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Trip Report Trip (solo) report: one short week in Edinburgh, also Hadrian's Wall and St. Andrews

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I have been imagining writing a trip report since I hit the submit button to purchase my tickets! Silly? Perhaps, but I do hope to share some of the lessons learned along the way. If anyone can learn from my experiences (euphemism for mistakes .. too harsh? how's newbie mistakes), that is all for good!

Setting the scene of myself as a traveler/tourist: one previous trip to Europe--with a high school tour; one previous solo trip--Nova Scotia for a week; female; mid-40s). That is all to help put what I did in perspective. If you get any "What was she thinking!" thoughts :-)

Now, I know I see people do simple tags for bolding and italics in their posts. Can we do embedded hrefs? A quick test: The bag I took on this trip was the <a href="http://www.eaglecreek.com/bags_luggage/carry-on_companions/Sport-Companion-20190/">Eagle Creek Sport Companion</a>. Okay, nice link or messy text garbage?? My answer is a click away...

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    Well, answer received, for sure!

    On with the trip report, keeping in mind to include URLs in a more attractive fashion.

    The first posts will be about trip preparations, then some posts describing each day. As noted in the title, it was one short week in Edinburgh and some surrounding areas. I want to go back!

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    Tickets

    Trying to find air fare to Edinburgh, flying out of Boston, was almost as bad as trying to drive east to west in New England: "You can't there from here."

    Suggestions from Fodorites included Iceland Air BOS to GLA (and then the required travel to Edinburgh), but the days available did not match my itinerary (which was very fixed to meet the school vacation holiday).

    BOS to CDG to EDI did not offer very good connection scenarios, nor BOS to AMS to EDI, and suggestions to try connecting in UK airports (other than LHR) did not work for my travel time, either.

    I did not want to fly Continental: to fly south to Newark in April before going over the Atlantic seemed to risk facing a spring snowstorm threat. That threat never materialized, of course, but I did not want the worry all winter long.

    So I went where everyone said not to go, walked right into the wolf's den: Heathrow! I even faced Terminal 5, within weeks of its disastrous opening.

    I flew with British Airways, premium economy no less. I had wanted to have traveling companions, but all the "Sure, that sounds fun" comments quickly turned to "Sorry, can't go" when I asked for firm commitment. I meant to go much more than anyone else! So I thought it would be a treat to try the premium economy, even if it meant have a few hundred less to spend at the destination. You can only spend it once, either getting there, or once there.

    My thoughts. now? Well, for the trip over and back the premium economy section was full, so a lot of people are selecting it, but I was not impressed. I mean it was a lovely experience, but did I receive anything more for spending more, and I just could not tell. I will take the next trip in regular economy and then have something to compare.

    I found the seats in premium economy to have nice legroom, but squishy for space. The flights between LHR and EDI had much more comfort for seat size, and very nice for legroom, too.

    The British Airways flight crews, coming and going, were terrific! Friendly and helpful, and I do not think they gave any less to anyone in any section of the plane.


    Insurance

    Within a few days of purchasing tickets, I purchased insurance, so any pre-existing conditions would be covered (you have a certain time period to do this, 2 weeks I think). I used AIG Travel Guard, http://www.travelguard.com/. I liked the ability use the pick and choose option for items I wanted covered versus those I did not need/want, for example, I chose to put the health coverage as primary coverage. Yes, my health insurance here covers me, but I would have to pay upfront and then be reimbursed once home, not anything I liked the sound of.

    How the company would be for putting in claims, I do not know. It is nice to not know, eh?

    I can at least write that I have not read any negative reports about Travel Guard, but have seen recommendations from reputable travel information sources, such as the NBC travel guy.

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    I'm looking forward to more!

    I'm leaving on my own solo travel trip in nine days and the panic attacks have started. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I've flown with BA four times and always enjoyed it. I've done economy and premium economy and premium is more roomy. I'm flying it again this time around, on BA. I will also be going through Terminal 5...

    I hope you enjoyed Edinburgh, it is one of my favorites :)

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    So glad that this trip report will have some readers!


    Packing

    Mentioned above, my carry-on bag was the Eagle Creek Sport Companion. I found rolling clothes tightly and individually worked best. I packed two outfits, pjs, a few extra pairs each of undies and socks, toiletries, shoes, assorted this and thats. I worried about weather and whether I would be warm enough, so I tried one silk undershirt. I also took along a silk sleep blanket. Well, the pack was 17-18 pounds going over and 23 coming back (paper flyers for a scrapbook, a book to read in the airport .. paper adds weight!).

    I want to throw all the little items that I never used or would not take on the next trip and see how much they weigh, because I definitely over packed, by a couple of pounds anyway.

    My day bag was a Heatwave Messenger bag, mini size, from LL Bean. It carried a zip lock of OTC meds (Tylenol, Tums, pink pills, a few band aids), guide book, pens, journal. I stuck to souvenirs that could be carried in it once purchased, so that limited me to postcards and small items (which helped keep the souvenir total cost down, too).


    Shoes

    I mainly wore New Balance 811 Walkers (black). In the carry-on were the New Balance Gore-tex day hikers (light blue). A bit of story:

    I went to a local shoe store for first time. For customer service and the fun of trying on shoes and more shoes, until you find the right style to carry out the door, I loved shopping at Lamey Wellehan, http://www.lwshoes.com/lameywell/

    I went in and purchased some shoes in February to have them ready for the April trip, but within two weeks a seam on the pair I thought that I would wear had burst. Lamey Wellehan sent them to a cobbler, but he could not really fix them for the reason that the seam had burst: the pieces were cut too short to keep a seam together. The day I brought mine in someone had brought in a pair of the same style for the same reason. So, another round of trying on lots of shoes found me the 811 Walkers and they were really better for walking than what I had originally planned. I picked them up on the Tuesday before leaving on Saturday. Talk about comfortable from the get go. I never had a problem with my feet on the trip.

    Lamey Wellehan carries a lot of the names I see on the boards for shoe recommendations: Keen, Ecco, Dansko, Clarks, etc. Do give your custom to a local store, especially when they offer great service: it's good for your local economy and your feet will be happy!

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    Lodging

    I scoured the 'Net and guidebooks for a place to stay. I had not really decided when out of the blue I received a message from the Dene Guest House, http://www.deneguesthouse.com/ When I first wrote last fall they were not ready for April bookings. Revisiting their web site and reviews on the web had me reserving a standard single room for this April week at £27.50 per night, for 6 nights (includes a great breakfast).

    My room was simple and small, but definitely comfortable and the Dene has terrific access to the bus routes (I walked UP Dundas St. the first day; bussed up it all the days after that!).

    Any second thoughts at all, you ask? One review mentioned not liking the shower, so I had a preconceived thought that I may not like the shower; I didn't. But, a big But, I did as the reviewer had done: I never asked if I was working the contraption correctly. Also, having a standard room, I never asked about using the second bathroom to compare showers. Ask those questions politely if you have any troubles. I was always in too much of a hurry to bother :-)



    Great British Heritage Pass

    Tickets, lodging, packing and re-packing my bag, getting shoes, the other preparation was a recommendation from janisj, I think .. I ordered a 4-day Great British Heritage Pass (covers almost 600 sites) and had it shipped to me at home, http://www.britishheritagepass.com/

    Yes, shipping it ahead of time was definitely a good idea. This gave me time to study the book describing the included museums. With shipping, the 4-day pass cost was £35.50. The individual cost for all the places you could visit, even just staying in Edinburgh, totals £38.20. Visit some sites outside of Edinburgh and it's all savings .. or rather you can spend the "savings" on other trip items, extending your budget. I visited 8 GBHP sites altogether, so £35.50 got me into museums that would have cost £55.40. With some different trip decisions I could have fit in three more, but 8 was a good tally.

    You could try other passes:
    There's the Edinburgh Pass, http://www.edinburgh.org/pass/

    Visit 300 places by joining the National Trust for Scotland, http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/

    Visit over 300 places by joining Historic Scotland, http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/member.htm,
    or purchase an Explorer Pass, http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/explorer.htm

    So many options. The Historic Scotland Explorer Pass might have saved me a few pounds, but I am having trouble seeing a list to actually compare with everything available with the GBHP. Well, anyone reading this will have more ideas of what to study before purchasing what fits your travel plans best.

    Cheers.

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    janisj, thank you for so many great posts that helped me in preparation for my trip!

    Nikki, I hope you do find useful information in what I relate here. Ask if I leave anything out.

    mebe .. I survived Terminal 5 with few troubles. I hope you do too. I think that having only the one carry-on probably helped, but I didn't overhear any outraged passengers anywhere in the Terminal.

    noe847 .. glad to share. Now, if I can just finagle my budget for another trip .. time to start saving!

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    Hi SandyBrit, all my meals were fine. I assume (yes, that can be dangerous) the PE econ. get the same as reg. econ. Would they be different, I don't know.

    I do know that while I was PE on the international leg, I was reg. econ. on the domestic flight 'tween EDI and LHR; the food was very fine on those.


    LCBonti, yep, reading trip reports for details was a great resource, I found, in planning and waiting for my trip. I'm glad to share.

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    Day 1 – From Home to almost Heathrow

    My flight departure time was 18:05 on Saturday, so you could say Day 1 started at
    18:06 on Friday evening. That’s when I logged in to Manage My Booking and selected seats (on British Airways you have to wait until 24 hours before flight time, only a few exceptions to that rule).

    I wanted aisle seats with the aisle on my right. My right ear went kaput a few years ago and it’s a hassle to have people try to talk to me from that side. I picked my seats no problem and then had a bit of trouble printing the boarding passes. The first leg printed fine, but going in for the second leg the buttons clicked and the screen came up with nothing showing. I eventually logged out and went in later; everything worked fine that time and I had both my boarding passes in hand.

    Family drove me to the bus station on Saturday morning and saw me off from there. Concord Trailways in Portland, ME, offers a 2-hour express coach ride to Logan. I live about an hour away from Portland, so in trying to pick which trip to take I wanted to arrive several hours before the flight, but I also wanted to allow for emergencies, should something happen to the coach. Yes, more worrying (you’ll notice that I also purchased insurance) so to take an earlier bus that dropped me off a couple of hours before the necessary time was a cheap form of insurance. Time sitting at the airport I could afford, missing my flight I did Not want! I really preferred browsing the bookstore in Terminal E waiting for the afternoon to drone on than to have stayed at home longer and worry about making the flight.

