Edinburgh #3: Portraits and Plants


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September 16th 2021
Published: October 18th 2021
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Another day, another breakfast. I decided to go for the Vegetarian Full Irish and was happy that I didn't have to wait as long as the day before. The breakfast was really nice and there was a lot of choice on it. There were poached eggs, baked beans, veggie sausages, vegan haggis, vegan black pudding, mushroom, spinach, tomato, potato scone, and soda farl. I'm tired just typing it all out. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the vegan haggis, it was utterly delicious and had a tasted of Worcestershire sauce to it, which couldn't have been used as it contains anchovies, so I would love to know what herbs and spices were used. The soda farl was really dense and filling and I enjoyed the potato scone as it was different to ones I've had in the past as it was more like a pocket I could fill up with the other goodies on my plate. The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the veggie sausages as they were the old school ones with veggies inside them, I had hoped for some fake meat/soy style ones.

Feeling full, it was time to head out. The first place we were going to go to was the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which is over in the New Town. The walk there took about 15 minutes. Our walk took us down North Bank Street and The Mound. We passed the Free Church of Scotland, which is housed in a beautiful old building and the Assembly Hall, another great looking building. Down the hill, we skirted the Scottish National Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy. More places I would like to visit. It was only another couple of streets and we reached the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. When sorting out the trip, we'd had to book a timed entry slot due to Covid, however it looked like the restrictions had been lifted as no one asked about our tickets. The staff were very helpful and gave us a brief outline of the museum and what was where.

We started in the Great Hall, which is absolutely stunning. There were some statues on display and the walls are covered with gorgeous detailed artwork. It really felt like stepping back in time. We headed upstairs and I liked that there were small busts of famous Scottish people on the stairs, the likes of John Smith and James Ramsay Macdonald. I liked reading the short snapshots of their lives. On the first floor, we looked around the Robert Mapplethorpe photography gallery first. There was an exhibition by Thomas Joshua Cooper entitled 'The World's Edge', which I really liked. Cooper travelled the globe taking pictures of the most extreme points and locations around the Atlantic Ocean. The photographs captured the vastness and emptiness of these areas. We made a bit of a mistake and didn't go around the galleries in order. We started with the two closest 'The Modern Portrait' and I think these were my favourites as they showed some great pictures of famous and regular people in Scotland. My favourite was 'Three Oncologists' by Ken Currie. I liked how they looked rather ghostly. Upstairs we wandered around the various galleries. There was a lot to take in and I think numerous shorter visits would be better. When we'd had our fill we headed down to the café for a drink. It was packed. The food did look really good and I'm sure that is why it was so busy, however we were still too full from breakfast to think about having anything to eat. We also had a quick look in the contemporary gallery on the ground floor before making our way out.

The walk from the gallery to the botanical gardens takes about twenty minutes. We walked down through the New Town. I love all the buildings here and would love to live here if money was no object. We saw a few flats getting renovated. We walked down Dublin Street taking in the views of the sea in the distance and then skirted Drummond Place and along Scotland Street. We took a break in King George V Park, as the sun was shining and it was a nice place to relax and people watch for a bit. We headed out of the park past the Water of Leith and along Inverleith Row to reach the Botanical Garden's East Entrance. There was a map near the entrance so we had a quick look at that and then just decided to wander around the garden. The weather was glorious and it was a great day to be outside. We walked along the path looking at the different trees and plants that there were. One criticism that I have of the place
John SmithJohn SmithJohn Smith

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
is that the signs only gave the Latin names for the plants. I wish that they'd had their more common English names. I really loved the Monkey Puzzle trees, especially in contrast to the blue skies. I was also awed by the houses that lined the edge of the gardens. Their windows were so long, they must get loads of natural light and also great views of the gardens. I liked the flowers on the Chinese Linden or Lime, which is associated with the wisdom of Buddhism. It was used as a replacement in China for the original wisdom tree, the tropical bodhi tree, which would have been unable to grow in the more temperate climate of Northern China.

