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We spent the morning playing with Emerson, repacking the suitcases (they’d gotten a bit out of order), storing our luggage, and checking out of The Glasshouse. It was approaching the lunch hour as we’d left. As such, we trekked back into Old Town to visit Oink, a cheap takeaway joint serving pulled pork sandwiches. En route, we missed seeing the Queen by a matter of moments, as she’d just finished attending a service at St. Giles.

As I said, Oink serves roasted pig. You pick the bread (white or brown), the filling (onion and sage or haggis), and the sauce (BBQ, apple, chili, or chili cheese). They then assemble the meat-fest of a sandwich.

I understand the rave reviews. It’s a lot of food for the money. But, it’s a bit messy to eat while walking around or even when sitting on a bench (Libby spilled some on her pants, purse and shoe). They ratio of pig to sauce is also wrong: there is too much meat or too little sauce. It’s truly a “meat sandwich.” Nonetheless, it was far more wholesome and enjoyable than eating takeaway fast food from a chain.

After lunch, we went to tour Edinburgh Castle. Once again, the Queen managed to foil our plans as she was having an event there in the later afternoon. The bad news is that significant portions of the castle were closed. The good news is that this discouraged many visitors and reduced the cost of admission dramatically. And, in fact, had we been willing hang around for an hour and a half or so, we could have seen the Queen up close, as there is only one car path up inside the castle. As it was we had a nice conversation with a captain in the Royal Navy, who’d been to Tampa on numerous occasions, disliked London and all the foreigners, was frustrated by the fact that army soldiers kept saluting him (as he said they don’t do that in the navy), and generally seemed bothered by the fact that he was forced to get there early only to wait around.

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After the castle, we visited the National Gallery Scotland. Much like the National Museum of Scotland the day before, the collection was modest in scope and scale but very enjoyable to experience. I especially liked the Frans Hals, including matrimonial portraits of some dude and his not-especially-attractive second wife (he either really loved her or she was loaded).

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Having cultured ourselves, we returned to Rose Street for a late afternoon snack of nachos, which we thought (rightly) would please the small one. We them strolled around New Town en route to The Glasshouse, where we picked up our luggage and took a taxi to the airport.

The airport transfer and check-in was easy, but our flight was delayed for nearly two and a half hours. No bueno. Fortunately, the airport had a good play area for kids. Emerson made fast friends and enjoyed herself thoroughly. Good options, especially for Emerson, were less good. But, we managed to get her a £8 ($14!) hot dog and fries that was actually rather tasty.

Our flight was on a little ATR 72 600… in other words a plane with propellers. :-)

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We landed in Ireland a bit before midnight and checked into our hotel by 12:30.

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Today’s box score: +1 country (Ireland)

Well, I’d written a really nice post about this day, but the damn iPhone app for Wordpress ate it just as I was finishing it for posting. What a waste of time / annoyance…

Summary:

We went to the National Museum of Scotland — it was modest, but enjoyable.

We had lunch at The Hanging Bat. It was one of the better meals of the trip; the cask ales were pretty good, though not great.

We strolled about New Town and especially enjoyed Rose Street.

I later went whisky shopping at Cadenhead’s — learning a lot in the process, especially about my heretofore favorite whisky, Oban.

To avoid late day rain, we ordered dinner in to the hotel.

At this point, I’m fairly pissed off about losing an hour or more worth of writing… so, I may or may not recompose this post and/or post anything of substance for the remainder of the trip.

After our late arrival last night, we got a little bit of a later start this morning as well. Libby and Emerson headed to the breakfast room (”free”–a £13/pp. value–due to my Marriott status), while I arranged to get our room switched (as the accessible shower was utterly impractical without any glass surround). I then joined the girls for breakfast.

After breakfast was over, we headed out into the city for the day. The weather was by any standard gorgeous: mild temperatures (warm for Scotland) and a cloudless sky. We walked up Princes Street in New Town and then came up the hill behind Edinburgh Castle.

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We’d planned on visiting the castle properly, but the queue was rather long. So, we headed down the Royal Mile, exploring sights along the way, including having a snack in a very elegant cafe:

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We visited St. Giles just in time for morning services to end. It’s an attractive church, though relatively modest in size and of an odd configuration. Indeed, the pastor literally is “preaching to the choir” instead of the better part of the congregation. Although, on this Tuesday morning, he was mostly preaching to himself.

