Edinburgh by coach from Brighton. A 4am start and a 15 hour journey, door to door. Ok let me explain my choice for transportation for this city break.
I could have got a train (half the time) or flown (a 10th of the time) but no, I chose the coach. A choice that most people don’t make, if they can afford a bit of extra cash. And while I’m not exactly rolling in it, I probably could have splashed out a bit more than the mere £30 return the coach costs (which is a ludicrous bargain my mind is still boggling over.)
No, my reasoning was: I actually wanted to go on a coach trip.
I see these National Express coaches coasting up the – er – coast on a daily basis, and they always look so big and exotic… and convenient: no hauling myself through airport security, or switching trains in London. The coach stop is less than 10 mins walk from my house, and leaves you in the heart of Edinburgh… just, 15 hours later.
So, much to all my friend’s dismay, I opted for my coach journey.
The early start – yes, 4am – wasn’t too hard for me. It was only an hour or so earlier than usual – yes, I’m that person – plus I like early starts if I’m going on holiday. It reminds me of the one big family holiday we went on. I was 6, we drove to Italy (ahh now I understand why I’m a sucker for a long uncomfortable journey) and we had to wake up at 3am I think. I ate my rice krispies too fast and puked in the car.
OK so, coach!
It was 2 hours to London Victoria, on a very quiet, fairly comfy, air conditioned coach. Then there was an hour wait at the Victoria coach station, which is a bit of a hell hole, but I was happy enough with my oat milk cappuccino (word to the wise, there’s a Pret a Manger, Cafe Nerro – my choice – and a Starbucks at the coach station. But I’d definitely recommend bringing your own food – the one food shop there is ludicrously overpriced and understocked.)
Then at 8am, I was on the coach. Yes, time went slowly. I alternated between writing my book, listening to podcasts, reading The Untethered Soul and staring out the window. I really do get my best ideas when I’m on transport.
Somehow, I survived. There was a stop in Leeds, which was a bit depressing – like I said, coach stations just aren’t glam places to hang out – and I had a little Chinese boy next to me for the rest of the journey. He entertained me, patting his brother on the shoulder to get him to turn around, then giving him the finger. Smart kid.
I got a taxi to my Airbnb, because, rain. Ahh rain – this was another reason I was determined to come to Scotland this summer. I really wanted a break from the heat down south – and I got it! Very satisfying, knowing it was 10 degrees cooler where I was – a much more temperate climate for gingers, I believe.
Ok so my Airbnb was lovely, one of the sweetest hosts I’ve ever met, though that night I basically zonked out shortly after arriving because coach travel – somehow – is tiring.
The next day, I headed out early and went to nearby and highly rated, Bluebird Cafe. Arguably the best fry up ever – egg, haggis, black pud, sausage (in patty form) bacon, home made tatty scone and pancake! I skipped the bread. Perfecto.
It was a small place so I felt a bit weird, but other than that, perf.
I then got the bus to Arthur’s Seat, or nearby. It gave me time to digest.
Should have got the day pass, for £4, because I ended up getting the bus twice more that day (each trip is £1.70.)
Followed some people to the entrance of Hollyrood Park, where the seat of sir Arthur is located.
Arthur’s seat is actually an ancient volcano, and site of a 2000 yo hill fort. And yes, the Arthur referred to probably is King Arthur, of the legends, but others have their own ideas. I quite like the King Arthur legends, so I’m sticking with that.
I stopped following my fellow walkers at the foot of the hill, because my Google maps insisted I take another path. OK Google.
Little did I know – they were taking the longer, gentler slope to the top. I had opted for the sweat-inducing steep, slippery steps that may have taken me less time – though given how many times I had to stop and gather myself, I doubt it.
Anyway, half an hour or so later, I was proudly panting at. the top. Nice views of the city, I took a selfie shamefully etc.
And down again.
I fell on my ass once, no harm done, continued on slower.
Next I walked into town, and finally saw the Royal Mile. Wow. I mean, this city is quite unlike any I’ve ben to. I think it’s the colour of all the buildings. It would feel completely different if instead of stone, they were all painted white or pastel colours. Arguably less like the grey sky, which they have most of the year. But I like the stone. It feels serious and gothic and makes me want to get cosy in one of the many pubs and cafe’s, and sit with a good book.
Which I did. The cafe was average, Edinburgh Press Club, but it was large so a great place to chill with a book. There really were loads to choose from, I’m just sad I won’t be able to fit in enough of them.
