Zip up your jacket, open your mind
I found myself in Edinburgh during a beautiful, sunny day, which to be honest I did not expect at all. You see, people from the southern part of Europe like me are addicted to sunshine and therefore, every possible trip to the North during wintertime is a non-go. That was the argument of many friends but as I was walking down the streets of the city, I was thinking that they were wrong. The warming sun rays on my face reassured me that all I had to do was to zip up my jacket and open my eyes, ears and mind to learn more about this wonderful place.
The first thing to visit was the famous castle, a Scottish national emblem which sheltered millions of soldiers and monarchs and was the dream of every king that wanted to occupy the country. My empty pocket did not let me get in but I enjoyed the great view and spend some time in the esplanade reading about legends and secrets of the castle. Reading and thinking of the hundreds of “witches” that were burned there made me speed my way down to the old town. Sooner or later I got lost and ended on Carlton Hill with an astonishing view towards the city and a place called Modern Athens with monuments recalling the Acropolis that to be honest I did not understand how can be correlated to a Scottish victory in a battle, no matter how much I tried to stretch my brain. Probably there’s some important information missing here. My day ended on this hill, watching a nice sunset and starting to feel the cold passing through my clothes.
The next day was a long one. Starting with a visit to the national gallery museum and a freaking exhibition about death and continuing with a nice walk along the river trail in Dean Village. Once full of flour mills driven by the forces of the “Water of Leith”, this village is the best option for those who want to relax away from the noisy city center but still remain in its heart. If you like fiction then Ian Rankin’s book “Strip Jack” is the best story you could read while sitting on a bench near the river, as the crime novel starts when a woman’s body is found right at the banks of the Water of Leith. As the sun is going down quite early in wintertime we headed quickly to the Botanic Garden which is beautiful but pretty much empty in terms of flowers and plants during this period. Nevertheless we enjoyed the scenery and the calmness of the area, we relaxed listening to many different species of birds and we tried to feed squirrels which as it turned out were not very interested in tourists-or oat cookies, could not figure out which of the two. Cold, cold, cold is all I remember after that, until we crashed into a pub and filled our bellies with beer while watching the snow from the window covering the city. The excitement of touching snow after many years made my eyes shut immediately after lying in bed, looking forward to a white day as soon as possible, like a small child.
My dreams came true and I woke up facing a white city full of joy on a bright Saturday morning. The parks were full of cute snowmen, children running around and people sliding on the snowy slopes. After playing a bit with fluffy snowballs we could not help ourselves dreaming of a hot, steamy drink. And as some dreams are not difficult to come true, we soon walked into “Chocolate tree”, one of the best places in town to try dozens of types of chocolate. I would recommend the spicy one as it tastes awesome and gives you the right amount of warmth you are looking for in a day like that. In case you are enthusiastic about handmade food products, like me, you should visit the farmers market that takes place every Saturday below the castle (check the location here). Fruit, vegetables, marmalades, smoked meat, jellies and dressings, oat bars, pancakes and many other things give you the unique opportunity to empty your wallet and delight your tongue which I did once more, with great pleasure. Don’t miss the blueberry oat bars, by the way! Food lovers will find a great variety of tastes to try in Scotland, but vegetarians will be given a hard time in a country that bases its diet on meat. Dessert fanatics on the other side will consider the city an ultimate paradise, as every café that respects their name serves a variety of well cooked cakes and brownies, not to mention the wonderful caramelized taste of the traditional fudge.
Because of all those tastes, regrets started to collect in my mind. But they quickly vanished away after two days of intensive walking around the city. A whole day was committed to reach the Portobelo beach on foot, passing through the Holyrood Park and its frozen lakes which were calm and beautiful. The beach was nice but cold and we immediately found our way into a café on the sea side called Espy, eating hot soup and staring at the ocean. Not much strength was left after returning at the city, and the rest of the day passed with cooking, relaxing and chatting like friends who hasn’t seen each other for a long time do.
My last day in Edinburgh was kept for a nice climb to “Arthur’s seat”. The frozen trail made it difficult to climb but the view on the top was ultimately rewarding. Despite the frozen wind I took some time to collect my thoughts and enjoy the silence. While climbing down I had to fight with the laws of gravity as the slippery trail made the task a strong challenge. After more than an hour of scouting on where I should put my feet in each step and a lot of swearing I reached the bottom, happy I did not slide down like a rock.
My trip ended in a cozy café under the name Lovecrumbs with lemongrass tea, caramel brownies and some really good company. A very good way to enjoy for the last time one of the best features of Scotland: the genuine, warm smile of the local people that makes you feel more than welcome.
Special thanks to:
Eleni-For the hospitality and company during the trip!
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