May 14 and 15
We spent Saturday on Princes and George Street, two areas that were recommended as having good shopping. On our way, we stopped at St. John’s, a Scottish Episcopal church right down the road from the Sheraton. We visited for a few minutes, Mom indulging my never-ending fascination with old churches and then explored the old cemetery attached to the church.
Reading some of the writings on these ancient markers was like looking back in time though a narrow lens. While life must have been very different living in this time period, people mourned their dead when they passed just as we do now. Mom was especially moved by one tombstone that had the names of a husband and wife who died about 20 years after each other but also held the names of their 3 children, ages 5, 4 and 2 who had all died in the same year, 30 years before them. Possibly the plague or some other illness of the early 1800’s had wiped out their entire family of children. We looked at each other and I know we both felt a sharp sadness at imagining such a tragedy.
We were on a hunt for a post office as Vince had asked me to bring him Scottish postage stamps. The first post office we found didn’t have what I was looking for so we walked quite a distance looking for another. In between, we had lunch at a little outside cafe on Georges Street and watched the crowds go by. It was yet another beautifully, brilliant day, cool enough to be comfortable with clear blue skies populated by the occasional white cloud. We were both grateful that the weather had been so lovely for the entire trip.
We reached the area where the other post office was supposed to be but I couldn’t find it. So not wanting to push Mom around in the wheelchair until I knew where we were going, I left her in a park for a few minutes and went to the main street to ask people where it might be. A number of people I asked didn’t know but a woman who had walked by overheard me asking. When she realized that no one could help me, she walked back up the sidewalk to me and proceeded to guide me down to the alley where I could find it. Just one more example of how nice people in this city are and I told her so.
I went back up to collect Mom who was sitting in the park, right where I had left her, watching all the people doing what people do on Saturday mornings in a park in a big city. Some having coffee at an open air bistro, some laying on the grass reading the paper, others walking their dogs or passing time with family. It was one more thing that we liked about Edinburgh, it was comfortable; old in places, grand in others, but welcoming and comfortable.
We found the Post office in an indoor mall that was very crowded so after buying what I needed we left and went back outside. We shopped for a bit more, Mom becoming very enthusiastic when it was time to buy presents for everyone. We enjoyed ourselves picking up Scottish items, deciding this for that person and that for the other. Since shopping was a family trait inherited from my grandmother, Mom’s mother, it seemed quite apropos.
We started our long walk back, even longer now because my back was hurting from pushing the wheelchair up the hills. Once at the hotel, we proceeded directly to the restaurant on the premises for High Tea or Afternoon Tea as the Scots called it.
I had done this twice in my life, one at Harrods with Sonja (which was fabulous!) and once in Singapore. I knew this was the perfect experience to cap off our trip and something I wanted Mom to experience. I ordered for us both and sat back to wait, knowing it would be worth it. First a lovely pot of decaf tea for us to share and then a three-tiered cake stand filled with small finger sandwiches (cucumber and cream cheese, how very British!), scones and cakes with lemon curd (my absolute favorite thing!) and then small, delicate pastries beautifully decorated. We ate until we couldn’t move, and then ate some more. It was wonderful and perfectly Scottish.
After a few hours rest in the room, we went to one of the Casinos that I didn’t know Edinburgh had. As I said, a cab driver had told us earlier in the week that Edinburgh had them and there wasn’t any way Mom wasn’t going to go!, Her eyes were all alight on our way over and she didn’t even want the wheelchair! It’s amazing how much energy she gets from the thought of playing slot machines.
The casino was small and uncrowded, definitely not like Atlantic City or Las Vegas, but we had been told as much. Scotland has strict regulations on the number of slot machines per casino (20) and methods for gambling so she was a little disappointed although she managed to hit every one of those 20 machines. After about 2 hours, she had lost all her money and we got a quick bite to eat in the restaurant.
Sunday morning, I rose early and went down the street to attend 8am services at St. John’s Cathedral. I was a little disappointed that the service wouldn’t be held in the grand main section of the church with all its stained glass and grand statuary; we met instead in a side chapel. I wasn’t surprised though as this early service is usually lightly attended.
There were 5 people including myself and the woman priest, most of them much older than me. The service was very similar to what I was used to and I participated, although my mind couldn’t help but wander at times to read the inscriptions on the stone walls. I wondered about the other people and families that had worshiped here. It was a calming experience and I had a quiet moment inside my own head to express my gratitude at being able to bring my mother on this heritage trip. Of course, none of it would have been possible without Vince. He had come up with the idea originally and then made it happen. He is so generous and so amazing, I never, ever take this for granted. I know how lucky and blessed I am.
It is now Sunday and we are on the plane coming home. We have about 1 hour before we arrive. Why do the return flights always seem to take so much longer? I guess because the excitement of getting where you are going speeds things up on the way out. On the way home, it’s different. Not that I am not ready to go home, I am. I miss Vince and the girls and everyone else but I know this was a precious and special, once-in-a-lifetime trip for me and mom. Mom told me she felt sad when we were leaving and even had tears in her eyes. I know how she feels. I don’t know what the future holds, or what other trips we will make, but this one will always be the most special and I am very, very grateful.