I got a late start, which is pretty much a norm at this point in the trip. I’m usually out the door by 11 or a little earlier, heading to Starbucks for a coffee and snack. I typically avoid Starbucks at home, but while travelling through Europe it has been my go to coffee shop. They don’t do brewed coffee over here. The closest you get is an Americano, which is a watered down espresso. It’s just not the same. Starbucks does brewed coffee, no matter what country I’m in.
The second thing on the to-do list was to get a jacket. I needed another layer to deal with the strong, cool, wind blowing through the city. I found a TX Maxx (the UK’s version of TJ Maxx) and found a nice zip front sweatshirt. Used beneath my rain jacket it was just enough to keep me warm on my tours about town. It also wouldn’t take up much space in my luggage, which is good since I don’t have room to spare.
With two of the basic needs met, it was time for a little more sightseeing. I headed up the Royal Mile to the Real Mary Kings Close to take the tour. They were already fully booked for the day except for a slot at 5:30 pm. I made my reservation and move out to hit some of the other sites on my list. The National Museum of Scotland isn’t far away so I walk over to check it out.
Entrance to the museum is free, though they ask for a 1 GBP donation for taking a map. There are also donation boxes located throughout the museum, where I usually unload my pocket change. A small donation of $3 – $5 is well worth it.
I find it an odd but interesting collection. From Formula 1 cars to giant whales, it covers a lot of ground.
I like the look of the buildings interior with the large open skylight above. It reminded me of a building you might see at a World’s Fair during the Victorian Era. Not surprisingly, it turns out it was actually modeled after the Crystal Palace in London which was home of The Great Exhibition in 1851.
Next, I headed over to Victoria Street, which I understand, even before Harry Potter, is the most photographed street in Scotland. It’s believed that it was the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.
I admit, I’m no Harry Potter aficionado and I’ve only seen a few of the movies – I don’t even know what Diagon Alley is. I just saw that written on the side of a building on Victoria Street.
You can also find plenty of Harry Potter souvenir stores around.
I made it back to the Real Mary Kings Close for my tour. There were about a dozen of us waiting around for the tour. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take photos inside which was unfortunate.
The guide showed up and we began to descend into the old town frozen in time beneath the modern city. I’ll cut to the chase, the tour was a disappointment. You get led around into a couple of rooms setup with really cheap sets to look at as they tell the story of what happened there.
It is interesting and informative, but I was hoping to spend some more time looking around the buildings and the streets, getting a glimpse of how life was back then. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. At the end, they take a crappy photo of you in the middle of the street that they want to sell to you when you leave. Overall, it was a let down.
I headed back toward my hotel in Old Town, enjoying the sunset and contemplating the next day’s adventures.