Elegant and Eclectic Edinburgh

Wednesday, June 24

Farewell, goodbye, auf wiedersehen, adieu…

This morning was a morning of goodbyes. Goodbye to Len and Pauline, goodbye to our wee hoose, goodbye to a comfy couch, goodbye to heat with the flick of a switch, goodbye to a comfy bed, goodbye to sitting at a table, goodbye to a kitchen, goodbye to a shower that runs continuously…Oh well, all good things must come to an end, but we’ve had a lovely few days in the one place, taking things slower and spending time with Steve’s mum and dad. Alas, time to move on though.

A final farewell before pedalling off..in the rain...in our wet weather gear! Some things don't change!
A final farewell before pedalling off..in the rain…in our wet weather gear! Some things don’t change!

We’d decided to spend another couple of days in Edinburgh to have a look around, so we set off pedalling from Musselburgh into the city of Edinburgh. We called into Tesco for supplies and then stopped in a park for elevenses, then off we went along the same bike path we had ridden in on, just a few days ago.

Elevenses
Elevenses

We rode beside the water, through parks, beside trees and stone walls and it was another really enjoyable off-road ride. As we rode through a park, we passed a man walking with his son, who looked to be about three years old and the little fella was riding a tiny little bike. As we went by we said, “Good Morning” to the man and then the little boy went past us, looked up at us and said, “Fanks.” I have no idea what he was thanking us for, but what a nice little chap! Friendly people of all ages!

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As we arrived in the city, we left the cycle path and merged onto the city streets. That was such good fun! I don’t like riding in cities and traffic, but even though Edinburgh is busy, it doesn’t feel hurried and the traffic doesn’t feel like it’s speeding all around us, so it was good fun to zip along the streets, bump over the cobbles and whizz around the corners. The corners are the most fun! I love getting up some speed and then I lean into the corners and feel like a much slower, less slick, less glamorous version of a Moto GP rider! We pedalled along beside the cars, black cabs and buses, climbed up hills and eventually found our hotel. We arrived at 1:00pm which was early for check in but we were told we could check in early if we paid an extra £10.00 or we could wait and check in at 2:00 for an extra £5.00. Aaah, no thanks! Especially since they’d just told us that we were also going to be charged £8.00 to store the bikes! If we were being offered the option of checking in, there was obviously a room ready, they just wanted us to pay more to get it! We declined the offer and pedalled off to find some lunch instead. We went in search of a particular pie shop that had vegan options, only to find that their vegan options were no longer available due to their supplier. Darn! Oh well, they fixed me a sandwich and Steve still had a chicken pie and then we both indulged in a vegan apple turnover for dessert. We ate this feast while sitting in a courtyard at the University of Edinburgh Law Department and the setting was just delightful. It was quiet and the buildings were gorgeous and it was a nice place to sit and spend some time.

What a top spot for lunch
What a top spot for lunch

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We discovered that the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby was just around the corner, so we walked the bikes around and there he was, the famous little fella immortalised in bronze. As a child, I read that story over and over again and it was so sad, but I loved the story. Bobby’s owner was a police nightwatchman in Edinburgh in the 1800’s and he would always take the little dog with him to keep him company through the night. Rain, hail or shine, the two of them would trudge the streets of Edinburgh, the man and his little Skye Terrier and they became well known in the city. The man then died of TB and was buried in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, a graveyard in Edinburgh. Bobby refused to leave his master’s side and would sit on the grave day and night, in rain and snow and fog, no matter what, even in the worst weather, he would just sit on the man’s grave. The keeper of Greyfriar’s tried time and again to chase Bobby away, but the little dog kept returning and refused to leave his owner’s grave. In the end the keeper of Greyfriar’s built a little shelter for Bobby beside the grave. The only time the little dog would leave the grave was at midday each day when a local man would take Bobby to a nearby coffee house that the dog used to visit regularly with his owner, and each day he would be given a midday meal, then he would return to the graveside. Bobby kept vigil at his master’s grave for fourteen years, until he died. He became quite famous in Edinburgh and was known as Greyfriar’s Bobby, so the statue is now there as a memorial to him. It’s obviously had many visitors because the little fella’s nose has been rubbed to a polished sheen!

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While we were at the statue, a man stopped to talk to us about the bikes and our trip. He told us we would be fine camping in Scotland. “It’s really good here,” he said, “you can camp anywhere. I toured in other countries a couple of years ago and some of the camping felt a bit dodgy, but here, just stop anywhere, camp anywhere you like and you’re fine.” That was good to know! It was also nice to have another chat with a local. I also saw something else that, even though I don’t know Edinburgh very well, having only just met her, I still think this is quintessentially Edinburgh…a man drove past in a BMW convertible, with the top down and music playing. Usually, when we are forced to listen to music playing from cars, it’s loud metal or hip-hop or Beyonce or something like that. What was the music coming from this car? It was…an aria! Yep, opera! I thought that was “so Edinburgh”!

We rode back towards the hotel and rode past the cafe where J.K. Rowling began writing the Harry Potter books.

