First of all, it’s Ed-in-bur-ah, not Ed-in-burg as we would say in the US. If you say it the American ways you get a lot of snickers and eye rolls. Brett says that it’s like someone saying New Or-leeeeens instead of New Or-lins or N’Awlins to a native Louisianian. For some reason it has been quite hard to change the way I say it!
Secondly, this is going to be a novel, folks.
For two weeks in October, kids are off for their fall break. As a teacher, this would have been AMAZING! As a parent, damn! It’s hard! We were supposed to have visitors during the two weeks but plans were changed and we decided to spend a few days exploring Edinburgh instead.
It was a hectic few days leading up to our departure. I was co-hosting the AWA Book Club Wednesday evening and we planned to leave bright and early Thursday morning. Book club = wine club. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how great I was feeling Thursday morning! We shoved everything into the tiny boot of our car and took off for Edinburgh. Thankfully we’d managed to have both devices charged! Parent win!!
We tried to check into the hotel early but no luck! We stopped in a Swedish Cafe for lunch and then we traipsed off to the Edinburgh Zoo with Mia sans nap!
I didn’t do much research about the zoo prior to our arrival. I only knew that they were famous for the penguin walk and we wouldn’t get there in time if Mia walked. The stroller was necessary and she has recently decided that she HATES the stroller. We were treated to Mia’s increasingly frustrated cries as we made our way down the steep slope to the ticket till. She quieted up when she saw the stuffed “neigh” in the foyer though. We had 20 minutes to get in place for the penguin walk. Turns out that the Edinburgh Zoo is sort of carved out of the side of a munro. The walk to the penguins was probably at a 12% gradient! We were huffing and puffing by the time we got there!
The zoo has over 100 Gentoo Penguins! They were funny little things, full of personality! The penguin keeper said that while the Emperor Penguins were cooler to look at, they bored easily of the walk. The penguins that would be in the parade were Gentoo Penguins – except Kevin. Kevin, he said, was Pure Evil. They were letting him out to walk today because he’d been especially good.
Mia wouldn’t even watch the penguins. She made a beeline for a playscape and howled when we finally drug her away to see other animals. The hike up the mountain was CRAZY! I found I was wearing the wrong shoes, yet again! Mia was so tired but didn’t want to be in her stroller. She fought us tooth and nail and it took both Brett and I to get her strapped in. She HAD to do everything that Brooks did, too.
Naturally, the whole time we were there we were comparing it to the Houston Zoo. There were many animals and habitats that were the same but the Edinburgh Zoo looked more realistic – like the areas the animals would actually live – whereas the Houston Zoo seemed to recreate habitats in a way that was also aesthetically appealing. They did have some cool features though – like walk through enclosures for gigantic pelicans, up close encounters with the penguins and two giant pandas. Those were really cool to see. It was like watching a teddy bear come to life!
That evening when we were at the aparthotel (apartment + hotel = aparthotel – also, sidenote: our apartment had the most awesome view of Arthur’s Seat and we could see people at the top taking pictures after the glorious child-free ascension. Brooks kept declaring that he and Brett were going to climb it for Brett’s birthday.) Brett was putting Mia to bed. He’d been with her for a while and was just about to put her in bed when he started screaming for me. Mia had thrown up e-very-where. On her pjs, her bed, her pillow, Dog, a bit on Hoo as well. We got her bathed, in fresh pj’s and then she had a huge meltdown about Dog who was now in the washer/dryer. We finally got her to calm back down and I slept in her room while Brooks slept with Brett.
At 2AM Mia decided it was time to party! She was WIDE awake and asking for Dog. I couldn’t open the washer/dryer combo to save my life! I turned if off. The door didn’t budge. I turned it on without selecting a cycle. Nothing. I consulted the operation manual thing. The instructions were for a different model. I had no other choice but to send Dog through ANOTHER wash cycle and hope that I could open it at the end! Mia was not pleased. Her nighttime party quickly turned into a dramatic crying pile on the floor.
The next morning I was in dire need of coffee. I set off for the nearest coffee shop solo. These short solo walks end up being my favorites on our trips. I have directions to where I need to go in a matter of seconds on my phone but there’s still an element of uncertainty as to what I will encounter on the way. That early in the morning, I was nearly alone on the street and the moon was still high in the sky. It felt like the city was mine and I enjoyed the small thrill of being alone in a different place – a foreign city. It made me feel part of the place – and that lasts as long as I keep my mouth closed. As soon as I speak, I’m the American.
After we were thoroughly caffeinated we set off on a morning walk past The Queen’s Gallery and Parliament.
On our walk we passed some HEAVILY armed policemen. It kind of took us (me) aback a bit. I don’t think that I’ve even seen a policeman in the entire time we’ve been in Aberdeen, let alone one with an automatic weapon. We stopped to chat and they explained that they were only heavily armed due to their station close to the Parliament gates. They were some of an extremely small percentage of police that carry weapons. I asked them if they would rough Brooks up a bit but was denied. I settled for a picture instead.
