Today marks my anniversary of moving from Edinburgh to Paris. These are some of the things I like to remember about it.
Edinburgh is a very weird city. It's supposed to be the capital of Scotland, yet it's usually overshadowed by Glasgow in many respects.
If I had to describe it, I'd say that Edinburgh is a small city – or rather, a big town.
My first contact with it was back in spring 2016. At that time, I was living in Newcastle upon Tyne, a city located at the north of England, less than 2 hours by train from Edinburgh. I was in the final stages of my master studies and we were actively looking for a place to work; or at least somewhere we could do our internships.
In a very unexpected turn of events, I landed some interviews at Rockstar North. I don't recall having seen or visited Edinburgh before this. I took a train and went up to the north, to the land of the Scots.
After finishing my on-site interview, I had the whole day free to explore the city. Unknowing when the interview would end, I booked my return ticket for the end of the day.
I fell in love with the city right away.
It was greener than anything I had ever seen so far. Emerald green. Contrary to Newcastle, which is a much more industrial town, Edinburgh was full of vegetation.
I reckon what I liked the most while living there was the peacefulness.
I was born and raised in Caracas, a very agitated city and capital of Venezuela. Traffic jams, mixed with environmental and noise pollution were part of our daily bread.
On contrast, the capital of Scotland –despite the tourists– had a je ne sais quoi that charmed me.
Unfortunately, the city's strongest quality ended up being also its weakest. After two and a half years, I had ran out of interesting things to do. And this is coming from someone who doesn't go out much.
The city only has one building that could be considered a shopping mall – although they were already building a proper one when I left. The food and restaurants are underwhelming. And the weather... well, Edinburgh isn't particularly famous because of its weather.
Talking about Edinburgh is talking about its weather. The UK's weather is famous – or rather, infamous. Grey, windy and rainy.
Edinburgh is located on the northeast of the Great Britain island. This location prevents it from being hit by the rash tempests of the Atlantic; yet, it doesn't escape unscathed.
Rain is the typical prediction for most days of the year, even in the form of that annoying drizzle that lives between that decision of whether you should bring or not an umbrella. When it doesn't rain, the skies are usually grey.
Wind is not uncommon and makes it a tad more difficult the task of protecting yourself against the unwavering weather.
Summer –proper summer– usually lasts a handful of days and is accompanied by people making barbecues on the parks and bathing on the public fountains. At its hottest, I experienced temperatures similar to those from the tropic.
Points of Interest
As I mentioned before, Edinburgh is a very green
One of its beauties is the mix between old and new. The city maintains to this day a medieval vibe.
The city is divided into at 2 core sections. Old Town, located at the heart of the city, and New Town, right above it.
Sitting atop a dormant volcano, Edinburgh Castle is one of the major attractions.
I never got to visit it but from what I heard it was too expensive for what it is.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Queen's official residence in Scotland. The place is big but not that big, I reckon.
Fun fact: I used to live extremely close to the back side of the palace. Everyday, on my way to work, I'd pass it by. Also, during certain occasions, you could hear bagpipes being played.
The back of the palace also featured a big open park, where people tend to exercise and play with their kids or dogs.
Stretching up from Edinburgh Castle down to Palace of Holyroodhouse –– the Royal Mile is a quite long street.
The street is unfortunately filled with one too many souvenir shops.
Scottish Parliament Building
The building is located right in front of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and I'd also pass by it on a daily basis, on my way to work.
The only time I entered was to visit a photography exposition.
National Museum of Scotland
In only visited it a couple of times and it was alright. It contains a section of natural history, with dissected animals, along with some science and Scottish history.
This cemetery is located right next to the National Museum of Scotland. It is particularly famous for three things: Harry Potter, Greyfriars Bobby and "Bluidy" Mackenzie.
J.K. Rowling drew inspiration of some of the occupants of the cemetery in order to name characters in her famed book series: Harry Potter. For instance, Professor McGonagall (William McGonagall – infamous for being considered one of the worst poets in history) and Tom Riddle (Thomas Riddell). The inspirations don't end there: also next to the cemetery is George Heriot's School, which is visible from The Elephant House, a cafe frequented by Rowling while writing her masterpiece.
Greyfriars Bobby is the name of a very famous dog that belonged to the groundskeeper of the cemetery. Legends say that after his owner died, Bobby spent several years mourning him on his tomb. Nowadays, a statue of Bobby can be found near the entrance, on the street, and it is very common for tourists to take pictures rubbing his nose, for good luck.
In a darker note, Greyfriars Kirk also houses the mausoleum of a George "Bluidy" Mackenzie, a sanguinary figure (hence the nickname, bloody) in Scottish history, responsible for the prosecution of The Covenanters.
One of my biggest regrets after I left Edinburgh was that I never got to climb Arthur's Seat. I did walk up the hills several times but I never reached the top. Even on these hills, the view is quite good.