Next I went to the Fringe box office to pick up my tickets. I had to brave the Fringe madness – lots of people handing out fliers and playing bagpipes next to some dance music – but the actual getting tickets was easy. I had already bought some online, so to pick them up I just had to roll up to a computer, swipe my credit card I used to pay for them and boom, they printed. So efficient.
I had a wander around some of the cute shops, went to the Scottish National Gallery. I know I said I wouldn’t go to galleries or museums (episode YOF024 Plan a Holiday), but in the UK they’re free for the most part, and it was on my way home so I figured I’d get some culture in.
It’s pretty small, inoffensive. I liked may be three paintings. One was a modern one by Jenny Saville, a rendition of the pieta which was truly breathtaking. I like to remember that modern artists paint things that look like things too.
I then meandered home, or to my Airbnb, where I chilled out with some snacks from Tesco and did a bit of work. For me, travelling solo is unnecessarily exhausting unless I take breaks like this where I can be comfortable and not overly stimulated. Plus, it means I can travel and not fall too far behind on work. Yes, yes, I take some holidays when I totally leave work behind like in Peru, but these little city breaks just aren’t for that. I see it more as a way to see work whilst also seeing different parts of Europe – one of the reasons I love freelancing/being self-employed so so much.
Finally, after I felt refreshed, I headed to my comedy shows. First up was Ari Shaffir. You might be familiar with Ari, if you’ve heard him on the Joe Rogan Experience or his own podcast. I was weirdly starstruck, despite the fact we could barely see Ari – the lights weren’t working. But he was brilliant, hilarious, and informative. I learned a lot – I think – about Judaism, and left feeling very full of happy laughter chemicals.
Then it was onto Faye Treacy’s performance. Now, I’m biased because I went to school with Faye and have had the pleasure of designing posters for some of her shows over the years. I hadn’t seen her perform since I lived in London years ago, so it was a real treat to see a comedian who was good before, really step into her skin as it were – and share some heartbreaking and hysterical stories with us.
It takes SUCH balls to be a stand up comedian – I really admire them so much. It’s one thing to stand up and give a talk or a workshop, but comedy – jeez. Anyway, it was a great show and highly recommend following Faye on the old twitter @FayeTreacy and if you’re in town for the Fringe, check out her show!
Today, my final full day in Edinburgh, I started with a lovely coffee in the cafe, The Wall, that I shunned yesterday in favour of the lame press room. Served with an Amaretti biscuit and a smile.
Then went to St Giles Cathedral. Not in my top cathedrals of all time list.
Then to Edinburgh Castle. Big mistake. Slowly herded through hoards of fellow tourists to a queue that lasted 15 mins. Then a toilet queue that lasted another 15.
A great day to be a man. Can we just do that? Surely I can say I’m a man today, I’ll use the men’s toilets with no queue.
The whole place was uninteresting. I didn’t bother the second queue for the crown jewels. Waste of 20 quid.
Annoyed, I walked down to Princes Street gardens, which were pleasant. Kind of sick of the busyness at this point.
I opted for a cafe, Tani Modi, for brunch. A good little omelette but below average bread and I didn’t get the tea I ordered. Ok. On the upside the kindly staff took it off my bill, discounted the whole bill by 25% AND offered me a free tea for the road – sweethearts!
Then I headed back to my Airbnb, packed up – as I had to move to another place for my final night. This was the fault of a ridiculous host that messed me around once, before cancelling my trip entirely. Long story short – I ended up with two separate hosts over a measly 3 days. Kind of annoying, but I do like getting to see different people’s places.
I was early to check in, so I went to Red Kite Cafe, for the best cappuccino in Edinburgh so far, and a rather good lemon polenta cake with blueberries. Then my host let me in, showed me my room with an obscenely high bunk bed, and introduced me to her cat, the miniest cat in all the world.
I wanted to rest but decided to at least attempt to make the most of my last night in town, so I headed out, this time for a show at the Stand, starring Phill Jupitus. You know, of Never Mind the Buzzcocks and other TV famedom. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t laugh as hard as Ari, or feel as touched as I did from Faye’s performance.
I then got a pizza from a nearby Italian restaurant, called Jolly, took it to go and ate it in the Calton Hill park. Lovely.
Finally, I went back to the Airbnb to binge watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, who I believe is based on me as a person, and rest before another coach marathon tomorrow.
Fun rating: 9/10
Edinburgh is a beautiful, entertaining, friendly city and I just wish I’d stayed longer. Next summer, I might just have to live here. I won’t complain so much about the heat then I suppose.