About half-an-hour late to breakfast, and Leslye lets us know about, “Sorry the bacon is a bit shriveled, but I ain’t have time to re-do it.” I liked it shriveled a bit better, thank-you. She let us know she’d like us out by 10 AM also, “First time you’ve all stayed in an English B&B?” We were cleared out by 9:58 AM. It rained overnight, and we thought of Alex and his crew getting out of wet tents for another day walking the wall.
The direct, yet scenic route, to Scotland was full of ups and downs, sort of like a roller coaster. David enjoyed the “dips” but they gave Pat a headache. As we crested a ridge and passed the stone markers announcing our arrival in Scotland, it began to . . . rain. Its a little colder here, overcast with a bit of a breeze, but the weather was OK for the rest of the day. Thanks to a city map purchased at a Gulf station twenty miles back, we made our way to the Dorstan Hotel, just south of the city center, with no deviations, not a one. Might be the first error-free, backtrack-free car transfer so far.
We have two rooms on the second floor, adjacent, with two showers, but just one toilet. The hotel is just that, a serious operation, but Richard has been most helpful, so it has all the charm of a smaller place. We got settled in while the boys had a row, and then we walked a block down to the bus stop for a trip into town. £8 and 20 minutes later, we arrived at the midpoint of the Royal Mile. I checked my pocket map at every cross-street and near our stop a very helpful fellow a few seats back made sure I got off at the desired location. Not a block away, we had a delicious late lunch at the Chocolate Soup, where the spicy soup really was spicy.
We wandered the upper-half of the Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral, the Royal Mile Whiskies main store, the esplanade in front of the Royal Castle and the Scottish Whiskey Heritage Center gift shop (passing on the keg-train ride inside). The main entertainment was a visit to the Camera Obscura, a five story building with a great vantage point for viewing most of the city and a working set of lenses that relays images from the rooftop onto a white tabletop inside the rooftop chamber. The lower four or five floors contained a variety of well-done optical demonstrations: pinhole cameras, holograms, optical illusions, stereo images, etc. With David’s love of optics, he especially enjoyed it.
By now it was 5 PM and we decided to head home and take our chances on the lone restaurant nearby at another hotel on the next street. Got some cash, only now the bank notes are from the Royal Bank of Scotland rather than the Bank of England. The first bus we attempted to board feigned no knowledge of the side street with our hotel, so I rearmed with more information. The second bus driver tried to feign ignorance, until he realized he was the same fellow who had sold us the all-day passes on our way into town. Back to the hotel, the boys did journals, while I partook of Scottish culture by finishing the first bottle of single malt I’d bought in London, and cracking open the second one.
I was suspicious about dinner around the corner, but it was so close and we were tired, so off we went. Despite Richard’s assurance that we didn’t need a reservation, we were asked to wait a few minutes. So we all took seats at the small bar. The bartender finished with another order and eagerly asked us what we wanted. In my crispest American diction, I said, “A Miller!” Pat stopped him before I could, and I was served a pint of a real Scottish ale. Robert was offered a “shandy,” a lemonade (Sprite) with an ounce or two of beer in it. In a scotch-induced haze, I told the bartender that would be illegal at home. He said, “Aye, but you’re in Scotland now.” Robert was given the option, and a shandy it was. He never said anything all night about it, but only about 20% of it was drunk. I left a tip for the bartender as we were escorted to our table and he said, “Wait! Is this your money?” “No, its yours,” I said. He protested, but I said “In America we tip a bartender who gives us good service.” He added it to the huge jug collecting contributions for the staff Christmas party, and later we found that the kids’ drinks were free.
Dinner was delicious -- ham and cheese quesadillas for the boys (billed as “wigwams”) and a flavorful Thai chicken curry for the adults. The boys split a chocolate and raspberry brownie while I decided to sample the Scottish cheeses. A local brie, and a garlic cheese roll were the sidelights to a nice piece of real cheddar. All for 99 Latini units.
We are pretty far north now, and its close to the summer solstice. I’d put dusk at about 10:25 PM tonight.