Friday had arrived at last, and armed with a comprehensive list of acts and shows to see, with a light sprinkling of pubs, restaurants and chocolate shops in need of visiting, I crammed onto an Edinburgh bound train from London Waterloo with what seemed like half of London’s sweaty, tired commuters kicking off the August Bank Holiday early!
The train journey was long, made longer by the fact there was nowhere to sit, or stand, really, as we were all just squished in like sardines in a long, thin tin can hurtling towards the north at terrifying speed. Every now and then the train would stop, abruptly at some non-descript station while passengers looked on in shock as one of their fellow heard, sat in the middle of the carriage (they were always in the middle), begins squeezing their way out in a shower of Britishisms and sorrys. Every time the toilet was needed, those right next to it had to engage in a bizarre tetras-esque dance so as to allow those in need access to the cubicle. I had a strange sense of deja vu – I’d experienced a startlingly similar train-related experience four years previously in China, although with the added trauma of having to sleep next to a spit bucket.
Five hours later, and a good two hours after exhausting all possible variations of the popular card game Uno while sitting on the floor with a fellow passenger, we arrived at Edinburgh station. The train vomited out it’s passengers and we swarmed to the ticket gates all eager to get out and make the most of the evening.
My good friend Ariel met me at the station and we dove into the first pub we could find – a gothic bar by the name of ‘Frankenstein‘ (fitting, I guess) in an old converted church…with a deathly burlesque show going on. Try as we might, we couldn’t find anyone to give us a decent explanation for this, so we just grabbed a brew, sat back and enjoyed the, rather raunchy, show! Being right in the middle of the Royal Mile and directly up from Edinburgh Waverly train station, the place was already heaving. Tho I guess this is to be expected during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s also a student hot spot, so fills up even more on a Wednesday night! As for the Fringe itself, while some things are ticketed and you need to book in advance, there are other events where you can just turn up and pay on the door, or simply just wander in. Kind of like what we did with Frankenstein bar – going in for a drink and sitting down to a burlesque show!
Next morning we were up at the crack of dawn for a nice hot yoga session at Bikram Yoga Edinburgh, one of the best I’ve ever had – she’s a Bikram Yoga instructor – before I went hunting chocolate shops. As I was staying just off Leith Walk this meant I was toddling distance from Coco Chocolatier. Founded in 2004 these guys are one of Edinburgh’s first chocolatiers, and their chocolate is to die for! They are deeply passionate about the chocolate they produce, sourcing single origin chocolate exclusively from the Dominican Republic. It’s not just the chocolate that is meticulously crafted with these guys, they take great care of their first impressions too, with some of the most eye catching bold designs of chocolate packaging. Although they are slightly out of Edinburgh centre, they really are something you must add to your Edinburgh To-Do list!
Now suitably high on chocolate, and with a good few hours to kill until the evenings’ entertainment, the logical thing to do was go to Primark, buy panda onesies…and cycle out to the beach for a paddle – yes, there is a beach in Edinburgh, but my god is it Baltic so on second thoughts, I would not advise a paddle, even in August, in a panda onesie! Once we’d eventually managed to warm up it was now time to head out to central Edinburgh for some fireworks and Fringe antics. We’d booked to see Omid Dajalili who was so funny I almost peed myself…almost, and some fresh young acts from Edinburgh University of St Andrews. All in all, a thoroughly entertaining evening.
Next day, as I had a train booked home for the afternoon I was somewhat limited on time, but still set about eating my way around as much of Edinburgh as time would allow. So, after more morning yoga and healthy breakfast with Aerial, it was time to head off for pre-lunch, at the ‘World’s End‘ pub, serving the self-proclaimed best fish and chips on the Edinburgh Mile. A jolly and welcoming locals pub with bank notes from around the world adorning the bar, and they really did have the best fish and chips I’d had in a long time, and at a very reasonable price!
After a further wander around Edinburgh it was time for lunch, and so I decided to go for a bit more of a classic; haggis. Ducking into Deacon Brodies Tavern, we were lucky enough not just to feast on haggis, but on some fine culture too! The pub is named after William Brodie – one of the inspirations behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Brodie was born in 1741 and became a Deacon of the Guild of Wrights. Though he lead a double life – being seen as a respectable man in the city during the day, as he ran the town council – by night he was drinking and gambling his life away, getting further and further into debt which brought out a much darker side of him, leading him to burglary to pay those debts, which ultimately resulted in his hanging in 1788.
But anyway, back to the more important topic of haggis – to many this seems like a bit of a disgusting thing to want to eat – ground meat and other entrails, stuffed into an animals’ stomach lining that is then steamed, yeah, I’m really selling it. But when this mix is combined with a wealth of traditional herbs and spices, and served with neaps and tatties (parsnips and potatoes), and a whisky gravy to top it off, then the whole concept changes entirely! It’s delicious and is a Scottish delicacy, so, when in Scotland, eat like the Scottish do. If you do that in the Deacon Brodie then you won’t be disappointed!
Now we had our fill, it was time for one last pint of the good stuff before hopping on the (hopefully less crowded) train back down to London. As usual, we got distracted on our way to the train station and found the perfect watering hole, just on the steps heading down to Edinburgh Waverley Station – it’s reportedly the smallest pub in Edinburgh, aptly named the Halfway House. Perfect for squeezing just one more drop out of Edinburgh before you really have to leave.