DAY 9: When in Scotland…Eat Haggis! (And Go on Ghost Tours)
Began this morning with our showers, like the first hotel we stayed at, the shower knobs had a “trick” to them to make water warm….I didn’t quite have the trick down this time around, so I’d have periodic bursts of warm and cold water in my very lukewarm shower, so needless to say this was a quick shower. The showers were almost impossible to not see male nudity as there were no hooks or shelves in the shower, so clothes and towels were left on a window ledge across the room. Even more frustrating, the glass shower door opened into the shower, so getting in and out of the shower without showing the “full show” was quite a tedious task!
I once again had haggis, this time as part of my Scottish breakfast, which was like English breakfast, but with haggis. That’s just how it goes in Scotland; “Haggis or GTFO!!!” I didn’t write the rulebook!
After breakfast and internet browsing, Stephanie, Stacey and I took the Puegot back to the rental area. Josh stayed at the hostel to do some laundry. While Stacey and Stephanie discussed the matter of the tire (they wanted us to pay the first 100 pounds, even though Stephanie ordered the insurance), I took a seat and sat by an Italian family and tried to pick up on the language…I didn’t do so well, one might say that I didn’t learn a single word! Stacey and Stephanie came back frustrated as the car rental turned out to be 3 times the amount of the quote when we booked it…..F*ck! Oh well done and done!
We took the bus back to our hostel where we met Josh and grabbed lunch. We ended up picking up food at a local Sainsbury. Stacey and I shared some pasta and some mangos as well as some carrots and hummus. I also grabbed an Ironbru and a replenishment of Revels. For some reason, the hummus was gross and Ironbru didn’t taste as expected and really kind of had a taste of its own. The pasta wasn’t anything special either but it was bought at a supermarket and pre-made supermarket foods never taste amazing, no matter what country you’re in.
While leaving our “low wall seats” (we previously sat at a picnic table but got kicked out since we weren’t customers there), I tried to feed a crow a leftover carrot …it didn’t like it. On the way to the Scottish National Museum, I saw a “From Dodos to Dinos” banner for the museum which featured a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Dodo, which I thought was a clever evolution theory sign rather than just saying they had those two things. Either way, it made me wonder what kind of dinosaur the crow I tried to feed earlier evolved from.
We went to the Scottish National Museum, where the admission was free. Having missed the opportunity to go to the Smithsonian Museum during Thanksgiving last year due to having to fly back the next morning because of a conflict with my work schedule, this is probably the biggest and best museum that I’ve ever attended. Also, free museum admission is a new concept to me, so I loved it!
We split up, which was nice as I had time to tour the exhibits with Stacey. The museum was split into 5 floors, all with different themes and fun interactive portions. The most impressive of the exhibits for me was the animal section, in which an entire wing of the museum was filled with an awesome display of several stuffed animals, birds and fossil remains. Usually this portion is sort of boring in most museums, but they really did a good job of making this part more interesting.
Another wing of the museum was dedicated to the history of Scotland ranging from prehistoric Scotland to William Wallace to the stuffed remains of Dolly the Sheep (the one that was cloned in the 90s.) The Ancient Egypt portion was neat as well, as there were some sarcophaguses and several Shabtis (small figurines found in Pharaoh Tombs that were used to ward away evil spirits.) A number of the pieces in here were replicas, but it was still pretty cool.
Finally, a fun treat to the museum was the roof terrace, in which you are treated to a phenomenal view of the Edinburgh skyline as well as the open sea. Edinburgh really is a beautiful city. The museum took 2-3 hours to go through and once we finished we decided to walk the town to visit the Queen’s Gardens. After a mostly uphill jaunt, we passed the train station that we’d have to go to tomorrow…..I’m going to dread lugging around a 30 pound gym bag with no padding on the straps. Worst.Bag.To.Bring.Ever!
We finally made our cross-town trek to the Queens Gardens, but realized we couldn’t get in at all! However, peering through the trees it seemed to be a normal park. We walked back a few blocks to the Prince’s Garden and bought some tea and found a bench to enjoy our afternoon snacks. We decided to head back to the hostel until dinner. On the way back, we took a shortcut through a close and came across a museum called “The Writing Museum” dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. The English minor student in me wanted to visit it, but it was just closing when we passed.
