When I got back to the apartment last night, I told my host about my trip to Stirling, and how I was planning on going to Edinburgh Castle tomorrow. She said don’t do it. Not worth the 20 pounds. Oh no!! Always one to seek out a second opinion, I went to one of my favorite facebook groups since I’ve been in Scotland- Scottish Travel Society. I asked what they thought, and the overwhelming advice was GO! And tucked into all of the responses was a wee gem of information….queues to see the Crown Jewels are 30-45 minutes long, go early. Go early, ye say?? Early is my specialty!! I immediately went online to buy my tickets for 9:30 entry- when they open.

Woke up and heard the rain outside. No worries, I was expecting it. Did some work, wrapped my camera in a plastic bag and put it in my day pack along with water and snacks, and left at 840. Goal: to be first in line at Edinburgh Castle! By the time I got outside, the rain was a misty drizzle. My foggy breaths in the chilly air added to the low white-gray skies. Zero wind. It was nice! Only locals on the streets, and that made it even better. Once I reached the royal mile, there were a few neon flashing tourists, but not a lot. Worked my way up to the castle, and I’m proud to announce… GOAL ACHIEVED! First in line at 855! There’s a method to this madness. Yes, I have to wait in line for 35 minutes until it opens. This is so I don’t have to wait in line to see the crown jewels. So Mary, you’re waiting in line so you don’t have to wait in line? Yes. I don’t mind waiting in line IF I’m first in line! πŸ™‚

The line was steadily building with <insert dramatic doom music>….tourists. There was a sign at the front of the line (I know, because I was standing in front of it!). This is it. I know it’s complicated, but see if you can decipher it…

Now, I wasn’t blocking this sign. It was in plain sight. I shit you not, a line formed BEHIND that sign and a dozen people asked the extremely nice man who was letting people in to go to work at the castle, the same question in succession- “when can we go in and where do we get tickets?”Β  He patiently explained every. single. time…The castle opens at 9:30 (freaking DUH!). Get your tickets at the castle. Next person steps up and asks the same question practically word for word! Can’t they hear the person directly in front of them being answered? JESUS! I asked the guy, “How many times a day do you answer that?” he laughed, rolled his eyes, and said, “If I had a pound for every time…” After that, every time someone would ask that (I’m not kidding, dozens of times over the next 20 minutes- it was far beyond ridiculous), we’d exchange a glance and grin. I guess the sign is in Scottish (day 10 joke!). The line to get in was getting insane. Both sides of the sidewalk covered for quite a ways by 9:20.

Now, here’s where it gets good. It’s 9:26- I know because I was blogging this while waiting πŸ™‚ . He walks up to me and says, “Do you have your ticket?”. I explained that I bought it online and needed to pick it up. He explained that I would go behind the little guard shack and there was a kiosk there. Put in my confirmation number, no dashes, and print my ticket. I told him thank you. He said, “Go.” I asked, “Now?”- it was still a little early. He nodded. I figured the whole line was going to get to go. Um, no. VIP, baby!! I went to the kiosk. It took me about a minute to dig out my info, enter, it and print the ticket. He STILL hadn’t let anyone it! Here I am, ticket in hand, no one at the kiosk next to me!!

It says ADULT…don’t be fooled. πŸ˜‰

So I go to the little walkway that leads up to the castle, give the guy a huge smile. He sees me, and starts to let the others in. I had to snap a picture of it!! The guy literally gave me a head start!! Today’s lesson. Don’t be a fucking idiot. Take responsibility for yourself and what you are doing. Don’t expect the world to hold your wee hand and guide you through everything. Be nice to people. Have I mentioned I LOVE Scottish people!!! πŸ™‚
So I walk up to the castle- fast. The herd of sheep were approaching! I see bag search in the distance, pull off my day pack, unzip everything so it’s ready (because I’m not an idiot and take responsibility for myself and what I am doing!). Breeze through. Walk in through the castle gates. No one but employees. πŸ™‚
I get through the gate and ask the guy that was in the yellow vest in that picture where the crown jewels are. People, I do not have time to stop for a map. I do not have time to dick around with an audio guide. I sure as hell don’t have time for a browse through the gift shop (I NEVER have time for that!). I am a woman on a mission!! He gives me super complicated directions. I just followed his hand gesture for the first step- go right. Went right and up an incline. There were people there to scan my ticket. There was NO ONE behind me. The last 10 feet or so to these people, I ran, flailing my arms and grinning like an idiot saying “FIRST ONE IN!!!!!!”. They laughed, scanned my ticket, and gave me my next set of directions to the crown jewels. When I went around the next turn. I was in here completely by myself- I couldn’t see another soul (except for a few employees scattered about). The streets were empty. It was amazing! Along the way, I hastily snapped shots, knowing that there was no way I would be able to take them devoid of people in a few minutes from now. I asked for my next set of directions. Up the hill and through the gap and it would be across from me. Perfect. Found the gap.

