Anyone visiting Zanzibar simply must go on a spice tour. Admittedly it’s a well-polished tourist trap, but the experience is so worth it. You’ll take a taxi to an interior plantation (many of which are no longer commercially functioning) and a local guide will walk you among vanilla pod vines, cumin seed pods and turmeric root. Feel your senses stir as your guide tells tales of ancient spice remedies, lets you sni heady splinters of lemongrass and taste shavings of nutmeg – an oldworld aphrodisiac.

SPICE TOUR Photo Gallery

The present double stairway superseded this in 1907. The Burgh Halls have a Tourist office, cafe (with garden) and Arts Centre. The Kirkgate leads up from the Cross to reach the Palace gateway. Panels above have the gilded coats of arms of the Orders of the Garter, the Golden Fleece, St Michael (all conferred on James V) and the Thistle (which James V is thought to have founded). The porch at Abbotsford was based on this entrance – Walter Scott also cribbed bits of Melrose Abbey and Stirling Castle, quite apart from acquiring original old features. Through the arch, on the right, is St Michael’s Parish Church, a large, cathedral-like building with a long history. Dedicated in 1242, most of it dates to a rebuilding after the 1424 fire. Its main fame is perhaps the window tracery, notably in the St Katharine’s Aisle where James IV saw the ghost (a put-up by his worried wife?) who warned of impending doom if he marched an army south -to Flodden, as it proved. The Reformation took its toll of the decorative statuary. Cromwell actually quartered his troopers and their horses inside the church, and it accommodated Edinburgh students during the plague winter of 1645-46.

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