Sunday 31 March 2024

Edinburgh miscellaneous eating out (and our apartment)

I have shared quite a lot of meals we enjoyed at the cafes and restaurants on our recent trip to Edinburgh.  This post is to share some that places where we stopped for snacks or places I had written about on previous trips.  I also have a few photos of our apartment where we stayed for over a week on the West Port.

Scottish Storytelling Centre

The first place is a favourite from previous trips.  We have previously visited the Scottish Storytelling Centre in 2009, 2012 and 2016.  If you check out my photos from 2009 you will see how plain the counter was to the current colourful counter.  We went there this visit when Mimi's Bakehouse was closed, the World's End pub was full and we were hungry.  It was close-by and casual.

Sylvia had a Leek, mushroom, cheddar and mozzarella quiche with salad and crisps.  It looked great but Sylvia was a bit lukewarm about it because she had been set on having something from Mimi's.  I think I was more impressed than her by all the salad.  I opted to have the veg haggis neeps and tatties with an Auchentoshan whiskey and mustard creamy sauce.  It did not look so beautiful but it tasted great.  Sylvia had a traditional Irn Bru and I had a lovely Cawston Press Elderflower Lemonade.  I enjoyed being in the cosy cafe and looking out at the High Street.

The Milkman

The Milkman was high on Sylvia's list of places to visit in Edinburgh.  It is a favourite of instagrammers because of its gorgeous designs.  You can see it in this photo on the left side of Cockburn Street just before the green Swish sign.

Named after the owner's great grandfather who was the last horse drawn milkman in his town in Aberdeenshire.  The logo features this milkman's silhouette from a souvenir of the Glasgow’s Empire Exhibition in 1938.  He has two cafes on Cockburn Street.  The original was far lower down the street in a former confectionery shop with more space and more cakes.

We went to the Milkman cafe near the top of Cockburn Street which is in a narrow corner shop.  The design of plants and wooden shelves on stone walls reflects the commitment to sustainability and creating a space to relax in the midst of a busy tourist street.  Of course there are windows to watch the passersby and admire the historic buildings.  That is, if you are lucky enough to find a vacant seat.

The staff were also lovely to chat to and the cakes were very tempting but we had just had brunch at the Edinburgh Larder and were after a cuppa.  Sylvia had a soy latte and I had a hot chocolate.  She was impressed with her latte.  The hot chocolate was fantastic.  It was hot (and they aren't always) and tasted more of cocoa than sugar or milk (again not always a given).

On a Sunday afternoon we couldn't find a seat so we got takeaways and stood outside the Milkman photographing the fascinatingly narrow building between Cockburn Street and Fleshmarket Close.  It is so unusual and so charmingly fairy tale.  Add in that the Milkman is a friendly, high-quality and cosy cafe, it is easy to see why it is so popular. 

Waterstones Cafe, Edinburgh West End

I have already written how much I enjoyed browsing Waterstones West End book store.  The cafe is also well worth a visit.  Who doesn't love a cuppa surrounded by books!  And the views of the Castle are magnificent.  Unfortunately the window seats are never free long so it is a matter of luck if you can nab one.  These seats do not cater for a group of five.  We met E's sister, her husband and 21 year old son for a catch up.  I am always so impressed how E's family worked so much in libraries and bookstores so Waterstones seemed a good place to meet.  And Sylvia had seen photos online so she was keen to visit.

Sylvia ordered an iced matcha latte that was ok but she loved her mini red velvet cake.  She was still raving about it long after we left.  I had a lovely Black Forest hot chocolate and was very pleased to have a marmite, cheddar and chive scone.  I love the savoury scones in the UK.  It was great to catch up with E's family.  I remember when his nephew was born and it was such a delight to chat to him as an adult who has almost finished his university degree.


