DAY 5:  York to Edinburgh

Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable!  What an incredible day!  We had another full English breakfast to start our day.  The day was relaxing compared to the hustle and bustle of all the previous days of the tour.  Because Douglas and I went out tonight separate from the rest of the tour group, we ended with a total bang -- the most enjoyable night out we've had yet.

Our drive from York to Edinburgh was an all day affair, with only a few significant stops along the way.  Our first stop was in the village of Thirsk (of "All Creatures Great and Small" fame). While most of the group headed up to take pictures of yet another church, Douglas and  I ducked in a tiny antique shop along the way.  We both picked up some very interesting items.  We spent nearly our whole allotment of time for Thirsk in that shop! When we got back to the coach, a couple of people said they wanted to start following us after they saw all our goodies!  We continued northward.  It was a relaxing drive which slowly unveiled to huge scenic views as we made our way towards Scotland.  Large areas of farm and village land passed by knitted together with large fields of brilliant yellow canola.

Just short of Hadrian's Wall, we stopped for lunch at the nicest pub (The Swan) we've seen yet.  After lunch, we left to get back aboard our coach -- only to find yet another stunning view at the rear of the pub.  Our stop at Hadrian's Wall was definitely "touristy".  It was a relatively short patch of the wall that was only a couple of feet high.  We later found out we would have to go into virtual wilderness to see reasonably intact sections of the wall.  This is because the wall has been cannibalized over hundreds of years to build houses, streets, and other walls.

Hadrian's Wall

Everyone on the tour seemed to perk up as we approached the border to Scotland.  Within miles of the border, the road evolved into long , straight rolling sections that followed the original Roman roads.  The hills slowly became more and more steep until we reached areas that had complete blind peaks!  It resembled a roller coaster at times!

The mood was almost festive as we stopped at the England/Scotland border.  The border area (and our stop) was  located at the perfect spot -- showing vast views of the Scottish Lowlands.

Our last official stop of the day (worth mentioning) was Jedburgh.  We viewed the Abby and the house of Mary, Queen of Scotts.  It was only a short picture stop and a drive-by.  Nonetheless, I think most of us welcomed the slower pace, and my feet welcomed the rest.

Hadrian's Wall.  Monty and Bev (part of our group) are in the left foreground.

We pulled into Edinburgh near the end of the business day (5 p.m.).  We arrived to yet another surprisingly nice hotel.  Douglas and I expected to do little more than visit a laundry mat to wash our duds and fill the time writing postcards.  What happened next turned the night upside down!

The rest of our gang went out for a group dinner.  So far, we've seen the special dinners as overpriced "optionals".  Since Douglas has been here already (for a couple of weeks), he is my trusty guide -- and an old hand at getting around the cities and finding the good deals for food and transport.

We packed up our laundry and headed to the lobby to find a local laundry mat.  The concierge called around only to find that they were all closed.  We were in trouble.  I'm down to my last clean shirt.  Leave it to silver-tongued Doug to call back to one of the laundry mats, and convince the woman to stay open for us!  In this process, we discovered the laundry mat will do the laundry for us (wash and fold) for just a few extra quid!  She would stay long enough for us to drop off our bundles!  Douglas, my hero!  (Having the hotel do our laundry is outrageously expensive).

Scotland!

I called a cab for us so we could get to the laundry as quickly as possible.  Douglas and I planned to drop of the bundles, get a bite to eat, and then walk around to see one or two sights.  Waiting outside the hotel for us was NOT a standard black cab -- but a cab painted entirely as the Flower of  Scotland tartan -- the only one like it, anywhere.  Douglas popped out behind me and his jaw dropped.  He started to suggest we take THAT cab (the tartan) instead.  Lo and behold that *was* our cab.  People were taking pictures of our cab outside the hotel!  As we headed into Edinburgh, the city began to reveal itself.  All I can say is that Edinburgh seems, to me, a cross between Paris and London.  You'll have to see the pictures when I get back.

As Douglas and I talked to the driver, he seemed to take a shine to us.  We were interested in all he had to say, and asked questions about his cab, him, and Edinburgh.  By the time we reached the Laundry, we took videos and pictures together (with Douglas driving the cab no less!).  Our new friend Rob didn't want us to leave!  We dropped off our laundry to the lady at the laundry mat (who also came outside to the cab to joke and talk with us).  She was no less friendly or helpful.  It simply "blew us away".

Rob and his Flower of Scotland tartan cab -- the only one like it!  Rob ended up taking Douglas and I on a fantastic tour of Edinburgh!

After dropping off the laundry, Douglas and I were going to walk around a bit and head back to the hotel.  Rob wouldn't hear of it.  He insisted that we join him on a free tour of the city in his special cab!  We went to every major sight in the city.  At every stop, Rob pulled over and told us history, stories, and lore!  We video taped a great deal of this.  Even I can't wait to get home and see it again.

As dusk approached, Rob dropped of us in the center of town.  My head was spinning.  I couldn't believe all that had happened.  Douglas, (now an Edinburgh veteran) took me on the best places he saw last week while waiting for me to arrive.  The absolute best place in Edinburgh is a neighborhood not on any of the tourist maps or guided tours.  We trekked off down into an area called "Deans Village".  This is not a place of shops and monuments.  It's simply very old neighborhood of old stone buildings and bridges, punctuated with white houses and classic European beamwork.  In the center is a large bubbling stream surrounded with wild gardens.  We meandered through the neighborhood, watching people with their pets and talking with a few folks. 

Edinburgh Castle at the top, the cathedral (top right), and the University.

We ended the now late night with a stop at an old pub to rest and write our postcards.  We then rode a double-decker bus back through town to the hotel taking night time videos of Edinburgh.  Again, we met the friendliest locals I've ever encountered.  What an incredible day.  I'll try to get some postcards off to you all tomorrow. 

Needless to say, our group tour of local Edinburgh may be anti-climatic after today's events!  Who knows... it seems anything can happen with this trip.

Part of the "pop up" map we used while exploring Edinburgh!

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