Into the Land of Scots!

Edinburgh Travel Blog

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The view from my hostel room window
Trans-Atlantic air travel, fatigue, and illness really took its toll on me that I totally knocked out! I didn't even hear the other hostel roommates return from their night of partying. When I woke up, Hannah was just returning from breakfast from the on-site, self-proclaimed gastro pub called smartcitycafe and suggested I go there since it was fairly cheap. The other two roommies (forgot their names) were up too and based by the looks of them, they probably hit the booze pretty hard. Since I had to check out of the hostel today, I decided to eat at smartcitycafe.

After breakfast, I gathered up my belongings, checked out, and stowed my rollie bag at the hostel's secure baggage storage.
Edinburgh Castle
Fortunately the hostel was situated in Old Town just off the Royal Mile so it was an easy stroll up to Edinburgh Castle. I got to the castle just after opening so I was able to explore the castle, which was strategically built atop a volcanic crag, without the huge crowds. Since I was sightseeing by myself, I decided to fork over a few extra pounds for the audio guide set which was very helpful and informative at various positions in the castle grounds. I was impressed by the views from the castle's position. I could definitely see why this bit of architecture was formidable back in the day.

I wandered around the exteriors of the Middle and Upper Wards taking in the views and the architecture way too much that I only had a short time to look at the exhibits in the Royal Palace and Crown Room and a very brief gander inside the Scottish National War Memorial.
Argyle Battery
Unfortunately, I didn't have time to see any of the 3 museums on the castle grounds as I was soon to meetup with Mar at another hostel. 

After grabbing my gear from smartcityhostel, I walked down Cockburn Street (the street I should have walked up last night), across Waverly Bridge, past Princes Street, past St. Andrew Bus Station, and onto Dublin Street. I walked up and down Dublin Street looking for 13A which was the number I had jotted down before leaving LA. No 13A in sight...so I rang the door bell for 13 thinking that 13A may be inside...no answer! I was getting irritated, cold, and tired. Eventually a lovely middle aged woman came to my aid asking what address I was looking for. I told her 13A at which she gave me this puzzled look.
Statue of William Wallace at the Gatehouse entrance at the Lower Ward
She replied that she worked at 13 and has never seen a 13A. Furthermore, she was unaware of any hostels in the nearby vicinity. At this point I was completely frazzled and dug into my rollie bag for the email confirmation page Mar had forwarded to me. While I was fidgeting with my luggage lock a parking enforcement officer came along and she also tried to assist me. I was such an idot!...I had written the hostel address incorrectly...I needed to get to 30A not 13A. I bid the two Scots farewell and thanks and they gave me well wishes for my trip! Scottish people are so nice!

30A was another block or so down the street. So as I walked I paid close attention to the numbers...still no 30A! I went up and down both sides of the block a couple of times and I did not see 30A.
Lang Stair to the Upper Ward
Perhaps it was the fatigue, my earlier frazzlement, or the bone chilling wind freezing my contacts rendering me temporarily blind that caused me to not see this tiny laminated sign on a wrought-iron gate door saying "30A Dublin Street...Bus Station Backpackers Hostel" with an arrow pointing down the stairs. Sanctuary at last! I carefully went down the stairway, so as not to slip on the moist concrete, and rang the door bell.

Steve, the co-owner, opened the door. I thought Mar would be there at the hostel already but apparently she was delayed somewhere on her way from Hawaii. Steve led me through the hostel, which in actuality is his home, to the living room/kitchen/dining area. It was deliciously warm inside...a wonderful respite from the streets of Edinburgh!

After I had a chance to rest my weary self on the comfy couch and get refreshed with a cup of tea, I asked Steve if he can recommend a place nearby to grab a quick bite as well as a grocery store.
View from Half Moon Battery
He proceeded to give me in depth directions and a map. Just as I was about to leave the comfort of the couch, my cousin comes trudging in...exhausted from a very, Very, VERY long trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic journey. We got ourselves situated in our room...yay we were the first ones to check in so we got our choice of beds. We both chose the bottom bunks closest to the heater. (Review of hostel to follow)

We both were hungry so we went out exploring New Town. We eventually found a tiny soup and sandwich shop which now for the life of me I can't remember the name of but the soups were really tasty and gave us energy to go back towards St. Andrews Bus Station where the nearest grocery store was located. We bought a few groceries just enough for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's breakfast, beverages, and snacks! It was in this grocery store that Mar introduced IRN-BRU to me.
Celtic Cross on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle
..more on that later.

After falling asleep to the sound of rain against the window pane of our hostel room, I awoke to almost darkness. Mar was still napping so I cooked our dinner of fresh ravioli with tomato and meat sauce unfortunately not from scratch but from a single portion packet from Heinz...it actually tasted good...surprising right?...plus it was economical. 

Even though the hostel hosts a free nightly pub crawl Mar and I were not in the mood to get wasted especially since we had to wake up early the next morning. Besides, Mar and I had an errand to run...to pick up our passes for Hogmanay Street Party and Céilidh in the Gardens at the will call booth in Princes Street Gardens.

