Thursday 5 May 2016

Edinburgh reflections: daffodils, black bins, sightseeing, tv, plane food etc

It is almost a month since we arrived home from our trip to Edinburgh and Paris.  This is the last post on our travels.  I am finishing with some reflections about Edinburgh, a city I know well and where we spent a few weeks.  It continues to delight me and occasionally frustrate me.  Mostly delightful!  Just look at all the beautiful buildings.

My husband E grew up in Edinburgh so it is truly home to him.  I lived there a few years with him and yet it still delights and intrigues me.  I love riding my bike in the flat streets of Melbourne but I always admire those who ride bikes in hilly Edinburgh, not to mention the discomfort of riding on cobblestones. 

We usually go to Edinburgh in Autumn/Winter so it was interesting to be there in the start of Spring.  (The trip was not planned but organised in a rush after my father in law died suddenly.)  It was lovely to have the longer days for getting about, slightly warmer weather (ie still very chilly) and see the gorgeous daffodils everywhere.  I missed the Christmas lights that I love so much but it hard to go close to Christmas when life is so busy at home.

We notice the differences when we return to Edinburgh every few years.

Melbourne has more tattoos, personalised number plates on cars, street art, and soy milk is widely available in cafes.  It bemused me that most times E asked for a coffee with soy milk, he was told it wasn't available but they had semi skimmed milk.  And we were amused at their one tram line because Melbourne has a huge networks of trams.

Edinburgh has double decker buses, deep fried mars bars, gorgeous views of the castle, sturdy baby swings, and so many more electronic cigarettes.  The parks had lots of different sort of play equipment.  I really liked the roundabout at the park in the Meadows that had little pedals for the kids to use.  As mentioned Zomato cafes listings has not taken off like in Melbourne.

A week before we travelled to Paris, there were terrorist bombings in Brussells.  It made me feel more nervous about travel.  I had to regain perspective by reminding myself that I was more likely to be in a road accident than a terrorist attack.  On the news they reported that Edinburgh Airport was stepping up security.  Even so, Edinburgh Airport is very relaxed compared to Tullarmarine in Melbourne.  When we left Edinburgh we showed our passport to check in and to board the plane but there were no queues and rigourous screening like in Melbourne.

I have complained a few times about our Newington holiday accommodation.  The fridge was too hot, the flat too cold, the central heating settings too mysterious, the kitchen too uncared for, the downstairs smelt too damp.  I could go on and on.  Fortunately we loved our first and last accommodation places in Edinburgh.  However I am sharing this picture outside our place in Newington to show you the black bins.

When I worked in Edinburgh in the council, many considerations were being given to replacing black garbage bags with wheelie bins.  Edinburgh yards are too small or non-existent.  Footpaths are narrow.  These large wheelie bins on the corners were unsatisfactory and an eyesore.  Oh well at least they have the tram line working now, even if the locals are unimpressed.

We were impressed at all the kid's activities at so many tourist attractions.  Perhaps one of the most impressive was the Museum of Edinburgh.  Not only was there the above drawing corner midway through, but later on a large room offered brass rubbings, colouring in and building cardboard houses, stained glass windows, dressing up costumes etc.

Sylvia also had a great time doing lego at the National Museum, having her kids headset tour at Holyrood Palace and the wall of literary doors at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

I just love wandering about the centre of Edinburgh and admiring the Medieval buildings.  St Giles Cathedral, above is an imposing building that is a beautiful place to take time out from the hustle and bustle of the street.  I love it because I volunteered there many years ago as a guide.

Being in Edinburgh in Spring meant a few buildings were open that are usually closed when we visit. I went to Gladstone's Land on the first day it opened after the winter break.  It is really interesting to see how a building in the Old Town used to look in Medieval times and Victorian times.

This sign made me laugh.  We were also amused by some British television.  Unfortunately it has decreased in quality since our last visit.  Like in Melbourne lots of great drama has been replaced by cringe-worthy reality tv.  Here are a few interesting shows we saw:
  • We had a good laugh at You're Back in the Room where contestants were hypnotised before being set tasks.  (Think contestants believing they are Henry VII or the Wicked Witch of the West or in love with the presenter.)  It was so silly we had to laugh.  Apparently an Aussie version is now on Melbourne tv but I think once was enough.  
  • I enjoyed seeing hospital drama Casualty again.  ("Buckets of blood", my father in law used to say.)  
  • I started to watch a thoughtful drama called The A Word about autism.  Sadly I only got to see the first episode and then we left.  Perhaps it will be shown in Australia though we don't seem to do a good job at keeping up with many shows right now.
  • My favourite British show was The Kennedys which I watched was on the plane.  It was a retro reminiscence of a young girl growing up in 1970s England.  I still laugh when I say in my terrible British accent, "It's pasta.  Not in a tin!  That's madness!" from the episode where the mother decided to make lasagne for a dinner party.

