Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Edinburgh 2014

My man and I have just been up in Edinburgh, enjoying a little time in the 'Athens of the North'...


We flew up late afternoon on the Friday, courtesy of Sleazy-jet. It was an easy flight, and we were soon hopping the lovely new Tram into the city, and the bus out to our B&B - both of us amazed at how simple and uncomplicated the journey had been; that was, until Sir realised he'd left his wallet on the Tram and had to make a dash to retrieve it before it headed back to the airport...

Our B&B was lovely - we checked in, dropped our bags, and then decided to make the most of the evening with a walk back into town and the Royal Mile. It was heaving with the Fringe Festival crowds, and so we strolled around and gawked at a few of the street performers for a while, then escaped the crowds by wandering back down towards the Parliament buildings and Holyrood House. It was getting late, and the sun was starting to set over Arthur's Seat, but we were very good and resisted the urge to eat our first deep-fried Mars Bar - choosing a very healthy Turkish Meze supper at Empires instead: loving the intimate and exotic atmosphere created by the original textiles and handmade lamps. (We also had great fun eavesdropping on a theatre 'Lovey' sat at the table next to us, bigging up his performance to his friends and bitching about other shows that he had seen - and then trying to pay his bill with free tickets because he didn't have enough money...).

Tuckered out, we headed back to our hotel for our one and only early night - and a little bit of puppy throat-nobbing before bed... ;)


We woke nice and late - and were drawn down to breakfast by the lovely smells coming from our host's kitchen... I had already decided on the very fortifying 'Scottish' breakfast - with veggie Haggis; it was my first time eating the Scottish national dish, and I am pleased to say that it was exceptionally good :) Braced for the day - and suitably attired in a fully traditional kilt in my family tartan - we then headed back up to the city to see what was to be seen.

We took a detour up to Calton Hill first; good lord, talk about steep steps! It was worth it for the stunning views though: across the city to the Castle and the hills beyond, and over Leith to the Forth. We did need to take a small break for a refreshing brew though - and took in both an impromptu exhibition by Ross Sinclair, and very entertaining game of catch-the-raggie by a guy and his dog (that only narrowly avoided the dog leaping off the hill and onto several tourist's heads...)

We nipped back to the Royal Mile next, so the pup could collect some tickets for the performances we had pre-booked earlier in the week; then we joined the crowds to watch a rather funny juggler from New Zealand (who did the most amazing things with a leaf-blower and his mullet), before heading up the esplanade and into the Castle to see the views over the city - and only just missing the firing of the famous 1 o'clock gun

We were hungry by now, but found a little cafe perched down one of the iconic closes, behind the Writer's museum, before heading down to the Princes Street Gardens.

Our first event was a Cabaret at The Famous Spiegletent; It was a rather mixed show, to be honest. The compare was laconic and witty, but he was followed by a very 'Fringe' act of a guy in a red leotard stuffed with balloons (the 'Red Bastard') who jumped about the stage and tried to be 'interesting' (but failed to be anything more than irritating and embarrassing). A burlesque fan-dancer followed - which was a rather interesting experience fro two gay men - and then a rather clever mind-reader. Best of all was the witty and terribly dashing Mr B. 'Chap-hop Superstar' - in tweeds, spats and glorious facial hair, banjo in hand and ready to have us all singing along to his wittily 'Posh' retakes of hip-hop and house classics. 'All hail the chap!'

Luckily, being inside we also managed to avoid that afternoon's torrential rain.

It was rather too late to head back for a nap before our evening show by the time we were finished at the Cabaret, so we took a stroll along Hanover Street instead - had a lovely relaxed street-side nibble at Wellington Coffee - and, finally, spent an enjoyable hour fingering the tartans and tweeds at the lovely 21st C kilts on Thistle Street. Damn, but Howie makes some of the most gorgeous kilts I have ever seen, and I could easily have spent a fortune! Sir was very good, however, and kept both me and my wallet on a very short leash...  

Supper was a posh burger at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen - whilst the rain hammered down outside (and the pup was complimented on his kilt by a nice man who shared the same family tartan) - and then we headed for our next show, and Sir's favourite: Pirates of Penzance

The venue was true Fringe: the vestibule of what looked like an old bank, transformed with tons of scaffolding and acres of black cloth; it was a brilliant show, though - and had both Man and hound singing along with glee. The Pirate King was rather a dashing sight in full beard and flashing smile too, and if I wasn't such a dedicated pup, I'd have been very happy to be kidnapped by him into a life of piracy ('Against our wills, papa. Against our wills...!')

Unfortunately, he would have only thrown me back, because I started to feel rather rough that night and didn't sleep very well at all...