Where the Harry Potter phenomenon began
Where the Harry Potter phenomenon began

We eventually checked into the hotel, then caught the tram into the city centre and had a wander about. I really like Edinburgh. I love the buildings, I love the diversity of the people, I love the atmosphere and the quiet sense of the place, even though it’s a capital city. It’s one of those places where I feel, “Yep, I could spend time here.” We have another day here tomorrow and will continue roaming and exploring and discovering this beautiful city. She’s an elegant lady, this city, with an eclectic and interesting group of people living and walking her streets. I feel like we belong.

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Thursday, June 25

What a literary day we had! We set off walking this morning under grey skies, but the air was mild and it was very pleasant strolling the streets without shivering. Our destination this morning was the New Town and the area where Alexander McCall Smith bases his 44 Scotland Street series of books. Mr McCall Smith includes a lot of the real Edinburgh in his stories and I was thrilled to be able to go “street spotting” and see some of the places that I have read about in the series. We strolled along Heriot Row and Moray Place (where Domenica McDonald inadvertently found herself invited to a nudist picnic), walked past India Street (home to Matthew, Elspeth and the triplets who Matthew keeps mixing up) and then along Dundas Street. On Dundas Street I saw the gallery that is written about in the books as the place Matthew owns and Pat began working. Dundas Street is also home to the cafe, Glass and Thompson which is frequented by the characters in 44 Scotland Street and the Sunday Philosophy Club series.

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"Matthews Gallery"
“Matthews Gallery”
Glass and Thompson cafe
Glass and Thompson cafe

It was a bit exciting for a book geek such as myself, to see these places! The books may be fiction, but the fact that there are real places as settings for the characters, made it great to be able to walk these streets and see the places I’d pictured in my head as I read the descriptions in the stories. The houses in the New Town were again, Georgian and beautiful and the streets were quiet and genteel.

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The area also has may of the private parks and gardens that are there for residents and key holders only, so the area is full of trees too, which just added to the charm. One of these private areas is Drummond Gardens on Drummond Place, which is the place where the character of young Bertie likes to play and where he often meets Angus Lordie walking Cyril.

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Heriot Row was also home to Robert Louis Stevenson. This city has a rich literary history and many famous and notable writers have, or still do, call Edinburgh home. For example, Alexander McCall Smith’s neighbours are Ian Rankin and J. K. Rowling.

17 Heriot Row, Robert Louis Stevenson's house.
17 Heriot Row, Robert Louis Stevenson’s house.

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We headed for Cumberland Street and found the Cumberland Bar where many of the characters go to enjoy a pint and where Cyril the dog with the gold tooth, usually enjoys one too.

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As we walked around I was struck again, by how quiet and peaceful it was. It just didn’t feel like a city, let alone a capital city. I loved that there were still little quiet lanes that looked like something we might see in a village. It was all just gorgeous.

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We continued strolling the peaceful streets…

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…and attracted the attention of the neighbours.

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The final stop on our Alexander McCall Smith perambulating pilgrimage was the deli, Valvona and Crolla, the place where Irene,  the overbearing mother of Bertie, shops for her olives and various other gourmet items. I went in for a look and it was an amazing place – huge shelves, massive high ceilings with the shelves reaching all the way to the top, Italian classical music playing and delicious smells permeating every nook and cranny. I spent an enjoyable little moment perusing the shelves.

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As we began our roam back towards the centre of town, the day decided to revert to form and the heavens opened up. Raining again! We strolled up the Royal Mile and found a fantastic little place for lunch. The Baked Potato Shop was a tucked away down a side street and contained just a counter and one table, but it turned out that all their toppings were vegetarian or vegan and it was dee-lish! Steve had a vegetable curry and I had the veggie haggis and we both left full and happy!

Summer in Scotland does bring out some colour...in umbrellas!
Summer in Scotland does bring out some colour…in umbrellas!
Roaming the Royal Mile
Roaming the Royal Mile
The piper outside the parliament building in the Royal Mile
The piper outside the parliament building in the Royal Mile

 

We continued our literary theme for the day with a vist to the Writers’ Museum. This is a small museum, almost hidden down an alleyway and is dedicated to the lives and works of Robert Burns,  Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. We spent time reading the information and looking at the various artefacts and being reminded of some of the books and poems written by these legendary writers from Edinburgh. Then it was time to begin our walk in the rain, back to our hotel. Along the way I saw another sign that made me smile – it’s nice to see that the locals can have a dig at their own lousy weather! I did chuckle when I read who was sponsoring the terrace.

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I love Edinburgh. I had a lovely day, visiting some places from the stories I’ve enjoyed and learning about some famous writers. I loved just strolling the streets (even in the rain) and looking at the beautiful buildings, listening to the people and their gorgeous accents and watching the varied and diverse groups of people, who all seem to fit in beautifully – united in their diversity and all at home in this beautiful city. Edinburgh just has a lovely feel about it. Another little gem to add to all the other sparkles we have collected so far. Tomorrow we hit the pedals again and despite the forecast for rain, cold and wind, we’re going to give it a go on the bike and try to return to our little tent again. One thing we’ve discovered is the weather changes in a twinkling, so the forecast may only be accurate for a matter of hours! We’re banking on a pleasant change to the predicted weather pattern, so we’ll see how we go. Thanks for the moments and memories Edinburgh, you’ve been a real lady. A gem of a host.

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