    I also had not considered that the bus would be full. Saturday was the first day of school vacation. Plenty other people were headed to take trips. Necessary to leave early, maybe not, but I was glad I did and arrived in time to get a ticket for my chosen trip.

    Okay, walk out to the coach, a few butterflies starting to swirl inside. Everyone could pick up a water bottle and pretzels to take on board and enjoy. Several small sips of ice cold water and bites of dry pretzel later it occurred to me: this is a good combination for settling the queasy tummy. I appreciate and applaud the bus company’s policy!

    I talked a bit with my seatmate and watched the scenery zoom by. I didn’t want to try headphones, so only watched the movie option (Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee) without sound (sorry, no urge to put it on my Netflix queue). Over time I began to hear a word or two from the gentlemen behind me. A name here, a phrase there, and I began to wonder. Arriving at Logan, I turned in my seat and there was one of my co-workers! Two hours before noticing, you may wonder. Well, he’s new this year and works at the other building, so although I know his name, I’ve only seen him a couple of times. He was headed to the Midwest to see family and we said a bon voyage when he got off at a different terminal.

    A definite trip moment: when the driver pulled out all the luggage I picked up my case and moved into the terminal. Many of the remaining passengers were going on a school tour to Rome; they had to wait for everyone’s bag and go together. I was solo and it hit me how different and, yes, nice it was to move off and not wait.

    Arriving around noon, Terminal E is very quiet. Wow. But that helped because the TSA crew was not stressed when I totally screwed up at security!!

    Here’s a copy of the compliment that I sent through the TSA web site:

    Hello,

    My great thanks to the crew on duty at Terminal E in Boston on Saturday, April 19. I arrived around noon and thought I did so well to take off my shoes, put my camera and phone in the bin and go through without setting off the metal detector, but I was called aside. Well, yes, you get called aside when forgetting about the little lock on the carry-on bag and after dutifully putting together my 3-1-1 bag forgetting to take it out of the carry-on!

    Several times my bag had to be checked, and it was finally figured out that the soap bar I was taking to avoid a liquid shampoo was showing up as a bit of a suspicious item.

    Time after time the crew on staff could have considered me a very doubtful traveler and not the frazzled first-time-traveling-alone person I was. Thank you for the good humor as my mistakes were put right.

    I’m happy to say that I did not mess up at any further security screenings for the entire trip and the time your crew took with my case was what made that possible.

    Kind regards.


    To be con’t...

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    Hey, in the preparations I did not mention my security options. Last year I used the around the neck pocket. To avoid the hanging on your neck feeling, I liked wearing it with the strap cross body style and the pocket tucked in my pants.

    For this trip I wanted to try something new. I first bought a traditional around the waist style; didn’t like it. I hit the road with something else. In the Magellan’s catalog it’s called the Deluxe Secret Waist Wallet, http://tinyurl.com/2bmma5. It’s probably available elsewhere, too. In its description the tabs on the wallet are intended to go around your belt and it stays tucked out of sight in your clothes. However, if you take off your belt for security, you could ask what will hold the wallet in place. Bingo, nothing. As in one review I saw on the web, except for the kindness of a stranger, one person almost lost all his money before getting to the gate because of this. It’s sold with a safety pin for use under clothes with no belt. I took another pin and pinned the wallet with the zipper horizontal, near to my pants waist, and it worked great!

    So, I made it to my gate and settled down for the afternoon. Well, there’s only so long you can re-read the travel guide, but checking out a bookstore, now that can take a whole afternoon! Browsing around, of course I ended up in the travel section and even though I did not mean to buy a book (paper adds heft), I bought Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks, http://www.amazon.com/Round-Ireland-Fridge-Tony-Hawks/dp/0312274920. I found myself just laughing as I started in on the first chapter, so the book was purchased and I enjoyed Tony’s trip for all the hours I waited for the planes while taking mine.

    Here’s a tibit:
    Then I saw the fridge for the first time. Shane had done well. Exactly what I had been looking for, a white cube about two feet square. I patted it affectionately and Shane looked away allowing us a moment of intimacy.


    If that strikes any funny bone with you, do look for a copy for your next trip. A book about traveling fits excellently when taking your own trip. Tony wrote a lot of good things about traveling and interacting with the people you meet.

    Well, back to my trip. The boarding time eventually arrived and boarding started for economy from the back of the plane. Premium economy boards after regular economy, fyi.

    It seemed to take a long time to walk down the jetway to the plane .. walk, steps down, walk, walk some more. TSA had what looked like trainees to learn spot checks for bags. I saw several young men get picked. The in-charge fellow looked at my stuffed carry-on and picked on the teen girl with an easier, smaller bag to rifle, instead.

    I have already mentioned not liking the BA premium economy seat width, but if it’s actually wider than the regular economy, guess it was good to try.

    Supper was a choice of lasagna and whatever I didn’t choose, lol. A little salad had some pieces of lettuce, a cherry tomato and 2 balls of a soft cheese. I had to laugh when I noticed that my seatmate to my left, a well-dressed businessman by appearance, had eaten only his greens; I ate only the tomato and cheese balls. When we were kids, my siblings and I would trade plates. I didn’t suggest that idea that to him :-)

    The seat entertainment had a lot of movies to choose. I enjoyed an episode of the new Dr. Who, a bit of the Full Monty and then used a 2-part episode of House to snooze. (Just like home, put on the TV and go to sleep on the couch.)

    I very much liked the ability to start and stop the shows. At home, I am a channel surfer. When the family squawked loud enough for me to notice that no one else appreciated my bopping from channel to channel, I learned to channel surf when alone and carefully put down the remote when someone else walks into the room.

    It’ll be Sunday morning when I awake ...

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    Day 2, morning – Heathrow to Edinburgh

    Sunday morning brought a breakfast of a muffin, strawberry yogurt, and juice. The juice was the tastiest item, for me. Overall, I received/was offered six meals by BA. When the comparison for my U.S. domestic flying experiences is just pretzel nuggets, even a simple meal could be ranked a lot higher. And the only trouble with this muffin was that store-bought bagged muffins always look better than they taste; a flying muffin has no removal on that problem just because it has the altitude status.

    We arrived at Terminal 4 about 05:00 on a Sunday. The jetway had plywood for flooring; that surprised me. Several ladies and I used the bathroom just inside the terminal. Not a good idea, not particularly clean. I saw signs for more at the end of the first hallway, perhaps better to wait a few feet and then visit the loo.

    Signs on the wall made me think that we would be doing a security check, so I stopped to locate the 3-1-1 bag. The little laundry soap had leaked. Ick. I just noted the mess and planned to do a clean up when I settled in at the guest house.

    We walked and walked, eventually came to an outside door. No security checkpoint, here. We would do that after bussing to Terminal 5.

    A bus announcement said it would be about 18 minutes to Terminal 5. I think we did it a bit faster, but there certainly wasn’t much traffic on an early Sunday morning. A sign to use “dipped headlights” made me smile. Would that be what we call putting headlights on low beam?

    We exited the bus and kept walking in a line. Staff stood at every expected turn. You would have to try hard and take a wrong one.

    I spoke with passport control, immigration, biometric security, I don’t think there was anyone at the airport for a customs check, and passed regular security with a pat-down search. Something set off the metal detector, but I have no idea what. I hadn’t added any metal after going through the one in Boston. A quick pat and I collected all my gear to move on into "the" Terminal 5.

    One thing that I noticed while passing security: I walked on a floor tile that moved. You walk on a floor not expecting any up/down, so when you feel something odd, you have to try it again. Yep, a tile wasn’t set completely level and to step on a corner you noticed it move in its spot, with a bit of a clunking sound. A bit of tile cement needed there.

    When I arrived at Boston, I looked up at the departures board, found my gate, and went there after passing security. At the UK airports, British Airways does not post the gate until about one hour (or a bit less) before the flight. Standing in a humongous airport, with posted signs of how long it could take to reach some of the gates, and you don’t know which one to head for! I stayed at a central location, as possible, and sat and waited .. and read more about Tony traveling with his fridge (by now, I think, the fridge had a name :-)

    The gate was finally posted about 50 minutes before the flight time. I walked there in a few minutes; fortunately it wasn’t one of the really far away gates. Boarding began within a minute or two of people gathering. We had two checks at the gate. Passengers gave each other the “What’s this?” kind of glances, but we just stayed in line, waiting to get the checks done and move on to the plane, which sat .. and sat...

    As the captain noted: here we are, at a very expensive, brand new airport, and the jetway would not budge. It had separation anxiety, or something. It took about an hour and a half before mechanics got it far away enough from the plane for us to actually leave and taxi out. The crew handed out drinks, and I just snoozed through much of the delay.

    Once we were finally in the air, they brought out breakfast. Hot food! I couldn’t believe it. As noted before, I’m used to a small packet of pretzels on a flight. It was only a bit over an hour up to Edinburgh. I thought maybe one more drink and the small food item, but we had scrambled egg, bacon, and sausage. Hot! Okay, the egg was not the most interesting What’s a good word? "Cafeteria," "mildly institutional." But it was hot and totally unexpected, which made it more than fine.

    So, more than an hour after I expected to arrive at my destination, I was. I was off the plane, in Scotland, standing in a location I had dreamt about for a year! Saw the “Welcome to Scotland” sign that cost so much. It was fun knowing some backstory (someone had posted a news link on Fodor’s last year).

    With bag in hand, I went forward to find an exit ...

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    scotlib

    "It will be Sunday morning when I awake" - you actually did sleep on the flight over, well done.

    Full marks for that hot breakfast, what a nice start to your day.

    Looking forward to more.

    Sandy

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    I am enjoying your report. Keep it coming, please. I am glad you found the fridge in Ireland book; I thought it was a real hoot and every once in a while, take it out and dive into a section or two.

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    We are going to Edinburgh in a few months, I'm enjoying your report so far, Scotlib. Thanks for posting it.

    It's very charming that you sent a thank you note to TSA on their website. Bet they don't get too many of those!!

