Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Yorkshire and Amsterdam (November 2017)

Part 1 – Edinburgh (and Glasgow)

We got back on Sunday (Nov 19th), and by the last day of the holiday it seemed quite a long time from the first when we alighted in Edinburgh. That’s the way some great trips should be, with 100s of different experiences!  It definitely ranks up there with our best and I’ll try to bring it to life again in the write-up and do it justice!

Day 1 (November 4th) –

On board the flight, we watched two films each. We usually go for low culture but high adrenalin stuff that keeps us going (and besides, you won’t get Room With A View to choose anyway). We both enjoyed Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, then Marie thought The Mummy (Tom Cruise) a bit crappy but entertaining, and I liked ‘Going In Style’ even if I did half-sleep through a lot of it. With Michael Caine, it’s about the three old retirees who rob a bank in New York. We saw the 1970s original a year or two ago.

We got to Edinburgh Airport at 7am on Sunday, November 5th, a Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night and a traditional day of festivities in the UK. We used our friend David’s instructions to get the tram to York Place at the end of the tram route and then a walk towards their house. David and his wife Cathy run a great air b and b from their home. Weather was cold-ish and the scenery on the tram quite countrified and serene. We passed Murrayfield Rugby Stadium. It would also be really good to spend some time with our friends too.  The house is off a really beautiful and green street near the top end of the long road leading down to the rejuvenated docklands area of Leith. We hadn’t been to Scotland or seen their house since 2009.

David opened the door and greeted us, then we chatted and he explained that their current air b and b guest had supposed to have checked out at 7am but was still in bed, but that we could use the spare bedroom on the top floor. No problem and it was very comfortable! Beautiful view of their garden at the back, and our sleep would be overseen by a Van Morrison poster, in cool shades.

Then Cathy arrived home, after walking the dogs. She looks after pups.  Marie and I were very excited to meet Ruby and Cipher!  We also had chance to catch up with Cathy a bit before a much needed nap.

We awoke at I’m not sure what time, but mid-afternoon ish and we had snacks and congregated in D & C’s kitchen.

Later, and well wrapped up in coats, scarves and the works we headed on out. We would be going to a local Bonfire Night, it being November 5th.  David and Cathy are members of the local park, and have keys to the gates. You wind up quite steep paths – in the dark in this case of course, and we were carrying torches (flashlights to American readers!) – and it was all very atmospheric, sociable and with that air of otherworldliness that you get when you’re somewhere very different from home.  We arrived at the Bonfire, and queued for very delicious burgers and sausages. I always remember hot food tasting twice as good on chilly Bonfire Nights (as kids we’d usually be chowing on baked potatoes and onion soup in our back garden). We then watched a local fireworks display, stood on a sloping grassy bank. We were all massively impressed by the display, which were at least as good and probably even better than the fireworks we see back home at the Italian feast in August, and these were equally as close up!  And fireworks we’d never seen before, petering off in weird and wonderful squiggles. I think D and C might be tempted to go again next year?  Marie was a bit disappointed not to have seen a Guy effigy atop of the bonfire, but really I think that’s not so important now.

Then literally onwards and upwards to the heath area at the top known as Calton Hill. I hadn’t even heard of Calton Hill before this trip. It’s a World Heritage Site and includes a lot of monuments. From here we – with many hundreds of others – watched more distant fireworks over wonderful views of the whole city all around, especially the biggest event in town at Meadowbank.  Not as good as the one we’d seen at the local park on the way – partly as it’s so far off – but up here was equally and probably even more exciting and strange.

It was a very different and a really great first night to start the holiday!   Marie and I bought chocolate at a local shop for the room when almost back.  I noticed there were two real ales in the mini fridge, so we thought the air b and b guests do well. Unless it’s a mini bar!  The room is done out very nicely, with maps and guides everywhere.   It turned out later on that David had bought the beers for me!

Day 2 –

David had to work today.  We had a quick chat with Cathy, and we would come back to the house after Marie and I had had breakfast. Their house is really close to a lot of very nearby restaurants, and also the theatre where D & C would be seeing Van Morrison tonight.

We walked around the corner to Cafe Marlayne where we had a welcome Full Scottish breakfast. Well, more like a full English since no haggis but I think there were Scottish potato cakes.

