Monday, 31 October 2016

Edinburgh


I didn't think I was ever going to fall in love. I didn't think I was capable of it. But it's finally happened - I think it is safe to announce this important, irrevocable event in my life. Obviously I want all of you to be the first to know about it. In fact, I want to shout it from the heavens. And all over the internet too. I am in love with EDINBURGH.

London has always been my favourite city. Wherever I have travelled and whatever beautiful places I have seen, London has always felt like home and I didn't think anything was going to knock it off that top spot. But Edinburgh has managed it. I walked in and it just felt right. Like a breath of fresh air. This city has been waiting for me all this time and now I have finally woken up to it. There is so much history, beautiful views, stunning architecture, creativity (I was constantly surrounded by music and monuments to famous writers who found inspiration here too!), wonderful friendly people, there were quaint pubs and tea shops and hundreds of bookshops. Basically it is my idea of heaven.


As a staunch royalist, it shouldn't be that surprising to anyone that the royal offerings of Edinburgh were at the very top of my list to visit. So on the first morning, I sped up the Royal Mile and into the castle. Packed full of history, this huge castle was more like a mini walled village. It had so many different buildings to explore, the Scottish crown jewels, two prisons, the biggest war memorial I have ever seen and I even stood in the room where King James I (the first King of both Scotland and England) was born. I always find it so weird to think that millions and millions of people throughout hundreds of years have stood where I stood and walked where I am now walking. The magnitude of history can become a little overwhelming if you think like that.



I was thinking something similar when I was at Holyroodhouse Palace the following day. This is the Queen's Scottish palace (the equivalent to London's Buckingham Palace) where she spends a week to do all her Scottish business before heading up for her holiday at Balmoral. And as I walked those corridors, I found it amusing that the carpets had been rolled back away from where the public were allowed to walk. Can't have us commoners muddying her home, can we now?


The Royal Botanic Gardens were absolutely beautiful and a lot bigger than I was expecting. I was only going to spend a brief half hour to an hour in these before heading on down to the royal yacht. But they were so beautiful and there were so much more to them than I thought, that I actually spent most of the afternoon wandering around the peaceful gardens. Which meant I had to sacrifice seeing the inside of Royal Britannia but I still went along to the harbour to view it from the outside. Pretty big for a private yacht but this time I was disappointed on size - somehow in my head I was expecting a cruise liner and it wasn't quite that big. The gardens were much much more impressive. My favourite part, was the gorgeous Rock Garden where they had plants from all over the world at different levels. And right in the middle, towering above the lake, was a waterfall. Of course there was. The whole effect was stunning.





It is safe to say I did A LOT of walking when I was in Edinburgh. I had no idea that it was so hilly. It gave me a proper workout that's for sure and next time I visit I will definitely go to the gym for a month beforehand at the very least. I obviously explored the ground thoroughly, wandering all over the Old Town, the New Town, Stockbridge and the entirety of the Leith walk all the way down to the harbour (which was 2 miles each way, just saying!)




But I also made the effort to see the city from above. The castle was on a hill, well technically a volcano, giving me excellent views of the Old Town below and a bit of the New Town beyond. I climbed Calton Hill, which turned out to be an excellent idea as I met a lovely local who gave me advice on what I shouldn't miss during my explorations. Plus it gave me a slightly different angle on the town. And on the very first evening I climbed Arthur's Seat. Again, I wasn't fully prepared for this little trek. I mean, the hill is right in the centre of the city, how big could it actually be? Answer - it is HUGE. And climbing it in skinny jeans/little slippery ankle boots was not my cleverest plan ever. I think I would have been ok if it hadn't been for that. And the fact the 'steps' going up the side of it, should actually be known as 'little death traps that make you fall.' I can't believe I got both up and down them, all in one piece. It was totally worth it for the views of the sun going down over Edinburgh, though. It was truly beautiful and I don't think I have ever felt so content in all my life.


As I had seen so much of Edinburgh from above and at ground level, I had to complete the trio. It was only to make it neat and to ensure that I got the fullest view possible of the city. So I headed underground on the Mary King's Close Tour. I didn't really know what this was about, but it was, in fact, one of my favourite things that I did whilst I was there. All over Edinburgh there are these little alleyways that run down the hill away from the main streets. These are called Closes and the closes that we were being taken to visit were below the massive City Chambers building in the very centre of the city, right opposite St Giles Cathedral. They had originally existed as normal closes with people living in the houses. But when the City Chambers was to be built in their place, everyone was chucked out and they simply knocked off the top 3 or 4 storeys and plonked the building on top. So the closes still exist beneath the building. It was surreal to one minute be going down steps into what you think are going to be cellars and then to suddenly find yourself looking down a street. It's like an underground city. And it's these little quirks which made me fall in love with Edinburgh.


Another of the great things about Edinburgh which made me fall in love with it a little more, were all the literary connections. Considering that I had taken myself off on holiday in order to write, I really had managed to pick the perfect place. Every day I saw the Scott Monument (the largest monument to a writer every created); walked past the Balmoral Hotel where Dickens and JK Rowling both wrote masterpieces; sat in pubs and cafes that were frequented by authors and I'd arrived by the only train station in existence to be named after a novel. It was basically a writers' dreamland.



On top of that, there were SO MANY second hand bookshops there. Which of course I couldn't resist - it was definitely a case of eyes bigger than stomach kind of a thing. I bought far more than I could fit in my bag so I then had to buy another bag to lug them the 450 miles home. Oops. Oh well. I regret nothing.


I ended up dedicating the whole of my final day to bookshops and going on a proper tour so I could examine as many of them as I could find. I didn't want to leave any of them out, did I? I visited about 8 or 9 in all and they were all wonderful in their own unique way. One which was called Cabaret, was a weird mixture of homeware and books. So to reach the books, you had to go down this super steep spiral staircase. For a clumsy clot like me, it was an absolute death trap, especially because there were pictures and figurines alongside the staircase all the way down. It would have taken one tiny misstep for the whole lot to go flying. Armchair Books was my official heaven. Not only did they offer a student discount but there were just books everywhere you looked. The second you stepped inside, you were completely surrounded by them. It was wonderful.

I really can't believe that it has taken me such a long time to drag my ass up to Edinburgh. Sure it is a long way to go and extremely far out of this southern gal's comfort zone (like seriously, anything north of London is technically north right?) but this is one of the best trips I have ever been on. This city, with all it's creativity, gorgeous architecture and cute little cafes, is just so me. I will be back there for sure. And I definitely will be visiting the little Southern Cross Café lots more times when I return. When I am a bestselling author, I want a plaque attached to the wall going 'Charlotte Coster wrote her novel here'. Totally going to happen.

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