After a chilly night (still not quite got that thermostat right…), we wake to see…. Oh, it’s not that bad actually. I expected snow up to our knees, and Eskimos building igloos in the square, but the sun is shining, and it looks like we’ll be able to continue exploring the city today.
Worrying slightly about running out of clothes – I’ve already worn every jumper I’ve brought with me, and we’ve been in Edinburgh less than 24 hours – I pull on my winter woollies once more. Sorry stiletto boots, sorry ballet pumps… your time will come, I promise you!
We start as we finished last night… Royal Mile. We could have opted for breakfast at the hotel, but decided to sample some of the local cooking. Although we both wimp out totally and order the Full English – Not a haggis or neep in sight! With full tummies, we climb the Royal Mile by daylight, poking our heads into little gift shops selling tartan everything.
As we approach the Castle, the crowds increase. “Free entry!” someone trills. “Free entry to the Castle!” We edge a little closer to the speaker… indeed, to celebrate St Andrew’s Day, there’s free entry into the Castle! Well, a freebie’s a freebie isn’t it! Unfortunately, everyone else appears to appreciate the offer as much as we do. We are all herded in, but with people queuing for the best photo spots, and jostling up and down steps, and people listening to their audio guides oblivious to the world around them; we know we won’t be able to get the best out of this attraction today. So barely 15 minutes after being swept up in the “Free! Free!” crowd, we headed back to the slightly more civilised outside world.
Whilst in the vicinity, we decide to check out the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, right next to the Castle. Now this is worth every penny of the admission charge! With five minutes after entry until our Camera Obscura presentation, we make our way up and up and up to the top of the building (no lifts folks, it’s stairs all the way…) for our 15-minute show. The presentation is entertaining and highly informative, and I could have happily sat there and watched all day (not only because it was toasty warm in there…). A few piccies from the rooftop terrace, and then we make our way down through the maze of corridors which house the World of Illusion exhibits. Loads of interactive stuff, great fun for little kids – and big kids like us! Who doesn’t want to experience an Alice in Wonderland style growth spurt? Who doesn’t want to take photographs of their shadow? Who doesn’t want to stare at Magic Eye pictures for hours on end (well, me actually, I just DON’T get them…). Oh, and Mr Fletche would be happy if he never saw the inside of a Vortex Tunnel ever again thank you very much.. But a fantastic couple of hours spent – highly recommended!
Mr Fletche is having a few footwear problems – namely his sturdy faithful boots that did not leak a jot in snowy Prague are now letting in the Scottish slush. So, we decide to head over to the New Town for a spot of (necessary) retail therapy. (Who ever heard of a husband taking his wife on a romantic break, then HIM dragging HER around the shops while SHE complains?). My complaining is diminished slightly with the promise of a hot chocolate and a mince pie on the way…
So one (successful) shopping trip later, Mr Fletche now has dry feet again, we’ve sussed out our options for our anniversary meal tomorrow night and we’re enjoying a Saturday afternoon pint in The Abbotsford. We discuss our plans for tomorrow – depending on the weather of course, but I suggest that we take a drive out to Firth of Forth, to Portobello Beach and up to Arthur’s Seat. It’ll be a wonderfully romantic way to spend our wedding anniversary…
Back to the hotel to thaw out a little, before heading off back out to the Christmas Market to freeze right back up again. We wander among the stalls, and the fairground rides, and the tottering ice-skaters, before settling on a pork & apple bap, and a nice cold pint of German beer. It’s not too long though before we start losing all feeling in our extremities, so after a discussion on the Dalai Lama (you really have to be there to appreciate Fletche conversations), it’s back to the Royal Mile, and back to the Albernach (although not before picking up chocolate covered fruit on a stick – a staple ingredient of any good Christmas Market).
The pub though is not much warmer, despite sitting in the furthest possible corner from the draught of the front door, and I shiver my way through a Jack Daniels & Coke. So it’s back to the hotel, for a quick drink in the hotel bar, before retiring to bed – finally there’s some heat being pumped out of the system!
Bad weather stops play…
Our wedding anniversary! We exchange cards, realise we’ve bought each other the same gig tickets for next year, and then look out the window… who tippexed out Edinburgh? It was definitely here when we went to bed, now there’s just a big white space where the city should be… A quick reccee outside and our worse fears are confirmed… there’s a whole bunch of cars not going anywhere, particularly not the hill towards our hotel from the car park.
Being hardy – and hungry – souls, we decide not to make any plans until we have some breakfast inside us. We decide to call in on the car park on the way and load up that big bag of shoes that really really didn’t need to make the trip up North, what with my furry boots now being surgically attached to my feet. With a nasty slope up from the car park barrier to the exit, we realise quickly that if the snow continues like this, the Mini Fletchemobile ain’t going nowhere….
With heavy hearts – over another Full English at the Royal Mile – we decide there’s only one thing we can sensibly do. Abandon ship. Get going while the going’s good. In fact, get while we can still get going. A quick stop at Tesco on the way back to the hotel for supplies – water and ginger biscuits – and we’re prepared for anything. We throw our remaining clothes in the suitcase, making sure we keep them to hand in case of emergency (like we need to burn them for fuel. Or eat them) and tootle off to check out.
Luckily, it’s a lot easier wheeling my suitcase downhill than up – even dragging huge piles of snow under the wheels – especially as I’m now unencumbered by the pointless bag of shoes. We load up the Mini Fletchemobile, and attempt to execute part one of today’s challenge… getting the car out of the car park, and onto the main road. A sharp left turn on a steep hill almost proves our undoing but the Mini Fletchemobile uses every last bit of its power and frees us from our snowy shackles.
It’s gutting to leave Edinburgh behind, particularly as it looks so magical in the snow but we know we would have spent all day worrying about getting home… and after all, there probably wouldn’t have been much to do, except drink… (“Hold on, turn back! We can still drink!”) Once we hit the motorway, the roads are clear and we start to doubt our decision, but then a two-hour delay on the M6 sets up straight again – if it takes us 7 hours to get home to Birmingham on a Sunday afternoon, what would the traffic be like on a Monday morning?
Despite the weather (“Aah, wouldn’t it be nice if it snowed while we were there?” “Err, NO…”), we both loved Edinburgh and it’s hospitality. This is a beautiful city, and would definitely like to return when we can head for a few more of those local areas that we missed out on.
And I’ll leave you with a thought. November 28th 2008 – 4pm. A country house hotel in Warwickshire. Mrs Fletche glides down the aisle to say her vows to her true love. November 28th 2010 – 4pm. A lay-by on the M6. Mrs Fletche cleans the Mini Fletchemobile’s windscreen while Mr Fletche screams “I still can’t see anything….” Romance eh? Next year I’m heading for the sun!