Lovecrumbs is another favourite from previous visits.  I first visited in 2012 when I met the lovely blogger, Shauna Reid and then another visit in 2016.  The cakes were so good that we squeezed in a visit for a piece of cake.  It was mid afternoon so there wasn't heaps of cake left.  I had vegan chocolate violet cake and Sylvia had a pain au chocolat with apple juice.  My cake was very nice but the violet icing was too much because I like a little icing but not that much.  Sylvia was very pleased with her order, especially the apple juice.  It was not fresh but was much better quality than your average bottled juice.  The big round tables have been replaced by smaller rectangular tables but the piano and the charming decor is still there.


While I went to Glasgow, Sylvia went out for lunch and shopping.  She was keen to go to Hula: healthy eatery and juice bar that constantly rated high in online searches for Edinburgh's vegetarian meals.  It was quite flamboyant with lots of pretty meals.  I wanted to go too but we were running out of time so Sylvia went and reported back.  She really liked the place despite it taking a few goes at the menu before she found the right dish.  As with a few places, it had multiple locations with slightly different menus at each place.  We love looking at online menus and this can be a bit confusing.

First, Sylvia ordered the Pancakes with apple crisp served with baked apples, granola, chai sauce and clotted cream.  Once it came, she checked it if had peanuts.  They were unable to let her know which nuts so it returned to the kitchen.  Then she asked for the Scrambled Tofu Toast with roasted peppers, onions, grilled courgettes and sweet chilli sauce.  Unfortunately they were out of the scramble.  So she finally had success ordering Eggs Benedict: poached eggs on toast with Hulandaise sauce, and a side of mushrooms.  She also had the Popeye juice - spinach, apple, lemon and nutmeg.  She was very pleased with her eggs and juice.

Kilted Donut

On our last day while we waited for lunch at the Fiddlers Arms, we dropped into nearby Kilted Donut.  We had often passed by this cute doughnut shop on the Grassmarket.  It was our last day in Edinburgh and our last chance to look inside.  The gorgeous displays were so tempting.  We were hungry for both food and as many experiences as possible.  Sylvia chose the Cranachan doughnut with cream and jam inside and pink icing and oats on top.  Like the traditional Scottish dessert, called Cranachan, it was a little too much cream for me but Sylvia enjoyed it.

I went extra adventurous and ordered the Peshwari doughnut.  It was inspired by the sweet-filled Peshwari naan that I would often have with my curry from the Prince of India in Peebles when I lived in Edinburgh.  Great memories.  Peshwari naan is stuffed with a sweet paste that is often made from ground nuts, coconut and sultanas. The doughnut had lightly flavoured curry icing sprinkled with finely chopped nuts and desiccated coconut.  It was amazingly and surprisingly good.  We went straight from there to the pub for lunch so our doughnuts had to wait later that night when we had at last sat on the sofa to relax after finishing all our packing and organising before flying home early the next day.

Mary's Milk Bar

After the lunch at the Fiddlers Arms we were so full we had to pass on the plans to get ice cream from another shop that had interested us in the Grassmarket: Mary's Milk Bar.  I had wondered if it was a milk bar like we have in Australia that is like a general store or corner shop.  The staff told me the shop was named after slightly different concept of shops selling dairy products and milky drinks.  Google described the shop as a "retro ice-cream parlour".  Inside it is painted with retro greens and pinks, lit by ice cream style sconces and hung with lights and bunting.  So cute.  I particularly loved the Penguin books bunting.  The gelato looked like the good stuff but we just couldn't fit in on this visit.

West Port Apartment

We really liked our West Port Apartment in Cordiners Land.  We were on the third floor with no lift which was good for fitness but not great for carrying heavy suitcases up and down.  Inside it was a light filled living area with lovely wallpaper, an elegant art deco fireplace and colourful rug. 

The apartment had great facilities: washing machine, microwave, oven, and dishwasher.  I had intended to use the dishwasher but we used so few dishes it was easy to clean the few each night.  While here we watched the most tv of our whole trip.  One of the joys of visiting the UK is watching a few old favourites and catching some new shows.  We caught up with some popular local shows including Casualty, EastEnders, The Masked Singer, and Mr Bates vs the Post Office.

