Yesterday was election day in Scotland and according to one Scotsman, “it has been embarrassing!!” The paper ballots were apparently very hard to understand and over 100,000 have had to be thrown out because they weren’t filled out properly. Also, one of the helicopters that flies the votes in from the outlying islands broke down, so the final results wont be known until sometime today or tomorrow. As of the current time (evening on Friday), the Scottish National Party had gained a few seats, but there had not been the overwhelming landslide that had been expected.
In this vein, we began our day by touring the Scottish Parliament House. I had viewed the outside yesterday, but hadn’t done the inside tour. We walked through a part of the building and ended up in the “Debate Chamber” which is where the parliamentarians meet. It was completely empty except for a TV reporter and photographer who were doing a story on the election. We took some photos and then started talking to two of the security guards in the room. They told us that there wouldn’t be any business going on today, but that the new parliament will begin on Wednesday (only 6 days after the election). They also explained how the room is laid out and where the various people sit during the sessions. They were obviously pleased with the new building that was opened in 1999, but were frustrated about how much the building had cost. Apparently the original projected cost was 68 million, but the final cost was over 400 million!!! We encouraged them that US government projects were often the same. They said that the building was designed to look like it was rising up out of the ground and that the poles on the sides were supposed bo be sticks that had stuck to the ground as is rose up. I asked about the funny “7″ images that were all over the building. They said that it was supposed to look like one side of an opened curtain. One funny thing was that neither Michael or I could find ANY of the entrance or exits in the building….someone had to show us the way at EVERY turn.
We knew that we needed more cash and found an ATM at Royal Bank of Scotland……BIG mistake. When the pounds came out, we both looked and them and said..”what the heck are those!!!!”. Unbeknownst to us, Scotland has it’s own paper currency!!! Not only that, but each bank (RBS and Bank of Scotland) each have their own version of the notes. It is supposed to be legal tinder in England, but we were told that many people would not accept them!! SO, the next order of the day was to spend (or break) all of the paper money that we had just pulled out of our account. We kept asking for coins (1 pound mostly) since the coin currency is the same in both countries. We now have a huge number of number of coins…..Michael lists a little to the left because of the weight.
We strolled back up the Royal Mile and did a bit of souvenir shopping. We bought some Scottish stuff from a shop called “Heritage of Scotland”…..run by two men from Pakistan!!!!! We then stopped at Royal Mile Whiskey Shop. There was a little lady inside offering free samples, and Michael ended up buying a bottle of Old Pulteney Single Malt Whiskey. We enjoyed talking to her and she kept saying “be sure and drink this by itself….don’t add ANYTHING”. She laughed and said that her “ex (now late)” husband used to put water in his whiskey and that she wouldn’t have married him if she had known!! She also told us that this particular whiskey was made on an island off of the Scotland coast and that the barrels were left open so that the salty sea air could waft over it and flavor the whiskey.
Our next stop was “The Writer’s Museum”. It is an old house that was built in the 1600’s and was converted into a museum to honor Robert Louis Stephenson, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. We enjoyed walking through the museum and learning about these authors. All of the museums are “rabbit warrens”….there are little passageways, rooms and stairs everywhere. It is fairly hard to know if you have seen all of the museum or possibly missed an area!!! The house had stone spiral staircases and the steps were very uneven. We were told the houses were often built that way so that strangers (ie intruders) who were not used to them might stumble and betray their presence in the house.
I found a quote in the museum from Sir Walter Scott that I really liked…..”I think there is a demon who seats himself on the feather of my pen when I begin to write and leads it astray from the purpose.”
We went back up the road to the Fudge shop that I visited on Wednesday. After having our fudge and coffee/tea, we asked the owner about “Tablet” which is a type of fudge that our B&B owner had told us about. He sold us a piece of Butter Tablet which we enjoyed greatly. The difference from fudge is that it has more sugar and isn’t as creamy. This particular variety had a strong butter flavor. As we left the shop, I asked the owner if the fudge was made on the premises and he told us that it was made in a small factory in the next building. His Father-In-Law had started the business and he and his sons were working in it now.
Finally, we walked to the area of town that is “underneath” the Royal Mile in order to visit a cheese shop that we had been told about. It was a neat place, filled with wheels of many different cheeses, and with samples for a lot of them!!!
Two more funny shop names…..”Thistle Do Nicely” (thistle is one of the symbols of Edinburgh) and “Mutts Nuts” (no idea what they sold)
We returned to our B&B for a short rest and then went out to a local bar for drinks and dinner. Michael had “Fish and Chips” which ended up being a HUGE hunk of Haddock and my Hamburger had a massive patty of a meatloaf type substance with a large slice of ham on top. I ordered chocolate cake for dessert that was served with Pepper Ice Cream…..after I got over the shock, it was actually quite good!! It was a great meal in a fun atmosphere.
We walked back home and packed our bags for the train trip tomorrow.