Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Edinburgh, Scotland

On Wednesday, we finally had all of the monkeys in our circus together. We split up between two cars (Tanner having picked up a small manual transmission car that beeped at him every time he changed lanes without signaling) and headed to the airport for our first out of country adventure to Edinburgh, Scotland. On the way, we were passed by a motorcade headed to the airport to meet Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was visiting the UK that same morning. Our best guess is that the motorcade belonged to UK Prime Minster Rishi Sunak (although Tanner claimed Boris Johnson waved at him). Theo waved as well, but the wave he got back may have been more of a “get out of the way” rather than a friendly wave.

While we were planning the trip, we discovered some incredibly cheap roundtrip flights on Ryanair (less than $50) that would allow us to maximize our time and see Scotland and Ireland without having to spend all day driving there from London. Considering our penchant for and experiences with flying budget airlines, a few speed bumps along the way wouldn’t be unexpected.

Not my circus - oh, wait.
We almost missed our flight for the second time as we showed up a little later than intended (due to late departure and traffic) and were greeted by a security line that took at least half an hour. While standing in line, we realized that Ryanair had moved the gate closing time back to a half hour before the flight was supposed to take off (rather than the standard 15 minutes). To make matters worse, almost all of the bags in our particular security line were being flagged for a secondary search. Not thinking we would be able to make it, I sent the others along while I waited with Keren for her bag to be searched. I figured Tanner was our best hope as a negotiator and Joe promised to make a scene at the gate to give us enough time to get there.

The agent picked up Keren’s bag, looked at the X-ray image, said she didn’t see anything, and then sent it back through for another scan. As soon as it cleared the X-ray machine, we both started sprinting towards the gate, winding our way through the maze of duty free shops and straight-arming people who wouldn’t get out of the way. As it turned out, despite being well past the original boarding time, when we got to the gate no one had actually started boarding yet. Having experienced this phenomenon twice, we decided this might just be a scare tactic the budget airlines use to ensure their flights leave on time.

Our first double decker bus!

The Royal Mile

When we arrived in Edinburgh, we rode a double decker bus from the airport to the city instead of renting a car. We were dropped off at St. Andrew’s Square and from there walked down the Royal Mile. Our friend Emily suggested we visit The Haggis Box for a genuine haggis experience. When all eleven of us walked in the owner came out from the back looking a little overwhelmed and asked, “Okay, who’s in charge here?” She then gave us an overview of the menu with an American friendly “interpretation” for several of the items. As the rest of the group was deciding on their orders, Tanner, Livi, and I went down the street for pulled pork at a restaurant called “Oink!” When I say pulled pork, I mean literally pulled off the roasted pig in front of you. It was moist and delicious. Perhaps the best barbecue I’ve ever had, excepting the sauce (it’s hard to beat Due South’s Sweet Brown or Mission’s Smoky Mountain).

Fresh pulled pork

After lunch, we spent several hours touring Edinburgh Castle, which has been in existence in some form for almost 2000 years. We also saw the crown jewels of Scotland here, and Theo got chastised for trying to climb the castle walls. 

Edinburgh Castle

Next we split up a little bit to do some shopping (Sam wanted to find a kilt), and some of us visited St. Giles cathedral, “the cradle of Presbyterianism.” This church was, for a time, led by the Scottish reformer John Knox.

St. Giles Cathedral

Finally, we reconvened at the National Museum of Scotland. It’s interesting how different museums have different character. The British museum definitely gave off the impression of being serious and austere, while the Museum of Scotland was more whimsical and family friendly with lots of video elements and interactive exhibits. Gabby and Abbie said they definitely preferred the latter.

Arthur's Seat

To wrap up our day, we went to a Scottish pub called Doctors and had some fish and chips with mushy peas. After riding the bus back to the airport and boarding our flight to Stansted, we said goodbye to Livi and Tanner, who had decided to leave the next morning (instead of on Friday) to beat the incoming weather in Iceland (even more foreshadowing).

Longest (or shortest) night

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