Edinburgh, United Kingdom
55° 57' N 3° 12' W
Jun 24, 2007 14:58
Distance 536km

Text written in: English

Haggis and Cobblestones

On the 12th of June we left London for Scotland.  The train journey was scenic, we would describe it as green, green and more GREEN.  The day we arrived in Edinburgh will be etched in our memories as a very chilly summer's day.  Donned in shorts and t-shirts with our ridiculous quantities of gear we wandered around to find the exit from Waverley station.  The last thing we wanted to see was stairs, but there they were - 100's if not 1000's of steps to get to Princes St.  Jude was very glad she did not end up doing a turtle impression in this location.  When we reached the street, exhausted, we were hit with the icy wind.  We dropped our packs and wondered where this famous castle was?  All it took was turning around, and there, filling the landscape it was!  It didn't take long and our buddy Danni was there to meet us, help us get to one of those black British cabs, which, amazingly has a LOT of space in it as all three of us AND our gear fitted!!!!

After the first two days of being here, Mike had a job offer, Jude had interviews lined up and we started looking for apartments.  Things happen quickly over here! 

Mike will be working for the Edinburgh Grontmij office - a global engineering consultancy specializing in transportation, energy, water and wastewater (generally all things civil).  They will also be seconding him three days a week to Scottish Water in Dundee.  Thus begins Mike's career as "Civil Water Engineer".

Danni and Dion did their best to introduce us to the very best that Scotland has to offer.  We have now tried the following:

  • Oat Cakes - oat type crackers eaten with cheese
  • Haggis - Various innards mashed into a mince consistency mixed with spices, herbs and of course oats, shaped into balls and stuffed into a sheep stomach - YUM?  Jude being a non red meat eater got away with not trying this but was informed there is a vegetarian variety.
  • Tea Cakes - not exactly what they sound like.  Imagine a mallow puff, but when you take your first bite, your teeth sink really easily into the white fluff underneath the chocolate - Scottish marshmallow maybe?  It is a taste explosion!
  • Crème Eggs - I'm sure these are available here at Easter, but right now they are available as a bar!  A dream come true for Crème egg lovers - but don't get caught with egg on your face!
  • The Walkabout - Edinburgh's kiwi and aussie hang out spot.  We spent our first Friday night here, jamming with superheroes!  Oh yeah.
  • MYO - Otherwise known as "Make Your Own".  The best sandwich/salad bar ever.  There is every topping you can imagine available for your sandwich, panini or wrap.  You can even have salad, soup or baked potato if you'd rather, and you make it all yourself.  Cheap, healthy and we love it!
  • A wee dram - a shot of Drambuie.  A definite winter warmer and very tasty!

After only 10 days here, we have decided that the Scots are very friendly people (when you can understand what it is they are saying).  There have been times when we have had to listen very hard to figure out whether people were speaking a foreign language or whether it was in fact English.  We have also learned that in this country:
pants = undies AND
napkin = sanitary pad. 
Therefore, if you ask for a napkin for the spill you've had on your pants, you are likely to get a VERY strange look.  What you need to ask for is a serviette for your trousers!

The Scottish are always prepared with their umbrellas.  When the rain begins, they always pull them out.  Needless to say, we have now figured out why Scotland is so green.  After all, William Wallace in Braveheart did warn us about the "good Scottish weather", and he wasn't kidding.  But as the saying goes, if you don't like the weather just wait 15 minutes.  You truly do get four seasons in one day - it makes for a bit of excitement trying to guess what will happen next.

Jude's first interview was in Grangemouth which is a 37 minute bus ride from Edinburgh.  On the journey out there, the rain began.  Jude was not prepared with her raincoat or umbrella.  She didn't realise that when she got off the bus there would be a 20 minute walk to the office where the interview was.  She was panicking a little when it got to 10 minutes before the interview time and she couldn't figure out where the reception was.  Asking a man near the entrance to an office block she got told she was standing right at the door!  So, looking more like a drowned rat than a person (or a turtle) she presented herself to the receptionist, who promptly showed her the bathroom.  This was followed by a thorough grilling by two senior engineers!  How depressing.  The next day she was informed she got the job so all was well in the end!!

