Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Edinburgh, Newhaven Museum and the Royal Yacht Britannia, 4.10.05

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 22, 2006

 Edinburgh was interesting, but I didn’t like it much, and it didn’t feel safe out at night. There were loud, rough people about, and the streets were badly lit. It wasn’t that we were in a cheap area, because the Travelodge and Radisson were nearby, and there were expensive shops with kilts and Scottish designer clothes (not to be seen dead in)… No, it was the people. They were not friendly at all, and almost everyone on the street seems to smoke – ugh!
It’s a dirty city too. Lovely old buildings absolutely black with soot, such a shame. There are endless terraces all tumbling over each other – which could be really charming, but instead it looked melancholy and poor.
 We went on a city tour (where the guide justified the miserable appearance of the buildings as ‘historic’), and saw Robert Louis Stevenson’s House and Adam Smith’s grave. The Burns Monument, which could be magnificent, is filthy and they should be ashamed of it. Melbourne had the same sort of C19th sandstone buildings blackened by smoke and soot from coal fires, but has cleaned them up and restored them…it just takes money and a sense of city pride.
After that we took the bus down to a sad little museum at Newhaven. The museum is dedicated to the local fisherfolk, suitably romanticised for a modern age. No doubt the local schools bring children down to do its activities, matching model folk to their silhouettes or dressing up for photos,  but I was glad to get out of there. We took a photo of the Firth of Forth in the distance, where my mother used to drive WW2 POWs for detention when she was in the ATS, and then had a long, cold and bleak wait for the bus.
The Royal Yacht Britannia was both interesting and irritating. It’s very well set up with a sort of tower linking visitors to the yacht in dry dock, and we all obediently trooped through the audio tour with precision, but sometimes we were told more than we wanted to know about engines and laundries. Predictably for a staunch republican, I got fed up with the sycophantic commentary, constantly referring to everything and everybody with the prefix ‘royal’, and I thought some of the protocol traditions they were so proud of were downright absurd – officers having to change uniforms 8 times a day depending on whether they were in proximity to the royals or not.  The poor chap who scrubbed down the royal deck in front of the sunroom was required to do so out of the queen’s sight, which was often awkward to achieve – this despite the oft repeated claim that she liked things to be informal. (All the women I know are glad to have someone scrub down the decks any time.)
Still, I found a nice Xmas gift for daddy – a Nelson medallion commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, and a droll book about 1930s etiquette to amuse Jane.
The restaturants near our hotel (the Jury’s Inn) looked great but weren’t open so we found David Bann’s vegetarian restaurant nearby. It was very nice except for the woeful Argentinian wine – no wonder Australian wines are so popular!

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