the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (christmas in holland) - fast forward to the following trip (bath and stonehenge road trip)
Saturday morning it was time to get onto another EasyJet plane, this time heading north towards Edinburgh to celebrate New Years - or know up in this neck of the woods as Hogmanay. It was an early Saturday morning, but to save us some beauty sleep we'd checked in online and had printed out our boarding passes. No queuing at the check in area for us. It was very gratifying walking past all the queues at check in, straight towards security without missing a beat. We were car park to boarding gate in 15 minutes... now that's impressive.
After a quick 50 minute flight we arrived at Edinburgh, with no book, no map, and no idea where our hotel actually was. So before wandering out of the airport we had a quick reckie of the local magazine shop and sourced an Edinburgh book - so equipped with the fountain of knowledge we raced outside to find a bus to our hotel. We're not fans of buses, prefer trains - you know where trains go but buses tend to unexpectedly turn off the road you want to be on, or make detours when you least expect. We knew the hotel was on the main road into the city from the airport, so given nearly all the buses went to the city centre we jumped on the first we saw. The friendly Scotsman driver informed us we needed to get onto a different bus, so off we went.
We jumped off the bus at the right stop, and then headed towards the city centre on foot. After walking what seemed to be an age (although the walk back on Monday seemed short as... donno how that works) we got to our hotel. Our hotel turned out to be great...very nice and newly renovated. We were actually amazed at how good it was especially since the Hoof'ess booked it so late and everything else that was still available was about twice the price, she was a bit nervous about what we would turn up to. But I guess since it was a bit out of the city - about half way between the city and the airport that explained the deal? The lady on the reception desk was amazingly helpful and provided us all the information we needed to find our way into the city.
I gotta say that despite being cold, windy and wet everyone was very friendly and helpful. Overall the city is much more manageable than London which explains why Edinburgh is becoming so popular.
It was only a ten minute bus ride into the center, so we headed straight in to explore. The first view we had of the castle was jaw dropping .... amazing how they managed to build something so grand on top of such a rocky outcrop and easy to see why the city was so powerful in its time!
After a quick traditional Scottish lunch at Pizza Hutt we walked up the hill to the Castle, walking over one of the bridges which spans the Princes Street Gardens which started its life as a type of moat around the castle.
Getting to the top of Castle hill we were confronted by a mass of humans queuing to get in, and even more people all over the castle swarming over it like ants. We settled on just taking photos for now. Amazingly we managed to get a photo angle which makes it look relatively quiet - little do you know that just to the right are the massive queues of people buying tickets.
The crowds are a little clearer from this shot, as well as the parking lot... don't know who these belonged to, the ticket sellers?
The Hoof'ess then headed into a free Tartan making exhibition, dragging the Hoof inside. The place actually turned out to be a souvenir shop in disguise, but showed an interesting (Hoof'ess word) history of tartan. We then took a walk down the Royal Mile and looking into the little lanes and squares of the old town on our way down. Its an amazing medieval piece of the city and you can easily imagine what it would have been like living there back in the day.
After passing all the cheesy souvenir shops and the busking bagpipers on the Royal Mile we passed by an impressive medieval Gothic church called St Giles (above) - with the sun lighting up the spires. Continuing down the Royal Mile we reached the new Scottish Parliament building at the lower end. The Hoof'ess decided the building was a bit strange and out of keeping with the surroundings and can understand why it was opposed by the Scots.
Personally I can't understand why in this beautiful historic city they decided to build such a modern monster apparently built with many foreign materials - and therefore so out of keeping with the rest of the Royal Mile. One benefit was roadside seating for the Hoof'ess.
Over the road was Holyrood House which is the Queens house when she is in Edinburgh, of course being cheap travellers we didn't pay to go onto the grounds, rather we just stuck the camera through the fence.
Our kiwi tour of central Edinburgh was coming to an end for today as Gregg, our local guide, was coming to pick us up and drive us around for a bit. Our first stop was Arthur's Seat. We elected to go up the lazy way and drive, but the view from near the top was amazing! We then carried on around the city visiting the various parks, the main university, past the Greyfriars Bobby statue, the waterfront and the area of town where Trainspotting was set, before settling into an Irish pub for a couple of drinks. Since we were tired and in need of a rest before the big night on Sunday we found a little restaurant before retreating to our hotel for an early night.
Heading back to the bus stop we looked back up to the Royal Mile, with the lit building (can't remember which this was sorry Gregg) and the festival entertainment in front - including vertical bungy, massive double ended swing, as well as a ferris wheel which is just off to the left.
Sunday we started by laying a good foundation with a full Scottish breakfast at the hotel....we did however pass on the haggis and black pud. Then we caught the bus back to town. This time exploring the New Town. The term 'New Town' is used fairly loosely as it was build in the 1800's but was an impressive piece of foresight and Georgian town planning.
After a quick lunch we headed to Stacey's place for the 'New Years Games'. For those of you who don't know of Stacey, she's a mate from the NFO/TNS days, she beat us to London by a couple of months. Her, her partner Logan, and a couple of friends were renting an apartment behind the castle and were hosting an afternoon of games before the Street Party. Our instructions were to turn up in team costume at 1pm for the mystery games to start at 2.
