A Proper Lads Weekend In The Auld Reekie


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November 16th 2014
Published: March 2nd 2015
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Edinburgh CastleEdinburgh CastleEdinburgh Castle

Lit up at night, looking overlooking the city it used to rule.
I was excited to be travelling again after so long - five months to be precise, which for one reputed for travelling so much, is an eternity. Three blog entries in eleven months reflects the year I have had travel-wise; the job I got back in February was initially a contracting position which meant no paid holidays, so travel was kept to a minimum - but the reason I was saving money is because at the end of the year my chapter in London is finally coming to an end. The end was supposed to happen in the summer, but I needed more money because from the start of 2015, I don't plan to work for two-and-a-half years. Yep, you read that correctly. More details will be divulged in due course.

Having lived in the UK for seven years and with just one-and-a-half months remaining, not ever visiting Scotland before leaving would have left a black mark. So it was going to happen one way or the other - Sag organising a lads weekend in Edinburgh to watch the All Blacks play Scotland was the final nudge over the line.

The four-and-a-half hour train journey up to the "Auld
St Giles CathedralSt Giles CathedralSt Giles Cathedral

Dedicated to the patron saint of Edinburgh, the cathedral serves as the centre of worship for the Church Of Scotland.
Reekie" - named as such because of the squalor in which Edinburgh's medieval inhabitants once lived - was fast, but wobbly and uncomfortable. Are all fast trains like this or has it really been that long since I was last on one?
On arrival, I manage to hail down a taxi after waiting an eternity at the pedestrian crossing - for some reason the Scottish red men here stay on forever - and the taxi drops me off at our rented apartment where I enjoy a couple of beers with Sag, Corb, Dan, Dennis and Darren.
Sag and Corb need no introduction to regular readers, who may also remember Dan from our rugby weekend in Dublin exactly a year ago; my old high school friend Dennis, and our token Scotsman and local guide Darren, are making their blog debuts.
Anyway, watching Saw V in the apartment wasn't the best way to get enthusiasm going for a weekend away so we headed to the rather civilised pub downstairs for another couple of pints.

You know how weekends away go on the first night; you're excited about being away, you've already had a few pints, you're letting off steam at the end of the
The Royal MileThe Royal MileThe Royal Mile

Edinburgh's main, medieval drag connecting Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.
working week - there was only one way this was going to end.
Darren studied here in Edinburgh so he knew the place better than any of us and thus we appointed him our pub crawl leader. No pressure, Daz.
We head to Bar Salsa in the lively Grassmarket area which was tube-carriage rammed. It was here that Dennis got himself acquainted with the locals and where Sag thought it would be a good idea to do a boat race with sambuca-infused beer. The facial hair team were humiliated by the non-facial hair team, thanks to me - I don't care what is at stake, that concoction was farking disgusting and I was not drinking it.
We then hit Espionage, a cavern-like club full of sausage. Several syringes of liquor were procured from our well-endowed waitress, as were several Jaegerbombs which ended up on my face. That is what happens when the shot glass is bigger than the glass! It was all good fun in the end as we rocked out to the modern karaoke classics being spun by the DJ.
After we abused some taxi passengers for 'stealing' our cab we had a rather sobering walk home. In the
Old TollboothOld TollboothOld Tollbooth

This 16th century tollbooth now houses a museum.
end it did take about the 10-15 minutes Daz said it would take, give or take about 30-40 minutes. "It's just around the corner" said Daz multiple times. A broken clock does tells the right time twice a day, I suppose.

Our weekend was quickly resembling the rugby weekend we had in Cardiff a couple of years back as we headed straight to the pub the next day after our home-cooked fry-up that morning. I felt surprisingly fine and not too hungover.
After watching South Africa beat England to the delight of most of the pub patrons, we made our way to the stadium for the match.

"BT" Murrayfield is a decent stadium and there was a light-hearted buzz around the place pre-match.
The home fans weren't expecting Scotland to beat the ABs (something that has never happened before) but their team had been playing well and were confident they would give us a good game.
The a capella version of "Flower Of Scotland" was rousing and special - not quite like "Il Canto Degli Italiani" at the San Siro or "Land Of My Fathers" at the Millennium Stadium, but not far off.
The home fans were right to be confident - Scotland played very
MurrayfieldMurrayfieldMurrayfield

Scotland's home of rugby.
well and kept the game too close for comfort for both us and the ABs. We finally won the game through a late try from the unfortunately named Jeremy Thrush.
Always one to shout something funny/controversial at a rugby match, Corb delivered again with "calm the ginger down!" after some Scottish-provoked handbags on the pitch.