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    SandyBrit, yes, I slept some. It occurs to me that an hour show is actually about 40 minutes without the commercials, but I slept through at least time for the 2-parter, so I had some shut eye for a while, along with more short times asleep on the domestic flight, enough to at least keep me going until Sunday night.

    irishface, I loved Tony Hawks' writing style. When I've time I hope to track down some more of his books.

    sandy_b, LAwoman and cw, thanks for reading. I'm glad to share!

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    Day 2, – Dene Guest House to Calton Hill

    Looking at my notes for Sunday afternoon, I really haven’t much written, but a couple of trip details could be found useful for other Edinburgh visitors.

    The Edinburgh airport web site, http://www.edinburghairport.com/, has several public transportation options for getting to and from the airport: taxi, buses, and shuttle. Figuring that I would be plenty tired, and not wanting to figure out the buses, I picked the Edinburgh Shuttle, http://www.edinburghshuttle.com/, for the door to door delivery. Price-wise, for a single person, the Shuttle is a decent option. It’s about half of a taxi fare cost (according to what I have read online for costs). I had booked the trip online for £8.00. When I arrived the stickers on the shuttle said £9.00 and the web site does too, now. I squeaked in the old rate, evidently.

    The flight arrived late, so I missed the reservation time I had set. I wondered what would happen with the late arrival. The Shuttle’s web site isn’t too encouraging: “we will do our best to accommodate you on the next available departure.” Fortunately, all I had to do was wait about 10 minutes and myself and a party of three (also from the late flight) were driven to town.

    This reminds me of another sign of the rising fuel costs: when my school took the Logan express coach last each the cost was $40.00. In the winter I checked the price and budgeted for an increased cost of $42.00, but by the time I left on my trip the cost was up to $44.00 (round trip ticket to Logan).



    Arriving at the Dene Guest House I was shown to my room, directed to the toilet and shower rooms, and given two keys: one for my room, one to get into the Dene. I started unpacking and then headed out to find my way around a bit.

    The first thing I wanted to know was how long it would take me to walk to Bus Stand E at Waterloo Place. That is where you are picked up for tours with Heart of Scotland Tours, http://www.heartofscotlandtours.co.uk/. I had a reservation for Tuesday.

    I’ve read comments about Edinburgh and the changing terrain, but to walk it is to finally understand :-) From Eyre Place I walked up Brandon Street, UP Dundas Street, Up Hanover Street, until you arrive at the intersection with George Street, and then Hanover Street does a gentle down slope to Princes Street. From Brandon to Hanover it’s all a straight line, but the street names change along the way.

    For me, door to bus stand took about one half hour. I kept walking to just take in the scenery. The Old Calton Burial Ground is near the bus stands, so I took a browse of that. I saw the steps up to the top of Calton Hill, but remembered comments on the threads of a roadway path and kept walking past the Old Royal High School to find it. (Thank you for that tidbit, whoever wrote that bit of help!) Windy. That’s what I remember of Calton Hill, and a very nice view.

    I spent a while on top the hill watching some different groups. I think they were practicing for Beltane, a celebration on April 30. One group was drumming with more people practicing some dance moves.

    When I finally went back down the roadway toward Princes Street, I looked around the Princes Mall (fyi, toilets downstairs, 20 pence to enter), purchased some small souvenirs, and finally found the entrance to the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) (sort of on top the mall, with different entrance from the mall).

    When reserving the Tuesday tour with Heart of Scotland I asked about the student discount (I’m in a grad. program). I brought the card on my trip and used it for .. hmm .. 4 times for discounts, I think. While at the TIC I booked a Monday tour (student price) to go to St. Andrews with Rabbies, http://www.rabbies.com/.

    My next stop was the Lothian Travelshop on the corner of Waverley Bridge and Market Street. I purchased a 1-week Ridacard, http://lothianbuses.com/tickets.php, because I would be in Edinburgh for the full week, and when I went back to the airport I could use the Ridacard on the airport bus. The web page mentions the £13.00 cost, but I can’t see a mention of the £3.00 card fee. Even with that I figured I would still come out at least even, if not slightly ahead, and I did ride quite a few times over the 7 days. Plus I have a nice souvenir and will take it back with me (the power of positive thinking, eh?) because I think it can be topped up.

    Very tired now, I headed back to the Dene, walking and trying my first bus ride. Time for a bit more unpacking and then rest.

    End of Day 2.

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    I'm really enjoying your report. In July my husband, I, and our 18-yo daughter will be going to Scotland for two weeks, also flying out of Boston.

    If I understand correctly, you packed everything in a carry-on? There is no way that we'll be able to manage that with three people for two weeks. So, I imagine that we will need to collect our luggage at Heathrow...go through customs and immigration and then recheck it for the flight to EDI. Does that sound right? I'm a "contingency planner" too...should I expect problems with this leg of the trip? Here are our flight details:


    American Airlines
    ---------------------

    Boston Logan International (BOS) to London Heathrow (LHR)
    Departure (BOS): July 3, 7:20 PM EDT (evening)
    Arrival (LHR): July 4, 6:50 AM BST (morning)
    Class: Economy


    American Airlines Operated by: BRITISH AIRWAYS -- BA 1438 - Please check in with the operating carrier
    -------------------

    London Heathrow (LHR) to Edinburgh (EDI)
    Departure (LHR): July 4, 8:50 AM BST (morning)
    Arrival (EDI): July 4, 10:10 AM BST (morning)

    So, we'll have two hours at Heathrow. That should be plenty and we should be fine, shouldn't we? Our daughter has been to London, but my husband and I (though we travel frequently), have never been anywhere in Europe, so we're a little nervous.

    Thanks again for the trip report!

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    Michellemd: Not to hijack scotlib's thread, but "There is no way that we'll be able to manage that with three people for two weeks." Sure you can. LOTS of people travel w/ just carry ons.

    Don't think "OMG - two weeks - we need 14 different outfits!!" Think mix/match and and plan on doing laundry once (or just wash things out overnight). 3 or 4 "bottoms" (slacks/jeans/skirts including what you wear on the flight) and lots of tops that can be layered will give you 25-30+ distinct outfits.

    A morning arrival at LHR can be VERY congested and there can be long queues at immigration. 2 hours may be plenty - or not . . . . .

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    Michellemd, my family of four has taken several 2-week trips in winter using just a 21" (carry on size) suitcase for each of us. It's much easier for summer with less bulky clothing. We each carry a tote bag or school-sized backpack as well. Search the forum; there are several threads about packing light that even include packing lists.

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    Michellemd, just in case you read your details from American Airlines the way I did when my daughter flew this same itinerary, you can learn from my mistake. I saw the part about the flight being operated by BA and dropped my daughter off in Boston at Terminal E, where BA is located.

    But the flight from Boston to London is in fact operated by AA, it's only the leg from London to Edinburgh that's on BA. And in Boston, AA international flights do not leave from terminal E, where most international flights leave. They leave from terminal B. They do arrive in terminal E, that's where all international flights arrive because that is where you find customs and immigration.

    Not to say that you will read as sloppily as I did, but just in case...

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    Hi michellemd,

    Definitely listen to janisj about packing light. Her posts on the subject are right on target!

    A person can live out of a carry-on for 2 weeks if (a) you want to, (b) you practice packing, and (c) re-pack again to get it lighter with the best options for lightweight, mix-match, and leave out the "just in case" items!

    Yes, you can say that's all personal opinion, from my perspective :-) Threads here can help you if you meet (a), and the (b) and (c) are ideas from my own experiences.

    Your flight details do not mention the arrival terminal. Do you know which it will be? Probably (locals/experts can correct me) whichever it is, just follow the Flight Connections signs and you will get to where you need to go. I had studied web pages on the Heathrow web site, practicing the route, all I did once there was follow the purple signs.

    It'll take flight experts to be sure this is correct: you should be able to get your luggage set to go from Boston to Edinburgh with the transfer done by the airlines because (I think, could be wrong) that AA and BA have some affiliation. Please, correct me if I'm wrong, anyone in the know!

    BUT consider this .. if you go with one carry-on each, you don't care about what happens (or Doesn't happen, remember the 28K missing luggage pieces in Terminal 5's first week?) with the luggage at Heathrow because yours will be Safe with You!

    That real one-bag restriction at Heathrow was lifted back this winter. Hopefully it remains lifted for your trip, so each person can have one carry-on and one personal item (ex.: handbag, small pack).

    Cheers!

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    Thank you all for the continued readership!


    Day 3 – St. Andrews mini bus tour with Rabbies

    Before actually heading to the guest house on Sunday evening, I did do an exploratory walk from the Travelshop to High Street to know where the Rabbies tour office was. After breakfast, Monday morning found me bussing up Dundas St. and finishing the trip by walking. By Friday I knew more about the bus routes and could have gone further by bus, but on Monday I went as far as I knew.

    Fyi, the Lothian Travelshops have little flyers to help explain the bus routes, though they only give a few of the stops. I found it helpful to stop and check the bus stop signs as I saw them and take a note of what busses stopped there and learn some of the bus stop names.

    The mini bus was full. Our tour guide was Jackie, though two other Rabbies staff were also on board, both learning the route and tour information from Jackie.

    The first stop was South Queensferry, sort of between the Firth of Forth rail bridge and the suspension road bridge. This was a good photo stop.

    We crossed the suspension bridge with Jackie telling the story of the rail bridge and how the guy who was to build it built the bridge over the Tay first and his name has come to mean a terrible, absolutely awful job because that was the bridge that collapsed with a train crossing over. His name was Thomas Botch! So, the steadfast bridge that crosses the Firth of Forth now was built by a better contractor, and even though old, the rail bridge is in better condition than the suspension bridge we had just crossed and still needed to cross to return to Edinburgh!

    I found out that all the yellow prickly bushes are gorse. A word I have read in plenty of novels, but now know what to picture in my mind! Driving on the highway, the way the bushes clumped reminded me of a bush we have here. I grew up knowing it as multiflora .. a very prickly, exceedingly! prickly, spring flowering plant. It certainly stops any animal trying to run through it! And wear long sleeves if you try to use bush cutters to cut it out or your arms will be covered with scratches (been there, done that). Mostly it just spreads like crazy, filling in pastures—a real nuisance.