The views of Edinburgh Castle were great.  I loved the window seat which demonstrated how thick the stone walls were.  It was not so comfortable but the idea of spending hours curled up with a good book was lovely.

Hudson St Grill

Our very last meal in Scotland was at Edinburgh Airport before we caught our plane to start our journey home to Melbourne.  I had the vegetarian Garden Breakfast with vegetarian sausages, mixed grains, spinach, baked beans, mushroom, grilled tomato and sliced avocado.  It wasn't until my plate was set in front of me, that I saw there was no toast and ordered a serve of it.  It was to be my last decent meal for over 24 hours.  And it was very good.  I loved the generous helping of beans and the unusual addition of greens and grains, which would be appreciated by those seeking a gluten free breakfast.  Sylvia really enjoyed her fluffy American style pancakes with blueberry compote and coconut yoghurt.

This is my last post about our experiences in the four cities we visited in Europe during our recent trip.  I just have a few posts left to share about our travel and souvenirs and then will be back to Melbourne life!

Scottish Storytelling Centre
43-45 High Street Edinburgh, EH1 1SR
Open: 10am-6pm, 7 days a week 

The Milkman
52 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh EH1
Open: Mon-Sat 8am-5pm, Sun 9am-5pm

Waterstones Cafe, Edinburgh West End
128 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2
Open: Mon-Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm

155 West Port, Edinburgh EH1
Open: 9am-6pm, 7 days a week

103-105 West Bow, Edinburgh EH1
Open: Mon-Thurs 8.30am-3.30pm, Fri-Sun 8.30am-4pm

Kilted Donut
23 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1
Open 8.30-6.30pm, 7 days a week

Mary's Milk Bar
19 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1
Open Wed-Sun 11am-7.30pm

Hudson St Grill
Gate 11, after Security
Edinburgh Airport
Meadowfield Farmhouse,
15 Turnhouse Rd, Ingliston, Airside EH12
Open: Mon, Sat 4am-9pm, Tues 4am-8.30pm, Wed 4pm-8pm, Thurs, Fri, Sun 4am-10pm

Saturday 30 March 2024

Edinburgh: Fiddlers Arms pub

Our last meal out in Edinburgh was at the Fiddlers Arms on the corner of the West Port and the Grassmarket.  I had noticed that they did a Vegan Fish and Chips and I wanted some traditional pub grub in Edinburgh before we left.  I remember it being Bar Alba on previous visits but cannot remember what the pub was when we lived in the West Port or if we went there.

When we arrived just before 12pm, we were asked to come back in 15 minutes because we were there too early for lunch.  The staff were friendly and the decor was a lot of no-nonsense wood.  Wooden floorboards, wooden bar, wooden ceiling, wooden tables and chairs and thick stone walls, with just a touch of purple wallpaper.  Most of the colour was from the beer taps and national flags to make people feel patriotic as they watch the sport on the large screen tvs.  We were there to eat and watch what was going on out the window.  I would have loved to hear some live traditional music but not sure Sylvia would have enjoyed it.

My Vegan Fish and Chips were served with garden peas, tartare sauce and a wedge of lemon.  The 'fish' was made with banana blossom which was flaky like fish I used to have as a child.  It was fried in a beautiful golden beer batter and looked amazing.

I was surprised at how much vegan fish I was served.  Maybe this was because I am wary of mock fish and mock meat at the best of times.  I found it hard to eat because it was eerily like the flake in batter that I ate a lot as a kid from fish and chip shops.  When E first came to Australia from Scotland and discovered that flake was shark, he was very amused to be having a shark supper!

