Our train trip to Edinburgh took about five hours. There were some beautiful sights along the way and when we hit the coast, it was dotted with colorful houses – which set off the bold blue of the wild sea even more majestically.
When you exit the train station in Edinburgh, your breath almost catches as you’re struck by the awesome architecture of the old buildings, monuments and of course, a castle.
We are spending the next four days with Rob and Ashley. Rob is originally from Edinburgh, but has spent the last six years in Vancouver (where he and Curtis met while working for the same company). They have just moved back to Edinburgh so Ashley can attend university and after only one week, Rob is already homesick for Canada, so he’s very excited to see us.
Within the first twenty minutes of our arrival in Edinburgh, as we are walking from the train station back to Rob’s, we witness a drunken argument. Punctuated with colorful curses, the couple in question seem to be following us. Rob apologizes – he had hoped we wouldn’t witness this kind of welcome so soon. This episode is very mild compared to the other shenanigans we will witness – since we have arrived smack dab in the midst of Frosh week (Freshman week).
One evening, we sign up for a literary pub crawl which lasts about 3 1/2 hours. Our host is a local writer and in between visits to three pubs (which all have some sort of literary significance), we walk the streets and learn all sorts of interesting details about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), Ian Rankin (who we met at a book signing earlier in the day and who is the author of the Rebus series), J.K. Rowling (we stand outside of the restaurant where she wrote the first chapters of Harry Potter, not far from Potter Row) and a few others.
At the first bar, The Royal Oak, we get treated to an impromptu show. A local musician has dropped by for a pint and agrees to play a few songs on his guitar for us. There is a little back and forth between him and the bar maid – some kind of traditional question and answer shout out in rhymes.
At the second bar, The Southsider, we are surrounded by young men dressed as women. A typical Frosher night out. There is a rather large hairy guy at the bar, dressed in a short skirt, sporting too much makeup and a wig – who is carrying a handbag. When he reaches into his purse to pay for his beer, he takes out his cell phone and keys to get to his wallet. I comment to him that it looks like he’s making good use of his handbag – he replies that he likes it so much, he may end up using one all the time, even when he isn’t dressed as a woman. It’s much more practical than shoving everything into your pockets…
I meet another young man who can’t help pointing out to me that his nail varnish is the same color as his nipples. Which is obviously only something a boy dressed as a woman would do.
Our last stop is Sandy Bells. It’s a very narrow bar with a great band squished up into one corner. As Irish guy gives us a good show as he breaks into an amazing rendition of Riverdance. I try to take some photos but the bar is so crowded that they don’t turn out. We stay until closing time – enjoying our pints, the music and the friendly patrons.
On the way home we do like the locals, stop at the chip shop for chips with chippy sauce. Which is French fries with a brown sauce that tastes like vinegar and HP. But, according to the Edinburgh Chippy Brown Sauce Appreciation Society (who knew?!), the secret recipe is Gold Star brown sauce and tap water, not vinegar.
The next day we go on an amazing hike up the crags. At the top we are rewarded with spectacular views of the city and hair whipping winds so strong, the birds have trouble flying.
We also take a tour of Edinburgh Castle one day.
And then go for haggis with neeps and tattys…
Which turns out to be delicious! I didn’t believe Pedro back in Strasbourg, but he was right!
Edinburgh has so many old churches that a lot of them have now been converted for other uses. They still look like a church, but now act as cafes or theatres.
Among the many statues we walk by, this one turns out to be one of my favorites. When his owner died in 1858, this little dog would sit at his grave site, only leaving for food. He sat there every day for fourteen years, until his own death in 1872.
The city is also filled with closes, which are narrow passage ways. We did a tour of The Real Mary King’s Close one day and it was neat to see how the city used to be and what life was like in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but the “Disney” like effects definitely had a cheese factor. The new city of Edinburgh has been built over top of this close – unfortunately, we were unable to take any pictures down there.
We took a road trip one day with the ambition of making it all the way to Loch Ness – which turned out to be too ambitious for a day trip, especially since we stopped along the way.
I was disappointed not to see any hairy cows, but we saw so many sheep that it made up for it.
After a long day of driving, when we were back at Rob and Ashley’s, Rob declared, “I’m cream crackered.”
Which is Scottish for, “I’m knackered.” Which meant that he was tired – but the whole rhyming thing sounds a lot more exotic.
For our last lunch in Edinburgh before we hop on a bus to the airport, I order the deep fried haggis balls.
They were a lot tastier than they look – and a fitting final meal in this beautiful old city.