Monday, 21 April 2008

Edinburgh - History, Music, Culture and Horror!

Friday 18th April 2008

Debbi, Julie and I were up quite early, originally we were going to get the 10.10 bus to Edinburgh but we quickly changed our mind and got the 11.10, less of a rush!

The journey was long, three and a half hours, we chugged through the Border mill towns, Langholm, Hawick, Selkirk, Galashiels and then finally chugged into Edinburgh’s bus station. But we can’t complain about the long trip, the return journey was only £9.90, the bargain of the year!

We got a taxi to our hotel, the Haymarket Travelodge, which, unusually, was a Victorian building on the corner of one of Edinburgh’s beautiful, quiet crescents. The building was gorgeous inside with oak panelling, carved staircases, marble fireplaces and ornate cornices and ceiling roses, not your usual Travelodge! Our room was huge, so large it had an echo! There was a large bay window that looked out towards the crescent, and the ceilings were very high and beautifully ornate. It was an amazing room!

Later we set off for the city centre using the suburban railway to Waverley. We walked up many, many, steps up to The Mound, between lofty buildings and having glorious views down onto Princes Street and the Victorian Gothic Walter Scott monument. We came out on the High Street close to the castle right opposite George V Bridge where the restaurant we were going to eat was. Once again I marvelled at just what an extraordinarily beautiful city Edinburgh is with it’s grand buildings, narrow closes, and meandering steps.

We quickly found the restaurant, an Italian called Vittoria’s, and had a delicious meal there accompanied by an equally delicious bottle of wine!

Afterwards we had a short walk to Victoria Street where The Liquid Room is where we were going to see our friends in the U2 tribute band NU2 play a gig. Victoria Street is another of Edinburgh’s amazing sights, a gracefully sweeping crescent with an upper level of buildings with it’s own walkway on one side of the street. Plus the myriad of closes and steps to others levels and streets.

Alan (Boner the lead singer) had kindly left three tickets for us at reception and in we went to the darkness, we were the first in, we must have been keen! We got drinks and waited while the club gradually filled.

The Debut, a young band from Falkirk (where NU2 are also from) were the support, I’m afraid I wasn’t too keen on them, the music often drowned out the singer and it was hard to make out any lyrics. But young bands have to start from somewhere.

Alan had told Debbi by text that the had a really bad throat infection and had struggled with his singing, especially the high notes, during the sound check so we didn’t really know what to expect. Debbi and I have seen the band play a few times and they have always been brilliant. Julie was a NU2 virgin, so we hoped that she wouldn’t be disappointed if Alan didn’t quite get all the notes tonight.
We needn’t have worried, just like Bono would have done in the same situation, Alan soldiered on and his voice actually improved as the gig progressed and he did amazingly well. As usual The Egg, Adam Claypole and Larry Mullet Jr were a tight musical unit. They did The Fly and then went into Ultraviolet and then back to The Fly at one point, which worked brilliantly. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own gave me goosebumps, Discotheque really rocked and I thought Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses was fantastic! I can hardly believe how like Bono’s Alan’s voice is, if you close your eyes it could be Bono singing. The set list was well balanced and the audience in The Liquid Room were great. NU2 are certainly the best U2 tribute band I’ve seen by a long way and I'm looking forward to the next time I see them live.

After the gig we waited outside for a while, I turned round and right behind me was the tall, white-faced, cloaked figure of Dracula smiling down a me! I did a double take then I saw lots of people following him and realised this was one of the many creepy tours that Edinburgh is known for. "Dracula" headed down a steep close right beside The Liquid Room which I heard him call "Stinking Close"! You never know what's around the corner - or behind you in Edinburgh!

We met up with the lads from NU2 for a while, chatted and said thanks for a great gig. Then we set off back to the hotel. We would have had a 45 minute wait for a train to the Haymarket so we decided to get a taxi back to our hotel. We had a drink in the bar there before going to bed.

Saturday 19th April

We had a lie in (again!) had breakfast and then checked out of the hotel and headed into the city centre. We had seen a advertisement for an exhibition of Ansel Adams photographs at the City Arts Centre and decided to go to see it. His themes are primarily landscape and nature, all in black and white with amazing clarity. He captures the majestic, big horizon landscape so indicative of America perfectly. Yet he can also make a picket fence with peeling paint look special. His eye for composition is stunning, and some of these photos must have been the result of a lot of patience waiting for the perfect light and effects. One photo that I found especially beautiful was the one I've reproduced here The Tetons and Snake River, taken in 1942.

After we left the exhibition we had two hours to spare before our bus was due to depart. We crossed the road to Waverley Station and saw a sign for the Edinburgh Dungeon and decided to to go in. It was expensive, £12.95, but it was good fun, consisting of various scenes with actors who were really good, lots of audience participation. It was very dark inside and first we posed for a photo with Debbi in the stocks and Julie and I wielding an axe and sword! Then we all moved on to a hall of mirrors and walked in circle for a few minutes, amazing how disorientating it was. There was a group of five young girls who jumped at every sound which made everything all the more entertaining!

Next was a courtroom and the "judge" picked people to go on trial. Who was picked first? Yes, me! I don't really like being in the limelight but you have to play along with things like this, so I went on trial for witchcraft! Mercifully I wasn't on trial very long and didn't have to go through any punishment !! We passed onto other scenes, the plague in Mary King's Close, met up with one of the daughters of the cannibalistic Bean family, the body snatchers Burke and Hare, various torture methods, were the scenarios we were taken through. I noticed at times that we seemed to be going into the real vaults beneath Edinburgh, as sometimes the manmade scenery gave way to real stone and high vaulted ceilings, now that felt scary knowing the reputation the vaults have for ghostly happenings!

The Edinburgh Dungeon was good fun, the acting was good, you learned a bit about the nastier side of the history of Edinburgh and it lasted an hour, so we felt it was worth the money.

We blinked as we stepped out of the darkness into the sunshine of the afternoon. We decided to head towards the bus station and find somewhere to have a drink on the way. As we sat drinking our coffee we vowed to come back for a few days and "do" Edinburgh, and really explore all it has to offer. It really is an extraordinary and unique city and one day we hope to do it justice by taking the time to savour it's many delights.

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