After a good deal of badgering, the way boys tend to do, Phoudy finally got around to organizing this year’s guycation. After an elaborate selection process Edinburgh got the nod for our customary city visit.
A sophisticated selection system was needed first of all because so many guys put in their two cents worth, second, because the wives had to inject a few choice words, too, and, above all, because we had a few specialists who early on voted for a certain destination but then decided to bow out. And so it went…
Picturesque Scottish Edinburgh
So, we were unsure if easyJet would deposit us in Scotland or in the UK. We made a safe landing anyway. Fortunately!
And it absolutely had to be easyJet from Basel, because a couple of the guys didn’t want to get up for the early Swiss Air flight from Zurich. So that meant having to transport the Wild Bunch to Basel. Nine by number, as it turned out. Because Nick did take Swiss after all and Dan had to manage his son’s first day at school so he would follow later. For Lou, Olivier and I, the whole thing got too hectic, and we made do with the train’s restaurant car. So pleasant and comfortable!
I’m still mystified today how Dan subsequently found us in a bar in Edinburgh. But then Phoudy had found his way out of Ko Pha Ngan by the red China Sea all by himself after we had lost him somewhere in the trackless jungle. But that’s another story…
Back to Edinburgh: here we were in a neatly laid-out town with lots of cobblestoned streets, cheap taxis and plenty of whisky tasting.
We followed protocol and right away made whisky our number one priority and our first stop the venerable Scotch Whisky Excellence. Aptly, we conveniently had to make our way through a tantalizing whisky shop to get to the tasting bar and the Amber Restaurant.
Dinner in the Amber Restaurant (and Bar)
Once lined up at the bar for before-dinner drinks, we faced the agony of choice: try one of the countless beers or go straight for the even more countless whiskies? There are certain kinds that they decant to stimulate the appetite, such as Isle of Jura for example. That’s what I went for; as for the rest of the guys, some went for this and some went for that. It was all good.
We kept it going in the restaurant conveniently located right next door. Here, too, they offered a Scottish tasting menu, with no less than five courses. For starters, there were Scottish tapas with fabulous names like Haggis Bon Bons or Potted Hough.
Well, we felt like highlanders in no time at all, and after a little Cullen Skink soup we followed up with Castle of Mey beef and West Coast langoustines in whisky butter on carrot rösti for our main courses.
We found out: The Tartans polish off their obligatory oatcakes with a selection of Iain Mellis cheeses: Grimbister, Auld Reekie and Lanark Blue are the robust names on the cheese board. And, finally, to round out the whole thing, they dish up a preserved raspberry and whisky liqueur ice cream bombe topped with a wafer and sugar cone. Cheers!
Raising the general merriment to another level, no, make that to the “off-the-meter noise level”, the 11 of us were joined by roughly 16 lads not averse to yelling battle cries who were also on a Scottish guys-only trip. Whether they were Unionists or Separatists or their swearing had some other explanation regrettably escaped me; not being fluent in High Scots, I didn’t understand a word…
From their antics it was easy to surmise, however, why they call a bad tackle on flankers in the soccer pitch penalty box the “Scottish half-high.” Thanks loads!
After a fitting nightcap, it was back to our plush lodgings.
Noble lodgings in the Old Town Chambers
Trip organizer Phoudy did not trip up AT ALL by having us billeted right around the corner from the Parliament building in some stylishly renovated apartments, the Old Town Chambers. These two huge apartments came with lofts and all the necessaries. It was only right, I mean, after he made us ride into New York City in that stretch limo…
The central location is outstanding, since it is halfway insulated acoustically by a courtyard. Well, ok, with emphasis on “halfway,” for like the other Northern Lights, they are known for having rather large glasses and big thirsts here, so that, on weekend nights, there would occasionally be a fair amount of revelry going on. Especially since we lived right by a steep flight of stairs…
The apartments do come with kitchen and dining nooks. But for people like us who do not want to fill up the refrigerator for just a weekend, there is morning coffee and brioche to be had around the corner at Café Nero.
But I suggest skipping the Italian and instead reserving a real hearty Scottish breakfast with the Frenchman in the Patisserie Valerie. It will help with possible alcoholic hangovers from the previous night and help ease you through the day!
Things to see in Edinburgh
Of course, the Castle that is visible from everywhere is a must-see. Especially since all sorts of curiosities line the Royal Mile to the Castle. And by that I don’t mean the sturdy gentlemen in their tartan kilts, but the guys in their (fore) short (ened) jeans…
Also worth seeing is Rose Street, one of a set of streets laid out in a chessboard pattern by James Craig in the year 1767 with separate access roads. Today, it is lined first with shops and then farther down with restaurants. Depending on which end you start from…
For a change of scenery, head for George Street, which runs parallel to Rose Street, and dive into Tigerlily, a stylish watering hole done in pink. Evenings, the tables are mostly taken by the ladies. Could it be because of the lilac tones? But probably the logic at work here is this: Take lots of pink and lilac to attract gentle femininity; once the word gets around, the boys will show up automatically (regardless).
Besides the restaurant and bar, there are also 33 elegant suites and rooms. Once again, there’s plenty of lilac for those partial to it.
Also of interest, especially for fans of the Queen and Sir Sean Connery – or for architecture freaks like us – is the Queen’s Residence, the Holyroodhouse Palace and particularly the adjoining ruin of Holyrood Abbey dating from 1128. It became cannon fodder for the English in the 18th century and since then serves as an unusual photo subject. Still fancy!
But be warned that before you can grope your way to the spectacular ruin, you first have to show your heels to the Royal Palace with its collection of the Queen’s chambers. And wouldn’t you know, Sean Connery was knighted in the Great Gallery! Or are knights knighted and sirs named? #whatever
Be sure also to make an excursion to the harbor district. Take a taxi or, like us, get chauffeured in Nick’s Mercedes limo with Pädu as navigator with an iPhone whose battery went dead and assisted by me with Android phone with battery but without data roaming.
Despite this, we of course made our way there masterfully and caught the sunset just in time. And also for our aperitif in the Loch Fyne seafood restaurant we scarfed up or rather slurped down some oysters. After all, we indulge so infrequently…
And that’s all he wrote!
Have good flight home everyone!