It’s crowded and smelly

Today was a day of two extremes. We enjoyed both the best tourist attraction and the blurst. An interesting parallel.

After a decent sleep in, we set off for the bus stop to Ocean Terminal and to the Royal Yacht, Britannia. Before joining Her Maj, we stopped at Costa’s for a coffee and breakfast. God, I hate Costa’s! Why is their service so bad? First they growl at me and then they assume I’ve ordered the same size drink by calling it different things. And then act like I’ve got it wrong. OK, 7 out of 10 coffee drinkers may prefer Costa’s coffee but I reckon 10 out 10 prefer Starbuck’s service. Mr Costa obviously makes far too much money if he thinks he can just not give a toss about his customers. It’s a business model that is doomed to fail and I bet I know who’ll get the blame. It’ll be the customers. Most annoying was the fact that, just up the escalators, bold as brass, there was a Starbucks!

Anyway, that was but a blip on the day and hopefully, I’ll have the sense NEVER to drink coffee in Costa’s again. The Royal Yacht, Britannia is advertised as the best tourist site in Edinburgh and it is. It is simply fantastic. Apart from the fact that you can roam at will (with an excellent talking stick) you can also take photos of whatever you like. And that’s all besides the wonderful boat itself. It’s great! From the Queen’s bedroom to the engine room. I recommend it all.

Royal yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal, Edinburgh

I’m a bit annoyed at Stormin’ Norman though. Apparently when he visited at the end of the Gulf War, he was shown the engine room and said “OK, so that’s the museum, can I see the real engine room now?” Just because it’s all shiny and clean. I thought it looked fantastic.

There were so many highlights, it’s difficult to pick just a few…but I’ll try.

Wombat Tennis. In the Officer’s Anteroom, where they would relax and have a few drinks, there is a ceiling fan, upon which sits a stuffed wombat. The rules of the game were simple. The wombat would be thrown up into the fan and then be batted about the room after it was fired out by the fan blades. Apparently the wombat had numerous visits to the ship’s doctor for sewing up. Sounds suspiciously like the Drones to me.

The Rum Tub. In the Royal Family’s Sun Lounge, where they would relax and kick back, there is a half tub that has written on the side, The Queen, God Bless Her. It was from this tub that the men would be given their rum ration. Up to 1970, at any rate and before it found its way up to the Sun lounge.

Seeing the Queen’s and Prince Philip’s bedrooms was a bit of a treat. Her’s is quite girly while Phil has decided to go a long way masculine…just in case there’s any doubt. And, of minor interest, I heard today that Phil sneaks a radio into Ascot each year in order to listen to the Test Cricket. So, I hear you say, what of it? Well, apparently, he sneaks it in under his top hat! Classic Prince Philip. Anyway, their rooms are identical in size and shape and each had their own bathrooms complete with a thermometer to ensure the baths were at the right royal temperature.

And, of course, there was the mad family from Finland who couldn’t quite work out how to get onto the boat in the first place who then managed to accompany us for the first few decks…until we managed to ditch them overboard.

Only one downer…the restaurant was full (it only opened in March) even though half the place had empty tables in it, which, of course meant that Mirinda was tempted to engage in a long and pointless argument with the young daffy thing who was telling us they were full. Fortunately, Mirinda saw the pointlessness of it all and so we ate ashore. But this is a minor quibble. The Royal Yacht, Britannia is highly recommended! And, there’s no excuse, as it’s only a bus ride from the centre of Edinburgh.

We had lunch at a family themed restaurant upstairs in the shopping centre which served really nice salmon fishcakes and featured a little girl who freaked out everyone by bursting a balloon. Not least herself.

We then jumped aboard a bus back to Edinburgh. We had a few options but decided to go and see the Camera Obscura. Now, this was entirely my fault and I take full responsibility for it. My excuse is that during my Urbanisation Studies I read about Geddes and the camera obscura in the Outlook Tower. How he would look down on Edinburgh which was projected via mirrors. Of course, my lecturer recommended seeing it if any of us visited Edinburgh. OK, my lecturer was about 80 and probably when he visited Edinburgh, as well as the original trams being still there, the camera obscura was a lot better, but that’s still no reason for it to be so bad.

Here’s the thing. The camera obscura is a brilliant invention, which projects a moving image onto a surface. That doesn’t sound very good but if you mount it in a tower overlooking Edinburgh Old Town and project the image onto a table in the centre of the room, it’s pretty impressive. This is all I wanted to see. I was happy to pay to see it. Maybe even the rooftop view of…the rooftops. But.

Up the narrow staircase we went. It’s an old tower so don’t expect lifts or carpet. Then the first wave of kids hit you. What they have done is turn the whole place into a sort of magic, visual allusion tower. For kids this is great. Actually a lot of the stuff was pretty amazing for us adults as well but not when you have thousands of kids trying to enjoy them more. Especially the French school kids who were like a virus. Just when you left one room full there was always more ahead.

Anyway, we gradually worked our way to the top only to find that people were only allowed into the camera obscura part in timed groups and were given a talk. We had to wait 50 minutes. This wasn’t going to happen.

View from the top of the outlook tower, Old Town, Edinburgh

Mirinda was seriously pissed off. She stormed down the stairs, went straight up to the young lad behind the counter and demanded our money back. He obviously realised there was little point in argument and said “Sure, but could I just ask why?” as he opened the cash register and fished out our cash. And Mirinda told him “It’s crowded, and smelly and I’m not waiting 50 minutes.” I thought she was quite restrained in not mentioning the French kids.

We walked back to our hotel.

HOWEVER…The bestest end to our break in Edinburgh. Our dinner tonight was at Hawke Hunter (12 Picardy Place, phone 0131 557 0952). Genius food, great service. Absolutely fantastic. If you are ever in Edinburgh, go there for dinner!!! Hopefully you’ll get the blonde waitress. Though Mirinda wasn’t as keen on her bubbliness as I was.

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