Thursday, 30 July 2015

Appreciating Edinburgh


A busy time at home and work = lack of blogging.  And also, I have to admit, a certain fatigue with Edinburgh.  We've lived here for 30 years now, and if one has to live in a city it's a rather lovely one.  But still.  I'm in danger of taking it for granted/being bored by it/longing to escape.  One day we will escape, back to the north east, but for the moment our working lives are here and things are conspiring to prevent mini-escapes to hills or coast.

So I've given myself a mental shake and decided to appreciate Edinburgh.  What would I miss most, I asked myself, when we eventually move from the city?  After all, its Old and New Towns have UNESCO World Heritage status.  It has 12 festivals of culture throughout the year, with the peak in terms of volume coming with the International Festival and Festival Fringe in August.  And art galleries and museums and gardens and trams.  The answer, I was startled to discover, was...cafes.  I told myself to think again, but the answer came back even more firmly, and I realised it was true and that I was unapologetic about it.  Edinburgh has a blissful range of independent cafes, so that there's no need to darken the doors of a Starbucks or Costa. My nearest cafe corner is in the Canonmills area, beside the Water of Leith.  Canonmills was originally a small village, and got its name from the Augustinian canons of Holyrood Abbey who had a watermill here from the 12th century.  Jump forward several centuries and I present the Blue Bear cafe as top of my list for appreciating Edinburgh.

Photo credits are due to my daughter, who took these shots for me unasked.  And if you're very observant you'll notice from the Christmas tree that they were taken a while ago.  But at any time of year, what could be nicer than afternoon tea in these lovely flowery cups?
 


And some of the home baking.
 

What would you miss most about where you live at the moment, if you had to move?  I'd love to see a blog post about it!

As well as the Christmas tree, you may also notice I've added an Instagram button to my sidebar.  You'll find me at @occasionalscotland. I've been puddling around with Instagram for a bit, as much for my own interest as anything else.  I still have to get round to adding any tags to my posts so I'm obviously not in it to maximise my followers!  But I'm enjoying the immediacy of the thing, especially when my time for blogging is limited.  What about you - are you attracted by Instagram?  

Monday, 13 July 2015

Tour de force


It's that time again - the Tour de France.  I'm no cyclist, not having been on bike since my student days.  Back then I used to cycle to the tennis courts on summer evenings, and cycle out with friends on the quiet country roads around the village.  But over the past few years I've become besotted by the Tour de France, that epic 3 week unfolding drama. We holidayed in the Bordeaux area one year just before the Tour passed through, and it was evident in even the smallest of hamlets that something of the magnitude of a royal visit was about to happen.  Everything that could be was painted, swept, polished, renovated.  And unlike a royal visit, no-one would even stop - unless they fell off.  I started watching the race on TV.  At first it was the footage of France that drew me in.  Then gradually, almost without noticing, I began to pick up some of the technicalities.  And now it's a highlight of my year.

It's one thing to watch it from the comfort of the sofa, but almost unimaginably another to ride the actual route within the same timeframe, a week in advance of the Tour itself.  However that's what a friend is doing this year - riding the route for charity.  The Tour de Force takes riders on some or all of the stages of that year's Tour, raising money for the William Wates Memorial Trust to help the most disadvantaged young people keep away from a life of crime and violence and fulfill their potential.   Imagine riding the daily hell of the Tour without having chosen this as a career, without the corporate resource of the big cycling teams, without years of finely-tuned training programmes.  Have a look at Tony Does TDF and you'll see someone doing just that - and perhaps consider donating to the charity if you feel moved to.

You weren't going to get photo of me on a bike to illustrate this post, so I popped out from work to take some cycling-themed photos in the neighbourhood.  The last photo below is one of the bike stores for cycle commuters at the University of Edinburgh. 

And bon courage to Tony as he approaches the Alps!

 




Monday, 6 July 2015

Woeful failure to take photos

The Shard, from Citizen M Bankside
 Not much photo-taking going on.  I'm still on the tram lines of get up-go to work-come home-slump.  I will blog more about this in my next post.  We had a long weekend in London recently - things have been too busy for us to plan a summer holiday, so this was as close as we're going to get this year.  Since this is a blog about Scotland I shouldn't really be compensating by filling it with London.  In fact I hardly reached for my camera all weekend.  I just felt like enjoying the time rather than documenting it.  However I did take a few extremely random photos.  Above, a glimpse of the Shard from our hotel, Citizen M Bankside.  First time I've ever found staying in a hotel fun - I didn't realise the concept existed. 

Below, a place I really love - the Royal Festival Hall.  We got to know it very well when our children played in a national Suzuki  concert there.  This time we were at closing concert of the Philharmonia's season - Bartok, Mozart and Beethoven.  It was absolutely sublime.


Royal Festival Hall
 After the concert we walked back to the hotel along the river, taking photos of that major London landmark - clouds.


Clouds playing pat-a-cake over London skyline


The only other photo to emerge from the weekend is this totally unsatisfactory one taken in the Chelsea Physic Garden.  The garden was lovely and interesting and educational, but fiendishly difficult for photos, because it just looked like a large kitchen garden with some information panels.  I don't really mean 'just', and perhaps much of its charm is to be a garden that looks achievable rather than ferocious.
 
Chelsea Physic Garden
 The main reason for our visit was to see the exhibition of watercolours by Eric Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery.  I absolutely love the work of Ravilious.  After we'd queued to get in and then gone round the exhibition, my long-suffering husband said 'I suppose you want to go round again?'. And of course I did.

Back in Edinburgh I was lucky enough to see something that's been tantalizing me on weather and cloud sites, but I began to doubt would ever be a feature of Edinburgh's skis.  Mammatus clouds!  They're associated with thunder clouds, which aren't very frequent here.  However, we've had a couple of thunderstorms this week, one of which I slept through, and in the morning on looking out of the window (which had been open wide all night) thought, 'oh, there's been a bit of a shower of rain in the night'.  

Mammatus clouds!

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