Sunday, 14 January 2018

Leith. Leith Docks. Restalrig. Edinburgh. Last Act.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A daytime photo of the place I took Anne and Belinda into for an evening meal. It's a large family friendly pub/restaurant situated at the bottom end of Leith Walk- and the bus from Edinburgh city centre dropped us off at the door. It's also far enough away from the tourist honeypots of the Royal Mile to be almost a third of the price of city centre restaurants catering for visitors. By this time we were all hungry so no grumbles about cheap and cheerful pub grub as they would have happily scraped food off the pavement when we finally arrived here. (there's method in my madness- sometimes) Fortunately, they serve meals up to 11:00pm here so no need for that. It's a large open plan space inside, being a former local cinema then bingo hall with a range of unusual interior architecture and fittings. Surprisingly impressive but modernized to suit today's tastes. Steak pie, chips and peas: burger, chips and peas  and a curry were soon swallowed and pronounced excellent followed by a drink of choice. Excellent in my case as I could afford it as a treat.
A look inside. Only right as I gave The Witchery the same link in the last post.
Even without the difference in price for menus Leith is more my style of place anyway. Like Anne and Belinda I'm from a working class background in the Glasgow council estates so we naturally feel more at home in ordinary areas rather than upmarket ones as we understand the environment completely without even thinking about it. Although I've enjoyed exploring both worlds from time to time this one will always feel more natural to me and where I belong within it. Also a relief to find wide quiet roads and pavements here after the crush of the tourist numbers where stopping to take a photograph often requires planning- like always having a lamppost or other handy solid metal device at your back to stop folk slamming straight into you if you halt forward pavement progress in any way. Another plus was not having the worry of getting separated every time I stopped, however briefly, as the crowds immediately swallowed them up like a disappearing act and you had to keep constantly alert in busy areas to find each other again.
It was also a nice change to get away from the tartan, haggis and heather stereotypes, packed shops, and gridlocked traffic jams of central Edinburgh during the festive period. This area, Restalrig, was where we were staying for the night. Anne's friend, W, had offered us a free bed for the night as long as we turned on the heating, checked the place over security wise, and made sure the frost protection was still working ok. The house owner was elsewhere for a few days as their job often involved driving in central Edinburgh and the last place they wanted to be was around the capital during Christmas and New Year. Edinburgh is a very busy city these days and seems to have something going on most weeks so I can understand that and as it was minus 5 overnight for a few days they wanted the house heated, boiler started, and the taps used just to give the place some action to prevent freezing. This is not it by the way just a period street of different housing types near an old church.
Both Leith and nearby Restalrig have a long history dating back to medieval times as this local pub sign shows. Both supplied goods to the city but were thriving places in their own right- one a busy sea port and the other a large rural estate and trading area offering a wide range of produce. Like selling bunches of roses in season no doubt.
Slightly different now of course in modern times but both still have a wide range of interesting buildings and architectural styles.
The girls bagged the bedrooms and I got the living room carpet but as that was the warmest room in the house I was quite happy. Being a veteran bothy and climbing hut sleeper it was actually a big step up in class for me after some of the other places I've put my head down in - and a free bed for the night- yippeee! hence the evening meal thank you. We arrived in the dark but in the morning we had a proper look around the district before heading for the docks. The house was put back in order to the way we found it and the girls left a Christmas gift and cards behind as a thank you.
The great thing about Leith docks is that it's still a busy working sea port so you never know what you might see down there whenever you visit. Oil platforms here.
Ships come and go nearly every day so there's always something new to see... the surprise factor.
It's certainly busier than Glasgow's River Clyde which was fine in the days of sailing ships and trade with America but too far inland and on the wrong side of the country to compete with modern east coast trade routes and long standing European connections.
A gable end mural in Leith depicting the long history of the area and the various trades in what was to all intents and purposes a separate town in its own right. This mural is a bit faded now unfortunately.
I like this mural. It's different.
Leith has a wide range of buildings but one I really wanted to see was the 'Banana Flats' as its one of the last examples of 1960s Brutalist architecture left in Scotland. It also featured in the Trainspotting book and that's probably why it's now a category A listed structure. Ironically, most of the Trainspotting film was shot in Glasgow's slums as the capital city father's were worried it would damage Edinburgh's reputation abroad and they wanted to keep the tourist money pouring into the city. Compared to Glasgow, Edinburgh does seem to generate more income, just looking around the place at visitor numbers alone, but whether that's an accurate assessment I'm not sure.
