Stephanie Burgis
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So, we were unbelievably lucky with our long weekend. The weather forecasters had predicted that it would rain the whole time, and we'd accepted that - oh, well, that's just traditional for a Scottish vacation, right? - but they were wrong, wrong, wrong! It was beautiful, sunny, and cool the whole time we were in Edinburgh, and oh, Edinburgh is a beautiful city. Here's the view of the castle from the main shopping street in the modern city center:

Edinburgh Castle

And then from up-close, underneath Castle Rock:

Edinburgh Castle (and Castle Rock)

Talk about a tough castle - Edinburgh Castle is actually built on top of an extinct volcano! Castle Rock is massively impressive - I wouldn't like to be one of the soldiers trying to invade...

Last time we went to Edinburgh, two years ago, we spent our whole visit on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, in the heart of the Old Town. This time, we divided the weekend between the Old Town and the New Town down below. On Saturday we walked up from the base of Castle Rock to the Old Town, hung out in cafés, and visited the National Museum of Scotland, which was amazing. We only went in on a whim, because we happened to notice the building as we walked past on our way to the sf/fantasy bookstore, and of course, being a UK national museum, it was totally free to go inside. As it turned out, the bookstore I'd wanted to go to was closed (despite the hours they claimed on their website...sigh), but the museum was - no surprise! - amazing, and I'm so glad we came across it. We stayed about an hour and a half and only saw a tiny fraction of their collections. My absolute favorite pieces on exhibit were the The Lewis Chessmen, 12th-century Scandinavian chessmen found in Scotland in 1831. I'd heard of them before and never been particularly intrigued, but they turned out to be amazing - so full of character and vibrancy. If we could have afforded it, I would have bought replicas of all of them - as it was, I bought a postcard picture of them to prop on my writing desk as inspiration. And everything we saw at the museum was wonderful. I've posted a whole bunch of photos from the museum and the rest of the city in an Edinburgh set on my Flickr account - but just to give an impression of how much fun the museum was, here's Patrick testing out the model trebuchet!

Trebuchet 2

And then on Monday we went to the Georgian House, which was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped, furnished beautifully and accurately, and with helpful docents in every room to answer questions on any details not covered in the information sheets. And, my God, some of the details we learned...did you know that during the Georgian period, when the ladies withdrew after dinner and the men stayed in the dining room to drink & smoke, a chamber pot was brought out for the gentlemen to use without a break in their conversations? Ah, what a time period... I had so much fun. We spent some time afterwards wandering around the New Town (built at the end of the 18th century) and then most of the rest of the day hanging out in the Waterstones café, reading and drinking coffee. I even bought my very first Moleskine notebook, so now I'm a real writer. ;)

Even the drive back and forth between Leeds and Edinburgh, which we had been dreading, turned out to be really fun, because we drove through the Northumberland National Park, which is just gorgeous. We passed by Hadrian's Wall, drove up and down tiny, swooping roads that felt like rollercoaster rides, and just felt awed by the scenery. On our way up to Edinburgh, we stopped at a little pub near Hadrian's Wall for a drink and a 10-minute break, and ended up staying for two hours to watch the England-Australia rugby match with a really friendly crowd of locals and an even friendlier pub border collie who kept trotting up to get petted as we watched the match. (So it was exactly our type of pub!) Even more amazingly, England won the match. So all in all, it was pretty much a perfect weekend, and although we'd both brought along Serious Writing Work, we both ended up completely ignoring it the whole weekend, which was exactly as it should have been. :)

Now I'm back, Maya's curled up on the couch beside me, and I'm trying to work out how the hell we're going to manage to afford a new laptop for me...but I'm feeling a whole lot more relaxed about it than I was before we left. Vacations are such a good idea.

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