    We stopped in Anstruther for about a half hour, time to stretch, walk around the harbor, and a chance to use the public toilet (fyi, 30 pence). Some people preferred the option to buy a snack/drink and then use a business’s toilet for “free.” I preferred to Not start filling a tank that I was attempting to empty (sorry if that is too direct, lol).

    I used part of the time to visit the Visitors Centre and get some guides to Fife and a very good town map and guide to St. Andrews, so when we arrived there I was set to hit the streets.

    All the while that we were driving around the roads, Jackie had stories to share. She rarely stopped; almost everything had a story, or she would be answering questions from the passengers. To drive around the twisty, thin roads brought an involuntary “Eeep!” from me when we met a big truck on a curve. We never hit anything, but it was a bit unnerving at times :-)

    We had almost 3 hours in St. Andrews, I think. The tour description lists 2 hours, but I think we had longer; maybe the exact time just depends on how things go on any tour (traffic, etc.). We drove through town and then turned around by the (The) golf course, to give everyone a sense of where things were. We were then turned loose to do as we wished.

    I visited the castle and the cathedral, using my GBHP for free entry at both. I tried going up the tower at the cathedral; just about freaked myself out. When you pay for entry to the cathedral (you can view a lot for free; paying or using a pass gets you extra exhibits and a chance to try the tower), you receive a token to put in a turnstile to enter the tower. A sign warned about the mechanism occasionally jamming. I’m all alone, so it was definitely in my mind as a worry, “What if it jams and I’m in it?!”

    I’m typing this, so you know the story ends well, eh? Yes, I made it through the turnstile, then a very steep, curving metal stair led to some stone steps in a narrow channel of stone. At the top of the stone steps was a open landing that lets you look up .. up .. up to the roof. To continue meant going into what looks like a stone chimney with more stone steps and iron railing. The stairs must curve to get you up to the roof. I didn’t find out, my mind just absolutely refused the idea of investigating. I snapped some pictures and started counting the steps I had just come up as I headed OUT. Hmm, 12 stone steps, and 27 metal ones on the curved metal stair, then worry again if the turnstile would spin correctly getting me out. Jackie said the view from the top was very worth the climb. Probably, but on that day, I wasn’t able to do it.

    I walked backed to the center of town and picked up fish and chips from PM’s, on the corner of Union and Market. Lots of take away batter fried haddock and chips and a water was less than £6.00. I started walking north on Market St (in the cathedral’s direction) and just after a store front that had information for a church, turned right on a small opening between the buildings. I almost think the name was Baker St. I only meant to walk and eat, but that little road had a little park. So I enjoyed my lunch on a sunny afternoon in the open air, with flowers by my bench, also a litter bin for “cleaning up.” It was great!

    Heading back to Edinburgh we saw more lovely scenery, heard stories from Jackie, and stopped in Falkland to view the Falkland Palace. I had the pass, so used that to enter for free. It sounded like people were getting a discount for coming with Rabbies, and you had to decide if you wanted the palace or gardens or both. We hadn’t much time to tour, arriving toward the end of the open hours, about 30-45 minutes.

    I don’t know if I have ever seen a mention of this about touring old, grand houses/buildings. They’re grand, and they’re old. Rooms of old furnishings and textiles have an “old” odor. I have not had a problem, yet, but I am aware of the feeling in the air, and I do wonder if some people have a hard time in some of these buildings with allergies sensitive to dust or mold.

    Another fyi, stairs .. stairs at the castle, cathedral, and now the Palace. If you have any mobility issues, unfortunately stairs are everywhere!

    The tour returns you to Edinburgh about 18:00. I think we were a bit after, but it was thereabouts. It never occurred to me to be ready to tip Jackie until I saw someone else do it. In all the threads about tipping, I don’t remember this one. Anyone have ideas what I should/could have done? (Other than say my “Thank you.”)


    End of Day 3.

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    Thank you so much everyone for all the advice. I'll quit hijacking the thread and "listen" quietly now. Thanks for the continuing trip reports. I'm sure I'll be back with more questions as July gets closer!

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    What did you think of Rabbies tours? I am an older woman going to Scotland solo in September and am considering them for a multi-day trip. But, a forum Scotland expert has warned me that the group is mainly designed for young, backpackers. What do you think?

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    Hi SusieQQ,

    I've heard it just about the opposite, that Rabbies is good for the older crowd.

    Heart of Scotland was similar: comfortable mini coach and destinations with not too difficult access (you could make it difficult for yourself, but you don't have to.. more about that in Tuesday's notes).

    Haggis Adventures is a tour company that is more for the young crowd, I've read.

    When our mini coach was leaving I could see another leaving on what must have been a multi-day trip: each person had a carry-on size bag to load in the back. Hopefully, on one of all these threads about Scotland you could find a personal experience to read, but I did want to try it after enjoying the one day trip.

    Cheers.


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    Hi caroline_edinburgh,

    Most of my shopping has been in department stores, and often the low-price end, big box name kind. I don't wish to offend anyone who shops in one particular name, but with time I have come to really believe in the Vime's Boot Theory, from Terry Pratchett:

    The reason the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

    Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in the city on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

    But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

    This was the Captain Samuel Vimes "Boots" theory of socioeconomic unfairness.




    Before I get way far off on a tangent unrelated to travel and flamed for personal opinions :-) it's not uncommon for the "you get what you pay for" cliche to be true: inexpensive shoes for my trip last year and my feet were so sore; the more expensive shoes of this year definitely also had some better quality because absolutely no trouble with my feet.

    Cheers.

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    Day 4 – Rosslyn and the Roman Border

    While getting ready on Tuesday morning I started to realize how similar the top issues of the news were to home. Today it was the government bailing out some banks and the number of foreclosure threats climbing. I was in a location so far from home, yet all was also the same. Exactly a good reason for travel, yes? To realize how we are more similar than dissimilar.


    In some initial planning, I thought that I would try and take the train to Newcastle and then the Hadrian’s Wall bus to do my own itinerary, but I did not purchase the fare in time for the super saver deals, and when I saw the prices higher than the cost of a tour, I made a reservation with Heart of Scotland. I think subconsciously I did not want to make the trip by train and bus because it would have been a full day of trying to make important connections on time, not to mention having no experience with taking the train. I know for my next trip I will travel to the area and stay a couple of days for a more relaxed visit, but for this time I just wanted to experience a bit of the wall, and taking the tour did accomplish that goal.

    I traveled to Bus Stand E at Waterloo Place to meet the Heart of Scotland tour mini coach. It was a 16-person vehicle like the one used for the Rabbies tour. The trip to St. Andrews was full; this one was only half full. Our driver was Colin. He was full of great stories and terrific for answering all our questions, so I would love to go on another trip with him as driver.

    More than once Colin would tell a story and it would involve a comment to look on the positive side. One was about Robert the Bruce when he killed a competitor, in a church no less, but to look on the positive side, and Colin had some positive to insert. I found myself doing that at lunch. I didn’t realize the water bottle I had grabbed from the cooler was frozen, but I decided that I could look on the positive .. I now had a drink for the rest of the afternoon, to drink a bit at a time as it thawed!

    Our first stop of the morning was Rosslyn Chapel. We arrived right as it opened and stayed for about an hour. In my pictures I have one of William, the Rosslyn Chapel cat. He was a very sociable cat. He doesn’t live at the Chapel but comes every day at opening time for a full day of greeting people and lots of pats. Even if only a quarter of all the visitors were “cat” people, I think he received all the attention he desired.

    Colin mentioned the roof over the Chapel that is allowing the building time to dry out. “It stinks like wet stone,” certainly was my first thought when entering the building. Do listen to the guides when they start telling the stories. It’s all very interesting history.

    After the bit of scare I felt with the tower at the St. Andrews I wondered if I should try the scaffolding around the Chapel. I followed the instructions to the letter and did enjoy the views: Do not run, do not lean over the edge, do not climb on the metalwork, and use the handrail on the stairs at all times.

    From the Chapel we drove to Melrose for lunch. We had only an hour’s visit in Melrose, much of that taken up by eating, but I did get in a quick 10-15 minute visit to the abbey, using my pass for free entry.

    One person made a complaint type remark as we hit the road, about the lack of time for visiting the abbey. In terms of a tour, you can either visit someplace closer for a longer time or visit a further away destination, but by necessity the time will be shorter. I didn’t like the shortness of each stop either, but I also knew what the trip looked like on a map; compared to the St. Andrews trip, we were going a long, long way more. (With a Scotland only map, you’re literally going “off the map”!)

    Next stop was Hadrian’s Wall. No, the next stop was the Scotland/England border, a stretch the legs and photo op for the stone markers. Then we were headed for the Wall. Once there you have to choose one of two options: visit Housesteads, the Roman fort museum, or walk along the wall starting from a point a bit to the west of Housesteads. Colin said it was a nice walk, with just a “steepish” bit to get up first. Everyone else got off at Housesteads, while I opted for the walk (Housesteads would have been free for me using the pass).

    Colin drove me to the next visitors’ centre for a toilet stop, then across the road and up a steep hill to drop me off at a small parking lot. He had to go back down with the mini coach; he wasn’t really supposed to be up there, but did for the quick drop offs/pick ups.

    I set out to follow the wall, walking down a steep grassy hill and then looked across a wet spot (made passable with stone pavers) to the “steepish” bit. It was a climb up a near cliff! Literally, stones are set into the hillside so you have a stone staircase but no railing. That’s an important note, in my case. I hurt both ankles in high school with very bad sprains. Repeat injuries over the years since and I have pretty weak ankles. I can go up stairs okay. Walking down is another matter, and I have to use a rail for support. If my weight falls on the points where my ankles have no strength, down I can go.

    So, to go up the cliff was not particularly smart, but I definitely wanted (WANTED) to go up, so huffing and puffing I went up (plenty out of shape, and very overweight, fyi). A delightful surprise was at the top .. a stile! I enjoyed a series of books from Piers Anthony years ago, Split Infinity I think it was called. The main character took his name from the importance one of these played in his life, so his name was Stile.