I had brought over a couple of Waikato Jerseys just for this type of situation! So with our rugby faces on, well one of us, we headed over to Stacey's. Being very modest I gotta say we won the costume competition! There was some delay due to a reluctance of some people (not the core friends but some friends of friends) to play the first game (treasure hunt), probably because they were daunted by Team Hoof'kato. We finally changed the teams into two parts, those who were there on time, calling ourselves Team Enthusiastic - and the late arrivals. The first mission was a scavenger hunt around the downtown area. It was pouring with rain and blowing a gale but we were determined to beat the team of slowpokes so took off at great pace....up the stairs and over the castle to the downtown area.
We had a list of ten things we had to find. The first one was get a photo of a team member in a kilt doing a dance....in the first shop we got thrown out so we settled on a pic of Troy wrapped in a tartan travel rug that looked like a kilt in the photo (apparently kilts are really expensive). Then it was on to find a stranger to wear our team uniform for a photo .... luckily our new team uniform was a Santa hat and we found a willing volunteer pretty easily. Then it was on to find an Edinburgh official for a photo before jumping on a train (without tickets and without being arrested for a photo), buy some haggis (thank god we didn't have to eat the haggis), convince a souvenir store owner to give us a souvenir for free, do a handstand in Princes Street Gardens, build a human pyramid in front of a famous landmark and pick up an unusual tour brochure. Then it was back to the apartment for judging before we had more silly games - involving flour, maltesers and ping pong balls. After some great work from Team Enthusiastic and particularly sub team Hoof'kato, including the fastest time for the flour and maltesers game, we came through as the champion team - and were rewarded by chocolate gold medals.
During the treasure hunt we did have time to stop and take a great shot of the sun setting behind castle hill.
At 9pm when we were about to meet up with Julia and Gregg and head to the Ceilidh we heard that things had been cancelled - the weather was still too windy even though it had actually stopped raining. Stacey and her friends had tickets to a club so we headed out with them at about 10.30 to head to the bar where Julia and Gregg were instead .... however we discovered that the street we were looking for wasn't on our map and everyone we asked for directions were not from Edinburgh and couldn't help us.
We settled with joining a massive throng of people under a clock tower near the Scott Monument. Luckily it had stopped raining but it was still bloody cold - think this was the first night where I've had to were the hat. If it wasn't for the beer coat helping we would have both turned into Hoofsicles.
The countdown happened and then out of the blue the fireworks errupted....just a couple from the Castle and the rest from up by the National Monument as we think that was the safest area for them given the wind.
We then ambled back towards our hotel through the New Town.... there were heaps and heaps of people on the street and it was much like New Years at the Mount only freezing cold and with bagpipes playing! Everyone was in very high spirits including the largest presence of police officers I have ever seen in a one mile stretch!
We told you they're all friendly in Scotland - look at the Copper, it's 1:30AM, he's at work, and he's grinning like a kid in a candy shop.
Monday morning we woke feeling a little worse for wear but headed back to the hotel restaurant for our full Scottish breakfast. Unfortunately we couldn't face the haggis even though the Hoof'ess had told her Grandad that she would try it.. Grandad, she promises to do it on our next trip! Feeling a little refreshed after breakfast we checked out of our hotel and headed back into the city. What do you think of the sign we swiped the night before... or was it early this morning!
Our tour guide Gregg had been struck down by the flu (although we suspect that it was more likely a hangover that he just didn't want to admit to! Gregg?!). So we hiked it back up to the Castle and were very pleased to see no queue this morning. We took the audio tour and it was great.... learnt a lot about Scottish history! We were very fortunate with the weather...the clouds and rain would sweep in and back out again, but managed a few good pics and amazing views across the Firth. We wandered around the Castle for ages and ages waiting for the One O'Clock gun (and Hoof'ess still jumped out of her skin even though she was expecting it). We also headed into the war memorial next to the palace area at the top... Hoof'ess opened one of the books with the names of soldiers from the Royal Highlanders regiment that lost their lives in one of the wars and by coincidence found a William Benvie from Dundee....one of her relatives perhaps?
Doesn't the Hoof'ess look good with the headphones, with the view out over the city toward the Firth of Forth.
A nice wee panoramic shot over the Princes Street Gardens and Princes street towards New Town. On the right is the fairground attractions - including the Ferris Wheel which would've costed 45 pounds each to be on at midnight - this is if it wasn't blowing gale force winds and testing the stability of the wheel to the max!
Hoofy wasn't too confident of his footing, but posed for this photo with his "blue steel" look.
Further around looking more to the west, over the upper gate house and towards Carlton Hill which is partly obscured by the castle buildings.
After the Castle tour the Hoof'ess hangover was starting to kick back in so we headed off to Jimmy Chungs for lunch on TB's (Hoof'ess little sister) recommendation after stumbling across it during our scavenger hunt the previous day. We decided it was the best Chinese food we have had since we arrived.... but on saying that it has always been pretty damn average until now.
When we came out the weather had deteriorated again, the Hoof'ess now wants to invest in a balaclava, something she might buy before our next trip to Scotland or before we head to Poland. Shock horror the Hoof'ess want to go shopping! We then started to head back to the buses so we could get back to the airport - and back to Luton.
Now check out Hoofy in bath and visiting his ancients at stonehoof.