I spoke to the waitress about this when she asked how we were going.  She very reassuringly told me that the batter on the vegan fish looked quite different to that on the haddock so there was no chance of confusing them.  Yet my brain was confused by how much it took me back to eating flake, even if it didn't taste really fishy.  But it was great to try it.  I just could not eat that much of it.  

The chips were very nice and the tartare sauce was a nice accompaniment to the vegan fish.  I would have preferred mushy peas because they are so British and also because they don't tease the fork as they roll around the plate.

Unlike me, Sylvia has no sentimental memories of flake and batter with chips in her childhood.  She ordered the The Meadows Sandwich with Buffallo mozzarella, fresh tomato slices, green pesto, red onions and lettuce.  Each sandwich came with a crispy artisan ciabatta with fries and salad garnish.  She enjoyed her lunch.  It was good she could choose truffle and parmesan fries with it but was she wanted more truffle and more parmesan flavours.  (Funny how no one in the UK says fish and fries.  It is always chips.  But I assume fries is used more now for the American tourists.)

We shared a fizzy water with our meal.  I should add that there were a good amount of vegetarian options, including haggis, bangers and mash, mac n cheese, and a beyond beef burger.

Although we had plenty of our main meal, it was our last day in Edinburgh and our last chance to have that traditional Scottish delicacy, the Deep Fried Mars Bar.  So we shared one for dessert.  Anyone who has had a deep fried mars bar from a Chippie will know how ugly they are.  Sylvia wanted to have one here because she had seen photos online of how beautifully presented they were.

The deep fried marsh bar was beautifully battered with a skewer to hold it.  They are always so hot to hold with your hands.  We had two served with ice cream, cream, raspberries and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.  Now that is a stylish deep fried mars bar!  They tasted rich and decadent and less trashy than your average fish and chip shop offering.

We were so full when we left.  All the deep fried food!  We headed back to our apartment on the West Port and I did some packing, checking all the gifts I had bought.  Then I went for a long walk over the Mound to Princes Street and up Cockburn Street to check I had not missed any nut roast ready meals at Marks & Spencer (thank goodness there were none as I was so full) and fill the gaps in my gifts.  I even bought a last minute hairy coo t-shirt.  I really needed that walk after my lunch.  

One of the last photos I took in Edinburgh was the Fiddlers Arms in the dark as I came back to our apartment in the late afternoon.  It was a great place to end all the food adventures of our holiday.

The Fiddlers Arms
9-11 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HY
Open: Sun-Wed 12pm-12am, Thurs-Sat 12pm-1am.

Friday 29 March 2024

Glasgow: Kelvingrove galleries and Glaschu at the Western Club

While staying in Edinburgh, I took the train to Glasgow to catch up with Anne, from E's dad's family.  We had a lovely meal and great chat at the Western Club followed by a visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (above photo).  Usually we have caught up with Anne in North Berwick of Edinburgh so it was a nice change to see her in Glasgow.

We went to lunch at the Western Club because Anne is a member.  However the restaurant at the club, Glashu, is open to the public.  You don't need to be a member to eat there.  "Glashu" is Scottish Gaelic for Glasgow.  As this would suggest, the restaurant prides itself on celebrating Scottish produce, albeit with international influences.

On the way from the entrance hall up the stairs to the restaurant, I passed war memorials from the two World Wars on beautiful carved wooden plaques.  Anne was quite familiar with the place and the people there, though it wasn't that busy when we were there.

Glaschu is a elegant restaurant with grey hues and wonderful muted floral arrangements.  It was lovely sit by the window enjoying sunshine good Scottish food and a blether.  Although I have spent time with Anne quite often at family catch-ups in Edinburgh and North Berwick, I have rarely spent time just one on one with her.   It was lovely to have catch up on family and travels. 

