Day 9: Edinburgh is a city which encourages you to think about what a city is. -Murdo MacDonald

Our day started brighter than the sunshine today with our flight departing at 6:40 AM. The screening process at the Cork Airport was a lot more intense then when we left Minneapolis. If you’ll recall, MSP was weirdly seamless. Today was more what I had expected which was totes fine but weird that it differs so much from place to place.

We arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland shortly after 8:00 AM and grabbed the first AirLink bus available enroute to City Centre. I made a point of making sure all of our hotels were within walking distance from the nearest public transit but I failed to check on the terrain in Edinburgh. Our trek from the bus to the hotel was all uphill. Sorry, mom. But it was a pretty hike!

Once we dropped our luggage off, we made our way to the closest stop for the Hop On/Hop Off tour we’d purchased. Even before arriving at that stop, I could already tell that I’d regret not spending more time in this beautiful city.

We first popped off at The Palace of Holyroodhouse which is the official residence of the Queen herself when she’s in the area doing her Queenly duties.

The Palace is phenomenal in size and in beauty. Photographs were permitted outside, in the abbey areas, and the garden but inside the palace, they were not. Which actually was a bit refreshing. It gave everyone (me especially) time to slow down and take everything in a bit more. We purchased a self-guided audio tour and ventured from room to room learning about the history of each and the stories that live inside the Palace.

Second, we stopped at the bottom of the Royal Mile and made our way up to the Edinburgh Castle. A place in and of itself that we could have spent an entire day at. I saw this quote today and I don’t know if it’s in direct reference to the Castle itself or perhaps the city of Edinburgh, but either way I couldn’t have said it better than this about either: “It possesses a boldness and grandeur beyond that I have ever seen.” -Thomas Pennant.

Each day of this vacation, I see things I’ve never seen before and I fail to find the words that appropriately describe them. Every building has a story and the architecture is so extraordinary, it’s stupid. Every ocean view is absolutely breathtaking. Every curve in the road, every local going about their day, every single interaction with this trip is changing my life by the second in more ways than I even realize. I feel so lucky to be here.

Day 4: 2B anyone? Or not to be.

Our first truly full day was packed with more options to do than time to do it; something that’s preferred in my book. I’d rather have too many things than not enough.

We hopped aboard our aptly named Hop On, Hop Off City Sightseeing Tour and were greeted by the singing tour-guide I remember seeing on the brochure. Jackpot! Declan was his name and covering Elvis Presley perfectly was his game.

Declan, the tour-guide, was wonderful. He displayed the Irish kindness and humor you read about and even though it was his job to go through the talking points of the tour, we learned a bit about him as a person, as well. His wife died of cancer a few years ago and his daughter was recently diagnosed with the same sickness but she’s thankfully doing well and is strong. Declan also made reference to growing up in Dublin and how he’d suppressed a lot of the horrible things he’d seen, up until recently. He mentioned the frustrations and annoyance he had with the Pope paying a visit to Dublin a couple of weeks ago and how he worked through it among other topics. Even providing the struggles he chose to share with a bunch of strangers, he had the most delightfully jolly of personalities. It just goes to show that no matter who you are and what is behind you, it’s our choice to make the most of every single day. If I learn nothing else in life, I hope I’ll always remember Declan, the songbird of his generation.

We hopped off at a few places today. First, was Dublin Castle. We toured the main part of the Castle, The State Apartments and The Castle Gardens. Construction on Dublin Castle began in 1204 and was finished around 1230. A timeframe that I can’t even make sense of. Until now, the oldest buildings I’m sure I’ve ever seen have probably been homes built in the late 1800’s.

The Castle is just as intricately designed as I imagined it would be, both inside and out. There’s a grand staircase leading to a formal dining room. The actual name of this room is The Portrait Gallery. I should have counted the seats and the paintings, but I didn’t. Beyond the dining room was the Throne Room. Queen Victoria sat in the throne when she visited the Castle as did Kings before and after her. The last time a monarch sat in that throne before Irish independence was a few years short of the first World War.

There was a long hallway and some additional rooms in the area that we toured. They are mostly used now for displaying various mediums of artwork which I enjoyed taking in. We then made our way through the Castle Cafe and meandered around the The Castle Gardens basking in the beautiful and (per the locals, unusually) sunny day.

After leaving the Castle grounds, we walked a couple of blocks up the hill to see Christ Church Cathedral and Dublina. The cathedral was under some sort of construction in the front of the building and service was in session so we just went ’round the outside. The cathedral is connected to Dublina, a stop that turned out to kind of be a dud. We pulled the typical tourist card and were like “Oh, lets check out this super cool looking building and learn about the Viking and Medieval history of Dublin.” Meh. I did decide to hike up the 96 steps for a good view overlooking the city. The guy at the front desk talked me into it. #doitforthegram

We also hopped off at Guinness for a quick look around. I tried it, guys and gals, Guinness.. And I’m not a fan. I didn’t expect to be either but you know what they say: “When in Rome!” Or rather “When in Ireland, do as the tourists do!” Why do I always give into social norms? The walk around the Guinness Storehouse grounds were worth checking out though.

Without question, the best place we stopped today was Glasnevin Cemetery. The cemetery holds over 1.5 million graves and as morbid as it may sound, is absolutely breathtaking. Any photo I could take wouldn’t give you nearly the scope of the feeling you get when visiting the cemetery. Both my mom and I enjoy going to cemetery’s; I think we always have. I used to visit my grandpas grave a lot in Warroad growing up and we did a Ghosts and Graves tour of Minneapolis a few years back.

The O’Connell Tower overlooks the entire cemetery and beyond. Although it seems obvious that it’s the focal point, it’s just a small part of the grounds. There of dozens upon dozens of crypts and mausoleums that have been on display for hundreds of years and thousands of family graves that seem to be intertwined together. I could have spent an entire day here, if not more, providing we had the time.

Tomorrow, Cork. Are corks made in Cork? That is the question.