Breakfast the next morning was a gentler affair of fruit and yogurt - and trying to settle the dog's poor stomach and sore throat. Sir decided we should get some fresh air afterwards, and so we headed out in the opposite direction from the City, down the Leith Walk to the Ocean Terminal and the Royal Yacht Britannia

It was fascinating to see the almost homely domesticity of the Royal Cabins (who would imagine, the Queen doing make-do-and-mend with old sheets cut down from Queen Victoria's bed!) and the glistening splendour of the Banqueting hall - and comparing that with the cramped life of the sailors and marines below decks. Seeing the Queen's personal study, and discovering that she would regularly work 16 hour days was quite an insight into her sense of duty - whilst the numerous photographs and mementos that filled the walls of Britannia's various tours and state visits showed how much she loved the freedom the old tub had given her. But saddest of all was to see the photographs and the letters from Britannia's final decommissioning - and to see how much the yacht was missed by both Royals and those who had served aboard.

All Royaled out, we then hopped a bus back to our hotel, so that Sir could snuggle His poor sickly pup for a reconstituting afternoon nap. 

We had made some plans to see a curious Performance Art show that evening, but the pup wasn't feeling very up for it, so we made a last minute decision to go for a 'City of the Dead' ghost tour instead! The man who checked our tickets loved my collar, but it was a rather strange goth girl who actually took us down into the vaults for an hour of ghost stories, weird feelings and scariness - and one rather horrible jump at the end that left both Man and pup feeling twitchy and sick and eager to leave as soon as they could.

We decided to calm ourselves down with a nice hot milk at the Elephant House though - overlooking the castle whilst the fireworks marked the end of that night's Tattoo performance. Then we headed out along the amazing Victoria terrace and struggled home through the post-Tattoo crowds - taking a naughty wee stop on the way for some very nice chips.


After breakfast, we hopped on a bus up to the St. Cuthberts Artisan Market. There was an amazing display of work, from embroideries and patchwork chairs to paintings (and incredibly cute woolly sheep-footrests), and we had a very relaxing couple of hours wandering around window-shopping before heading into the Henderson's cafe for a rain-dodging lunch. 

We headed over to the Grassmarket in the afternoon, and a long stroll up Victoria Street - including a very pleasant visit to Walker Slater, looking at their beautifully tailored suits; naughtily, the pup even persuaded his Man to buy a rather fetching tweed two-piece whilst we were there (well, it was in the sale, and it made Him look exceptionally dashing!)

The Afternoon was then given over to a fantastically invigorating performance by the Japan Marvelous Drummers, and a dash across town to Hendersons Bistro for a fortifying supper of Haggis and Cherry pie (whilst it hammered down with rain outside, and made us worry for a rather soggy evening to come).

Luckily, the rain stopped and the clouds cleared just as we were heading up the Esplanade and our night at the 2014 Military Tattoo

It was my first time at the Tattoo, and I must admit it was stirring fun! Massed bands, precision drumming, Marching Marines and scores of men in kilts - what's not to love?

This year's programme included an international spread of 'acts' beyond the traditional Marshal music too - with war dances from the KwaZulu-Natal iButho, displays from the Hornbill festival of the Nagaland Folkloric Group, and a Haka from New Zealand Kapa Haka Dancers - so there was lots to see and enjoy (and that was even without all the fun of meeting soldiers and marines face-to-face when making use of the toilets underneath the Grandstand...). The weather stayed clear too - and Sir and I were both nice and snug in our full leathers right until the dramatic firework Finale, and the final piper played a tear-jerking farewell from the Castle Fortifications. 

We did, however, feel chilly enough to make a small homeward stop at the chippy for our one and only deep fried chocolate-bar of the holiday (even if we did surprise the frier by preferring a Bounty to the more 'traditional' Mars bar)


Our last day - and so we headed back down towards the 'coast' at Newhaven, to have a look at the little fishing harbour and take a constitutional stroll along the Forth-side to the Marina. We did make one nice little stop along the way at the Old Chain Pier pub though, for a cup of tea and a play with their telescope: watching a huge tanker being tug-nudged into Leith docks, whilst various dog-walkers came in to have their dog's treated to free biscuits from behind the bar (I did try, but they would only give them to 4-legged pups, no 2-legged ones ;) ).

The pup was getting a bit wheezy after so much fresh air, so we hopped a bus back into the City and a slower stroll around the West End and Haymarket (one question - why are there so many barbers in the Haymarket?!).

Afternoon tea saw us making our way back along Princes Street to Romanes and Patterson, and a nice bit of highland cake with a lovely view of the castle through the rain and clouds. Sir was very good, and also kept me away from the kilts (yet again...!)

And that was our time in Edinburgh nearly done.

We popped back to the B&B to pick up our bags and say our farewells, then hopped the tram back to the airport (with the guard threatening to mace the dog when he couldn't find our return ticket - I hope as a joke...). We had fun playing with Easy-jet's new self-check luggage system at the airport - and then even more fun when both Man and dog set off the alarms at Security (I did offer to take off my kilt so the security man could pat me down properly, but he just grinned and waved me on. So disappointing...) - and then it was a long wait for our plane, delayed by storms over Spain - broken by Man and hound making notes on what to write for the blog about our stay.

Never mind - flying later meant that we had a beautiful sunset to enjoy as we flew down over Wales.

It was a great couple of days away with my Man, and both City and Tattoo were a fantastic experience. I only wish that I had been feeling a little bit better, so that I could have given my Man the puppy snuggle-time that we both love so much.

Next time, Sir, I promise!

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