I ordered the main dish of the "Celeriac and Truffle: Butter celeriac fondant, pickled celeriac, mushroom puree, cavalo nero, celeriac jus".  It was lovely albeit more starter than main.  I was a little confused when my meal came because I had been unsure what was meant by celeriac fondant.  It seemed to be slabs of celeriac cooked until creamy inside.  When I look back at the photo I took of the menu, I am more confused.  The fondant was topped with bean sprouts, maybe in lieu of the missing cavalo nero (dark kale).  I do not see the pickled celeriac.  While the fondant was a nicely cooked vegetable by itself, it was wonderful with the generous jug of well seasoned jus and amazing truffled mushroom puree, as well as the fancy mushrooms that came on the puree.  I loved the meal for being something I have never had before and tasting so unusual but so good.

Anne had the Roasted Squash Risotto with pistachio, pine nut, dill and tarragon.  She said her meal was very nice and quite filling.

I wasn't quite full after my main so I eagerly perused the dessert menu and ordered the Guinness Sticky Toffee Pudding with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.  The pudding was wonderfully soft and went well with the sauce and ice cream.  Anne was very happy with some ice cream and a coffee.  I also really enjoyed a hot chocolate at the end of the meal.

Then we caught a taxi to The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  Anne told me the story of the architect of the building returning when it was completed, only to find that the entrance had been built at the back rather than the front.  He was so upset he committed suicide.  Before writing this post, I checked for more details online and the only information I could find was that it is an urban myth.  But what a great urban myth!  It makes people look at the architecture of the 1901 Spanish Baroque building with renewed interest.  Anne also pointed out where she studied at the nearby Glasgow University.

Upon entering we made our way to the past the magnificent pipe organ (2889 pipes).  It is amazing that there is a free organ recital here every day.  (We missed it.)  Actually it is so impressive that there is no entry fee to see this great collection of art and history (compared to a $15 adult entry to the Melbourne Museum). No wonder it is so popular.

As is always the case, we had limited time and could only see a small part of the collections.  We passed the Life Gallery ((ironic as many of the exhibits are dead taxidermied animals) so I had a quite look.  Also notable are Sir Roger the Elephant and a Spitfire LA198 plane suspended from the ceiling.  I was drawn to this lovely giraffe.

We walked through the opposite East Gallery (Expression) with faces of all kinds.  Busts of well known faces if Queen Victoria at the front is anything to go bu but also faces suspended from the ceiling.

We were headed to the Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style exhibition.  Charles Rennie Mackintosh worked on design with Miss Cranston who opened a series of tea rooms in Glasgow (including the Willow Tearooms) around the turn of the Century.  When the Ingram Street Tearooms was bought by the Glasgow Corporation in 1950 and then demolished in 1971, the rooms were catalogued and stored elsewhere.  Today we are able to see a set up of the room at the museum.  It is quite lovely with Mcintosh's gesso panel 'The Wassail' backlit above the panelled walls

We went upstairs and got a closer look at the Floating Heads by Sophie Cave.  I was fascinated by so many expressions on these ghostly faces suspended above the East Court with a backdrop of elegant Victorian arched balconies.

I also loved the seemingly endless arched corridors on the first floor.  Such a beautiful building to explore.

We had a look at the Dutch art.  Many fine paintings from the Seventeenth Century.  I liked this one: A Fire at Night by Egbert van der Poel 1621-1664.  The card with the title and artist also had notes that he was the best known painter of fire in the Netherlands.  I have visions of a building on fire and someone urgently calling van der Poel to paint it.

I really enjoyed the notes on the painting that accompanied the title and artist.  They were fairly brief but gave some context.  Much easier than juggling a brochure or finding the right place on an audio guide headset.  My favourite notes were on the above painting: The Doctor's Visit, 1657 by Frans van Mieris the Elder.  I have replicated them in full here and wont comment too much but I will just give you this Seventeenth Century remedy for lovesickness: reading the Old Testament.  Really!  The Bible was used to cure broken hearts!

"The pale woman in this painting is suffering from lovesickness - a medical condition thought to be cured by reading the Old Testament, which is lying open on her lap. An elaborately-dressed doctor takes her pulse. He points to his head, indicating that her affliction is all in her mind. Doctors were sources of humour at the time - 'quack' doctors were thought to fool their patients with false and theatrical diagnoses."

