Saturday, August 24, 2013

Edinburgh, Scotland - Day 3

Captain Servillo of Ocean Princess said we would be arriving in Rosyth at approximately 5:00 am. Although this is significantly earlier than I usually get up, I wanted to see the Forth Bridge up close. My internal clock worked great as I miraculously woke just moments before we approached the bridge and then sailed quietly under it.

Approaching the Forth Bridge with Forth Road Bridge in the background
The Forth Bridge is a cantilivered railway bridge spanning the Forth from Dalmeny to North Queensferry. It took 7 years to complete and opened in 1890. Four years earlier, the nearby collapse of the Tay Bridge created concern in constructing this new bridge. Experienced architects were hired and major stress tests were performed before the first passenger and freight trains roared across it.

The Forth Bridge is considered an engineering marvel and in 2011 it was nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status (it didn't make it). Made of metal, the bridge is 8,296 ft long and 151 ft high. It certainly is a beautiful sight. It is similar in color to the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

On the other side
A third bridge is now being built as a replacement for the Forth Road Bridge (for cars and trucks) which has structural problems. The new bridge will be named Queensferry Crossing and is due to open in 2016.

Being early birds we decided to have breakfast and get off the ship before all the Princess tours. Ocean Princess will be over-nighting in (Rosyth) Edinburgh and we have almost 2 full days to enjoy the city and the beautiful countryside. We have "a marathon" of a day in store and I am hoping for the best. It will be strenuous at times and I expect to hear some griping from mother. However, I have informed her of the various stops and that we will be in constant motion the entire day. I have my fingers crossed against a revolt.

After another yummy breakfast we disembarked the ship around 7:15 am and took the free port shuttle to the terminal building. There were two other couples traveling together on the shuttle with us. They had a private guide meeting them at the terminal. I asked them where they were headed and they really didn't seem to know! We exited the bus and took a taxi to the Inverkeithing train station which is only about 7-8 minutes away.

Inverkeithing Train Station
We purchased our tickets from the kiosk to Waverley Station in Edinburgh. It was a bit brisk outside but the forecast is for overcast skies and thankfully no rain.

Waiting for the train to Waverley
The train was on time and we enjoyed the ride (about 27 minutes) to town. When we passed over the Forth Bridge I spotted the Caribbean Princess at anchor near Leith. Those passengers will need to tender ashore. I am very happy that we are on Ocean Princess which docks at Rosyth, allowing easy access to the train and eliminates the need for tendering.

Crossing the Forth Bridge. Caribbean Princess anchored near Leith. 
The train made a brief stop at Haymarket before arriving at Waverley. On an early Saturday morning there was hardly anyone else on the train.

Almost empty train at 8:00 am on a Saturday
I am still surprised that with all the various Edinburgh festivals there weren't many people around. August is an especially busy time in Edinburgh, with the Fringe, Book and International festivals, not to mention the Military Tattoo, the place is supposedly a mad house.

View from Waverley Station
From the Princess Mall we walked down almost deserted streets toward the New Town and Charlotte Square. We had a view of the Ramsgate buildings on the left side of the street with the temporary Tattoo seating in the distance.

Ramsgate buildings and festival seating for the Tattoo

We had a partial view of Edinburgh Castle in the background.

Walking down Princes Street with a view of the Castle
When we arrived at the central part of town, we looked in the store windows at Hotter (shoes) and a soap shop. It was actually nice that it was quiet and there weren't crowds to deal with at this early hour.

Cute Window
We also spotted Jenners across the street but kept going as it was closed. It is a huge store!

This morning we are headed to Charlotte Square for the Edinburgh Book Festival. I purchased the tickets online but they don't mail them outside the UK. We have to pick them up at 9:30 am, hence our early departure.

Edna O'Brien

We will be seeing the legendary Irish writer, Edna O'Brien. She first came to notoriety in 1960 with the highly acclaimed publication of her novel, "The Country Girls". It was made into a trilogy and several other significant novels, plays and features followed. From Wikipedia, it says "O'Brien's works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole". Sounds a bit grim, but also highly relateable and universal.

Writer, Edna O'Brien
Now at robust 82 years old, she recently completed her memoir, aptly titled "Country Girl". O'Brien's Book Festival session is the first one of the day at 10:00 am. Margaret Atwood, one of my favorite writers is speaking afterward. As I have seen Ms. Atwood before and we have a lot of other things to get to in Edinburgh we will just be doing the one Book Festival event. In addition to many literary luminaries, I also noticed the Book Festival program has lots of events geared to children. This is certainly worth checking out if you have little ones.

