TAILS OF A TRAVELLING CAT
Greetings, humans! Today we had a fantastic guided tour of the city provided by Sue. Our first stop was the floral clock, a giant, working clock made entirely of flowers (as the name would suggest). Next up was Edinburgh Castle, history time, where stands were being set up for the military tattoo, which is held in the Castle’s car park every year – it’s more glamorous than it sounds. Huge towers of red and blue plastic seats loomed above us as we walked through to the ticket office and into the outer part of the castle, where we then queued for a while to get tickets. No matter, it provided a good opportunity for pictures of the castle and the view. The castle was built very high up on what almost looks like a rocky cliff face, located in what is now Edinburgh Old Town.
The castle was built in the 12th Century on the top of a spectacular extinct volcano called Castle Rock, the right place to build the castle then! The volcano has been extinct for over 340 million years, so nothing to fear, one hopes.
The Castle was continuously under siege, first by the English, then by the Scots to reclaim their castle, and so the battle went on until the castle eventually became a prison for military prisoners in the 1700s. Now it is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions. Thanks to Edinburghcastle.co.uk and the Edinburgh Castle pamphlet for providing information I could base my history lesson on.
Once we had our tickets, we could enter the second line of defence (a portcullis and a ticket scanner) up onto the battlements. There were lots of cannons here, all pointing out at the city far below. I am a fan of cannons, usually I like sitting on them, however, one particular cannon was so big I could sit inside it. This was Mons Meg, a particular beauty aimed directly at Debenham’s (not my choice). The cannon balls were bigger than me, which was rather disconcerting. After this we visited St Margaret’s chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, built in 1130. Despite its age, it was still in pristine condition although it was very small. However, as it was only designed for one person, I suppose it was actually quite large.
Shopping done we then continued along the Royal Mile which runs from the castle through the middle of the Old Town. We cut through some narrow steps and returned to the New Town. Interestingly, the Mound which is between the Old and New Towns was built on top of Edinburgh’s rubbish, which had for decades been tossed into the city’s loch. I was rather alarmed at the mention of the loch, but it was drained three hundred years ago (ish) and now forms Prince’s Park. Even more interestingly, the trains leaving Edinburgh Waverley Station pass through the Mound and under Prince's Park via tunnel, this was the way we passed yesterday on route to Perth, and will pass through again when we leave on Tuesday.
Lunch was found! Holy Cow was a fantastic vegan restaurant located in a basement flat, once we were inside though, it was easy to forget we were half underground. Especially when the food arrived. Both humans ordered burgers which were gargantuan and came with a shovelful of potato wedges. One burger was the Thai carrot, incorporating peanuts, chutney and red cabbage, the other was a falafel burger, topped with carrot and tomato, both garnished with garlic mayo.
The burgers were so big the humans had no room for cake, but the options looked good, raspberry red velvet, assorted cheesecakes, chocolate and peanut butter. I bet they were good.
Feeling very full, we left Holy Cow and headed through New Town, marvelling at the beautiful (but very expensive) Georgian terraces which, built since 1715 seemed to make up the majority of this section of the city. Yes, the New Town was built in the 1700s.
On the way back, we passed Bute House, the Scottish equivalent of 10 Downing Street, but without all the gates and security guards. Does this say something about the different cultural and political climates, perhaps? I’m a cat, it’s not my place to say.
We crossed back over the famous George Street, at its end with Charlotte Square. The street was meant to have been bookended with churches, however although the Charlotte Square end church did get built, the other book was missing, instead a rich person’s villa was built. Hmm, not sure what happened there. We made it back to Prince’s Street to catch the bus. This street is also nicely contained with the Balmoral and Caledonian Hotels at either end. Both were huge and grand, I’m sure a night in either would have been equally as pricey.
We made it back to the house and sat down to relax for the evening.
Until next time,
PS. Let me leave you with a selection of Edinburgh photos, enjoy!
Day 3 - Perth
Greetings, humans! So, today’s trip was to Perth, as you will know from the title. We took a bus to China town, sorry, Edinburgh city centre, and then myself and Charlie boarded the tiny two-carriage ScotRail train to Perth. I’ve never seen a train so small, seems suspicious.
We left Edinburgh heading north where we crossed the world famous Forth Bridge, shame we were on it and couldn’t actually see it, but the road bridge next to it was very nice, especially the new one. I was ignoring the water, like any self-respecting cat.
We had now arrived in Fife where we stopped at some stations with fantastic names such as Inverkiething, Kirkcaldy (Kih-coddy), Ladybanks before arriving at Perth for lunchtime.