Anne suggested we see the Scottish Colourists, especially this above F.C.B. Cadell's Interior: the Orange Blind c 1927.  The Scottish Colourists were four artists at the turn of the Twentieth Century who experimented with colour and impressionism, especially influenced by French art.  This particular artwork is nominated by the gallery as one of its top ten recommended objects to visit.  The use of colour is brilliant in this portrait of a woman in a Georgian flat in the New Town of Edinburgh.

I was also loved this Landscape, about 1917 by Peploe.  The use of bright greens and shapes made a vivid impression on me.  One of the traits of Impressionism is that pictures were often painted quickly, sometimes in in-situ, without more attention to the general character of the subject rather than attention to detail.

We also wandered through the French Art gallery.  It had many well known names, though not all were their well known paintings.  Above is The Blute-Fin Windmill, Montmatre by Vincent Van Gogh 1886 was a really lovely painting by a well known artist that I had never seen before.  I am sure this part of Monmatre in Paris looks far less rustic now.

Then it was time to check the gift shop and catch a bus back to the Queen Street Train Station.  En route I passed this 1844 statue by Carlo Marochetti of Arthur Wellsley, the Duke of Wellington.  The fun of the public putting a traffic cone on his head has been at times controversial and iconic.  It was recently declared Banksy's "favourite work of art in the UK" and special traffic cones have been made for the statue to commemorate moments such as the Brexit referendum and the Covid pandemic.  I was amazed at how much it featured in souvenirs.

The traffic cone statue sits in front of the Gallery of Modern Art, which is very close to the Royal Exchange Square where we had lunch at Glaschu.  Anne had suggested this gallery but I had been set on seeing Kelvingrove, which I might or might not have been to on visits to Glasgow many years ago.

Lastly I passed the wonderful George Square with the Glasgow City Chambers.  It is a really imposing late Nineteenth Century building to show just where the power was!  I don't know Glasgow very well but it is a great place to visit.  

However I think the traffic cone tourism illustrates how Glasgow has so many less icons than Edinburgh.  When I lived in Edinburgh the David Hume statue near the City Chambers often had a traffic cone on his head.  E and I used to pass it by and comment that the students were at it again.  When I have visited Edinburgh since there is usually a traffic cone on him.  But it could not compete with the icons of Edinburgh such as the Castle, the Royal Mile Closes, Greyfriars Bobby, the Grassmarket and the Walter Scott Memorial.  I often say that Edinburgh is like Sydney because it impresses instantly whereas Glasgow is more of a slow burn like Melbourne but has many rewards once you get to know it.

The Western Club
32 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow
Open 7 days a week, 12-11pm

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Edinburgh: shops and signs, including Harry Potter and Scots language

Coming back to Edinburgh after my last visit 8 years ago, I enjoyed browsing and purchasing at  some favourite shops and some new ones.  I was struck by how Victoria Street (above) had become claimed by the Harry Potter fans and businesses since I had last been there.  It amused me because this was a street I knew well before the fans.  As usual all the locals tut-tutted about the demise of Princes Street and some of the signs amused me. 

We occasionally saw queues outside the Museum Context shop.  I assume they were there for tours, even in the rain as in this photo.  Maybe they even enjoyed just soaking in the vibe of in the colourful cobble-stoned Victoria Street that is now claimed (not by JK Rowling) as the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter world. 

It was a beautiful shop both viewed from the outside and while wandering inside but I found that it was really crowded, especially if you wanted to climb the stairs to the upper levels.  Opposite is another gift shop selling Harry Potter merchandise.  I wonder if the Harry Potter locations for fans have gained momentum as the children who grew up on Harry Potter are now adults travelling the world.

