While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best of Edinburgh

'Tis the season for heavily subjective lists...

Best view:
“You take the high road and I'll take the low road…”

You can keep your Arthur's Seats and Carlton Hills, give me a glance down Dublin Street towards the Forth. [It doesn't photograph so well, especially on a rainy day in December, but humour me.]

I still recommend every visitor climbs Arthur's Seat and Carlton Hill, but I always feel underwhelmed by views from on high.

Stand on the corner of Dublin and Queen Streets and you're not even at the top of the slope (that would be further up towards Princes Street). But the view has it all, Georgian architecture giving way to greenery (the Botanical Gardens lie somewhere within those trees) and the normally-blue streak of the Forth and the evergreen streak of the Kingdom of Fife. The view is best appreciated after first looking down Howe Street towards St. Stephen's Church and a hidden Stockbridge (best place for quality bread, cheese and seafood) - - something about the withheld promise of the Forth being delayed until Dublin Street. Even though I walked down Queen Street ten times a week for nine months this year, I never tired of this fleeting view.

Best place to go on your lunch break:

Having just bagged it, I'm recommending Carlton Hill here. Two of my three jobs were within range so that I could climb Carlton Hill and have the breeze blow work from my brain for half an hour. It helped remind me that I was still a tourist, that I still had things to explore and discover. I imagine it would reenergise a lifelong resident in a similar way.

Best place to read a book:

Despite the above, I spent most of my lunchtimes reading a book in the breakroom at work. As a place to read a book, the breakroom (three floors below street level) cannot compare to sitting on the grassy slope of the Princes Gardens in the sun. The thing is, you probably only have three chances a year to do this [hence no photo this time], so have a book at the ready!

Best month:

It’s a toss up between August and December.

So what if Summer 2008 came and went on a Thursday? August is still the most interesting time to be in Edinburgh. Comedy, theatre, music, busking, street parades, and more free events than one could possibly attend, you've no excuse to be bored.

In December, on the other hand, no one expects the weather to be nice, so there's no tinge of disappointment, unless you're hoping for a decent snowfall. Princes Street and the Gardens are again the place to be with the German Market, ice skating rink, and fairground rides. And then, of course, there's Hogmannay on the 31st: hand's down the best New Years I've ever had.

Best place to go every month

The Scottish Poetry Library, of course. On my first visit, I felt a bit of an imposter. I was the only person there apart from the librarian, and she didn't seem keen to acknowledge my presence. The floor creaked terribly. I was looking for an anthology of modern Scottish poetry, which I found, but also left with five volumes of New Zealand poetry. Again, I felt an imposter: a NZer borrowing NZ books from the SCOTTISH poetry library, but I learnt not to worry (it always seemed to be a different librarian issuing my books). A more correct emphasis would be: the Scottish POETRY Library.

At the beginning of 2008 didn't see the need for a library dedicated to poetry... now I write the stuff with my serious writing face on. Be warned: the same could happen to you!

Favourite Building

Another tie.

West Register Building, Charlotte Square

St Mary’s Church, Palmerston Place

This church features in Novel B, despite the story being exclusively set in New Zealand. I'm not really a churchy person, but I suspect my affection for St. Mary's began when I noticed that at dusk it looks like Gotham City's take on the Disney Castle:

As I walked around town today, the weather was miserable and so was I for the most part. Why can I not find risoni in any supermarket all of a sudden? Why do people say they'll buy something off you but never arrive to pick it up? Why does my iPod run out of battery just as I leave the house? Edinburgh isn't so great a city that it makes bad moods impossible - - heck, it's probably caused a few - - but, if you walk around long enough, you'll find some sort of rainbow.

Sorry, that was a bit cheesy. But I'm leaving in two days. I can barely see the keyboard for the nostalgic mist that has set in.

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