Love Affair with Everywhere: Edinburgh

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Back in London on business and decided to head up to Edinburgh for the weekend. I have always wanted to come here, but the timing never really worked out. Actually, I have always been intrigued by Scotland as I imagined the country to be very much like the scenes from "Braveheart." Silly, I know, but as those of you who know me know, I LOVE historic, beautiful cities (as opposed to concrete jungles..which have their own charm, but just not the same).

So I left work in the city, took the train to King's Cross and hopped on a direct train due north. The journey was about 4 hours, which was perfect for a weekend trip. One thing, if you know you will be in London or the UK and want to go, try to book your ticket early so you can get a good fare. The UK rail often offers discounts for early booking. You can fly as well, but with the travel time to the airport, the wait, the one hour early check in and then flight, it basically comes out the same. Not to mention you can enjoy the scenic route (and use your phone/laptop) on a train journey.

I love that about Europe. Basically any where you want to go, you can just hop on a train and head there. But, before I get off on a tangent about train vs. air travel, I will continue...

I finished my book just as we were arriving at the Central station in Edinburgh. Walking up the ramp to the main street I knew it was going to be even more beautiful than I imagined. You walk out into the new city but look up and to the left and its the old city. That is how Edinburgh is split up into the Old City and the New City with Princes Street Gardens in between, both have their highlights and I recommend visiting both sides. And from almost anywhere, you can see the hill on which Edinburgh Castle sits looking out over the city. 

If you've read any of my previous posts, you know how much I LOVE walking cities. Edinburgh was a fantastic city to be a wanderer in. I spent the entire weekend walking through the new city, over to the old city, up to Arthur's seat, to the castle, along the Royal Mile and back to George Street. It was summer and I was told that even then Scotland can be a bit chilly at night and often rainy. I got lucky, even at 830 pm when I arrived Friday night, the sky was bright and the sun hadn't even started to set and it didn't rain a drop through the weekend. Was a perfect, sunny 75 degrees all weekend! 

I stayed at The George Hotel I booked last minute and had no idea where to stay, so checked online and came up with this place. It was PERFECT! The hotel was located on the famous George Street close to Princes Street and many bars, shops, restaurants, etc. The rate was about GBP 120/night which was great for a last minute booking in a 4 star hotel. The service was fantastic and the staff friendly. 

Friday, by the time I checked in and dropped my bags it was too late to see anything, so I just hung out and wandered on George Street. The locals and tourists were starting their evenings. I popped into a tapas restaurant for some dinner. Cafe Andaluz was a delightful surprise. I wasn't expecting true Spanish style tapas here, but figured it would be decent. I ordered a couple of small plates and sampled the Sangria. The grilled goats cheese served with sevilla oranges and chilli marmalade and the garlic prawns were delish! 
Cafe Andaluz 77B George Street

Saturday morning I woke up early. I was told that Edinburgh Castle gets packed and the lines start forming early, so I headed across the bridge to the old city and walked the royal mile to the right until I ended up at the Castle. The line was already long, and I didn't want to waste the next few hours of the gorgeous day, so headed back along the Royal Mile all the way to Holyrood Park and the base of Arthur's Seat, the remains of a volcano.

Luckily I wore comfy shoes, so I embarked on the climb. Was actually a great day to do it as the Queen had arrived in Edinburgh that morning to present the army with their new colors. The processional was starting at the base, so I climbed to the beautiful sound of the bagpipe (my favorite instrument sound). There are a couple ways to head up. I chose, of course, the longer way without an actual path. There were fewer people that way and I wrapped the volcano so I got to see views from all sides. It took longer than the direct route, but hey, I didn't have a tight schedule to keep so why not. If you are looking at the hill, if you head left , that is the common way, but I recommend heading to the right. The climb is pretty easy though, so don't stress if you aren't a climber, you can take a leisurely stroll up, but do not miss it. 

After heading back down I was famished so I grabbed a sandwich and diet coke and headed into Princes Street Gardens for lunch. Since it was gorgeous out the park was packed, but I found a nice place in the shade to relax for a bit, enjoy the atmosphere and look up at the castle. Edinburgh Castle hovers over the park, so I took the opportunity to take a couple pictures as I walked through.

I spent the rest of my time wandering between the old and new towns and finding different paths to get between them. The Old Town has kept its medieval layout, which adds to the charm and if you can get past the masses walking up and down the Royal Mile, you can imagine life in the old days.

While you are there, for shopping head to Princes Street, Hanover Street and George Street. And for bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes, wander along George, Hanover and Rose Streets. For souvenirs check out any of the many Scottish Experience shops on the Royal Mile.

Sunday, again more wandering before I headed off to the train station to go back to London.

Some pictures are attached. I didn't take an actual camera with me, so please excuse the resolution of the pictures taken from my blackberry. 

Back to London.....

Thanks for reading...Until next time...

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