Posts in To wander
{To wander} Edinburgh Festival Time 2014
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Well everyone, today marks the final day of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It has been incredible to be here during this time. A lot of locals find it manic, and yes, getting from A to B in town is trickier. :) But with the chaos is a fantastic, almost electric vibe, with street performers every few metres along the Royal Mile, doing an array of weird and wonderful things. From music to tap dancing, star wars characters to jugglers, the festival attracts a huge array of creative folk all vying for your attention. There are numerous hubs where larger shows take place, all with a great selection of some of the best street food I have ever had, and bars aplenty.

I love that eclectic, artsy Edinburgh opens its arms every year in August, to everyone. Nothing is too odd, no act too small. I have seen a mix of shows, some rather average (free comedy should come with a disclaimer) and some absolutely brilliant. My top three were: Camille O'Sullivan with her diva-esuqe, Irish charm, beautiful voice and wonderfully eccentric stage presence, David O'Doherty (loving the Irish) with his honest, genius comedy and trusty partner "Keybs" (his keyboard) and Abandoman - an outstanding team of three whose witty, energetic and engaging show is hip hop rap, comedy genius. 

Adding to the joy was a visit from a dear friend in London and another great friend from South Africa being sent here for work for five weeks over the festival. Fabulous! Without further a do, some photos from this month:

Some tips for maximum enjoyment next year:

- Wear comfortable walking shoes and take an umbrella (standard for Edinburgh exploration, really)

- Keep an open mind, but read reviews to make sure you catch some of the best shows

- Buy tickets at the festival box office , or check out the Half Price Hut next to the National Gallery to save money

- Be prepared to face crowds, and full pubs. If you want to have a relaxed meal, rather opt for the outskirts of New Town or further afield and avoid the Royal Mile come eating time

- Have a game plan for getting home aside from cabs late on a Saturday night

- Just embrace it. Take photos, have a laugh and soak it all up

There has been fireworks above the castle almost every night with the Military Tattoo and I for one will miss the air of celebration.

I loved showing Edinburgh off and it's amazing how much calm you can find from the chaos of the festival just a few steps up onto Calton Hill:

Megs and I did a bus tour of Edinburgh and it was so great to hear more about the history and visit the outside of the castle for the first time.

If you get the chance to visit Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival, I can highly recommend it. Yes it's crowded, but it's worth it for the culture-feast! Keep exploring, dear readers.

{To wander} Edinburgh, Part 4

To truly escape a while, I recommend a wander down The Water of Leith, from The Gallery of Modern Art to the pretty and historical Dean Village.

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

Maya Angelou

With bridges and statues, the calming running water and canopy of trees, it's easy to forget that you are in a city.

"The power provided by the rapid flow of the river was harnessed to drive waterwheels in mills at over 70 sites along the river, establishing a string of villages. The mills produced a variety of goods for Edinburgh and further afield including, paper, flour, woollen and linen cloths, spices and snuff." - Source

Home to many of the workers employed by the mills along the river in the 1800s, Dean Village really is a delightful step back in time.

Up the river from Dean Village is the gorgeous Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. There are two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two. The water feature in front of Modern One is incredible. Landscaped in 2002 with a design by Charles Jencks, the curves and variations in height make for a unique experience so I suggest walking around it and taking some photos.

Inside you will see a giant, robotic like sculpture beautifully dominating the room, by Eduardo Paolozzi.

The façade of Modern One houses Martin’s Creed’s work No. 975, "Everything’s Going to be Alright." The neon lighting contrast so perfectly with the classic building.

One of Scotland’s modern masters, Eduardo Paolozzi, is honoured in numerous ways in the gallery. Below is a recreation of his studio with actual pieces from the artist himself, to show his process and technique.

He had an enthusiastic and encyclopaedic variety of interests in the world and refelected this by frequently changing the media and styles in which he worked. The studio is divided into areas for different types of activity: desks for reading and working with paper, shelves of reference books, a large central table for modelling, and working with plaster casts, and a bunk for resting. - Source

Glasgow born, Nathan Coley, created the piece in front of Modern Two, "There will be no miracles here".