Next stop, Dynamic Earth Museum.
Ho-ly cow! It was so cool! It might be one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to. Texas 5th Grade teachers – IT COVERS EVERY SCIENCE TEKS! And does it in a fun way that kept Brooks entertained as well as Brett and I. Mia had her tablet and Paw Patrol but she did appreciate the huge iceberg, the 3D movies where snow fell on us, the time machine, and the recreation of the feeling of an earthquake! We also felt the heat of a volcano, smelled the differences in the different biomes and was introduced to the whole thing by the father of geology – James Hutton, a Scotsman.
Aberdeen isn’t known for it’s shopping. I had some returns to make while in the big city so I set off on a couple mile walk while Brooks, Mia and Brett rested. It has been several months since I’ve seen so many people in one place at one time! My walk took me through the Royal Mile which reminded me a great deal of Jackson Square in New Orleans – magicians, guitar players, bagpipe players, artists creating renderings and caricatures.
When I returned, we drug the kids back to the Royal Mile with us where they were probably most impressed by the fact that they could walk in the middle of the street. (The main part of the Royal Mile is closed to cars.)
We really wanted to have dinner at a Whisky Brasserie but each one we stopped at had a sign that said that only those 5 years old and over were allowed in! So Mia’s presence meant we stopped into a “proper” burger place for dinner. (Had nothing on Beck’s Prime or Smashburger but not bad for Scotland.) While there our server suggested that we check out Camera Obscura. We were on borrowed time with Mia as it was so why not roll the dice, eh?
Plus, we were a couple of adult beverages in at this point… so off we went!
It ended up being a really cool place that kept all of us entertained the entire time. It’s 5 floors of optical illusions – each floor with a different theme. No strollers allowed to Mia’s relief and our dismay. We decided to start at the top and walk our way down.
With each floor we descended, Mia’s exhaustion grew more evident. By the time we reached the ground floor it was a legit fight, with both of us against her, to get her secured in the stroller. She screamed. the. entire. way. Not even Paw Patrol could calm her!
The next morning we packed up and tried to leave. Mia had other plans. She put baby el-fant (baby elephant) into the GD washer/dryer and SHUT THE DOOR. When she couldn’t open she immediately collapsed into a puddle with all of the drama she could muster. We had no choice but to put the damn thing through a cycle. There was no other way to get the door open!
After the elephant fiasco was resolved, walked George St. and Prince St. – planning to stay in New Town, instead of Old Town the next time we came to visit. Mia wasn’t having it. She was screaming at Brooks for just existing, screaming at the sun for the same and the fact it was in her eyes. She didn’t want to be in her stroller. She didn’t want the sun cover to block the rays. She didn’t want to eat, yet she was crying for food. Just all around exhausted. So we cut our last day in Edinburgh short and made for home.
On the way back to Aberdeen, Brooks noticed that the tops of the green munros (mountains) had turned white with snow. Brett and Brooks were determined to see and touch it. Snow has been Brooks’ main drive in coming to Scotland. At first it was all he could talk about. Brett said it couldn’t be more than 20 minutes away.
However, I didn’t have anything pressing to get home to so I Apple Mapped us to a “town” that looked to be right in between the mountains. Before we even reached the “town” (I say this because it was one house. Yes, really.) I’d lost cell service. Brett thought it best to keep driving.
We were on a road that zig zagged back and forth – sometimes across and sometimes through the munros. Every time the road grade increased, Brooks and Brett bubbled over with excitement. Brett announces finally that it is snowing.
It wasn’t. It was sleeting.
Try to convince Brooks of that though after Brett already said snow – impossible. Brett finds a place to pull over and forces us all out of the car. I was wearing slip on shoes without socks! When I got out of the car some random woman looked at me and made a comment about how I obviously wasn’t from around here. Well no – I do know how to dress for weather – I just didn’t plan for this elevation, KAREN!
Luckily, Mia’s attitude won out and I convinced Brett to ask for directions from the two stoned gentlemen near the car park. Thank goodness he did. The road we were on never intersected with another road. It just dead ended. So back down the mountain we went!
TWO HOURS LATER we were finally back on course. Ish.
We decided to take some back roads through the countryside instead of returning to the highway. Somehow this led us through mounds of snow and to a car park from which you could see exactly where the snowy weather was going. Brooks was beyond himself. Mia was asleep – praise the car riding gods.
After a thrown snow ball we were back in the car. Approximately 3 minutes down the winding road, Brooks threw up.
All. Over. The. Car.
At least he picked a beautiful spot to do his final spitting.
We finally made it home. Relief was on everyone’s faces as we tumbled out of the car and into the house. We pulled everything out of the car to disinfect and took the bag of used paper towels (pee-pee towels as Mia calls them) to the outdoor trash can.
Our trash can was missing.
Like gone, gone.
We looked in our neighbors’ driveways and peered through their fences into their back gardens but eventually gave up. Our trash can just disappeared!