    I crossed the stile and walked for a ways, to a point the terrain dipped. I stopped at the top of the dip and had to head back to meet up with Colin on time. I would have had to go down, up, and then down again to see the Robin Hood’s tree. (Colin pointed out how close I had come, though too far for time, because we passed that way backtracking to Housesteads. So I did get to see the tree, just not up close, and I have another reason for going back.)

    Now came the problem .. getting down that “steepish” bit, or as I saw it, “steps with no hand rails.” The guy behind me was walking down as if walking down the steps into Princes St. Gardens. He didn’t say anything but his expression wondered why I was going down one step at a time, on my butt, like a toddler on stairs. It was the only way to be sure I didn’t end up in a heap at the bottom.

    Everyone who visited Housesteads museum loved it (several said, “Spectacular!”), though they also had a steepish walk to get to it, but it’s on a paved roadway, I think, not a cliff with steps. I had time to go into the shop for some postcards and heard the staff helping a lady with instructions to drive up because she had mobility issues and couldn’t walk up. So that could be a possibility if you need the help to get to the fort yourself. It could depend on how busy the fort is, but it’s at least something to inquire if you really need the assistance.

    Headed back to Edinburgh, we stopped for a break in Jedburgh. It was only a 10-15 minute break, time to visit the public toilet (no cost, that I remember) and enjoy view the abbey from a park bench, looking across the Jed Water, but not time to actually go over to the abbey.

    Colin had to backtrack to a certain point from the morning’s drive and then he took another route so we could see more scenery. So much beauty: great views, farmland, sheep (lots of little sheep!).

    The web site says the planned return is 19:30. I don’t really remember, now, but I suppose that was about it. I had certainly had my workout for the day, and was ready for going back to the Dene, so I did!

    End of Day 4.

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    I am still enjoying your adventures too ! Your GBH Pass certainly seems to have been a good buy.
    Well done on climbing Hadrian's Wall - I'm not sure what I'd have done.

    Every time I hear about the metal canopy over Rosslyn Chapel, I smile. We went to look at the chapel as a possible wedding location and were assured that the canopy would be off by the time we got married. We've just celebrated our 8th anniversary :-)

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    Still enjoying this, too. Thanks for the great info about Hadrian's Wall.

    I hope we will have many more Scotland trip reports in the next few months - including one from you GreenDragon! We are now in the "serious planning" stage for our trip next year.

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    Yes, as many trip reports as possible, please because I need to live vicariously! We had to cancel our Scotland trip for August - in addition to canceling London in April :(

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    So sorry to read of your trip cancellation, noe847. It certainly can't be any fun to have to do that. Though I must be still feeling the effects of Colin the positive spin doctor (the Heart of Scotland driver) .. it gives you more time to put money away for when you do get to go?

    I think I remember one of the guides at Rosslyn Chapel saying the roof would be off in a couple of years, caroline_edinburgh, but from the strength of my memory to sensing "wet stone," I wouldn't be surprised if it be for a dozen more.

    I feel like my trip is living on while I relive it with the report. Thank you, everyone, for coming along :-)


    I spent much of last night trying to get a movie of pictures together. It was a grand 10 min, 55 second movie, but then I discovered that youtube (sob) only allows 10 minutes.

    I hacked away 55 seconds and then came to a realization that seriously big files don't do well for uploading, so after 2 hours I admitted defeat and cancelled.

    I've cut the file up into bits and three are reaady.

    Boston to Edinburgh, April 2008
    Sights from the first 24 hours of a spring vacation trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz2FFJQSmaY


    Kingdom of Fife Day Tour
    A day tour with Rabbies from Edinburgh through the Kingdom of Fife, stops in Anstruther, St. Andrews, and Falkland.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4soZH5UNfI


    Rosslyn and the Roman Border
    A day tour with Heart of Scotland from Edinburgh through Melrose and Jedburgh down to Hadrian's Wall.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VMGMtRZsJI


    Of course, in iMovie the text all shows beautifully, When compressed you may have trouble. And a few times that I tried to make edits, the files just wouldn't do what I thought would happen. It is so frustrating when software does what I tell it to but I am not telling it the right thing, and don't know where I am going wrong in the process!

    So do ask if you have questions .. now what did that say? why is that picture included??

    Cheers!

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    Oh, what fun! I only had time to watch one since I'm dashing out the door to meet friends for dinner. Watched the Borders/wall one - I'll check the others when I get home (the wee steep bit didn't look too bad to me :D )

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    Thanks for your thoughts, scotlib. I agree, there are plenty of silver linings to be found, and we may take a major trip in Sept or Oct, but not to the UK. My daughter (and I) would have gone to Scotland with her bagpipe band in August, but she has decided not to play this year. Instead she will study for a full academic year in Germany (beginning in August). So my husband and I may travel to Germany to see her and then on to Poland. It's all pretty tentative at the moment. At any rate, I really miss Scotland.

    Your videos are really enjoyable - I like the short lengths, actually. I didn't recognize the tune from the Fife segment, but there is a fairly famous (at least in bagpipe music circles) tune called "Falkland Palace". I'm sure glad to put some images to the place name after hearing that tune for many years.

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    irishface and LCBonti .. glad you like the video clips :-) I should have the remaining edited bits ready this weekend. Plus, seeing them after the narrative parts will help put them in context for readers/viewers.

    noe847, I agree on having the shorter lengths. Now that I've tried to do this myself, having the experience of trying to upload a big file, and viewing the videos that YouTube links to mine because they're similar topics, I like the shorter ones of those, too.

    The tune for the Fife segment is My Love Has Gone To Sea. With all the water in many of the pictures, I thought the song title fit, and it is just a lovely tune.

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    Day 5 – First full day in Edinburgh

    Today was the first day with actual rain. The rain came down lightly from about midmorning to noon, then misted and finally cleared so the day was bright sunshine with clouds scudding across the sky. Thursday was about the same. Friday had only sprinkles, but stayed cloudy all day, and Saturday started as Friday when I left to go to the airport. Overall, I was so lucky with the weather; it was excellent for a quick visit.

    Several times I popped into the Travelshop to pick up different bus route flyers. I knew that the No. 36 would take me right from Canonmills to Holyrood. I had the flyer and I had seen a bus stop up Eyre Place. I walked up and caught the bus. I sat down and the bus proceeded to its next stop: directly across from the Dene Guest House! As much as I learned about the Edinburgh bus stops, there was always more.

    My GBHP got me into the Palace of Holyroodhouse, free. Unfortunately the Queen’s Gallery was closed for a switch in its exhibits or I could have seen that as well.

    I stopped to show my ticket to the two gentlemen you must pass to enter. The first asked what language for my audio guide and the second placed it around my neck. It felt a bit of a ceremony; he did it so carefully.

    After hearing the introductory information and approaching the Palace’s door, I could see a doorbell to the left of the door. I wanted to push that doorbell sooo baad! It just felt an awful temptation to have a button in plain sight and Not push it! But I didn’t. If I pushed it and nothing happened, I’d feel embarrassed and possibly get in trouble if seen to try it. If I pushed it and something did happen, I’d really likely be in trouble, so I firmly squelched the urge and passed by the doorbell, unpushed.

    As with touring the Falkland Palace, I noticed how old, grand houses really do have musty odors, too.

    I also noticed how you can tell they are the King’s apartments .. with the bare butts and bare breasts abounding on the walls. I’m sorry. There must be a point to my thoughts, but I am not sure that I can express it clearly. Yes, the nude is a thing of beauty when expressed in artwork, but the line of nudity for art’s sake and nudity because you’re wishing for the real thing gets to be a thin line sometimes.

    I was hoping the rain would all fall while I was inside instead it started as I was leaving the Holyrood Abbey (you go through the Abbey’s remains after coming out of the Palace rooms). I scooted across the street to the Parliament. Had to go through security with x-ray and metal detector to get inside.

    It was a bit of shock to see the curved ceiling just inside. I love abbeys and churches with the hallways of curved ceilings. There’s something about the effect, you almost feel hugged, I think. But why I loved them in churches I hadn’t really associated with just the architecture and in the Parliament there certainly wasn’t any spiritual influence, which is possibly why I noted it was the curve that brought on the feelings of content.

    Walking up to the doorway leading to stairs the design goes to a standard square/rectangle door, and with everything being concrete if felt like walking to a jail door. If the design had kept a curve on the door, I wonder how it would change.

    The Parliament was not in session, but I sat in the chamber for a while reading about it in a brochure.

    I have heard the Parliament building described as controversial. Myself, I liked it for the most part. When the US President does the State of the Union or our Governor does the State of the State, the chambers are all plush leather and lots of frou-frou (our tax dollars at “work”). The Scottish Parliament Debating Chamber has more of an atmosphere for getting some work done, efficiently, without the extra, posh plush stuff.

    I headed back on the No. 36 bus to tour the Georgian House in Charlotte Square. I don’t think I am allergic to dust or mold, but it’s starting to be a theme that the smell is bothering my nose when I enter these old houses.

    The staff and volunteers at the Georgian House are very friendly and full of information. I also walked across the square to the National Trust’s No. 28 house to view the gallery of paintings on display, again enjoying talking with the ladies on duty.

    I walked almost the length of Rose St. looking for EasyInternet. Found it eventually and checked my e-mail. The hardest part was finding the @ sign on the keyboard. I must have found it eventually, but I already don’t remember where, just that it wasn’t where my fingers kept going to!

    I toured the National Gallery until its closing time (the Royal Scottish Academy was closed). The best picture (for Me) was The Nativity by William Bell Scott, http://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/online_search/4:324/result/0/5655. He put Jesus Christ’s birth into the scene of a falling down barn in an Ayrshire, Scotland, setting. I loved it! Coming home I checked up on the cost to purchase a print copy. It was as much as several hundred dollars, and up, prices rising with the size. I have decided that another piece of stuff on the walls I don’t need; a chunk of the cost of my next hotel bill still in my pocket, I’d rather have that.

    I walked up to High Street, stopping in for a visit of the Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I almost entered, thought the doors were locked, and turned to leave when a couple came out the door, letting me know it really was okay to visit. I felt blessed that I had a chance to visit a lovely church, just after thinking I had none.

