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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Linda Swift

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.


Kathleen O said...

I am glad you enjoyed the tattoo. I have been there and it was quite a sight, to see the castle in the background lit up and the bands playing. I was there in 1978 and again in 1986. It was for sure a specitcal. I have seen tattoo's here in Canada, but nothing like this. My mother's father was from Scotland, so it made it even more exciting to be there and I felt close to him.
Glad you enjoyed your trip to Scotland even though you and your hubby had to stay in seperate rooms.

Unknown said...

LINDA--ahhh, the joys of traveling on a tour bus. sounds quite familiar! Loved your descriptions of the places you visited. Celia

DanielleThorne said...

I wonder why they call it a tattoo? You are so brave to book bus trips in foreign lands. It definitely shows your up for any adventure.

Linda Swift said...

Kathleen: Ah, you really had to be there, didn't you? Words won't do it justice. Makes chills down my spine to remember that lone bagpiper on the castle wall with castle lighted up behind him.

Celia, just wait till tomorrow. Meet you here for a trip to Bath. I could have spent a lot more time describing these places but I hesitate to sound like a travel brochure.

Danielle, I think tattoo means in this case, a military exercise offered for entertainment. Most of the performers were a type of marching band. And one was from Southeast MO College, right across the river, a stone's throw almost, from Paducah, KY. I had gone to high school over there so I felt very proud to see them there.

chey said...

Hi Linda,
Your sightseeing in the UK sounds much more exciting than mine! Glad you had a good time.

Becky said...

I like it when you get a tour guide that tell you tales that are not in the history books. To me that make the trip more interesting. Glad you and your husband enjoyed your trip to Scotland. Scotland is a place I like to visit.

Martha Eskuchen said...

Sounds like you saw alot even though you had some difficult travel arrangements! We visited Stratford Upon Avon and I loved it although it was wet and cold on July 5! I would love to visit Scotland! The bagpiper sounds like it would be memorable.

Linda Swift said...

chey: Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll join the tours for Thursday and Friday also.
I love traveling on British tours with British people. It made us feel more like we belonged instead of American tourists.

Becky: We loved Scotland as well. Have been a couple more times. The last time was on a holiday back to Hull and made a 5 day trip to Dunoon and stayed in a castle. The mountians in that area were spectacular.

Martha: I could happily have spent days in Stratford. On a later blog I hope to share the stories our guide told us about Shakespeare and his family.Thanks for stopping by.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Lind

Just catching up with your journeys. I've been only been to Stratford once, for a Writing conference, so really didn't get to see as much as you did, although we did walk by the Avon.

We've also been to Edinburgh, which I loved, although I'm not normally a city person. I've only seen the tatoo on TV though.

Sorry about you and your husband having to stay in seperate rooms, but I'm glad you enjoyed your trip. I agree about the weather too. It's often very chilly even in August, but this year they've promised us a 'barbeque' summer! We'll see.