travelogue part three

where was i.  oh yes.

Monday, July 25:

This was our first conference-free day and our last full day in Edinburgh, as we had planned day excursions for the remaining two days of the trip.  We had seen the major attractions already, so it was time for some of the more artsy — and some of the stranger — attractions.

First mom and I hit up the National Gallery of Scotland with Kevin.  I was peeved that, while it was free to see the regular collection, there was a hefty admissions fee to see the Gaugin exhibit.  The main building of the museum, however, was actually quite beautiful.  I’m used to the National Gallery in DC, where the walls are white and the room is empty save a bench or two and perhaps an amateur in front of a ratty easel attempting to copy a Monet.  The rooms of the National Gallery in Edinburgh are definitely opulent.  The walls look like red velvet, and it’s a little difficult to discern the sculpture from the chairs and benches meant for patrons. (They’ve solved this problem by draping the more valuable and less sit-able seating with velvet ropes.)  The collection included quite a bit of regional artwork but not a lot of British artwork, which was surprising.  They did have some impressive names.  Gaugin may have been behind pricey doors, but I could look at Monet, Degas, Rodin, and Whistler for free.

I think my favorite painting was

It’s The Feast of Herod by Sir Peter Paul Rubens.  It’s one of those paintings that makes you do a double take.  A woman in a silk dress.  The requisite thoughtful man at table.  And… a head on a platter.  It’s a depiction of Salome presenting the head of John the Baptist to King Herod.  But my favorite aspect of this is the fact that there is a boy in a kilt in the bottom right corner.  Because, after all, boys in kilts were quite prevalent at the time and place of Salome’s scarf-dance. I also enjoy the fact that Salome’s mother is poking the dead man’s tongue with a fork.  [Note: If you have not read Oscar Wilde’s Salome, you should.  A very quick read and necessary if only for the strangeness factor.]

After the gallery, mom and I went off on our own, first visiting the Brass Rubbing Centre for some hands-on do-it-yourself tourism.  The center is housed in an old church — fifteenth century, I think?  Essentially you browse a collection of brass plates, select one for rubbing, bring it to the owners to cover it with paper and receive a brief lesson in brass-rubbing (including erasing your inevitable mistakes), and start rubbin’.  I chose a strange, panoramic scene called “St. Nicholas,” which cryptically involves the drowning of several figures in boiling water, a collection of women on a boat, and a man about to commit murder.  Meh?  Well, it looked cool.  If you want to see a very poor-quality photograph of my very poor-quality rubbing, as well as a pic of my mom in front of the center,

Once we were finished pretending at skill and accuracy at the center, we headed for the Museum of Childhood across the street, which was ambiguously recommended by [info]gtwnbeth before our trip as a free museum to fill a spare moment that contained (wait for it, wait for it) a room full of very creepy dolls.  The museum lived up to this expectation and even had a small doll of Shockheaded Peter, the primary trickster in a series of children’s cautionary tales.  I saw a puppet show about Shockheaded Peter at the Kennedy Center with some friends while in college in DC.  I had nightmares for weeks.

After that I pretty much had the creepies for the rest of the day.

Two more days to go.  I’ll finish soon.  But I want to close this entry with some photos of the sights I’ve already written about (I finally got some pictures back).

You’ll have to bear with me.  I’m not a very good photographer.

Here’s the group at Ivanhoe pub in a photograph taken by a disgruntled pub-worker:

Some views of the Scott monument, although the colors didn’t come out well…

Entering Edinburgh Castle:

The view from atop Edinburgh Castle:

A cannon-eye view, including the Scott Monument:

The castle seen from Princes Street.  I think I did a great job of capturing the pavement… but it does give you an idea of what the city is like.  You’re walking along, next to a McDonald’s and a Gap, and there’s the castle!  It used to be surrounded by a loch.

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