And I cannot finish my reflections on the trip without a quick last word on the airplane food.  It isn't much better than the plane food on my last trip.  Yet again I found that I ordered lacto ovo vegetarian and was given really poor vegan meals or took my chance on if there was a nicer vegetarian meal available after everyone else was served.  The problem is that if I just get vegetarian meals with everyone else I am only given a meat meal if they run out of vegetarian meals.  The air stewards on Qatar airlines were actually quite helpful on our last leg and when they came by would give me a vegetarian meal if there was one left.

The saving grace is that airport food has improved.  Above is a quinoa, feta and vegie bowl I had at Edinburgh Airport on the way to Paris.  It was very welcome as I ended up buying bread rolls at the airport that we had for dinner upon arriving at our apartment when we were too tired to go out.  You can also see the hummus and salad plate above that which we had in Doha Airport (I think it was called Qataf Cafe).  Strangely enough it was cheaper than the chocolate croissant which E had.  The hummus and salad was fantastic when I had been eating fairly ordinary food on the plane and kept me going.

If you want to read more about the holiday, I have added links to our travel posts towards the bottom of the Reviews and Reflections index.


  1. I've been impressed by airport food too although am sorry Qatar didn't deliver on vegan options. And it was interesting to hear that E had trouble with soya milk as I've generally always found it, although have had a couple of experiences in small towns / independent cafes where it's not been available - which is very different to Australia where it's pretty much an option everywhere! I think Scotland is still its own place in many ways though, so what happens in England (and particularly the south-east / London) shouldn't be generalised northwards :-)

    1. Thanks Kari - E found it hard to get a good latte too but he did find some places with soy milk. The vegan options weren't awful on Qatar but not that impressive. I did like the wraps with a curried bean filling.

  2. I am always intrigued by rubbish collection around the world. When I lived in Amsterdam, you would drag all your rubbish down to a collection point in your street (not too far, ours was right outside our building). You could even leave big things like couches. But for recyclables you had to take everything to these huge bins (for us it was three short streets away) and then a truck would come along and lift this big bin out of the ground. A quick google for images shows the bins looking more modern so perhaps they've changed it. We did have separate bins for plastic, paper/cardboard and glass. It was a bit of a pain to drag everything there but it was handy to be able to put out any kind of rubbish outside our building, kind of like having Melbourne's annual hard rubbish collection happening weekly!

    1. Thanks Faye - wow did you have people picking through the weekly "hard rubbish" like we do here :-) In the first apartment there were wheelie bins for the flat like the ones we have here and it was more suburban. In the second flat which was more traditional tenement houses with narrow footpaths there were really large bins as in the photo on the ends of the street and they were so ugly and the a few other really large recycling bins (which confused me about what went where). But in the grassmarket they actually have the rubbish underground and just the bins above street level which I find fascinating. Am sure you would enjoy looking at the rubbish collection in Edinburgh!

  3. Airport food is so funny. It's so cheap to eat badly but if you want healthy choices it's usually so much more expensive. There's definitely something wrong when that is the case. And perhaps it's not just airport food but food in general.

    1. Thanks Lorraine - we used to just go to MacDonalds at airports because it was really cheap but now there are much better healthier options. However I really hate paying so much for my flight and then getting disappointing food - that just seems so wrong! Though part of me understands that it is really hard to get food that can be stored and prepared in the ridiculously small airport kitchens.

  4. i have enjoyed reading about your trip, I definitely need another trip to France and one to Scotland. It's funny, I was in hospital when the Brussels attacks hit and it all seemed very surreal. Two weeks later I was travelling to the US and the security was on high alert (understandable of course), especially in Paris-three checkpoints, such that people were missing planes.

  5. Forgot to add, bins here are a little similar to Australia in that they are all separated by product although you only get two per apartment building (that's two per paper/bio/plastics/general/glass) for three apartment buildings and 36 apartments! So they are always overflowing! Plastic bottles and beer bottles are returned to the supermarket for cash.

  6. Thanks cate - sorry to hear you have had a hospital visit lately - I was expected more security after the Brussels attacks but didn't really see much. And I like the idea of returning bottles for cash - loved getting money from recycling aluminum cans when we were young

  7. The Cathedral is completely breathtaking. It looks like a wondrous place.
    I'm glad you felt safe enough to travel, I can only imagine the fear that everyone must be feeling still. Very terrible to feel that way in any circumstance :(
    It looks like a nice time you had - I can't believe the salad was cheaper than the croissant. I've noticed airplane food getting better overall... it could still use some work of course.


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