Museum Context sold nicely drawn postcards of Robert Cressers Brush Shop with a witch sitting above the ground floor holding a broom.  Then I read this sign!  The postcard suddenly made sense when I found out it was previously Robert Cresser's brush shop.  I remember loving that dusty old shop as I passed it regularly when I lived in Edinburgh.  It looked like a place from history with its old brooms.  Most intriguing was the sign advertising "toilet brushes rebristled and repaired".  I used to wonder if there are people whose toilet brushes were worth repairing.  The sign suggests it might be a the inspiration for Olivanders which sells wands but it should have been the inspiration for the broom shop (Quality Quidditch Supplies).

I was less enthused by this sign about the Elephant House Cafe being destroyed by fire in 2021.  I was very fond of the Elephant House.  In fact it was where I went after I got married in Victoria Street Registry Office (now a Virgin Hotel).  So I could not bring myself to go into this cafe that was aimed at Harry Potter fans.  According to one Harry Potter website, JK Rowling was well known for initially writing her novels in Nicholsons but moved to other cafes such as the Elephant House to write in more privacy.  I miss the original Elephant House but I suspect that it would not be the same with the queues of fans.

The last sign I photographed was one welcoming visitors to Victoria Street: "Scotland's most photographed street and believed to be JK Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley".  The sign then goes on to read "An old book shop has traded on this site for over four decades.  With shelves stacked to the ceiling, was this the original Flourish and Blotts?"  

The John Kay's Shop beside the sign at the top of the street was closed but looked interesting when I passed it.  I have memories of passing an old musty bookstore there with lots of tables of books on the footpath.  If it is the same as John Kay's it has been spruced up now but I am not sure.

I preferred the Museum Context shop in Cockburn Street to the one in Victoria Street.  For a start, it was not so crowded.  Instead of three floors, it was just one larger space that took up two shop fronts.  It had a lot of Harry Potter merchandise but also some lovely books, stationery and gifts that were not related to the film.  As with the Victoria Street store, it was arranged very stylishly with nice touches like a giant spider or magic mirror.

Last time I was in Edinburgh in 2016 there was Diagon Alley artwork in Candlemaker Row that seemed to suggest this was the street that inspired Diagon Alley.  There are some beautiful witchy shops on this street.  Sylvia was quite excited to go to Black Moon Botanica.  This was a beautiful shop to visit, though small enough that a sign at the door asked for no more than 8 customers at a time.  Candles, herbs, books, crystals and other items related to magic.  It had lots of wooden shelves that made it look like a olde worlde shoppe.  But not in a cynical way.  The woman who runs it seems very genuine and played such great music that I had to ask about it.  When she said it was her spotify playlist, someone nearby asked the name so she could follow it.  It was that sort of friendly shop with warm welcoming vibes.

We also enjoyed browsing the gift shops in Cockburn Street.  I used to love the shops there but there is no longer Avalanche and Fopp for the music lovers.  We really enjoyed Eden, Mysa and Museum Context.  Years ago I remember there being a cool gift shop around where Eden was but I think it might be a different business now.  I liked this tree in the middle of Eden.

Edinburgh is jam packed with souvenir shops.  You can't walk a few minutes without seeing one.  I particularly liked this one in the Grassmarket called Great Scot because it had a life sized toy hairy cow as you can see in the window.

A wonderfully old fashioned bookstore was Armchair Books in the West Port near where we were staying.  I am sure it was there way back when I lived in the West Port many years ago.

I loved the Opening Hours sign: "hours subject to local/international chaos" it tells us, and "if it seems like we should be open and we're not ... maybe something exciting happened."  It makes it sound so intriguing if it is closed when it should be.  Better than the manager sleeping in!

A more modern bookstore is the West End  Princes Street Waterstones.  The building is amazing. There are lifts but it far more romantic to go up and down the marvellous wooden staircases.  Especially when they pass the window with fantastic views of the Castle and Princes Street.