While Mar and I were getting ready to head out, another person checked into the hostel.
The view of Princes Street Gardens from the National Gallery of Scotland
This young man was in his early twenties and was accompanied by an entourage of his backpacking friends. After checking in with Steve, and before heading out with his buddies, he stowed all his gear...several huge backpacks and a guitar case on a bed in our room...and secured all his belongings by weaving a thin long wire through every loophole or handle on his stuff and to the posts of the bunk bed before locking it securely with a padlock. I thought it was a bit strange. However, Mar said it was a common practice since stealing runs rampant in most hostels. Either the man was way too paranoid or I was way to trusting in my fellow man...I only had a rinky dinky TSA padlock securing the main compartment zipper of my rollie bag which was fabric, so anyone with a sharp knife or scissors can cut right through it.
Sandy Bell's...local pub famous for live music
  Anyways...

We casually strolled over to Princes Street Gardens which was decked out in twinkling Christmas lights, neon lights from carnival rides and game and food booths, and flood lights illuminating the outdoor ice rink. It was so festive out that night. Since we napped earlier, Mar and I had energy to burn so we continued further into Old Town past the cafe where J.K. Rowlings wrote the famed Harry Potter book series. The cold night air was chilling us to the core so we ducked into Sandy Bell's Pub. Sandy Bell's Pub was highlighted on the Travel Channel by Samantha Brown. I was hoping we would get to hear some traditional Scottish music performed by the locals but unfortunately it was too early. So Mar got a beer while I got my first taste of Scotch Whisky, a dram of Macallen.
The National Monument on top of Calton Hill
..straight up NO ICE! Plus it was the drink special of the day. Wow one sip burned like fire in my throat and my in my belly! I must admit I was totally weak sauce and could not even finish my dram! Boo on me for wasting precious liquor!

We headed back towards New Town when my cousin had the bright idea of climbing up Calton Hill. The climb up was made difficult due to the lack of bright lighting around the stairway/paved path to the hill's summit. From atop the hill though, the view of Princes Street all aglow was breath taking even in the frigid night air! We didn't hang out at Calton Hill too long because the warmth from our earlier consumption of alcohol was beginning to wear off. So we head back to the hostel for rest, relaxation, recuperation, and some hot tea!
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The view from my hostel room window
The view from my hostel room window
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Argyle Battery
Argyle Battery
Statue of William Wallace at the G…
Statue of William Wallace at the …
Lang Stair to the Upper Ward
Lang Stair to the Upper Ward
View from Half Moon Battery
View from Half Moon Battery
Celtic Cross on the Esplanade at E…
Celtic Cross on the Esplanade at …
The view of Princes Street Gardens…
The view of Princes Street Garden…
Sandy Bells...local pub famous fo…
Sandy Bell's...local pub famous f…
The National Monument on top of Ca…
The National Monument on top of C…
Walking down Princes Street from C…
Walking down Princes Street from …
View of the Crags from the Esplana…
View of the Crags from the Esplan…
The 1 Oclock Gun at Mills Mount B…
The 1 O'clock Gun at Mills Mount …
Statue of Robert the Bruce at the …
Statue of Robert the Bruce at the…
The Portcullis Gate at Middle Ward
The Portcullis Gate at Middle Ward
Some flair adorning the gate
Some flair adorning the gate
Me at the Argyle Battery which ove…
Me at the Argyle Battery which ov…
The view from Argyle Battery towar…
The view from Argyle Battery towa…
Stained Glass Window of St. Margar…
Stained Glass Window of St. Marga…
View of Balmoral Hotel, North Brid…
View of Balmoral Hotel, North Bri…
Stained Glass Window of St. Margar…
Stained Glass Window of St. Marga…
View of Princes Street Gardens, Sc…
View of Princes Street Gardens, S…
A view of Argyle Battery
A view of Argyle Battery
Stained Glass Window of St. Margar…
Stained Glass Window of St. Marga…
Picturesque walkway and manicured …
Picturesque walkway and manicured…
View of the town from the Castle
View of the town from the Castle
Mons Meg
Mons Meg
The alter in St. Margarets Chapel
The alter in St. Margaret's Chapel
Scottish National War Memorial
Scottish National War Memorial
Scottish National War Memorial
Scottish National War Memorial
The Scottish National War Memorial…
The Scottish National War Memoria…
Royal Palace in Crown Square
Royal Palace in Crown Square
Exterior of St. Margarets Chapel.…
Exterior of St. Margaret's Chapel…
The Portcullis Gate at Middle Ward
The Portcullis Gate at Middle Ward
On the Esplanade
On the Esplanade
In Princes Street Gardens
In Princes Street Gardens
The Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel
Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens
Overlooking Princes Street Gardens
Overlooking Princes Street Gardens
Fine Scottish thirst quenchers...a…
Fine Scottish thirst quenchers...…
On Calton Hill with Princes Street…
On Calton Hill with Princes Stree…
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photo by: vances