We left a typically drizzly, grey London in the final days of 2008, and were deposited a short while later in Edinburgh. I'd been there before with my parents in 1995 but, other than a pilgrimage to my father's ancestral home in Caledonian Crescent, I don't remember too much about it other than lots of greyish buildings and a big castle atop the hill. If this year's travels have taught me anything, it's that these sort of low -to-neutral expectations are the best way to approach a new city, because I always end up pleasantly surprised, and in the case of Edinburgh, pleasantly adoring as well.
I think it helped that the minute we walked out of the airport and gazed at the crystal clear skies, people were falling over themselves to help us. And in those lovely accents too. At least two people stopped us to offer help on the way into Edinburgh before we'd even started to think about looking lost, just because we had suitcases and were obviously on our way into town. After 18 months in London we are so used to ducking and weaving through crowds with surly looks on our faces (so as to scare off freesheet vendors and charity collectors on commission) that it took a while to readjust, but soon I was smiling at strangers and being generally charmed by the whole place.
Of course, this time of year in Scotland means Hogmanay festivities and so Edinburgh was essentially half amusement park, half bar. In conjunction with the beautiful architecture, the castle, the great food and the pervading aura of friendliness we couldn't help but enjoy ourselves.
This here is the Scott Monument, ever so respectfully dominated by a ferris wheel. Of course we had to have a go...
The view over North Bridge to the River Forth.
Behind us was what I initially thought to be a real live independent Scottish department store, Jenners. Apparently I was mistaken because later I saw signs indicating its owned by UK chain House of Fraser. Anyway, it looked lovely with the sun glowing softly on the Edinburgh sandstone and the flag wafting in the slight breeze...
Until we looked more closely:
(Click on the photo if you would like a closer look at this mysterious display of exhibitionism.) I have no explanation for this but I certainly hope it's the work of a mischievous department store clerk (perhaps a fan of Are You Being Served?) and not just a storage accident.