It was starting to drizzle a little as the train pulled out of Pitlochry. Not a hard rain, just damp enough to wet the salmon fisherman trying their best in the river as the train passed by. A couple hours later we were in Edinburgh for one last stop in Scotland.
Not just the setting for “Trainspotting,” Edinburgh is also known for being the capital of Scotland and has been since the 15th century. It is a medieval wonderland in which the Edinburgh Castle looms large on the skyline. There are winding roads, narrow alleyways and cobbles galore all coated in a thick layer of history. All this, of course, makes it a massive tourist draw. There were English tourists, American tourists, European tourists, and quite a lot of Chinese tourists. All of whom seem to be clamoring to get a view of the castle and buy as much tweed as possible.
It was just slightly odd listening to the Russian or Chinese salespeople selling Scottish woolen goods to their compatriots in their native language. Wasn’t quite the Scottish experience I had elsewhere. One wonders how Brexit will reshape the face of tourist retail.
Edinburgh is beautiful even with all the tourists and with so much to see and do one could go mad trying to fit in as much as possible. We on the other hand just kind of tried to absorb the atmosphere and see where our little adventure would take us. So in the two days we had there we mostly just walked around and looked at a lot of old stuff, old buildings, old parks, old bits of history.
The second day we found our way into the National Museum of Scotland. With one face it looks totally contemporary and the other face is totally Victorian. It is huge and it took up a great deal of well spent time.
Museums always make me hungry, but after a week of hearty Scottish fare, which I thoroughly enjoy mind you, I was in the mood for something a little different. Luckily the Museum shares a neighborhood with the University of Edinburgh. Being an ancient and internationally ranked university it was bound to have something different around it.
So we walked around a bit and looked at menus and tried to decide on a place. There were a few very interesting looking places, but this little Chinese place around the corner from the Musuem caught my attention. It had all the hallmarks of a good Chinese restaurant that just happened to be jammed into the most Scottish looking of buildings.
It was a quiet little place with the specials handwritten in Chinese on pieces of paper unceremoniously taped to the front of the counter. Perfect, a place where the use of Chinese didn’t seem quite so out of place. It was the kind of place where Chinese college students come to find comfort food. In fact pretty much all the other patrons were Chinese students, except for the one white guy who happened to be chatting up a Chinese student…
The menu had a fair number of items that were squarely aimed at a more Western palate. We avoided those in favor of more traditional fare. We settled on three dishes; 乾煸四季豆 (dry fried green beans), 香辣肚絲 (spicy shredded tripe), and 涼拌白菜 (“spicy shredded cabbage”).
All were good, but the last I especially enjoyed. I had never had the 涼拌白菜 before, it is a cold salad of shredded napa cabbage quick pickled in a spicy vinegar oil mix, similar to 涼拌黃瓜 (cold cucumber salad). I immediately set to finding a recipe upon returning home, it was that good.
Lunch completed we continued our rambling around Edinburgh’s shops and sites. Until threatening rain forced us into a pub for a drink and some sticky toffee pudding. After which we quietly retired for the evening to get packed for the next days departure.
The next day with our holiday nearly concluded there was just enough time to pop into the local supermarket to grab a large jar of Marmite and a Soreen Malt loaf before hopping the plane back across the pond.
In conclusion, go to Scotland if not for the fine Indian and Chinese food at least for the Scotch and hillwalking. I know our short trip left us wanting more, hopefully we return soon.