We enjoyed our leisurely walk and arrived in magnificent Charlotte Square. This is regarded as one of the most beautiful squares in all of Edinburgh. Located in the New Town, the square was designed by Robert Adam in 1791. The final work was completed around 1820.

The central part of the square has a statue of Prince Albert which was actually dedicated by Queen Victoria.

Prince Albert Statue in Charlotte Square
During the last three weeks in August the Edinburgh Book Festival takes place in Charlotte Square. We walked to #5 to pickup the event tickets.

Charlotte Square

George Street
The stone buildings in the square are very interesting. The style is Georgian and the townhouses were designed as unified blocks. Decorative fan lights were incorporated to allow light into the hallways. The trumpet designed railings were used to snuff out torches that lit the homes at night.

Townhouses on George Street, Charlotte Square
As we were admiring the gorgeous buildings we were completely oblivious to the long line forming at the Book Festival gate. We got in line with the other participants who were mostly older women in their 60's and 70's. By all appearances, this seemed like a large contingent of the Edna O'Brien "fan club". There was a smattering of younger women too and even a few men. I overheard one woman in her 30's telling a couple of ladies that she almost ran out of the house without "the book" (she wanted signed). She remarked on what a travesty that would have been and that she would never have forgiven herself. A sign of true devotion! I felt a bit like a wannabe, having no book to sign, not being that knowledgeable about Ms. O'Brien and planning to dash off to other venues once the reading was over.

Edinburgh International Book Festival
At exactly 9:30 am, the mostly salt and pepper crowd slowly started to move through the gate. We went to the desk to get our tickets which took about 5 minutes. We then got in another longer line for the main theater where the event is taking place.

My ticket
The line snaked along in a "U" shape toward the theater. Huge white canvases with illustrations of the book festival writers lined the walkway all the way up to the theater.  I didn't know any of these authors but it captivated our attention and beat staring at the grass.

Author Illustrations
The area for the book festival is sort of its own park. Framed by a grassy area, there is a bookstore, a restaurant, cafe, outdoor seating and restrooms. It was starting to get a little brighter outside as the sun was making an attempt to triumph through the gray skies.

The line to the theatre for Edna O'Brien
The Baillie Gifford Theatre appears temporary as the interior is enveloped with a pretty purple tent and cheapo plastic chairs are on elevated concrete steps. I noticed that this event sold out online just a few days after tickets were available for purchase. The room was packed as we tried to find seats that would be comfortable.

Not too comfy!
We decided to sit on the left side as it looked a bit more spacious. There wasn't a lot of leg room (mother would say none) and I was glad the event was only about an hour long.

Once everyone was settled, Ms. O'Brien made her entrance leaning on the arm of the moderator. She didn't seem frail at all but may have bad knees.

Edna O'Brien on the left
We got off to a lively start when the moderator asked Ms. O'Brien questions about her knack for drawing on memory and her writing process. Ms. O'Brien had some zippy responses and has a great sense of humor. She shared reflections on her upbringing, the difficult relationship with her mother; and her early years living in London in the 1960's. She read a long passage from her recent book and then after a few more moderator questions opened it up to the festival participants. It was all over in about 70 minutes but it was very entertaining and enlightening.

We didn't have time (nor plans) to purchase her book or get it signed as we have a full itinerary to complete today. Hoping I won't regret this later.

We were soon off via taxi to the Castle Hill area for our pre-reserved 12:00 pm Lunch. I am glad we are eating early since we need to build up our energy. The taxi driver was super efficient and got us within just a few feet of the restaurant entrance. This is no easy task at the top of the Royal Mile.

The Witchery 
We will be dining at the Witchery, and more exactly their enchanting downstairs venue, "The Secret Garden". It was getting busy outside with lots of people coming and going to the Castle which is just a stone's throw from the restaurant.

Entrance to the Secret Garden on the right
The lunch service does not start until noon so we were among the first patrons to arrive. The room is lovely with drippy white candles, brick walls, a wood beamed ceiling and large windows to the outside. We were seated in the rear with a nice view of the restaurant and natural light.

