Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Scotland - Day two

Today we woke to a cold rain.  To those of you that have had broken bones know that in times of rain, your bones hurt and today was no exception.  Bones hurting be damned, off we go into the rain to Holyrood - the home of the Queen when she is in town.

We stop at St. Giles first - it is a church right across the street from where we are living.  It is a place where a lot of things happen.  We go into to look around and my beloved sees that there is a photography fee of two pounds.  Two pounds to take pictures?  Well, I guess they need the money, so I go up to the desk to pay my pounds and the woman at the desk says,

You can't take pictures during the service.  We have a service starting at noon, are you staying for it?


Well, then I won't sell you a ticket to take pictures since is two minutes of tweleve, and you won't have time to take pictures.  You should come back later.

So, we took a raincheck on St. Giles and started down the Royal Mile to HolyRood.

So back to the Queens place here in Edinburgh -

Holyrood is actually a place you can see people living.  I mean you go to Buckingham Palace or Windsor and they seem too big and impersonal, not Holyrood, I could actually picture people living here.  In fact, the Queens grandaughter, Zara Phillips was married here a couple of years ago.  Can you imagine planning your wedding and calling up your Gran to see if you can use her place in Edinburgh for the wedding?  Cool..

Anyway the place started as an abby

It was a place of sanctuary.  Did you know that having debt or being unable to repay your debt was a crime?  Well, it was and if you were wanted for debt you could take sanctuary here and nobody could arrest you while you were here - or on Sunday when you could go home to your family or wherever, because arresting people on Sunday was illegal.  Weird, but true.

James IV took the simple royal apartment at the abbey and turned it in to Holyrood, he did not get to spend anytime there, because he died a couple of days after it was complete.

So we again hear about Mary Queen of Scots, it was to Holyrood that she returned to after leaving France and coming home to Scotland.  At this time she was married for the second time to Henry Staurt, who depending on who you believe was either a patsy or a very jealous husband.  Seems for whatever reason, Henry lead an armed party into Mary's private chambers where at 6 months pregnant she was having diner with her ladies and her private secretary, David Rizzio.  The secretary was dragged out into the next room and stabbed 56 times and left dead on the floor.  Mary moved very quickly to the castle down the road - Edinburgh where she gave birth to the future James VI.  

I'm sure you can understand she was not very happy with her husband and when he turned up dead, not long after, people were sure she was involved and her quick marriage to her third husband, Lord of Bothwell did not endear her to anyone and she was soon arrested and forced to abdicate.

Like I have said previously being a Princess or Queen is not always a good thing.

Anyway, Holyrood was not always a happy place, but I still like it.

On the way back, we passed this

I assumed it was a newspaper of some sort, but no it is a museum of the people.  It sounds a little commie to me.  We did not go in, maybe another day.

On our way back up the Royal Mile in a close we saw this:

Now, I ask you, who could resist going closer to see what this was.  It was a kilt maker, what else could it be?  So we go in and start looking around and asking questions.  My beloved decided to order something and had to give her address.  They very Scottish guy tells us he used to sell kilts at the Highland Games in Pleasanton.  About this time another man walks in and they tell us they used to live in Hayward and had a shop in San Francisco.  Then they moved to Palm Springs.  This story was just getting gayer and gayer.  Do you know it takes 8 yards of fabric to make a mans kilt?  That real kilts are sewn by hand?  That it takes about a day to make them?  I was amazed, little tiny stitches, all the same, all perfect.  Amazing workmanship.  Did you know that not only clans have a special tarten?  States have them.  The Marine Corps have one.  It was a very interesting place and an art form that needs to be preserved.

I did ask why did the Scots start wearing kilts?  I mean really, it gets cold here.  Then we were told that the people that originally settled Scotland were Celts from the Alps and they wore skirt like things, so it was a small jump from that to a kilt.  And also, sometimes a plaid in the tarten was wrapped like a loin cloth under the kilt, I guess for those chilly Scottish nights.

We ended our day with a ghost tour!  Yes, no vacation would be complete without one.  This one was pretty good.  The guide was named Mark and it was an interactive tour.  I was used in a demonstration of the different hanging techniques used, I was a very good participant.  We went down and around the area around St. Giles - where the last person to be buried in the graveyard next to the church went in about 1560 or so.  Today the churchyard is a parking lot, unfortunately they did not move any of the bodies prior to tarring them over.  

Then we walked over to Advocates Close, where I learned some more information about close's.  They originally had gates at both ends that were locked at night to keep the occupants safe.  Learned that they were also dark and dirty places.  There is one thing that most of us don't think about when we imagine life in a medieval city.  What did they do with their poop?  Well, here in Edinburgh, it was collected in a big pot during the day and when the bells of St. Giles rang at 10:00 pm you could legally throw it out your window into whatever street or close was below you.  Yuck and be careful where you are at 10:00 at night.

Of course, there was the usual sickness, rats and plague.   It think you get the picture.  We should all be really thankful when we flush that toilet not to mention modern vaccinations.

We were taken to the vaults that exist under the South Bridge here in Edinburgh.  The South Bridge was not built over water, but over low lying land and under it vaults were built, the deepest - of which we were in - go down four stories under ground.  They were used for a number of things, workshops, storage, illegal things, etc.  They were emptied out and bricked up in the 1860's and stayed that way for over a hundred years.  I think people forgot about them until a bar owner dropped a keg on the floor and it continued down, down, down into the one that existed under his bar.  

They were then cleaned up and offered to the businesses above them.  Luckily for us, the tour company is in a building above the deepest and so we were able to tour them.  There were the stories of haunting, cold spots, ghosts that just hang out, one that follows people around and yells at them to get out, another that they think was a shoe maker and is confused by velco, and a little boy that likes to hold hands.

We did not come in contact with any of them, but I did take a few pictures:

My beloved says these are candles, I say they are eyes.  What do you think.

So after the tour we made our way back home, wondering all the way if our close - Lady Stair's Close - has any ghosts.  

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