Below is a small taste of Stockbridge, a popular area amongst locals in the Burgh. I will head back soon to capture its quirky, classy charm in more detail. Over and out from a sunny Scotland. :)

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{To wander} Edinburgh, Part 3

For one of the best views of this wonderful city, I highly recommend heading up the easily accessible and historical Calton Hill. Covered with monuments which add so much to the City's striking skyline, this iconic hill offers a wonderful escape from the busy-ness of Princes Street below, and views of the whole city and out to the ocean past Leith.

Below you can see The Old City Observatory and Nelson Monument: Originally commemorating the death of Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, but in 1852 a time ball was added to the top to enable ships moored in the Firth of Forth to set their time-pieces accurately. It's open to the public so I will head up there soon and report back on whether it's worth the £4 admission fee :)

Below is The Old Observatory House is one of few remaining buildings that were built by the famous architect James Craig.

The ocean view, to Leith and beyond.

Here we have The National Monument, which is based on Acropolis, Athens and is unfinished, which adds a bit of interest to it, if you ask me.

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The Dugald Stewart Monument is modelled on The Tower of the Winds in Athens, Greece by Lysicrates. It was of the key structures on Calton Hill that help earn Edinburgh the alias  ‘Athens of the North’.

After a delightful walk I was greeted with a rather pretty view from Waverly bridge...

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Ah, Balmoral Hotel, you beauty.

The next day I took myself into New Town again to peruse the exquisite Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  Interestingly enough, it's building was paid for by a local newspaper owner:

"In 1889, John Ritchie Findlay, the chief proprietor of The Scotsman, not only paid for the construction and an endowment, but he also masterminded the building that was to house the collection. He employed the architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, who had previously won the competition for designing the Edinburgh Medical Schools and who later earned a wide reputation for the restoration of ecclesiastical buildings in Scotland." - Source

The rich, warm colours are so beautiful, and the perfect backdrop for the collection of stone sculptures.

The tall arched windows create amazing light and I could spend days admiring the carefully considered details. There is no admission fee so if you find yourself in Edinburgh, go spend a few happy, inspiring hours here.

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More from my wanders through New Town: The display at Harvey Nicks is fantastic!

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Charlotte Square was the last part of the initial phase of the New Town, completed in 1820. In 1939 a large air-raid shelter was created under the south side of the gardens.

On the other side of town, I visited The Elephant House, commonly known as one of the places where J.K.Rowling wrote Harry Potter. To be honest, the food and coffee weren't amazing. But it has a great view from the windows in the back room and a plethora of Harry Potter graffiti worth having a look at/contributing to, in the bathroom.

Tomorrow I'll be sharing my photos from a walk along the Water of Leith and a brief visit to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Have a lovely rest of your day, dear readers!

{To wander} First visit to Edinburgh, Part 2

Heading further into New Town, I loved taking moments to stop and gaze around at Edinburgh's city scape. Princes Street Gardens was, until the 1760s, a heavily polluted loch created for medieval defence purposes. By the 1820s, they had drained the filthy loch and the beautiful park separating New and Old Town took its place. Visitors and locals alike often can't help but be impressed by the historic Edinburgh Castle, standing proudly on Castle Rock (an extinct volcano) at the head of Old Town. There has been a castle in it's place since the 12th century, but it's obviously been re-developed depending on its occupants since then. I will be heading there for a touristy wander at some stage.

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Lying in a patch of dandelions? Not weird at all in my opinion. Perhaps next time.

Near Marchmont and Old Town lie the lovely green Meadows. Dominated by students in term time, barbecuing, playing various ball games or relaxing with a book and some wine, I was here during the holidays to witness it in a quiet state. Here you can see the wonderful marriage between the old and new buildings:

Thanks to the ever helpful yelp, I found a delightful place to try my favourite breakfast, Eggs Benedict and a flat white, Toast. Delicious! Highly recommended. Here you can also see my new love of brightly coloured doors coming into play. Sigh. One day! Art and architecture thrive here. I cannot wait to experience the festival in all it's glory, coming up in August. Even the texture of the buildings is amazing... Holyrood Palace (The Queen's Scottish residence, below right) is also on the to do list. A rather nice abode I must say. I so loved soaking up the history of this town and was overwhelmed after only 2 days. The Scotts have a delightful quirkiness engrained in so much that they do. My next post shares my exploration of Calton Hill, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and a visit to Elephant House to embrace my Harry Potter nerdiness.

