Early one Morning in Edinburgh

Here are some of the attractions I managed to fit in on my short visit to Edinburgh in June 2012.

Side by side on Leith Walk

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Praskipark on October 10, 2012

On a bright early morning in June of this year we managed to get a good look at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Edinburgh which is opposite Greenside Place and close to a busy roundabout. When I had decided that I had taken enough photographs I thought it would be a good idea to cross the road and walk on the other side where I spied another handsome church facade.

Crossing the road took a while as the traffic was manic but eventually we managed to cross at a spot which took us to the Cafe Habana and the Playhouse Theatre. Both of these buildings were very attractive in their own ways and the walkway in front of the buildings, Leith Walk, was reasonably quiet.

I do believe that Greenside Place at one time was a thriving commercial area. During the 1970s, 13 outlets were open for business and doing well. The 80s passed without incident and then unfortunately in the 90s the area went into decline. Retail outlets located at No 2 through to No 16 were demolished. Number 17, Hillside Church, was partially demolished leaving only the front facade standing.

By this time the area was due to be redeveloped, transforming the site into a centre incorporating a multiplex cinema, health centre and hotel. Progress was at first slow due to financial problems but eventually the centre was finished in November 2002. Now, this area houses the Omni Centre and standing in front of the glass frontage are two metal giraffes. I was very pleased to come across these two fellas as I am very fond of metal giraffes. One of my favourite sculptures in Warsaw is of a giraffe placed in Park Praski in Praga.

The giraffes were placed in front of the Omni Centre and unveiled in July 2008. They are not the same height and are made from pieces of scap metal which are dull in colour rather than shiny. The tallest giraffe is 22 feet high. Both sculptures are not solid and there are many gaping holes in their faces, necks and bodies. This design makes the sculpture more abstract and interesting to look at.

I think the positioning of the two giraffes is excellent, in front of the giant sized glass windows of the Omni Centre. You can have a field day looking at all the reflections created by the sun on the windows. If you stand at the side of the giraffes you are able to get a sweeping view of Leith Walk.

The artist/sculptor who created the giraffes was born in Roslin in the Midlothian region of Scotland. The talented lady has a love of animals and is known for creating animal statues that have been placed in other parts of the United Kingdom and on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

I was very pleased to see that this eastern part of Leith Walk had been re-invented and a new life had been given to the area with the Omni Centre and its giraffes. I was also pleased to see that the Playhouse Theatre was still standing and that the front facade of Hillside Church had been spared and integrated into the building of the new centre.
Omni Centre
Greenside Place
Edinburgh, Scotland
0131 524 7770

Dr Livingstone, I presume?

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Praskipark on October 9, 2012

Before I move on to writing about a different sort of attraction that I saw in Edinburgh in June, I just want to mention the monument dedicated to David Livingstone. You can find this noble statue in Princes Street Gardens, close to the Waverley Bridge entrance.

Mr Livingstone was quite a character and led a very interesting life. You could say that he was one of the world's greatest explorers having travelled to South Africa as a missionary in the 1840s, visiting Victoria Falls and Lake Ngami. Later on in his life he returned to Africa and was awarded a Gold Medal of the Gegraphical Society for his discoveries of lakes and rivers in Africa. These are remarkable achievements for a young lad from Blantyre, Lanarkshire. He spent his younger days working in a cotton mill until he found his vocation as a Christian. After being ordained a s a missionary he travelled to some far and obscure villages in deepest Africa sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback and sometimes on the back of an ox. Having spent the first twenty years of his life in poverty in Scotland he was well equipped to deal with anything Africa threw at him.

