Yes, the alliteration was strong in that title.

This past week has been a lot about Christmas.  I had the joy of attending several caroling services, parties, and get togethers.  It’s Christmas.  I’m in Edinburgh.  Life is good.

 Last Friday, I went to a caroling service at Greyfriar’s Kirk, hosted by the christian unions of the universities in Edinburgh.

One of my very first posts was of the graveyard and scenery of Greyfriar’s and the first ceilidh I ever went to was here.  It was nice to return and see the beautiful church decorated for Christmas and to enjoy a lovely caroling service.

 The highlight for me was a rendition done by the choir of the Candlelight Carol, which I swiftly proceeded to hunt down on iTunes.  There are several standard, lovely choral versions, but for a pretty and slightly more unique rendering, you might look at a CD called Tre Luci, which also includes several other well known Christian hymns, though no other Christmas ones.

 The organ is spectacular in this church, as you can see.

The speaker was very good and I enjoyed the carol choices.  I confess that I prefer to just stand and absorb the beautiful music rather than to sing along and become distracted with my own self-consciousness.

 Night comes way too early in this city these days.  The sun starts to set around 3:30 in the afternoon.  I’m clinging to the bright, twinkling Christmas lights (figuratively, mind you, not literally clinging to them) because I know that after New Year’s, it’s going to be a long, dark winter.

Last Sunday involved not only the usual lovely church service, but caroling at the castle.  In anticipation, I baked an apple pie to feed my friends after the caroling.

 Before…
 After!

Amazingly enough, this was the first time I set foot within the walls of Edinburgh Castle.  It’s right next door to me, but any time I want to do something, I feel like I should go out somewhere else and save the easy castle for when it’s too hard to go elsewhere.  But today, there was a Christmas caroling event in the castle, so the time had come to see what Edinburgh Castle has to offer.

 You can see the ferris wheel from here!

 Edinburgh Castle is a bit different from the other ones I’ve been to.  I normally go to more or less abandonned ruins of castles without roofs, often with broken down walls, and usually with very few visitors.

This one is quite populated (even on a nippy Sunday afternoon) and has several fully intact buildings that are being used as museums and for events.

 Dear old Mons Meg, the siege gun.  The plaque underneath reads the following:

‘This giant medieval siege gun was presented to King James II in 1457 and used in war against the English.  It was kept in the castle and used also for firing salutes.  During one firing in 1558, the massive gunstone was found almost 2 miles away!  It last fired in 1681 when its barrel burst.’

And thus ended the impressive career of this ginormous cannon.

 In any cartoon that was ever created, this would result in an explosion and Hannah’s head would be covered in soot.  She would shake it off and walk away, having learned a very important lesson about sticking one’s head in a cannon.

 And the sun sank towards the horizon… at 3:00….

I’m sorry, but I’m not going to get over that any time soon.

 St Margaret’s Chapel, which sits just behind Mons Meg, was closed for a wedding.  We got to see the bride and the little tiny flower girl arrive.

Talk about an amazing wedding venue…

But can I just say that the flower girl was rocking some amazing red shoes?

 Apparently, Hannah finds the ferris wheel offensively modern and proceeded to aim a cannon at it…

But fortunately for the ferris wheel, it sits directly in front of the Sir Walter Scott Monument, which is pretty, old, and impressive looking.  We can’t really shoot the ferris wheel without hitting the monument.  The ferris wheel was saved that day…

 Was it presumptuous to use my flag and claim Edinburgh Castle?

Well, until the queen confronts me about it, you can consider this one my castle.

 Nap has a noble steed!

 We passed the time waiting for the caroling service with a little exploration of the castle.  Witness the excellent courtyard.

 I harbor a great resentment for museums that do not allow non-flash photography.  My camera will not hurt your precious artifacts.  It is too awesome.

 Mary, Queen of Scots: she looks mean.

This room looks like a good room for dancing.

Hmmm…..

 This interior is certainly a striking contrast to the ruins of Aberdour or Direlton.

 At last, we could enter the great hall for the carols.  The room is warm, beautifully colored, and had a magnificent Christmas tree.

 Clearly, this was the perfect place for some photos.

 Hannah, Margaret, and me.  Yay for Americans!

 The carolers! They caroled well.

 Time to say goodbye to my new castle and proceed to the apple pie eating and general merry making for the rest of the afternoon.

 Afterwards, I met up with Lluvia and we went to our friend Karen’s church for another carol concert.  This one was advertised as a ‘candlelight carol service’ so I expected lots of candles.

There were lots of candles.

The choir sang beautifully and we enjoyed spicy mulled juice and mince pies afterwards!

And last night I built a castle.  Margaret hosted a Christmas party and my contribution was the basic structure of the castle itself.  I built a model out of paper that involved outer walls and an inner keep, but Margaret cruelly forced me to make it smaller due to time/dough/ability constraints.

 At one point, Margaret was positioning candies on the side of the castle and she commented on how the ‘lobster does not go with the rest of the decorations.’

I came around and looked at this ‘lobster.’

It was an upside down reindeer head.

We left it like that.

Inside the castle, we formed ranks of jellies into an army of redcoats.  They looked very impressive, but they lacked a leader.

That’s when Nap agreed to commandeer the structure.  I left him there that night because he looked so happy leading his troops out of his very own castle.

The Castle Nap, maybe?

Today, I visited yet another castle, but the multitude of pictures involved in that visit will have to wait for another post.  Stay tuned!