Then we set off with Cathy. We stopped outside David’s grand work headquarters so that Cathy could pass David a packed lunch. Then up to Calton Hill again – this time looking very different in the daylight – and we were walking the pups.  We took quite a few photos and Cathy got some great ones of Marie and I posing by a cannon.

We parted ways with Cathy for a bit, and Marie and I carried on for our second guidebook site, Holyrood Palace. You have fine views nearby of the dramatic overlook of Arthur’s Seat, a high hill once a volcano.

We liked the palace a lot. Just the right amount to see without it being at all overwhelming. The Queens Scottish residence is here, and it was also home to Mary Queen Of Scots. The two ends of the very famous Royal Mile street that tourists walk through goes from the palace to the imposing Edinburgh Castle at t’other end.

Also interesting at the castle was the room where Scots of honourable notoriety get knighted by the Queen. On a screen you see footage of Sean Connery and Gordon Ramsay receiving their knighthoods. So Billy Connolly would presumably be knighted in this room too, since it was announced recently.

Next we walked up the Royal Mile some way. I got a tartan umbrella at a tourist shop. We always use the wee umbrellas that last about a week on holidays. We didn’t need them much though. It was more just cold than rainy.

Then we bought hand-made shortbread biscuits at a place we’d seen on an Andrew Zimmern Delicious Destinations Edinburgh: Pinnies and Poppies.  The tiny kitchen smelt like a vat of butter suitable for a Vincent Price demise! Amazingly tasty though, and you know shortbread is fresh when it only lasts “five days”. We chose a variety for a box and would munch on them over Channel Dave back at the bedroom.

We had a quick coffee in a likeable and friendly little place that we didn’t noticed the name of. Marie asked for a…I think macchiato? For us to share. Back in NY this a fair sized coffee but here it’s an espresso size, so definitely not big enough to share. A moccha instead then!

We bought dvd’s in Fopp in Rose Street next, near Princess Street and by the hotel that we stopped at nine years ago and now gone.  Next door we took a break at the Abbotsford Arms, one recommended from the CAMRA (British, Campaign For Real ale) beer guide.  A tasteful and comfortable, traditional pub.

And time for another drinks stop before tonight’s meal. We went to the mighty Cafe Royal, which is ornate and bustling and we sat at the bar. The friendly bartender offered me quite a few beer samples.

I’ve been to this pub on all of my three or four Edinburgh visits since the first one in the 90s I think.

Then dinner at a place we had been to in 2009. It was then called Monster Mash, as it specialises in sausage and mash in lots of varieties. It’s a casual place, that also does beer and wine and we love it. It’s now called Mum’s but is just as we remembered it. We had lamb sausages, and pork with jalapeno sausages and mashes.

Talking very vaguely of mash, have David and Cathy ever played the Scottish board game, Stramash? We bought one at the Scottish festival in Long Island in August and have played once so far.

I overdid things a bit with a Guinness, a third pint of the night after heavy food. The two young people serving at Mum’s, perhaps a couple, he from Milan she from Sicily, were lovely and the food and drink were just the ticket. Oh, a 60s-plus very jolly couple from Herefordshire also got talking to us. They were playing golf in the morning.

D and C got back from having greatly enjoyed the VM concert, and I forget if it was tonight or tomorrow night that we chewed the fat in the lounge with drinks and Italian chocolate liqueurs Cathy bought us (delicious, and strongly alcoholic!) or whether that was tomorrow night. They were great company and hosts for this first leg of the trip!

Day 3 –

A relaxing start, and we set out at half ten in the morning to walk down to Leith. We found a tabby cat as we went along, then another Zimmern recommendation, the Roseleaf pub, where we have another full breakfast (below)! 

We also passed Fishers seafood restaurant. We’d be dining this evening with David and Cathy in the other branch, Fishers In The City.

A walk back up to the house for a rest stop.

At 3pm we have a bus tour with a difference booked (I suddenly seem to have switched to present tense style haven’t I?! Let’s revert back). Red Bus Bistro gives you a one and a half hour city tour at the same time as you have afternoon tea, scones, cakes and prosecco onboard!  It’s a novel idea and a good way to do something we’d never done before in Edinburgh.  We started with the prosecco (well, mostly me) and some dainty sandwiches and the bus took us to a different part of town, a park area around Meadowbank I believe and where those who got the plague in the Middle Ages were taken out of the city! 