Amelia Paton Hill, sister of Noel and Hugh Paton has created a busy sculpture of Livingstone. The figure cast in brass is strong and determined, his eyes are looking over yonder and if you look closely there are articles strapped to his belt that tell us what his occupation is. The compass neatly stored in a case is attached to his waist, this is something he must have used a hundred times on his perilous journeys through the African jungle and next to the compass is a pistol stored in the neatest of leather cases. His trousers are loose fitting with a matching jacket which fits close to his upper body. To keep the rain and chills from his body a cloak folds around the top half of his body, over his shoulders and on to his back. The folds of material have been crafted superbly. Notice, he has a walking stick at his side and a large rucksack at the back of him. One arm is slightly outstretched and in the palm of his hand is a bible. I love the way Amelia has intricately sculptured his eyebrows to make them look thick and bushy. I also like the shape of his moustache and the way his hair falls neatly on his head. She has given him a face that shows courage, determination and inquisitiveness. I think Amelia Paton Hill was a very talented sculptor and in some ways ahead of her time. In the 19th century Edinburgh, male sculptors dominated so she did well to have her work accepted and exhibited in such a prominent situation.

If I have any grumbles about the monument it is to do with the stone plinth rather than the monument itself. The plinth could have been made a bit smaller. If you look at the monument from a distance the plinth does tend to dominate. Still, it is only a minor grumble and overall the monument and its location are superb.
Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH2 2YJ

A touch of Victorian Gothicness in Edinburgh

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Praskipark on October 8, 2012

Walking through Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh is a wonderful experience for many reasons but the reason I love to take a stroll is to see all the monuments. On the eastern side is a fantastic piece of Gothic architecture dedicated to Sir Walter Scott; a very popular Scottish novelist, poet and playwright. My favourite books of his are Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. He wasn't only famous in the United Kingdom but all over the world and had a very successful career as a writer.

On my visit in June of this year, I could see a superb piece of architecture as I approached the eastern side of the gardens and although its Gothicness stands out a mile there is something rather odd about the design of the structure. I think it is something to do with the way the columns slope upwards forming a point. In some ways it looks like a jet or a rocket. At first I didn't notice the marble monument placed inside the space resting between the four columns as I was facinated by this Victorian masterpiece.

The figure of Scott was designed by John Steell and made from Carrara marble which is quarried in Tuscany, Italy. The colour of the monument is a contrast against the background of the grimy coloured sandstone of the towers and columns of the Gothic structure which was built from a very durable stone known as Binny stone. This particular type of stone attracts grime and soot caused by Edinburgh's pollution because it contains a residue of shale oil.

At first when I looked at the marble figure of Scott I thought it was white but looking a bit closer I noticed that it was flecked with grey.The monument has a somewhat sad look about it. Scott looks in a pensive mood as he sits with his dog beside him, his book closed and his mind, obviously somewhere else. Perhaps the story he was writing wasn't finished and he was thinking of an ending or perhaps he was tired and just having a rest. The finish of the sculpture is very smooth. I wanted to stroke his head of hair and also the dog who has a devoted expression on his face. I love the way Scott's cloak flows around his legs in large folds. His shoes are beautifully carved as are his hands and face.

Inside the stone structure are a series of viewing platforms. To reach these you have to climb a very narrow, spiral staircase which makes you feel a bit dizzy if you rush up the steps too quickly. The monument is just over 200 feet high and the top viewing deck is situated at the top of the 287th step. I really do not like heights but over the last few months I seem to have been looking at views from many great heights. This particular one wasn't too high and I didn't feel to bad. It was worth the trip up the staircase just to see the beautiful views of Edinburgh. The light on this day was perfect and I was able to see a long way off.

There are many monuments to see in Edinburgh but I do really like this one very much. The Gothic structure is unusual and the way the marble figure of the famous writer is placed between the columns, adds a little mystery and magic to the whole monument.
Scott Monument
Princes Street Gardens
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH2 2EJ
+44 131 529 4068

Edinburgh's Garden of Serenity

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Praskipark on October 4, 2012

After spending the night in Edinburgh Airport way back in June I couldn't wait to get on board the city bus at 6 in the morning. I knew that most places would be closed but that didn't matter, I just wanted to be free of the airport and able to walk around in the city in my own leisure. I didn't have too long to spend in Edinburgh as I had to catch a coach to Newcastle at 1pm but I was determined to see as much as I could in such a short time.I have always had a soft spot for Edinburgh as it was the first city I hitchhiked to when I was a youngster. I was very foolish in those days; I went without hardly any money and didn't take any warm clothing. I certainly regretted it as one night I had to sleep under a bench in the railway station. Happy days!

