09.22.2012 - 09.22.2012 56 °F
I wake up early with Matt so we can go to breakfast together before his conference. We stop at one of the few places near our flat that opens at 8:30—Garfunkel's restaurant on the Royal Mile. We grab a seat in front of the window and sip cappuccinos; Matt orders an omelet with a side of sausage and I have an eggs benedict: two poached eggs and ham on thick malt bread, topped with savory hollandaise.
After Matt starts his walk toward Our Dynamic Earth, I head back to the flat to figure out my plans for the day. With the forecast calling for clear and sunny skies, I decide to walk through New Town to Dean Village, which is about a 20 minute walk from Princes Street.
Dean Village, located on the Water of Leith, is a historic milling village that today is a picturesque haven within the city. I walk down a steep curving street and find myself in a sleepy fairytale of a town, with beautiful stone homes, bright flowers, and a rushing stream with bridges and footpaths. Many of the homes back right up against the stream, and I imagine what it would be like to live in one of them and hear the rushing water when the windows are open.
I meander through the maze of quiet cobblestone streets, admiring the beautiful architecture before I detour down near the stream to walk the path along the river bank. It's hard to believe that this beautiful little postcard village has been inhabited for 800 years and was an important industrial center. Today, it is quaint, quiet and a step back in time to simpler days.
On the walk back through New Town I take a detour down George Street, the area's premier shopping strip. The wide street is lined with clothing boutiques, upscale restaurants and wine bars. It feels nothing like Old Town. Women wear dresses and heels, the men blazers. I don't stop into any of the stores here; it feels like an expensive stopping area in the States where girls spend their paychecks on Coach purses. I don't see any pubs or whisky shops, just block after block of a Beverly Hills-esque sophistication that I didn't expect I'd find in Edinburgh.
I return to the apartment and take a nap after I have some lunch. At about 2 p.m. I head out again to the Royal Mile and walk toward Holyrood Park for a hike up to Salisbury Crags. The crags themselves look like a fortress wall surrounding the rest of the park. They wrap around the western edge of the mountainside like a crown, in a series of high jagged cliffs and bluffs that tower above the city. I take the steep rocky footpath up the hill directly below the crags. Like the paths leading to Arthur's Seat, this path is very tiresome as it continues to climb at an uncomfortable grade; I wish that I had worked out more before this trip, but the exercise invigorates me and I start to enjoy the burn in my calves and my lungs. The views of the city and the Firth of Forth are a beautiful distraction as I hike, and since I had started this hike later in the day, the sun warms the air enough that I wear just a t-shirt on my climb.
The path to the crags curls around to the far side of the park, where other walkers are taking a shorter, winding path straight up the hill to Arthur's Seat. I make my way up a grassy hillside to get to the highest point of the crags, which just beyond a steep dropoff offers the most unobstructed views of the city. I sit along the edge to rest my burning calf muscles and gaze down on the city below, so quiet from this high perch. I know that somewhere down there, there are bagpipers playing on the street corners, people getting on the Waverley trains to distant towns and villages, and probably many, many pairs of eyes gazing right back up at me on the bluff, just as I always do when Holyrood Park is in sight.
I hike back down through the park and start my walk back up the Royal Mile toward Cockburn. I stop at Canongate Church and the surrounding ancient kirkyard (graveyard). I walk the rows of enormous headstones, most dating back to the 1700s and 1800s, and notice how many children are buried here. I find a headstone for a family that lost 7 or 8 children, about half under the age of 6 and the rest in their early 20s. I notice that death during childhood must have been fairly common and see that, in many cases, the parents outlived all of their children.
Back on the Royal Mile, I duck into a fudge shop and buy a little bag of fudge—chocolate hazelnut, white chocolate pistachio, chocolate coconut, Italian nougat, and whisky. I had resisted the urge to buy sweets from the many fudge shops and bakeries here, but my will power disappeared after that long walk through Holyrood Park.
My legs are exhausted and sore by the time I make it back to the flat, so I flop down on the couch and relax for the evening, napping on and off. Matt and his coworkers go out to a bar up in New Town after their conference is finished for the day. Tomorrow Matt and I can start sightseeing together for the rest of the trip; I feel like I haven't seen him much at all, like we've had two vacations separate from each other. I'm not sure what we will do tomorrow, but it is supposed to be sunny again so we will have to take advantage of the weather.