Monday, October 31, 2011

Lunch out with the children....


Yesterday we had a totally chaotic trip to Burger King.  We decided to go to Burger King as a reward for our morning.  We spent the whole morning outside cleaning up – the weather was great and we made the most of it.  We have not been eating out much lately and we decided on a kid-friendly burger lunch.

We got to Burger King early so the lines were not too bad.  I should mention that the area we were in, the Beach, does not have any other fast food restaurant so it gets very busy.  We sat in a booth and pulled over a filthy high chair. 

My husband went up to order and I started getting the kids ready.  We put the baby in the chair and I gave him his milk sippy cup and he started drinking!  (We have been struggling to get him to drink milk from his cup.)  Then my older son spilled 1/3 of the baby’s lunch on the floor.  This was terrible – we needed the food.

I was wiping down the filthy table and filthy high chair with baby wipes while the baby sucked at his milk.  Then my husband came over with the food and we started to eat.  The baby was really fussy, but we ignored the fussing and gave him his food while we finished our lunch.

Then I noticed that the milk cup was missing….and it was not on the floor.  When I found it I understood why the baby was fussy.  He had dumped the milk over into his chair and he was soaked.

Luckily I had extra clothes for him.  We took off his clothes but then the diaper was soaked through with the milk as well.  I took the baby and the change of clothes and a new diaper to the baby change room and changed him while he squirmed.

By that time the restaurant was so busy I could barely get back to our table.  Then we hurriedly finished lunch while the baby continued to fuss and people were pushing all around us.

The best part of lunch was that our 4-year old who has recently discovered a love for burgers ate well.

Now I remember why I hate going to restaurants with kids!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Almost in Our Own Back Yard

We have a lot to get done this weekend, so we decided not to venture to far afield and to explore the area around our home.  Yesterday morning my husband proposed a walk and it was a great idea.

We walked through our neighborhood with the initial goal of seeing some horses.  A few minutes into an easy walk and there was a field of horses, our horse-loving 4-year old was very excited.  We decided to keep walking and a few minutes later we had walked up to the entry point for the hiking paths in the forest at Countesswells. 

We picked a path and had a lovely walk through the colourful autumn foliage.  It was an easy trail that horses also (obviously) used.  It was a good thing we were wearing our wellies!  Our 4-year old learned all about road apples...

This is a beautiful forest full of trails.  The trails are popular and there were a bunch of other walkers.  I had no idea that this forest existed and it is right behind our house!  We will definitely go back for many more walks.

After a while we turned around and went home.  It started to rain just as we were entering our street and it was lovely to come home to a warm house and make a hot lunch.  I was surprised to find that we had walked for 1.5 hours - it felt much shorter!

When we got home I found that a strange thing had happened while we were out.  A delivery truck had come by attempting to deliver a parcel from an Amazon order that I had purchased last week.  We were not home, so instead of leaving the parcel with a neighbor or taking it to the delivery centre, the delivery person decided to stash it in our brown bin!  Yes, that is the bin where we recycle compost – food and plant waste.  And it was not empty.  I was not impressed.  Luckily the books had a lot of packaging on them so they were clean and dry, but my arm was not clean and dry after fishing the package out of the bin.  Yech!


Then, another yech - I spent about 20 minute last night chopping up our (already carved) jack-o-lanterns and putting them into the brown bin because they were rotten!  Totally disgusting mushy pumpkin.  Next year I will wait until Halloween day to carve them.  We carved them last Thursday (5 days before Halloween) and it was clearly too early.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Party and Costume Parade

Yesterday afternoon I attended a Halloween party and costume parade at my son’s school.  The costumes were impressive.  There was everything from beautiful homemade costumes to store-bought exact replicas of super heroes.  My son’s costume was definitely a lesser masterpiece.  He wore a train conductor dress-up set that he received as a gift (thanks again, you saved me having to figure out a costume!).  It is a sweet costume, but rather plain next to some of the flashy ones.

My favorite home-made costume was a flowing sorcerer’s cloak covered in shining stars that one small boy was wearing.  Another boy wore my favorite store-bought costume – he was dressed as a 3-eyed alien from Toy Story (you know, those little green dolls that say “oooohhhh” all together…).