I know my way around the city pretty well and was so pleased when the bus driver dropped me off just outside Princes Street Gardens. It was a beautiful morning, the sun hadn't quite woken up, the air was cool but the light quality was perfect. I remember taking in a deep breath and feeling glad to be alive. I looked across at Princes Street but wasn't too bothered about walking down it especially as the whole road was up and workmen were digging foundations and laying tracks.

The view from the south side of the gardens near to the Scott Monument was as clear as crystal. I could see the curvaceous sweep of the giant lawn embroidered by perfectly shaped trees bearing leaves of deep greens and summer browns. The colossal stone walls of the castle could be seen in the distance and parts of the Old Town. Initially the park designers wanted to keep the southern side free of any obstacles so that visitors and residents could see the castle in its entirety. I was happy with the view, I thought it was perfect.

Walking away from the green areas of the south side of the park I ventured into the eastern side. This is part of the gardens that that has statues commemorating famous people. Being used to monuments and statues in all the parks in Warsaw I was very happy to come across the famous explorer, David Livingstone and publisher Adam Black. It was still early and there wasn't a lot of movement from passing visitors or people walking through the park on their way to work. The air was still and there was a calming silence in the gardens. I should think this is not always the case as this part of the park does get very busy with tourists.

Before moving on to explore other parts of the city and to get a bacon buttie as I was starving, I took a peek at the western end of the gardens. Here, flower beds are set out in formal displays, there is the wonderfully designed floral clock with pale blue, yellow and green being the dominant colours, a statue of Alan Ramsay, the Lanarkshire poet and once wig maker and the Ross Fountain and bandstand where many musical shenanigans take place, especially on New Year's Eve.

This was the first time I had visited Princes Street Gardens when it was empty and I loved the experience. I wish I could have stayed longer but time was pressing and I really did have to find a sandwich shop where I could buy a white bap filled with crispy bacon topped with brown sauce.

I'll be back soon.

Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street
Edinburgh, Scotland, EH2 2YJ

Not a comfy chair in sight!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Praskipark on July 6, 2012

Edinburgh Airport is another airport where we spent several hours passing time. You might think I am a bit of a skinflint when I tell you that instead of booking into a hotel for the night we chose to stay overnight in this airport. Our flight from Krakow didn’t arrive until after midnight so I thought it would be okay to get a few hours kip in the airport, get up early and wander around the city to take some photographs before catching our coach to Newcastle. I had checked hotel prices out before this trip to UK to see Bruce Springsteen in Sunderland and wasn’t really happy about paying out £100 when we had already spent so much money on the previous trip to Shanghai and other costs relating to coming to UK. I also knew at that time of night a taxi would be involved so to keep costs down we decided our night’s stay would be in this small and reasonably pleasant airport.

As soon as we had left the plane and stepped into Arrivals we decided to go to the area that is marked, ‘Before Security’ to have a look around for comfortable chairs; ones where we could lie down. We only had one rucksack so no heavy luggage to carry around. Caffè Nero was the first café I spotted and although the prices looked a bit steep for a coffee I was gagging for a drink. The seating area here was comfortable enough to sit and have a drink but not to go to sleep although on the other side of the café were some squashy leather chairs in bright red and long seating against a wall where you could stretch out if you needed too. It was nice to see a young Polish girl serving behind the counter too. It was just like being at home in Warsaw except the coffee prices were more. People were sat in the red chairs so I spent the whole of the time watching their movements hoping that they would move on and leave the chairs to us. At this time around 1am there were only a handful of folks wandering around. Smoothie jazz music was playing softly which I didn’t mind but I could see my husband was getting irritated as he’s never been crazy about the singer out of Simply Red.

