Edinburgh Travel Guide
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With the Starz series Outlander about to debut, there is more interest than ever in the books which inspired the show, not to mention the Scotland locations where both are set.
There are several tour companies throughout Scotland now offering Outlander tours, including Vacation Scotland's Outlandish Adventures, a 7-day exploration of book locations, from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye.
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Yang Guang limbers up
Maybe Edinburgh is that kinda town, because it wasn’t just Richard Branson getting frisky in Scotland last week; bumping Little Red’s arrival down the news agenda were the two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, whose slow and steady journey to mating season has been vicariously lapped up by the British press.
Not because they’re creeps, see; but because a panda pregnancy will be a feat against all the oddsthe female is in season for just 48 hours. Also, the couple have only known each other for just over a year, so although it’s not quite celebrity speed, it’s pretty quick. Last year, they tried to breed unsuccessfully. This year, we were told when we visited last week, Tian Tian has been calling to Yang Guang with “much more urgency,” making the scientists think they might just hit the jackpot.
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Remember a couple of years back when Richard Branson lost a bet with Air Asia’s CEO Tony Fernandes, which meant he was going to have to dress up as a female flight attendant? That may not have come to fruitionalthough, according to Fernandes, the time is nighbut he went one step
better worse further early this morning at Scotland's Edinburgh Airport.
Launching Little Red, Virgin Atlantic’s domestic UK service and a major step for the airline, Branson donned a kilt and then dressed down by flashing us.
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There’s a little bit of a controversy brewing at Scotland's Edinburgh Airport, but it has nothing to do with baggage fees or airport security. This time it’s an airport advertisement that’s getting passengers all hot and bothered.
On loan from the collections of the Tate over in London, Picasso’s Nude Woman in a Red Armchair is now on the wall at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. An airport advertisement was just trying to get people excited for the new exhibit and to sell some tickets, but apparently the "provocative" display of modern art is not appropriate for an airport—at least according to some passengers.
The dining room at 21212
Haggis, deep-fried Mars bars, mushy peas…the Scottish haven't really been known for their contributions to the culinary world. On our recent visit to Edinburgh, though, we found all that was changing thanks to a slew of new all-star chefs opening restaurants that at once embrace and evolve Scottish cuisine. Maybe that’s why this year is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, and the International Culinary Tourism Association described it as one of the most “unique, memorable, and interesting places for food and drink on the planet.”
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When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
What's that bottle of nuclear-orange soft drink on the same shelf as Pepsi, Coke and other top-brand colas? Oh, it's just the best selling pop in Scotland: Irn Bru. Although we like to pronounce it by mumbling "urn bruh," the actual way to say is simply "Iron Brew." Irn Bru is not only hugely popular in the UK, but also in other places around the world where you'll find some Scots residing. For example, we recently ran across it in Nova Scotia. The entire history of this curious drink is of course available over at Wikipedia, and we're stunned to find that this stuff was first introduced back in 1901.
The taste: Don't be afraid to try some when you spy its bright orangeness up against the dark bottles of other colas. Irn Bru doesn't taste like orange pop, nor is it unpleasant. Our chief Irn Bru expert describes its taste "citrus-y, cream soda-y, energy drink-y without quite tasting like any one of the three." We agree. It's hard to pinpoint it as, you see, no one knows the full Irn Bru recipe aside from two folks at the top of the company.
For Americans traveling to London, or really anywhere in the United Kingdom, there is one stereotypical English meal that must be sought out: fish and chips. It's a comfort food, so it doesn't matter if you find yourself in the UK all the time or if you've been saving up for years for a London vacation, because fish & chips is just one of those things.
We found this perfect juicy specimen of fish & chips (the chips are behind the fish, effectively propping it up) at the inexpensive and cozy pub restaurant called The World's End in Edinburgh, Scotland recently. Sure it's right on the Royal Mile and surrounded by shops that try to sell tartan to tourists, but you can't deny that it's a damned good place to settle down for a hearty meal, and perhaps sample haggis with one of their appetizers (so you're not stuck with a whole dinner of it). Forgive us for not devouring some fish & chips wrapped up in newspaper, but that gets greasy messy.
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What activities do you typically think of when planning a trip to Scotland? Well, there's trying haggis, maybe flirting with the idea of buying a kilt, and perhaps enjoying some nice highland scenery. But when we went to Edinburgh recently, we looked out the window of the hotel only to see a looming, misty dormant volcano in the distance; this is "Arthur's Seat" and it was calling our name.
A quick visit to the wiki page on Arthur's Seat verified that it is easily climbable, so we set out for what would become a most exhilaratingand at times, most dangeroushike. We cannot stress enough the importance of appropriate footwear!
After the jump, how to climb and what to see on Arthur's Seat
Where were you when the largest art festival in the world started this weekend? The 62nd annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival brings performers from all over the world to Scotland for two weeks of doing whatever their muses lead them to do, for lucky audiences who don't mind waiting in line and drinking many, many beers. With most shows under £10, it's a cheap way to catch a show which could one day be sitting pretty on the West End, also known as the Broadway of London.
Our picks among the thousands of offerings this year:
· "The B.F.G."
Honor the U.K.'s own Roald Dahl with this puppet masterpiece for all ages about a man of unusual size and his new best friend. At Augustine's, 41 George V Bridge. Tickets £7.
O, my luve's like a red, red rose... With the advent of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a week from Sunday, a flood of foreigners will be crowding the streets of Scotland's biggest city to see new and cutting-edge live works. But just because you're on the Fringe doesn't mean you can't find someone to take to the shows. Exercise those plus-ones for once after you visit these hot spots:
The Secret Garden -- Eating in this dark, candle-lit spot is a "indulgent and decorative experience" from the wine waiters to the baked-goat-cheese tarts.
Castlehill, The Royal Mile
The Bongo Club -- Cafe by day, jazz/soul/techno club by night, so the bongos need never stop playing. 37 Holyrood Road
The Jolly Judge -- Yes, it's around the corner from a court of law, but why should that stop you from sampling one of its 30-plus malt whiskies while you battle some smarties on Monday's quiz night? 493 Lawnmarket
Oh, Naked Rambler, you're always so naked, and now your ass is in jail. It all happened when Stephen Gough walked into Edinburgh Sheriff Court to deal with a couple of the many charges that occurred during his recent walks with his equally sky-clad girlfriend (no word on her charges, if any).
Of course, our N.R. went to court naked. When he did the same thing on the next day, the judge told him he was "offensive" and found him in contempt.
· Naked rambler jailed for contempt [BBC]
· Cheeky Brits [Jaunted]
· Naked Rambler Hits Snag [Jaunted]
A river of fire, burning of a Viking ship and a Catalonian wicker bull, and four straight days of partying--now that is ringing in the New Year.
About 100,000 revelers headed to Princes Street during the December 29 - January 1 (Ne'er Day) Hogmanay event in downtown Ediburgh.
Those up early enough after the New Year celebrations will be able to take part in the One O'Clock Run from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade or the Edinburgh Bicycle Triathlon at the Royal Commonwealth Pool and Holyrood Park.
Jesus, we wouldn't even be able to open our eyes, let alone run, after four straight days of downing drinks and torching wicker bulls.
photo via Staurt Yeates