Scotland — A Tour in Words

A number of things struck me about this fair land during the first month I was here. Maybe they’ll strike you too. They’re in rough chronological order.

Edinburgh buildings

Most buildings in the Old Town near our flat are very old.

Our flat was built in 1595. They all look old and weathered but very cool.

Beer

This means ale here. I started asking for lager (Staropramen, from Prague, is delicious), though I’ve developed a taste for beer now

Restaurants

Restaurants and cafés are about the same price as Australia for lunches, but more expensive at dinner. Fortunately, most seem to have table d’hote (cheap fixed price) menus as well.

More buildings

For all the money and offices in Embra, there are no skyscrapers or office towers in the city centre. Yay!

Pounds

I’m still not used to pounds vs. dollars. All money sums seem smaller. “What do you mean, only 25,000 a year?”

Supermarkets

The local supermarket (Tesco’s) has a surprisingly good selection of fruits and especally prepared vegetables. It also has haggis (fresh, and TV dinner style). Prices are similar to Australia and NZ, except a few items like meat (even beef!) that are more expensive.

Rain

So far it has rained only very lightly, for about an hour or two at a time. Mostly I don’t need an umbrella; just a coat. It’s surprisingly easy just to walk around in the rain and not get significantly wet.

Accents

Of course there are lots of Scots accents here. But foreign accents of all kinds are everywhere – nobody bats an eyelid at my accent. This is a very cosmopolitan town. Either that, or it’s just full of tourists.

Shops

The more I walk around, the more I see that there are huge numbers of cafés and funky shops as well as pubs. Cool!

Scotspeak

For some reason, the people here with the really thick accents are the ones who speak the fastest. Sometimes it’s hard even to understand “hello”.

Walking

Everything is close by (since I’m in the middle of the city) so I walk everywhere. My poor legs; I have never walked this much before.

Antiques

The Causewayside area has an amazing number of antique, curio, bric-a-brac, etc. shops. You could fill a house with treasure or junk so easily.

My flat

People come and go all the time; something to do with the restaurant downstairs. Very busy, even with only five flats.

Offices

So many workplaces here seem to be so “open-plan” that there’s no reception area. When you walk in, you can see everybody in the office sitting at their desks. Weird.

Food

The quality and variety of pre-prepared foods here (particularly at Marks & Spencers) amazes me. Everything from predone ingredients to entire meals. It almost takes away the incentive to cook. Almost.

Pubs and restaurants

We’re going to have to make a concerted effort to get to know them; there are so many, and so many good ones. Wollongong was a famine; this is a feast.

View

The view of the New Town, from above the Mound over Princes Street Gardens, is gorgeous. Fields, trees, old buildings, Northern sky: stunning.

Visa

It’s amazing how many big shops (e.g. Marks & Spencer and John Lewis) don’t accept payment by Visa. (It’s not quite “everywhere I want to be.”) I might as well just leave home without it.

Latte

People understand “café au lait” here, but I suspect “latte” sometimes just means “hot milky drink”. Stands to reason, I suppose.

Groceries

Lots of brands market their full range of products here. For example, Lea & Perrins don’t just make Worcestershire Sauce; they have an almost Heinzian variety. We only saw the tip of the iceberg down south.

Crowds

The city is small but condensed, hence crowded. Still, amazing how easy it is to get a table in most places at lunchtime.

Night

The streets are full of revelling students every night.

Late night shopping

Late night in town is Thursday, but shops only open till about 8pm!

Banoffee pie

Is it an Edinburgh speciality? Or Scottish? Or British? Anyway, it’s tasty! Nothing beats the flavour sensation when the banana collides with the toffee and caramel.

Auld Reekie

An old (very) name for this town. A faint aroma of cat food permeates on some days; a nearby brewery or distillery, perhaps?

“Outwith”

I had never heard this word before coming to Edinburgh. Now I’ve heard and seen it many times. It’s so ugly!

Hallowe’en

This involved plagues of little kids in costume accosting us in restaurants asking for money. Little toads.

Pizza

There’s a chain called “Pizza Express”. Six pounds for a lunchtime mini-pizza?!

Snow

Snow, snow, snow. Little white happy flakes of fun. I love it. You can tell I’m new in town.

Haggis

Much like a stuffed roast turkey, without the turkey. In a word, delicious. In fact, McSween’s vegetarian haggis (now there’s a conceptual nightmare) is also incredibly yummy.

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