Saturday, 18 August 2007

We began our day yesterday exploring an Iron Age fort foundation, and stayed up late last night watching men in kilts play bagpipes. Before we got in the car yesterday to drive to Edinburgh, we hiked to the top of a hill behind the Old Bewick Farmhouse. We blazed our own trail across a large pasture where the grass grew to Benji’s shoulders in places, and the sheep were very irritated with us. We made it to the top, where large earth rings are all that is left of an Iron Age fort, covered in purple heather and sheep poop. It is amazing, how old things are here (not the poop, it was fresh!).

We found peanut butter and honey for lunch, much to Benji’s joy, and then made our way to Edinburgh. As we drove past field after field, and passed tiny town after tiny town, we noticed another difference between England and the States. Tiny towns here have residences in the town square, with doors opening onto the main street. Back home, it seems small towns are filled with retail and businesses along the main square. It’s strange to fly by three feet from someone’s front door (no sidewalks)!

We use the road atlas to get from town to town and then power up the GPS system to help us find the exact location we’re going. It worked great until we tried to get to our hotel yesterday. It led us to nowhere in particular on a highway in Edinburgh. As we pulled over to call the hotel, Clay spotted a sign for the airport, so we changed plans and immediately drove to the airport and returned the car. We weren’t planning to drive in Edinburgh anyway. Clay felt a sense of relief as we dropped off the car at the airport. After more than a thousand miles of driving in the UK, the only incident was clipping the traffic barrier with a side mirror ten minutes after picking up the car. I think he’s ready for the campervan in Australia! The car was littered with Cheerio’s, Kleenexes, digestive biscuits, pamphlets and fliers and all sorts of paraphernalia. I can only imagine what our rent car will look like when we have it for over a month. Blimey, it was messy. It’s so nice to just drop it off and say goodbye to the mess!  We got a taxi to take us to our hotel, where we unloaded and headed to dinner, and then the Edinburgh Tattoo.

All I knew about the Tattoo before last night was that it was in a castle and there would be a lot of bagpipes, and it was hard to get tickets. It was a phenomenal show. We sat in bleachers across from an arched entrance to the castle, where the bands entered. It started with bagpipes, men in kilts marching in like a marching band, the sound of all of them filling the night. It was amazing, so many of them and yet it sounded like just one, all of them playing perfectly in unison.

Then there were other bands, one high school band from America that did us proud with drums and fifes, an all-girl school from Taiwan with flags and rifles and a band, and the oddest band from Russia that did an almost slapstick performance. They started with a traditional Russian song from Tchaikovsky and it looked like it was going to be a very clean and efficient performance from the Russians. But all of the sudden they danced the Charleston, did the famous move from the Pulp Fiction movie, and a lot of other clowning around. One man walked on his hands and got everyone clapping by banging his feet together, it was totally entertaining and certainly not what you expect from Russia!

One of the boys’ favorite acts was a group of motorcycle riders. There were maybe 20 of them, and they came out youngest to oldest. The first to come out was a little 6-year old, and so covered with leather and helmet and all, I thought it was a monkey at first. I said, “Oh my gosh, are they monkeys?” Of course I realized after they all rode out that they weren’t, but apparently Benji, in my lap, didn’t get that. About half way through their show, maybe when they all rode out in a pyramid, or when they rode backward, Benji pipes up, “Those aren’t monkeys!” Cracked up everyone sitting around us.

At the end all the performers from the evening gathered on the “stage” and they sang “God Save the Queen”, but I couldn’t get the words from “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” out of my head, since it’s the same tune. Then they sang a pop song about Amarillo, Texas that we had never heard, but practically the entire crowd knew all the words.

Today, we take it easy. It’s raining outside and everyone wants a break from the running around we’ve been doing. For breakfast they had an awesome buffet (in England they say “boo-fay”), Clay and Alayna ate haggis! We did a self-created cheese-tasting at our table from the five different kinds they had at the breakfast bar, cleansing our palates between bites with corn flakes. So sophisticated! Tomorrow, we’re off to Oslo, hoping the laundry dries in time.