May 2nd: Free walking tour, new friend from Brazil, best gelato I’ve ever had in my life
I woke up pretty darn late on Tuesday. I was very tired from a long day of travel and activities, so I stayed in bed. When I finally stopped lazing I walked around the Royal Mile, and I ate at one of the places JK Rowling worked on Harry Potter (The Elephant House)! I tried Scottish fish pie for the first time, and I actually liked it. An Australian gent sat next to me, we struck up conversation, and I made a joke, and then I said, “JK, JK” and he understood my pun and totally geeked out!! (Get it? Like JK Rowling?? I’m so witty.
I rushed out of the Elephant House in order to make it to a free guided walking tour of Edinburgh. I arrived just in time (it’s becoming a bit of a habit). I became fast friends with an older couple from Chicago and a 27 year old guy from Brazil. My Brazilian buddy and I were cracking jokes all throughout the tour, and the Chicagoans were lovely and quite funny too.
I learned a lot about Scottish history – and as for Harry Potter-related things, I learned plenty of that too! Here is the grave of Thomas Riddell and his son, Thomas Riddell, the inspiration for VOLDEMORT.
There were also the graves of people with the last names Moody and McGonagall. William McGonagall, specifically. The worst poet ever. This guy loved Queen Victoria. He wrote her poetry and sent it to her, and the response he received was basically, “Yeah man that was not great poetry at all… don’t come to the castle to see the queen. This is the opposite of an invitation.” SO William McGonagall goes to the castle to see the queen. He shows the guard the letter he got and the guard says, “My dude, I hate to say it, but you were totally rejected. If you’re as good of a poet as you say you are, why not recite some for me right now?” And so McGonagall does exactly that. He recites some really bad poetry – he rhymed the word “scene” with “green” multiple times. It’s pretty painful. Whether the guard deemed the man worthy of seeing the queen, I cannot recall, so it will remain a mystery.
Some more pictures of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard:
That last picture is of the Flodden Wall, which was built to keep out invaders many, many years ago. There were a lot of “Build that wall!” jokes made, like how it was paid for by the English.
Also – related to the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is the little dog statue. Long story short – the dog was supposedly the companion of the person who tended the graveyard, but when that guy died, the dog continued to protect the graves, and was given voting rights and rights to the city. Is it true? There are a few parts of the story that don’t quite line up, but it’s still super cute.
Trigger warning: some gruesome descriptions
On the tour, I also learned about Mercat Cross, a place where news about the city (AKA gossip) and news from other places (which would be 3 days late by the time that it arrived in Edinburgh) was announced. I also learned that the punishment for criminals who committed minor crimes (as in, not deserving of death) was to have a nail go through their ear so that they were pinned to the gallows in front of Mercat Cross. Then, the crowd would jeer at them and curse and throw things. The only way to get off was to tear their ear, which would brand the person permanently as a criminal.
Fun fact: beheadings were exclusively for the upper classes, while being hanged was for lower class citizens. To behead, they had The Maiden, which was not slanted like the French guillotine. The Maiden didn’t really work effectively – for the last person to be killed this way, it took 4 tries to get someone’s head off all the way.
End of trigger warning
So one of my absolute favorite stories from the tour was about the Stone of Destiny (ooooooooo, ahhhhhhh). The Stone of Destiny was how the Scots used to crown kings. The to-be king would be on the Stone and the crown would be placed on his head, and bing bang boom, you got a king. But the Stone of Destiny was taken away from the Scottish by Edward I, a king of England, and was placed under the throne of Westminster Abbey. And that is where it stayed for years and years, even after King James the VI/I, even after the unification, England held onto the Stone.
Until one fateful night in 1950, when four Scottish lads got drunk and decided, “That Stone belongs to Scotland! We must take back what is ours!” And so they did.
They snuck into Westminster Abbey late at night. (How they did this while drunk is beyond me.) They then rocked the throne back and forth so that they could get the stone. Remember, there are only four drunk men. They get the stone, and on their way out, they drop it.
THEY BROKE THE STONE OF DESTINY.
The Stone is then split into two – a big piece and a smaller piece. The big piece is buried somewhere in Northern England, while the four guys kept the smaller piece and brought it to a shady stone mason. You know, the kind of stone masons your mother always told you to stay away from. They talked to the stone mason and asked if he could repair the stone. The stone mason is like, “Oooohhhh I know what that is. Where’s the other piece??” They told him they had buried it, and he basically says, “You buried sandstone in the wettest, most acidic, coldest land??” So the guys panic and go and get the other half right-quick. The stone mason connected the two pieces together.
And then they brought it to Scotland where they were lauded as heroes!
They brought the stone back to Scotland, true – but one of the men, Ian Hamilton, KEPT THE STONE FOR A COFFEE TABLE.
Time passes, and he starts feeling guilty and starts thinking, “Yeah, maybe I should give the stone to Scotland…” So he does what every rational person does. He left it with a priest. The priest was like, “Oooohhhh I know what this is. But I don’t know what to do! What a moral dilemma!” So he gives hands it over to the law and lets them figure out what to do with it.
The police took it, and then the Stone of Destiny was returned to its rightful place in Scotland!
HAHA JK AGAIN.
Before it was returned to Scotland (which it was, eventually) it first was returned BACK TO ENGLAND. When England finally gave the Stone over to Scotland, there was a huge procession – this big parade where there were bagpipes droning and the Stone was brought up to Edinburgh Castle. But the bagpipers weren’t playing that traditional Scottish song that almost everyone knows. No, the bagpipers played the Mission Impossible theme song as they brought back this ancient, broken (then fixed), ridiculous Stone of Destiny. I mean, honestly though… the Stone literally is a slab of rock. No decorations. Just… a regular old rock.
The story doesn’t end there though. Scotland is going to have to hand over the Stone to England once more for THEIR crowning ceremony. I’m still not over this, haha.
I even took a picture of the greatest gelato there ever will be and ever has been. My Brazilian buddy suggested we go to this place that is apparently world famous, and we did, and WOW I DON’T REGRET IT AT ALL. It is world famous for a reason.
Brazilian dude and I hung out for the rest of the day, it was quite lovely. I was so glad I made such a wonderful friend.
We walked up Calton Hill – the place where they wanted to make a Parthenon replica but they ran out of funding midway… so all that’s left is a bunch of columns. Quite amusing. But the views are great!
We also went to the Royal Mile Tavern for dinner, and got fried Mars Bars. I wasn’t going to try it because I was afraid I was going to love it, but then I tried it (due to peer pressure) and then I loved it and ate a lot.
Here are some more pictures of Edinburgh Castle, and of the Sir Walter Scott memorial. I’ll talk more about Sir Walter Scott on the next post!
Anyways, I realize that this post is SUPER late but that’s because I was typing up all of those blog posts on my phone and it was taking wayyyyy longer than I would have liked, plus I didn’t want to waste time inside when I could be either exploring or sleeping, haha.
This is just the first of eight blog posts remaining. Oy. Seven left to go! I got this 😀 Haha I hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did! Wishing you all the best!
As always, thank you for reading and sending you all my love! ❤