europe,  scotland,  travel

A wee sojourn in Scotland – Day 1


We were fortunate to have a relatively relaxing start to our journey—taking a cab to the airport and lounging in the United Lounge with our free wine and whisky. Because we used miles to book David’s flight back in July, we weren’t able to get seats together, but through a fluke of fate, I happened to be seated next to a woman whose husband was seated next to David, so we were able to switch seats. Our flight was mercifully uneventful, though we both could’ve used a couple of hours more sleep. It was a bright and early 7 am when we landed in Edinburgh, and it wasn’t long before we were whizzing towards the city centre on the newly-opened tram. We entertained ourselves with eavesdropping on the surrounding Scottish accents and were tickled at how accurate Robin Williams’ impression of them was (at least our inability to understand them without some serious effort; be forewarned, it’s a rather expletive-laden impression).

We hopped off the tram at Princes Street, one of the main shopping streets in Edinburgh, and hopped onto a bus to take us out to our guest house to drop off our luggage. David had briefly entertained the idea of walking to the guest house, but thankfully, we went with the bus, as it would’ve been a fair walk with all of our luggage. We only plan to stay at this guest house for one night, as the AirBnB we wanted to stay at is available starting tomorrow. Cameras in hand, we headed out to explore the city, more than a little weary off of 4 hours of sleep. The long walk into the heart of the city was increasingly familiar, as we started to pass parks and areas of town we remembered from the last time we were in Edinburgh. We ducked into The Wee Boulangerie for a bite of breakfast (a slice of quiche for me and an almond croissant for David). David ordered an espresso and soon regretted that decision, as it was the shortest shot and apparently fairly terrible, but it did provide some much-needed caffeine.

We continued our walk, and at one point, David made a sharp turn down a street. At first I thought he had headed off to take a picture, but he was in fact, rather amusingly, following his nose and the fragrant, delicious smells of well-brewed coffee. We had stumbled across Brew Lab, an excellent coffee shop with all the coffee fixings that David typically enjoys back home. The shop itself was surprisingly big, with lots of seating and outlets for hunkering down and getting some work done. David savoured his Ethiopian pour over and continued onwards with a little jaunt in his step, pleased with his discovery (I was just amused that he found it by following his nose).

We passed the Royal Mile, a well-familiar area of town that we frequented the last time we were here. We continued across the bridge and enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine. I wanted to look for a map book for a road trip next week, and we were able to find one relatively easily at the Tourist Centre. We were both amused by our teller, who was speaking French with the previous customer and started out with what appeared to be an English accent with us which soon evolved into a very convincing American accent (so much so we thought she was American). When we asked where she was from, she said she was local but had lived for a year in Eugene, Oregon, funnily enough. As an accent researcher, I was very tickled by our linguistic encounter. The sun had finally emerged and provided some much needed warmth. We visited the nearby Scott Monument commemorating Sir Walter Scott (apparently the largest monument to a writer in the world). I was a bit concerned that my wardrobe choices wouldn’t be warm enough for the trip, so I popped into the local H&M and grabbed a scarf. I always find it a challenge to gauge what to wear for a forecasted temperature (particularly coming off of nearly 30 C weather in Chicago), so I think I was a trifle optimistic clinging to the last vestiges of summer.

From there, we went in search of a restaurant I’d read about it, the Dogs, which was supposed to be a fun, delicious spot using more unusual, cheaper cuts of meats to create hearty fare. The space was very cool–I appreciated the theme, of course, with lots of dog photos and dog-related decor. David ordered deviled ox liver with onions, bacon and mushrooms along with a lamb broth (purported to be more stew than soup), and I couldn’t resist getting their mac & cheese. Everything was super delicious! David reveled in the hearty, earthy meal, and I enjoyed the slightly different style of mac & cheese (more of a béchamel). The rich food was soporific, and we sleepily finished our meal, deciding it would be a good time to check-in at the hotel. We hopped on the bus back and settled into our room, desperately attempting to not fall asleep. We finally acquiesced to a short nap, as it seemed inevitable anyway. I had originally planned to grab some supermarket food to have dinner in the room (largely in the interest of saving money and as I assumed that there wasn’t much nearby the hotel). However, I was absolutely starving when I woke up and decided that we’d try a local pub, Old Bell Inn, 5 minutes away. It had the feel of a neighbourhood spot when we walked in (predominantly older Scottish men enjoying an after-work pint). David was in the mood for fish and chips, and I quickly spied the butternut squash risotto, both of which were surprisingly delicious and stylishly-plated for pub fare. We relaxed over our wine and ales (and a £2 shot of Johnny Walker for David), pleased with having survived the day on not much sleep.

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