What can I say about Edinburgh? I am totally head over heels with Edinburgh. It might be my favourite city ever, although it's too soon to tell. Full of beautiful buildings, ancient pubs hidden down secret alleyways and cobbled streets. You can't help but stumble across years of history, on places where secret trysts were made, deals done and promises broken. It feels like a place where dramatic things happen.
It's no wonder that JK Rowling was so inspired here and you can see the influence that Edinburgh has on Harry Potter. At times, it felt like we were strolling down Diagon Alley, or popping into The Three Broomsticks. We found ourselves tucked into the back of The Elephant House cafe where Harry Potter was penned. As a lifelong fan, it was vaguely thrilling although the ordinariness of the cafe was perhaps a disappointment. Or it was, until I went to the bathroom... Pushing open the door to the ladies toilet you are confronted with a cacophony of graffiti, proclaiming their dedication to the story, to the characters and to the author. I felt myself tear up imagining how that must feel, to have your art touch so many people so profoundly. Whilst it may not be 'high' art (although, who decides...), there is something so magical about that.
It was just a weekend, but what a weekend! We stayed in the most beautiful apartment. The owner clearly has impeccable taste, the art on the walls was perfectly curated, the bookshelves were filled to the brim with classic and modern literature, the chandelier hung over a long table with mis-matched chairs perfect for debating politics and art over too many glasses of red wine and a dish of something garlick-y. Oh, and the bed was in a box. We sat by the fireplace, jazz music on the CD player and looked out over the Royal Mile. To think we paid almost the same for a Premier Inn last time we came is comically tragic.
On the first night we joined Emma and Matt for dinner at Ondine, a swanky seafood restaurant found just a stone's throw from the Royal Mile. Far from the ancient pubs steeped in history, this was a swanky place with proper napkins and an extensive (and expensive) wine list. It's not often that you get to dine in Edinburgh, though, so lobster was the order of the day and we finished the meal with whisky to celebrate Burn's Night. Not your usual haggis, neeps and tatties celebration, but it felt fitting. Since we were dressed up to the nines, cocktails at the next-door Hotel Missoni was the only logical step - it was achingly stylish, the drinks were potent but I think I preferred drinking champagne in the apartment afterwards...
The next day was a day for exploration, for wandering aimlessly through Old Edinburgh in search of curiosities and curios. The weather was incredibly kind - although freezing cold it was bright and clear for most of the day so our wandering was pleasant rather than arduous. I think my favourite find was a bookshop filled to the rafters with second-hand books, crammed into corridors that you could spend hours browsing. It felt like something from a Dickens novel, with that overwhelming 'old book' smell and no rhyme or reason to the shelves other than a vague commitment to the alphabet.
I want to give you recommendations of the places we stumbled across, but it doesn't feel right when I don't know the city well enough. However, if you do want to follow in our footsteps, lunch at Mussel & Steak Bar was hearty and wholesome, Caffe Lucano allowed me to combine my love for hot chocolates and limoncello (not in the same cup, but in the same visit...) whilst affording excellent people-watching opportunities, and Holyrood 9a served us epic burgers in stylish settings that wouldn't be out of place in hipster Leeds.
It's hard to look back on holidays with any sense of detachment. After waiting so long for this weekend, I left feeling a bit deflated. Not only was I back to work with a bang (and on my birthday of all days) but having been ill on the last day I couldn't squeeze every last drop out of Edinburgh as I had wanted. Looking back now, though, it feels like it was perfect. Perhaps it was a mix of the two - but there's no denying that Edinburgh is always going to be close to my heart and top of my holiday wish list.
Oh and we got engaged, so there's that...