City Spotlight: Edinburgh

8 Sep

I’d never been to Scotland before, which is terrible. While the referendum was taking place I realised that Scotland is better than England. It’s a stunning country which should be on every traveller’s bucket list. I was meant to go to the Isle of Skye with someone, but they bailed on me, so I ended up plumping for Edinburgh instead.

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Before that, I should refer to the way I got home: via the Caledonain Sleeper Train. I’ve wanted to get a sleeper train for the LONGEST time and I spent £100 on a first class cabin (it was £80 for a standard class seat) and it was an interesting experience. The lounge was lovely, the bed was comfy and there was something wonderful about falling asleep to the sound of the train clicking over the tracks. True, next time around I’d like a slightly better experience than an ok bed in an ok room (Orient Express maybe?) but at least now I know that the whole sleeper train thing is for me!

EAT: First things first: battered Mars Bar. There are quite a few places that do it in Edinburgh and it’s sort of become a bit of a Scottish delicacy. IT WAS AMAZING: gooey and warm and oozey in the inside, oiley and bad for you on the outside. Cost about £2, literally didn’t care. Try it.

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EAT: BURGER does what it says on the tin. They’re an Edinburgh company (local is always best), they do craft beer and fresh, good burgers (again, kept coming out as one of the top places when I researched the best burgers in Edinburgh). I’d been at the Fringe Festival all day, so I rocked up to the place drunk (obviously) and settles for the chicken option, of course. But this was chicken with a bit of a twist: the Chicken Katsu Burger. Panko crusted Halal chicken, minced with roast garlic and spring onions, served on a lightly toasted brioche bun with Tonkatsu sauce, wasabi mayo, tomato and pickle. The spices they use make the chicken look pink, but I’m here and didn’t get sick, so rest assured it’s cooked!

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The chicken was good: different, basic, but good. It wasn’t dry, the bun held up well, although I do wish the chicken has been a bit meatier (it was quite a slim portion). To beef things up a bit, I also (in my drunken state) went for cheesy chips:

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These rocked. Then again, I might think that because I was pissed. But still, worth a punt and the second best out of two burgers I had in Edinburgh. (As you can tell, I ate a LOT in Edinburgh, but only because I climbed so many bloody hills…)

EAT: And now, for the best burger in Edinburgh. True, I didn’t try them all, but I’m sure it is. LOOK AT IT.

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The  Cambridge is a pub in Edinburgh New Town. But it’s a pub that does amazing food. Most burger places do specific options – some will give you ‘types’ of burger and you can decide is you want the beef version, the chicken version, the fish version or the veggie version. Usually the ‘version’ places are terrible as they’ve put little thought into the flavours and what works best with the meat: The Cambridge Bar is not like that.

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I went for the Hawaiian burger: cheddar cheese, pineapple, bacon, tomato, lettuce and a glorious bun. It holds together, tastes wonderful and the cajun chips were also wonderful. They also have a marvellous cider – Thistly Cross, from Scotland, on tap. All in all it was a wonderful burger and beats most of what I’ve had in London. For the love of god, is you like burgers, GO.

EAT: Finally: dessert. I went to Leith (where Trainpotting By Irvine Welsh was based)… it’s significantly more gentrified than when Welsh was knocking about and Mimi’s Bakery is proof in the pudding of that.

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I got the scones with homemade preserve because they’ve won awards and looked amazing. They were too: and only £2.50. The cakes (which they sat me next to, talk about temptation) looked divine. The photo above shows the velevet cookies and rainbow cake… swoon.

EAT:  A note on the fact I went to the Elephant Cafe where J.K Rowling first noted down Harry Potter on a napkin. They’ve 100% cashed in and the food/coffee was ok, but nowt special. If anything – sneak in, see the crazy Harry Potter toilets, then leave.

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SEE: So, I accidentally booked my trip over the closing weekend of Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ph my days, it was amazing. I spoke to a few locals and they said the reason I was so charmed by Edinburgh was because it’s not usually this busy/vibrant/open until 5am. I’m sure Edinburgh is lovely outside of August, but I admit, my love for the place did have a lot to do with the musicians on the streets, the comedians doing free shows in the pubs and buzz along the Royal Mile.

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I went to see the following: Abacus (a live theatrical show), M C Escher (an art exhibition), Garret Millerick’s ‘A Selection of Things I’ve Said to Taxi Drivers’ (comedian), Daphne Does Edinburgh (comedy) and a comedy act where guys chatted about their sex lives. Interestingly, one of the guys is polyamorous and literally no-one in the audience understood it. That actually really opened my eyes: how is it possible in this day and age that, even if you’re monogamous, you don’t understand that polyamorous people aren’t just after one night stands? The ignorance of the questions really amazed me.

Anyway. I couldn’t really take photos of the comedians but the show Abacus (see the ‘LISTEN’ bit below) and the M C Esher art exhibition was fantastic. A few choice pieces of M C Esher’s very famous (but he himself isn’t that well known) art work below.

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SEE: Scotland has a hellova lot of history. The little alleyways adorning the Royal Mile are called ‘Wynds’ in Scotland. And The Real Mary King’s Close is a wonderful way of exploring the 17th century streets of Edinburgh and finding out about Edinburgh’s history.

Now, I couldn’t take any photos while I was in there, so here’s a quick summary: The Real Mary  King’s Close is a warren of streets underground. In the Victorian times, the tops of the tightly packed houses were just chopped off and the Royal Exchange was built on top of them. However, the 17th century Edinburgh streets are still accessible and you can get a tour of the houses and streets of old-school Edinburgh are from a wonderful tour guide.

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You learn about the way the poor and rich lived, the history of the Plague in Edinburgh and how life was for people back then. It’s a wonderful tour – lasting about an hour and you learn a lot. It’s also really well thought out – they have interactive artwork, ghost stories… the works. All stories are based on historical fact and it’s absolutely worth a visit.

SEE: Ok, so there’s LOTS to see in Edinburgh. But I like to ramble, so this blog post will go on forever if I go into detail about everything. So here are a few lines about each of the other bits and bobs I ended up doing/seeing…

Camera Obscura is a bit of a tourist trap, true, but for good reason. The view from the top is incredible and you actually get to sit in the dark and view Edinburgh via the camera in the top of the tower. There are also lots of illusions and interesting visual tricks in the rest of the museum which are amazing for kids but I’ve actually seem a lot of it before. However, the £12 entry fee was absolutely worth it for the view and learning all about Camera Obscura. Go!

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Calton Hill is also a fantastic place to get a good view of the city. Go there about 15 minutes before sunset. The views are second to none – perhaps aside from Authur’s Seat, but that’s way too steep for poor old me. If the photos below don’t convince you, nothing will.

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+ visit the Castle, the Royal Mile and Leith. Leith is a 40 minute walk from the middle of Edinburgh, but it’s a lovely break from the madness of the city centre.

LISTEN: I went to see this show, Abacus, at Summerhall at it was fantastic. It’s all about… well, society. The way the world is and how that came to be and why thins need to change. If you’re interested in politics, the environment, society and traditions (and why they make no sense) then it’s a show for you. The use of Stedicam is also really interesting… although from time to time he did get a bit intense and uber American. Watch the trailer below.

LOVE: When I go to the states I can never really understand why they’re so obsessed with my accent. When I date people I meet online,  always feel the need as soon as they question where I’m from, to defend my Oxfordshire accent and assure them I’m not a rich, asshole Tory like most of the people in the home counties.

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Anyway, the Scottish accent rocks. As does the Irish accent. In fact, the only English accent which is acceptable is Bristolian. That’s it. England sucks, and everyone else is sexy.

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