The glasshouses and palmhouse were closed when we visited, which is a shame as I would have liked to have had a look around them. However, nearby to those we got to see a man high up on a tree cutting parts of it down. It was a great sight to see and quite a few other people stopped to watch him work. We also passed a field elm that probably came from an elm grown in Iran and is
James Ramsay Macdonald James Ramsay Macdonald James Ramsay Macdonald

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
only one of four known. The next part of our walk took us to Inverleith House. There was a pond in front of the house which contained a couple of lotus leaves and flowers, and also Reg Butler's statue 'Girl'. The café next to it was pretty busy and all of the outside tables taken. However, there were some benches near the house that were free for people to relax on, which we did. Inverleith House is a pretty building and was designed by David Henderson in 1773 and was built the following year. The house was at the heart of Sir James Rocheid's estate which covered what is now the Royal Botanical Garden, Inverleith Park (which is next door), and parts of Stockbridge. The house was used to house Regius Keepers of the garden, but is now an exhibition space. There was an exhibition on so I went in for a look around. This exhibition by Christine Borland was 'In Relation to Linum' and was all about flax. I enjoyed walking through the house looking at flax in its different stages of development and the artwork and photography created.

Our walk continued across the gardens. There were some great views of the city; the crags in the background, all the roofs of the buildings in the foreground and the spires of the churches jutting out above. One thing I wish the garden had was a viewing platform as if we were elevated a little higher, it would have been easier to see the view. We passed some Tibetan prayer flags that were hanging in one part of the garden and looked at the flowers that were there. I enjoyed watching the wasps getting the nectar from the flowers. We also came across a squirrel that was rather happy to have his/her photo taken. We didn't get too close and even from this distance I thought we might o spooked it, but s/he was happily searching the grass for food. The squirrel had a big bushy tail that was all curled up at the top. It was so cute. We came across some trees that had rather unusual barks. The pattern on the trunk looked like it was covered in roots or branches that were growing over themselves with deep grooves between them. I hadn't seen anything like it before. We also had a wander around the Chinese Hillside Garden, which featured plants and flowers mainly from the southern province of Yunnan. We had enjoyed our wander around the gardens and made our way back to the entrance/exit. We came across another squirrel, this one was even tamer than the previous one. They must be used to humans due to all the people that visit the gardens. It was really funny as the part of the gardens we were in was a bit of a sun trap and the squirrel kept moving to be in our shadows. We also walked over a small bridge and watched the water flowing over the stones under it. That was pretty. One thing we couldn't find though was the pond that was signpost. Never mind.

We decided to take the bus back into town. There was a bus stop just across from the entrance to the Botanical Garden. We didn't have to wait long for one to turn up. This bus was better than the one the day before as it announced the stops and had then on a screen, too. The ride was very quick and we were soon deposited back in town close to Princes Street. We had a quick look around the shops before deciding to go for something to eat. We headed to Dishoom for dinner. I was shocked at how busy it was when we arrived. The dining room was full and it wasn't even five o'clock. I wish there had been a bit more distancing between the tables as it did feel we were almost sitting on the same table as the people next door. The menu was full of goodies and it was hard to whittle it down to just a few dishes. After all the walking we had done, I was ready for a nice cool drink so ordered a passionfruit shabat. It was lovely, very cooling and refreshing as it is a mix of soda, passionfruit, lime and coriander. When ordering, the staff warn that the food will just turn up when it's ready. First came our okra fries. These were yummy, a bit like chips but ten times better. They were coated in a nice batter and were crispy. I wish I was able to cook okra this well. We were munching on the okra fries when all the other dishes turned up. We had ordered Murgh Malai, Masala Prawns, House Black Daal, garlic naan, and steamed basmati rice. I have had the House Black Daal before and it remains a favourite for me. It is just so good, creamy with a spicy little kick. The bowl of it never seems to end too! The Masala Prawns were really nice, subtly spiced and slightly charred. I also really enjoyed the Murgh Malai, again, it had a subtle flavour as it made been marinated in cream, garlic, ginger and coriander stems. Yum yum. My only complaint is that the naan breads aren't big enough. After dinner, we headed to the supermarket to pick up some local beers to enjoy while chilling in the hotel.


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