Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weekend in Edinburgh

June was quite a month for both Bobby and me. A research trip took Bobby to Rennes, France, for two weeks. I passed the weekend without Bobby in Basel, Switzerland, where I visited my girlfriend Caitlin. At the end of Bobby's time in France, I flew out and we met with our best friends/European family Kate, Olivier, and Iris. We all spent a lovely weekend together in St. Malo. However, the post doesn't have anything to do with Bobby's time in Rennes, my time in Basel, or our time in St. Malo. Rather, this post deals with our most recent weekend trip to Edinburgh, Scotland! You can see the Edinburgh castle behind us in the photo.

Bobby attended the SPARS conference during the week, so I flew out on Thursday to meet him. We spent Thursday night out with Bobby's old advisor from his time in Paris, Laurent. After a nice meal at a French restaurant, we headed to a local pub where we tried three different whiskeys, plus some Guinness and cider. The next morning began our sight-seeing adventures. We walked around the old parliament building (aptly named New Parliament House) and happend across this cemetery, the Old Calton Cemetery. The round building marks the burial site of Scottish philosopher David Hume. Just to the right of the Hume building is a memorial to the Scottish-American soldiers who lost their lives in the American Civil War. The statue on top of the memorial is Abe Lincoln!

We stopped for lunch at the Tolbooth Tavern, which used to be the tax collection point, court, and jail for the burgh of Canongate. You can see me enjoying my throne-like chair. Did you know I have some Scottish heritage? Here's how I relate to the mighty Campbell clan of Scotland: Henry C. Campbell (1825-1909) gave birth to Louise L. Campbell (1859-1940), who gave birth to Nina Davis Townsend (1880-1968), who gave birth to Donald Townsend (my grandfather), who gave birth to Dale Townsend (my Dad), who had me!

Here is the meal Bobby ordered. It is called Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties. Perhaps the most famous dish of Scottish cuisine, it consists of boiled and mashed turnips (Neeps), boiled and mashed potatoes (Tatties), and the Haggis, which is sheep heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. Appetizing, no?

With a little help from me and a pint of Guinness, Bobby managed to clean his plate.

After our lunch, we continued up the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile begins at the castle gates of the Holyrood Palace, winds up the Castlehill, and ends at the Edinburgh Castle. This photo shows the Edinburgh Castle from the bottom of Castlehill. It's an incredibly beautiful site and dominates the landscape of Edinburgh.

After a full day of sight-seeing, Bobby and I had what is by far the best and most incredible meal of our lives. We were fortunate to get a seat at the Michelin star restaurant Kitchin. We had an 8 course dinner with accompanying champagne and wine. Here you can see one of the many talented chefs hard at work. This is what we ate:

Amuse Bouche: Cilled pea soup served with crème fraiche and mint, accompanied by a glass of Philipponnat Royal Reserve Champagne

Pre-starter: carpaccio of line-caught mackerel from Newhave, Scotland, served with a ginger dressing and raw vegetable, accompanied by a glass of Piropo Pinot Blanc from Argentina

Starter: razor clams from Arisaig, Scotland, served with diced vegetables, chorizo, and lemon confit, accompanied by Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington, USA

Middle course: boned and rolled pig's head, served with seared hand-dived Orkney scallop and a crispy ear salad, accompanied by Hugel Gewurztraminer from France

Fish course: seared fillet of wild sea bass from Scrabster, Scotland, served with a ragoût of Swiss chard, lemon, and basil, accompanied by Planeta di Vittoria Cerasuola from Italy

Meat course: rump of Highland lamb served with red pepper piperade and sweet bread, accompanied by Garnacha de Bernabeleva Navaherreros from Spain

Dessert: buttermilk panna cotta served with Perthshire strawberries, gooseberry pureé, and an elderflower consommé, accompanied by Stellenbosch Kanu Kia-Ora from South Africa

Petit Four: a macaron, chocolate cake, and two other dishes we can't remember, accompanied by a lovely whiskey

It was culinary heaven, my friends.

After a dinner as spectacular as the one we had at The Kitchin, there was really only one breakfast we desired: Cream Tea. The meal consists of a cup of tea and a scone served with butter, jam, and clotted cream. As you can see from the photo, we had no problem scarfing down the delicious scones.

After so much delicious food and wine, we felt up for a bit of exercise. Behind the new parliament building (the actual new one, not the once called the New Parliament Building) is a Holyrood Park. We climbed half-way up the Salisbury Crag, which gave us a beautiful view of Edinburgh.

The second highlight of the trip (the first being dinner at The Kitchin) was seeing the Queen of England! The Queen and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh presented new colors to the Royal Regiment of Scotland. We sat on the slopes of the Salisburg Crag for several hours watching soliers in traditional Scottish military outfits marching in with bagpipes, brass marching band, and a whole lot of pomp and circumstance. The Queen arrived, inspected the new colors, gave a speach, and presided over the blessings of the new colors. It was a pretty incredible experience.

This is another video we took, which really shows how awesome (and loud) the bagpipes were!

Here is a video we took of one of the bands. Toward the end of the video, you can see the Queen leaving in her royal Land Rover.

After the ceremony ended, the Queen drove away in her royal Land Rover, waving to the crowd. Bobby and I headed back to the Holyrood Palace, where the regiment leaders were lining up for a photo. The Queen came out of the palace, posed for a few photos, then left in her royal Land Rover. I was a mere 5 feet away when she drove by! That was even closer than I got to the Danish Queen, Dronning Margrethe!