    I checked for availability of a Mary King Close tour. Used my student discount and went on the next tour in just 10 minutes from arriving. At the end of the tour the guide snaps a picture of your group and then you’re tempted to buy a copy, as well as a copy of the guidebook. It’s a similar come on to getting your picture at the end of an amusement ride. I did buy both picture and guidebook. I had gone on the tour to satisfy the interest of a family member, so the book is a gift and the picture is for me. It’s not bad to buy these items, but if you’re budgeting everything and need to prepare yourself to avoid the impulse buys, here’s your warning.

    It was almost time for the hour to chime on the church bells when I left the Mary King tour. I waited until I hoped they would start tolling and then called work to leave a voice mail for a co-worker with the bells in the background. I didn’t get quite as much of the chimes as I hoped, but the message was left and did bring a bunch of smiles when I happened to be in her office on the first day back to school and she was getting the messages left over vacation.

    It was a full day.

    End of Day 5.

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    Day 6 – Edinburgh Castle, Gladstone’s Land, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

    Thursday was another full day of famous places. I bussed over to the Royal Mile to start with the Castle.

    At each place I used the Great British Heritage Pass (GBHP) on my trip, I went to the ticket window/person to present it. Visiting in April allowed for either no one in front of me or just a couple of people. Thinking ahead to a busier tourist season when the lines could be much longer, here’s something I now notice on the GBHP web site:

    Skipping the Queue
    As well as free entry, the Great British Heritage Pass allows you to skip long and frustrating queues at the busiest tourist properties, including Hampton Court Palace, Blenheim Palace, Roman Baths & Pump Room, Stonehenge, Warwick Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and many more properties. Simply show the attendant your Great British Heritage Pass and you will be allowed entrance

    http://www.britishheritagepass.com/How_it_Works


    Now, does that mean you can skip the queue at any GBHP site, or just certain ones? I don’t know. For anyone purchasing a pass, it would probably be worth your time to send an e-mail asking for more information, through the contact us page. Actually, I want to know the answer myself. I have just sent an enquiry and will report back if I get an answer in the next few days :-)

    Coming up to the Castle is the area where they do the Tattoo. They were setting up the metal seats when I visited and being there in person allows you to know one detail that cannot be seen in pictures like the one here: http://www.edinburgh-tattoo.co.uk/_random_images/8.jpg. Those seats are backed right up to the edges of cliffs (another note about some fear of heights, yes). My interest in attending in person dropped to zero, but that’s just me.

    I took my time walking around the Castle. I arrived at opening time, 09:30, and didn’t leave until early afternoon, 14:30, I think. I know for sure that I was there to hear the 1:00 gun, lol.

    I visited section after section on the official map, reading the informational signs, moving faster sometimes, stopping others.

    A couple of sights in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum had me reading the signs. One was a picture of a battle in Spain and also a story about the capture of an imperial eagle. Both were featured in the BBC episodes about Richard Sharpe, the character in Bernard Cornwell's historical fiction series. I knew the fictional information; here was the real background.


    In Gallery 3 of the National War Museum I enjoyed one display about library services during World War 2 when the Royal Navy warships carried library bags. Soon after the landing at Normandy, a library was set up. Beachhead Library was a watercolor from 1944 by Ian Eadie, 51st (Highland) Division. The “Please return when empty” had underlines under the “Please return.” That made me smile; nothing’s changed for libraries.

    A warning to pass along from my notes: while touring the National War Museum, a walkway from Gallery 3 to Gallery 4 had me realizing that at not quite 5’6” I could all of a sudden reach up and touch the walkway’s ceiling easily and there was Not any warning sign to “Watch your head.” Travelers with tall companions... do watch that spot. Almost everywhere else I remember “Watch your head”-type signs for low doorways, but not there.


    Finally leaving the Castle I visited places going down hill .. the Tartan Weaving Mill & Exhibition, Gladstone’s Land, Writers’ Museum, and Princes St. Gardens. Then it was back up, up to the National Gallery of Scotland again for a bit of time and finally up to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery because it was Thursday and the art museums were open until 19:00.

    I walked around the ground floor of the Tartan Weaving Mill, but declined going down all the stairs to really see more. I knew there were likely more steps/stairs ahead of me and I needed energy for those. When I returned home after last year’s trip, whenever I was asked for what I remembered first, it was “Stairs!” Up steps, down steps, escalators, hotels, museums .. all the stairs. It was not much different with this trip, lol.

    Gladstone’s Land is an enjoyable stop. Run by the National Trust for Scotland, like the Georgian House, the volunteers are full of information and enjoy sharing.

    Seeing pictures of Robert Burns at the Writers' Museum had me realizing that I didn’t know that he was still a young man when he died, just 37.

    My trip dates allowed me to catch a special display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery: the BP Portrait Award. The one I liked the best was Mr. & Mrs. Brown by their son Vincent. It pictured them in the clothes they wore for a night that he had received a special art award. To me, the picture shows love and pride on both sides: the parents, slightly out of their element, but proud and loving their son, and the son realizing when looking at his parents, how proud and loving he is of his parents.

    I’m trying now to think of travel tips learned this day. The Castle and Gladstone’s Land were free stops using the GBHP. All the other stops were free for everyone: Tartan Weaving Mill, Writers' Museum, the gardens, and the art galleries.

    The official map of the Castle shows one toilet by the ticket office and three inside (two in the cafes). You can also visit a toilet in the National War Museum. The brochure mentioned one near the entrance, I think, but I found the one between Galleries 5 and 6. Why the mentions of toilets? When you need one, you want to know where! A nice feature of the free museums, even if you are not necessarily interested in the topic, was I did not see one without at least one toilet.

    End of Day 6.

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    I am soooo enjoying your report. Just a couple of very quick comments (am literally dashing out the door to give a travel program) . .

    About the GBHP and queue jumping - the VAST majority of covered properties will have little or no queue so that really isn't an issue. A few - maybe 30 or so, out of the nearly 600 sites can have long lines -and at many of those, the GBHP will let you use an advance ticket entrance or just go to the front of the line.

    And about the Tattoo grandstands backing up to the cliffs. The seating surrounds the esplanade and not all the seats are above the cliff.

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    hi Janisj, thank you for the additional helpful information and that you are enjoying the report.

    In case I freaked anyone, I don't mean to.

    The seats I saw are not Over the cliff. It was their backs that backed up to the edges (and probably there's some space before the actual edge). Looking through the empty seats to empty air unnerved me. For anyone whose fancy starts flying from 0 to mach 1 in no time, it could help to know this before purchasing tickets. Filled with people and avoiding the topmost row, it would not be so apparent that there's not really anything behind those seats (the ones bordering the north/south edges of the esplanade, anyway).

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    Day 7 – Greyfriars Bobby and more museums

    Friday became the day for the free museums, free meaning that you do not pay an entrance fee, but you’re likely to want to make a donation or purchase something in the gift shops :-) Not that these had to wait until the last day of the trip, but they did get lumped together as I covered the locations open to me using the GBHP during my authorized days of the 4-day pass.

    Waiting for the National and Royal Museums to open I walked around Greyfriars Kirkyard. I read the informational signs to learn about the signing of the National Covenant, and one corner has an entrance to the area that was used as a prison for several months, where many died from months of little food or shelter.

    The statue of Greyfriars Bobby, of course, was outside the kirkyard entrance. I must have seen the Disney movie (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054944/) as a child. While showing my trip pictures I have asked people if they know the story and quite a few don’t. I assumed everyone knows Bobby--assumption wrong, but many are hearing about him now from sharing my pictures :-)

    In the National Museum I walked around for a short while. I liked learning about John Napier, a Scottish mathematician, who invented logarithms and a calculating device for doing mathematics, Napier’s Bones. I think I could understand it better with an actual set iin my hands to “get it,” but you can see demonstrations on the web, ex.: http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/NapiersBones/ Another web page, http://users.ju.edu/ssundbe/bones.html, describes how to make a set, and a search will show you many more web pages. Yes, in school, I did enjoy math :-)

    The National Museum has a great area of hands-on displays for children including a racing car demonstration. I didn’t walk around the Royal Museum area on this trip, but the two are connected for easy access one to the other.

    A quick peek in the Edinburgh Central Library and then I was headed back to the EasyInternet on Rose St. to check in online for my flight. About now, I was really beginning to be aware of how tired I was, and not just the tired of a long day, but the tired of coming down ill. Yep, I woke up Saturday morning with a stuffed head and sniffling/sneezing, but more about that on Day 8’s note.

    I walked along Rose St. and entered Jenners from that side. I wandered various levels for 10-15 minutes, not so much from a need to shop but to find the way out, lol. I quickly lost track of how to go out the way I went in, if it’s even possible to do.

    Returning to the Royal Mile, I visited the People’s Story, Edinburgh Museum, and Museum of Childhood. I walked through each steadily, stopping for what caught my eye, skipping (button on fast forward, eh?) along otherwise.

    At first glance I thought a family was ahead of me going into the People’s Story, so I paused just briefly to let them go first, but it was three manikins in modern dress! Okay, on up to several floors of interesting displays. I think this was where I read if you were born in the early 1800s, you had a 1 in 7 chance of celebrating your first birthday. I thought the People’s Story did a nice job of giving you a glance at real, typical life in Edinburgh at various points of its history. If you go all the way to the highest point you can watch a video. The ceiling beams make it a very attractive room.

    I almost didn’t go across the street from the People’s Story to the Edinburgh Museum. Fortunately I did because upstairs at the way back of the displays was a case devoted to Greyfriars Bobby! I remember it had his feeding dish (yes, you can do it, “Oh, how sweet!”), his collar, some pictures, and another perspective of the history. I write perspective because I have seen some write ups that imply it was Bobby’s story that led the Lord Provost of the time to start the Society for the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals in Edinburgh, but the information at the display case indicated he was already a director of the SPCA (reducing the romanticism of the story just a tad). A few times during my trip I noted how to read about the same historical situation could sound so different from different perspectives. I did appreciate getting more than one side of a story once I realized how many there possibly could be.

    While in Edinburgh, the Royal Museum had a special, pay-extra-to-see exhibit about silver. If you have only a dabbling interest, I can tell you that the Edinburgh Museum also had a silver display. I know the two are highly unlikely to be on par for a true silver enthusiast, but if you’ve no idea or interest, you now know where you can see some.

