Thursday, 4 April 2013

Easter in Edinburgh (and a mini-guide to the city)

Anyone who's been to Edinburgh will surely agree with me when I saw that it is a beautiful city. Its distinctive architecture and undoubtedly Scottish feel make it a lovely city in which to spend a long weekend, and that's exactly what I did this Easter.

Luckily for me, one of my bezzie Ms from school, Emily, is a student at Edinburgh Uni, so I was lucky enough to be able to stay with her. Hoorah for having friends at universities all round the UK! Note to self: make the effort to visit more people.

So I spent a delightful few days in Edinburgh, managing to see and do all the city's main offerings as well as eating myself silly with Easter treats, relaxing and catching up with old friends. I tell you what: going out is over-rated. Never have I had more fun playing Twister than I did last weekend - there were seven of us, all contorted into highly amusing positions. It was a sure-fire way of getting to know Emily's flatmates, I'll tell you that, and I was genuinely aching the next day. Twister totally counts as exercise, right?

We also amused ourselves playing Boggle and drinking games despite being sober (surprisingly still hilarious when you're on a sugar high), and watching our fave childhood films. The Swan Princess, anyone? Oh, and there was a LOT of eating.

Everyone knows that baking has never been more in vogue, and this was demonstrated nicely when my other friend Ellie and I arrived at Emily's with baked offerings, only to find Emily's housemates had baked up a large selection themselves. We had Mars bar rice krispie nest cakes, chocolate cornflake nests, Simnel cake, my chocolate banana brownies and homemade cheesecake filled Creme eggs. Then the next day Eva made apple pie. It was EPIC.

This isn't where the feasting ended though, oh no. On Easter Sunday itself, Emily's flatmates pulled out all the stops for a slap-up amazing lunch. We had roast lamb (I'm not even usually a lamb fan but this was delish), cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes, leeks and caramelised carrots. Then home-made trifle. Considering we're all students, is that not rather impressive? It was such a treat and so nice of Emily's housemates.

I think it's important to make the effort to make things nice. For example, little touches like daffodils on the table and Easter chicks all over the flat (we discovered them in the funniest locations) really make things special and bring a smile to people's faces.

But enough about our Easter festivities... What did I do (and what do I recommend you do) in Edinburgh? I wasn't able to visit that much in just a few days (what with all the eating, obvs), but as I've had some touchingly positive feedback on all my travel guides thus far, I figured I might as well share the good things I found.

A mini-guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle
The city's not huge so it's easy enough to walk around. Despite it still being freezing last weekend, the sunshine made it bearable. Edinburgh Castle is probably the city's most famous tourist attraction, and is well worth a visit. You have to pay to actually go in so natch I didn't, but it's still beautiful to look at from the outside.

Arguable the best-known street in Edinburgh, the Royal Mile connects the Castle to Holyrood Palace, which is where the Queen stays when she visits Scotland's capital. Lined with touristy shops, stalls and street entertainers, it's an interesting, bustling street down which to walk.

Cockburn Street
If you're a fan of pretty streets (and who isn't? No-one likes an ugly street), I can also recommend taking a stroll down the picturesque Cockburn Street, just off the Royal  Mile. Beautifully cobbled, you'll find little boutiques and cafés in which to amuse yourself.

However, if high-street chain shops are more you're cup of tea (and hey, I'm not judging - sometimes we all need a Primark spree), you want to head to Princes Street. It's effectively Edinburgh's Oxford Street, except rather than being lined with shops on both sides, one side is open, giving a spectacular view of the Castle. Always nice to have a castle to look at whilst indulging in a spot of retail therapy, am I right? You'll find all the main chains, as well as touristy shops and Jenners, Edinburgh's oldest department store.

If you go up one block up the hill from Princes Street, you'll find Rose Street running parallel, which is a cute pedestrianised street full of eateries and yet more shops. One more block up and you'll find George Street, which is home to some of Edinburgh's snazziest shops - think Hobbs, Jaeger, and just off George Street in St Andrews Square, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton and the like. Obvs I (sadly) did not purchase anything from said area.

We made it to the top of Arthur's Seat
For a break from city life, a climb up Arthur's Seat (the largest in a group of hills) is a must. It's not exactly an easy stroll (or maybe I'm just horribly unfit), but the views of the city and the sea as you climb higher and higher, and then eventually when you get to the top, are spectacular. I felt like I was in One Day. There were also some nutters jogging up it. Considering I was puffing as I walked, this was very impressive.

lunch at Rotato!
Foodwise, my friends took us to some lovely eateries. One of which was Rotato: a really unique little café, offering purely jacket potatoes, but all spit-roasted creating a yummy crispy skin and with amazing, inventive toppings. For example, we all had the "Vespa": pesto chicken, mozzarella, cheddar and rocket. It was DELISH.

Another great restaurant we frequented was Bar Kohl, a cool cocktail bar stroke burger joint with something of a diner-ish vibe. I love a good diner, and I had a very good burger (with chunky chips and coleslaw.) And honestly, I've never seen such an impressive cocktail menu. Incred concoctions on offer there.

White chocolate caramel shortbread from Peckham's
You may think that given how much we'd all baked I wouldn't have gone out for afternoon tea at all, but no, I still managed to squeeze in a piece of cake in a fabulous café slash deli, Peckham's. Apparently it's a Scottish chain which explains why I'd never seen it before. As well as offering unusual foodie finds, they also do brunch, soups and lasagne to eat in. Yum!

And I think that's about all I have to say about Edinburgh. Phew! It's lovely. Go visit.

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