraal Station, only a few blocks away from where I’d be staying; this is the same place I stayed at for one night during my trip in July 2010, so I’m looking forward to revisiting somewhere I didn’t imagine I’d ever get back to. My Italian Facebook friend Danilo meets me at the station and we walk to the flat; it’s terrific to be there amidst familiar digs. I unpack and head out to retrace my steps of almost two years ago, walking about two miles around past numerous canals toward the very active Centrum area.

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I pick up a falafel (distinctly not as good as the last one I had in this town) and stop into a bar for a beer. It’s incredible to not only find one of the best beers in the world Westmalle Triple on tap, but pay 3.25 Euro for it – such a beer would cost around $11 for a bottle in the US, never mind on tap. It’s absolutely delicious, and it’s all I need. I chat briefly with a couple fellows visiting from the US, and make my way back toward the flat, stopping at a candy store for some stroopwafels to bring home and a brownie.

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It’s remarkable to be back in this place and it reminds me of my life-changing 2010 trip – Amsterdam is the first city from that trip which I’ve come back to, and even though it’s only for a few hours it’s a terrific way to close out this particular journey. I manage to get about three hours of sleep (!), oversleep and rush to the train station, say goodbye to Amsterdam... and still end up with plenty of time to make my flight back to Washington. I give into temptation at the Amsterdam airport, purchasing a nice Glenfarclas single malt, for much cheaper than it would have been in the US. (Shockingly, I pass on buying the world's most expensive bottle of scotch, which costs... TWO-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY-THOUSAND EURO. No verification yet of the rumor Mitt Romney's family uses the stuff as tap water.)

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On the flight, I watch The Help (much better than expected!), write a blog entry, and thank my lucky stars that I’ve had such a positive trip, with hardly any regrets. I’ve made a Europe trip in every calendar year since 2010, and kept a detailed log of each one on this journal; I'm also pleased to be notified that my previous entry from the Highlands was “featured” on the Travellerspoint home page! I'm also starting to take pride in the stamps I'm collecting on my passport.

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My incredible-how-did-I-get-so-lucky girlfriend is waiting for my at the airport when I arrive, accompanied by a wonderfully overstimulated furry four-legged friend named Fenway, who sticks his head out of the car window on the drive home. Back in DC, the following day I show my students a short video of the music from the pub, and tell them: “You never regret the money you spend on traveling, because it’s life experience, and you can’t ever replace that!” Cheers, all, and thanks for keeping tabs on me – ‘til the next adventure, keep stickin' yer heads out the window of life! :)

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Posted by coolmcjazz 11:11 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh amsterdam

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