There were some spectacular mountainous views from the train and a huge hill right next to Perth. On leaving the train station we could see the tree-clad hill rising high above the town/ city (I don’t know) and Charlie spontaneously decided to climb it. This meant crossing the River Tay, which was huge and, not surprisingly, full of water. There were three visible bridges, Charlie foolishly took the longest one which was the train bridge, a small foot bridge attached precariously to its side, held up with scaffolding. This bridge not only crossed the river at its widest point, but also veered off at an alarming angle away from the town making it even longer.
Well, we finally got back to dry land, not a moment too soon, and wandered along the side of the river part way up the hill. We stopped for lunch here (too much water), then headed off due east to get up the hill.
We didn’t really know where we were going, so Charlie followed the ingenious but foolish strategy of just walking in the direction of the hill.
After trekking uphill through residential streets and passing the first casual kilt wearer I have ever met, we eventually found the Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park, and a helpful sign informing us the summit was ¾ mile away. We took a break to enjoy the view back to Perth, then headed up, now hidden among the trees like the elusive wildcat I am! There were many sculptures of woodland creatures which I realised were sculptures because they didn’t run screaming from the approaching wildcat (and they were huge).
Soon, we emerged out of the trees onto a cliff edge with amazing views of mountains and tiny model villages all around us. We sat and enjoyed the view before discovering this was not, in fact, the summit. Fortunately, it was less than 100m away and provided a panorama view of the mountains. There was also one of those helpful circles which informed us as to which mountains we were actually looking at.
It was a wee bit breezy up the top, I almost blew away, and that would have rather ruined the trip.
Anyway, we then headed back down the giant of a mountain (ok, hill) to meet Hannah, a uni friend of Charlie’s.
After discovering there wasn’t all that much to do in Perth, we headed off to see Hannah’s horse, Mikey, who was twenty years old today. Happy birthday, horse!
I don’t know much about horses, but he was grey and speckly and not too impressed at being brought out of the field into his stable. A hard choice that, bed or food?
Mikey stabled for the night, we then returned to Perth for dinner. Our first attempt was Kiso’s which, although it served vegan food, was fully booked – what do you expect walking in on a Saturday night without booking a table? It was a very fancy looking place, but the food seemed reasonably priced.
We then tried Tabla, which could just about fit us in, as long as we were finished by 8:00 for another booking – no problem, it was only 6:30 now.
The humans had a starter of poppadoms (which were huge) and mango chutney. Charlie then tucked into vegetable jalfrezi (cauliflower, potatoes, onions, asparagus, most veg in the world really) with mushroom pilau rice, and Hannah had a chicken korma with plain rice (for all those meat eaters out there). Both meals were absolutely huge portions, both humans were stuffed!
Although so full, the humans were interested to see what an Indian dessert might be and considered just looking over the menus to broaden their cultural and culinary horizons, but then realised it was nearly pumpkin hour, the people who had reserved the table would be here and Charlie and I had a train to catch. We had to rush a little but we made it, though.
We wisely decided to sit on the other side of the train to this morning to enjoy a different view. Big mistake – this was the east side, more water here! How long did we spend next to the Forth or the sea or whatever this is?
Anyway, we made it back to Edinburgh safely, got the bus back and time for me to go to bed – what a tiring day!
It’ll be a tour of Edinburgh tomorrow, I want to find some tartan.
Day 1 - Edinburgh
Greetings, humans! I have arrived in Edinburgh! Charlie and I flew from Stansted, an airport that has rather confused me as for some reason it costs £3.50 to drop someone off – is this some means to encourage people to use the free bus service? I quite like buses but I believe many people do not. Something to do with them always being late or smelly or cold…
Anyway, we arrived in the airport and headed straight to security. No hold luggage to drop off today and already checked in online, this is a revelation in air travel. I like this plan, jolly good I think. Security was an interesting experience, Charlie got beeped going through the metal detector and had to go through those full body scanner things. The bag I was in also got pulled off the conveyor belt. Oh no, were we in trouble for trying to smuggle a cat onto a plane? No, it was the liquids – shower gel, toothpaste and that squirty stuff that stops hay fever. These were all put into some kind of strange scanning device and then handed back. Odd.
We then walked through duty free, which seemed to sell only alcohol and perfume, to the point where the smell started to make me feel rather nauseous, one does have a sensitive nose. Finally we arrived in the food area – much better – and after some waiting, we set off for the gate.
The gate was so far away we were sent there by train, it was in a completely separate building. We were delayed boarding for no apparent reason, crammed into some small area between the showing of the boarding passes and being released onto the runway. Finally the doors opened and we were allowed to board the plane.
More waiting and then we were off, flying high in the sky. We spent a lot of time flying on top of some white fluffy material which I feel would make an excellent cat bed and then, oh horrors! My dreaded enemy water started falling from the sky!
Soon, sadly, the fluffy stuff disappeared, but at least it meant we could observe the fields and roads far below. Not long later we had landed (only an hour’s flight). On disembarking from the plane, we discovered there was more water falling from the sky, Charlie says it’s called rain and apparently this is quite normal in Scotland. I don’t like it.