The ticket scanners. They either thought I was an insane American or just hilarious….or both. πŸ˜‰

The gap. πŸ™‚

Huffing and puffing from a fast walk up a hill, I came to the gap. And when I passed through it… WOW. I was all alone in a massive courtyard surrounded by massive buildings on every side. And sure enough, across the courtyard was the door to the crown jewels!

Crown jewels are through that door at the bottom of the tower and up the stairs.

I triumphantly (I swear,Β  no king or queen that ever lived here in over a thousand years was ever prouder or more full of themselves!!) marched up the stairs and walked into a darkened room.. There was just me, two guards, and the crown jewels. I joked and said, “Man! I thought that if I got here early enough I could just pocket them and be on my way!”. They laughed and said it didn’t exactly work that way. πŸ˜‰Β  Wow. Just wow. It was all so beautiful. The crown, the scepter, the sword, the jewelry- all from the late 1400s-1500s!! And while those things were dazzling, I’m not much of a flashy kind of girl. What I had really come to see was a block of stone that looked like some old piece of cement. Not flashy, and not royal looking in the least. But oh……the history! The Stone of Destiny! It’s ancient, making the crown jewels look like some modern idea! And this stone has been present at the coronation of all kings of Scotland!! Now, if you remember that rat bastard English King from Day 10, Edward I, he took the stone back to England after he conquered Scotland and had it built into the English throne- showing that the king of England was also the king of Scotland (in case anyone was confused!). It was STOLEN from England in the 1950s by some Scottish students, who brought it back to Scotland. They kinda broke it in the process, but it’s been restored- both as a stone AND to Scotland!! YAY!! Of course, since English monarchs also rule Scotland, when there is a coronation, it is taken back to England for the ceremony, then returned to its place in the tower. Amazing. This isn’t my picture, but here’s what I saw.

I went through the exit and saw that the royal chambers were closed for renovation! How disappointing! I stepped into the courtyard, fully expecting it to be full of people by now. Nothing. No one. I couldn’t believe it! How was that even possible?! And then I knew how it was possible. The droves of tourists were still running around like drunken ants at the bottom of the hill. No idea where to go, what to do. Trying to figure out how to get their tickets, how to get an audio guide, going to the potty, having a turn around the gift shop. And that left me all alone. Still. A queen for a few moments in Edinburgh Castle. Queen Mary.Β πŸ‘‘Β A queen who didn’t have to hear anyone’s spoiled brats screaming and whining. A queen who didn’t have to fight off the urge to grab a selfie stick from someone fluffing their hair and making duck lips and beat them to death with it (if I were queen, that would so be the punishment for selfie sticks!! HEAR YE, HEAR YE!! DAILY SELFIE STICK FLOGGINGS AT THE MERCAT CROSS- IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED BY EXECUTIONS OF THOSE FOUND GUILTY OF FIXING THEIR HAIR AND POSING OBNOXIOUSLY!!).

Peace. Solitude. Silence. History. All mine for a few precious moments. I went into the War Memorial. Silence, completely alone except for 3 employees. I then wandered out through the other side of the courtyard and saw a sign that said, “Crown Jewels History”. I’M THERE! I went in, and it was a wonderfully done museum of sorts about the history of the crown jewels! And I had it all to myself. It was in here, when I saw the model of Robert the Bruce being crowned, that it really hit me. I had this to myself. I got emotional. Not “I feel a connection” emotional like on the Culloden Battlefield, but emotion that stemmed from the fact that I was having an experience very, very few people ever get to have in this place. And I was grateful and appreciative for it. In this place it dawned on me…I’m not on holiday. I’m on adventure.

By the time I got out of this area, people were slowly filing into the courtyard. I wandered around through the several different museums (mainly dedicated to war relics, which I’m not really terribly interested in, but I did a fair walk though. The Highland Soldiers area I thought was the most interesting of them.) that are on the grounds. I took some pictures of the spectacular views from this hilltop perch. The drunken ants had finally invaded my picnic…

Cannon eye’s view…

Not sure what this area is exactly (I think it’s a hill whose name starts with C, but I’m not sure). Looks fascinating! But I don’t have time to explore it, I fear. πŸ™

After all of the museums, I wandered around to see if there was anything I had missed. I found the prisons, they were pretty interesting! They had been used for a few centuries… By the time I got out of there, the line for the crown jewels was all the way across the courtyard. All this within about an hour and 15 minutes of opening at 9:30 on a Thursday…

Prisoners from the American War of Independence were held here! This carving shows a very, very early “stars and stripes” flag on a prison door!

