Blog2007 ≫ Edinburgh (being the second part of our holiday)

Edinburgh is nice. "Our kind of city" the wife wrote on her postcards, and I agree. We got a speedy train there from Carlisle into Edinburgh Haymarket, this was the side of the city we were staying on. We could have been a bit closer to the action but HEY, this was a walking holiday, and we had a serviced apartment instead of a hotel, so we had a lounge and kitchen and all sorts of extra features.

The weather was pretty monstrous to start with. I think we got to our apartment without getting wet, but the rain really started just as we were about to head out again. One of my almost-highlights of the trip was seing a drain burst open in front of me just outside the apartment. I have a fascination with sewers, it was quite cool to see the sudden downpour prove to much for the Edinburgh underpipes and cause a drain lid to shoot up in the air and a fountain of liquid spray out in the road. This was cool for only as long as it took the smell to hit me, this was a waste spurting out at my feet, an actual fountain of human shit. It was grim, but luckily all the extra rain washed this filth away in the end. Man I wish I'd had my video camera handy at this point. You'll just have to imagine it.

We did some proper touristy things, including Mary King's Close1, a shut off street under the Royal Mile:

Hidden beneath the Royal Mile lies Edinburgh's deepest secret: a warren of hidden 'closes' where real people lived, worked and died. For centuries they have lain forgotten and abandoned...

I would suggest not bothering, it's not as interesting as it sounds. The streets are still technically there, but it's very hard to get an impression of most of them as living spaces as the floors and ceilings are at different levels, and there's practically no surviving decoration or artifacts, and the recreations and projections are bad and the ghost story they told was particularly lame. Lame ghost stories was a bit of a theme of the holiday, everywhere in the UK is using this kind of thing to lure tourists in and are even saying things like "as featured on TV's Most Haunted" and so on. Are we a nation of gullible muppets? Needless to say, we did not feel any ghostliness or cold patches or any kind of bump-in-the-night-ingness. Ah while I'm being negative I recall one more thing about Mary King's Close, the crassest most opportunistic part of this trap. In the last room of the tour we were told a Japanese TV psychic2 had felt a presence, and it was a little girl ghost, and she'd been left behind by her parents and she wanted her dolly. A runner was sent out to buy a doll and this pleased the "ghost". Now there's a big pile of toys and dolls left as offerings to this ghost. We were told that other tourists started leaving toys after hearing this story, and if we'd like to leave something "or some money" that would be nice. I'm glad no-one in our tour party of twenty fell for this, but would suggest to the tour organisers that they hire a stooge to join each party and get them to start the money giving, I'm sure they'd pay for themselves. That's what I'd do if I was cynical and grasping enough.

Eating was good in Edinburgh, we went in two dedicated vegetarian restaurants, David Bann's3, and Black Bo's. Bann's was quite fancy really, and the food was great. I can't remember what I had for my main, but that's down to quite a lot of booze too. I had some kind of fake fish cakes for my starter. The only complaint was a big table of students next to us, being all studenty, the bastards.

UPDATE: On checking the menu, I think I went for

Thai fritters Aromatic, spicy fritters of smoked tofu, peas, ginger, green chilli, lime, sesame and potato. Served with fresh mango chutney and a roast garlic tomato sauce. V Galette of aduki and aubergine Organic beer crepe layered with spiced aduki bean and aubergine, topped with juniper pickled cucumber . Served with chunky chips, homemade apple & tomato ketchup and crme fraiche and chives. [V]

Black Bo's was more relaxed, still very nice, though I chose the wrong main. Perhaps unsurprisingly my aubergine and melon soaked in midori was too sweet and melony for me. Other meals in non vege restaurants were also great, there was lots of choice for me, I even had a baked potato with haggis topping. Hots mon, och aye and pass me the deep fried heroin, could I be more Scottish?

It was my call to give up on our plan to drink a different short in every pub, we had too many whiskeys and things that I just wasn't enjoying, and getting extra hammered just for the sake of showing off. Scottish beer is not the best in the world, all served a bit too cold, but I did have a very nice pint in The Half Way House on Fleshmarket Close. Very small, but ace, deservedly a CAMRA4 pub of the year.

Ian Rankin has a book called Fleshmarket Close, which we bought while we were there, along with lots of others of his books, I'm sure all tourists do. We bought quite a few books while we were away, including one by another Scottish crime writer who we met there, called Quintin Jardine. We didn't see Ian Rankin around the town, but we did see The Duke of Edinburgh, us in Edinburgh and all, what are the chances? He was in jewelry shop that had closed just for him, does he think he's Michael Jackson or something? I shouted "YOU MURDERED PRINCESS DIANA" at him. Well, I thought about it. After he'd gone.

I do have more things to add about Edinburgh but thought I should post something while it's still fairly fresh. We went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 while we were there. It's rubbish, don't bother.

Stay tuned for some pictures to illustrate this post, and some links, and tales of Blackpool, Keswick, and York.

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Paul Clarke's blog - I live in Hythe near Folkestone. Wed + dad to two, I am a full-stack web developr, + I do js / nodejs, some ruby, python, php ect ect. I like pubs, running, eating, home automation and other diy stuff, history, family tree stuff, TV, squirrels, pirates, lego, + TIME TRAVEL.