There are other food outlets on this floor but they weren’t open, like EAT and the Turnhouse which is a Wetherspoons Bar and Restaurant. There were no signs of people leaving their comfy seats and the music by this time had started to jar my husband’s nerves so off we went back to Arrivals to look for more seats. The only ones available that weren’t connected to Costas and the like were the purple covered chairs lined up outside the baggage collection point. Desperate for a bit of shut eye we dumped the rucksack on the floor and tried to lie down. The was a small gale blowing through the area where the luggage conveyor belt was and it was cold especially to me as I had only just come back from the sweltering heat of China. At this point I felt a bit fed up being cold and tired; I wish we had booked a hotel room.

Other people were sleeping and some were snoring but I just found it impossible to sleep no matter how much I tried to get my legs into a resting position. After about 30 minutes squirming around, I wandered to the loos to have a wash and clean my teeth. The toilets here were basic and clean nothing to get over excited about. By the time I had refreshed, my husband had woken up wearing a very grumpy face.

I think you can guess what we did next. Yes, that’s right, trundled upstairs again to see if those travellers had vacated the comfy chairs. No, they hadn’t and by now this was getting ridiculous as we both needed to rest as a long week lay ahead.

Across from Caffè Nero there is another coffee shop which sells sandwiches, soup, juices and salads. I think it is called EAT. The café wasn’t open, the serving area was boarded up and the chairs had been placed on top of the tables but there were free long seats against the wall. Already two people had lain down and were sleeping. We decided to join the club and give it a go. We both felt like a couple of tramps on the run but really didn’t care. Slowly the music floated away and within seconds we were asleep until 5.30 am when a lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m sorry but you will have to move now as I have to open up the shop.’ Bleary eyed, I looked at her and apologised for sleeping in her café. She smiled. I roused my husband and the other two guys who were snoring their heads off. 5.30 am and the coach to Newcastle didn’t leave until 10.30. I reckoned if we had a cup of coffee and another wander around it would take up another hour and then we could leave the airport to catch the bus to the city centre. Seeing that I had crashed out in this café I thought it was only polite to buy a drink and something to eat. I was surprised when the lady gave me a cup of coffee on the house. She said it was because I was her first customer but I think she must have felt sorry for me. Still, it was a nice gesture. The coffee was cheaper and tastier than in Caffè Nero and the sandwich selection was enticing although I didn’t buy anything. My husband purchased a bottle of fresh orange juice and he said it was delicious.

Walking back down to Arrivals we saw that WH Smith had opened its doors so we went to buy cough sweets and a newspaper. I wasn’t impressed with this store; it was pokey and cluttered and the assistant looked worse than I did. He must have been suffering from sleep deprivation too. I asked if there was a Boots chemist on this floor and he said that it was through on the other side. Seeing that we weren’t departing from the airport I left it and went and sat down to read the paper. By this time the airport was getting busy, people were arriving to catch early morning flights to foreign climes, trolley assistants were delivering trolleys to form orderly queues near to luggage carousels and bustling cleaning supervisors were being bossy and ordering staff around to clean behind chairs. The lady in question even came to us and asked us to move so she could pick up the row of seats with a colleague to clean underneath. At this point I had had enough of Edinburgh Airport and decided to walk outside into the cold, brightly lit morning sun.

Directly in front of the doors was a sign for Airlink 100 buses. The early buses run every twenty minutes and others run every 10 minutes. There is an office here too where you buy the tickets before getting on the bus. Ticket prices cost £3.50 for a single ticket and £6 a return ticket. I was pleased when the bus arrived, it was a double decker and I wanted to sit upstairs at the front so I could get a good view. It’s a nice journey to the centre and in a way you get a mini tour of Edinburgh thrown in. If you needed to catch a train you could catch the same bus to Waverley or Haymarket Stations.

How did I feel about staying overnight in Edinburgh Airport? I didn’t enjoy the stay very much at all. The airport is only small and there aren’t a lot of activities to keep you occupied unless you love eating and drinking. Only a couple of cafes were open early morning so this is something to bear in mind if you need to stay in the early hours. We couldn’t find any lounge areas comfortable enough to sleep in so staying here for a long time is out of the question. I would probably fly to Edinburgh again if I had to but I definitely will book a hotel this time if I have to stay over.


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