    Just a bit downhill from the Edinburgh Museum was a restaurant, I don’t remember the name, but I got the best hot chocolate of the trip from there! Nice and large, with whipped cream, a dusting of cocoa, and a couple of pink marshmallows. It warmed me up as I headed back uphill to the Museum of Childhood.

    The Museum of Childhood is five galleries full of old toys. Adults are possibly going to have more fun than children: it’s more look but don’t touch, and kids won’t feel/understand all the waves of nostalgia hitting Mom and Dad. Do bring some coins, 10 and 50 pence. Several animatronics will activate for 10 pence (I did the Loch Ness Monster one, fun!) and a player piano requires 50 pence. It has piano and tambourine and other instruments all moving and playing, also quite fun! An area with toys To touch is available and I saw at least one gallery had an activity sheet that kids could do while viewing the display cases.

    Taking the No. 36 bus back to the Dene Guest House, I got off early enough to look for the Stockbridge Library. It was closed for renovations and they are offering limited services in a storefront across the street. Walking along Hamilton Place to Henderson Row to Eyre Place (keep walking straight but change 3 streets, lol), I found a supermarket, fyi, near the library.

    End of Day 7.

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    Day 8 – The Trip Home

    The last morning in Edinburgh, and I woke with a cold. I used most of the three travel packs of tissues I had brought on this one day, getting home. I did the final packing, ate a breakfast, helping myself to the toast, etc. available. I had checked out the night before, so I knew what to do with my keys when leaving and where to find everything for myself in the breakfast room.

    It was a last trip up over the hill of Dundas St. (and all the other street names) and then walking over to catch an airport shuttle on the Waverley Bridge.

    Leaving the city, we stopped right by a small shed/building that I had seen at least 3 of around Edinburgh. In the final video clip I wonder if it is a rectangular tardis, meaning I wonder if these were police boxes (it was a police box that is used for Dr. Who’s Tardis). Anyone in the know as to these buildings’ purpose?

    I waited until it was time to use the kiosk check-in for my flight (the previous day I had checked in at EasyInternet but selected printing the boarding passes at the airport). It was very simple, even for first-timer. Then it was getting through security and waiting again until the gate was announced. We had a nice, uneventful flight, other than the jetway at T5 freaked again. This time refusing to approach the airplane. So we had to wait until stairs were brought out for us to disembark and walk into the Terminal 5. Other than the stupid jetways, I had no problems with getting through Heathrow (having just carry on may have helped).

    Landing was a problem for me with the stuffed head, and my ears refused to pop, so it sounded like listening through a sea conch. Fortunately, security didn’t really ask any questions (security line was once we were bussed over to T4 and the line was about 20 minutes, maybe a couple more). Then the wait again to find out which gate.

    While waiting I dug out a box of Ear Planes that I had brought on the trip, but not used to that point. With the discomfort of the descent into Heathrow, I was thinking ahead to landing at Boston. They did help keep the discomfort away, though when I finally went through immigration at Boston I still could not hear well, one ear still hadn’t popped at all since landing at Heathrow, 9 hours previous. I think my “I haf a cgold” sounded authentic and I wasn’t answering very well to whatever he was asking, asking him to repeat, etc. I was thankful that whatever mark it was on my landing sheet it was the one to let me just pass at the final checkpoint, past the luggage carousels.

    I knew there was a coach to Portland schedule at 6:25 pm. I left the doors at 6:27 and just hoped the bus hadn’t come yet. Yeah, there it was arriving at 6:30! A hop on the bus and a quick call to let home know when to pick me up!


    I have more thoughts about what I learned travel swirling in my head, worth a couple of more posts (especially noting what I want to avoid for the next trip), but you get pretty much the gist above. Any questions that I can answer?

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    So sorry to hear you've had to cancel your trip, noe847.

    Scotlib, more great descriptions ! I'm so glad you liked our new Parliament building - we are very keen on it. We have been on the regular tour and slso on a private tour of the artworks.

    When you were in Old St Paul's Church, did you see the Alison Watt painting in the Memorial Chapel ? I think it is really beautiful.

    Well done, you have now done a lot more Edinburgh sights than I have in 14.5 years ! I also went to the Castle in April - for the first time ! - but we had to queue for about 40 minutes, so you did well to get there at opening time. And I'd never heard of Greyfriars Bobby before I moved here !

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    thanks, caroline_edinburgh! I was hoping that on this year's trip I could connect with you and maybe Sheila, but I guess we will just have to keep meeting via Fodor's threads!!!

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    Hi caroline_edinburgh,

    I don't remember specifically the picture, though I probably saw it. At this point, I've more a memory of admiring a church that was beautiful all over.

    I don't know how I learned about Greyfriars Bobby, either something I saw or something I read a long time ago. I'm the type to pick up anything in print :-)

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    Last thoughts

    I mentioned way at the beginning that I wanted to share things I learned, so others could use the information in their own trips. If you agree, here you are; if you disagree, no problem! To each her own.

    The greatest change has been since I returned home. In the last two weeks many people have asked about my trip, usually asking what tour I used. When I say I went by myself, they first think I traveled alone, but it was on a tour. The idea of actually traveling solo is apparently very hard to comprehend. I’m starting to feel like I am in a sci-fi novel. The ones where a traveler claims to have come from a certain direction and the locals insist it’s impossible, no one could come that way.


    Interacting .. this is where I need to work the most on my next trip. I need to get over my shyness and reach out. It’s so hard, for me, personally, to be the one to start a conversation, but I should do it, at least a couple of times on a trip.

    Itinerary .. jam-full days. I am so glad to have seen all I did, but perhaps I could have found something very special by allowing some time for serendipity and spontaneity. I think I will try prioritizing (as so often recommended on these forums). The “must do” category must be done, of course, but I should also be sure to have more items on my list, not just “must do” items, and treat those other items with flexibility.

    Overpacking .. I started with 18 lbs. I want to back that off to somewhere down by 13. This is me, traveling alone. If I take a tour with a school group, I could take some more, because I wouldn’t have much disposable time for shopping.

    Hindsight is 20/20. I know, now, that just the New Balance walkers would have taken care of me for the whole week. I put the other pair shoes in a bag and added other things I never used and came up with over 3 lbs. I took a pair of jeans, because I didn’t have another pair of knit pants, and jeans sure do weigh a lot, just as everyone on Fodors writes :-) So attending to that before my next trip would further lower the weight.

    Yes, I read frequently that multiple shoes are so important, because what if you get caught in the rain? Or some other travel calamity. Shoe store, is now my answer. A lot of what I took and never used came under the heading of “What if?”

    I had put a small bag of OTC meds in my day bag. I never used them and also never used the others in my pack. Just the zip lock in the day bag will be on the next trip. I want enough doses to make myself comfortable while waiting to get to a pharmacy. I put this in my day bag always, now, because to discover something you ate disagreed with you is not something to realize when the Tums are back at the guest house!

    I put some creams in my 3-1-1 bag because I read them as suggestions for using on trips, such as a leg/foot cream. This will seem a sensible suggestion now, but I confess to not doing it: try such ideas while still at home! There’s no point to taking up precious 3-1-1 bag space with a cream you don’t find useful.

    I took a silk sleepsack to try and be sure I would be warm. Tried it once. The midweight pair of SmartWool socks did a lot better job of keeping my tootsies warm, thus I was warm. SmartWool, yes; sleepsack probably staying home.

    I took along a scarf and hat. If you saw me walking around town all winter (New England, not infrequently 20F (-7C) or colder, would you see a hat? Rarely. Scarf? Almost never. I took both. Along with other trip items: if you don’t use it at home, why do you think you’ll wear it when away?! (FYI, Not judging anyone else, only myself.)

    Money-wise I did well .. two credit cards and 2 ATM cards. Someone on Fodors used the expression “bristling with plastic.” I like that thought :-) Most of my cards (and cash as taken out of the ATMs) were in my security wallet, just an ATM card and small cash in front pocket.

    Pockets .. yes, all my clothes (pants and shirts) had pockets. As I look for good travel clothes, good pockets are a deciding factor in even considering purchase!


    Now that I’ve actually gone on the trip, several friends are indicating they would love to go on a repeat trip. That’s fine, though if they back out when I get ready to plunk down money for my ticket, I won’t be stressing over going alone!

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    Excellent job and very enjoyable read. I especialy like this bit of advice: . . . if you don’t use it at home, why do you think you’ll wear it when away?!

    Now I'll just try to apply it . . . :)

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    Well done on the report.

    I, too, used the GBHP on my trip in 2007. The only place where there was any substantial line was Edinburgh Castle, and it did allow us to cut to the front of the line (which was nice since it was raining lightly at the time). Otherwise, there was never any significant wait to purchase tickets. We used the family pass which was a great bargain for what we saw on our trip to London, Edinburgh, and the Highlands (I did a trip report if anyone wants to see where we used ours).

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    Scotlib,

    I just wanted to thank you again. I really enjoyed reading each installment of your report.

    I also want to say that I have been inspired to try to use the all-carry-on strategy rather than checking luggage for our trip in July. Unfortunately I have to bring my laptop for work (self-employed with an internet-based business), so that adds to what we have to carry, but I'm going to try. I'll scour this forum for tips over the next couple of weeks.

    We ordered the GBHP passes also. It has been so much fun going through the map and book and planning all the places we want to go. But, in keeping with your advice I have definitely tried not to overdo it, to allow for spontaneity.

    It sounds like you did excellent on your first solo trip! I love to travel but have more flexibility to do so than my husband, so someday I'm going to have to muster the courage to go solo too.

    Quick question about money: Our bank here at home will exchange money for us before we go, with no additional fees. Do you suggest that we do that or should we rely mainly on credit cards (which seem to add fees I didn't expect when I used them to buy the GBHP passes and to reserve a hotel room)? It sounds like you used all credit and debit cards. That would be my preference and it is how I usually travel so I don't have to carry cash, but if I can get a good exchange rate with no added fees... Besides a few days in Edinburgh, we are spending ten days in the Highlands, so we are renting a car and will need cash for gas, food, and other incidentals. Thoughts?

    Thanks!

