I was to write from Edinburgh but I got lazy. This isn’t unexpected, as you all know by now. This introspective process of writing belongs to people who are content with retiring to quietude to reflect and ponder. How was I to find any quiet time when my companion on my trip was my mother? My mother is an extremely bright, slightly opinionated, profoundly philosophical and incredibly funny. She is also not only a woman of many words but also one who refuses to leave the obvious unspoken. You might say then that the apple truly does not fall too far from the tree because between the two of us we say everything that can ever be said about anything the bulk of our daylight hours are well expended in the process.
This holiday was one that we had wanted to take ever since the storks visited me 12 years ago. A dozen years, as you might reckon, is a long time to put anything off. Things might have turned out slightly different had we taken this trip together, just the two of us, in say 2002. For one, we might have been more curious and also more fascinated, we would have consumed more alcohol and burnt it off with ease, lesser time would have been spent in erasing fine lines from photographs and more on exploring and finally, we would under no circumstances have purchased a hand made anti-ageing cream at the local market.
As it turns out this was 2015 and our priorities and skin texture had changed with the passage of time which had rendered us not only older but also wiser, thankfully. The forts and the castles from the medieval period, to us were now mere edifices. Structures constructed of stone and cold, trapped air where intrigue, love and deception thrived and so did death. Hence, without bothering to go too much into details we managed to conclude our sightseeing with the clear intention of ensuring we clicked each other from the most flattering angles that our respective ages would permit.
I last traveled to Edinburgh nearly 15 years ago and was pleased to see that a lot had changed in the Scottish capital since then, except the weather of course. It was 11 degrees C at the height of summer and I had to resist the temptation of draping myself in tartan from head to toe. Also had to desist from buying cashmere stoles with fox fur trimmings because it was unlikely the fox had died a natural death in order for the stole to me made.
So coming back to Edinburgh, it has become more cosmopolitan and lively since I last visited and it also has also opened its doors to various cuisines from around the world instead of the same old Scottish stuff. The sight of Starbucks is and always will be an eyesore but that apart, aspects of this Scottish capital are far livelier today than how I remembered them.
What I like best about Edinburgh is that if you move a few things around, you might as well be transported back to the medieval era, what with its gothic stone structures, spired churches, endless cobbled streets and dark and narrow alleys. Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde that was conceived by RL Stevenson in Edinburgh was loosely based on the life of a local resident of the city apparently. Even today, one can actually sense murderers, homicidal psychopaths and ghosts lurking around the streets of the city.
This city is by itself a veritable museum. Every statue, every structure here has a historic aura about it. Not surprising given that Edinburgh was inhabited since the Bronze Age and was home to the Celts, then the Romans and finally Scots and it gives you a sense that its air is still pregnant with ghosts of that era along with all the other historically dramatic periods that it has endured.
This historic city has given the world of science and literature, among others, names like Samuel Johnson, Sir Walter Scott, RL Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Darwin, Graham Bell, Irvin Welsh, Alexander McCall Smith, JK Rowling. The interesting thing is that you can visit the resting places of most of the famous people from the city that have passed, if you are into that sort of a thing. During the hop off –hop on tour one passed by building where Sean Connery posed naked for art students, where Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone, RL Stevenson was born and the café where JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter. However, most of my joy at receiving this information atop that bus was marred by a loud Bengali lady who had no interest in the commentary on the city but was busy talking to her family back home at very high decibels. I had uncivil thoughts about bonking her on her head with my umbrella but desisted as bad karma and mother reminding me that I am a Buddhist. Realized not for the first time how hard it is to remember that I am Buddhist under such trying circumstances.
I tried to focus hard on the charm of the historic Royal Mile for the rest of the ride and managed to forget about Bengali lady momentarily. Later some lager at the Albanac Bar helped me forget about Bengali lady permanently.
So yes, Scotland is filled with mystery and intrigue and the castles and fortresses made in stone only heighten this effect in Edinburgh. It is intact, exactly the kind of city where you might find a witch riding a broomstick after sunset. This is something that would not look out of the ordinary in this city.
Speaking of intrigue, I walked past the City of Dead Tours kiosk several times before I picked the nerve to sign up for their late night walks through catacombs and graveyards. Mother was obviously not going to accompany me on this ghostly excursion but I was determined.
Just as I was about to pay up for the tour, it occurred to me that I ought to Google the reviews of the spooky walk. Turns out, there is a real poltergeist down there in the dark passages who goes by the name of Mackenzie that lead to the catacombs and on many occasions it has attacked curious tourists, haunted them and so on and so forth. It seems to be the most convincing case of supernatural occurrences in the world. The last thing on earth I wanted was to be posthumously featured in the Daily Mail under headline ‘(Middle aged) Indian tourist found dead in Edinburgh graveyard. Another victim of entity called Mackenzie’. Plus the rain had frizzed up my hair and my pictures would have been anything but flattering under those circumstances.
With such concerns in mind, I beat a hasty retreat towards the hotel.
You can read more about Mackenzie here http://www.cityofthedeadtours.com/the-mackenzie-poltergeist/
Among other things Edinburgh was a wonderful opportunity to not only spend time with the mother but also to catch up on sleep because as I realized, when you go on vacation with your mother, regardless of your age, you are put to bed by 9 pm.
Here is a list of the best pubs and restaurants in Edinburgh according to yours truly.
Pubs: Albanach Bar, Jolly Judge Pub, The Mitre, The World’s End
Restaurants: La Favorita (Best Pizzas), The Witchery (Destination dining), Castle Terrace, The Mosque Kitchen (No fuss, Delish canteen style), Mother India’s Cafe (finger licking Indian) David Bann (eclectic pure vegetarian)