Monday, December 28, 2015

The Toilet de Rowling

View of Edinburgh from the Castle.

Street in Edinburgh that is reputedly the
inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Philosopher's Stone.
Universal Studio's Diagon Alley

The next morning our guide, Shelby, decided to take us on a bit of a tour to see some of the Harry Potter fandom must see spots in Edinburgh. She had visited these highlights the previous summer while travelling with her friend Megan. Our first stop had to involve food for the hypoglycaemic elder daughter and the younger one who suffers
from an acute case of “hangry” when deprived of sustenance for too long, so we headed to the Elephant House.  This is a tiny little quaint coffee house where J.K. Rowling reputedly spent much time looking at the cliffs and castle view from the windows in the main dining room and putting pen to paper to author the now world famous series of books.  The CafĂ© itself is now a mecca for all Potterites but even if this wasn’t the case this is a charming tea-room with wonderful views of gardens and the castle.  The prices seemed a bit steep to me but then I am usually a bit cost conscious about food when I travel and would probably have had a quick bowl of porridge at the hostel if I had been alone. This travelling with kids can put a dent in the budget-minded traveller’s pocket book!  If you didn’t know about the J.K. Rowling connection before visiting the Elephant House, you certainly would have if you visited the ladies facilities. This small toilet is covered, literally, with messages from fans the world over. The walls, ceilings, floor, mirror and even the toilet seat are a living, changing memorial to the much-loved author and her beloved characters. Shelby, who I should point out is twenty-five years old, proudly took me to the privy to point out the message she and her friend Megan had left the previous summer!

Toilet Graffiti at the Elephant House

Although I have visited the Castle in Edinburgh on numerous occasions myself I didn’t think Sasha, Shelby and Bobby should miss out on this so once again we hiked up the hill…Shelby had missed a visit to the castle the previous summer – I believe a pub crawl might have had something to do with this.  I would recommend pre-ordering tickets if you plan to visit the castle during the Fringe, since the line up was excruciatingly long. Well, apparently it was only excruciatingly long for the parent in our group – me.  The kids seemed fine with it but I am always rather impatient with line-ups for tickets so I must admit I did become a bit agitated.  Edinburgh Castle boasts some wonderful views and is quite interesting from an historical point of view but I do prefer Stirling Castle, which I have always found more interesting albeit not as large. Sasha, who had not really visited any Scottish castles to date was somewhat disappointed as she felt a “real” castle should be broken down and decrepit. The nerve of the Scottish heritage societies to keep these places from falling to ruin!

The Edinburgh Castle

After our castle visit we headed down to Mary King’s Close for a tour of the alleys and spaces below Edinburgh. In Scotland a Close is an alleyway or passage and the Old Town in Edinburgh
has many of these interesting hideaways or warrens to explore.  Mary King’s Close is an underground neighbourhood, which had been built upon but is still accessible. The tour is an interesting experience with guides giving an entertaining synopsis of the grimier side of life in historical Edinburgh.  A fitting way to end our two day adventure!

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