Well, I promised an Edinburgh post, so come with me now, as we walk up Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile.
At the bottom of the hill, the start of the Royal Mile, you find the Palace of the HM the Queen. I didn't get to go inside because the day I visited, the Queen was having a lawn party in honor of people of service (police, fire, military, etc.). Sadly, I was not invited.
After you depart the palace, a fudge shop will materialize on your right. A perfect place to get a gift for loved ones back home. Like it'll last that long. Please.
Walking up the hill, you may be suddenly overtaken by a strong craving for Turkish food. If so, you're in luck! Truva Turkish is on your right as you head up the street. They have delicious lentil soup (add a little salt), Prawn Gratin, and Borek, which is filo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese. I'm also told they have nice toasted sandwiches.
A little further on, you will find dessert (the fudge does not count; that was a snack, er, gift): gelato! Because, come on. How can you not enjoy a nice cool gelato as you hike up a hill?
Along the way, you will pass by innumerable souvenir shops. These are the perfect place for anything tartan you could ever want (kilts, ties, scarves, towels, hip flasks, the list goes on). Also, postcards (you can find them for 20p; if they cost more than that, keep looking), shot glasses, and LOTS o' cashmere. I won't go too deep into the shopping. You'll see. You can spend a whole day exploring all the many many shops on this street. And they're not all tourists shops, either, so don't worry.
On your left, a little more than halfway up, you will see the beautiful St. Giles Cathedral. Go inside and take a look. The stained glass is stunning (though, I would say that about every cathedral; I love stained glass), and if you're lucky, you may even catch a service. Most of them are short - ten minutes at most - and regardless of your creed, it's worthwhile experience. If you're big on church pictures, note that they ask you to donate £2 to take pictures, but it's a pretty small price to pay.
Hungry, again? No problem! A very popular pub called Deacon Brodie's will be on your right, not far from St. Giles. Ok, now for me to reveal an important milestone that happened to me at Deacon Brodie's. When I visited last Saturday... I ATE HAGGIS! Yes, it's true. I ate something that, I think, is made of the stomach of a goat. And I know what you're thinking: But Kimber, haggis sounds like the least appetizing thing in the entire world. Well, you know what, skeptical reader? It was really, really good. They fry it up and add all kinds of seasoning, and honestly, you would never know that it is what it is. Also, you eat it with mashed potatoes and turnips, so it all gets mixed together and is great. So there. I've said it, and I'm glad. Eat haggis.
The thing about Deacon Brodie's is that it is a bit of a tourist trap. I waited 40 minutes to get a table (it's not a very big place), but in the end, it was really worth it. In addition to the haggis, I had a lovely beef pie. The crust was perfect, the flavor was savory, so if you have some time to spare, I'd check it out. The restaurant is upstairs, by the way. The bottom half is the pub part, and it is in that part that you can watch, say, the second-to-last World Cup 2010 game between Germany and Uruguay. For example. It's a nice atmosphere in which to sit and toss back a pint of Tennent's.
But wait! The trek isn't over yet, dear reader. We have two more stops to go. What visit to Scotland would be complete without sampling a bit of the country's national drink? And that is where the Scotch Whisky Experience comes in. On the left, near the end of the road, you will find a tour and tasting that rivals some of the whisky tours I've seen in the past. The building itself is not a distillery, so unlike your usual whisky tour where you hike around the place and see the whisky being made, at the SWE, you get to sit in a big barrel and ride through a virtual tour. Like Disney World! And trust me, you won't feel like walking around a distillery once you've hiked all the way up that hill. Jeez, why didn't you start at the top and work your way down? Silly. After the tour ride, you get to sample a whisky (unless to buy the "gold" ticket; then you get to sample five whiskies - go for the gold!), and then you can visit the extensive whisky shop to take home the ones you liked.
Finally, we reach the top of the Royal Mile. If you thought that the Palace at the bottom was the only reason they call it the Royal Mile, then you were mistaken, my friend, because at the top of the hill is one of Edinburgh's premier attractions: Edinburgh Castle. As castles go, this one is pretty premium. The crown jewels of Scotland are housed there. They're not quite as impressive as the English ones, but please don't tell the Scottish I said that. They are worth a look, though. The guides are very knowledgeable, and the castle has the best view of the city. Looking down from the parapets, you can see the whole of the New Town (the Royal Mile is in Old Town), including the Memorial in the middle of the city that looks like one of the towers from Lord of the Rings. (You can see all that unless you go on a rainy day, like I recently did, in which case, the fog obscures everything, but I have seen it on a clear day, so you can take my word for it.) The Castle also has a war memorial with all the names of Scottish soldiers that have died in service, an exhibition on prisoners of war, and a lovely tea room.
Well, that's the Royal Mile. I hope you enjoyed the hike. Tune in next time for a few other must-visit sites in Edinburgh OR something about London OR maybe another plug for one of my friends. Who knows? I'll post all those things at one time or another, but in what order I do it is up to me. Because it's my birthday.