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    "Our bank here at home will exchange money for us before we go, with no additional fees. " The issue isn't "fees" your bank may or may not charge. It is the exchange rate they use. No Stateside bank will do a currency exchange w/o making their own profit. So they use an inflated rate for the £.

    Getting cash out of ATM machines in Scotland and using credit cards when possible will be much cheaper than getting £ from your local bank -- without exception.

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    Hi michellemd,

    Ah, good, janisj has much more experience than I. I'm glad she found your post to give some good advice.

    I can share what I happened for me, if it helps.

    I have seen on the boards a division of opinion: arrive with foreign currency vs. hit the ATM at the airport. Each group is more comfortable with its version of what to do.

    I brought some USD, a bit in pocket, a couple of hundred US in my security wallet. You need some cash for the home airport, and the security wallet cash was "in case." The in case an ATM eats your card or doesn't acknowledge it scenarios. You wouldn't get a good exchange rate, but it'd be some cash while calling back home to the bank. (My cash is waiting to get deposited back in the bank--not needed, of course).

    Just at the "wait until you get there" crowd insists, I put both cards into a HSBC ATM at Terminal 5 and out came my pounds.

    I deliberately did each one for £80 and each card charged me $159.58 on that particular day in April. According to http://www.oanda.com/convert/fxhistory, a two to one exchange was about that day's rate.

    And the HSBC ATM did not charge a fee, and neither of my banks charged a fee. One ATM card is with Capital One Direct Banking and the other a debit/ATM card from a local bank. My local bank has a $1.00 fee for use at "foreign" ATMs (foreign meaning any away from the bank's network, not necessarily out of the US, lol), but my statement has come and no $1.00 fee was deducted.

    My credit card is also Capital One, and as of last month it still doesn't have a foreign transaction fee, which I like.

    You will want some cash. For some B&Bs it's a preference. Other B&Bs accept credit cards and may pass on a surcharge, such as 5% to do so. Cash is better for small purchases, too.

    Hope this helps.
    Cheers.

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    here michellemd,

    A recent thread, if you didn't catch it. Very nice that it has some packing lists for each gender:
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=2&tid=35129322


    A thread going on the Smart Travel Tips forum:
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=1874&tid=35130029
    As suggested by someone on the thread, searching Fodor's for packing lists would find more threads:



    Travelsmith.com has a packing list, but I'm not sure if the site is working correctly, http://tinyurl.com/63hebl

    another list: http://onebagger.squarespace.com/list/

    and finally (though by no means the limit to packing help on the 'net!) http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/tips_menu.htm for the packing tips in upper left list

    Cheers!

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    scotlib : thanks again for a very interesting and thoughtful report. It is nice of you to share your findings on what was & wasn't worth packing, etc.

    Your comment about feeling like you are in a sci fi novel made me smile ! These days in Europe it seems normal to most people, I think, to arrange their own holiday. Although my beauty therapist does still go on packages, says she wouldn't know where to start organising her own hol, but is astonished when we swap notes on costs - she pays much more. But she has 2 small children so probably for the type of holiday they take at the moment, a package is easier.

    As for interacting, it had earlier struck me that you sounded like you got talking to lots of people ! I think I used to get talking to other people a lot more when travelling on my own pre-DH. Most of the time I'm happier left alone with my book (although I think that works better on a holiday somewhere warm where you can sit outside) but I did have some interesting encounters back then.

    Astounded & impressed by your packing - "started with 18 lbs. I want to back that off to somewhere down by 13." !!! *lbs* ?!? My suitcase always seems to come in at around 23*kg* (for a summer holiday) !!! And I do usually use everything except maybe a few clothes, but they wouldn't add much weight - the odd t shirt & cotton skirt. Plus - I always used to take a jumper and a mini brolly just in case, had never used them until 2 years ago so went without them that year. That year it was cold ! The day after we arrived at the venue for the lying-on-the-beach-for-a-week part of our hol it rained all day & was 16 degrees C - colder than it was in Scotland that day ! We had to resort to going back to bed to keep warm !! So the jumper & mini brolly were back in my bag last year :-) (This was staying on a beach, with no way in or out except by open boat, so shopping wasn't an option.)

    You refer to shopping, though - what did you buy here ? Books ?

    noe847 : it will be nice to meet up if you make it some other time.

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    Hi caroline_edinburgh,

    I declared $100 USD on my customs sheet coming home: 2 little, made-in-Scotland soaps, 2 deck of cards from Historic Scotland (52 pictures of Scotland scenes!), a pack of golf tees, a key chain, a sticker, a sew-on patch, 2 pieces Edinburgh Rock, the picture and a guide book to Mary King Close, and a needlework bookmark .. hmm .. I think that was it for shopping to take home. Well, I did get a joke gift for my hubby .. in the Anstruther public toilet .. 'nuff written? (where's that blush face)

    I did have good time chatting with the ladies in the National Trust for Scotland sites: Gladstone's and Georgian House, but that was about it.

    The young lady who handled breakfast at the Dene Guest House .. I chatted with her each morning. By mid-week, when I realized I probably would see her each day, I also realized I didn't know her name, and felt too awkward to ask. It's that sort of interaction that I'm such a klutz (sigh). Some people can start a conversation so easily, but that sort of bump in the conversation road can look like Everest to a shy person.

    Cheers.

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    Hi scotlib. I wasn't thinking so much of souvenirs etc which you took home, as when you said "If I take a tour with a school group, I could take some more, because I wouldn’t have much disposable time for shopping." I thought that meant that you bought some stuff here instead of bringing it with you to cut down on packing - I thought maybe books, toiletries - but maybe I misinterpreted that ?

    I don't normally buy anything when I'm away, but have just about got round to thinking I won't buy any more suntan lotion to take with me this year - what I have left from last year might do, but if not, I can buy more on hol. That's as far as I've got with buying stuff there, though !

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    Hi caroline_edinburgh,

    "If I take a tour with a school group, I could take some more, because I wouldn’t have much disposable time for shopping." I thought that meant that you bought some stuff here instead of bringing it with you to cut down on packing - I thought maybe books, toiletries - but maybe I misinterpreted that ?

    oops, I replied on a wrong tangent, lol.

    Traveling by myself, yes, I would be able to spend time in stores for anything needed, but on a school tour, there's little time to find a right store, especially. for example, if I should take only one pair of shoes and find I need another pair while traveling.

    I'd have more time for a longer trip to Scotland if I wait for a couple of years, but I don't know if I will wait. You could see notes from me as soon as next year. Cheers!

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    Just got back to this. As I mentioned on your other report, I found it confusing trying to read both at once. I enjoyed this one very much!

    Thanks for mentioning the tipping on the Rabbie's tour. I wouldn't have thought of that. I don't suppose you have any idea how much people were tipping?

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    Hi CAPH52,

    I do not know what was being handed over, did not try to peak! Actually, now that I think about it, it was a paper bill, so that means at least a fiver (remember, no one-pound notes!), but it could have been for a party of two.

    I don't think I was the only rider to not tip, though I was not particularly checking on that either.

    I tried a few web searches and found some travel links that do mention tipping tour guides a small gratuity when pleased with the service.

    One suggestion was 10% of the tour cost, so a typical 30 pound day tour would be a couple of pounds per person, when pleased and wanting to tip. I think 10% is the rate I have seen for tipping in UK restaurants, when it is not included in the bill (look for a note on the bill if service is included).

    Looking up a Rabbies sample tour, I note on a multi-day tour that optional tips for the driver/guide are listed in the "not included" section. A sample one-day tour does not mention tips specifically, but if you had a good time (and I hope you do!), now you'll be ready.

    Do remember to bring money to cover any entrance fees for places you visit while on the tour. Cheers.

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    Once again, thank you very much, Scotlib! For some reason, tipping a tour guide is one of those things I never think of until I see others doing it. And then I'm never prepared. But, thanks to you, I will be this time!

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    "remember, no one-pound notes!"

    Er, there are one pound notes in Scotland ! But I daresay that if someone was tipping, they'd probably be tipping more.

    Tipping tour guides isn't something we do here, I think. But then I don't really take tours.

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    Last September I took a three day tour with Rabbies and did tip the guide, but can't remember how much. Probably 10-5% of the tour price. I also had a private tour of the Kingdom of Fife with a guide from St. Andrews. I had prepaid him and when at the end of the day I tried to tip him, he refused it.

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    The first time I ever saw anyone tip a tour guide was in London in 1982. (Though I doubt I'd been on many tours prior to that.) My husband and I had taken some sort of bus tour that was part of our fly/drive package. And the driver/guide quite clearly had his hand out as people got off the bus! Maybe since that was sort of a "complimentary" tour, he wasn't paid much!

    Thanks Caroline and SusieQQ for your input on the subject! Assuming that we enjoy the Rabbie's tour, I think I'll plan on tipping 10%.

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  • Announcement:
  • Fodor's Go List 2015 Has Been Announced
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Dec 19, 14 at 05:08 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Honeymoon in the Alps (with skiing)
  2. 2 Budget family trip to Europe
  3. 3 How to split 21 days between moscow and saint petersburg
  4. 4 Stay in Chablis or Auxerre?
  5. 5 Driving in Italy
  6. 6 caroline_venezia
  7. 7 Suggestion for travel memories
  8. 8 Budget Trip to Europe | 22, 23-yr old | June 2015
  9. 9 VAT refund Q--new carryon bag ??
  10. 10 South of Spain in late September - cities/areas?
  11. 11 history museums or locations
  12. 12 Ring of Kerry: worth doing "whole loop"?
  13. 13 How to decide where to go in Europe
  14. 14 Trip Report Iceland Trip - July 2013 - PArt 1
  15. 15 malaga to madrid train ?
  16. 16 Spain - car rental, bus or train?
  17. 17 Museums in Berlin
  18. 18 8 Days in Switzerland for the non skier
  19. 19 Lake Como transportation questions
  20. 20 Help! Italy & France and Italy-Two Weeks?
  21. 21 5 Observations About Paris
  22. 22 Portugal in January
  23. 23 Euro Trivia Quiz #17 - British Train Trivia
  24. 24 By train to and out of Prague
  25. 25 Best Area to Stay in Amsterdam
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