Edinburgh: mash, milkshakes, and Christmas

It's 8pm on a Saturday. I'm in bed watching TV and writing this and once again contemplating if I'm living my student life "right". If there is a "right". Perhaps that's not what I mean, more, I feel like I might be letting my "best" three years slip away.

By the way, I'm in an Edinburgh hotel.

So I might not be "wasting" my student life, but it certainly feels a little odd. Since Christmas, I've got into a bit of a habit of disappearing from uni each weekend.

Mash for the over-5s.
I didn't decide to write this till late in the first day, so mind that I've not included anything before then. A summary: Scotland is far away, I ate a meal in the form of mashed potato, I got stuck in the back room on a vinyl shop.

I think part of the charm of the Scottish capital might be that it feels nothing like a capital. Ten minutes out of the city by train and you could be in the middle of the Highlands. Actually, I take that back. I thought Carlisle was in Scotland, so ten minutes away from Edinburgh might actually be the Highlands. Who knows.

From the centre of the city you can see the sea. People forget it's a coastal town.

Let's get back to where I started. This is the city of the skyscraper and the hidden labyrinths, so my hotel room is underground. I stayed underground in London, and thanks to the Tube, it was awful, but in Edinburgh I wasn't surprised.

One of three Christmas shops.
My love for Edinburgh made me forget how long the Royal Mile is. I know, I thought it would be obvious too. The best part came when I reached the bottom and it started to beautifully snow - seeing the city dusted like that made it all magic. Then it became hail. I gritted my teeth and soldiered on up the long slog back up the long stretch. Rain. I turned my collar up and trudged on. I looked at myself in the window of a shop, with a bag from a record store and snow flakes fading in my hair, and I looked like I'd just been Christmas present shopping. Edinburgh is good for Christmas. It has three year round Christmas shops.

I was tired nonetheless. I though Corbyn's policies were far out, but this hotel made socialism look definitely central. When I finally reached my destination (I got Haymarket and Grassmarket mixed up and misjudged everything by an uphill mile and a half), I was too exhausted to stand to lock the door, let alone walk up out the hole I was sleeping in and order food at reception.

As I was walking to the hotel I looked at all the other places I refused to book because they were more expensive, calculating the cost/benefit of my choice as I went. So, I was sat with a Sainsbury's meal deal around me, and One Day (set in Edinburgh) on at such a low level that any passers by (NB - weird phrase that is. For a plural you put an "s" in the middles) would think I was a elderly couple. Not that there were any passers by, as I was at the end of the underground corridor. In the event of a fire, I should just dig.

Anyway, meal deal, TV, writing this.

Day 1 in Edinburgh and here's what I learnt:

  1. Don't let people make you feel uncomfortable.
  2. If you can do a cartwheel in your room, do.
  3. Company and happiness are not synonymous, but a good call may solve everything.
  4. Museums are nice to wander round even if you read no signs.
  5. Amy Poehler's Yes Please should be read by everyone.
  6. Cost and worth are too very different values.
  7. The Gourmet Mash Bar Company is amazing.

Something else I'm learning: making the most of the day doesn't necessarily mean getting up at 6am (like I had planned). Sometime it means lazing about it bed through your alarms and Googling the best places to get pancakes. Browsing and a few Google maps searches later and I stumbled across an absolutely gem. But I'll get back to that later.

Which came first, the tree or the hole?
At 11.45, after watching the majority of Sunday Politics (dull, I know, but something I rarely do and therefore a bit novel), I climbed out the hotel and navigated by instinct back to the centre of town, Well, it was half of it was from memory, but I believe it's hard to get lost in Edinburgh; it's a city framed by two high landmarks - Arthur's Seat on the east and the castle on the west - and the majority of the roads are set out in a grid fashion. you'll have more trouble in the Old Town half, but generally it's simple.

I'm also learning that the best way to enjoy any city isn't necessarily site seeing. My next ports of call were Urban Outfitters and White Stuff - if you love shops that do brilliant on the decoration side, just, go to these shops. The later boasted a tree covered in fairy lights protruding through to the second floor, and a phone booth with books in. Truly magical places (but don't go to the White Stuff store in Angel - it's nothing interesting).
Underground burger bars.