At the party the kids played party games – they played: pass the parcel; bobbing for apples; this game where they eat a donut off a string without using their hands; musical chairs; and musical statues.  My son seemed to have a talent an affinity for the donut-eating game – I credit his Canuck roots.

After all of the party fun, the kids paraded their costumes down the hall of the school while students from some of the other classes stood on the side of the hallway and viewed their costumes.  Then the students were arranged on a staircase for a group photo.  A very ambitious plan - it came off pretty well, it was mainly organized chaos, but I give kudos to the teachers for having the energy to plan these activities.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Annoyed

I am annoyed.  I spent a long time trying to re-thread a zipper only to notice (once I was done) that I had done it backwards!

Alans Morrisette might call this "ironic."

Twitterpated

A good friend, one of my favorite people in the world, is getting married today in Jasper, Alberta.  I could not be happier for her.  My favorite part of her getting married is that she is completely in love - even a little twitterpated - and that is wonderful for a bride-to-be.   They are a lovely family and I’m sure it will be a beautiful wedding.  Congratulations and all the best to the new family!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

First Word?

Yesterday, our baby said his first word.  Or so I think.  My husband does not agree that it was his first word.  While my husband agrees that he said the word, he thinks it does not count because the baby has to know the meaning of the word for it to be a real first word.  I think that is a bunch of baloney and I also think that our baby knew the meaning of the word.  Tell me what you think:

The baby was sitting on the potty getting ready for his bath.  Our older son was in the bath.  I was sitting with the baby and my husband was supervising our older son.  

The baby started to fuss.  I grabbed a baby-powder container (that he covets) and I started teasing him - showing it to him and then grabbing it away and saying "mine."  The baby grabbed it out of my hand and pulled it away and said, clearly "mine."  Then he said "mine" a couple of other times.

My husband, older son and I all clearly heard the baby say "mine" but my husband would argue that it was just repeating.  I think it doesn't matter if it was repeating and also that, as a second child, the baby knows exactly what "mine" means.

Occupy Protests

OK, so I need some help understanding the “Occupy (X)” protests.  I don’t want to become incredibly unpopular and I am not  taking a position, I just want to understand what the movement is attempting to achieve.

There have been a huge number of newspaper articles about the various occupations and what the protestors “want.”  The way I read it, they have no specific requests but they want to bring light to certain issues.  It seems like they are looking for some sort of undefined “change” but I’m not sure what it specifically is.

If this is the case, how will the occupiers know when to end the occupation?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scottish Weather

Yesterday the weather was terrible!  It was windy and the rain was pouring down.  The extreme wind was whipping the rain every which way and it was terrible to walk in exposed areas.  Our home is up high and there is little wind protection, so we had wind howling around for the whole day.

Today the weather is lovely.  It is bright, overcast but not rainy and there is no wind.  It is fairly warm (around +10 degrees Celsius) and the air is damp and refreshing.  We will definitely enjoy our walks to and from school today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Proud Mama?

Yesterday we went to our first parent/teacher interview for our older son.  It went well.  The teacher said a bunch of positive stuff and I kept waiting for the "but" that didn't come!  It is a relief to know he is doing well.

I decided to reward him for this positive event.  After school, I told him that we had the meeting with the teacher and that the teacher said really nice things about him.  I told him that his "prize" was that we would go to Poundland and he had £5 to spend on any arts and crafts supplies that he wanted (he loves to do drawings and crafts).

After he heard this, his behaviour was terrible!  He pestered his brother in the car, he was uncooperative at home and he sassed the whole afternoon.

I guess that's what happens when he gets a little bit of positive feedback!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Woodbank


Yesterday we went to a party at Woodbank, a private country club for Shell employees.  Woodbank is right by our house and I pass it every day so I was curious to see the inside of the club. 

When we moved here, our relocation consultant took us to Kippie Lodge, another country club in this area.  She encouraged us to join up.  Kippie is further from our house – about a 15-minute drive.  We are not really country club people, but we were on an exhausting tour of the city and it was clear that our relocation specialist wanted to stop at Kippie for a snack, and I was hungry, so we took a look around.  Kippie Lodge is on a lovely property but the restaurant and building facilities looked worn and dated.