This one is a huge park that is usually frequented by plenty of people, especially students. It is also a common place where people prepare barbecues during summer.
The Meadows are quite long and walking around them, from one side to the opposite side, typically takes about 15 minutes.
Just up north of Arthur's Seat, a hill stands. Since it's closer to the city's centre, it has a nice 360° view of Edinburgh. On top of the hill, there's Roman-like monument. A memorial for the Scottish troops that fought in the Napoleonic Wars.
Royal Botanic Garden
I only visited the botanic garden 3 times: first time in Winter, then Summer, then Autumn. Our of the three, the garden was only gorgeous during Summer – for obvious reasons.
The university is spread across the city, contrary to many other universities in the world that have proper college grounds. I never had the chance to visit it.
One of the top game development companies in the world and creators of big franchises, such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. They relocated to their new offices a year prior to me starting to work there and are now located near the Scottish Parliament Building and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The Fringe Festival
While Glasgow is Scotland's industrial capital, Edinburgh is instead its cultural capital. The city is famously known for the Fringe Festival, a yearly event that spans August. The city is brimmed of tourists –nationals and internationals– that attend cultural shows that include independent musicians, magicians, comedians and other types of artists.
Also, the festival develops all over the city, with different locals and bars hosting the artists. The streets of Edinburgh are full of life – and people.
Perhaps not as famous as the Fringe Festival. Yet, Hogmanay remains as an essential part of not only Edinburgh but Scotland as a country.
Hogmanay, which is the Scots word for the last day of the year is celebrated during the last days of the year. It consists a Torch Procession, where each participant carries a torch all the way through the Royal Mile up to the base of Arthur's Seat.
Famous people born in Edinburgh
To my surprise, I learnt that the writers Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) were born in Edinburgh.
The most known dish from Scotland is haggis, neeps (rutabaga/turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Some people love it, others hate it. Me, I can only remember one or two times were I ate really good haggis.
Despite the food in the UK not being good, there are some spots that I used to frequent a lot.
Ting Thai Caravan
Hands down, the best Thai food of the city. It is extremely cheap and the food is extremely delicious. The place is so good that it is normally crowded and finding a seat might be challenging.
There's Saboteur on the same street, owned by the same people and such a great place to eat Vietnamese. The food is also great but my heart still belongs to Ting Thai Caravan.
I have eaten Italian all my life and, more often than not, I'm very picky about the pizzas I eat.
I discovered this place very late on my stay in Edinburgh and it remains my favourite place to eat pizzas in the city. They have even won Best Pizza in the past few years.
Best Mexican food in Edinburgh. Period. The place is quite spacious and, every time I went, the food was amazing. The place is named after Oaxaca, one of the states of Mexico.
Maki & Ramen
I didn't try ramen elsewhere in the city but this one was very tasty.
There's a market every Sunday in Stockbridge, at the north west, were you can find different types of food from all over the world. My favourite spot was one that sell arepas, a typical Venezuelan dish.
Scottish people have the fame of being very lighthearted and friendly, especially compared to their southern neighbours.
My biggest issue –and that of pretty much everyone else– was the language. Scots have very thick and convoluted accents.
Travelling from Edinburgh
From all of my trips out of Edinburgh, 3 were to other parts of Scotland.
Twice I went to Glasgow. The city feels like a proper city, compared to Edinburgh. For starters, it has more shopping malls.
The other time was when we travelled to the Isle of Skye, on the northeast. Scotland is not very well connected, so it can be quit tricky to visit the north without a car. In our case, we took a tour bus. The trip was very long and I actually spent a big chunk of the trip sleeping. The trip lasted 3 days, out of which 2 were sunny and the landscapes were gorgeous; given what the average weather is, I must say it was a blessing.
I got to see a hairy coo (i.e. Highland cattle).
That trip to the north took me also to Loch Ness and even Inverness, although I didn't get to see the monster.
One of the major downsides of Edinburgh as a place to live is how expensive it is to travel out of it by air. For over 3 years, I travelled plenty of times to other parts of Europe – either to Paris or landing on there at least. For comparison sake, a trip to Paris is about 2 hours long.
Whenever I'm watching a movie/TV, reading a book or playing a game, I tend to be surprised whenever I see they mention where I'm living in. So far this has only happened for Venezuela and Edinburgh. I reckon since Paris has been overly exposed to media and culture that it doesn't produce the same feeling.
Edinburgh has also had cameos in movies; perhaps Trainspotting is the most famous. Curiously enough, only key shots were filmed there; most of the movie was shot in Glasgow instead.
Watching Trainspotting was also one of the first things I did when I moved there.
All in all, I miss Edinburgh. Even with all the shortcomings and downsides it might have. In some way, I feel its peacefulness resonates with me.
The emerald-tinted images that enamoured me on that first trip still remain burnt into my memories.
I'd love to visit it again, at least one more time.