Edinburgh, The City of Badasses feat. Where I’ve Been

Again, I must apologise for my long and unexplained absence as I have been doing Life Stuff and have thus not been available to sit at my computer and scribble here. Namely in recent times I’ve quit my job, been to Scotland, started planning another trip to Japan, written for other blogs, hung out with my sister’s Japanese host mother, started a journal, binge-watched Bates Motel and got stuck in a lot of boring transport situations which probably sucked up at least 50% of the time I have been free. Joy of joys. If and when I eventually write a biography it will likely be named something like “Train Potato”, as most of the time I’m on a train and potatoes are very important to me. I think upon them whilst hating trains.

This is a return article of two parts: a quick recap (for those who care… maybe 0.25 per cent of the people I know [hey mum]) based upon the Shit I’ve Been Doing and a second, much longer part dedicated to Edinburgh and my adventures there, along with some “top-tips” I have accumulated. I would advise that you skip the following list if you are not very invested in me/do not know me as it will seem to you to be the boring waffling of a stranger (which I am big enough to admit that it kind of is). I’ll put up a little notice when I’ve started to write about Edinburgh, for your convenience.

Shit I’ve Being Doing

  • I quit my job: To follow my CAREER DREAMS more astutely, so I’ve been doing a lot of searching and planning and rearranging, with the sacrifice being any free time that I may have had.
  • I went to Scotland: Something of which I will say nothing about at all, here, as there is LOADS about it underneath…
  • I started planning another trip to Japan: Myself and my manflesh decided to go back to Japan, so we’ve begun to plan what we’re going to do there feat. a potential trip to Korea and a desire to go skiing, as well as watching many YouTube advice videos which have basically all told us the same thing (Eat Everything and Look At Tokyo From Tall Vantage Points).
  • I hung out with my sister’s Japanese host mother: Who is basically the most adorable person in the world. I gave up an evening of blogging to watch her get excited over fish and green tea that my sister and her husband made.
  • I started a journal: I decided to start a journal to more easily deal with the misty canyon that is my brain. I often feel like I am thinking thoughts at a thousand miles per hour and this can be a little bit of a burden when coupled with a penchant for anxiety, so I thought that maybe penning things down would be helpful. This is why I have in recent times put aside the tiny limelight that I possess here to write just for me, as opposed to an audience. It’s working, and it’s nice to write things by hand, too, which I think is kind-of a forgotten practice.
  • I binge-watched Bates Motel: Bates Motel is literally the best thing ever, and I am unashamed to admit that I have basically watched all of it within a week. It is SO AMAZING. And weird.
  • I found myself in a lot of boring transport situations: Because I am cursed, and an Animorph. My Animorph is a sardine and the transition only happens when I’m on a train/bus. That is all.

Edinburgh

HERE BE THE TRAVEL-ARTICLE PORTION OF THIS PIECE. HERE IT BE. SCROLL NO MORE. 

So you patiently trawled through (or quickly scrolled past) that short bio to reach this part. Go you, dedicated reader. That’s good, because I’ve got a few brilliant tales to tell you, and tips on where to go if you visit the lovely kilts-‘n-haggis region of the UK.

Last weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend so I decided to fully embrace that extra day of freedom and quest up to Scotland to visit two of my brilliant friends made in Thailand (Made in Thailand: Made in Essex’s main competitor). After the horrendous journey (at least, on paper it seems horrendous… I am fairly sure that I have become numb to awful public transport experiences now, having been hardened to calamities from living abroad and also having experienced so many transport traumas) Joel (our host for the weekend) whisked us off to CC Brown’s, our first touristic port of call – a gay bar, where we were meeting up with Joel’s boyfriend. This was a fairly surreal experience as myself and Emily had both withstood endless journeys to get to Scotland and were pretty frazzled from the weird hammerspace that exists within a train cabin. And we were both very sober. Being very sober and hammerspace-frazzled in a booze-infused club is an undeniably interesting combination. HOWEVER I recommend it if anyone (particularly the gay community, though I’m sure the straight and whatever else community would enjoy it too, we both did) is reading this post – we both rated it for it’s great mix of music and an all-important smoke machine to make you feel Cher-like at regular intervals. They also sold Jeremiah Weed, which is the best drink ever though one I have only been able to find in TWO OTHER BARS before. I cherished CC’s for this inclusion.