The Witchery Secret Garden
The menu is extensive and it was a bit of a challenge to decide what to order. We first had to make it through the encyclopedic wine list. I ordered a glass of Rose and my mother had a Reisling. The servers came around with a choice of bread. One was a little spicy and the other was more mild.

Wine List and bread selection
I wasn't that hungry but we decided to each get a starter and a second dish, or more correctly, two starters. The restaurant slowly began to fill up. The service was excellent and not rushed considering it was quite busy.

Our first dishes arrived and were okay but I would probably make a different choice another time. My mother had the Foie Gras which seemed more like pate. I had the French style fish soup with rouille. I usually love this dish but this one was a bit watery and didn't have any depth. It was supposed to be a bisque but it seemed to be lacking in substance.

Mother's Foie Gras

Nice presentation but the fish soup had little flavor
Our second dishes arrived and I forgot to photograph my mother's oysters. Mine was the appetizer portion of the baked scallops. The description didn't seem to match the dish. It is listed on the menu as "Guy Grieve's Scallops, Iberico bellota ham". It was also supposed to have sauerkraut and Granny Smith apple jelly. I didn't notice any of the latter.

At first appearances, the dish looked small but it was just the right portion size. It was okay, but nothing to rave about. We both managed to save room for dessert. It was hard to make a decision from all the yummy"puddings" on the menu.

Pudding "Dessert" Menu
We finally settled on ordering ALL of them! The Witchery Pudding Selection is a bite size version of their best sellers.

Witchery Pudding Selection
This was the perfect dessert to share and end our meal. Everything including the orange blossom ice cream was delicious! We didn't leave a single bite.

The restaurant is on the expensive side but you are paying for the ambiance as well as the food.

The bill in pounds. I also left a gratuity. 
While the meal wasn't that thrilling, the atmosphere of the restaurant is fabulous. I especially liked the gooey candles that melted down to the wick during our meal. The restaurant is popular so I suggest booking in advance. It was nearly full by the time we departed.

Secret Garden viewed from the stairs
Plaque in the restaurant
Fed and fortified, we were off to explore the sights of Edinburgh. It was now around 1:30 pm and our next stop was Edinburgh Castle which was just around the corner. I was initially on the fence about spending time here. However, as it dominates the Edinburgh skyline I thought we should at least see a little of the castle. I had allocated about 40 minutes for our visit which worked fine. If you want to see everything here, you would obviously require a lot more time.

The Castle is separated by the Esplanade (with the temporary Tattoo bleacher seating) and then a large courtyard. As we will be seeing the Tattoo tonight I was interested to see the location of our seats.

Esplanade with Tattoo Seating
It was just as I expected and our seats in Section 2 in the fourth row from bottom looked fine.

Section 2
Once you pass through the Esplanade you enter the gatehouse. On the other side there are ticket kiosks, ticket windows and a shop.

Edinburgh Castle

Although the castle is hundreds of years old, the gatehouse is relatively new. It was built in 1888 and has statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace flanking the sides.

I purchased the tickets online but elected to print them onsite instead of on my computer at home. This was a mistake. While the line for the kiosk to print pre-purchased tickets was non-existent. the presence of a head wrapped gypsy woman trying to take down my information on the screen was not. As I was busy entering the information I didn't notice this woman. My mother was standing back and rushed over to tell me to cover up the screen. Apparently, this woman was writing down the last names and confirmation numbers on a piece of paper. My mother saw her do this to the guy to my right and also the person before him.

Since the reservation is linked to a credit card I was alarmed. I had just printed my tickets as the woman ran away. I decided to find security to report the incident. I entered the tourist office and we described what we had just encountered. I was reassured by security that that the credit card cannot be compromised by knowing the confirmation number and/or last name. The fact that my mother said the woman did not get my last name (it is a long one!) helped me breathe easier too. The security personnel said they would keep a lookout for this behavior but that I didn't need to worry. In any event, to avoid this I recommend printing the tickets at home.

Once in the Castle courtyard (and a bit rattled) we needed to decide what areas to see.

Edinburgh Castle area
The area is very hilly and I knew due to my mother's knees we had to limit our options.

Lang Stair Edinburgh Castle
We declined to see the crown jewels or the Royal Apartments. Instead we decided to tour the National War Museum. I had seen something on TV and thought there was a special WWII exhibit there but I may have mixed this up with the museum on Guernsey.

