Riccardo's 32nd Birthday Trip: Edinburgh
2010 has been all about birthday city tours. As you may recall, for my 30th in January, Riccardo and his family spoiled me with a 5-day trip to Rome. In turn, and with a slightly more reasonable budget, I gave Riki a 2-day Edinburgh trip for his 32nd over the past weekend!
We ended up getting a free night's accommodation, though I can't say I fully recommend the Holiday Inn Express, Picardy Place, and the train tickets were very reasonably priced, so why not, right? We arrived in Edinburgh late Thursday night and began our tour Friday morning (Riccardo's special day!) with a short bus tour and a jaunt around Edinburgh Castle, cliffside over the city.
Edinburgh Castle was pretty cool. We saw real armed guards, a super-old chapel (not sure how old though!), and amazing views of the city. There were even a few caverns where you could view the medieval castle remains. One of the best exhibits was the POW one, where you could visit the cells in which prisoners of war were once kept - not all that long ago, actually.
After the castle, we walked a ways down the famous Royal Mile (awesome!) to catch our bus out to the harbour. Next stop: The Royal Britannia - the Queen's 400ft yacht retired only in 1996 (?). The yacht was really cool, though dated; it seems that not a lot of renovations had been undertaken since it was built back in the '50's - no wonder it was permanently docked! Anyway, it was interesting to see how the royalty lived while travelling around the globe (an average of once per year!), including seeing SINGLE beds in the Queen's and her husband's SEPARATE rooms, and the only double bed on the ship, in the 'honeymoon suite', where Diana and Charles stayed on their honeymoon, among others. ;)
After freshening up at the hotel, I took Riccardo to a lovely seafood restaurant for his birthday dinner. Creeners, in Hunter Square, came to us through a recommendation from our friend and Riccardo's colleague, John. It was perfect: quiet and delicious. We especially loved Riccardo's starter: fresh grilled langostines. Yummy! We intended to do a Ghost Tour of Edinburgh after dinner, but were both too bushed, so headed back for a good night's sleep instead.
Saturday morning we bee-lined it straight for Edinburgh Holyrood Palace - a working palace for the British royalty when they stay in Scotland. So 'working' in fact, it had been closed the day before because Prince Charles had decided to visit! Anyway, the palace was very cool, with rooms restored to their original state, such as those used by Mary Queen of Scots back in the day. Unforunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, nor were we allowed to visit the upper floors, which house today's Royal Apartments. The gardens were massive and totally awe-inspiring! Apparently old Lizzy hosts a garden party for 8000 guests there every July! I also really loved the ruins of the Holyrood Cathedral, and thought it would have made the perfect setting for an outdoor, royal Gothic wedding! I guess Fergie doesn't have the same tastes as me!
We found a really good deal when we first arrived in Edinburgh: the Royal Edinburgh Tour, which included admissions to all the aforementioned cites, as well as free access to all four double-decker tour bus companies. So we hopped-on and hopped-off the tour bus for the rest of the afternoon, including a stop at the Edinburgh Dungeon, same company as the queue-around-the-block London Dungeon, but not nearly as manic! Though at times giggle-worthy and at times spine-chilling, it was a good couple of hours.
Finally, a quick stop for a bite, and we headed back to Waverley Station for our 5+ hour train journey back to Birmingham. I think I'm ready to stay home for a while!