The cakes were delicious of course but we needed to save some because we’d be dining at 5.30 at Fishers.  The bus tour could do with a few more “bells and whistles”. It’s a great idea but there wasn’t really a proper commentary onboard. We’re still glad we did it though!

On Princess Street on foot again now, we bought poppies and had a look at Edinburgh’s age old and classy department store, Jenners. It’s now owned by House of Fraser but the original look has been kept and we enjoyed the Christmas decorations and the luxurious old wooden fixtures. We bought a decoration for the tree, a very cute mouse.

We got to Fishers In The City first. David arrived, then Cathy and we had what was to be one of the best meals of the trip. The mussels were especially good, and the sticky toffee pudding was full-on rich, as it should be! Not half as expensive as we thought it might be too, we all had a great night.

Marie is much more into fish now, so long as it’s white fish (eg, not salmon or ‘fishy’ fish) and she really liked the lemon sole. Just before we leave, some people wave over to us from a nearby table – it’s the Herefordshire couple again!

After the meal, we all popped into the amazing Dome. A former bank, it’s now exquisitely lush as a bar, restaurant and nightclub with an incredible facade inside and out. With Christmas decorations around pillars outside we posed as respective couples outside for photos.

Day 4 (Glasgow) –

Breakfast at Starbucks on the way to the train station, and then the journey to Glasgow was about 45 minutes, taking us to impressive George Square as the first thing we saw of the city.

Very different from Edinburgh, Glasgow is mostly planned out in a grid system and reminded Marie more of an American style city.

The bus drivers were telling funny stories and laughing but it sounded something like

“awah and boil yer heed yer chookle knucle wallah ma hootnae hey” etc etc etc. They were chortling away but it sounded to us like a foreign language!

Off we set for what was a perfect hour-and-a-half view of the city, taking in great concert venues, the lush green area of Glasgow University campus, trendy Byres Road, the Clyde, free museums, the Kelvingrove Gallery, and streets upon streets. The weather was cold and grey but we liked the city very much and there’s so much to do for future visits.

Then Marie helped us find another pub recommended by CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale), Babbatie Bowster. It was quiet, and a really cracking, friendly pub. We ate purely Scottish fare, cullen skink – a traditional hotpotch soup which had a bit of smoked haddock and was somewhat like a Scottish New England clam chowder, and a “stovie”, minced beef and potatoes made on the stove. Beer was good too.

A Billy Connolly look-alike was at a table across the room, and had it have been ten years ago we would have done a double take! You could tell it wasnae hem but the bloke was clearly inspired by the Big Yin.

Then to the Necropolis up the street from the Babbotie.  Marie is often attracted to Gothic-y places, and Glasgow’s great Victorian cemetery would be an interesting place to look at for a few minutes. It’s right next to the giant cathedral too. We took some photos and read a few inscriptions.   Often, cemeteries, supermarkets and estate agents windows are fascinating when you’re abroad!   We’d noticed on the way up that Glasgow houses and flats are much cheaper than Edinburgh’s.

I needed a jimmy riddle, so we didn’t hang about too long and hopped on the next tour bus again and off at another well mentioned pub, the Horseshoe.  It was very different to the Babbatie, really bustling.   The chef Keith Floyd sometimes went here, as did Billy Joel (or at least once!).   I got myself a single Grouse whiskey and Marie a tap water. Only a shade more than 2 pounds for the whisky!  It’s Scottish so there’s no “e” in whisky.  On the tv at the front, David Moyes interview as the new West Ham manager was prominent.

We bought cakes at Greggs and got the train back to Edinburgh at around 5.30. We’ll go back to Glasgow!

We had another respite at the house, then set off for another restaurant local to D & C. This time a Turkish place. We ate a lot of excellent dishes.  We were a little sad to be saying goodbye for the time being to David and Cathy, and to Edinburgh but looking forward to Yorkshire tomorrow. We’d had an absolutely wonderful time so far.

Published by heathgrip

An Englishman in New York for around 15 years, I met a wonderful, beautiful, cannily smart and talented girl from Flushing, Queens whilst I was living in Manchester, UK, through the internet in 2005 and we married in Spring 2006! We both have a passion for travel, restaurants, history, music, all kinds of fun events. Who doesn't? I'm an artist and photographer, and also love to write. Anything creative really (you can keep your science and technology!). I've sent journals back home to family and friends for many years and they've often suggested I start a blog with writings pasted from my journals. So here it is!

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