The rest of Edinburgh

All the times I’ve stayed in Edinburgh it’s been with a friend who lives in Marchmont, just the other side of the Meadows from the City. This time I stayed in the New Town area and it was partly this which mean new territory was explored.

We stayed at 5 Dublin St, described as a ‘studio apartment’ a generous sized one at that. A large sized bowl of fruit in the lovely kitchen, bread, yoghurt, butter, milk in the fridge and books in the shelves all added up to a cosy lived-in feel. Good shower – I’m afraid I’ve got so used to Geneva where the hot water is always instantaneous that I forgot what the UK was like, and when there was still no hot water after several minutes panicked and called the owner, Jill. Of course, I just hadn’t waited long enough. We were there end of summer, so I can’t attest to the warmth of this apartment in winter, but the heating looks good and long windows would make the most of whatever sun might be about – even Edinburgh must get some in the winter.

I’d highly recommend this as a place to stick your bags while exploring Edinburgh…not only is it in the city, but it is two minutes’ walk to Broughton St for great food, coffee shops, a book shop and even a brand new knitting shop called Kathy’s Knits.com. We walked all the way to the quay along Leith Walk on Saturday – the quay itself I didn’t see the point of visiting. We had intended to take tea on the Queen’s yacht, but we had to go through a shopping centre to do that, which didn’t appeal – I guess it is convenient for the Queen, however, who can pop out to Marks and Spencer merely by crossing the gangplank.

The quay area is being developed the way those places are the world over and it looks just the same, with the same sorts of restaurants with the same feel to them. No wonder I can’t recall where we had tea. I guess this area is going to become gentrified over the next decade – for now it is hovering at that point where traditional wharf grunge tries to hold its own against glass and boutique beer.

On Sunday we walked the length of the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace – mainly tacky shops in magnificent old buildings along the way – the tearooms were not inviting, so we took our only taxi of the trip to The Botanic Gardens. Beautiful and – for those to whom this is a meaningful comparison – about double the size of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. I wouldn’t mind betting, however, that a cuppa is a superior thing in the latter. There are various places within the Garden one might sit for tea, but none of them look good. We tried the main restaurant, which had a lovely view from our terraces seats of the sustainable plants area, but the tea was the only bad tea we had – inferior teabags in a pot. Dirty cup – again!

Sunday night was the fireworks that close the Festival. Shorter than the Geneva ones – which is no bad thing in my opinion – and what a stunning backdrop the Castle provides. What I do find inexplicable is why these ‘Events’ – as anything bigger than two people meeting for breakfast is called these days – have to be musicised. WHY???? Why do we have to be constantly assaulted by noise, what is wrong with moments of silence? At the football. At the cricket. At the fireworks. Not only that, but fireworks have a music of their own. Why pit another music against that? It is most peculiar. Still, at least it was a chamber orchestra, at least it was classical music and at least it sort of fitted in.

My only other gripe is about butchers. We visited Crombies, which I gather is a local institution, but if this is a butcher, I understand why people get their meat in supermarkets these days. They sold chutneys and crackers and pies. They sold everything under the sun but almost no meat. It would have been funny if it wasn’t tragic. They couldn’t even supply me with as much as 2 kgs of lamb chops. They had NO lamb for casseroling, ie cheaper cuts on the bone even though they had cut up a lamb for me to give me all of 1.5 kg of chops. No beef worth mentioning. Most meat was ‘prepared’, ie trimmed to death, diced, as far removed from its origins as possible. It was also very expensive. I don’t mind expensive if you are getting something for it, but given that they had almost nothing to offer me – I couldn’t get beef fillet, for example – I find it hard to convince myself that this is worth going back to. Locals apparently think this is an ‘old-fashioned’ butcher, but it isn’t. Old-fashioned butchers sell meat.

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