On New Years Eve, we caught a flight at the crack of dawn and hopped across the water to Edinburgh. We were met dark and early by Gordon and Alistair Grant, my cousins who I hadn’t seen since 2005. Gordon used to travel frequently to Houston for his job, so I got to know him when I was much younger, but he’s since stopped traveling so much, and hasn’t been to Houston in a while. My dad and I got to meet up with all the Scottish cousins (Gordon, Sue, Alistair, and Jamie, and also Gordon’s parents, Kenneth and Ena) when my children’s choir went to Edinburgh on tour in 2003, but that was almost ten years ago now. So the chance to spend time with their family was something I was really looking forward to.
As soon as they picked us up, we drove into the city and had a quick tour by car, which was followed by a glorious full Scottish breakfast. I forgot to take a picture, so you’ll have to content yourselves with one I stole from the internet. (Haggis is great, people. Don’t be scared, just try it.) We spent the day with the Grants, except for a brief nap since we hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep the night before. A second splendid meal for dinner was followed by Edinburgh’s world-renown New Year’s celebration, Hogmanay. We had tickets to the Keilidh/Ceilidh (pronounced “kayley”), which is a traditional Gaelic social gathering involving folk dancing and music. While this one was a little less organized than they normally are (we’re told), it was really fun to watch everyone dancing together. Scottish children learn the steps to all the dances in schools, and Alistair promised to teach me some of them next time I’m in Scotland. I’m really excited.
The best thing about having tickets to the Keilidh, though, was the view we had of the fireworks show. Gordon had told us that there were five and a half tons/tonnes of fireworks at the castle for the night’s celebration, and what resulted was by far the most amazing fireworks display I’ve ever seen. (Gordon and I both took our own recordings, but this one that he found is better than either.) We had a clear view of the castle from across the valley, and could smell the fireworks as they were launched!
On New Year’s Day, David and I spent the morning exploring Edinburgh, and then joined Kenneth and Ena for an incredible four course meal, of which every single bite was out of this world. I hope to have the opportunity to cook with Ena next time I’m in Scotland. It would be so special to be able to learn from her, and I’m sure she has lots she could teach me. For one thing, I’d like to lodge a formal complaint against the phrase “as American as apple pie,” because the best apple pie I’ve ever eaten was in her kitchen. And I am darned proud of my apple pies, people, so this is some high praise.
On our last day in Edinburgh, we did a bit more exploring on our own (mostly to a delightful little tea shop where we ate delicious scones), and then met up with Gordon again and went to Calton Hill (beautiful views of the city), Edinburgh Castle (the stained glass windows in the WWI Memorial Chapel are one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen), and to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Neither David nor I has ever been a huge fan of Whisk(e)y, but we’ve been converted. The complexity of the spirit, and the incredible variety within this very broad category, are things I’d never explored, and I look forward to learning more about it, though Spain doesn’t seem to be the best place to get my education. Another reason to go back to Scotland!
I can’t say enough about what a wonderful time we had, which is part of what’s taken me so long to say anything at all…I wanted to express everything, and eventually I realized I wasn’t going to be able to, so I might as well write some of it even if I couldn’t include everything. Suffice it to say that this city is high on the list of places to return.
Next up in this collection of horribly-delayed posts: a three-part guest series, courtesy of my favorite travel buddy, David Castillo!