I get sad sometimes that Sylvia is too young for all the fun children's books that have come out recently.  When she was younger she would have loved Peppa Goes to Scotland with Peppa Pig on the cover in a kilt.  There were lots more Scottish themed children's books that I would have loved to browse if we had had the time.  Of course you don't have to be a kid to appreciate children's books but the excitement of a child with a new book is just magical.

Waterstones has lots of books and gifts for adults too.  These were my favourites.  I love an historic streetscape and I love a literary biography.  These jigsaws by Laurence King Publishing are both.  Such beautiful artwork of streets in the world of authors such as Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and William Shakespeare.

Not all Princes Street shops have weathered the winds of change as well as Waterstones (and even they have closed their East End Princes Street store).  Locals that I talked to said it was a shame it had got so tatty.  The saddest sight was the permanently closed doors of Jenners.  This was once aan upmarket department store to rival Harrods and Bloomingdales.  I shared photos of Jenners on a previous visit in 2012.  It was such a pleasure to visit with the amazing wooden balconies.  And so sad they are no longer part of Edinburgh's sights.

When older established shops close, it makes way for the new.  Primark is the shop we loved when we were here in 2016 because Sylvia was into Minions and Primark had lots of merchandise.  We had a quick look on this journey and I found the clothes rather dull.  We laughed at how colourless this display was.  (I only just found out that Primark is the international franchise of the store called Penneys in Ireland.)  discovered that In fact the main place we bought clothes from was Sainsbury's in Cameron Toll. 

I loved John Lewis department store at the top of Leith Walk when I lived in Edinburgh.  I still have wedding gifts from their shop and we love the Christmas adverts.  I was on the lookout for a pretty bread and butter plate.  These William Morris plates were lovely but £50 for a set of 4 was pricey,  I left them behind because 4 plates seemed a lot for my luggage. 

Instead I admired some of the displays such as this Easter celebration dining table.  I ended up buying another plate that came in singles.  I will share more on this in another post.


I have seen this sign on a previous visit but could not remember if I had shared it on this blog before.  Who could forget a claim that "unattended children will be given an espresso and a free kitten".  That is some threat!  It was in the Netherbow cafe near the Fudge Kitchen

I am always interested to see reclamation of Indigenous languages.  Scottish Gaelic is sometimes used in signs in Scotland.  I took this photo of the Glasgow Queen Street sign with a Gaelic alternative.  I also saw Gaelic alternative at Haymarket Station in Edinburgh but not at Edinburgh Waverley.  This article by Ian Cameron about Gaelic Road Signs has some interesting reflections about Scottish gaelic (another language) and Scots language (a dialect).

Other than the occasional railway sign, I didn't notice much Gaelic about Edinburgh, though I am sure there was more than I remember.  I was quite taken with this little bear holding up a "Failte Lack dhu" sign.  Isn't it gorgeous!  Failte is Gaelic for "welcome".  The shop was called "Lack Dhu" but I am not sure about translating that in to English.

A few other signs were in a Scottish dialect of English.  I thought this one about was quite clear but Sylvia did not understand "your polis are oot and aboot: they'll be back in a tick to help ye oot".  I saw it in the Waverly Centre: a modern shopping market next to Waverley Station.  For those who find this as foreign as Sylvia it says "your police are all out and about: they'll be back in a tick to help you out."  The Scottish style of saying polis instead of police reminds me of the The Fast Show parody of a Scottish detective tv show called Monkfish where the Scottish actors spent a lot of time saying "polis" and "muurdah".  The sketch has not aged well but I still remember my amusement at the Scottish pronunciations.

Near our apartment on the West Port was the Dragonfly cocktail bar.  It was very Scottish to see a sign asking patrons to "haud yer wheesht".  This is something that my Scottish ex-husband used to say to me in jest so I am quite familiar with it meaning: be quiet.  One of the joys of visiting Edinburgh is that it is so familiar and yet has such a great sense of its own unique culture too.