Grab Your Ticket and Your Suitcase [Edinburgh 12-16 February, 2020]

Edinburgh is one of the most stunning cities I’ve ever been to. Guarded by Edinburgh Castle, the city is full of fantastic Georgian and Victorian architecture and winding medieval streets. One of the most appealing things about Edinburgh is that it’s a relatively small city, which make almost everything within walking distance. Walking the streets of Edinburgh, surrounded by its beautiful buildings has always felt surreal to me, like being on a film set.

Due to the poor weather it was decided that the first day’s activity would be mostly indoors. After eating a long healthy breakfast in a cute lite place called the Piecebox we headed for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, a brisk 20 minute walk in light rain and a fairly difficult wind (my umbrella kept turning the wrong way in the wind).

We saw two of the the exhibitions, Obedience and Defiance by Paula Rego and Now by Katie Paterson, of which both were quite interesting in their own way:

Paula Rego is a Portuguese-born artist living in Britain. Her work explore moral challenges to humanity, such as political tyranny, gender discrimination, abortion, female genital mutilation and the death of civilians in war.

I’m a total amateur when it comes to art and when a painting needs an explanatory text, I’m kind of “lost in translation”. I found Rego’s abstract, representational style fascinating, yet hard to take in. The painting Salazar Vomiting the Homeland is an example of that.

NOW, the second exhibition we saw highlights the work of the Scottish artist Katie Paterson (b. 1981). Her work explores time, the cosmos, and the place of humans in relation to these phenomena. She considers our place on Earth in the context of geological time and change and offers up work which makes them more understandable.

Totality– nearly every solar eclipse documented by humankind has been brought together in a mirror ball. Over 10,000 images reflect the progression of a solar eclipse across the room.

For the installation Earth-Moon-Earth (E.M.E) Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was translated into morse code and sent to the moon. The message reflected from the surface of the moon. It was received fragmented back on earth (as the moon reflects only part of the information back – some is absorbed in its shadows). In the exhibition, a self-playing grand piano, plays the new ‘moon–altered’ score.

Although the work of Katie Peterson is humbling and thoughtworthy and kind of made me feel small and insignificant, I highly recommend the exhibition. In fact, I recommend both exhibitions.

I mentioned Edinburgh’s winding streets earlier and they are to be found in the Old Town. The Royal Mile, which is an extraordinary street of Reformation-era apartment buildings that leads from the seat of Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock down to the imposing Palace of Holyroodhouse, is its heart and around it there’s a labyrinth of cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards.

The New Town, however, provides a stark contrast to the Old Town. This part of the city, just on the other side of the peaceful and green Princes Street Gardens, consists of a neat and ordered grid of broad streets, grand squares and terraces, gardens and secluded lanes. Isn’t it remarkable, by the way, that a quarter, that dates back to the 18th century is called “new”?.

The pricipal streets of New Town are George Street, filled with sophisticated designer shops, chic bars and restaurants, and Princes Street, a unique street with shops lining only one side of the street, leaving an uninterrupted view of the ancient castle on the other side.

Another interesting area of Edinburgh is Bruntsfield, south west of the city centre. Not so many tourists come here, which offers a perfect opportunity to experience the village-style suburb as a local. This somewhat wealthier part of town has high-quality apartment buildings, mixed with some large villas. As I mentioned earlier we had breakfast in a cute little café called Piecebox. The first day I had porridge and the second day pancakes, both equally delicious and gratifying.

The Maytree, also in Bruntsfield, is a unique café where people go to indulge Artisan chocolate products, a perfect hideaway from icy winds and vertical raining. I had a mug of the Tradional Organic hot chocolate.

Every Sunday all year round 10am to 5pm Stockbridge Market is open for business. The stalls are located next to the bridge over the Water of Leith. The trading area is quite small but they offer a variety of products from fresh seafood to fruit and vegetables, from bakery treats to hand-crafted soaps and jewellery.

As my company and I courageously strode towards the Stockbridge Market in the heavy wind, the sun miraculously showed itself for the first time on this trip making the surroundings look very pretty and impressive indeed.

Only later we found out there was another storm coming, which was going to interfere with the flights back (hello “Dennis”, my old friend 😏).

The Oxford Bar is a public house situated on Young Street, in the New Town. The pub is chiefly famous for being Inspector Rebus’s favourite pub in Edinburgh. Inspector Rebus, of course, being the main character of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series of crime novels.

What’s good about Jurys Inn, a rather bland hotel situated on Jeffrey Street on the rims of Old Town, is primarily its location. Only a stroll away from Waverley Train Station (where you catch the airport coach), the Old Town and the New Town it offers normal sized rooms with clean beds and a basic breakfast buffet.

Cockburn Street

Quite close to the hotel is The Malt Shovel Inn, which is an authentic Scottish pub built in 1800 on the beautiful Cockburn Street, one of my favourite streets in Edinburgh. Still with its original stained-glass and a vast selection of Scottish food and beer, it is part of The Edinburgh Heritage Pub Trail, which I haven’t tried myself (yet) but it seems like a great way to explore the city and learn more about the heritage the area (perhaps next time).

To conclude this rather lengthy travel report: Although the weather was dreich, as they say in Scotland, I had a pleasant time and I discovered parts of Edinburgh I hadn’t seen before. However, lessons learned; my next trip to Edinburgh most definitely won’t be in February 😖.

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