Our first typically touristic activity commenced the following day with a trip up to Arthur’s Seat. For all those who’ve heard of it, Arthur’s Seat is a must-climb. There are not many things that fit into the must-climb category – in fact, I think the list is limited to Arthur’s Seat, Macchu Picchu and Hugh Jackman’s naked body, so when you come across any of these you must spring at the chance to scale them. It is also a great way to realize just how unfit you are. I won’t lie, there was a lot of heavy breathing on the way up – and not of the good kind. The “you’re-an-eighty-year-old-woman-trapped-inside-a-twenty-two-year-old-woman’s-body” kind. However, we made it up to the top eventually and were presented with a gorgeous panoramic view of the city and, as a result, a pretty sweet photo-op. There’s also a great sense of community at the top of the Seat as everybody is as sweaty and gross as you, but still taking photos/pretending they’re Superman/lying on a rock and crying. Fun fact: Arthur’s Seat came about some 350 million years ago due to a pesky volcanic eruption – making the effort to climb it arguably even more hardcore, as everybody likes to brag that they’ve scaled an ancient volcano/volcanic vomit. You don’t get much more badass. You can tell yourself that when you’re draped across a rock at the top with tears streaming down your face.

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Myself and Emily at the peak, both pretending that getting there was no biggie

After appreciating the view from the Seat, we proceeded to address our tired, neglected bellies on The Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is brilliant for if you’re very poor/a sample whore (Slam Poem inspiration right there) for it’s peppered with delectable Fudge shops which are literally always handing out free shit. The tastiest free shit ever.

However, no-one can really live off of samples alone (unless you are vigilant or really, really tight), and we decided we needed to be filled a little more in order to go on. So we visited Oink, a hog-roast cafe right next to the Seat. Oink is pretty popular in the area and it’s no surprise – the food was bloody gorgeous, and excellent sustenance after our climb (though sadly not of the Jackman ilk). It was kind of like a refined Subway – you pick your bun, your sauce and your extra filling. Of course, this place is only for pork fans. Otherwise you’re a bit screwed. Unless you like bread with apple sauce, you freak.

Fuelled by our Oinkian grub, we decided to partake on another mini climbing venture to Calton Hill. Calton Hill has a lot of cool old structures on it, including a little tower, a cannon and an Athenian acropolis (which no hill is complete without, let’s face it). Many people climb the acropolis though there are no steps and pretty much no way down, so you can only really do it if you have a tall friend with you – which luckily, I had. The acropolis would be a great isolation unit for a very small person as they would never be able to get down again. Again, more beautiful views awaited us (we were all about the views that day, pretty much). But man – are they views. You have the city on one side and valleys on the other, both urban and rural senses appeased. That’s probably one of the greatest things about this city – the fact that it’s in a “bowl” of sorts, surrounded by an all-encompassing arc of greenery. Probably a VOLCANIC all-encompassing arc, come to think of it, which means that Arthur’s Seat is not the only badass place. The WHOLE CITY is. A City of Badasses.

I am going to write a comic and name it that.

Our food-urges awoken by Oink, we then chose to go for another quick break before making our way back to Joel’s flat, so we hit up the Hotel Chocolat cafe in the nearby John Lewis. Sure, sure – this wasn’t a truly Edinburgh-specific place – but I am recommending it anyway as it was bloody amazing. I had a hazelnut and white chocolate mocha, served with a side of zero regrets. It was the perfect place to lull away an hour, unless you’re allergic to chocolate, in which case going there would be like walking directly into an anaphylactic shock.

It was time to recoup at this point as we were determined to go out and see some of Edinburgh’s nightlife, so we made our way back to Joel’s and made ourselves a Thai green curry (in homage to the roots of our friendship) before heading out again: first stop, Finnegan’s Wake, an Irish pub nearby. I had always heard about how the Irish famously like to party – and how they were famously good at it – but I took those adverts and hearsays with a pinch of salt, thinking “Sure – but doesn’t everyone?” I mean, I like to think I’m pretty good at partying. I’m always the one who cuts futuristic shapes on the dancefloor (I use the term “futuristic” because no-one else does them but I’m sure that they will in the future as they are that damn cool) and rides inflatable palm trees down the stairs and drinks a drink with three straws.

I was wrong to be skeptical. The Irish know how to party.

This was largely proven by a short karaoke session in which one drunken individual climbed up onto the stage and began a very heartfelt rendition of “Achey Breaky Heart”, indeed, touching the hearts of all of us and teaching me a very valuable lesson. Never question the Jamesons advert again.

After this awakening, we decided to attend another one – that of Frankenstein’s Creature’s awakening, within an incredible Frankenstein themed bar – aptly named Frankenstein. Bitches love Frankenstein. Inside was designed like the inside of a mad scientist’s laboratory, with giant cogs whirring on the ceiling and tubes with neon liquids bubbling. It was all very smoky and gothic, too – deep red leather couches aligning the walls and the bar itself made of a thick, dense dark wood. Low-lighting and creepy staircases also added to the atmosphere, which was decidedly quirky, unusual and “monster-friendly” – in fact, so monster-friendly that The Creature himself descended from the ceiling at half past midnight, coming down on a stretcher from the ceiling to sit up, look at us all and then return.

