TRAVELS AND TRIBULATIONS
We began our weekend travels with National Holidays and our first tour was to Stratford-on-Avon. Visiting the city of the Bard was a memorable event. But seeing the impressive home of his mum, Mary Arden, and Anne Hathaway's charming thatched-roof cottage were equally appreciated. And we had a tour guide who told us tales that I have never read in any history books and presumable are handed down verbally through generations of the natives of Stratford.
Other weekends we visited Newcastle, Wales, and Carlisle. It was in the latter that we had our first encounter with authentic live Scottish bagpipers. And this whetted our appetites for seeing the Edinburgh Tattoo. This is a world renowned two-hour performance of bagpipers, guest bands, and other performers from around the world which takes place nightly for three weeks each August. It is held in an area about the size of a football field surrounded by bleachers on three sides in front of the Edinburgh Castle walls.
The event was booked long in advance and the only tickets available were through Wallace Arnold Tours with accommodations at Edinburgh University campus. This was acceptable but I had second thoughts when I learned the dorm had only single rooms. Still determined to go, I booked two adjacent rooms and convinced my husband this would be like college dating.
I failed to realize the trip to Edinburgh would be on a public coach something like Greyhound, only worse. First mistake. On prior trips, I had packed snacks of fruit, cookies, and cheese but we had made frequent stops along the route at places that had toilets and also served food. So this time I brought only a few cookies and two apples. My second mistake. There was onboard toilet facilities and the coach made ten stops just long enough to take on more passengers. The convoluted route took six hours and before we reached our destination, we got hungry enough to buy cheese and onion sandwiches from one of the drivers who also served as food vender.
At the coach terminal in Edinburgh we transferred to a city bus for Pollack Halls. And there we learned that Room 18 was at the end of a hall and Room 19 was through a set of firedoors, another hall, another set of firedoors and down another hall. So it was back to the dorm desk and a change of rooms so that we were at least on the same hallway.
The following morning we toured Holyrood Palace and saw the bed where Mary, Queen of Scots had slept. The bed was accessible to tourists walking by and looked rather like a few might have sat on it while another bed was glass-encased only because it had a valuable coverlet on it. Speaks rather clearly of the Brits feeling for poor Mary, which I have observed elsewhere. We were told this was where the royal family stayed when in Edinburgh. We also saw the Stone of Scone which is placed under the throne of an English monarch during coronation to bring them good luck.
After touring Holyrood Palace, we explored the Royal Mile from the palace to the castle. and then returned that evening for the performance. I shall never forget the finale when a lone bagpiper stood on the castle wall, lighted against the dark sky, playing his mournful tune. Even though British summer begins 28 March and this was August, I was chilled sitting on those bleachers in three coats. All in all, we agreed it had been a trip worth taking. The convoluted ten stop trip home didn't seem as bad either.