Monday, November 29, 2004

A weekend in Edinburgh - nowhere near enough!

The first thing that got my attention as we entered Edinburgh (especially with the wind blowing in the right direction) was the lovely aroma of roasting hops... a little like roasting coffee beans, but nowhere near as strong. I dont know and didnt get to find out if there was a brewery nearby that was the source of the aroma. It is very difficult to describe the fragrance - but I found it very, very nice and welcoming... it even gave the impression of warmth!

Warm it was not, though. The weather forecast for the weekend was dire - heavy rain, cold winds, falling temperature, general misery, according to the weatherman. This nearly got me depressed, until Pete reminded me that weather forecasts arent renowned for accuracy. Too right they arent, and thank goodness for that! True, it WAS windy and cold (but it's winter, it's allowed) but it didnt rain. Not much, at any rate. The rain didnt keep away the 44,000 people who turned out to watch the rugby match. It certainly didnt stop the players - especially the South Africans. (They beat the Scotland team 44-10)!

Actually I was quite taken aback by just how MANY South Africans there were. Our hotel was full of them, the streets were full of them, the bars were full of them... at one point I began to wonder where the Scottish rugby fans had gone! Everywhere I looked, there were green-and-yellow hats and scarves and rugby shirts with the leaping springbok logo. Every pub we went to, we heard the distinctive South African accent, sounding a bit like a squashed Australian twang! They must have descended on Edinburgh in absolute droves for the match. It almost seemed like 40,000 of the official 44,000-strong audience at the stadium was South African! That said, their faith in the SA team was more than justified by the players' performance. I'm not surprised the Scots went and hid themselves...

Edinburgh is a surprisingly beautiful city. The New Town area is full of Georgian buildings, big open squares and tree-lined avenues. (It doesnt look very English... but I guess the Scots would say that it ISNT English - it's Scottish!). Edinburgh looks like it would be more at home in Europe because of the architecture in the New Town, and the shape of its castles and towers in the Old Town - spiky and Gothic.

The Royal Mile, a fantastic boulevard in the middle of the oldest part of Edinburgh, has the 7th century castle at one end and the beautiful stone Holyrood Palace at the other. All down the boulevard are buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, townhouses that havent had their outline changed at all, so that some of them hang a bit drunkenly over the street at first-storey level. The splendidly Gothic St Giles Cathedral is about midway on the Royal Mile in the Lawnmarket area, its almost-black towers and spires looming dark and spiky over the other buildings.

It's just a shame that the buildings are mostly gloomy and black on the outside - and it's not that the stone is that colour. It's just the accumulation of what appears to be hundreds of years of dirt and pollution... if only they could be cleaned, the buildings would be right at home in Paris, THE home of beautifully buffed, biscuity-brown buildings!


No wonder Scotland lost 10-44 to South Africa - they simply couldnt hold on to the ball!

A cut above the Scots...

Wheeeee! Up goes the South African into the air, to snatch the ball successfully. I'm afraid the Scottish players were left standing with their mouths open!

The immovable meets the irresistible?

Push! Push harder! Puuuuuuuuuussssshhhhh!

Where's the ball? Pile-up on the field!

A rugby scrum, with players piling up on one another. Most of them havent noticed that the ball is out, though (that's the white blob in front of the orange-shirted referee)! Heh heh.

Mummyyyyy...! Dont let them trample over me!

Cant blame that Scottish player for playing possum - the South Africans simply hammered the hapless Scots!

Section of Murrayfield Stadium

It seats about 60,000 in total. Only looks empty because the crowd hadnt started filing in. The band was there before everybody!

Murrayfield Rugby Stadium, east section

It's huge... there was no way to get a photo of the entire stadium, especially as I didnt have a helicopter handy for an aerial shot!

Me, wrapped up warm...

Or so I thought. Boy, did I ever find out different! It was FREEZING in the stadium, not helped by a gentle wind which blew the gentle rain onto gentle me...

Edinburgh Castle

This was the view from our bedroom window. The window would only open 6 inches, so this is the best I could do under the circumstances!

Old Town, Edinburgh

This photo was taken from Waverley Bridge, which connects Old Town with New Town.

Bagpiper Cold...

Sunshine there was, but it was also very cold! Brave man, to wear a "skirt" in that weather :) He's one of many solitary bagpipers who pipe away for king, country, and coins from tourists.

Scottish Parliament Building, ex

This building on the Royal Mile used to be the Scottish Parliament, but now Parliament meets in a spanking new building closer to the Castle.

A beautiful Georgian building

One of the many such buildings in the New Town section of Edinburgh.

My favourite photo of Old Town

It might look grey, but it's still an impressively beautiful view.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Is this ambitious or what!

Till a short while back, my writing muscles had almost atrophied from disuse. For the last month and a bit, they've been getting reasonably regular exercise in my first-ever blog and have been performing better than expected (Check out "Inspired to Blog" ) I wonder, though, if a second blog would stretch those flabby muscles too far... well, the only way to find out is to start another - which is what this is. My second blog. In case somebody didnt get the point. Duh.

This blog is going to have an actual theme - my travels (well, duh again). I might get around to ferreting out from various souces the emails that I wrote on previous travels (pre-blog travels, that is), and put them on here. That will take some time and effort (time on my part, effort by others!), so I guess it wont be happening any time soon. But what WILL go on here are future trips made by yours truly. Moi. Not to be confused with that extinct bird from New Zealand, the moa. Heh heh.

Anyway... next weekend, I'm off to Edinburgh to watch a rugby match. Rugby doesnt count as travel, but Edinburgh does. It will be my second trip there. It's a surprisingly nice looking city, especially the city centre, more European than English. Which, believe me, is a very good thing - especially for those who have seen Birmingham and Manchester and other big cities. The English villages have the most character. Towns are ok, kind of similar looking but not usually an eyesore.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This, ladies and gentlemen, is merely a taster of travelposts, with photos as well. Keep an eye on this space.