So this post will be a Saturday / Sunday combination. I’m leaving for the airport at 4:30 AM on Sunday and it will be a long day. I’m looking forward to the exhaustion so that sleep will come on the plane crossing the Atlantic.
Saturday started lazily. Again only seven hours of sleep for some reason I woke up before my alarms but it was still uninterrupted sleep. I’ll take it especially with all the plans I have for Saturday. I laid around playing on my phone catching up on facebook and playing games. Eventually, after an hour of that, I got up and showered and went to eat the free breakfast at the lobby. It was a simple buffet and nothing to really write about. I had originally planned on starting the morning with a hike to the top of Arthur’s seat but I was feeling pretty sore from the day before. So instead I started with a shorter and much easier walk to Greyfriars Kirkyard to visit the grave of Tomas Riddle.
That’s right the grave of the Dark Lord Voldemort or at least the inspiration for his namesake. After walking the very short distance to the other side of Potterow (again a potential namesake inspiration) and down Forrest I went inside Greyfriars Kirkyard. This graveyard is quite a bit of history outside of the Wizarding World legions. The Kirkyard was involved in the history of the Covenanters. The Covenanting movement began with the signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriars Kirk on 28 February 1638. It also contains a portion of the Flodden Wall which was completed in 1560 to protect the city against an English invasion that never came. After Scottish forces were defeated and King James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, Edinburgh officials feared the victorious English troops would soon descend upon the ancient Scottish city. So, as leaders who fear outsiders tend to do, they decided to build a wall to defend their domain. It includes several famous residents including:
James Craig (1739–1795), architect and designer of Edinburgh's New Town
William Ged (1699–1749), inventor of stereotyping
Dr John Gordon (1786–1818), anatomist and anti-phrenologist
George Jamesone (1587–1644) Scotland's foremost 17th-century portrait artist
William Smellie (1740–1795) creator of the Encyclopædia Britannica
and dozens of other famous artist, investors, politicians, and provost.
Although I appreciate all the history that is there. I had arrived for a more recent and very fictional site. After wandering around for a little bit I found another section behind the Flooden Wall that contained what I was looking for. There had been some additional structure in the form of gates and floor grating that the Churchyard added to assist with the increase in tourists in that area. With that being a success I noticed that the temperature hadn’t risen as much as I would have hoped for on a clear sky and sunny day. It was still somewhere between 35 to 38 degrees. So I went back to the hotel to chug more water and grab my scarf and gloves.
On the road again and my legs feeling better having been stretched out I headed for Arthur’s seat. Arthur's Seat is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh, which form most of Holyrood Park. It was about a 30-minute walk from my hotel to get to the park, and then the fun began. The peak is about 822 ft. with the easiest approach from the east. However, I was coming from the west and decided I didn’t want to walk around and I was going to go up the very steep rocky steps on the west side. This wasn’t a bad idea and the view was beautiful. However, I made two big mistakes. I overestimated the warmth and thickness of my Texas coats and sweater. Second was I underestimated the wind speed when I got up to the top of the first peak. The first peak was about 580-ish ft. up and when I crested it the wind almost ripped me in two. It felt as if I had nothing on, my layers of clothes were just one piece of paper and the sweat that had built up underneath them dropped my body temperature several degrees instantly. I looked around and saw it was going to be a bit of a decent and then another climb all exposed to the wind to get to the other peak. I decided then to turn back. I got some pictures, a great climb, and my blood really flowing. I had been to the legendary Arthur's Seat which is often mentioned as one of the possible locations for Camelot, the legendary castle and court of the Romano-British warrior-chief, King Arthur.
Tradition has it that it was at the foot of Arthur's Seat, covered by the forest of Drumselch, that Scotland's 12th-century king David I encountered a stag while out hunting. Having fallen from his horse and about to be gored, he had a vision of a cross appearing between the animal's antlers, before it inexplicably turned away, leaving him unharmed. David, believing his life had been spared through divine intervention, founded Holyrood Abbey on the spot. The burgh arms of the Canongate display the head of the stag with the cross framed by its antlers.
After heading back into town I went straight for my second stop of the day, The National Scottish Museum. This was formed in 2006 with the merger of the new Museum of Scotland, with collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history, and the adjacent Royal Museum, with collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures. The National Museum incorporates the collections of the former National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. As well as the national collections of Scottish archaeological finds and medieval objects, the museum contains artifacts from around the world, encompassing geology, archaeology, natural history, science, technology, art, and world cultures. The 16 new galleries reopened in 2011 include 8,000 objects, 80 percent of which were not formerly on display. One of the more notable exhibits is the stuffed body of Dolly the sheep, the first successful clone of a mammal from an adult cell. Other highlights include Ancient Egyptian exhibitions, one of Elton John's extravagant suits and a large kinetic sculpture named the Millennium Clock. A Scottish invention that is a perennial favorite with school parties is The Maiden, an early form of a guillotine. I won’t go into everything I saw there but it was extensive and amazing. I had a simple lunch on the third-floor terrace of the museum. I have a feeling I’ll be back to that one. Even without its current special exhibits, it would take an entire day from open to close just to absorb a third of that one.
