Edinburgh was truly one of the must beautiful places I’ve ever seen. But the odds were against our ability to have a true Scottish experience while we were there from the moment we arrived. Edinburgh holds an annual Fringe Fest during the month of August, and according to its website and event staff, it’s the largest arts festival in the world. That sounds great… If you intend on traveling to Edinburgh for the Fringe Fest. We did not. We knew the event would be taking place while we were there, but we had no idea that it would literally envelop the city with amateur artists desperately handing out fliers for you to watch their 4 hour free one-man comedy acts. So. Many. Fliers. And remember, we’re coming from just seeing an ahh-mazing play in London’s theater district. The streets were restaurants were packed, the sites were crowded, and the overall Scottish experience we were hoping for flat out wasn’t there.
But while it was nothing like what we were expecting, the Edinburgh that we saw was pretty amazing– On the first day, we walked every inch of old town.Arthur’s Seat in the distance
When it got dark, we escaped the rain to a cute little Parisian-styled cafe. Who would have thought hot chocolate in August could be so good? But the Bailey’s didn’t hurt…
The next day, we enjoyed lattes and croissants at The Elephant House before exploring Arthur’s Seat, which we saw from a neighboring hill the night before. We planned to hike up on our last day, but it was such a large and towering open space in the middle of the city, we really couldn’t avoid it. So we flagged down two men running down the trail to ask them a few questions. When they came closer, I recognized that one was wearing a Sochi USA Olympic Team shirt and I sparked conversation about Colorado Springs being the location of the USOC. Turns out, they were American and his cousin used to work there as an events coordinator. Small world. He was a teacher in Edinburgh with his wife for their 6-week summer vacation and the other was a college recruiter who worked remotely. They didn’t plan on being there for the Fringe either. We all bonded over how happy we were to find other Americans in a sea of Great Britain tourists and later met up, got beers, and watched the Olympics at a pub close by that night.
If there was but one positive to come out of the Fringe Festival, it was the amazing amateur musicians playing at all hours of the day. Our hostel was directly across the street from a trio (guitar/vocals/drums, trumpet/symbols/tambourine, and a didgeridoo) that played classic Scottish music all night long. Walking around late one night, we stopped before heading to bed. This small corner was where the locals hid while tourists took over their city. Particularly, a late-50s year old man dressed all in orange with white dreads that went to the floor and his wife were hoping and spinning and twisting and jerking to the music in ways that were so carefree and beautifully refreshing we couldn’t help but smile. And the music was so good, we couldn’t help but clap and cheer both the musicians and the dancers on.
View from the top of Arthur’s Seat…
I can’t wait to go back and experience Edinburgh like its meant to be experienced, but while it was nothing like we expected, we still had an amazing time.