Now that James, my mom, and my dad have all visited me... it was Steve's turn! He and Katie arrived in the morning and I took them straight to their hotel - a swanky new place called Frasier Suites, that just opened across from St. Giles Cathedral. They dropped off their luggage and wanted to get right into sight-seeing mode. I took them for "brunch" at my favorite spot, Favorit, where we met Rachel and her parents. The three of them were getting ready to leave for the airport to go to Vienna for the weekend.
Steve and Katie weren't able to check into their hotel right away, so I asked them if they wanted a nap in my room. Katie assured me that they wanted to be "tourist-nazis", so I gave 'em what they wanted. I walked them down to the Meadows, around through my university's campus, and back up to the Royal Mile where I dropped them at the Castle.
Two and a half hours later... I called them to check in. No answer. I don't have the best track record with dropping people off at the castle. Every time I do, hours go by, and I start to wonder if they somehow got lost, which is just ridiculous because I live right next door to the bloody thing. Steve finally called me back three hours after I had dropped them off and informed me that they had checked into their hotel and dozed off. But they motivated once again and all three of us walked down the full length of the Royal Mile to see the Palace of Holyrood House at the bottom.
I told them to prepare - that we were going to hike up Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano. But I don't think either of them fully realized what that meant. Once we saw the palace, we walked through Holyrood Park, around the Salisbury Crags, until we got to the base of Arthur's Seat. We'd probably walked 2 miles by this point and we had't even started climbing Arthur's Seat yet. When we got to the base of Arthur's Seat, Steve turned to me and said: "woah, are we climbing that? That's like a mountain." To which I responded: "I told you we were hiking an extinct volcano... what did you expect?" And he gave a Steve-answer: "I mean, I knew we'd be hiking, but I didn't think we'd be like hiking." For the very last stretch of the climb, Katie picked a narrow, steep, and rocky pathway and forged ahead. Steve ran the last 30 or so feet to the top.
Steve and Katie at the top-ish
By the time we got to the summit it was about 7:30pm and the weather was beautiful: blue skies, glaring mid-afternoon yellow sunlight, (and yes I said "mid-afternoon" sunlight even though it was 7:30 at night), white fluffy clouds, and simply stunning views of the city and ocean. On the way down, we hiked the back side of the mountain to the ruins of St. Anthony's church, over-looking Margaret's Loch which was filled with swans. The whole backside of the mountain was in shadows now, but it was still broad daylight. It was strange, yet pleasant to walk on the shady side of a sunny night.
When we reached the bottom, we were all in agreement to take a cab all the way back uphill after our epic hike. We showered, changed, and met back up for a 9:15 dinner at my favorite restaurant, Vittoria's, on George IV Bridge. Great food, great wine, and in lieu of their great desserts, we had some yummy after-dinner drinks. After a relaxing dinner, around 11:00pm, we shuffled next door to Frankenstein's to meet Laura for more drinks and some dancing. I think Steve and Katie both really enjoyed that plub (pub/club), especially at 12:30am when the monster came down from the ceiling to the haunted organ music, thunder and lightning sound effects, and the waitresses dancing with tambourines on the bar to "Let Me Entertain You". Kate thought the monster should have gotten up and danced the Thriller dance. I'll be sure to drop that in their suggestion box. We left Franky's around 1am in the freezing cold rain. It was a solid day of tourism - I did not go easy on those two at all!
Day two wasn't any less eventful. I rallied the troops at 9am, walked them over to St. Andrew's Square in New Town, and put them on bus 15A to Roslin, because Steve was really interested in seeing Rosslyn Chapel. While they were uncovering the secrets of the Knights Templar, I ran around like crazy doing errands. I met them back in New Town around noon and we ate at a quickie sandwich place on Rose Street. Steve couldn't get over the weirdness in weather. It was sunny one moment, then raining the next, then it was sunny while it was raining. His favorite picture is one where I'm wearing my sunglasses while holding an umbrella over my head - which is a perfect definition of Scottish weather, fickle and schizophrenic: schizofickle... or ficklephrenic... whichever you prefer.
He also couldn't get over how people dressed in Scotland. He must have said this four or five times: "I don't understand why people think it's warm here?!" I agree with him - it's never warm in Scotland. Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise. It's either freezing, just cold, or not-as-cold - but it's never actually warm.
After lunch we hopped a train at Waverly Station to Leuchars, and then took a bus the rest of the way to St. Andrews. Steve and Katie went into the British Golf Museum, right on the shore, and I walked along the beach and took pictures of the North Sea. It was so windy and cold that my fingers went numb from snapping pictures, and my nose felt like stone. The wind did a number on the ocean - choppy waves made for a really rough surf.
The shores of St. Andrews
We saw the Clubhouse and the famous bridge at the 18th hole, where the seagulls napped, and a few guys were finishing up their game. Then we did a little bit of shopping for pink golf balls, and I convinced Steve to buy the preppiest black, blue, and white argyll shirt there ever was. Katie and I held up measuring tape to see if one of the golf tees would be big enough to fit her father. (I found out later that we, sadly, had failed, even after all that measuring).
The links at St. Andrews
Walking through town, we passed by the St. Andrews University buildings and I was SO VERY thankful that I had chosen Edinburgh over this remote seaside town. St. Andrews was like the Lewisburg of Scotland, except 20 times smaller and more isolated. We saw the ruins of St. Andrews Castle from the outside - the gate was already closed for the evening. Then we ate dinner at Little John's. It was delicious.
Jumping on the bus and train back to Edinburgh around 8:15pm, we had just enough time to put on an extra layer of clothing and grab some hot chocolate at Starbucks before meeting for our Ghost Tour at 10:30pm. This tour was enough to scare me out of the underground vaults forever!