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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Nytch

Letter from the Fringe, 2019: A Day Off!

Updated: Aug 25, 2019

Monday was our first day off in two weeks. I don't think I fully realized how precious that day was until I realized that I didn't need to be at the theatre: suddenly I was simultaneously exhausted and wanting to soak up every minute of the day. As it was also the last day that Jeffrey was here with me, we made the most of it by exploring the lower half of the Royal Mile, visiting Holyrood House Palace, and having a lovely dinner at the oldest surviving public house in Scotland. The Royal Mile is a street that runs through the heart of Edinburgh's "Old Town," making its way steadily uphill from Holyrood House at the base to Edinburgh Castle at the summit. Though some of it is closed to vehicles during Festival season, it's a working street and remains a critical artery through this part of the city. It is, of course, lined with countless picturesque buildings (including some of the oldest in the city) that in turn house countless pubs, restaurants, whiskey merchants, and gift shops are various stripes and levels of quality. Here are just a few pics along the way, including: 1) A typical block of buildings in this part of town; 2) An ancient building with the two Great Commandments ("Love God with all your heart and Love your neighbor as yourself") engraved on its wall beneath a sundial (which we joked would only have limited utility in Edinburgh; 3) One of the oldest buildings in town, a "Tolhouse" that marks what was once the east gate though the city wall.

Next we went to Holyrood House Palace, the official residence of the Queen in Scotland (she owns her summer home, Balmoral, privately). It was a fascinating place, not as large or grand as Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, but still possessing some beautiful interiors and stunning artwork (no pictures allowed inside, though). But the real attraction to this place is its history. Before it was a royal palace it was an Abbey going all the way back to the 12th century. All that remains are ruins -- the Reformation and Counter-reformation were not kind to this building -- which gives an air of antiquity to the place. The first tower of the residence was built in the 1500's, and the full quadrangle seen today was constructed in the 1600's. The State rooms include a formal dining room and portrait gallery, and follow the familiar sequence from public reception areas to increasing levels of sequestration as one moves towards the Royal Bedchamber. But what's different about this palace is the scale: everything is a little smaller, a little more intimate. A little more, dare I say, homey. What was most striking, though, were the private chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, which reside in the original tower and consist of several tiny rooms only accessible via a narrow winding staircase. It would seem that Mary wanted her own, almost secret, inner sanctum. Something about these rooms, and their restricted access, evoked her vulnerability, and somehow foreshadowed her sad and tragic end. Here is the Wiki link for an excellent overview of the palace's history:

Some pictures, starting with the front facade, the original tower, and the interior courtyard:

Ruins of the Abbey:

And the beautiful grounds:

More shots from our trip back up the Royal Mile, starting with the Scottish Parliament Building (across the street from Holyrood and with the iconic Crags beyond), the appropriately-named Jeffrey Street, St. Giles Cathedral, and the delightful Victoria Street which curves around the side of the Castle Mound:

Lastly, we had dinner at Sheep's Heid Inn, the oldest surviving public house in Scotland. It's just outside of Edinburgh in the tiny village of Duddingston. The place even has a Skittles alley in the back!

The town also has a beautiful Abbey dating from the 12th century:

Then yesterday Jeffrey departed for home and I went back to work! Finally getting some good reviews, including a 5-star rating from a local publication. Audiences continue to give us raves, which is what matters the most.

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