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Iron Chef Travelogue -- Episode 10 -- "Edinburgh" __David Wong (64)

Episode 10 "Edinburgh" 

We got up early to catch the train to Scotland. The train station in Europe is pretty standard. Once you get your ticket, you have to find out the destination and the time of departure in reference to what track the train would depart from. On your ticket is also your coach number and your seat number. You can see the reserve sign sticks on the back of the chair. Everything is pre-arranged. You still have to watch out for your train since something the track number does not appear till 15 minutes before the train leaves. 

Once we were out of London, the scenery changed a whole lot. There were the common stone houses and cattle scattered along the railways. It was peaceful enough for us to sleep. It was uneventful except for the conductors checking on the tickets. They did that a lot. 

Edinburgh was not that far away. It takes only 4 hours by normal train. These hours are important hours for the young people who have to go out of town for business. You can see them preparing their documents intensely and diligently. It could be for a business proposal or a meeting; they concentrate till the minute they leave the train. That is the new way of making a living. Performance and productivity rule over everything. We thanked ourselves that we did not have to go through the same kind of drill as those young people. We were enjoying our lives.                

The Scottish people are hardworking people. They have little choice when you live in a land of rough terrain surrounded by formidable coast-lines. The lowlands are a bit more tolerable. The highlands are designed for tough people. Scotland has a few famous things. The kilt, wool, and whisky. The rough weather would demand adaptation in many ways. Their wool is lovely, soft and durable. 

Edinburgh is a relatively small city with may be ½ million people. It is a city built under a big rock. The structure gives the design of the city in layers. When the top layer was filled with inhabitants, you dig deeper to the second level. Soon there will be different levels and some of the roads has to circumvent houses and buildings and the end result are closed end streets which you cannot reach unless you know the place. 

It was sunny and getting warm when we arrived Edinburgh. We had reservation at a hotel and we were promised the train station was 10 minutes walk from the hotel. We came out of the train station and came across to a bridge [North bridge or South bridge, we asked] We picked North. Then we came to a junction with 3 roads in 3 directions. We asked around and was pointed to 1 direction. We walked, following the direction from the map. We were looking for ‘Cowgate’ but there were no street sign of that name anywhere. 

We asked the construction worker, the girl who looked like a student, the businessman who was in a rush and everybody had a different idea. They knew about it yet they did not know how to reach it. We got smart, got the policeman on duty and asked him. This time, the policeman was good enough to walk with us and led us to the street. You have to go through a narrow passage way from the main street before you can reach the desire section of the street. When you visit Edingurgh, understand the word ‘close’. That is something like a secret pathway that can lead to another enclosed part of the city.  This is a close. 

 We have to go through this pathway to get to ‘Cowgate’ where we find the hotel. This close also leads to the main street which is ‘high street’ and all the activities are around High Street. There are pubs along High Street and the neighbourhood area. The most famous bar food is still Fish n Chips. Their steak sandwich is not too bad but the gravy is overpowering. Scotland Salmon is better than average. The cold water helps to fatten up the fish. Who could forget the Scottish haggis? It used to be dressing in sheep stomach and then you carve your portion out. Times have changed and now, haggis is often served in the form of a large sausage. The spices that go on this dish do not win my favour.    There are other shapes of haggis which are more disagreeable.


We stopped by a restaurant called “Whiski” to have our lunch. The interior of the pub looked like an old fashion roadhouse. 

Right outside of “Whiski”, there is a hop-on hop-off stop and you can purchase your ticket and have a grand tour of Edinburgh within a few hours. You can visit all the sightseeing places in a couple of days and they are usually old and rustic. Scottish people emphasize durability over everything. The castles have walls of 8’ thick and they will last for a million years. Outside appearance is less important. Décor or decoration is less desirable too. So long as an object is durable, it is good enough. Scottish people do not have the fancy fanfare ideas as the Italians, or French, or Spanish. As long as it is practical, they are happy.

You get good quality wool products in Scotland and of course, good whisky. We went into a whisky shop and there were rare Scotch priced at 17,500p. Whether there is sale is another story. We went on the tourist bus and I felt asleep. That was normal. There is also a big shopping mall close to the train station. Princess Street is where you can do some heavy shopping.

Scottish weather is nothing to be excited about. It is usually damp. When it is dark and grey, it robs you of your mood to really explore. There are still cathedrals, palace, and old buildings that show you history of this town. The walking was heavy. There did not seem to be any use of taxi since the distances between destinations were so close. I did notice that transport and logistics was murderous. I watched the garbage truck had to stop at the main street and the workers had to walk into alleys and balconies to bring out big bins containing garbage. Deliveries were the same way. They had to conquer lots of walking and stairs to reach anywhere. The deficiency could not be good for economy. 

We stopped by a Spanish Tapas restaurant for tapas and the food was by no means close to any of the tapas in Spain. There were little noise around once it got dark and we took a walk after dinner and we went around in circles and could not find our street. We stumbled upon University of Edinburgh and their student pub. Here we could get the noise we wanted and watch the students exemplified their joyous student lives. 

One thing that is rather unique is the new parliament building. It is an ultra-modern construction that resembles the British Pavilion in 2010 world expo in Shanghai. 

The next day we went on the tourist bus again and I fell asleep again. I grumbled along till we found this wonderful French patisserie. It was a great surprise.

We had high tea. The mousse cake was the best. The French apple tart was up to standard. It was a nice easy afternoon before we marched back to the train station.

It was late when we exited the bus and got back to the hotel. Nobody wanted to mention about food anymore. I buried my head in the pillow and snored. Nothing could get me awake at this moment. 

To-morrow, we might have to start dieting.

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