Monday, August 7, 2017

One O'Clock Gun

We got very lucky with the weather in Scotland as far as rain goes, but many days were quite overcast.  I love me a good cool and cloudy day, but they are not ideal for photographs.  Unfortunately, our visit to Edinburgh Castle was on one such morning when the clouds were exceptionally thick.
Crowds on this trip were light overall, but the castle was quite busy the day we visited.  The Royal Tattoo takes place in August, and they had already begun to prepare for that as well (blue seating on the left) so the amount of people there was more than we encountered on the rest of the trip.
 The views of the city from the castle are fantastic...again not as good with the cloud cover, but you get the gist.
We did get some rain during the visit, so ducked inside the Scottish National War Memorial.
The Scottish National War Museum is housed at the castle.  In addition to the history of Scotland's military involvement, their soldiers who have died while serving are part of the Roll of Honour.  The names of the soldiers are in books, placed around the museum, so many books.  
Photographs were not allowed inside the memorial, but you can see inside here.  
The main entrance to the Memorial is flanked by these beautiful life-sized statues of a unicorn and a lion.  They were sculpted by Phyllis Bone in 1927.  She was one of many female artists who consulted and created for the Memorial.
The animals are heraldic symbols of Scotland (unicorn) and England (lion).  There's something charming about the unicorn being their national animal, magical even.
One O'Clock was an important time for the Scottish sailors in the 1800s.  Watches were not yet reliable so sailors used chronometers and needed to reset them midday.  The time ball was invented as a visual to those on the water.  When the ball dropped they knew it was 1:00 and could set the chronometer.  
However, with it being Scotland, those on the ships couldn't always see the ball, so it was decided a cannon at the castle would be fired at 1:00 as well.  Because the speed of sound is quite slow, sailors were given maps to show what time it would be when they heard the sound on the water.  Of course, the time ball and the One O'Clock Gun are no longer needed, but they are both still used as a matter of ceremony.  
A little before 1:00, the crowds surrounded the North Face of the castle to watch the 1:00.  Thank goodness it was early in the trip and lugging both camera lenses hadn't tired me out yet.  We were quite far away, but the long lens helped with that.  (The photos are better enlarged.)
 The "new" gun is a Howitzer light gun.
 About 5 minutes before 1:00 the process began.  The gunner came out, showed the blank cartridge, marched back to the gun and put the cartridge in.
 Then he stood aside for a bit and watched the time just before marching back to the gun, still watching the time.
 At 1:00, the gun was fired.
 The blank was then removed and he showed the crowd.
While I'm not usually one for ceremony, I did enjoy this one, no matter how touristy it was.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

Edinburgh 1

Mike and I met up in London and then jumped on the train to Edinburgh the next day.  As much as I enjoy London, I've been a few times so it was just our starting and stopping point - easy to get a direct flight from and to Los Angeles.  The train ride to Edinburgh was quite pleasant.  It took about 4 hours and we got into town midday.  After checking into our room, which was just outside the city center, we found a city bus and rode around for a couple of hours just to get the lay of the land.  While I'm not a big fan of bus-type tours, I do like an overview of new cities to get a better understanding of where I am.  For this trip, I don't know how much it helped though, as I was pretty much directionally challenged the entire time in Edinburgh.  That's unlike me, but it was strange to not quite have my bearings.
Although it's quite touristy, I did really enjoy the Royal Mile.  The Royal Mile is made up of the main roads in the Old Town.  It starts at the top of the hill at Edinburgh Castle and runs down to Holyrood Palace (Queen Elizabeth's official Scottish residence).  This is the view of the area from the train station down below.  I liked the Victorian architecture.
Holyrood Palace

On one of our stops that day, we had this great view of Arthur's Seat which is a tall, flat peak in the hills of Edinburgh.  We climbed up to Arthur's Seat the following day, but the sky was so pretty during our first day.
 The Scottish Parliament moved into this new Parliament Building in 2004. While it opened to mixed reviews and some controversy, I quite liked it.  It's different, but quite calming. It was designed to demonstrate a link between Scotland, its people, and its culture.
The offices of the MSP include "contemplation spaces" or big pop-out bay windows.
Because we got a late start, dusk came quickly that first day.  The city was quite pretty when the sun went down.  

As I mentioned in the past post, the sky stayed light (even after the sun went down) until about 10:30/11PM.  It was on odd feeling, especially that first night as it was some what of surprise.  We went back to the hotel earlier that first night as traveling takes it out of you.  With light peeking through the curtains it made us chuckle that it didn't feel like bed time.  
Two more days in Edinburgh to share next time.
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