Alex is a die-hard rugby fan, and today was a HUGE day in the world of British rugby. Every 12 years the British/Irish Lions play a three-game series against the New Zealand All Blacks, the best team in the world. The Lions had lost the first game, so this second game, which was played in New Zealand at 8:30 am Scotland time, was essential. So it went without question, that we would spend the morning learning about rugby and getting a later start. We went over to Orocco Pier, which was showing the match. We wanted to get there in time for the famous New Zealand Haka dance right before the start of the match. Incredible display of fortitude and intimidation.
We then went back across the street for breakfast and returned to watch the second half with Alex and Kate, who met us there after spending the night at a different hotel a few miles away. Alex patiently explained the nuances of the game - really wonderful sport! And fortunately, our time watching paid off - the Lions won game two! It was a good omen for the day to come.
By the time we checked out, it was just after 10:30 am.
Jonah and Olivia had a little extra pep in their step because Alex and Kate had joined our party. Here the boys are just as we are leaving South Queensferry in front of the original Forth Bridge, which opened in 1890 and has carried the main railway ever since. It was the world's first giant steel bridge and in 2015 was inscribed as Scotland's sixth World Heritage Site.
Having Alex and Kate with us has brought the purpose of our hike back to front and center. While we are having some great family time, we are really hiking to raise money and awareness for Humane Education. Thanks to all of you who have already made a tax-deductible donation to the charity via our website, and if you haven't done so yet but still want to, there is still time! Humane Ed. in a nutshell is about teaching the interconnectedness of everything - humans, other animals, the environment.... And Alex's project, Trash Tagging, was our environmental focus of the day. He started a movement in which people from around the world take 5 minutes to collect trash anywhere there is litter, and then post a video or post about it. So as we walked today, we carried a bag around and collected litter. I'm sure we have passed litter along the trail over the past week, but until we actively thought about it, we hadn't noticed how much we actually saw over the course of the day. It felt great to help keep the trail on which we were hiking clean. You can find out more info on Alex's TrashTag facebook page.
About 3 miles into our hike, we passed the Dalmeny House, the home of the Earl of Rosenberg, a Tudor Gothic mansion that was completed in 1817. Lara and Alex were so happy to see it that they decided to celebrate!
It was an absolutely brilliant day (Alex and Kate clearly started to rub off on us - I have never described a day like that before!). The weather was perfect and the terrain pleasant. It felt great to be off of asphalt towpaths. Sometimes we were on narrow paths
and other times we traversed country farm roads.
And we passed over several old bridges, like this one.
One of the day's highlights was meeting Niki, who had been shot in Greece as a puppy (because she was a stray). Instead of dying, she was paralyzed. She was rescued and brought back to the UK. She now lives in Scotland with a caring family and goes on nice strolls like this one.
As we got closer to to Edinburgh, we walked through a very upscale neighborhood with a beautiful golf-course and some stunning modern mansions. When we passed Dunvegan Court, I decided to rename it.
Once we reached the outskirts of the city, we departed from the actual JMW, which actually doesn't go in to the heart of Edinburgh, and made our way to our night's lodging. On the way we passed some beautiful churches and other buildings - we didn't know all of the names of them, but did take some photos!
And then at 2:45, we finally came to our destination for the night, the Premier Inn on Princes Street right in the heart of town. By going into town rather than around it, we actually cut off a few miles (as our mileage tally for the day can attest to.)
However, we more than made up for that lost mileage with the 5-6 miles (not logged) of walking we did around Edinburgh for the rest of the day. We can't recommend any sites in particular, but as the following description will clearly demonstrate, we quickly became experts on the best vegan eating spots in town! After checking in and refreshing a bit, we made our way to NovaPizza for a late lunch. OMG - best pizza ever. There are pages of options for omnivores, then vegetarians, and vegans too. The options were endless. We had some salads, pizzas, calzones, and gnocchi. And the kids followed up with vegan chocolate Oreo cheesecake that was mouth-watering good.
We then parted ways for a few hours with Alex and Kate, dropping off the kids back at the room. Lara and I strolled through the West Prince Street Gardens and up to the Edinburgh castle and around the Grassmarket area, which is filled with some splendid architecture. We definitely logged some serious mileage as we chatted and took in the city.
By the time we returned to the room, it was about 7 pmand time to head out for round two of our eating exploration. This time we made our way to Henderson's vegan/vegetarian restaurant, which has been around since the 1960's! We saw this sign right outside and couldn't resist.
The vegan restaurant is a couple of doors down from the older sibling vegetarian restaurant. Since the smaller vegan place was completely packed with no room for us, we went to the vegetarian place that did have a table available. Alex and Kate met us there. Lara has been nursing a swollen pinky toe for a day now, partly because of the hiking, and partly because Jonah accidentally stepped on it yesterday. Then today Jonah stepped on it again, and I did too. And to top it off, when we got to our table, Lara accidentally stubbed that toe on the table leg. She has a high threshold for pain, but this is pushing it to new limits. Fortunately, our food took her mind off of her toe. We all had a delectable vegan Pad Thai with noodles made out of carrots and zucchini instead of pasta. It was so good that we asked for, and received, the recipe.
There were also some desserts that we had to try. We shared a blackberry pie, chocolate mouse, and chocolate cake. Yum! But we couldn't end the night with just that because we had heard of a place in town that has the best vegan ice cream in the country, and possibly the world. So we walked to Affogato's and were not disappointed. All the hiking we have done has not brought us to our knees, but this unbelievably delicious vegan ice cream finally did! We were in heaven. And for those of you who haven't been keeping track, that is 5 desserts for the day!
We didn't return to our room until shortly after 10 pm and finally called it a night at about 11. And this is the glorious view of Edinburgh castle from our room, not bad for what is the equivalent of a nice Best Western.
By the time I sat down to write the blog, I was just too tired to focus, so I decided to wake up early and do it when I would be more awake.
Distance: 11.9 miles
Time: 4 hrs. 8 min.
Avg. Speed: 2.9 mph
Total Ascent: 1,381 ft.
Total Descent: 1,142 ft.