Saying goodbye to Edinburgh

Posted on November 27, 2011

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We boarded our train for London this afternoon having spent the most fabulous three days in Edinburgh.  I know I have already waxed lyrical about this city, and for those of you who are missing the usual fare we will resume normal programming shortly.  I just have to indulge in one last blast about this amazing city.

We were staying in the hotel that I was booked into for my work engagement.  The Apex International has a panoramic view of the castle from the dining room and our own room also shared this vista.  Most hotels of this ilk are very much alike: average sized room with the usual features.  This hotel was no different in that regard.  Where it came into its own was the extraordinary friendliness of the staff and the hotel’s breakfast menu, which included full Scottish breakfast, eggs benedict, American pancakes, omelettes and if that didn’t satisfy you, you could simply ask the chef for something of your own devising.  It was such a treat to have haggis and black pudding along with the most extraordinary vegetable hash (a heavenly mix of asian spices, peas, potatoes and fresh herbs) as part of the Scottish breakfast – and all impeccably cooked and served to the table rather than languishing in a buffet.

Curiously the hotel had a pool that was entirely made of stainless steel.  I am almost certain that any life-cycle analysis of this material versus ceramics, mortar and waterproofing would have the traditional tiled job coming out marginally better when it came to carbon impact.  But I suspect that the impact of repairs, leakage, and replacement life would mean the steel design might come closer to the ceramic design than at first glance.

My partner told me something I didn’t know about stainless steel: chefs apparently use bars of the stuff like soap.  It acts as a disinfectant and takes the pungency out of one’s hands after handling garlic and onion.  So perhaps the stainless steel pool is also a more hygienic option but I would definitely like to see the figures before making any pronouncements on that front!  Regardless, it was pure indulgence to be able to swim in the middle of winter.

We returned to the Petit Paris for our last evening meal and had just as an exquisite dinner as the lunch we had had on our first day: garlic prawns followed by duck pie for me and camembert in filo followed by steak for my partner.  Having road-tested that restaurant twice now I think it officially has become my favourite (shame it is hundreds of miles north of where I actually live)!

One of the greatest pleasures when visiting a new city is to indulge in the open top bus tour.  I absolutely love this slightly crazy, dreadfully touristy, packed way to see the sights.  Its benefits are obvious – you get your bearings very quickly, you hear a bit about the town and of course you get to use it as a free bit of transport.  The deeper pleasures come from laughing at cheesy the commentary in the bits you are meant to be listening intently, and of course freezing/frying on the top of the bus as it flies past the people and the cars below.  Edinburgh’s tour was no exception: freezing, windy, hilarious, we got to peek over the walls at Holyrood, drive right around the impressive Scottish Parliament building as well as spy the fabulous Salisbury Crag which is definitely on my to-do list next time as a climb that looks to have a very rewarding view at the top.  One day I think I will write a guide to the world’s best and worst open top bus yours.  I have done some doozies it has to be said with the city of Valencia probably topping the score for the largest number of entirely irrelevant entries about buildings named after people with impossibly long names for absolutely no reason.  New York and London are on a par so far for the best tours but my coverage of the globe is far from complete!

And finally, I am receiving messages from people with more holiday giving ideas and opportunities to add to my festive season commitments.  The latest is from habitat for humanity, an amazing outfit who do all sorts of incredible work in communities around the globe. Check out their holiday gift giving program here. I had the privilege of volunteering with habitat in Nepal for a week earlier in the year.  Building houses with people who in some cases have never had a roof over their heads is an eye and heart-opening experience.  The houses we built were  occupied within weeks of our departure and the house-building program in that country and many others continues a-pace.

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