After this petrifying cum beautiful experience, I dragged Joel and Emily to a club called Bongo, which was promising a reggae/dubstep/grime night which I thought we could really “get our rave on” to. I appreciate a good dubstep-reggae mash-up at the best of times but unfortunately this part of the evening was a little bit lacklustre for us as the mixes weren’t that good in the main rave room and the tracks that were playing in the other room (the supposed “grime” room) were all pretty “beatless” – not really danceworthy tunes. However on a better night I imagine that this venue is a pretty sweet stop as the bar itself was really cool, with loads of weird graffiti mashed-up on the side and an array of different music rooms, as well as a giant smoking area if you’re into that sort of thing. Bear in mind that you have to pay for entry, though, which we didn’t have to do for the other bars (something we preferred as we are all peasants).

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A cool unicorn on the wall of Bongo

On a night out, I have only one thing on my mind. Something hot. Something you can grab. Something… arousing. That’s right – I’m always thinking about hangover breakfast. In my opinion, hangover breakfast is the whole reason going out was even invented.

Due to the pressure I put on Joel for a brilliant hangover breakfast, he decided to take us to his regular haunt (about thirty seconds from his flat, which is also a plus on hangover days – not having to move your body very much/far/at all). This beloved little haunt was Kilimanjaro Coffee, a gorgeous, homely coffee shop with a very earthy, natural feel. You could tell it was well-loved as we had to squeeze into the back corner on a two-person table to get fed, though it was well worth it – I had a Vegetarian Kili Breakfast which was comprised of lots of fried, excellent foods, including a potato scone which I believe came directly from God’s teat. It was delectable. Kilimanjaro Coffee do not go easy on the coffee, either – they’re very strong little bullets of adrenaline, so be mindful if you’re susceptible to the effects of caffeine.

Suitably awakened by this experience, we ventured onwards to the Scottish National Museum, a great, greenhouse-like building (also not far to walk – Joel was a very thoughtful host). The museum hosts all sorts of different exhibitions – in fact, the central room itself was a proper mishmash of different areas of history, containing old print presses and a lighthouse lamp right next to each other with a Buddha statue close by. Corny as it sounds, I sort of preferred to see the artefacts this way – seeing different aspects of history all together really drives home how expansive and interesting world history actually is. How different cultures are, and how amazing.

I don’t want to bang on too much about the museum because I think from school trips and  also enforced visitations from parents we all pretty much know the gist of them – you see stuff, it’s cool, you learn things, it’s cool.

We made one more stop before leaving – a quick hop to Black Magic Cafe, a gorgeous ethnic coffee shop serving the most beautiful looking cake and coffee. I hope you like coffee shops as much as I do reading this article, because that’s genuinely about half of what we did (largely due to being hungover for one day out of the two that we were there). I really recommend that you shimmy in there if you pass it – it’s heaving with personality and character and great, great coffee that it would be a sin to ignore.

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Wisdom I learned from Black Magic Coffee

Though this was the sum of all we did on our trip, from previous trips I’d like to recommend a few more places. The Elephant House (yes, a cafe again) is famously known for being the place that JK Rowling wrote a lot of Harry Potter fodder, and it’s worth a trip even if just to look at the Harry Potter vandalism in the toilets. The Botanical Gardens were also recommended to myself and Emily by Joel on a good day there (unfortunately, the weather wasn’t really permitting when we went) as well as the Camera Obscura and Edinburgh Castle. I am also a big fan of the Ghost Walks that are conducted around Edinburgh – out of all of these suggestions, I’d really push you to try that out, as you get a little bit of knowledge about the city, some memorable stories and often a pretty comic experience from your tour guide if you pick a good one.

Things I learned in Edinburgh:

  • It is very very windy, particularly on Arthur’s Seat. Bring a coat. Or three. And a very long scarf.
  • Borgia is an absolutely terrible series. Don’t ever watch it.
  • There is no bad place to find coffee in Edinburgh.
  • Irish people really are as vibrant partiers as adverts suggest.
  • Basically all of the city is very pretty, buildings and landscapes and all.
  • It is a little bit expensive – make sure to bring a good budget with you.
  • Take time to eavesdrop on the awesome accents.
  • Never pass up the free fudge.
  • Don’t be offended when tiny dogs climb Arthur’s Seat with more energy than you.

Links:

History of Arthur’s Seat: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/arthur-s-seat-the-stone-heart-of-edinburgh-s-soul-1-465707

History of Shit on Calton’s Hill: http://www.edinburghguide.com/parks/caltonhill

Frankenstein Pub Homepage: http://www.frankensteinedinburgh.co.uk/

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