Part 1: Since this was Sunday, the first thing we did was to go to church. And since this is Edinburgh, we found a cool Scottish place to go to church: Saint Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile. On my other trip to Scotland my Cantabile choir group sang at Saint Giles. It was a very quick trip and I didn't remember a lot specifically about the church. I remembered thinking it was pretty and a bit unusual in its layout. I read a bunch of things on the web recently about the church and its history and you can do that too if you want to. I will just share my personal impression, which is that the church service was very beautiful and welcoming. The style of service seemed to be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between Anglican and Christian Reformed.
Like many large churches it is cross-shaped, but in this church the altar area is in the center. There were people sitting facing it from four directions; one side was the choir and the other three sides were congregation. It has a really wonderful big organ and I thoroughly enjoyed the prelude and postlude (Bach!!!) and hymns. It also has a terrific choir -- I'm guessing professional -- and they sang several interesting pieces as well as the hymns.
After the service was over I walked over to the organ to listen to the end of the postlude and then talked with the organist for a few minutes when he came down from his high perch and told him how much I had enjoyed the music. He was very nice and told me a few things about the organ.
I felt very welcomed as a stranger in this church in a foreign city and David and I were both impressed and glad we had gone.
No pictures allowed inside during services, but here's a picture of the front of the building:
Part 2: After church we ate the sandwiches we had packed and then boarded a bus to go out to Leith, which is the port area next to Edinburgh, and we toured the Royal Yacht Britannia. It's a very interesting arrangement:
The tower on the right side of the picture is attached both to the ship and to a shopping mall at the edge of the port area of Edinburgh. One consequence of this is that the yacht is very stable and doesn't bob up and down in the water. Another is that it is better able to handle large crowds because we all used the special stairs connected to it on the mall side rather than the stairs that are part of the yacht. Also, it helps to make sure the Britannia has some extra modern conveniences for tourists:
We had the usual audio guides so that we could wander around and listen to explanations of what we were seeing. It was fascinating to hear about the history of the Britannia: where she traveled and what dignitaries had been invited on board, as well as how the crew maintained the ship and kept the royal family comfortable. I'm a real geek when it comes to the royal family and so I thoroughly enjoyed it all. One of the high points of the visit was something I almost missed. Many of the rooms had pictures of the royal family. One room had pictures that went back farther than most, including Queen Victoria. What I almost missed was the fact that most of those pictures were signed. Even Queen Victoria's had "Victoria RI" scrawled across the bottom (Victoria Regina Imperatrix, meaning Victoria the Queen and Empress since she was both Queen of England and Empress of India). I had to stand and stare at that autograph for a while:
Another high point of the tour was the state dining room:
After exploring the Britannia for several hours we had a bad case of "tourist feet" and got on a bus to go back to the Royal Mile. It was dinner time by then and we ate in a pub that I remembered from my first visit to Edinburgh: the World's End Pub. It was just as good as I remembered. I had a steak and ale pie and it was really yummy.
And finally, here are some shots of the Royal Mile from after dinner: