Following our day at Edinburgh Castle, we met my in-laws for dinner at The Bristo Bar and Kitchen, a pub/restaurant next to the University of Edinburgh. We had ended up there because of the glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. The reviews were right on. Our dinners were quite good (steak for me). I even got Keri and her parents to order a cider -- one for each of them. The highlight of the meal was dessert, though in particular our introduction to banoffle, a disturbingly good combination of banana toffee (served with vanilla ice cream). Lauren declared it the second best dessert of the trip -- so far. She will get no argument here.
Later in the morning, I headed over to the City of Edinburgh Registrar's office to look up some birth records on my maternal grandfather, Cecil Newmark, who was born here. After a few probing questions and suspicious looks from the clerk (she seemed particularly troubled when I told her I was fron the United States and not Canada), she pulled up a screen shot of the birth registration page from March 26, 1906 for the District of St. Giles, Edinburgh. The second entry on that page was for my grandfather, who was listed as Cecil Burnett Davidson, son of Isaac Naymark Davidson (cabinetmaker) and Fanny Davidson nee Harrison (who were married in Edinburgh on January 22, 1903). My great-grandfather's surname was Naymark, but he started using the Davidson name at some point during his time here because he thought it would help him get work. Davidson, I believe was the most Jewish of the names of the traditional Scottish clans, or so he thought.
My grandfather was born March 3, 1906 at the family's residence, which was at 13 East Adam Street. (I ran by East Adam Street this morning and was disappointed to see a three-story building dating back to the 1990's. Probably not much point in showing that to the kids.) My grandfather did not live in Edinburgh too long, moving to Canada when he was seven (I think), but he was always proud of his Scottish heritage. His mother, Fanny, was born in Edinburgh too, and he had fond memories of playing as a boy in this city with his older sister, Etta, and younger brother, Phil. It is odd to think that Owen is now the same age my grandfather was when he left Edinburgh and that, 110 years after my great grandparents were married in this city, I am here with their great, great grandchildren. Lord knows where my great grandchildren will be and what they will be doing 110 years from now.
The Eckstein family rallied before noon yesterday, headed down to Edinburgh Waverly (which brought up some bad "rememories," according to Owen from two days prior), grabbed some Burger King (we do love our Owen) and boarded the train for Stirling, which is west and a little to the north of Edinburgh. A short 50-minute ride later, we arrived, walk though this small town, up the hill and to the Stirling Castle. (Note: Both children complained mightily as we walked up what was a moderate, but not difficult hill. Switzerland should be interesting.)
Years later, during the mid-18th Century, the castle served as a key fortress in the Jacobite risings. From 1800 through 1964, the British military used the site as a barracks a recruiting depot for two all-Scottish brigades. Since 2002, the castle has been the subject of a major restoration project, and it shows, with many of the interiors and some exteriors appearing as they would have several hundred years ago.
We spent the the whole afternoon there, and the kids were engaged the whole time. If you are in Edinburgh, I highly recommend it.
Back in Edinburgh, we ate at a local Italian restaurant, which was surprisingly good -- pasta all around. We are priming our palettes for next week.
Another good night's sleep and another couple runs this morning, Keri and I joined the kids and Randy and Lois for their final meal in Scotland. We enjoyed spending time with them and wish them a safe return to a miserably hot Phoenix.
After lunch, Keri and Owen did some shopping while Lauren and I went to The Real Mary King's Close, a fascinating tour of portions of a close (a narrow street that once was bordered by twelve-story buildings, and one of hundreds of closes that served as the primary residences for the residents of Edinburgh). This close has been covered up and sits under some municipal buildings put up in the 19th Century. Our tour took us through several rooms in three different homes -- covering periods between the 1400's and the late 1800's. Some of the rooms were incredibly small, as you would imagine, and the description of life for the people who lived there was grim.
The first room we saw was probably twelve by fifteen feet with an arched ceiling that was about eight feet high. That room slept twelve people -- all on the floor. The only furniture was a small table. In the corner was a bucket that served as the communal toilet. The bucket was emptied -- by the youngest member of the family -- two times a day by being dumped into the street, which then ran into the small river that ran where the train station now sits. That river also served as a water supply for the people of Edinburgh. Lovely. Between that, the depiction of the Black Death and the cattle room, let's just say Lauren and I emerged pretty happy to be living in the 21st Century.
We head up to the Highlands tomorrow and I am not sure what kind of internet access we will get, so my posting may be irregular and short (that's what she said). I promise to take notes on the interesting and strange things we see -- and do -- and weave them together when we return to Edinburgh late Monday night.