Clearly, two nights isn’t adequate to really enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer. Additionally, while I enjoyed travelling by myself, my visit was greatly enhanced by the “friends of friends” made via myspace. One of the problems of travelling alone is that its really hard to take photos of yourself, and there were several occasions where I either couldn’t find a person to take a photo of me or felt like it was an imposition to make the request. I spent several minutes cursing the lack of tourists while in the gardens of Holyrood Palace.
Starting at the beginning, I took the 10:05 am Virgin train from Leeds to Edinburgh’s Waverly Station. Unfortunately, the train was full so I was not able to change my left side window seat for a right side seat; once the train hits Newcastle, the route becomes more coastal and scenic, thrusting you practically upon the beach in some places. Northern England is plenty scenic anyway, and I was treated to green rolling hillsides, flocks-upon-flocks of sheep and spring lambs, ruined buildings, quaint towns, large industrial areas, and well-kept manses. The train slowed as it came into Edinburgh and provided a pretty dramatic introduction.
Because I was slightly hungover (the Bombshell and Beau are expert hosts and could go professional if they wanted) I grabbed a cab for the short trip – maybe half a mile – to my New Town digs – the Eyre Guest House. I had a single room with my own bath for a bit less than $80 a night, which is pretty decent. Here’s a photo of the entryway:
The room was small, but clean. The bed was fine and I loved the huge window. The bath was a bit cramped, but its nice to have your own. People with long legs (or claustrophobia) would have needed to leave the bathroom door open if they needed to sit on the commode…
Many (if not most) guest houses provide you with breakfast in Edinburgh, and Eyre was no different. They offered a variety – I went with the eggs, bacon and toast version, but avoided the beans. FYI – the Eyre and the Arden Lee guest houses, which are within steps of each other, are managed by the same people and both seemed lovely. The Arden Lee may be a few dollars/pounds less.
My first afternoon was spent shopping in New Town. I hit a department store called Jenners – sort of a Nordstrom or Bloomingdales – and did some damage in their extensive toy section. Babykins and the Nephew should be pleased with their gifts: a Scottie plush dog with tartan scarf and hat, the British version of Matchbox cars, a book about Greyfriars Bobby, and some sticker books. I also found some cute tin soldiers at the Holyrood gift shop for the Neph. Of course, my dad will be receiving some St. Andrews golf items…
After a long day of shopping and hungoverness, I visited a carry-out chip shop a block from the hotel – it just so happened that the place was well-known for its fish and chips: Alba d’ Oro. I had the haddock and chips with the brown gravy. The gravy was by accident as the eastern European girl behind the counter was hard to understand, so it was fortunate that I liked the gravy. (There seems to be some consternation on the part of some in Edinburgh over the influx of foreigners taking service industry positions and not being able to communicate in English – sound familiar?) Afterwards, I crawled into bed and watched BBC television (and got caught up on Eastenders – we’re about 3 years behind here in the US).
I was up at 8 am the next day. Those of you who know me are undoubtedly shocked to learn this. I made it to Edinburgh Castle by 9:45 or so, which enabled me to visit it without having to fight the crowds. It was a bit cloudy, but never rained.
After spending the morning at the Castle, I visited a couple shops and had lunch at a semi-posh restaurant called Howies on Victoria Street in Old Town – it is a local chain that focuses on native cuisine. It was there that I had the best fish and chips of my life: very lightly tempura-battered sea bass with chips and a lemon mayo. But, I must also mention the starter: a chicken liver pate served with oat biscuits and lightly dressed greens. They do a prix fixe lunch that I cannot recommend enough.
After lunch, I walked down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace and Abbey. (“Rood” means cross.) I needed to work off that lunch, after all. Holyrood Palace is where State events are held in Edinburgh, and the Queen hosts a cocktail party every year in the gardens. The Abbey was pretty spectacular, particularly with Arthur’s Seat, “an eroded remnant of a long-extinct volcano” per Lonely Planet, behind it. As you can imagine, this is where I started to hate the lack of friendly or copious tourists while also loving that I didn’t have any to mar the photo.
Next post: Edinburgh nightlife and natives/locals.