Once done at the museum it was almost 4 PM. I had one more thing on my agenda before doing laundry and packing so I decided to rest at the hotel for a little bit before heading to The Edinburgh Dungeons. After a short rest, I was there before 6 PM and got a ticket for 6:45 PM’s show so I went walk around Waverley Mall to kill time. So what is The Edinburgh Dungeons? The Edinburgh Dungeon brings together an amazing cast of professional actors, special effects, 360-degree theatrical sets, 11 live shows and two thrilling rides in a truly unique and exciting walk-through immersive experience, revealing tales from Edinburgh's dark history. It’s hilarious fun and sometimes a bit scary. Kind of a theatrical, thrill ride, scare house all mixed together and based on the history of Edinburgh. Plus this is the one night they were open late for Halloween so I had to go. This all features a 16th century judge and jury courtroom, a witch hunt, a torture chamber, a very creepy boat ride to face the cannibal Sean Bean, anatomy theater and seance with the famous Burke and Hare, escaping the Plague, William Wallace’s ghostly revenge, Grassmarket public hanging with Maggie Dickson, a three-story dead drop ride and ending in a very elaborate mirror maze. It was pretty fun and I actually highly recommend it.
Afterward, the fun was over. Time to head back to the Hotel and get ready. Part of packing up is using the laundry facility on site so that I can have clean clothes next week without using the contaminated Austin water. The problem being is the small “eco-efficient” European washers and dryers take forever. I’m talking 2 hours to wash a single load, even more, to dry it. I’m not sure how that is better for the environment but I have a suitcase of clean clothes. I guess it was good that I had time to kill and wasn’t wanting to sleep before my flight out.
Flying out at 7 AM meant I should be at the airport at 5 AM. Packed and in a taxi at 4:30 AM and being that I was losing an hour to the end of DST that night. Sleep was possibly but I was too paranoid about oversleeping and missing my flight. At the gate, I would find out that might not have been a bad option.
The checkout, taxi ride, and arrival at the airport went off without a hitch. Sitting at the gate with a little time to spare I concentrated on not falling asleep. Then time for boarding began. I knew right away that something was off when it began because this was one of the most unorganized and rushed gate boardings I’ve ever seen, total chaos. Calling boarding groups in clumps instead of individual numbers. Not having more than one queue for the different groups was a big organizational mistake. There was one lady who was arbitrary making people check their carry on that was causing even more chaos. I wasn’t too worried about it because I had purchased my carry on at the exact specifications of British Airways. So when I handed over my boarding pass to enter I was surprised when the lady said. “We’ll have to check your bag, Mr. Schooler”. ”Why is the plane too full?”, was my response. She answered, “No that bag is too big.” I walked over placed my bag fully in the little metal cage they used to check the sizes and said. “No, it’s not it fits.” To my shock, she screamed back without even looking at me or my bag in the cage and said. “NO, IT DOESN’T, IM THE MANAGER, YOU’LL HAVE TO CHECK YOUR BAG”. At this point, I could see there was no arguing with someone on a power trip who had no idea of what they were doing. I walked over to another person to check my bag as the “manager” was already yelling at another frustrated person at the gate having to check a bag that would clearly fit. The other employee apologized and was clearly frustrated at the “managers” interference at the gate boarding. While checking my bag yet another gate employee started saying something about the size of my backpack. I care a slimline business commuter backpack from INCASE. It clearly wasn’t too big and I told him as much. I then lost the cool I had left and proceeded to let them know how many miles I have with these bags on the One World network, and how the bags flew on British Airways to Edinburgh without any issue. Clearly, the issue was their own incompetence and that a full official complaint will be made with the airlines, One World, my travel agency, and my company who flies a lot with BA on the direct from Austin to London. Not proud of it but I had reached my limit of incompetence.
This clearly this amused the power tripping “manager”, and when asked her name just said. “Lillis” or something like it and refused to tell me the last name. I was one of the last to board and noticed that there where whole sections of empty overhead storage on the plane as clearly she had dozens of people check bags that had no need to be checked. In fact, despite the plane being boarded and doors closed 10 minutes early we had to wait on them to load the rest of the bags. and pulled back from the gate late. So this wasn’t a time-saving effort either.
I passed out on that flight and awoke in London, tired, and aching from the previous day’s activities and the lack of padding on that chair. In London, I made my way through Heathrow terminal 5. I grabbed a bite to eat because the gate hadn’t even been announced for my flight yet. Once announced I headed over to the “C” section of the terminal to find out there was a 30-minute delay. Evidently, there was something wrong with the first plane and had to bring a 777 out of stockyard to fly this one. While waiting and cold because my jacket was in the carry on that was force checked in Edinburgh we found out there where further delays with the security check on the new plane. After about an hour we finally boarded. The captain explained that the additional delays were because the new 777 plane was not usually flying this route and that the navigation system didn’t know where Austin Texas was, so they had to reload and upgrade it with that info. Once in the air, I went back to sleep on and off until we got back to Austin. I would have made it through customs faster if I would have had my second bag with me but it took forever for that one to come through baggage claim but it really went off without a hitch. Red was there to pick me up and I made it home safe and sound.