travelogue part two

Saturday, July 23:

Saturday morning Kevin and I went to the first session of the conference.  He had to chair a panel on the illustrated book.  It was probably the most interesting panel I attended (including an interesting speaker on extra-illustrator John M. Wing, whose work is at the Newberry Library in Chicago), but of course after the first panel Kevin and I hailed a cab to head back to the apartment, change into jeans, and head into the city. 

After all, I have no patience with people who want to discuss the creation of knowledge in the manuals of conch-shell collectors when the streets outside are lined with at least three castles.

My mom and I went off on our own on Saturday, heading first to Edinburgh Castle, probably the most prominent landmark in Edinburgh, located at the top of Princes Street.  The wait to get tickets was at least 30 minutes long, nestled among school groups from England and fanny-packed Americans, but it was worth it.  The castle offers really spectacular panoramic views of the city.  While a visit there feels strangely like a short wander through an amusement park (the plastic-knight-suited children definitely assisted in this illusion), I think this feeling originates from my inability to imagine that the place existed in the thirteenth century.  This place.  The place where I’m standing.

I don’t have any of my own pictures of the castle yet, but I’ll post them when I get them back.

When we left the castle we wandered around Princes Street for the rest of the afternoon.  We visited the Whiskey Heritage Center, tried a few in an effort to pick out a bottle for my father, and promptly realized that all of them tasted exactly the same to us (read: all of them tasted like rubbing alcohol laced with furniture stain).  Eventually we ended up getting him a bottle of Loch Lomond, selected solely because it sounds extremely Scottish (and we’d never seen it in the US).  I was impressed that pretty much any excursion in Scotland involved, at some point, a whiskey tasting.  Shopping.  Hiking.  Church-going.

After browsing around the Museum of Scotland (which, after spending four years surrounded by the Smithsonian, I found horribly disappointing), we took a tour of Mary King’s Close.  Closes, in Edinburgh, are the narrow alleys between buildings.  Mary King’s close, named after it’s primary property-owner, was buried underneath the city chambers, leaving the lower apartments cemented beneath the city.  Definitely dark and creepy.  The focus of the tour guide’s ramblings was how disgusting it was to live in Edinburgh in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  There was much talk of raw sewage in the streets, the plague, and bricking up chimneysweeps after they’ve died of suffocation.

Sunday, July 24:

Sunday dawned after a sleepless night listening to crazy carousers outside our window.  Also, I was stressed, because my presentation was Sunday morning.

It actually went quite well.  I was second, following a gentleman who was researching something relatively interesting… but I missed most of what he said because his incessant pacing and mumbling made him unintelligible.  Plus I was focused on the fact that he hadn’t found it necessary to iron or tuck in his shirt.  He also went ten minutes over, an offense that, according to me, should be punishable by stoning in an academic setting.  But I spoke for my twenty minutes and only minorly flubbed one post-presentation question.

Afterward mom, Jill, and I went to the Palace at Holyroodhouse, the queen’s residence when she’s visiting Scotland.  It’s definitely in my top three of Edinburgh places to see, for two reasons: (a) with your admissions price you get a free audio tour with those dorky headphones instead of a live walking tour during which you follow a kilted man up and down low-ceilinged spiral staircases while straining to hear trivia about Mary Queen of Scots, and (b) attached to the palace is a ruined abbey, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  So I’ll close with a few of my own photographs, imagine that, taken with my dad’s digital camera.  I’ll have a few more when my other film comes in.




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