UK: Day Seventeen

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Day 17:

July 1, 2013

For the last day of our trip, Jeff set out in the car for the Glenkinchie Distillery whilst the girls and I walked up to the Edinburgh Castle. What we did not realize at the time, was that HRH Queen Elizabeth II was arriving in town today and the gunners for the 19th Regiment Royal Artillery would be welcoming her with a 21-gun salute from the castle.

The local paper says, “The Royal Salute provides a great occasion for the Scottish Gunners to display their professionalism and prose in conducting such an honor in the nation’s capital city.”

After touring around the castle’s sights while completing the kid’s scavenger hunt questionnaire, we happened upon the “one o’clock gun,” a 25 pound howitzer, that is fired daily (except Sundays). It was originally used to “help sailors reset their chronometers in the days before accurate time pieces were available.
Read more about it here.
While trying to see the one o’clock gun (btw- you don’t need to see it because you can certainly hear it) a helpful tourist tipped us off that there would be a pipes band and a 21-gun salute to the queen in just over an hour. We had a nice lunch in the castle cafeteria and then scoped out a spot to take in the action. It turned out to be well over an hour of pomp and ceremony involving a brass band, a pipes band, a regiment of gunners and several miscellaneous soldiers and dignitaries. It was all pretty fascinating (to me).

IMG_0958Aside from the activities, my favorite part of the castle was the great hall, which was very reminiscent of the great hall at Hogwarts, but with lots of weaponry and armor (and no magical ceiling). I enjoyed it all very much. We got the chance to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, (aka the Honours of Scotland).  The crown, secptre and sword date to the middle ages.  They have been housed at Edinburgh castle since 1707, although forgotten for a nearly 100 years.  During WWII the “Scottish Regalia” were hidden for fear of being stolen by the Germans.  In 1953, they were returned to the Crown Room for public display.346px-Crest_of_the_Kingdom_of_Scotland.svg

There were also several museums to see within the castle, but the girls threatened to die of boredom, so we set out to explore a little more of “the royal mile” area (between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace) on foot. I had hoped to see the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, but since the queen was in town it was closed to visitors (much to the delight of the girls). Instead, we wandered into the Museum of Childhood for the several floors of displays of historical toys, games, clothing and books. The girls enjoyed a game of “snakes and ladders” and before wandering through the shops on the way back to the hotel.IMG_5515
After resting our feet for a bit, we met back up with Jeff for our last official meal of the trip. Since we were in a Scotland, I thought we should find a “chippie” (fish and chips restaurant). Bene’s didn’t disappoint. The kids enjoyed their deep fried pizza and Jeff and I tried out the local fish and chips. It was delicious, as expected, but we had so much food that we were too full to try the local favorite: a deep fried Mars bar.
Edinburgh had much more to offer. We could have spent a few more days exploring the sights, but sadly we had run out of time.
IMG_5527As I was packing up, Kai told me that she was feeling “bittersweet.” I know exactly what she meant. We’ve had some great adventures these last few weeks. The UK has been a wonderful adventure much more fantastic than I ever could have dreamed, but we are all ready to head home. We’ll have to return someday to try out the Mars bars. 🙂IMG_9219

UK: Day One

Look Left

Day One:

June 15, 2013

Our flights went off without a hitch.  We had heard about delays due to security at the airport, so we arrived with plenty of time to spare. My plan to knock the kids (and myself) out with Melatonin did not go as planned so by the time we had arrived in London, (10 hours flying and 1 hour layover in Reykjavik)  Kai and I were going on almost no sleep.

Platform 9 3/4
Platform 9 3/4

We arrived in London on Saturday just in time for the annual Trooping the Colours celebrations for the Queen (to celebrate her April birthday). We missed the parades and pageantry but we did get to see the flyovers by several RAF aircraft and (I think) the queen in her helicopter with two escorts. It was pretty neat to see the planes, but was a bit unnerving until we realized it was a celebration and London was not under attack.

After weaving all through London because of road closures due to the celebration, we made it to our hotel and checked in. After a bit of rest (but still no sleep for Kai or me) and some dinner at our hotel restaurant, we wandered out to explore. We stumbled upon a nice walking path along the South Bank. It was robust with Saturday evening happenings, which we enjoyed taking in. Our walk landed us in Trafalgar Square near a tube station, so we hopped aboard for an adventure to find Kings Cross Station and platform 9 3/4. There was an official queue and shop selling souvenirs, so the girls took advantage of the props for a fun photo op. By 9:30 we were all ready to crash, so we headed back to the room and crashed hard.