We entered the National War Museum of Scotland which displays 400 years of Scotland's military history. I quickly realized there wasn't an exhibit about secret WWII German weapon installations in Norway, but we enjoyed seeing the items they did have on view.

National War Museum
There were lots of shinny metals, portraits of admirals and uniforms to see.


Famous Scottish War Hero's
The display cases were nicely done and there was just enough documentation to make it interesting without feeling like you were reading a novel.

Gold handled sword and more medals
The sword belonging to the Earl of Northesk was quite impressive. I have not seen one like this before.

 Sergeant Wallace
We spent about 25 minutes in the War Museum. We then went outside to take in the views from the Castle. The city of Edinburgh has mostly low rise buildings. This certainly helps maintain the elegant character of the environs.

View from the Castle
There are a lot of buildings in the Castle area so deciding what you want to see in advance would be helpful.

Castle Area
While all these historic sights were interesting I was suddenly longing for some retail therapy. We exited the castle area and walked down Victoria Street and around the Grassmarket area to look at the shops.

Mint Velvet
When we were in Tunbridge Wells I noticed the shop "Mint Velvet". I didn't have time to go inside then, but was happy to see the same store here. The merchandise is similar to the UK chain Jigsaw or Banana Republic. I tried on a top and a sweater but neither one worked.

We saw a few more shops, including the Mellis Cheese Shop before getting back to our itinerary.

Mellis Cheesemonger
Nice shops
We looked in the window at Hamilton and Inches. I liked the silver candlesticks but at £4,000 they were definitely out of my price range.

Hamilton & Inches
It was then an enjoyable walk past Greyfriars Bobby (both the pub and statue) before arriving at the National Museum of Scotland about 20 minutes later.

Greyfriars Bobby Pub
It would have been nice to take a break here but we weren't hungry or thirsty yet.

Every dog lover can't help but be enamored with the true story of Bobby, the famous Cairn Terrier of Scottish legend. The little guy refused to leave the side of his master (a policeman) who had passed away and visited his grave daily until he died himself many years later.

His statue is well visited as demonstrated from his glistening brass nose.

We worked our way down to the National Museum of Scotland. While we were both feeling a little "museumed out" I definitely did not want to miss the Mary Queen of Scot exhibit which started in July and ends in November. We first had to figure out how to get to the exhibit.

National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum has a strange setup. While the exterior is very attractive, the inside is not very becoming.

Cavernous National Museum of Scotland
Admission is free and once we were inside I was given directions to the Mary Queen of Scots exhibit. I was told to walk diagonally across to the next hall and take the elevator up to the second floor. Once on the second floor I still needed more directions to finally make it to the far corner of the museum.

There was a fee for the special exhibit of £9 for adults and £7.50 for seniors. That seemed very reasonable.

Exhibit flyer with senior ticket
The Mary Queen of Scots exhibition is presented in atmospheric dark tones of grays and browns to perhaps make it more mystical. There is a short movie in a glass enclosed space and the moody music and narrative pervades the hall while looking at all the amazing artifacts. Mary's compact mirror, jewelry, and other personal possessions were on display. It was a bit crowded so if you wanted to get closer in order to read the small notes on the items you needed to be patient.

While the main museum held little interest for us, the Mary Queen of Scots exhibit was fabulous. It helped you understand the personal side of Mary and her importance in UK history.

Afterward we perused the very nice gift shop just beyond the exhibit area. There had lots of merchandise tailored to Mary Queen of Scots. We each bought a little black velvet pouch with a crest and I also bought some postcards. My mother purchased a red velvet pouch as well.

Small black velvet pouch about £7.00
While all of today's activities would be enough for most people, we were far from done. Our next stop was checking into our room for our overnight stay. Obviously we could have gone back to ship, but agreed that since we are seeing the Tattoo at 10:30 pm tonight that not having to go back and forth to the Rosyth would be a bonus. It is helpful that Edinburgh is fairly compact and walkable.

Edinburgh Map
We made the short 10 minute walk to Calton Road where our hotel is located. It is called Snoozebox and it is a temporary hotel.

From the Snoozebox website
The rooms are shipping containers and once the festivals in Edinburgh are over at the end of August the entire structure is disassembled and moved to its next venue somewhere else in Europe.

I think the whole idea is quite ingenious. With the sky high rates of Edinburgh accommodations during the month of August I was very happy to find Snoozebox. I prepaid the nightly rate of £82 online.

