Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 5, 2010: In The Queen's Home

I stayed up relatively late last night enjoying the free Wi-Fi, and then again the next morning. Because of this, it was already lunch time before I actually got out of the hostel. This worked fine in the smaller centres, but Edinburgh is a big city and most of the attractions close at 5 PM, so this didn't give me much time to get around and see many things. That said, I was still able to take two full tours, and see both the Royal Yacht Britannia, and the Palace of Holyrood House. Before I started on my tours though, I first stopped in at a Turkish restaurant I had noticed was near my hostel the night before, for lunch.

Never having eaten Turkish food, I thought the Turkish meze option would give me a nice sampling of what was offered. The menu called the Turkish meze "a selection of Turkish appetizers." I'm certain that's what I received, but I was not expecting my meze to be a bunch of cooked vegetables that were then cooled so that they were cold. I'm not sure about anyone else, but when I think of Turkish food, I think of something similar to Greek food, which is to say I think of a lot of hot meats either in a pita wrap, or on a stick, not dry borscht. Oh well, at l east it was exotic.

(At least the interior is bright and cheery.)

(And what's this? Can it be? A closer inspection of the above picture indeed reveals hookahs!)

After lunch, I bought some unbelievably delicious vanilla fudge from the Fudge House shop just down the street some more, before heading back to Waverly Bridge to catch my first bus tour and see the famous Royal Yacht Britannia.

(Up on top of the bus, in the open air. When the bus is standing still this is quite pleasant, but at full speed it gets rather cold.)

(Some people sitting in the park beside Waverly Station, next to my bus stop. Unbeknownst to them, they are actually sitting in what used to be a massive river of human excrement that was drained to make this station.)

As I mentioned yesterday, the Royal Yacht Britannia was essentially the home of the Royal Family while they were at sea. They must have spent a lot of time at sea too, because the ship did more than 1 000 000 miles, or the equivalent of once around the world for every year it was in service. It was also the last in a long line of Royal Yachts, dating all the way back to the 1600s, since in 1997 the British Parliament deemed the ship too expensive to upkeep, and the Queen was forced to decommission Britannia. The Queen's loss was the public's gain though, and since 1997 the ship has been an open museum through which the public can take self guided tours.

(The binnacle and compass originally on board the Britannia.)

(The bridge of the ship. There is only one chair on the bridge, and only the captain of the ship was allowed to sit in it.)

(Looking out at all my adoring fans along the dock. Can you see the crowds who came to wave to me? I swear they were there just before I took this picture...)

(The main deck where The Royal Family liked to spend much of its time.)

(Me ringing the big bell on the main deck.)

(The girl on the left in this photograph is the Queen as a young girl.)

(The Royal Yacht's tea room, in which guests can spend far too much money for cake and teas.)

(I can't remember the name of this room, but the furniture was purchased by Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth II had it brought from a previous Royal Yacht and placed here on the Britannia.)

(The Royal Dining Hall on the Britannia. It took more than three hours to set the twenty five places, and each place at the table had to be set using a ruler to make sure everything was in exactly the right spot.)

(A ceremonial pig killer the Queen received as a gift.)

(The huge on board laundromat. Each member of the crew had to change into a new uniform at least six times a day, and the captain sometimes had to change into a fresh uniform twelve times a day.)

After taking far too long on the tour (looking through a bookstore on my way there probably didn't help), I had to rush to get back into Edinburgh if I wanted to get to the Palace of Holyrood House before the last admission. I did make it though, which will free up some time over the next couple of days for yet more fun activities.

(The entrance to the Palace of Holyrood House. Because it is a government building I was not allowed to take pictures inside. This is the best I could do.)

(The second tour bus I rode today. This one was a classic bus with a live tour guide, making for a unique experience.)

(The back of the Scottish Parliament building.)

(These windows on the back of the Scottish Parliament building are called "contemplation windows". They cost about $28 000 each. When this building was first made, these windows looked out over an open field, but now they just look into the apartment next door.)

(When the very old buildings of George Street were built, the city of Edinburgh instituted a window tax. Each pane of glass resulted in extra tax being charged. Consequently, many house owners removed the glass, boarded up the hole, and just painted on the window instead of paying the tax.)

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