Scotland 2016: Day 5

scotland2016-day5-trains

The train service to Edinburgh from Glasgow is frequent and quick:  Trains seem to leave almost every fifteen minutes and only take about an hour to cross the Scottish countryside.  Like many European rail journeys, the urban tunnels give way to suburban platforms and railyards, then soon, rolling rural fields.

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Leaving Edinburgh Waverly presents you with a steep facade of buildings, stepped back from the valley of station track and train shed.  Reaching into the sky are steeples and towers.

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We took a walk along the Royal Mile, which stretches from the Queen’s palace in Scotland to Edinburgh Castle at the top of a hill.  The castle was bustling with tourists this morning, including selfie stick wielding phone photographers as well as a serious set of travelers on some sort of photographic tour.  The guide was explaining how to use exposure lock on the overcast skies of Scotland.

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The Royal Mile is studded with souvenir shops, most of which seem to feature the kind of products you find at the British goods stores in Canada.  There’s also buskers, both stunt performers and musicians, most interesting of which was the bag piper who dutiously stood playing while tourists gathered around him for photos.

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The National Museum of Scotland was a suggestion of our friends, who walked us over from the Grassmarket where we had lunch.  The aforementioned street also featured public executions in its past.  Inside the Museum’s Victorian iron and glass atrium were small but thoughtfully organized collections, including a really nice one featuring computing and communications.  Some of my favourites were represented including a French Minitel terminal, a BBC Electron, and Commodore PET alongside an Apple I.  Of course, every technical museum communication display needs a Strowger electromechanical phone switch as well as an early BT digital TDM switch, which apparently was installed in Scotland as a trial market first.

The works of Scots like John Logie Baird, inventor of mechanical television, were shown, as well as components of early MRI scanners developed at the University of Aberdeen.  Other galleries included fashion and design displays, in which I watched a glass blowing film over and over again.  I was pleasantly surprised with our time at the Museum.

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scotland2016-day5-parliament

We walked down the Mile towards the Scottish Parliament, which looks more like a modern university campus than the traditional buildings of government.  The friendly security guard invited us in, but the actual parliament was in session and I felt kind of silly visiting while they had important issues like the outfall of Brexit to discuss.  Instead, we took a few minutes to watch people climbing Arthur’s Seat, a group of mountains in Edinburgh, set in the background.

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As subjects of the Queen, I figured we should take a look at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, but by the time we got there, it had closed.  The sun was setting against the buildings of Princes Street as we returned to the station, as well as the monuments on Calton Hill.

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On most trips, I find myself trying the unusual selection of snack products available in each country.  This time I’ve purchased a number of cherry cola products and unique potato chips.  Here of course, they are called crisps:  I bought a haggis and pepper flavoured type and a cheddar and pickled onion one too.  But the most unusual is a cranberry and prosecco holiday special from Marks and Spencer, which has the slightly acidic while sweet flavour of sparking wine and has edible golden stars to round out the festive mood.  It’s like an entire Christmas party in a bowl.

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