Bottom floor
We went to check in and were given cards to our room and codes for the free wifi. We were then escorted to our room. It was just as it appeared on the Internet. There was one lower bed and a bunk style bed on top. I got the top one.

Our room
With plush duvets for the beds, a/c, safe, TV, toilet, a sink and shower we were more than satisfied with the accommodations.

Sink & toilet (shower to the left out of view)

Room Safe

TV Remote and photo of La Mans
I was really happy to be leaving the little overnight bag (which I had been carrying all day) here and proceeded to our next stop.

Just about 7 minutes down the road from the hotel is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This was at the top of my list for sights to see in Edinburgh. While mother started to lag a bit I told her that she needed to carry on as this was a must see.

Palace of Holyroodhouse
In 1128 King David established the Abbey here at the foot of the Royal Mile. James IV added a palatial interior in the 16th century which is now a ruin. The Palace itself was built in the 16th century. It was burned down but rebuilt as is the case with many historic palaces. Holyroodhouse was re-constructed in its present form between 1671 and 1679. There are four wings around a central courtyard.

Queen Elizabeth spends one week per year in residence at Holyroodhouse in June. During that time the palace is off limits to the public.

Mary Queen of Scots has a strong connection to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. She resided at the Palace from 1561 until her forced abdication in 1567. She also married both of her Scottish husbands at Holyroodhouse, Lord Darnley and James Hepburn. In 1566 Mary's assistant David Rizzo was assassinated here in the north wing.

Arthur's Seat
Before walking through the courtyard to reach the palace we glanced at Arthur's seat, the extinct volcano adjacent to it. We then proceeded through  the courtyard to reach the quadrangle area and purchase our tickets.

Entrance to buy tickets
We purchased our tickets and the audio guide for the 45 minute self guided tour.

Adult Ticket

It was nice going later in the day as it was not crowded. No photography is allowed in the building so once we passed through the quadrangle I put my camera away.

Last photo opportunity at the Palace
The audio guide worked well and had just the right amount of detail. Since I couldn't take photos I was concentrating a lot more to the audio descriptions. Afterward I purchased postcards in the gift shop to remember what we saw.

First up were the Morning and Evening Drawing rooms. This room is so large that it requires two different postcards to capture it fully.

Postcards of Morning and Evening Drawing Rooms
The tapestries in this room were outstanding. There is even a painting of the Queen Mother over the fireplace.

Also notable is the largest room in the palace which is the Great Gallery. This room is adorned with 110 portraits of Scottish monarchs which were all painted from 1684 to 1686.

Great Stair and Great Gallery
The Great Stair has a beautiful plaster ceiling with angels holding the "Honours of Scotland".

Upstairs on the second floor we saw Mary Queen of Scots bedchamber and her sitting area, or outer chamber.

Postcards of Mary Queen of Scots Bedchamber and Outer Chamber
There is a remarkable chest belonging to Mary I learned about on a PBS show. It was a treat seeing it in person here. The inside of the chest is very intricate with bright ruby colored stones. However, I didn't dare get too close for fear I would be tempted to open it up and see it! I might have been able to ask one of the docents to show it to us.

The rooms on view were wonderful and it was a fabulous tour. I could imagine the Queen walking in at any moment. At the end of the tour near the exit there are some personal portraits of the British monarchy. I snapped a photo of the Queen, Princess Anne and her daughter Zara on horseback. They look very happy!

Three generations of British monarchy
We took a look at the ruined Abbey before departing. The Abbey must have been quite beautiful at one time.


Holyroodhouse Abbey
We left Holyroodehouse at around 6:00 pm and looked for a taxi. Are we done yet? Not quite! Our next stop via taxi is the International Edinburgh Conference Center (IECC) on Morrison Street. In June I had checked the International Festival schedule and was thrilled to see that David Sedaris would be returning to Edinburgh this August. I purchased tickets online for his last show which is at 6:30 pm tonight. However, since they insist on mailing the tickets one week before the event that presented a problem. As we would already be in the UK. I notified the ticket office in advance and they said they would print new tickets at the venue. I needed to get there 15 minutes early to pick them up.

Once inside the conference center, I was getting a little nervous as the ticket person was fuddling around looking for our tickets. He finally produced them though.

