Sunday, 19 February 2017

Edinburgh: Kia Ora to Irn-Bros

Edinburgh, Scotland
May 2016
While staying in London, I had the opportunity to visit Edinburgh where my good mates from back in the day Kelsi and Ollie had been living and working. My first full day there was a Friday and my hosts had work to do, so I headed out to explore a little.

I was vaguely headed towards a restaurant called Hendersons, as their menu boasted many delicious-sounding vegan items. However, I became distracted on my walkabout when not ten minutes after leaving the flat I saw a sign for 'Fountainbridge Street Food Friday' and went to check it out. A cute little food market had been laid out next to the Union Canal (a historic canal that opened in 1822 to allow Edinburgh easier access to cheap shipments of coal from the west of Scotland).

Funnily enough, Hendersons had a stall at the market! Seizing the good fortune, I ordered a selection of vegan treats: doner kebab, haggis pie and a coconut cupcake. Yummo!

At the weekend, we all went on a free walking tour of Edinburgh. Kelsi and Ollie had been on one before, but greatly enjoyed it and said that as it had been a while, they would like to go again. Our guide was engaging and amusing, covering a lot of historical facts and anecdotes while cracking jokes (properly funny ones too). The tour ended in Greyfriars Kirkyard: a churchyard and cemetery. Flodden Wall, one of the old city walls of Edinburgh, ran through the kirkyard marking where the Battle of Flodden took place (an infamous Scottish defeat by the invading English).

The cemetery also contained an inspiring assortment of names according to JK Rowling. She would write in a nearby café (now, of course, a popular tourist destination for Potterheads), and come to Greyfriars when needing name ideas. Here can be seen the tombstone of Thomas Riddell, which was the inspiration for Voldemort's pre-Voldemort name: Tom Riddle.

Another interesting tidbit about the kirkyard is the legend of Greyfriars Bobby, a little terrier who allegedly sat on his master's grave for fourteen years. The story is widely beloved, but also widely found to be suspicious in nature. There are many theories, but one that sounds very plausible to me is that Bobby didn't hang around the cemetery out of loyalty for his dead master, but because loads of people gave him food there and he figured that he had stumbled onto something good. According to the theorist, many dogs lacking owners would visit cemeteries for the very same reason. Regardless of whether the tale is embellished or not, fans of Bobby find choice sticks and lay them on his grave to honour the little dog.

One experience I couldn't pass up was taking a walk up Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh's token mountain.

Though it was a legit mountain and we climbed right up to the top for stunning views of the surrounding lands, the walk wasn't strenuous or time-consuming. It was a typical cloudy day, and visibility was on the low side closer to the horizon, but I wouldn't wish for one second that my visit to Arthur's Seat was any different. Yellow gorse flowers dotted the green slopes and beige dust peppered my sneakers from the trail up. The mountain itself was beautiful, and to be able to see Edinburgh from such a great vantage point was a definite highlight of my year.

Pics or it didn't happen, right? Kelsi and I posed for a photo at the very top in triumphant fashion.

On Sunday we took a train out to have a picnic by Forth Road Bridge, which spans the Firth of Forth (I just found that very fun to say, so had to include it). We also walked halfway over the bridge and it was so windy that my air turned to knots. A good brushing managed to dislodge most of them, however, and now I can proudly say I walked halfway from Edinburgh to Fife.

Some experiences that I neglected to photograph were:
1. Walking up Calton Hill, which is not as tall as Arthur's Seat but is a lot closer to town and also has brilliant views.
2. Having a barbecue in Harrison Park as the sun set with a bunch of Kelsi and Ollie's friends. It was my first time using a portable BBQ (only £2!), though not my last, and Kelsi and I relived our school days by going on the swings in the playground.
3. Undertaking a coconut oil hair mask, and other messy DIY beauty treatments, which I always look forward to when catching up with Kelsi.
4. Visiting Poundland! I had seen many Poundlands in London, but had never gone in thinking it to be a tacky $2 shop type place. How wrong I was! There are so many useful things in there, and all for £1. When I was in need of a sieve, where did I go? Poundland. Paper towels? Poundland. A big packet of Lotus speculoos biscuits? Poundland! They have all you could ever want, and more. Hair curlers! Batteries! Ollie took it upon himself to get me an Irn-Bru, the national non-alcoholic drink of Scotland. To be honest, I found it to be strange in flavour (sort of like a mix between cream soda and Fanta) and haven't had one since, but at least I can say that I've tried it.

A big thanks to Kelsi and Ollie, who generously shared their flat with me for several days and took the time to show me around their home-away-from-home. I had such a great time and saw a different side to Edinburgh than I had before. Cheers mates!

Today's post was almost called: To Ken Kinship with Kiwis in Kooky Kirkyards