We went back to our room where I began to pre-pack since a 6am wake up call was going to be annoying. For dinner we went to Pizza Express where Stacey and I began what would be a necessary habit of asking if swipe cards were accepted. After dinner, we looked for a pub. The first one was small and had Irish folk music with live violinists and no room to sit, however they didn’t accept swipe cards so we went on. The next place we found was the same size with the same problems of no room and no swipe cards. The third place that Josh looked up was non-existent and led us through some dark closes and one particularly shady one had 3 French guys doing Hash in the alleyway! After a little confusion, we settled for one called Deacon Brodie’s Tavern which accepted swipe cards as long as the tab was above 5 pounds, which wasn’t an issue since I owed Josh a round or three. The fascinating thing about this tavern is the tale of the man the pub is named after. Deacon Brodie was a real person and was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It turned out that Deacon Brodie by day, was a well respected member of society, a carpenter, served as a member of the town council, and rubbed elbows with rich aristocrats. By night he was a thief, who took some clay impressions of keys of his clients and robbed the homes; he hung out in taverns and gambled. When he was finally caught, he was hung from the very gallows that he helped build.
I found it funny that the painting on the wall had Deacon Brodie as both personalities; to the right was his daytime personality dressed in a red dress jacket, cap, knickers and a cane. To the left, was his nighttime personality dressed all in black, no cap and a domino mask. If this was his real disguise, it wasn’t that clever, it wasn’t concealing his identity at all! I wonder if at the taverns that he frequented, he wore his mask and people whispered things like “pssst who does Brodie think he’s fooling?”, “does he think he’s a mysterious bad-ass criminal mastermind in that outfit?”, or “why doesn’t he cover his mouth too? That’d be a way better disguise!” I guess it’s the same way Superman uses a pair of glasses that magically protects his identity?
After the pub, we attended the delightfully fun Cadies and Witchery Tour. Our host for the evening was the Late Adam Lyal (deceased), who was dressed all in black, wore a Dracula-esque cape and since he was “dead”, he was painted in all white. His sidekick was a plague doctor (the ones that looked like a giant bird with a hat) to which Adam described as “having the job of collecting bodies during the plague, but tonight he would have a more sinister job: collecting our money!” The tour was very informative and funny with all the grotesque themed jokes, and sometimes his sidekick would ambush us at various points on the tour in different costumes. Stephanie was referred to as “the witch with the iPhone” and Stacey was “tortured” repeatedly with a severed finger to everyone’s amusement as she squeamishly covered her face and tried to turn away.
Of the several interesting stories on the tour, I found the most interesting was that of William Burke and William Hare. Back in the early 1800s anatomy classes were becoming all the rage, however, classes were filling up and universities were granted one body of an executed criminal every year, so the demand for bodies was profitable. Adam prefaced this story by taking us near our hostel and saying that it once served as the “slums of the city” and asked if anyone wanted to guess what the most profitable job was back then. I answered “prostitution” to which Adam responded “NO! But I’m not going to ask you anymore questions now!” (Keep in mind this was before the whole story about anatomy classes and bodies.) Anyway, so selling the dead was in demand and people in the slums would sell the bodies of the people that died overnight. Sometimes loved ones were sold because bodies would usually sell for the modern price of 700 pounds (Tax Free!!) However, William Burke and William Hare excelled in their jobs and it was guessed they sold anywhere between 13-30 bodies. They would lure people that nobody would miss with alcohol and “make a dead body.” However, one lady was their downfall, Adam described her as one that wore a lot of makeup, hung out in shady places and pointing at me said “This guy knows what I’m talking about!” Anyway, the examiner recognized the body (he was a customer) and an investigation began. Hare was let go free of charge as long as he testified against Burke, which ended with Burke being found guilty and hung. Like his victims, Burke ended up becoming an anatomy lesson and his Skelton is still to this day on display at the Medical School (yay Justice System!)
Toward the end of the tour, we got a double whammy of surprises and new material for Adam’s jokes. First, a group of drunk girls joined the tour and made a lot of annoying interruptions and questions, but Adam only gave answers that involved the fact that they joined a paid walking tour for free (hint, hint ladies.) Since they didn’t get the hint, the tour carried on with them in tow. Going up some stairs, we passed a drunken homeless man who had a river of urine running from under him down to the street. He was mumbling to himself about who-knows-what, but paused to remark that one of the German ladies “had a nice bum” before he returned to his crazy nonsense mumbling. While telling his final tale of executions, the homeless man yelled “I have a small penis!!” which more or less made the top moment of the night.
After the tour, we hung around and took a picture with Adam and his sidekick and talked about the annoying drunk girls and homeless man. Overall, it was a great tour and worth attending. Best of all we got a book with the tales told tonight as well as others that didn’t make the tour.
We have no problem making friends with the deceased
We headed back to the hostel to settle in for the night. 6am is going to hit us quick and hard. Tomorrow we head to York!