Woodbank is nicer than Kippie.  The building looks like a castle and the grounds are wonderfully landscaped.  The interior was old but classy and in great condition.  The woodwork literally shone with polish.

Our son was attending a birthday party at Woodbank.  We started off in the restaurant for cake and juice and then moved on to the gym, where the kids played soccer.  Footstars (a local soccer school) lead the kids through soccer drills and the kids had so much fun!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crathes Castle and Raemoir Garden Centre

Yesterday the whole family jumped into my Mini and we motored out into the countryside to visit Crathes Castle.  Crathes is near the town of Banchory in Royal Deeside, about 20 minutes away from our house.  It was a crisp, overcast but not rainy, autumn day and the colours were glorious as we drove along.  We were all comfortable in the Mini - even my tall husband had enough room in the front passenger seat.  (Although I'm not sure he was too comfortable with me driving....I almost never drive when he is in the car.)

Crathes Castle is another National Trust property, so we did not need to pay admission because of our membership.*  Regular family admission is a steep £27.

We toured the castle and our 4-year old did another "eye-spy" quiz.  This quiz required reading, so we read him the clues and he found all of the items as we toured through.  I still think that this is a great way to keep kids engaged.

The castle houses the Horn of Leys, which was given to the Burnett family (the last owners/occupants of the castle who moved out after a fire in 1966) by Robert the Bruce in 1323 when he gave them the Leys lands.  When the Burnett family gifted the castle to the National Trust, it was on the condition that the horn never leave the castle.

This castle is said to be haunted and there is a ghost story about an unwed mother who disappeared along with her baby (the baby's father was a manservant).  Years later during renovation, skeletal remains were found in her room, after several reported ghost-sightings in that very room.....spooky!

There was a harp and a spinning wheel in this castle, two things we have not seen at any of the other castles.

After our castle tour we ate our picnic lunch near the playground and our older son spent some time playing.  We skipped out on touring the gardens because it was getting chilly.

Next we drove to the Raemoir Garden Centre and toured the magnificent Christmas displays.  Our older son played at the playground (yes, another playground) and we noticed that it was significantly warmer outside at the garden centre which was protected by a bunch of trees.

Then we drove home while the kids napped.  A lovely, peaceful drive for once!





*We purchased our National Trust family membership for £80 in September and it is valid for one year.  To date we have visited 5 properties and the total family admission for all of these properties would have been £113.50 if we did not have the membership - so we are already ahead.  A good buy for our family!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

GPS Reliant?

Yesterday something terrible happened.  I drove downtown with my boys to do an errand and successfully completed it in record time.  Then I packed the kids into the car to head home and when I started up the engine, my GPS (“Sat Nav” as they call it here) did not light up.  So I pushed the tiny button at the top of the screen and it did not turn on.  I pushed the button over and over and it would not start up.

Uh oh….I had completely relied on the GPS to get downtown and I had no idea how to get home.  I am often guilty of “GPS blindness” – I drive completely reliant on the GPS and don’t pay any real attention to where I am going.  This is what happened yesterday.

So, there I was in the parking lot without any idea of how to get home.  This was not good.  Then I remembered that there is a GPS in my mobile phone.  I turned that on and it sketched out a map of how to get home. 

I started driving and trying to follow the map from memory because I didn’t want to look at the mobile while I was driving.  I also gave my GPS to my older son in the back seat and asked him to keep pushing the “on” button to try to turn the GPS on.  At the first stop light, I glanced at my phone and I was already on the wrong road. 

I was getting worried about how we would get home.  My son was making me really tense by announcing every time he unsuccessfully pushed the button on the GPS.  The baby was “singing-crying” loudly and this only added to my annoyance and the tension in the car.

I turned left because I was hoping that it would get me on the right track (it didn’t) and my son announced loudly that the GPS had turned on!  Thank goodness!

I pulled over and programmed the GPS for home – I was so relieved!  I noticed that we were about 5 minutes further from home than when I started to drive.

