12-3-17 Edinburgh Sites & Christmas Market

Castle Rock, the volcano that spewed lava rock in a mound, became King Edwin’s Fort (Gaelic burgh) sometime in the 12th century. The Castle built on and into the perpendicular lava stood a strong defense for centuries.  People have lived on Castle Rock since the Bronze Age, around 850 BC, and there has been a royal castle on the site since at least the 12th century.

We “attacked” the City from the train station, after our 60 minute ride from Glasgow to the west.

Just across the street from the Train Station. Nice to get a spot to eat before going to our apartment.

The area around the Waverley Station is accustomed to wheel-bag dragging, hungry travelers, so we found a brew and steak just across the road for our Thursday evening meal. After a brew and some tasty food, a black cab delivered us to Lothian House our VRBO.

Lothian House covers most of the upper floors of this building.




Arriving around 5:30, well past sunset (3:45PM here) and already dark we found our way into the building and connected with the owners for the key and instructions on stuff in the apartment. A nice one bedroom, with separate bath, entrance hall and living/dining/kitchen area was to be our base in Edinburgh for the next week.

Celebrating Christmas in Edinburgh

Friday we headed out to get a lay of the land – we had been here in June 2014 so had some idea of the general area but it’s Christmas Time and there is a huge Christmas Fair happening in the Park. That night we had dinner reservations for a place we had been while here in 2014 – Mark Greenaway Restaurant (review separately). Chef Greenaway uses local and cultural foods in innovative ways in his tasting menu, and has matching wines to complement his creations. A great way to end our first day in this city.

Saturday, being cloudy both in skies and heads, we decided it would be a laundry, nap, and relax day in our 1930’s decorated VRBO apartment.

Hop on Hop off bus

Sunday we purchased the 2 day Hop on Hop off (HoHo) bus pass and sat up top on a clear, sunny, if chilly, tour of the highlights of the City. Stop 1 started at the Christmas Fair, 2 whisked us by our VRBO neighborhood, and we were headed for the hollow of Grassmarket.   Stops 5/6 were bookmarked for return Monday for Castle and Whiskey. Stops 8/9/10 reveal both Georgian tenements and 20th century Parliament architecture of the Royal Mile and culminate at Arthur’s Seat, (the other dormant volcanic mount). Stops 12/13/14 found us back at the Waverly Train Station, passing the National Gallery and having crossed Bridge Streets which are engineering marvels, we had come full circle.

David on the top of the bus with the Castle behind him.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen’s Gallery an art gallery. It was opened in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II, and exhibits works from the Royal Collection.
Streets of Old Edinburgh with the Castle in the background.
The Grassmarket Square – used as a market square, execution spot and general gathering place for centuries.
The Scottish National Gallery
‘Haunted’ pub which claims to be the city’s oldest. Live music nights, real ales and Scottish food.



































Part of the Christmas Market Fair – several rides that I wouldn’t do even if it was warm! Crazy people live here.

















The HoHo bus brought us back to Princes St. (“New “Town, new circa 18th century) and many options for a late meal.

Lovely Janeen next to some Lovely Christmas Trees on Queen Street
This Blue Dome takes up an entire intersection along Queen Street. Used for light shows in the evening.







The Dome Restaurant had LOTs of Christmas decorations.









We found the beautifully holiday-decorated restaurant called The Dome and cued up for a bit in the warm, and enjoyed the elegant café lunch (the high tea was completely booked). After our late lunch or early dinner really, we walked through more of the Christmas Market area and back to our apartment

Here we are again.

12-2-17 Restaurant Mark Greenaway – Edinburgh

Janeen at the front of the restaurant.

When we first visited Edinburgh in 2014, we had tried to get a reservation at a nice restaurant but it was fully booked. The Concierge at the Sheraton suggested the Restaurant Mark Greenaway not far from our hotel so we went. Our evening at this place was very pleasant with good service, an interesting menu and nice wines. So, as we were coming back, I made a reservation for one evening to see how it had changed over the last 3 and half years.


Nicola, our waitress at our original visit – now married to the Chef.

The Restaurant Chef and Owner, Mark Greenaway, has been listed as one of the best 100 chefs in the UK. When we first visited, in 2014, the restaurant had not been open very long but was already gaining positive recognition. Our reservation this December was for 5:45 and we were a bit early but that wasn’t a problem. Our table, in the main dining room, was well positioned to watch the other diners arriving and getting settled in. After reviewing the menu options, we selected the tasting menu paired with wines. We were sitting at the table remembering the waitress who had served us on our original visit and realized she was now the hostess who greeted us when we arrived.

Here’s Nicola now as hostess and now married to owner/chef Mark Greenaway

I came to learn she was not only the hostess but had married the Chef and was now acting as the general manager.


