Every year that we’ve lived in Qatar, we have taken the yearly travel stipend offered by our employer and tried to squeeze as many flights out of it as possible. So this year, while booking our flights home for the summer, Cheapoair generated a flight with a six-hour layover in Edinburgh. I was crazy excited by this and immediately started to figure out what we could do in six hours. While I was doing tailspins about this, my husband was on his computer calmly tweaking and adjusting search criteria and within minutes told me that for an additional $200 we could make that layover last a week! Um…yeah!
The serendipity didn’t stop there! The timing was perfect!
Edinburgh is the home of the original Fringe Festival and is still the world’s largest Fringe. This year we would be landing in Edinburgh smack in the middle of the three week festival. I couldn’t believe our luck.
The Fringe Festival, if you don’t know, is a huge performing arts blow-out that covers every imaginable genre. Music, acting, acrobatics, spoken word, drama, comedy, cabaret…you name it!
Several times during the summer I was on the Fringe website trying to pick out some tickets for shows we might like to see. The sheer number of them was overwhelming and I never did pick anything. When we got to Edinburgh, the overwhelming-ness did not go away.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about last year’s Fringe Festival: “The 2014 Fringe issued an estimated 2,183,591 tickets for 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows (of which 1,789 were world premieres), in 299 venues over 25 days. There were an estimated 23,732 performers from 51 countries participating. There were 607 free shows.”
No wonder we were overwhelmed!
We only allotted one weekend in the city but did manage to see 3 performances. One, meh, so-so comedian and two absolutely incredible plays.
*This play was by and about South Africans. It was a deep nuanced look at racial, economic and historical tensions.*
This is the largest street festival of its kind in the world.
We came across random piano players in the park, musicians of all kinds in the streets, magicians, artists performing optical illusions and much more. Pub lunches were always accompanied by live music.
*Watching this girl was mesmerizing. She had the thickest accent of anyone I met in Scotland, yet when she opened her mouth to sing her country and western songs…she had a southern twang like someone born in Nashville.*
On one afternoon, when I was too tired to walk anymore and Dave was going to nap in the park, I plunked myself on a park bench just happy to people watch for a while.
And what a show I got.
*This was the view from my park bench*
It wasn’t long before a young man arrived and set up to busk. Just him and his guitar. He was very good and even though it was only mid-afternoon, the crowd was already fairly inebriated and lively. There were people dancing right from his first song, girls trying to sing into his mike and dancing with him (let’s just say up-close-and-personal) and generally making it hard for him to focus.
I couldn’t have asked for a better belly laugh. At times my newly formed bench-friends and I were in tears laughing. When he confessed to the crowd that this was his first time busking, the crowd went crazy. Then he told them he had come all the way from Toronto Canada. Bradly Mitchell from Toronto was the only lone guitarist I heard busking. As I left, I tossed my contribution into his guitar case in the form of a Canadian bill (represent!)…to which he lit up. Way to go home-boy.
My final thought about Edinburgh? A weekend is NOT enough. A week designated to the Fringe Festival would be more appropriate and it does not have to be expensive. Most of the entertainment is very reasonably priced and lots of shows are free. One of the most touristy things we ever do in a new city is the Hop-On Hop-Off busses. This gives an overview of the city so you can figure out what exactly you want to see and then it provides the transportation to get you there (14 GBP).
Minimize accommodation expenses by staying in an Airbnb. Especially if you’re visiting with the expressed purpose of hitting the town every day from morning until night and only need a place to sleep. This is where we stayed in Edinburgh. Our hosts were very helpful with directions, where to eat, what to see, where to get tickets etc etc.
Next time maybe we’ll just go for the Fringe…we’ll see. But this time, we had more to see and do so we pulled ourselves away.
Next we’re heading for the north of Scotland. The Isle of Skye.
Last year at exactly this time, our daughter went to live and work on Skye for a month. She gave us a list of things to see and do there.
Have you been to Edinburgh? What did you see? What did you think?
Here are some more random pictures. The pictures, by the way, are almost always taken by David.
*The castle. Right in the middle of the city. It was just incredible.*
*Apparently the nose on this dog was lucky to touch. Every year the paint gets worn off the nose and every year they repaint it. For the first time, they’ve decided to stop painting it. I like the gold nose.*
*Coffee break. Look at that gorgeous tart! And a handsome man too.*
*I love plaid. It always catches my eye. It’s so disappointing to me that the Douglas plaid is really pretty much the worst one.*
*Long days of walking ended with scenarios like this. This was really nice because it advertised (and delivered) gluten free pizza. Nice treat for me.*