This situation has caused me to realize that I have to start to pay attention to where I am going.  I need to look at some maps of Aberdeen and learn the lay of the land.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poundland


Yesterday I went to Poundland to do some of my errands.  This is a store where everything costs £1.  I thought that it would be a lot like the “dollar stores” in Canada and the US, but it was quite different.

All of the items in the store actually cost £1, unlike the last few dollar stores (no particular brand) that I visited in Canada.  I was there to buy some very specific items and they were all available.  The store carried normal products, such as toothpaste that was a national brand unlike the stores in Canada.  I bought brand-name toothpaste in Poundland whereas last time I bought toothpaste at the dollar store it was an off-brand brand and it tasted terrible!

The items that the store had were neatly put on the shelves and it was not over crowded.  Also, the prices were really good.  For instance, I needed baby wipes.  They had the Huggies ones that I always buy and they cost £1, which is about 30% cheaper than where I normally buy them.

I was very impressed.  I will be a return shopper, although not very often – it is halfway across town.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Surprise Play Date

I have fallen into a bit of a routine during the weekdays.  I generally do all of my supper preparation while my baby snacks in his highchair in the morning.  He is not really a “first thing in the morning” breakfast eater.  When he first wakes up, he usually just wants a few cheerios to play with, chew on and throw on the floor.  Then we take my older son to school and once we are home, the baby is ready for his snack.

This is usually a big snack, and he takes his time to eat it.  He starts with fresh sliced fruit – he favors peaches, nectarines, and grapes.  He usually moves on to have bread or crackers and cheese.  This snack generally takes a long time for him to eat, so I put the high chair in the middle of my kitchen while he munches away and I cut up vegetables and do any other supper preparation.

Then I generally clean up after myself and we move through the rest of our day.  I get the prepared food out of the fridge when I need to start cooking around 4:30 and the kitchen stays relatively clean until then.

Yesterday, I was making a roast and I had to start making supper earlier than I usually do.  Before we went to pick up my older son from school this afternoon I got all of the food out of the fridge that I needed to make supper, so that I could quickly get the roast into the oven when we got back from school.  Since I was going to have the oven on anyways I decided to do some baking as well, and I pulled out all of the ingredients I needed for baking before we left for the school pick up.

I rushed out of the house and as I was going downstairs the baby grabbed a bunch of his favorite things, including my hairbrush, a doorstop and a small toy.  I took these things out of the baby’s hands and put him into his snuggle suit and left the items lying at the bottom of the steps.  Then we left.

Imagine my surprise when my son dragged a friend and the friend’s mother over to me at the school and asked if the friend could come over to our house.  Right then.  The friend’s mother indicated that she was OK with the plan, and I didn’t have any real reason to say “no,” so I didn’t - I said “yes.”  In the back of my mind I was thinking “why today!?!” and I was thinking  about the mess at the bottom of my stairs and in my kitchen, as well as the other scattered disasters that likely lay around my house.  Oh well….

The kids had fun and the mother did not seem to blink an eye at my chaos, but I have been to her house and it is pristine.  She didn't have a speck of dust anywhere.  She must have been horrified at my mess.


I think in the future I will have to strongly discourage surprise play dates.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oprah's Wisdom


I don’t really like talk shows.  I have not ever really been in to Oprah or Rosie or anything like that, mostly because I don’t find them engaging.  I could probably count the number of times that I watched Oprah on one hand, but every time I watched I seemed to come away with a lesson, and here they are:

-      Your shampoo doesn’t matter.  Only your conditioner does. 

One of the episodes of Oprah that I watched had a hair expert who advised that cheap shampoo is fine as long as you use quality conditioner.  The theory was that you wash out the shampoo anyways.  Oprah advised everyone that she bought her shampoo at Target (“tar-jay” if you are Oprah).

-   In the airport, the bathroom stall nearest the door is the least-used stall.

This is because everyone assumes it is the most-used stall and goes for a different stall.

-     In the airport, if you hang your purse on the door of a bathroom stall someone could easily steal it.

Yes, this was an airport episode of Oprah.

-   If you don’t eat anything for at least 3 hours before you go to sleep, you could lose a bunch of weight.  You can still drink water or herbal tea.

This was on one of her big  “weight loss show off” shows.

