After another great breakfast, this time cooked by Christine, Michael and I both headed out on the bus together, however, I got off in the High Street area and he continued on to the Botanic Gardens where he had meetings all day.
I walked straight to Holyroodhouse Palace, which serves as the Queen’s residence when she is in Scotland each summer. The bottom two floors are used for state functions and the top floor actually house the royal apartments. As I approached the palace, there were several tour groups hovering near the entrance, so I hurried in to make sure that I stayed ahead of them!! After purchasing my ticket, I entered into the life of a British royal. The forecourt of the palace is the home to the yearly ceremony where the Queen is given the key to the city. Although no photography was allowed inside the palace, I still have many pictures in my mind of what I saw. Many of the ceilings were done in a deep plaster relief pattern. The guide that I listened to said that they were formed over wire and that the plaster had horse hair in it to give it further strength. One of the first rooms that I entered was the royal dining room. The table was set for 20 people, but can seat up to 32!! A few of the 300+ silver pieces were adorning the table. The Queen always sits in the middle of the table, facing the outer wall. There is a 1967 portrait of the Queen Mother….always one of my favorites!! I was struck by the old furniture even in the areas where the state events are held. I asked one of the wardens about it and he said that the furniture always stays in the room, but other pieces were added as they were needed for the event. However, he said that some of the chairs, thrones, etc. were roped off as they were too fragile to ever be sat on.
The tour went through the palace along the “processional route”, with each chamber become more and more elaborate, culminating in the personal living quarters of the royal. I was reminded of home when I hit a few very squeaky floor boards!!! The King’s Bedchamber was covered with pictures and tapestries depicting strong heros like Hercules. Apparently this was done to help the King feel better about himself!!! The “Great Gallery” was an impressive room that is over 50 feet in length and is covered (almost floor to ceiling) with portraits. This is the place that the Queen receives those who are being knighted or given another distinction. Apparently she (or one of her aids) researches each of the people that she is to meet and she says something personal to each of them. In one area of the castle, you can see that the walls are about 4 feet thick, reminding me that it was not only a residence, but also a fortification.
After leaving the palace, I was directed into Holyrood Abby. This is an old church that has fallen apart over the years, but it is gorgeous!! The architecture was beautiful and the rock work was amazing.
From the Abby I went into the royal garden. This is where the Queen gives her annual “Royal Garden Party. It was easy to imagine the Royals and their guests milling around the beautiful flowers.
As I was leaving the palace a pumping truck came into the courtyard….apparently the Queen’s septic tank needed to be cleaned out (Michael suggested the Prince Charles and Camilla must have been in residence)!!!!
Although I didn’t have a chance to go into the Parliament, I did enjoy seeing the outside of the building. It is very “interesting” and apparently has caused a huge controversy because of the expense of building it. The front is covered with wooden sticks (kind of like bamboo). Most of them are straight, but every so often there is a slanted or bent one. It honestly looks like a prison!!! The side of the building is sculpted into an interesting piece of artwork, with little insets that have various quotes about life and politics. My favorite one was “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”
As I was walking back to the center of town, I noticed that the church next to yesterday’s cemetery was open, so I went in for a quick look. It was very different from other churches because it had a wooden interior and it was painted a bright blue and white….sort of a Dutch look!! There was even a small pipe organ…surrounded by blue and white paint.
I looked at my watch and realized that the midday service at the “Kirk of St. Giles” (ie…church) was starting in about 15 minutes, so I hurried UP the hill to the church. The service was very simple….just two bible readings and a prayer time, but it was a beautiful place to worship. Afterwards, I was looking at a banner and one of the church wardens came over and told me the story of it. It was made by the parish of a priest who was leaving to come to St. Giles. They had appliqued the inscription “Glory to God in the Highest” on the back of the banner, but didn’t get the final “e” attached properly, and it eventually fell off. So, now the banner reads “Glory to God in the High St”….High Street being where the church was located.
As I left the church, I noticed a camera crew getting set up, as I had seen EVERY day that I had been in this area. So, I asked the guy what was the big event. He said that the High Court was just across the street and that there was always something going on there. He said that his newsman was “around the corner learning his bits” and that as soon as he recorded the report then he would know what was going on!!!
I walked down a bit further and visited the “Camera Obscura”. It is a museum that is dedicated to optical illusion. I particularly enjoyed the holograms….one of the was of a stack of hay and a pitch fork. The amazing part was that the pitch fork looked like it was sticking out well into the room and pointed straight out at you!! On the top of the museum is the “camera obscura”. It is a large camera lens that looks out over the city and is projected onto a large shallow bowl and viewed in a darkened room. It is amazing to see the detail that comes through in the pictures.
After grabbing a sandwich for lunch (and eating it sitting on some out-of-the-way steps), I walked back to the Brass Rubbing Museum This contains replicas of various brass images that have been taken from churches in Scotland. Many of these images are found lying on top of the graves of influential men and women. Instead of doing a life-size knight, I chose a small Celtic Scroll that came from the Book of Darrow which was written in the 7th century. The helper covered the brass plate with black paper and showed me how to get started, using colored wax sticks to form the image. It was MUCH harder than it looked!!! The rubbings that they displayed had very crisp images which I found hard to emulate however it was fun to try. One nice thing about doing the rubbing here is that I didn’t have to spend hours kneeling on a hard church floor…..instead, I could sit comfortably at a table!!!
My last stop of the day was the National Museum of Scotland. I originally wanted to go there because they had the famous “Dolly”, the sheep who was cloned several years ago. They had her in an enclosed glass case in one of the children’s areas of the museum. It was an area that was devoted to science and technology and was wonderful. They had various robots that you could control, as well as several other large machines that you could work. Alongside Dolly they had electronic games that taught about the process of cloning…..I learned a lot!!!! The Museum also had a special exhibit from Pixar, the Disney company. I enjoyed seeing the process involved in making a computer generated cartoon, but especially enjoyed the film called “Artscape”. It used computer technology to turn various background drawings into a 3-D experience. I especially enjoyed listening to the sound effects and how they added to the atmosphere of each picture. Maybe Brian should apply to Pixar….I could see him doing this type of work!!! The also had an amazing Zeotrope that contained figures from Toy Story. A zeotrope is a spinning disc that had over 250 figures on it, each in a different stage of movement. The disc spins at 1 revolution per second, and when a strobe light is added, the figures appear to be moving. The display would slow the disc down so that you could see all of the figures and then speed it back up to show the animation. I could have stayed there for hours watching it.
I decided to walk back to the B&B instead of taking a bus, and found myself in for a 25 to 30 minute walk. Fortunately it was mostly downhill and was very enjoyable. Michael got to the B&B about 5:30 and we went out at 6:00 to meet some of his colleagues for a drink and dinner. We ate dinner at an Indian restaurant and had a wonderful time talking and relaxing. We walked about a mile to get to the restaurant and then back another mile at 10pm, so I definitely had my fill of walking for the day!!!!