Saturday, November 14, 2009

Royal Mile plus 250 meters (Part 3)

So, as I alluded to in Parts 2 and 4 of this story, we needed to travel to the South (I think...or maybe West. Possibly North or East. Let's just go with "other") end of the Royal Mile to get to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You see, the Royal people just weren't satisfied with Edinburgh Castle. I think it's on the top of my "favorite castles I've visited" list, but they just didn't think it was fancy enough...and that was precisely what I liked about it! Even though there was a long span of time in which I fantasized about meeting, wooing and marrying Prince William (or any prince, really, but he was the only one I ever saw on People magazine, and there wouldn't have been a language barrier, so that seemed the most realistic option), now I see that I would not make good royalty. I think that the palaces and castles I've been in have been really over-decorated. All that gold stuff and the tapestries and ... it seems that people who live in castles and palaces don't really subscribe to the notion of "less is more". Nor do their decorators. I just wouldn't be happy there. And that's why I decided not to marry a prince after all.

Well, anyway, according to the guide, Edinburgh castle just wasn't fancy enough and a little too drafty, so the royal family decided to relocate to the other end of the road to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which had been a monastery and a guesthouse where Kings had been staying for years. James IV decided to add on to the guesthouse and make a proper Palace in 1498. This was Mary, Queen of Scots' residence until she fled (lots of good stories about Holyroodhouse to share in another entry) and today, this is the official residence in Scotland of The Queen.

We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but it was a lot like all the other castles I've been in. Lots of paintings, beds with curtains, and intricately carved (sculpted?) ceilings. Some of the highlights of the palace included seeing the table where Queen Elizabeth entertains guests and learning which seat was hers (and it's not at the head of the table) and seeing her official Order of the Thistle ensemble. Here's something that *wasn't* like most of the other castles I've visited---the audio guide was FREE! Woohoo! Well, maybe not free, but "included" in the admission fee. I enjoyed listening... and taking notes in my little notebook.

My favorite part of the palace was Holyrood Abbey, and it was photo-friendly. This is the oldest part of the palace grounds, and was originally a small monastery in 1128. It grew into an Abbey, and an important one at that, with coronations and royal weddings taking place here. It was pillaged & plundered in the 1500s and again in the late 1600s, and after a brief attempt at restoration in the 1700s, it ended up deteriorating. It's in "ruins", but beautiful ruins.

(I'm not on the phone, I'm listening to the audio guide. And I think I'm standing on a grave! Didn't realize that as the picture was being taken!)
As we were leaving the Abbey, a royal beast came bounding toward me. At first I wanted to keep him, but then I realized that a Scottie Dog would've been a more appropriate souvenir-pet, so we left him frolicking in the park. 

Doesn't it look like we should be holding a "SOLD" sign in this picture?

After shift-change, when David was free to stop guarding the palace, it was time to scale Arthur's Seat. David read about this in one of the guidebooks (sometimes knowledge is NOT a good thing!) and decided that we should do the 30-minute climb to the top to check out the views of the city. Since I had encouraged him to be involved in the planning of the trip, I had no choice but to go along with his suggestion. 

It was only 250 meters (over a three and a half thousand less than Fuji) and took less than 40 minutes to climb, but I was still having Fuji Flashbacks. Just like Fuji, this is an extinct volcano (actually, Fuji is not extinct, just dormant). And just like Fuji, the beginning of the climb started out with a nice trail of steady but moderate incline. Then, bam! Suddenly you are on slippery rocks with no idea where to safely step next.

I don't really understand the compulsion to go to high places to get great views. I, for one, do not like being so high that the massive palace you were just standing in front of looks to be the same size as Barbie's Dream House.

We made it to the top (well, David made it all the way to the tippy-top, I stopped at what I deemed the "official" top) and I held on to this cement marker-thingy for dear life. I let go long enough for a picture with David, and then hurried back to the cement thing until it was time to descend.
 We finally made it down. It took a while because I kept getting "stuck".

This is my "I'm stuck. I'm scared to take another step. I'm going to die on the side of this stupid hill" expression...all the more reason to avoid climbing up and down things.

And that concludes my tale of the Royal Mile plus 250 meters. Finally.

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