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We continued along the Royal Mile to down to the Palace of Hollyroodhouse. Our plan was to tour it, but alas the queen was in residence. Just who does she think she is? :-)
Having our plans foiled, we headed back to New Town. This actually worked out ok, as Emerson was tired from her shortened sleep the night before. We gave her a nap and went to Nando’s for dinner (located just around the corner from the hotel).

All in all, today was a good but not great day. My first impressions of Edinburgh? It’s alright… I like it well enough, but I don’t love it. And, I’m not really sure why. It’s fairly attractive and evocative, but it doesn’t stir my emotions or capture my imagination as some places do. Libby feels the same way having been here before (and I suppose it’s somewhat telling that she didn’t rush to return here sooner).

Of course, our travel impressions may be fickle. We didn’t like Salzburg on our first trip there, but we loved it on our second visit (which only happened because it was a convenient waypoint). Likewise, some places that aren’t even that inherently nice strike the right cord. Given that, impressions of places seem to be influenced by mood and expectations almost as much as anything else.

Today is a travel day; we’re flying out of Jersey on the next leg of our trip to Edinburgh, Scotland (country #94). However, our flight wasn’t until 5:25 this evening, which gave us time for a leisurely morning and a chance to explore more of St. Helier. We started with a walk into town for coffees and breakfast. We then returned to the hotel to finish packing and getting ready for today’s flights.

We checked out of the hotel just before noon, checked our luggage, and made arrangements for a car to take us to the airport. Having sorted the logistics out, we grabbed Emerson a quick lunch, and then we headed to the waterfront to visit Elizabeth Castle.

As I believe that I’ve mentioned previously, Elizabeth Castle is located on an island in the bay. However, it’s not always an island, as the tidal change is fairly extreme here (18-22 ft.). As such, our amphibious ferry was in only in “bus mode” for our journey out, and we were able to walk back via a sometimes submerged sidewalk on our return.

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The island, grounds, castle, and breakwater all made for an interesting visit. It was especially interesting to see how the islet had changed over time–from battlements dating to the 1590s and gracious Georgian buildings to German fortifications from the occupation of Jersey during World War II. If we’d had more time, I know we could have used it profitably (this seems to be a theme of our Channel Islands visit).

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We departed for the airport around 3pm. Check-in and security was a breeze, as small airports usually are more relaxing. Our flight to London-Gatwick departed on time and was brief but pleasant. The transit at Gatwick was a bit of a nose bleed, as we arrived at an international gate and were bused around immigration and customs. This was great for folks terminating in London, but it meant we had to pass back through airport security and all that entails.

We arrived on time in Edinburgh (that is to say late-ish) and took a taxi to our “swank” (read: more expensive yet less functional) hotel, The Glasshouse.

Today’s box score: +1 “country” Scotland

After picking up coffee for Libby and pancakes for Emerson this morning, we headed to the Albert Pier at 8:50 for our ferry ride to the Isle of Sark.

The ferry to Sark takes about an hour to cover the 20 or so miles between the islands. The ride was fairly pleasant in both directions, though the seas had enough swell to almost be problematic.

Sark rises up from the sea with fairly steep, granite cliffs. The island looks largely uninhabited upon approach, but it has a small harbor at the bottom of a steep hill. To ascend the hill, you can either hike up a path or take a “bus” (which is really a trailer with bench seats pulled by a tractor). At the top, you disembark in the Sark’s picturesque village.

The island has no automobiles. Travel around its 4.5 square miles is either on foot or bicycle. However, given that the paths are dirt, Emerson’s stroller was less than ideal for walking. Thus, I called an audible and rented bikes for the day complete with a kid trailer on one of them. This turned out to be a tremendous amount of fun and an efficient way to traverse the island. We spent the day cycling around the island, passing through the village to pick up food and drinks, and stopping for brief hikes along coastal footpaths.

What to say about Sark? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:


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It may, quite possibly, be the best place that we’ve ever visited. It may even be the best place on Earth. Full stop. The pictures don’t adequately capture its charms.

Sark feels remote yet it’s relatively accessible. It seems isolated yet it’s sufficiently civilized. In short, Sark provides a mild adventure in a beautiful setting with a comfortable climate… all with clean public restrooms.

Today was a great day.

Today’s box score: +1 country (Guernsey & Deps, Channel Islands)

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