Not Another Fringe Festival Post | My Early Days in Edinburgh | Part 1
No. Before you ask, I have nothing against the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I have just inadvertently missed it twice as I came after the month long festival was done and I left before it started this year in August… Clearly something doesn’t want me there… I kid.
The Fringe Festival is the largest free music and arts festival in the world. This year (2018) with the theme of Edinburgh in bloom, marks its 70th year. The festival began when a theatre group was not allowed to perform in the city’s international arts festival and decided to do a show on the fringes (outskirts) of Edinburgh. This tradition continued on and here we are today with a variety of musicians and acts. A key aspect of the festival is the spontaneity of art, which means that there is no vetting before performances. This city knows how to throw a beautiful event and does not stop here. In December, the Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) celebrations are in full swing when the city’s centre literally shuts down for three days to make way for concerts and general merriness. You can’t help but feel giddy in August and December (well anytime really) while in Edinburgh!
So here’s to not going to the Fringe Festival, to some day going, and what I did instead!
When I first came to Edinburgh on September 5, 2016, I honestly did not immediately like the city. I know shocker. For someone that had spent several months drooling over Instagram pictures (notably Visit Scotland), I honestly thought I would fall madly in love the moment I walked off the train that brought me from London’s King Cross station to Edinburgh Waverley for my new life. For some reason, the grim look of the majority of the buildings in the city did not appeal to me. Perhaps it was a combination of being fresh from the hustle and bustle of my one week in London where I had spent touring and becoming familiar with UK’s largest city. Now things were about to get real with finding a flat and work. Soon after I completely changed my perspective and would feel so full of gagganess for this city with how different it is from the younger look of Vancouver. Edinburgh definitely has an older feel with its beautiful skylines of chimney tops, cobbled stone streets, flat rows in beautiful stone brick, and cozy pubs. I became (and still am) a walking and talking tourist billboard for this awesome place. It is not hard to understand why Edinburgh is consistently voted the top city in the UK!
For the next three weeks, I divided my time with:
Exploring Edinburgh whenever I could
meeting up with my Canadian pal (that encouraged me to come to Edinburgh in the first place) for a truly Scottish dinner of chicken haggis and deep fried Mars Bars at The Royal Mile Tavern (Yummers!)
practical things such as opening a bank account, finding jobs and a flat (all to be discussed on another post)
and finally meeting new people through Meet up.
Scavenger Hunt through Edinburgh’s Old Town
Riding of the Marches
This continued on indefinitely during my time in Edinburgh and to be honest, I have many more places to see in Edinburgh (Dean’s Village for example) and in Scotland (Isle of Skye, the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the highlands such as Glencoe, Inverness, etc…) But let’s chat about what I did see during my first three weeks:
Taking this tour is the easiest and laziest way to get your bearings in a new place and view the main hot spots. Depart from the town centre at Waverley Bridge (near the train station and Princes Street Gardens) and choose from several routes. I choose the Majestic Tour, because I got to visit:
Georgian New Town
Royal Botanical Garden (my future flat would be very near here)
Leith Cruise Ship Terminal
The Royal Yacht Britannia
Palace of Holyrood House (one of the Queen’s many residences in Scotland)
Old Town & the Royal Mile (most touristy spot in Edinburgh and the site of my first IG post)
Not on this tour but still worth seeing are:
The Grassmarket: lots of independent shops, restaurant, pubs with fairy lights hanging between stone walls, with even more during the holidays.
Calton Hill: one of the best views of the city and is one of the seven hills in Edinburgh that boasts a spectacular view
Edinburgh Castle: It’s a castle, need I say more? Well, it's also the sight of the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo show, marking the end of the Fringe Festival. I also got an in-depth tour of the Castle due to a friend who works for the British army and lived at the British Army Barracks on Castle grounds.
Valerie’s Scavenger Hunt
My first residence in Edinburgh was through AirBnB. I rented the basement of a cute house away from the centre of town with the host, Valerie, living above. The host and I would become good friends as she was so helpful during my early days. With her I got a local’s perspective on the city.
As head instructor on how to teach English as a second language at a local college and an AirBnB host, she is definitely into helping newcomers soak up Scottish culture. One of her colleagues had given her a document to test out a walking scavenger hunt-like tour of local historical places. Our job was to proofread the written descriptor to see if it made sense when following the directions. In my opinion, this is the best way to edit written work by literally ‘acting’ it out. The walk was concentrated on the Old Town of Edinburgh - around the Royal Mile and down to the Grassmarket area. As in true Scottish tradition, we ended our two hour plus walk in a pub!
Riding of the Marches
Another Valerie expedition - every mid September, Edinburgh commemorates the announcement of the British Army’s victory at the Battle of Flooden in 1513. Despite the tragic nature of this event, the city chooses to celebrate peace and the end of war. At the Riding of the Marches parade, nearly 300 horses and local dignitaries march along the Royal Mile. Some even yell “Hip Hip Horrary!”. A chosen Captain and lass are picked to lead the Marches on horseback and represent the city.
This sums up what I was generally up to during my early days. Read parts 2 and 3 to learn more about my time in the city.