Monday, October 11, 2004

Things to do (3) - further afield

I already mentioned (in passing) the Botanic Gardens...a really nice place to visit, especially in summer. Although the hothouses are good all year round. From there you can walk all the way along the Water of Leith to the Dean Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art - worth a visit just to see Charles Jencks' Landform and sit in the cafe.

The Traverse is good for theatre, a beer or fine dining. A bit further up Lothian Road (en route to EH10), the Filmhouse cafe has a good vibe, the Cameo's got a nice new bar too, and Bennet's is worth a visit. The Apartment is The Outsider's suburban sister, up the hill to Bruntsfield, Peckhams, a cool stationery shop, my yoga school (straying outside tourist territory here!) , Luca's at Church Hill and you're on the home stretch. The Canny Man's is a very posh pub indeed (our local, I suppose).

Things to do part two - the New Town

This is refined Edinburgh at its best - Georgian townhouses, sweeping crescents, urban planning. And Princes Street - high street stores, architectural disasters (Princes Street Mall, anyone?), gorgeous gardens. Where to start?

Art-wise, galleries abound. For blockbuster exhibitions like the Age of Titian, The RSA and National Gallery, recently joined underground, are your best bet. The Portrait Gallery is tucked away on Queen Street, in a fabulous building, and has a proper old-style caff with famous, fabulous scones.

Just around the corner you'll find a shrine to all that is chic - Harvey Nic's. The cafe upstairs has a great view if you can score a window table, the merchandise is luxurious and nice to look at. They have the best window displays in town, too. Jenners is old Edinburgh's department store (third century of trading!), and is easy to get lost in. It also sports a 40ft Christmas tree at the appropriate time of year (how do they get it into the building?). Otherwise, for shopping, you're better off in Glasgow.

Views can be had all over's that kind of city. Top spots include the Scott Monument (not for claustrophobics), the terrace of Oloroso, North Bridge in either direction, Calton Hill, the Botanics looking back to the city and (insider secret) the ladies' loo in House of Fraser.

The Cafe Royal Circle Bar has amazing mirrors and tiling, The Dome has a nice...dome, the Opal Lounge is full of beautiful people, Centotre plays Italian lessons in the toilets.

Things to do in Edinburgh - the old town

We were chatting at work today about nice things to do in Edinburgh - visitors imminent and all that. Collectively, we came up with so many ideas that I thought it might be useful to note some down for future reference & referral. Pen and paper just won't do these days, so here they are, in my blog...

In the Old Town
Take a tour - above or below ground, by day or by night - not for the faint of heart, I hear.

Visit the new Scottish Parliament. You can take a guided tour at £3.50, or just wander, I think. Down that end of the mile, you can also visit Cadenhead's if you're a whisky geek, the map shop opposite if you're a map/print geek (or just for some good craic with the shop owner, quite mad but all the better for it), visit the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse (across the road from the Parliament) - very nice door-hinges and, until 7 November, Dutch Paintings of the Golden Age. And you're not too far from Holyrood Park/Arthur's Seat/Salisbury Crags - perfect to burn off some energy, blow away the cobwebs and for a knockout view.

Moving on up the mile... Always Sunday's always ok for coffee (and, if you score a window seat, people watching). Sir Sean was seen last weekend at Cafe Florentin (although I have had bad coffee there). Explore some closes en route, or if you're heading for Waverley Station, Cockburn St is interesting (in a kids with piercings kind of way).

Spit on the Heart of Midlothian, be impressed by St Giles', avoid the tacky tourist shops and nasty £20 kilts.

The Mile ends (or more properly, begins), at the Castle, of course. Pricey (£9.50), but you have to do it at least once. I might be able to wangle a freebie for this weekend's visitors, in exchange for participation in the Big Draw!

