Northern Europe Trip Page... (including photos)
Chris' Previous Journal
August 23, 2010, Edinburgh, Scotland
There were plenty of transportation options to visit the city this morning - the shuttle buses, the train or taxis.
The weather today wasn't beautiful like yesterday - off and on again showers throughout the day. But, we have our rain jackets and umbrellas, so we're set. The climate here is temperate - winters are mild, it seldom freezes. Summers are definitely moderate - temperatures rarely exceed 75°F (22°C).
It was interesting to learn that Old Town was the home of some of the earliest high rise residential buildings, due to space limitations. In the 16th century, buildings with ten to 14 stories were typical. Below street level, there were vaults, which were inhabited mainly by immigrants during the Industrial Revolution. There are tours available that include the underground city, Edinburgh Vaults.
On many of the smaller streets, especially in Old Town, we noticed they ended with the word Close. Finally, we learned that Close means a lesser street - not a thoroughfare.
It doesn't seem to matter what day of the week it is - the Royal Mile is a very popular destination. And, with all the Festival activities taking place, Edinburgh is packed with visitors from everywhere. The Edinburgh Festival is estimated to bring over 4.4 million visitors annually during August, generating over £100 million.
John has said repeatedly during our stay in Europe, "there are just too many foreigners here".....hmmm, does that include us?
The Edinburgh Festival is a collective name for many festivals and events taking place during August. The Festival Fringe (The Fringe) is the world's largest arts festival, established in 1946. The Fringe features theater, comedy, dance and music productions. In 2009, The Fringe sold over 1,850,000 tickets to 34,000 plus performances in 265 venues over 25 days. There was a performance, "Waiting for Lucky", that we would have enjoyed seeing, but unfortunately, it didn't start till after we were leaving Edinburgh.
To many people, the biggest event of all during the Edinburgh Festival is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual series of Military tattoos performed by the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth, International military bands and display teams.
The ship offered the Tattoo as one of the shore excursions and it rapidly sold out. About 900 passengers attended the performance.
John asked the shore excursion team if it was required to come all the way back to the ship to receive the Tattoo tickets. It seemed like it would be quite a waste of time to return from the city, take the tender to the ship, obtain the ticket, reboard the tender and return to the city. They assured him that there would be a booth set up at the tender pier, so a return all the way to the ship was not necessary.
The name Tattoo is derived from Dutch, "Last orders". The literal translation means "close or turn off the tap". It was the last duty call of the day. Years ago, the British adopted the practice, and each night the Corp of Drums or the Pipes and Drums would play the Tattoo as a signal to the tavern owners to turn the taps off the ale kegs so the soldiers would return to their barracks.
The popularity of the Tattoo is immense. It is televised in 30 countries and seen by over 100 million people. In Edinburgh, the evening performances are every weekday evening and twice on Saturdays throughout the month of August. The grandstands can seat 8,600 and all performances are sold out well in advance.
Approximately 70% of the audience is from out of Scotland, with half of those being from overseas. Over the years, 40 countries have participated in the Tattoo. And, most incredible - not one performance has ever been cancelled...the event goes on rain or shine.
And, tonight was rain - not pouring, but heavy showers. The seats were quite cramped - everyone got well acquainted with their neighbor! It was a definite disadvantage for tall people, as their knees were jammed into the seat in front. However, once the performance began, no one remembered they were wet, or cold or crowded.
This year, 2010, is the 60th anniversary. The performers included the Massed Pipes and Drums, the Massed Military Bands, South African Irish Regiment, South Australian Pipes and Drums, the Military Band of the Coldstream Guards and from the USA, the Citadel Band from Charleston, South Carolina. There was also a military band from New Zealand.
It was a very late night (or early morning) by the time everyone was safely aboard the ship. The performance ended around 11pm, then it was time to hike back to the buses, drive to the tender port, load the tenders and return to the ship. I think everyone was finally aboard around 1:15am. The ship had been scheduled to depart at 1am -- by the time tenders were loaded, it was a little after 2am.
We're off to Newcastle, in northern England, where we shall spend the day with our friend, Fran, and her daughter, Fiona. They both live in Morpeth, about 25 minutes from the port. We're quite excited to see them.
More info about Scotland
Northern Europe Trip Page... (including photos)
Note that there are two trip maps, as this journey include two (back-to-back) 12 day cruises. The map of Norway is found below the UK map.