One of our more exciting moments was a guided evening stroll through the Holyrood Park.  After about 15 minutes, (you guessed it) it started raining.  Hard.  The rain was accompanied by very loud thunder and even a bit of lightning.  One of the more impressive displays Mike and Jude have witnessed.  At this very moment, the guide decided to stop the group to point out some geographical features of the area.  Very informative but when we had to move again we all looked like we were doing some kind of robot manoeuvre as our icy wet "pants" hit our legs.  Brrrr.  As soon as it had started, the rain stopped again and all the creatures came out to play.  An array of birds and rabbits.  In this country rabbits and also NZ's dreaded gorse are actually loved and protected - this is definitely going to take some getting used to.  Following our walk, we headed up the Royal Mile.  This is an approximately mile long street between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood.  This street is loaded with pubs, cafes, Scottish paraphernalia shops selling anything from Lochness t-shirts to bagpipes.  There are also more guided ghost and underground tours than you would want to do in a lifetime.  This particular evening dinner was at the Royal Mile tavern.  When we emerged for the walk home at 10.30pm, the sun was still up.  We will have to enjoy this while it lasts as in winter the days supposedly have only 6-7 hours of sunlight. 

We have also taken part in an underground tour of Mary King's Close where they tried to scare us with a few pathetic ghost stories.  The history of the place is definitely interesting, but I'm glad that in this day and age we have engineers to sort out a proper sewer, stormwater and water system (Go Mike).  In the 1600s the toilet buckets were simply emptied into the streets each day and left to run into the local Loch Nor.  Known today as the Princes Street gardens where we have enjoyed a couple of picnic lunches - mmmm nice.  No wonder that grass is so green and the flowers are growing so beautifully.  There is a bountiful supply of compost under there somewhere!

From the beginning we have been caught up in the immense quantity of history in this city.  Even the "New Town" is hundred of years old.  In the old town all the streets are cobbled and have closes (tiny wee streets) everywhere which when explored show a glimpse of how life may have been in the early days of Edinburgh when 600 people were packed into an area the size of the kiwi ¼ acre section. 

Very soon we will be moving in to our new apartment.  About a year ago we were living in the suburb of Bellevue in Tauranga.  Now that we are on the other side of the world we will be living on Bellevue Rd.  It's a small world.  Anyone coming over this way, be warned.  Bring as many references as you possibly can and snap up the good looking apartments as quick as you can.  They go quick here especially in the summer.  Ideally we should be looking after the August festival.  Out mates might have a heart attack if we suggested moving in with them until then.

Our last note for this journal is VICTORY IS SWEET.  Today the All Blacks beat the Safas on their home turf.  When you are in a bar full of South Africans on the other side of the world the patriotism kicks in and EVERYONE belts out the national anthem and cheers at the top of their lungs when any points are scored.  You should really all try it sometime... we just hope victory comes our way next Saturday against Australia.

Mike and Jude's Mission Number 2: To search for Nessie

Photos / videos of "Haggis and Cobblestones":

This castle is our focus point.  You cannot get lost in Edinburgh because you can always see the castle.  It means you always know which direction you are looking in!  Farewell directionless Jude... Beyond Princes Gardens you can see the old town.  As we said - the gardens are VERY green (a result of the brilliant 50 year old compost). This photo was taken just before we hit Edinburgh town on our first Friday night here.  Dion, Cathy, Danni, Mike and Jude.  All from the mighty NZ! We just had to get a pic with these guys.  Out on a stag night, they looked fab dressed as our favourite heros... haha The taxis here are fantastic.  At least 5 people fit in the back with the extra fold down seats. Our fry up on Saturday morning included the famous Scottish Haggis.  Mike was not a fan and the was too much red meat in it for Jude... we'll keep you posted once we try the vegetarian version. This pic was after our walk through Holyrood Park one evening.  Just after the thunderstorm the park looked awesome and all the animals and birds came out! A much earned beer at the Royal Mile Tavern after our entertaining and wet evening walk through Edinburghs largest park.  We were stoked to get somewhere nice and warm after complete saturation in the thunderstorm.  Cheers. Walking home at 10.30pm while almost broad daylight is completey normal in Edinburgh.  It will be opposite in the winter though!!! Atop Calton Hill is the National Monument.  Pretty impressive sized pillars, but it is a national embarrassment as it was built using public funds in 1822 and never completed as they run dry!  We were impressed none the less. Mike and the view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill.  The castle just sneaks into the photo at the top left hand side.