Friday, December 25, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

, Chapter 21:  

Days 24-25:  Edinburgh

Thursday, December 24 

Since we had heard that shops would close early on Christmas Eve, we set out that morning to locate several items:  an electric space heater to replace the one we left behind in Ireland; eye drops for dry eyes; and groceries to tide us over while restaurants are closed for the holidays.  It's times like this that having a kitchenette in our Residence Inn room is convenient.
Our source for warm and toasty
We don't have a rental car, so all our errands had to be run on foot.  Just a half mile from the hotel, we found a small heater exactly like our abandoned one.  The only differences were the brand name, and it was cheaper.  Another half mile through a pleasant park took us to a Right Medicine Pharmacy location.  Although I was unable to find the same brand of preservative-free eyedrops, I followed the pharmacist's advice and bought one that looked similar, packaged in single-dose vials.  When we returned to the hotel and opened the package, it was the identical package, manufacturer and product, just with a different brand name.

In the pharmacy, we encountered a friendly local who was there to pick up his prescription.  He asked if medical care was really as high in the US as he has heard.  All his medications are free, a government benefit.  When we parted ways after chatting a while about this and other matters, he gave us £1 note from the Bank of Scotland.  Our final stop was the Sainsbury's Local grocery store just 200 feet from the hotel.
Keep Calm and Do the Laundry
Back in our room at the Residence Inn, we collected up our laundry, ready to finally have some clean clothes.  The hotel's guest laundry—free of charge—is a rarity at a European hotel, so we were certainly not going to miss this opportunity, even though the equipment had us somewhat baffled.  
Accustomed to water "temperature" choices of cold, warm and hot, we were flummoxed when we had to select an actual temperature.  Crossing our fingers, we opted for 30°- 40° Celsius.  Then we needed to tell the machine how fast to rotate the drum in the spin cycle.  Not sure why, but 800 - 1200 rpm sounded good.  After only 20 minutes, the washing was done.
Our experience with the uncommonly found tumble dryer was completely as expected.  Interestingly, Europeans eschew tumble dryers because of their high energy use.  Yet, rather than the typical 30 minutes our dryer at home takes to finish a load, the alleged dryer at the hotel tumbled the clothes around for two hours.  And they weren't even close to being dry.  Doesn't that two hours expend more energy than the half-hour cycle?  As we've done many times before, we laid the clothes out in our room to dry and made a large salad for lunch.

Our afternoon of planning was briefly interrupted by a delivery of mulled wine, hors d'oeuvres, and cookies—a holiday treat from the hotel staff. We prepared dinner in the room as we assembled a list of letterboxes to search for in Edinburgh tomorrow.

Friday, December 25

In search of letterboxes and some of the many Harry Potter connections in Edinburgh, we walked to Old Town. Though author J.K. Rowling grew up in England, she moved to Edinburgh in 1993 to be near her sister.  And it was here that she completed much of the writing for the seven Harry Potter books.  Fans of the wildly popular series have scoured the city for Potter connections, and though not devoted Potterheads, we were curious enough to seek out some of the now famous spots.
Heriot School, possible inspiration for Hogwarts
First stop was George Heriot's School, an independent prep school on Lauriston Place.  Founded as an orphanage and charitable school in 1628, the institution was funded by a bequest from George Heriot (1563-1624), a goldsmith and jeweler at the court of King James.  Initially a boarding school, it transitioned to day students in 1886 and began admitting girls in 1979.   space 
This impressive turreted sandstone building is believed to have inspired Rowling's descriptions of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  With its four houses and four towers, it's easy to see the connection.
The ever faithful Bobby, still on watch
Though unrelated to Harry Potter, we had to make a brief stop to pay our respects to Greyfriars Bobby—the dog, not the pub named for him.  According to legend, this skye terrier became known in 19th century Edinburgh for his loyalty to his master.  Bobby was the pet of John Gray, who worked as a night watchman for the city police.  

After Gray died and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (churchyard), the dog spent the rest of his life sitting on his master's grave.  After a 14-year vigil, during which people in the local area cared for and fed him, Bobby died in 1872 and was buried in the cemetery near his beloved master.  
Later a sculpture of him was erected near the cemetery, followed by a pub which took on his name.  Like so many statues, Bobby's has become a talisman for those who believe they'll obtain good luck by touching his nose.
An inspirational sensation
Just up the street from Bobby is another Harry Potter site—the Elephant House, complete with a sign proclaiming itself in both English and Chinese as the "birthplace" of Harry Potter.  Whether the famous character was conceived there or not, Rowling did spend many hours at the cafe writing the popular series of books.  The cafe even has a view of Greyfriars Kirkyard, some of whose residents were tapped for fame in the series.
The erstwhile Lord Voldemort?
Although the author has never specified so, it is widely believed that some of the gravestones in the cemetery inspired some of the main characters in the Potter series.  Best known is the grave of Thomas Riddell, who is believed by fans to be the inspiration for  Tom Marvolo Riddle, the character later known as the evil Lord Voldemort.  Other names in the cemetery, including McGonagall and Moodie, appear in the novels.  Coincidence or not?

After finding a letterbox in the cemetery, we wound up our Potter tour with a stop at Victoria Street, a narrow curved street in central Edinburgh’s Grassmarket area thought to be the model for Diagon Alley, the cobblestone street with stores selling wizardly supplies in the novels.
Victoria Street—or is it Diagon Alley?
In search of sustenance, we wandered onto the Royal Mile where we were delighted to find Taste of Scotland restaurant open for tea and lunch, though most other restaurants were closed for the holiday.  Their vegetarian haggis was every bite as good as that of the famous Henderson's, but we were quite hungry, which may have biased our judgment.

Thoroughly exercised and entertained, we returned to the Residence Inn for the remainder of the evening, preparing dinner in the room and closing out the day as heavy rain fell outside our window.
Two-Day Stats:
  • Started in Edinburgh, ended in Edinburgh
  • Mileage -  5.1 on foot         
  • Weather - 37° to 52°, cloudy, windy