-       There is no such thing as the 5-second rule.

For whatever reason I have remembered these rules and I thought most of them were valid.  I generally grab the first stall in an airport washroom and I try not to hang my purse on the door.  I love my nighttime snack too much to avoid eating for three hours before bed, but if I wanted to lose a bunch of weight, I would consider taking this advice.

I have learned that the shampoo advice is completely wrong. 

You may recall that a few months ago I posted that my shampoo seemed to be making my hair dirty, not clean.  This was frustrating.  After my post I had a comment back that it was likely the shampoo and conditioner that I was using.  I read up on the topic and I learned that I was probably using shampoo and conditioner with inappropriate chemicals for my hair type.

I decided to ignore Oprah’s expert and I bought some better shampoo (and conditioner).  After the shampoo, my hair is incredibly strong, it stays cleaner a lot longer and it is less frizzy.    I am actually spending less on shampoo and conditioner because I no longer have to wash my hair as often.

Now I am wondering if I can trust the rest of the Oprah advice?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No TV

We don’t have a TV set here in Aberdeen and we did not have one in Dubai either.  Before that, in Calgary, we had 2 TV sets and a satellite dish.    Before we moved, I wondered about going “cold turkey” without television, but I honestly have not really missed it.

With my older son in school, there is not much time for him to watch television.  Any, after the kids are in bed, I have been dealing with making our home comfortable and setting up healthy meals.  I have a library card and I have been reading a lot also.

I will be looking for a way to watch Coronation Street on the internet….hopefully it works!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sheraton Grand Hotel - Festival Square, Edinburgh


This past weekend we stayed for 3 nights at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh.  We often stay at Sheraton hotels because my husband has a lot of points in the SPG loyalty program and these points earn us free nights, discounts and other advantages.

Here is what I thought:

Location

The location was amazing - we had a view of the Edinburgh Castle from our window and we were a short walk from all of the tourist attractions.  The only negative that comes with that is, of course, the noise at night - drunk people were staggering around until all hours and making a lot of noise.

Advantages from Points

We got a "welcome gift" in our room upon arrival.  It consisted of a bottle of wine and some green stuffed olives.  I don't really love olives by themselves, but I appreciate the gesture.  And I always appreciate wine, but I am not currently drinking.  Once the gift was wine and chocolate (in Abu Dhabi).  I really liked that.

We had access to the club lounge.  This is a really important advantage to our family.  The breakfast in the lounge helps us through one of the more difficult meals when travelling.  The lounge also offers a place to sit for a drink or a cup of tea during the other parts of the day.  Unfortunately I am teetotal due to the fact that I am still breast-feeding, otherwise I might have taken advantage of the lounge bar.

We also got free wireless - unfortunately the connection was not great, but it is better to get it for free than pay for a poor connection!  We got free valet parking as well - I always appreciate someone else taking care of our vehicle.

On our last day in Edinburgh we had a late check out, which allowed us to visit the museum without carrying around our junk.

Construction

The hotel is being renovated and there was a maze of hallways and elevators that we had to use to get to our room.  Hotel guests had to enter through the spa to access the hotel, and hotel access was across a bridge (kind of like a +15) that joined the hotel and spa.  This was awkward (at best) but not unlivable.  The hotel staff members were friendly and upbeat about the difficulties, although I found the spa staff to be coldly courteous to the intrusion.

Washroom Design - Terrible for a Family

One of the other advantages we have in SPG hotels because of my husband's point status is a room upgrade.  We had a king room on the top floor with an incredible view of the castle.  Unfortunately the bathroom design was terrible for a family.

The bathroom was a rectangular corner of the hotel room that was separated from the rest of the room with glass walls.  The glass walls were partially frosted but clear near the floor and ceiling.  This meant that there was little privacy in the bathroom.  I generally shower after the children go to bed and there was no real sound barrier in this room due to the glass walls.  The light in the bathroom shone through to where the kids were asleep.

Adjoining the rectangular bathroom was a small "toilet room" - so small that I barely had room for my legs when seated on the toilet.  This room had a two-position door that it shared with the bathroom as a whole.  So, you had a choice, you could use the glass door to close off the toilet cubicle or to close off the bathroom.  This was terrible for light and sound after the children were in bed.

