According to the locals, there are two seasons in Edinburgh: winter and June. I’ve been to the Auld Reekie, as Scotland’s unofficial capital is also known, a few times now and I can see what they mean. Due to it’s location, this coastal city is cold most of the year (although luckily for its citizens it is not as rainy as Glasgow!). And then suddenly, out of the doom and gloom of the weather comes out sunny and hot June!
I had a pleasure to work from Edinburgh this week, in the very middle of the June heat wave and boy does it make a difference! The old grey brick mansions, so typical for this city, change their saturnine appearance into a cheerful one, welcoming the passers-by to admire the astonishing contrast between the fifty-shades-of-grey of their walls and saturated greenery of their lawns.
Edinburgh might just be the most beautiful city I have ever visited (and I’ve been to a few). A fairy-tale atmosphere towers over the place that is a walking history class. Above the main shopping promenade, the Princess street, rises a hill crowned with a magnificent castle on top. The slopes of the mountain are covered in emerald trees interspersed with spring green grass. The cobblestones under your feet will take you back in time, while the little secret passageways in the tall buildings surrounding the Royal Mile, the heart of Edinburgh’s old town, stimulate your imagination. You can almost see a hem of a sweeping skirt disappearing around the corner. The air is filled with sound of bagpipes and smells of whiskey. Between the majestic buildings from another era you can catch a glimpse of the sea lurking shyly in the distance.
Having been presented with the unusually sunny and hot weather, I was determined to make the most of my business trip. While delivering the first day of the course, I noticed from the window of the training room the Royal Mile Market. Curious, I used the lunch break to quickly sneak out and start exploring. The market was set in the Tron Kirk, a church built in 17th century that for the last few decades, until February 2015, has not been in use (except for temporary openings in August for Edinburgh’s signature comedy event, Fringe Festival). Now it’s been given a second life, becoming a hub for local food, arts and crafts. When I walked into this dark old church the first thing that stuck me was the colourful light gently flowing from the stained window glass. Among the scantly lit interior, my candle-light assisted gaze noticed uniquely handmade t-shirts, delicious cupcakes, vinyl records and other hidden treasures. But probably most exciting was the discovery of a hole-in-the-wall stall on the external wall of the market, where a very nice gentleman was selling fresh strawberries.
In an attempt to make the most of the weather as soon as I finished work, I jumped into a bus heading towards Portobello, city’s seaside suburb. The sleepy atmosphere of this place changed drastically as soon as I arrived at its promenade by the beach. The sand was dotted with families recharging in the sunshine, teenagers playing volleyball and kids joyfully splashing in the water. In just 20 minutes I got transported from the busy city to a holiday resort! Complete relax and freedom for just £1.50 (in exact amount of course, as the local buses don’t give change). For all those whose appetites were encouraged by the fresh air activities, Portobello had the traditional fish and chips take-away or quality pub food in the atmospheric Espy restaurant.
Upon the return from my mini-getaway, I decided to walk around the Princess Street Gardens. This beautiful park in the centre of Edinburgh which spread out across a few levels of a luscious green hill, used to be a body of water where 300 women lost their lives. The poor souls accused of witchcraft were sentenced to drowning in the park’s lake. If their bodies floated back up, it was a proof of their guilt. If they never surfaced again, oh well…
From the park I directed my steps towards a square outside the Scottish National Gallery, which has a truly amazing collection. Outside the museum, a group of young men played catchy rock tunes. I joined the spectators and enjoyed the music basking in the sun.
Wandering around the little streets of the old town I came across a pub from which a deep, haunting voice called me in singing his bluesy anthem. I walked in to the tiny, dark interior of the Ensign Ewart. This pub on the Lawnmarket part of the Royal Mile, hosts an evening of live music every Wednesday known as The Pressure Valve. Sipping red wine, I sat down enchanted, listening to the husky tone singing moving blues songs. Perfect end to a perfect day.
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter in life. And all you need to do is do something different, walk out and explore what’s around you. Who knows, maybe an ordinary working day can turn into a new entry to your collection of moments worth living for.