Sunday, September 30, 2012

Edinburgh Castle in a Wheelchair

We love living in Scotland and getting to explore new places together. It's like being on a date every time we go out! It was a beautiful day outside with a light breeze as AJ and I enjoyed a nice walk together, passing many little shops, churches, and restaurants along the way. We passed a few men in kilts playing bagpipes on the street corners. Then we stopped to listen to a band playing called the Spinning Blowfish by the Scottish Gallery--a fusion of drums, guitar, and bagpipes--way cool beats.
Along the Royal Mile to the castle - a pretty steep push up. You may want to ride the bus.
Finally we reached our destination. Located on an extinct volcano is Edinburgh Castle, where William Wallace and Robert the Bruce are honored with statues in the front entrance. This castle has never been seized by enemies from its front gates as it stands invincible. I was definitely excited to explore the inside. We were fortunate to receive a concession (discount) because like most places, the castle is not as wheelchair friendly and requires some adjustments. We used a car service (free) that took us up to the back of the castle and began our tour there. There are lifts for wheelchairs and ramps that require staff help to access, but it's easy enough.

One of my favorite parts of the castle were the royal jewels and honoraries. There were magnificent pieces of jewelry and historical artifacts. I can't believe the stone of destiny was stolen for so many years. That was a funny way to make a statement. And really, it's a stone boulder, not a jewel kind of stone. 

The war memorial was sobering to see all those names of people who died in wars. I'm not a fan of war, I believe there are other means of negotiating. War is needless.

The view from the top of the castle was amazing. It makes sense for this castle to be here. Looking out over all the colorful rooftops, it dawned on me just how lovely the city. It is a great balance of historical yet modern contributions to give it a familiar feel. Blanks are shot from the cannon everyday (except Sundays) at 1PM. Check it out!

Fish and chips at a pub and a deep fried Mars bar were a wonderful way to end our date. I have a feeling I'm going to love it here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

From Hotel to Hostel to Home: Welcome to Edinburgh

After a day and a half of travel from Salt Lake City to Edinburgh, we arrived exhausted to a very brisk evening at the Waverly train station. We found a cab big enough for us, my wheelchair, and all of our suitcases.  When we arrived at our wonderfully wheelchair accessible hotel (Lochend Serviced Apartments), we laid out all of our suitcases in the front room, sent out an email of our arrival to our families, and crashed. Fortunately, it was off season so they provided us with a private room on the ground floor. It was not wheelchair accessible (many steps to get to the front door, small restroom) but it was manageable as most hostels are this way. The next day, the rush to find a flat began. It took longer than we expected to find a flat, so we moved into a private room hostel (Argyle Backpackers) to conserve our financial resources, uncertain how long it would be until we found a home. 

After two weeks of sharing the restroom and kitchen with 40 other travelers, and worriedly searching for a home in Edinburgh, we have finally moved into our quaint little home for the next few months on Broughton Road. It is a 30-minute walk to and from the Parliament everyday, which should be good exercise for AJ and me. Most importantly, it meets our basic requirements: ground floor and wheelchair accessible. To our pleasant surprise, a fully furnished flat includes kitchenware as well. We’re also right next to a supermarket and a bus stop that goes directly to the Parliament.

In the process of looking for a home, we wandered around Edinburgh and are coming to love the "busy" city already. There are people here from all parts of the world, both residents and tourists. There are many cute little shops and cafés all around. We stopped into a café and got their specialty sandwich with included peanut butter and bacon. Heart attack! We have learned many major roads and have seen many historical land marks along the way.  It also helps that we work at the Parliament along the Royal Mile, right next to the Queen's Gallery and Holyrood Palace. It's also beautiful to see Arthur's Seat right behind of the Parliament every single day. Everything in Edinburgh is accessible by walking and busing, which is very convenient, but not the easiest to go up steep hills in a wheelchair. We have the option of riding the bus to work everyday, but I think we're going to take the challenge of walking everyday until the cold sets in. This will allow us to see more and I can't wait.

Work at the Parliament has been very interesting and exciting. I’m learning so much more about the Scottish National Party (SNP) and my Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Colin Beattie, who is a funny person. His assistant, Alyson is also so very nice and helpful to me. And they’ve been so accommodating, physically. I appreciate it so much! Everything is so new to me that even simple tasks are exciting to me. I’m sure it will wear off over time but I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible. I’ve been writing press releases, congratulatory letters, emails, responses to constituents, researching, attending meetings, etc. Political/Public Health stuff.

In addition to the excitement, I received my parliamentary staff badge this week, so no more having to go through security! 

AJ and I have planned out some trips around Edinburgh, Scotland, and continental Europe over the time that we are here. We hope to go on an adventure, both big and small, every week while here (and tend to our school tasks, too). I look forward to the time that we’re here and hope to make the most of it. Welcome to Edinburgh!