Archives for posts with tag: Edinburgh

Although this city offers many fine (and therefore expensive) dining establishments, there are also some very good opportunities for delicious and inexpensive meals. One of our earliest discoveries was the Mosque Kitchen on Nicolson Street at Nicolson Square. One of their signs boasts “Delicious curry in a hurry” — and that’s right on the money! Besides chicken and lamb dishes, there are vegetarian options. Generous portions of chana dal or gobi aloo can be had for £4 each. A popular spot, getting a table might be a challenge at the usual meal times, but take-away is an option. They’re open until 10 p.m. each day, though they close between 1 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. for prayers. And, unless you ask for an ironstone plate and metal cutlery, it will be served on styrofoam plates with plastic cutlery — something to consider before you go to the counter to make your selection. Oh yes — it’s cash only here.

Thanks to our friend, Andrew, we recently discovered Kalpna, a vegetarian Indian restaurant, at St. Patrick Square on St. Patrick Street (which is a continuation of Nicolson Street… which is a continuations of South Bridge… which is a continuation of North Bridge… which originates at Princes Street) that offers an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for £7 per person. Once you’ve heaped your plate, if you want a drink, you’ll have to go to the bar to place your order, and it will be delivered to your table by one of the friendly people who work there. You can visit the buffet as often as you wish. They’re pleased to see you enjoy the food. During lunch times, however, they accept cash only — no credit or debit cards.

Just down the street, on Nicolson, is Cafe TurQuaz, which offers good food, excellent coffee and more friendly service — all for very reasonable prices.

And then there are the churches, with cafes that offer Fair Trade coffees and teas. Cafe Camino at St. Mary’s Cathedral at the foot of Leith Walk is a great spot for morning coffee, afternoon tea or a light lunch. St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile offers delicious food and friendly service. Henderson’s at St. John’s Church on Princes Street has good vegetarian options, and is interesting for the fact that it started as a separate grassroots, back-to-the-land family grocery and cafe operation back in the 70s. It’s now a fixture at St. John’s and, once you’ve satisfied your appetite for food, you can satisfy your appetite for fair trade goods at the One World Shop next door but one.

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Wandering around the streets of Edinburgh, I’m often struck by how privileged and fortunate I am to be living here this year. A lot of that is helped by the fact that I love this city and feel so much at home here. As much as I loved New Zealand, those feelings were more because of novelty than familiarity. Here in Edinburgh, it’s as though I’ve come home after a long time away. I don’t even feel that way about Toronto, where I was born and raised. When I reflect, the analogy about being born in Toronto is one of a suitcase arriving at a destination other than the one for which it was intended. Whenever my ‘suitcase’ arrives in Edinburgh, it feels settled and content, happy at the prospect of getting reacquainted.

The next few months will fly by here. Besides work to be done both at West Lothian College (where I’m teaching two nights a week — woo hoo!!) and on other projects, we’re more conscious that we’ve got a finite period left in which to see and do things. So, in addition to looking for opportunities to see more of Scotland (Inverness in a few weeks and Orkneys in late May, plus visits closer to home like Glasgow and St. Andrews), we’ve booked tickets for events: Bela Fleck in Glasgow January 19; Danny Bhoy in Edinburgh February 8; The Waterboys in Edinburgh April 8. We’re going to Malta in February. And when my youngest daughter visits in March, I’ll be taking her to London for a bit of sightseeing, and to see ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Wicked’ (and one other ‘surprise’ show).

And although I’m trying to focus on staying in the present and being mindful of the day-to-dayness of being here, I’m already thinking about what I’ll miss the most. In doing so, I realise that a lot of what I like about Edinburgh might irritate those who live here year ’round, and which might even irritate me if I considered myself a ‘local’ instead of a ‘transient’. This is a Festival city — something that city council has carefully and deliberately built and supported over the years. The day of the Torchlight parade (December 30), a city councillor was interviewed and asked whether the event might be curtailed or cut because of expected austerity measures. He replied that the city recognises the importance of these events to the local economy and wouldn’t consider curtailing or cutting events such as these. (Mind you, as laudable as that sounds, I would also hope that any cuts wouldn’t be made in sectors where the most vulnerable would be effected.)

When we arrived in mid-August, the Edinburgh Festival was in full swing. From June until September, everything from books to comedy to theatre to music is celebrated, and the vacancy rate for accommodations is almost nil. After looking at the prices for accommodations during that time, I figure one could buy a modest one- or two-bedroom flat close to the city centre, and pay the mortgage for almost the entire year simply by renting it out for June through August, and in December!

Although Edinburgh might not be able to boast, as New York does, that it never sleeps, it certainly seems to use its ‘sleep time’ to dream of other things and ways to celebrate. Visitor numbers dipped visibly after the Festival ended in early September, but climbed again at the end of November with the opening of the Christmas Market. That came to an end a few days ago, so I’m curious to see what will be happening between now and April, when the tourist season begins again in earnest. Perhaps this is the time for residents to venture out to enjoy their city without too much jostling from visitors!

An estimated 80,000 people partied in the world’s biggest Hogmanay street party last night in Edinburgh. The music was fantastic — though, to be fair, we stayed at the Scott Monument stage to hear Rura, Capercaillie and Peat Bog Faeries. They were all FABULOUS! Every hour, fireworks were set off to help people track the countdown to the new year. Although concessions are set up throughout the extensive site, people are permitted to bring their own drinks to the party. Bags are searched at entry points, not for liquor, but to ensure that your favourite tipple is in either a plastic or tin container. Glass bottles were confiscated. Police were out in force but, as they were the night before, they were calm and pleasant. Even the two or three in what appeared to be riot gear were low key. The queues for the toilets were the only point where I came close to panic in that sea of humanity, only because, once in the queue, you are carried along on the surge of people. I might have been knocked off my feet a couple of times, were it not for the fact that we were packed in so tightly there was no chance of falling over. And although lots of people over-indulged, no one became surly upon being jostled about.

Shortly before midnight, Peat Bog Faeries stopped their set so that people get find positions on Princes Street to see the fireworks set off simultaneously from Calton Hill and Castle Hill. What a sight!!! I took video footage with my tiny little Sony Cyber-shot — enough to convey the extent of the spectacle. Garrow was hit with a bit of cardboard ‘shrapnel’ from the fireworks and, as I was recording his reaction, he was hit with another!

Shortly after 1 a.m., the music shut down, the giant television screens declared that the Hogmanay street party was officially over for another year, and directed people to exits where buses were waiting to take revellers home. We walked (since we’re only about 10 minutes from Princes Street), and thought we might pop in to one of the several pubs along our route home, but each one was full to the rafters! Garrow and Amy trailed behind us by about 20 minutes, and managed to find two seats at The Barony (one of our ‘locals’), where they had a drink before coming home. Chris, Gordon and Ron all turned in by about 4 a.m., but Garrow, Amy and I stayed up until the cab arrived at 6 to take them to the airport — at which point I grabbed five hours’ sleep. Sad to see them go, but thoroughly content that they — and Max — enjoyed their time here. This is the New Year’s Capital of the World!!!