David Sedaris Ticket
The Edinburgh Conference Center is a very nice modern steel and glass building. After all the historic old buildings we have been seeing today it was a bit of a jolt to be standing in this contemporary interior with plush dark blue carpets, sparkling overhead lighting, floor to ceiling windows and an shiny escalator to the second floor.

Just before we entered the room I noticed Mr. Sedaris was seated at an outside table signing books. I have been walking around Edinburgh all day with his most recent tome of reflections "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls". I asked if could get in line but I was told "no" and that I would have to wait until after the event. I knew I probably would not have time for that and slunked away toward the theater.

The room was huge with a gigantic stage for theater productions. Due to its vast size it seemed like an odd venue for a book reading. In sharp contrast to our first event of the day with Edna O'Brien, the Sedaris audience was very young and lively. I think my mother may have been among the oldest in the audience. The room may hold around 400+ people and was nearly full. It was great seeing so many young people!

We found seats near the front of the room on the right side. We were only sitting for about 10 minutes when Mr. Sedaris made his entrance.

David Sedaris and his most recent book
He was certainly among friends as the audience clapped and cheered when he entered the room.  After a brief introduction he spoke on what appeared to be random selections which he read and also commented on. These ranged from the purchase of a summer home in North Carolina, his sister Tiffany's suicide, being a houseguest in Normandy, the ubiquitiuous use of the word "Awesome" in the US, the dexterity and skill of woman who can remove their bras fully clothed (ala "flashdance") and his proclivity for picking up litter around the UK. There may have been a couple more topics too.

I had first heard of Mr. Sedaris while I was listening to National Public Radio on the drive home. He was so funny I almost careened off the road. His delivery in Edinburgh was no less entertaining. He has a sharp wit and interesting world perspective. After hearing him, I was very happy that I could finish reading the book in his voice as if he was reading it to me himself.

When the reading ended, Mr. Sedaris was rewarded for his poignant and witty remarks with loud applause from the audience.  There was now a second opportunity to get in line for the book signing. There were already about 20+ people in line even before Mr. Sedaris appeared and I pondered this for a few seconds. I ultimately decided against it as we needed to eat before attending the Tattoo. In addition, I was worried that we would be cutting it too close and there may not have been any taxis outside if we waited.

It was now dark outside as we exited the conference center and took one of only two taxis waiting out front. Looks like I made the correct decision. I had planned to have a small bite at the Royal Cafe on Register Street, about 10 minutes away. The Royal Cafe has an oyster bar where you can order small plates and we could also try Haggis for the first time. I had email correspondence with Gordon, the Royal Cafe manager prior to departing for the UK. The Royal Cafe has both a bar and a restaurant. Since we didn't want to order a lot I decided we would not reserve a table and instead would sit in the bar. Gordon advised it should probably be a 15 - 30 minute wait at the most for a table.

We arrived at the restaurant and I was crestfallen to see people standing everywhere on both the restaurant and the bar side. I spoke to the person at reception and he said they were fully booked. I relayed what Gordon had said and he repeated they were full and there was no more room tonight. I didn't have a prinout of the emails but it was too crowded to wait there anyway. I snapped a few photos and sadly left.

Royal Cafe Bar Area

Royal Cafe
Edinburgh has tons of restaurants so I knew we could find something. The Balmoral hotel is just around the corner so we walked there and looked at their options.

Balmoral Hotel
We were actually seated a table in one of their restaurants but ended up walking out when the server was much more accommodating to the male patrons seated across from us while we were being completely ignored.

We are 0 for 2 now. While walking up the street deciding where we should try next, I noticed a RBS bank with several ATMs. The lines were a medium size and it looked like it would take about 10 minutes. Since we needed more pounds for our taxis tomorrow I got in line to make a withdrawal. The line moved fast and I we were now all set for tomorrow.

It was now about 8:45 pm and we needed to eat rather quickly. My mother noticed a Pizza Express. This seemed like a good idea. Again, the restaurant was packed and we had to wait about 7 minutes for a table.

Pizza Express
Once seated we quickly looked at the menu, ordered our drinks and pizzas and hoped the service would be fast. After all, it is called Pizza "Express" so how slow could it be?

We were in luck as the pizzas only took about 15 minutes.

Pepperoni Pizza
We ate pretty quickly and exited the restaurant around 9:25 pm. We walked up to the entrance for the Military Tattoo. The line was not hard to find as it was massive! We were probably near the end of it and it was not moving at all. The good news was it wasn't cold out and we didn't feel that tired. I am glad we just ate though.

