In celebration of Robert Burns Day in Scotland, we share our favorite pints, places, and provisions from the fair city of Edinburgh. Now, what did we miss?
What’s the essence of Edinburgh? I probably need to return to answer that in earnest. But if you visit Edinburgh for a couple of days, here are a handful of things you could see, eat, drink and otherwise experience to help you answer that question for yourself.
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This is a story about making peace with a squishy edible ball of sheep innards, and a song I rewrote to help me through the process.
I have a confession to make. I was afraid of haggis, almost deathly so. You could say I harbored an irrational fear of the stuff. Yes, haggis. Continue Reading »
If dreams really do come true, you could say that the Scottish Highland castle of Eilean Donan is proof.
Aye, the story — it goes something like this. Continue Reading »
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
– Mark Twain said it. Scottish storytellers live it.
This is a story…about story. Or rather, the importance of stories to the Scottish Highlands.
“There was an unwritten rule in the Scottish Highlands,” Chris, our driver and guide, explained. “If someone came to your house seeking shelter and food, you must welcome them.” Continue Reading »
In a typical European medieval town, its castle lay at its heart. In Edinburgh, however, its castle is its head — the head of a fish, to be more precise. The Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of Edinburgh that spills from the castle forms a sort of spine of the fish to which many closes (alleys) are connected.
And although Edinburgh has evolved over the centuries, much of the Old Town looks like one imagines it might have centuries ago, like something you might have even seen in Harry Potter. Continue Reading »
Mystical and shrouded, Edinburgh Castle in winter afternoon light
Celebrations in the shadow of the Winter Solstice. They help us abide darkness and emerge from the shortest day of the year so that we may carry ourselves through deepening cold and, oddly enough, lengthening days until spring returns a few months later.
In this context, the measure of a place coming forth from this seasonal inflection might in fact be its celebration of the new year, and not only the energy with which it tackles this task, but also the tools it packs to do so. Edinburgh, and its new year’s celebration, Hogmanay? No different.
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Amsterdam. Romantic canals, medieval trading houses, coffee shops leaking smoke and offering contact highs. A red-light district with voluptuous — or maybe voluminous — women seated in oddly-lit windows, looking bored and listless and occasionally interested. Bicycles. Tulips. Van Gogh. Art museums.
But street art?
A traditional view of Amsterdam on a crisp, autumn day.
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Almost exactly one year ago, we visited the island of Crete. The “crisis” was in full tilt, demonstrations were plenty in Athens and around Greece, and we were just into the shoulder season (mid-October). It seemed like we had much of the island to ourselves, including lonely little Arkadi Monastery perched on a hill in Crete’s Amari Valley.
The monastery facade you see in the panorama below dates back to the 16th century. Look closely, though, and you’ll see that it is strewn with bullet holes from a 150 years ago, a symbol of Cretan resistance and independence. Continue Reading »
This is the beginning of a multi-part series we’re calling “lost destinations” in which we highlight activities and destinations that we’ve experienced previously but haven’t written about extensively or enough apparently, for they surface often in conversation and in questions emailed to us by readers.
Our first taste of Vienna came in late December 1998. We’d driven across Austria after celebrating Christmas in Salzburg and we arrived in town under the most inauspicious of winter circumstances – Central European midday darkness, frigid temperatures, a biting wind from the Danube, non-existent parking, and fully-booked hotels.
Adding insult to injury, the only people willing to help: overeager men dressed in period costumes skulking around and selling tickets to “best of” classical music performances. We eventually found a place to stay in the far suburbs of town, in the home of an Austrian man holed up with the world’s largest St. Bernard. But that story is for another time.
In any event, this was Western Europe, but with an eastern look. Our relationship with Vienna: off to a rocky start. Continue Reading »
Up until our recent travels into the heart of port wine country, and despite countless glasses of the stuff under my belt, I was still tempted to consider port as a heavy drink that was quaffed by older British men with a cigar after a pot roast dinner.
Then we traveled deep into the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, the epicenter of port wine. And there, things opened up to me. Continue Reading »