Saturday, August 21, 2010

Edinburgh Museums - also known as my day off

I got another day off yesterday – which brings me up to two since the middle of July. I had the ultimate luxury of not setting my alarm at all, and ended up rolling out of bed around noon.

It was a really beautiful day, warm, a little humid and with a nice breeze. I headed into town, determined to avoid the fringe for at least part of the day. My first stop was the Scottish Museum. There’s a terrace up on the roof with stunning views out over the city. I spent some time up there in the sun, taking photos.


I also stopped in to see the temporary exhibit of the Lewis Chessmen. It’s believed they’re of Scandinavian origin, made in the late 12th or early 13th century and found on the Isle of Lewis in the 19th century.



They’re beautifully carved and have enormous amounts of character. My favourite is the guy who’s biting his shield. I love that something that old still has this vibrant sense of humour.


From the Scottish Museum, I headed to Gladstone’s Land, which is a restored tenement house. I have this fascination with tenement houses. I’m not sure why. I went to the tenement museum in New York City as well. In this case, the tenement dates to the 17th and 18th centuries, and they have set up the rooms as they would have looked at the time.


I think I spent more time in there than just about anyone else. Photos were forbidden, but I read all the leaflets, I took notes, I chatted with the guides. There was one in particular, an older gentleman, who was extremely helpful, telling me all sorts of extra tidbits.


One of the most interesting things was that baking was forbidden in any of the tenement rooms which didn’t have flagstone flooring (which was anything above the first floor, really) due to fear of fire. So the women were supposed to bring prepared dough to the local baker’s to be baked. The guide thought this was probably a very rare occurrence, since at that point it would have been simpler and cheaper to just buy the baker’s bread. But, on my trip to Morocco, one of the guides was saying that up into this century, women would prepare the dough and send it to the baker’s to be baked, and then the children coming home from school for lunch would pick it up again. The similarity really struck me.

Also, in one of the rooms, you can still see the faded paintings that adorned the ceilings and the walls. It would have been quite vivid once. But they’re still there, having been painted in the 17th century. How amazing.

My only disappointment was that there were only two floors – the ground floor and the first floor – that had been restored. I would have loved to see how the rest of the building would have looked, what the poorer quarters would have been like.


From there I headed to the writers’ museum, but once again I got there just before closing time. I had about fifteen minutes to poke around the Robert Louis Stephenson area in the basement before being chucked out. I’ll have to go back another day to explore the rest.


This is the point at which I caved to the fringe. I headed down to kill some time in the Grassmarket and got some lovely shots of the castle from below. I found the toy store that Tanya had sent me in search of, but the café she remembered was no longer there. They did, however, have a book about the life of a domestic servant. I’ve been putting together my family tree, and many of my relatives – including my grandmother – were in service at some point. And charting the tree is one thing, but I’ve hit the point where I want to know what their lives were like. So I bought the book to read later.

I went to see a fringe show called Now is the Winter, which I will write about later. Then I picked up a curry – which turned out to be enormously disappointing – and went home to eat and have a rest. It was my day off. I could do things like that.

Amazingly, I did get up and head out again. I went to see Putting it Together, a Sondheim review (spelled review and not revue, apparently, because he wants us to think about it, as in to review) that I have seen before and loved. It was good, by fringe standards. But again, I’ll write about that later.

All in all, a good day.

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