The line suddenly started to move slowly and then at a faster pace. It wasn't really much of a line as people were jumbled together 5-7 people across. Once we got closer to the entrance the line started to narrow. I handed our tickets over (pre-purchased through the Tattoo website and mailed to us in the USA) and we were directed to the Section 2, row F. It was easy and very efficient.

Tattoo Ticket
The tickets come in a nice little packet with a map and directions to the event.

Ticket packet
It was actually nice coming in late as we didn't need to sit for long before the show began. I thought we had a pretty good view even being closer to the castle. 

View from Section 2
The announcer welcomed the various nations to the event. Not surprisingly, the loudest applause and shouting was for Scotland. The show then began with the Scottish regiment emerging from the castle. 

The show begins
The Military Tattoo is comprised of 11 acts representing various countries. There has been some grumbling that the presence of the different nations is detracting from the unique nature of the Tattoo's Scottish pedigree. We both  however really enjoyed the multicultural component. 

The music is a mixture of contemporary songs and lovely Scottish ones.

The first act to appear was the Fanfare and Massed Pipes and Drums.  It was very loud! 

Massed Pipes and Drums

Massed Pipes and Drums
The Highland Dancers were next to appear and were very entertaining. One dancer even lost her shoe during all the jumping up and down but carried on nonetheless.

Highland Dancers
I kept alternating between my camera and my camcorder. It was hard to decide what mode would capture it best.

The third act to appear was the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense Traditional Band. They performed some dancing and were quite splendid in their colorful golden yellow costumes. This is one of the best displays of "yellow" I have witnessed! They played traditional Korean music.

Korean Band
The lighting of the castle is very pretty with a multitude of changing colors. The fourth act was the Erksine Stewart Melville School Choir.

The 5th act I didn't really enjoy. It was the "Imps Motorcycle Display Team". These were young kids who did tricks on motorcycles either alone or in a big group. It made me too nervous to watch them criss-crossing each other's path at high speeds. They even formed a pyramid at one point.

This was quickly forgotten by the lively Mexican Mariachi marching band. I didn't take any photos of this one.

My favorite acts though were the New Zealand Army Band and the Lochiel Marching Drill Team of New Zealand. The Lochiel "girls" were marvelous! While marching can be quite boring these girls did a great job. It seemed like they were a crowd favorite too.

Lochiel Marching Drill Team from New Zealand
There was a short break before the next act. The castle was again changing colors and this time looked like a chocolate birthday cake!

Chocolate Castle
The last international act was from Mongolia. The costumes of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces were impressive. They even did some acrobatics.

Mongolian Group
The last act before the finale was a second appearance by the Massed Military Bands and the Massed Pipes and Drums. At one point they even played Louis Armstrong's "Its a Wonderful World".  All the other acts were welcomed into the arena to end the performance.

All groups performing together

The final act was the lone piper. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful evening.

Lone Piper
A fireworks display soon followed but my camera didn't want to cooperate with capturing any of it. It was a nice display though and the bursting lights above the castle continued for about 10 minutes.

It all went by quite fast and as it was now after midnight when we left the esplanade area.  We were tired and looking forward to heading back to our room (shipping container!).Being near the bottom allowed a pretty easy exit and we were soon on the darkened streets of Edinburgh.

I had thought about pre-arranging a taxi to take us the 15 minutes it would take to walk. However, being the last show of the season, the streets were mobbed and I was advised that a taxi could not be reserved in advance. I was told that I could call to request a taxi after we were outside. Now that plan seemed like a impossibility as there were too many people and very few taxis. We waited on several different street corners and finally gave up after 30 minutes.

I got directions back to Carlton Road from two different people who were very helpful. They showed me the map on their smartphones. It was actually a very easy walk and in hindsight we should have not even bothered trying to get a taxi. At one point we were below an overpass and had no idea whether to turn left or right. There were no one around and I thought we might be sleeping on the street after all! We suddenly spotted a group of 4 young people walking nearby. We asked for directions and after a brief discussion between the difference between Carlton road and Calton Road we were soon within a few yards of Snoozebox. Thank goodness!

It was now about 1:15 am and we were very happy to be home! In about 7 hours we have a trip planned to the nearby countryside. Hoping for a few hours of sleep! 

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