Monday, November 29, 2004

A weekend in Edinburgh - nowhere near enough!

The first thing that got my attention as we entered Edinburgh (especially with the wind blowing in the right direction) was the lovely aroma of roasting hops... a little like roasting coffee beans, but nowhere near as strong. I dont know and didnt get to find out if there was a brewery nearby that was the source of the aroma. It is very difficult to describe the fragrance - but I found it very, very nice and welcoming... it even gave the impression of warmth!

Warm it was not, though. The weather forecast for the weekend was dire - heavy rain, cold winds, falling temperature, general misery, according to the weatherman. This nearly got me depressed, until Pete reminded me that weather forecasts arent renowned for accuracy. Too right they arent, and thank goodness for that! True, it WAS windy and cold (but it's winter, it's allowed) but it didnt rain. Not much, at any rate. The rain didnt keep away the 44,000 people who turned out to watch the rugby match. It certainly didnt stop the players - especially the South Africans. (They beat the Scotland team 44-10)!

Actually I was quite taken aback by just how MANY South Africans there were. Our hotel was full of them, the streets were full of them, the bars were full of them... at one point I began to wonder where the Scottish rugby fans had gone! Everywhere I looked, there were green-and-yellow hats and scarves and rugby shirts with the leaping springbok logo. Every pub we went to, we heard the distinctive South African accent, sounding a bit like a squashed Australian twang! They must have descended on Edinburgh in absolute droves for the match. It almost seemed like 40,000 of the official 44,000-strong audience at the stadium was South African! That said, their faith in the SA team was more than justified by the players' performance. I'm not surprised the Scots went and hid themselves...

Edinburgh is a surprisingly beautiful city. The New Town area is full of Georgian buildings, big open squares and tree-lined avenues. (It doesnt look very English... but I guess the Scots would say that it ISNT English - it's Scottish!). Edinburgh looks like it would be more at home in Europe because of the architecture in the New Town, and the shape of its castles and towers in the Old Town - spiky and Gothic.

The Royal Mile, a fantastic boulevard in the middle of the oldest part of Edinburgh, has the 7th century castle at one end and the beautiful stone Holyrood Palace at the other. All down the boulevard are buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, townhouses that havent had their outline changed at all, so that some of them hang a bit drunkenly over the street at first-storey level. The splendidly Gothic St Giles Cathedral is about midway on the Royal Mile in the Lawnmarket area, its almost-black towers and spires looming dark and spiky over the other buildings.

It's just a shame that the buildings are mostly gloomy and black on the outside - and it's not that the stone is that colour. It's just the accumulation of what appears to be hundreds of years of dirt and pollution... if only they could be cleaned, the buildings would be right at home in Paris, THE home of beautifully buffed, biscuity-brown buildings!

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