{To wander} My first visit to Edinburgh

The second I walked off the train, onto the platform at Waverley Station, I was in awe of this city. On my left stood the gloriously historical, hodge-podge skyline of Old Town, while the Georgian elegance of  New Town's Princes Street sat neatly in contrast to my right.

The architecture in Edinburgh is so varied and so wonderful. Even Waverley Station inspires! Here are some shots I took during my wanders around Old Town. The famous Victoria Street's double layer,  curve and colours house a mixture of shops from books and nick-nacks to coffee and I spent a thoughtful couple of hours walking through Greyfriar's Churchyard.

The closes are tiny and one can get blissfully lost wandering off the Royal Mile and find gems like The Devil's Advocate Pub, or the Writer's Museum...

I spent my first visit to Edinburgh without a smartphone, which in hindsight was a blessing in disguise. I allowed myself to get lost, but if I needed to, I turned to paper maps and actually used my noggin for a change. I really love the city's abundance of coffee shops, galleries,  print shops, and bookshops. Creativity is everywhere and the temperamental weather, going from cloudy to warm and sunny in minutes, coupled with the lush greenery, cobbled streets and confused alleyways and striking architecture all together make me want to write, paint and photograph until the day is done. No wonder so many literary greats were based in this city. Look up. This is so important whilst travelling. With heads down focused on phones or arbitrary conversation, we miss so much. Above you can see what I mean about the glorious hodge-podge. of buildings.

Flowers hang from most pubs and many windows and as you can see, summer really does show off in the UK. Here you can see a good view of Scott's Monument, and little Greyfriars Bobby. The inscription on this memorial says:

“A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858 this faithful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872, with permission erected by Baroness Burdett-Coutts.”

Filament Coffee on Victoria St makes a damn good flat white. The reading material is equally great. Hip, so very hip.  Delightfully reminiscent of Cape Town in many ways. It is said that the over 350 year old George Heriot's School inspired J.K.Rowling's Hogwarts. I saw this quote whilst walking, during my first night in Edinburgh. Rather fitting I must say. Too true Tolkien. Who cares if I was lost at the time?

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There's something so delicious of being in a completely new place. Check in soon for more from my first visit to Scotland's capital. Over and out.

{To wander} More of London

Once I had figured out the public transport system (and by figured out I mean downloaded an app called City Mapper.. a lifesaver), it was far easier to navigate London. I went to the British Museum with it's stunning ceiling, I met friends for dinner near Paddington Station and even had a taste of Trafalgar Square and coffee in Convent Garden. I will definitely go back there but for now these photos show some of the highlights.

The typography and design in London is so interesting. From the iconic clean logo for Underground to the classic, composed road signs, to gorgeous detailed signage, such as the example below: Below we have a large, blue cockerel in Trafalgar Square, apparently symbolising regeneration and strength. Titled Hahn/Cock, the nearly 5m high piece is by German artist Katharina Fritsch and will be on display for 18 months. On the right: one of many street artists seemingly floating in thin air.

Here is the Hotel Russel, pretty architecture indeed, and the ceiling of the British Museum.

On buildings just outside the museum, there are beautiful, subtle touches of what can be found inside. The botanical art collection is worth a visit in my opinion.

My first Saturday morning in London was lovely to say the least. A friend took me to The Breakfast Club in Clapham Junction and I had the HUEVOS AL BENNY- Poached eggs, chorizo, roast peppers, avocado, fresh chillies, spicy hollandaise on a toasted English Muffin. YUM. And a flat white of course.

London, you are lovely. Soon to come, my first visit to Edinburgh.