But my next stop beat everything.

Now I understand that there is a general conception that I am a vegetarian. I guess I'm not. It's just so much easier to say that than "I only eat meat in the event that the cost, need, novelty or spirit of the moment outweighs how bad I will feel and how ill I will be if I eat meat." So it's a mozzarella pizza but yes, I'll have the ostrich burger. I intend to become veggie in the non too distant future but I fear if I go cold turkey (pun) I'll crack and break into a chicken run and eat everything live. Here, the novelty and spirit were the factors, because I will tell my god-grandchildren about this meal. Genuinely.

Now that's off my chest...

My world is better for this.
I've never got a meal on my own. Costa, pancakes, I once got a pint alone, but that's it. Never a restaurant. There's a level of stigma around it and there shouldn't be because it is so good.
Frederick Street. Boozy Cow. Go!

Even if just for the milkshakes. I couldn't see the place at first, then remembered where I was and instead looked for a sign on the floor. I was correct. Underground. I've been to a fair few burger places (I'd like to recommend Red's Sleepy Joe sandwich) so the decor was pretty standard. Otherwise...

Their motto is "get dirty", There's kitchen roll on the table but no cutlery. They serve alcoholic milkshakes (the greatest thing ever) and their fries' seasoning is impeccable. The neon sign next to me read "I love the smell of meat in the morning". The service was brilliant as well. Just, go here. Little things like giving you a glass of water with a milkshake (because they know you'll need one), good music and friendly, competent staff, made it all even better.
A wonderful building.

And a brunch menu. And they sell Rekordelig. In a glass tankard. I could go on.

Eating alone is great.

Edinburgh's National Museum is special to be because I saw my first dinosaur skeleton there, two years ago. I religiously get a photograph on the roof terrace with the castle in the background. However, it's a deeply flawed building, albeit a wonderfully beautiful one. The roof terrace lift stops at every floor and is incredibly slow, but the stairs are almost impossible to navigate. To get from the roof to the ground floor via stairs requires a determined mindset and no fear of getting lost. You can walk for a good while around some corners of the building and stumble across no one.
Cowgate isn't unloved.

Cowgate is a peculiar part of the city. For eleven months of the year it feel unloved and empty for the most part, a road everyone forgot and just let the rain water fill up. During the Fringe Festival, it's loud and bright and busy and chaotic and amazing. In August, the Royal Mile is usually bustling with people and therefore closed off, so to have cars driving down it felt bizarre. It feels like the city forgets it's a one a year affair too, with posters for shows everywhere, half the Mile cordoned off for street performers, stalls selling anything lining road, caricatures being drawn, and guided tours going on. I even ran into Elaine Davidson, the world's most pierced woman, not at her stall.

The festival remains in the city like a hand print in a memory foam mattress.

My last port of call - Carlton Hill. My legs are aching - Edinburgh is beautiful but painful. I stumble across the Nelson Monument, a mini colosseum and a million other landmarks. You can see the Forth road and rail bridges. You can see everything.

I've seen a few train stations as I rush around the country, but Edinburgh Waverley (the only train station named after a novel, written by Walter Scott, whose momentum stand in Princes Street garden, which used to be a lake where they drowned witches which is why the flowers are so bright... dead people as fertiliser) is the most confusing and beautiful. The architecture is fantastic, but there's a road running through the middle of it. It's about five times the size of Euston. Leaving sucks.

A road in a train station.
What I learnt from day 2 in Edinburgh:
  1. Read reviews. Well, read "top 10" lists. They might just have some sense in them.
  2. For God's sake treat yourself.
  3. Rekordelig = good. If somewhere sells it, it's like a stamp of approval.
  4. Eating on your own is fun and exciting and everyone should do it.
  5. Camping towels are vital.
  6. Ultimately, milkshakes are cool

I saw a guy spend nearly £400 on vinyl, and I cried at how pretty a view was. Visit Edinburgh.

Special mention goes to the shop Ness. A wonderful place of magical things such as dresses with pockets, and everything in plaid. Thank you, I love you.


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