Closet Space

Our room was beautiful and seemed large and uncluttered with a lot of built in storage.  There were large wardrobes and the drawer space was more than adequate for our 4-person family, even with the extra baby bed.

Lighting Scheme

The room had the funniest lighting.  There were 2 different "schemes" and you could press the button for either and a different series of lights would come on, either for an ultra-bright or a more subdued room.  There were coloured lights over the bathtub that you could change to almost any colour of the rainbow - our son preferred the red lights - they were kind of creepy.  I liked purple or blue like the night sky.

Underneath the wall-mounted bedside tables there were coloured lights that acted as sort of night-lights and were perfect for us because our son always wants some sort of night-light.

The lighting scheme was interesting and sort of fun, but it was frustrating.  It was too complicated to learn for a short stay and seemed unnecessary.  It was so complicated, the porter had to come in and explain it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

National Scottish Museum


We had a great day today.  We woke up to our last morning in Edinburgh with no real plan.  We wanted to stay around Edinburgh instead of rushing off right away.  Two different people had recommended the National Museum of Scotland, so, although we don’t usually drag the kids to museums, we decided to give it a try.

We had a lovely walk over to the National Museum and once we got inside we were pleasantly surprised.  Admission was free and it was perfect for kids!  There were a lot of different galleries, and we knew we could not see them all, so we decided to focus on a few. 

We spent a long time in Science and Technology gallery, where there were impressive animal displays and an exhibit about how we view and map outer space.  Our son was really interested in the animals.

We moved on to the “Living Lands” gallery where there were showcases about contemporary life in certain cultures.  A huge part of the gallery was dedicated to life in northern Canada.  Next we went to the Egyptian gallery, because our older son loves Egypt after the WAFI show in Dubai.  The Egyptian gallery was my favorite.  The focus of most of the displays was the unique burials of the Egyptians – mummies, fancy tombs etc.  There were elaborate dioramas and beautiful displays.

After that we left the museum – we were getting hungry and weary, and there was no reason to push it.  We walked to a nearby café called “Mum’s” which specialized in comfort food for a lovely lunch.

Then we checked out of our hotel and drove back to Aberdeen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Relaxation and Pampering in Edinburgh


Today we had a relaxing day around Edinburgh.  We did some touristy things, but we also spoiled ourselves a little.

We went to the Royal Mile and toured Gladstone’s Land, a National Trust of Scotland Property.  This property is a 17th century tenement house and it contains exhibits that convey the daily life of the citizens of Edinburgh in the 17th century.  I found the display showing how babies slept (sometimes bound in bundles hanging from the wall because of mice!) and played (in walkers much like modern day ones) to be especially interesting.  This property had a worksheet that my son could fill out as we walked around – a real bonus as it kept him engaged as we toured.

We tried to tour a second National Trust property but it had moved and it was too far for us to pursue.

We spent a large part of our day wandering both New Town and Old Town.  Now for the spoiling – both my husband and I (separately, of course) took time out to get haircuts today.  My husband definitely needed a haircut and he has been hesitant after some terrible cuts in Dubai.  I had not had mine cut in nearly a year, but it still felt like I was being pampered – I had time away from the kids while sitting around in a salon.

We turned to an old UK favorite for dinner – fish and chips on a bench in Grassmarket.  We followed our supper with a walk around the castle to see the lights.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Touring Around Edinburgh




Today we spent the day in Edinburgh, and most of our time was spent touring Edinburgh Castle.  I have decided to divide this post into headings, for my convenience mostly, but hopefully it organizes my thoughts for my readers also:

Edinburgh Castle

After breakfast we headed to Edinburgh Castle, about a 10-minute walk from our hotel.  You can see Edinburgh Castle from almost everywhere in the city because it is on a raised mound (134 meters about sea level).  Obviously this spot was chosen because of the security provided by the mound.  It was a bit of a hike up the mound to get to the castle, but the views were breathtaking. 

Outside the castle is a concourse that is currently under construction, but which would normally have afforded dramatic views of the entrance.   We went in through the main gates and paid the steep admission price - £14 per adult.  Surprisingly, I ended up thinking that the admission was worth every penny.

