Ever since I arrived in the UK I’ve had people telling me I MUST go to Edinburgh. At the risk of offending my manager (who is Scottish), I was never that interested in Scotland because I thought it was just an extension of the same stuff you see in England. Thus, I always thought it’d be a waste of money to travel to Scotland when I could go somewhere totally different and exciting in Europe. But! After my trip to Ben Nevis in August and after this trip, I want to live in Scotland!
As soon as we stepped out of the train station I kept thinking I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT. Definitely love at first sight.
Instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to try out Airbnb. We had a whole apartment literally right next to the castle. All we had to do was step out our door and walk up some steps to the castle, which is right in the center of the city.
We didn’t actually go into the castle, because we just went to Dover Castle a couple weeks ago and were kind of castle-d out. So instead, we admired the outside and headed off to explore the rest of the city.
Much to my pleasure, the Christmas markets were in full swing!
Much to my disdain, they weren’t properly German. I still loved the market, but I was a bit disappointed in the food! Our Currywurst wasn’t chopped or the proper kind of sausage, but it was still good.
On the first day we went on a full-day tour of the surrounding countryside that included a tour of a Scotch whisky distillery. It was so fun because we stopped multiple places on the way to the distillery so we got to see little towns and hike through the woods.
Just before the distillery we stopped off at Queen’s View.
I don’t remember the name of this place, but one of our breaks was a 40-minute round-trip hike up to a waterfall, where we also saw some of the UK’s tallest trees.
I was so thankful the fall colors didn’t arrive in the UK until the past couple of weeks, because I loved the contrast of the bright oranges and greens surrounding us on the crazy branches.
The next day we wandered around the city and went to the Scotch Whisky Museum/tour, which I thought was touristy but super fun because you get to ride in a big barrel through the first part while you learn about how whisky is produced. Then they take you into a room where a guide explains the different types of whisky in Scotland (and there’s even a scratch-and-sniff card!), and you then get to choose one and sample it in the room holding the world’s largest whisky collection.
Here is only one wall:
This being my second instructional whisky tasting in two days, I felt like a certified expert. (Prior to becoming an expert I was referring to Scotch as “Scottish whisky.” What a dumbo.)
Growing up my family lived a few places out West, and as a result we got to see a lot of National Parks. This was great because each park would have a set of learning activities you could complete to receive an honorary park ranger badge. They’re titles I’ll proudly hold with me for the rest of my life. If someone mentions say, South Dakota, I can start conversations with, “Yeah? Well, I know from my days as an honorary park ranger at Badlands National Park …”
At the Scotch Whisky Experience there was no badge or physical certification at the end, but when Ian the tour guide looked me in the eye, I knew. I was certified.
I just wrote a post about why it’s silly for it to be acceptable to eat meat from one animal and not another, and I think the same logic applies to one body part but not another. I couldn’t even stop this feeling in myself, and I don’t think my Someone could either. Neither of us was keen try haggis, even though in any mentions of Scotland haggis is in the cloud of associated terms and we definitely wanted to immerse ourselves in this cloud!
We did, however, try Cullen skink, and at the Scotch Whisky Experience restaurant we tried vegetarian haggis in the form of Scottish Dim Sum.
The first night we couldn’t get a table ANYWHERE, and I very nearly had a hunger breakdown. Luckily I had an emergency banana, and that held me over until we were able to find Bar Frizzante, which just so happened to be next to Bottoms Up Show Bar. I was not enthused about eating here at first, because I had envisioned us being in Edinburgh having a super romantic meal in a cute restaurant, and how romantic can a meal be when you know someone’s butt cheeks are clapping together next door?
I don’t mean to sound puritanical – I fully support Bottoms Up as an establishment. I’m just not sure butts = romance.
I was SO wrong in my concern. This place was great!! The food was really good, the service was excellent, and they were playing Dean Martin’s greatest hits on repeat, so I was 100% pleased and felt guilty for judging. I didn’t think about the butts next door one time. We shared a pizza, creamed spinach and tiramisu.
The last night we went to a cute little French restaurant by our apartment called Petit Paris. It was good! We usually share plates and each eat half of whatever we ordered then trade, so that way we can try lots more. It’s a great system, although I feel it’s getting into dangerous territory. I love having couple-y things like this, but I’m wary of eventually turning into the kind of person who walks around in a matching track suit. Like, where did that begin? Am I already on that road?
We also had Scottish beef and Scottish smoked salmon. And, of course, Scotch whisky! I have to admit that I always think smoked salmon is a good idea, but when I start eating it I get sick of it after about two bites. I definitely don’t like it unless it’s mixed with something, like scrambled eggs.
Overall, everyone in Scotland was just so ridiculously friendly. Living among the deadened souls of London, it was incredibly delightful to be surrounded by enthusiastic, happy people. Our tour guide of the historic underground vaults was so over-the-top that even if the tour had been boring (which it wasn’t), it would have been worth it just to see her.
On the tour we also went to the graveyard where Adam Smith is buried. Although I’ve never read The Wealth of Nations, I’ve read about it so I had enough familiarity of his work to channel Buddy from Elf and mentally shout, “ADAM SMITH? I KNOW HIM!”
Speaking of Buddy and Christmastime, it’s almost time for me to finally go back to the US! I haven’t been home since September 2012, and this is the first time in five years I haven’t been stuck in England for Christmas. I CAN’T WAIT.