Over the course of the 3 hours we sampled a variety of items over 7 courses. The presentation of the amuse bouche was delightful; eggshell porcelain cups held oak smoked salmon flavored cream and were presented in an egg carton with explanation and flair.

The Amuse-bouche presentation.
Amuse-bouche eggshell porcelain cups held oak smoked salmon flavored cream









Course one encapsulated lobster in a smoky infusion, topped with a green pasta roll of crab with cubes of cucumber.

Course one encapsulated lobster in a smoky infusion, topped with a green pasta roll of crab


The paired white wine (Macabeo) enhanced the light freshness of the dish.

Course two was decorated with flowers and fresh buds of winter vegetable over a custard

Course two was decorated with flowers and fresh buds of winter vegetable over custard. Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux paired pleasing with this mix of fresh and rich.

Thyme infused beef broth








Course three supplied a timely pause while we waited for the thyme infused beef broth to distill. Cabernet Franc (2016) was presented, and except for Janeen’s dislike of the grape, went well. The heated broth was poured over beet leaves and herb infused cream.

Gently steamed Hake

A New Zealand Gewürztraminer accompanied the fish course, gently steamed Hake, on a striped pasta bed with shrimp stuffing dill sauce and carrot puree.

Smoked pork layered with crusty skin, grilled corn, and garlic mash

Then, at five, there was savory; smoked pork layered with crusty skin, grilled corn, and garlic mash, piped onto scot pudding.

With a shell of meringue, a lovely custard

Course six, bridged savory and sweet, once the shell of meringue was cracked, lovely custard was flavored with Tokai wine in our glasses.

Dessert – four chocolate flavors












Last, and almost too much, a late harvest dessert wine accompanied four chocolate flavors, whipped, moussed, and jellied but all Choco late.

Mark Greenaway, Chef and Owner.

This would have been a lot more accurate if Nicola would have sent me a copy of the tasting menu as promised.



11-27-17 Glasgow Scotland

Glasgow Scotland – A UK couple on our Portuguese Douro River tour insisted we needed to see what Scotland looked like from here. Glasgow has hosted communities for millennia with the River Clyde providing a natural location for fishing and is said to have been founded by the Christian missionary Saint Mungo in the 6th century. In the 18th century, after the British  Acts of Union in 1707, Glasgow became prominent as a hub of international trade to and from the Americas and a major ship building port. Today, while the River Clyde still flows through the City, the trade and shipbuilding are all a thing of the past. Today the city seems to have a large insurance company and finance presence and of course ,tourist visits.

Glasgow Tower is a free-standing and holds a Guinness World Record for being the tallest tower in the world in which the whole structure is capable of rotating 360 degrees.

We flew into Glasgow and took a cab to our hotel close to the City Center. After settling in we walked around and got a brief ‘feel’ of the place ending up with a lovely dinner at a small restaurant and then back to our hotel. Let me say at the outset that the hotel  a Best Western Historical refurb, was still a work in progress.  First, we were in the basement level, not really a problem but no elevator or lift, and the heating was intermittent, making the room very uncomfortable. We got up the first morning to find the heating completely off – the radiator cold to the touch and the single pane windows not helping a bit. The response from the front desk – “we had complaints that it was too hot, so we turned off the heat”. Well, that didn’t make me happy and they clearly knew that but enough about the lousy hotel.

Part of the Christmas Village set up including lots of shopping opportunities too.

Our first full day, we walked down to the main square and picked up a couple of tickets for the Hop on Hop off bus tour around the City. This was a really good way to learn about the sites of the City and learn some of the history.

The Glasgow Cathedral

The tour hits all the highlights and gives some details.   We did a complete tour and got off at the stop closest to our hotel. We did hop off a couple of times and checked out the local sites.

On our way to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery

Onesite was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This was a lovely museum with interesting displays of Edinburgh history.

Central hall and Organ of the Kelvingrove Museum
Lots of hanging heads on display at the Kelvingrove Museum.



















A lovely picture taken of the front of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery by Janeen.

The next day, we walked down to George Square and the main (pedestrian) shopping area of the City and just walked around looking at the sites and taking in the holiday cheer of the shops.

This shopping mall could have been virtually anywhere in the world! It looks just like all the other malls we have been in.

As we really aren’t looking for anything in particular it was fun to just window shop (although a bit cold for us SoCal folks).

Lots of hats!






While we didn’t visit many of the historically significant sites of Glasgow we did get a nice feel for the City and didn’t feel badly when we left by train to Edinburgh.

Tiki Bar close to our hotel
Beresford Hotel built in 1938. The first “sky scrapper”.
Janeen on the upper deck of the bus.
David taking in the sites.
Main fountain in the Glasgow Green