The prison was more like a barracks instead of individual cells. Hammocks hung up.

The ants falling in line… I took this from the door to the crown jewels.

I then went into the great hall which was pretty packed with people. I don’t know why, because god knows I’m not a “home decor” kind of person, but the lamps really intrigued me for some reason!

Lastly, I went into St. Margaret’s Chapel (you’ll remember her from such renowned and acclaimed works like…Day 10 πŸ˜‰ ). This is the oldest building of the castle, built in 1130! St. Margaret lived at the castle until her death in the late 1000’s. Wow.

And really, that was it. I had spent an hour and 45 minutes in here with basically no lines into anything. If I had been more interested in the war museums, I probably could have spent 2.5-3.5 hours in here. With lines for tickets, crown jewels, etc… 4. Plan accordingly. I headed out, completely pleased with myself in every way imaginable. I am SO glad I went!!

I had about 30 minutes before my Harry Potter tour started at noon. I slowly walked the Royal Mile, just soaking in the experience I had just had, and enjoying the beauty of Edinburgh. It really is a stunning city…

Next, I went on a free Harry Potter Walking Tour with Potter Trail. I told the guide (a wonderful young lady from Los Angeles, actually!) that I own an online school, that I teach Harry Potter Genetics, and that my students were going to go CRAZY for this!! She was so happy to be doing a talk for “academic purposes”! πŸ™‚ In other words, this is another time where I did a lot of filming and not a lot of picture taking. But let me tell you, this tour was GREAT!! So much fun, so much information. I really, really enjoyed the heck out of it, and my tip at the end reflected my appreciation. πŸ™‚ #notalwaysacheapass

The school Hogwarts is based on- just on the other side of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (cemetery). #creepy

Thomas Riddle (Voldemort’s!) grave- the inspiration for the name

The Elephant House- where JK Rowling wrote some of the books

Here’s a quiz…how do wizard’s communicate in the wizarding world? OWLS! And a lady on another Scottish facebook group that I love, The Land Called Scotland, told me that I should look for the owls on the Royal Mile, and tell “her” owl, Hazel, that she had met on a trip, hello. I found the place, Gladstone’s Land, which just so happens to be one of the oldest buildings on the Royal Mile, dating back to the 1500s. And I found the owls! Oh, but they were beautiful, majestic creatures! I didn’t hold one, but I did snap some shots.

Wise indeed.

I had been at it since 8:40 am. It was now after 2. I was hungry! And decided now was the time….to….SIT DOWN IN A REAL RESTAURANT!!Β  😱 If you read this blog, you know I freaking hate to a) eat alone b) spend money on food. So restaurants are generally a big nope when I’m traveling. However, I do like to try local food at least once. And what is the local food of Scotland? Haggis, of course!! And not just haggis. But something called neeps and tatties that go with it. Look, I had a fair inkling about what is in haggis (sheep intestines). But I had zero clue what neeps and tatties were. I was afraid they were words for something too heinous to even call by their real names. I was afraid to google it for fear of being put off by the entire scenario. Ok, I’m going to pull up my slip and let my ignorance show here….I honestly thought neeps were probably sheep nuts and tatties might be sheep udders. Ok, ok- all you Scots….get off the floor and compose yourself! I’m a haggis virgin. I didn’t know!! So I confidently (which means I hid my social awkwardness as much as possible, but geeky still shone throughΒ πŸ€“ ) strode into Whiski Bar and Restaurant on the Royal Mile. Ordered haggis with neeps & tatties, expecting the worst. I watched the world cup while I awaited my impending disgust. (Note: I know about as much about the World Cup as I do neeps and tatties- this is literally the only time I’ve seen any of them.). I was served. I took a bite. Mmmmmmm! This isn’t bad at all! In fact, it’s good! I quickly figured out that a neep or a tattie is mashed potato (I’m guessing tattie). I later researched and found out that neeps are yellow turnips! Whew! Nothing to fear there! I ate it all. It was about $18.50 with a coke. Over half my grocery budget for the last week, but hey, I am a haggis virgin no more! (Sorry, fellows πŸ˜‰ ).

Was I tipsy when I took this? Nah. Only angle I could get the tv, bar, and haggis all in one shot! πŸ˜›

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