Monday, July 25, 2011

EDINBURGH Day 5 July 4

My nephew Ben's four skips across Loch Lomond are proving to ensure we have great weather in Edinburgh.We awake to sunshine (Rich and I actually managed to sleep 6 hours under the light of the night).

We start the day off by walking to Henderson's and I get a cherry scone and a cup of organic coffee with soy milk at their bakery. Delicious!

And all for under 2 pounds.

Rich goes for an apricot, then buys another one as we wait for the National Gallery of Scotland to open on Princess Street.

The Gallery turns out to be welcome surprise. It's such a manageable size compared to the National Gallery in London, while still being grand, too.

The first painting you see on the main floor is of the famous Jacobite heroine, Flora Macdonald painted by Richard Wilson in 1747.

The 18th century heroine helped Prince Charles Stuart, the Young Pretender, escape by boat to Skye disguised as her maid servant. While Flora did spend some time in the Tower of London like most loyalists, she wasn't beheaded and was released after a year, becoming a Scottish legend.

She's right beside the portraits of Prince Charles. Seeing the change in expression of Prince Charles from one of a hopeful, young prince, then as an old, defeated man unable to restore his family to the throne is quite touching, and I loved the portrait of Niel Gow with his fiddle, painted by Sir Henry Raeburn.

The son of a plaid weaver who taught himself to fiddle, Gow's reels are still played today and were loved by Robert Burns.

But the true appeal of the Gallery for me was the Scottish portraits and paintings all housed on the bottom floor, and seeing how Scotland and Edinburgh looked so many centuries ago.

The famous painting of The Skating on Duddingston Loch, also by Sir Henry Raeburn, is actually on the third floor and smaller than I'd imagined, but still wonderful.

Most likely of a Reverend Robert Walker dressed in black tights and long coattails with his dapper hat, proudly skating around the lake, his right arm held against his chest, it has such a regal feel to it. You can actually see the blush of the cold on the Reverend's cheek, and I couldn't resist buying a postcard of it from the gallery shop.

After spending the morning in the Gallery, we cross Princess Street and meet up with the rest of the Wallace clan at Henderson's for lunch. This time I have a falafal pita and their famous chunky vegetable soup, trying to figure out how they get their stock so flavorful without a trace of meat. A bowl of it is a meal in itself. My sister-in-law Lynda has a warm butternut squash salad with grilled tofu and Rich gets his mezze platter again and goes for their homemade cherry pie for dessert.

Then we get back on the Royal Mile

to visit the Writers Museum,

following the spiral staircases around the displays of Robert Burns and get engrossed in the fascinating artifacts from Robert Louis Stevenson's personal collection, detailing his travels to Samoa.

When we get back on the Mile, it's busier than ever, filled with street musicians and artists.

We all stop and watch a street artist spray paint his fantasy world onto his canvas

using garbage can lids to shape planets, crinkling paper to create the forests around it,

and dabbing rubber sponges for leaves. Ben is mesmerized. The crowds gather, all of us relishing the moment-- the heat of the Scottish sun against our backs, the artist working feverishly, drawing us into his world.

"I'll buy it!" A lady from Germany says. When the artist is finished and takes off his mask, we all clap. And I cry. I do that when so much happiness wells inside me. "It's so beautiful," Ben says. "He made something like that right out of his head." And he puts the pences in his pocket into the artist's cap instead of buying a souvenir.

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