After a pit stop at the apartment, we headed to taxi-driver-recommended Iman's for a curry and some BYO booze. So far, this has been the epitome of a proper lads weekend away. Not quite so lads-weekend-away was the next bar we visited - a basement gin/cocktail bar called Heads & Tales which had cool, arched, private booths but was a bit quiet. It was time to up the lad points.

For some reason, there is a proliferation of strip clubs in Edinburgh - this was more like it. But we're, ahem, gentlemen, and gentlemen don't ahem, frequent such establishments.
In the end we ended up at Madog's in the New Town. Inside, we had a local puma come and talk to us and out of politeness, Sag started talking to her friend.
"Oh, I'm afraid you're too young for me" she told him.
The LadsThe LadsThe Lads

Corb, Sag, Dan, Dennis, me and Daz at cocktail bar Head & Tales.
Eh? Just a tad presumptuous. And we're not that young. I tell Sag to take it as a compliment.
Though we were all reasonably drunk, the second night was never going to match the first night - it never does. The excitement and energy is replaced by tiredness and hungoverness and you never quite reach the same peak no matter how much you drink. So we headed home relatively early at 2am, despite the best efforts of the Madog's classic karaoke soundtrack.

The next morning, we enjoyed one last brunch at the pub downstairs before it was time to part ways. It was a great weekend away, loads of fun - good friends and good times.
While Corb managed to catch his flight OK, the same can't be said for the rest of the lads - a misreading of train tickets meant a missed train and an expensive journey back to London.
I however was fine - I wasn't heading back to London just yet.

If you've read this far (well done) you will have noticed that I have simply recited a boys weekend away and have not written about anything cultural or touristy whatsoever. This is because
Sunset Over EdinburghSunset Over EdinburghSunset Over Edinburgh

Overlooking the Edinburgh skyline from Calton Hill.
we never made into tourist Edinburgh during the day, until it was time to leave - so once I bade farewell to the lads and checked into my hostel, I then went on an exploration of the city; Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, Parliament Square, the Scottish Parliament, Princes Street Gardens and so on - I will let the pictures do the talking.
One thing I did realise on my tour was that for almost my whole time here, I had no idea where exactly I was in relation to the city's orientation as I had been ferried everywhere by taxi or simply been following Daz. Exploring the medieval old town before crossing the valley (in which sits Princes Street Gardens) over to the relatively flash new town, it was good to finally get my bearings.
One annoying thing about travelling to Scotland in November (apart from the cold) are the early sunsets - however, I managed to turn this to my advantage by capturing some fantastic sunset photographs atop Calton Hill, where couples and tourists alike gazed upon the blood red sun setting behind old Edinburgh's Gothic cityscape.

Overall, I thought that Edinburgh had a cool
Adam SmithAdam SmithAdam Smith

Statue of the great economist and philosopher in front of St Giles Cathedral.
vibe to it, somewhat more relaxed than London. There are lots of cool bars and eateries and the nightlife is decent. I did find Edinburgh very touristy though and unfortunately there are many tacky establishments in the city to cater for this crowd. Although the old town and the Royal Mile is indeed pretty and medieval, the tourist trade did render Edinburgh a little inauthentic.

After two big nights in a row, it was time to hit the sack early - the next day, I would be hitting the road on a five day tour of the Scottish Highlands.

See ye efter,
Derek


Additional photos below
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Inside MurrayfieldInside Murrayfield
Inside Murrayfield

The 67,800 capacity stadium is impressive.
Dan CarterDan Carter
Dan Carter

Arguably the greatest rugby player of all time lines up a shot at goal.
St Andrew's HouseSt Andrew's House
St Andrew's House

This wonderful art deco building contains the administrative offices of the Scottish Parliament.
Arthur's SeatArthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat

Looking towards the group of hills in Edinburgh's city centre of which the highest is named Arthur's Seat.
Princes StreetPrinces Street
Princes Street

Edinburgh's main shopping drag.
Princes Street GardensPrinces Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens

Usually just a city park beneath the old town, the gardens were playing host to a Christmas market and fairground rides while I was in Edinburgh.
Princes Street Gardens & Edinburgh CastlePrinces Street Gardens & Edinburgh Castle
Princes Street Gardens & Edinburgh Castle

Princes Street Gardens and Waverley Train Station occupies the valley separating the old and new towns.
Rose StreetRose Street
Rose Street

Pedestrianised shopping street in the Edinburgh's "New Town".
George StreetGeorge Street
George Street

Wonderful Georgian and neo-classical buildings reside in the New Town, which was built in stages during the 18th and 19th centuries and is considered a masterpiece of urban planning.
Scottish ParliamentScottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament

Sporting modern and unique architecture, the Scottish Parliament building was formally opened in October 2006.
Calton HillCalton Hill
Calton Hill

Where the National Monument (left) and the Nelson Monument can be found.
GrassmarketGrassmarket
Grassmarket

Lively area of bars and pubs.


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