We had to get off the plane and walk through the rain, luckily I was in a bag, although not a waterproof one, I might add.
A very long time (probably three minutes) later, we were in Edinburgh airport where no water was falling from the sky, which fortunately only seems to happen outdoors, but then after meeting Charlie’s aunt, Sue, we were back out in the Rain. I have decided to grant it capital letter status to emphasise the horror of it. We made it to the safety of the car and began the journey to Sue and Stuart’s house. Edinburgh seems like a nice place, pity about the Rain.
We spent the day indoors, wisely hiding from the wet stuff which was still pouring down, and met Boris the cat, he’s very friendly and then the humans went out for dinner. As it was still Raining very hard, I sensibly elected not to join them.
The three humans drove to Henderson’s Vegan in Thistle Street. There are several Henderson’s in Edinburgh and whilst they are all vegetarian, this was the only one that was fully vegan.
I was informed that, for no identifiable reason, the traffic getting to dinner was very, very bad. However, the amount of time spent stationary afforded Charlie plenty of opportunity to take pictures. There were some wonderful old buildings, some parks and lots of cars.
They finally arrived at dinner (still Raining) and ordered starters. These were a carrot and cashew cream bruschetta for Sue and a sharing platter of sourdough, oat cakes, olive salad, hummus, bean pâté and something that seemed like a mix of antipasti and bean pâté between Charlie and Stuart. All was excellent.
The main event was vegan haggis all round, a Scottish delicacy made of soya (if you’re vegan, various, unnamed innards encased in a sheep stomach if you're not) and onions among other vegetable type things. This was served with kale, cashew cream cheese sauce and a pickled vegetable of undetermined species. Turns out it was turnip. Again, everyone was well pleased with the food.
Despite being very full, the humans elected for pudding, one vanilla ice cream with fruit and two blueberry cheesecakes with a shortcake style base, served with three blueberries and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
Absolutely stuffed, the humans waddled out onto the street, where it had stopped Raining… oh no, my mistake, still Raining.
There is a lot of Rain here, it is quite terrifying. I will venture out into this city if it ever stops Raining. The view from my window, I have been told is amazing, you can see all across the city and Castle to the Forth bridge and the river (perhaps not being able to see it is a good thing), however the Rain has rather restricted the view to the backs of the houses behind this one.
Tomorrow the plan is to visit Edinburgh Zoo and hopefully talk to some keepers. I want to meet my feline cousins, particularly the wildcats whose fearsome natures I feel I have much in common with.
Off to Scotland
Greetings, humans! Ah, it’s good to be back, ready for another trip, once more getting my Charlie to type up my witty ramblings. If you're new to Tails of a Travelling Cat (where have you been? You've missed so much) you can find out more about me (I am truly wonderful) on the About Me (and My Humans) Page, and also in the Before We Begin post at the start of the Europe Edition. I'll wait for you to catch up if you need to, but be quick, I don't have all day.
Right, now if you're up to speed, or have been a good human and were already conversant on who I am through having read the Europe Edition when it was published, let me introduce this second trip.
We’re off to Scotland, Edinburgh to be precise, another capital city. This time it is just myself and Charlie embarking on this trip, however we are staying with Charlie’s aunt, Sue, and uncle, Stuart, so I suppose they will probably feature in this Edition.
I’m looking forward very much to this trip, it will be highly cat based and involve an aeroplane and some trains. I am a fan of this long distance travelling lark, although I would be a rather poor Travelling Cat if I wasn't now, wouldn’t I?
We will be based in Edinburgh, where we will visit Edinburgh Zoo and hopefully see their wildcats – my less stripy, and less pink, cousins.
On this trip we will also visit the Highland Wildlife Park (it’s over two hours away, my longest journey by car, although compared to some of those European trains, not a problem, one hopes). Here, we will see many wondrous cats – I have been promised Pallas’ cats, lynxes, Amur tigers, snow leopards – and some other animals. If we’re lucky, we might even get to meet some important, high-up people involved in conservation of the beautiful, majestic, prowling, Critically Endangered Scottish wildcat. How few remain? We’ll find out in the next few days.
Anyway, it will not all be cat based (unfortunately), there’s also a trip planned over the mighty Forth Bridge to Perth, or perhaps Dundee, maybe here we will meet up with one of Charlie’s uni friends, maybe we won’t, oh, the suspense.
We will also probably visit Edinburgh Castle like all good tourists and I’m sure some other historical delights. Those good people who have read the Europe Edition, will fondly remember my well informed and mostly accurate history lessons.
Well, that seems to sum up what’s going on as I know so far. I’m all packed and ready to go. And I get to try a new airport, Stansted, this time, exciting stuff.
Until then, folks,