Moving south ever so slightly, you could visit Victoria Street/West Bow for dinky shops, a nice gallery that I can't remember the name of, and the Bow Bar for a pint or dram in trad surrounds

Up on George IV Bridge, The Outsider is good for dining with a nice view in a nice place - fresh & tasty food too. Just around the corner, there's the Museum of Scotland and The Royal Museum - good for wet weather discoveries, coffee in the atrium, swanky dining in the Tower (I've never been).

That should do for starters.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

They've bottled it

I made this discovery when tripping around the Highlands a couple of weeks ago. We took in a tour of the Glenmorangie distillery, way up in Tain, and spotted in the shop a whisky called EH10. The name is "a blend of the Edinburgh postal code and a reference to the ten premium whiskies it is made from", and the box features a catalogue-style image of a grinning couple below Edinburgh Castle, all black and white and yuppie-styles. According to its makers,
it encapsulates the sophisticated and stylish character of Edinburgh, from its vibrant café culture to the splendour of its historic traditions. We believe it will have real appeal to younger consumers.
Somehow I don't think I'm quite the target market. Oh, and café culture? Not so I've noticed.

The Scottish Parliament opened officially yesterday, but was rather a subdued affair. The Queen was there, but managed to look cheerless through most of proceedings (unruly, unpredictable, unwilling subjects, us Scots), and was the only one in the whole of the chamber not to take her neighbour's hand and sing Auld Lang Syne - the most uplifting and Scottish-feeling part of the day. Outside, cold and confused about what was actually going on inside (the lack of big screens or other broadcast of proceedings on this historic day to the amassed public kinda went against the whole "parliament of the people" ethos - you had to wander up the Mile and into a pub to find out what was going on), we were entertained by a singer/clarsach-player with dour classics like Loch Lomond and Imagine. Not very cheery stuff. Inside, the other highlight was Edwin Morgan's poem Open The Doors, composed for the occasion and delivered with great gallus by Liz Lochead. You should read it all, but here's an excerpt:
Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A
growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box?
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but
curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and
heavens syncopations and surprises. Leave symmetry to
the cemetery.
But bring together slate and stainless steel, black granite
and grey granite, seasoned oak and sycamore, concrete
blond and smooth as silk – the mix is almost alive – it
breathes and beckons – imperial marble it is not!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Tuesday evening

The home-weigh job was even less accurate than we thought...and my package was over the magic 2kg mark. So much for physics.

I watched The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off on TV last night. And bawled my eyes out. It was an amazing piece of documentary, incredibly moving & very funny. Well worth watching if you get a chance.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Mail fun

Postal physics

Take one bottle of powerade, one plank of wood, assorted pre-weighed (and unopened!) groceries (eg 1.5kg pack of muesli as pictured) and a rudimentary knowledge of physics and - hey presto! - you have a set of scales with a margin of error of about 25%. Brilliant.

My dilemma was this. I wanted to post a parcel by surface mail (yep, Christmas shopping, feeling very organised!), but it has to be less than 2kg, otherwise the price jumps from around £8 to £29. Which is quite a big jump. Keen to avoid my mum's experience of removing string from her parcel at the PO to get it below 2kg, I wanted to make sure before packing it all up. Somehow, despite A's best efforts, I don't think we have conclusively established that the parcel is below the magic weight. But we had fun trying!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

You have to be careful in the land of the free

It's a great title, of the novel I'm reading at the moment, by "Skarrish" writer Jim Kelman. One of the more challenging and yet engaging books I've read in a while, it's a 448 page chapterless, break-less, (brakeless?) stream-of-consciousness tale of a weegie about to take a plane home from America. The narrator, Jeremiah, is pure Glasgow linguistic delight.

The pic I posted last time was of the castle/youth hostel we stayed in last weekend, way up north. With marble statues, elaborate ceilings and resident ghosts (I'm sure I heard the phantom pipers) it ticked all the castle boxes, while funny tourists (not Germans but Aussies by the car-full), creaky bunkbeds and those sheets with inbuilt pillowcases reminded us that we were actually in a hostel.

statue gallery

crazy cornice