Once we were into the castle, we discovered that it was like a small village with many buildings within the fortification (more like Mont Le Saint Michel than Buckingham Palace).  We waited near some cannons for a guided tour (free with castle admission).  The tour was ½ hour and took us around the outside of the castle, and the tour guide gave descriptions of the various buildings but left it for us to tour the buildings on our own.  This style of tour was great for our group – we had the stroller, so touring the insides of the buildings was a bit awkward and would have been difficult in a group.  Also the ½ hour length of the tour was excellent, both of our children held it together for the entirety of the tour.  The tour guide was a dynamic young woman who seemed perfect for her job.

After the tour, we backtracked and went into most of the buildings.  The war memorial was impressive, with beautiful stained glass windows.  I particularly liked the little church, the oldest building in Edinburgh.  We also viewed: the graveyard for the dogs of soldiers; the Crown jewels; the toilet where the Crown jewels were hidden during WWII; a Scottish military museum; and cannon displays.  We skipped out on today’s show because we thought it was too violent for our 4-year old.  It was called “Crime and Punishment in Medieval Scotland” and the live-action displays (including a noose with an adult-sized doll inside) seemed a little bit too realistic.

We ate lunch at the castle at the Redcoat Café and I had a lovely beef pie with a view of Edinburgh and the Kingdom of Fife.

We watched the 1 o’clock gun, a noise-only cannon that fires at exactly 1 o’clock each day so that boats can set their clocks correctly to local time.

This castle was very different from the others we have visited so far.  It was a whole community and it took hours to visit. 

Magic Show

After the castle, we walked around High Street and after a few minutes we came upon a magician (who said he was Canadian) doing a busker-style street performance.  Now, I hate magic and magic shows, but unfortunately this has not rubbed off on my 4-year old.  He was very interested in the show and wanted to watch.  So we stood in a crowd for what seemed like forever (about 45 minutes) while the magician dragged out one trick (illusion?*) after another for maximum effect.  I could not actually see the show because I was too short, so it was even more irritating.  But our 4-year old loved it and laughed at all of the jokes, even the adult/racist themed ones that he could not possibly understand.  The show dragged on and on while our baby became more and more impatient.  He had been a gem during the castle visit – but he got tired of standing still in the stroller during the magic show.  It could not end soon enough for me.

Walking Around the Royal Mile

After the castle we walked around the Grassmarket and High Street area.  These are parts of the Old Town and the Royal Mile.  Today, with a lack of tourism and iffy weather (we had good weather at the castle, then it turned a bit but got better in the evening), it seemed a bit seedy.  There were street musicians and buskers without audiences along with some panhandlers. 

We had one of those terribly awkward and inappropriate conversations with our 4-year old who asked why the man sitting on the street kept his pennies in his teacup.  He also asked why so many people were sitting under their covers (blankets) on the street.  I tried to keep it simple and explained that they did not have the resources to be somewhere else, but it lead to more tough questions….

We plan to return to Old Town tomorrow and I think that on the weekend it will be more pleasant, with more tourist trade.  Just wait – tomorrow I will complain it was too crowded!

Edinburgh Buildings

The look of the buildings in Edinburgh is a lot different than that of the buildings in Aberdeen.  The big difference is colour – in Edinburgh there are colours while in Aberdeen there is only grey.  We have seen buildings that were made of brown, yellow, grey, black, white and even pink stone in Edinburgh.  In Aberdeen, there are a few shades of grey and the occasional pink-grey, but grey dominates.

I think that it makes Edinburgh look less gothic than Aberdeen.  Aberdeen has a spooky, gothic look with all of the granite buildings that have intricate stonework.

I have to say that the colours were sort of shocking after getting used to the look of Aberdeen.

Walking Around New Town

After a quick rest and clean up at our hotel we headed out for dinner in New Town.  New Town is still very old (it was built between 1765 and 1850) and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is a series of wide streets with various monuments and shops – both chain shops and cute little unique shops.  It is a great place to eat and (window) shop. 

There were no buskers in new town tonight, but there were panhandlers and lots of Friday night revelers.


*Arrested Development reference