This is it here. Ten floors high and curved like a banana .Architects always have great bold ideas but most of them do not grow up in poor areas so they usually have an unrealistic vision of how designs like this will turn out in practice with ordinary folk with families living in them. Estates like this one have been built and pulled down ten to twenty years later in very poor condition all over the UK yet cottage type council estates built in the 1930s, each house with back and front small gardens, are still thriving today- although most of them are now bought so they are off the market for renting out. A UK wide problem for today's young folk looking for a place to live that started in the 1980s with the right to buy scheme- for former council estates. Less affordable housing around now. These days CCTV everywhere and modern security upgrades have improved living conditions in the flats and they do have fantastic views from the upper levels.
What I like about Leith is its sheer variety of buildings a short distance from each other- ancient, old and brand new- often in the same street.
and of course its waterfront- turning it into a mini Venice.
Merchant Navy Memorial. Little dock workers unloading. One of my favourite sculptures.
Another view of it.
More Leith Waterfront.
A quiet gentleman enjoying the dusk.
Deep Arctic lit up like a Christmas Tree. Leith docklands.
A ship coming into the harbour from the Firth of Forth.
As the bus stop homewards was near this shopping centre and it had started raining by this time Belinda and Anne insisted on a quick visit - 'the perfect umbrella.' I was not overly keen but as I'd dragged them all over Leith for photographs I couldn't very well refuse.
Heading down to get a bus back to Princes Street and the intercity bus home to Glasgow.
A few photos of our home town again. Glasgow's very own architecture. City Centre view.
Cowcaddens area near the bus station.
Glasgow's Eagle Building at night.
Thank you both for an unforgettable trip and a great city to city adventure. The End.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Edinburgh's Gothic Noir. A Magical Mystery Tour. Act Four.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
After our exploits wandering around half blind on a night time Arthur's Seat two posts ago it was still only 5:00pm when we came down to ground level again. Last year during the festive period Anne and Belinda had experienced plenty of night time walking around Edinburgh's main shopping district so this time I had promised them something very different.
Over our two day trip we did take in the Christmas/ New Year lights along Princes Street and George Street of course. George Street dome seen here.
There was also a separate 80 metre high tower drop that thrill seeker Belinda had already been on during daylight hours (try stopping her :o) but I had something different planned for my 4th act... taking my cue, not from a famous LP/film but from a play instead.
I do get through to Edinburgh quite frequently these days ... enough to see the colours and performances changing on the Playhouse.
Tonight was my own version of a play.. with mystery, drama, and unexpected thrills as my audience had no idea where I was taking them... or where they would end up.
The bottom of the Royal Mile was a start. An area full of little alleyways, dead end wynds, steep narrow stairs and closes leading off the main street with centuries old buildings towering above. This particular one reminds me of Hansel and Gretel for some reason, probably because it has as a Low Countries or Germanic feel to it. It does have a slight gingerbread and marzipan appearance, especially at night.
A view of the general district we were exploring at night but this time captured during the day. Suitably Gothic for a wander. The Royal Mile, leading up to the castle, follows a rising ridge-line here and numerous narrow flights of stairs and tight lanes lead down between the buildings to lower street levels. One of the more exciting aspects of old Edinburgh.
Or Jack the Ripper land... take your pick as the lanes are not as well lit as the main highways. But better lighting would completely spoil the magic of this area as tourists flock here for this old time  experience.
Edinburgh at night is composed of two worlds. It can feel very busy and friendly with tourists still walking around... or it can be really quiet, strange and mysterious.. full of hidden nooks and dark crannies.
As usual it was the latter I was drawn to... you canny beat a quiet empty street for a bit of fun and games I always say :o)
Under Edinburgh Castle... just as impressive at night.
As Anne and Belinda had organized our overnight sleeping arrangements with a friend of theirs I had promised to treat them to a proper restaurant meal in return if they went up Arthur's Seat for the night time views.
'You won't be disappointed.' I told them. 'A real find this place is.'
'We're not going into The Witchery?' Anne disbelievingly inquired as we arrived at the door of this well known upmarket establishment. 'Fantastic!' Excitement lit up her face at the thought.
'Sadly not. Fully booked up.' I lied.  'Christmas and all that. Couldn't get a table. I've heard it's very nice inside though.'
'Yes, I'd heard that too.' Anne said wistfully.  'Gorgeous interiors. I've always wanted to go there for a meal.' She sighed.' Maybe someday '
'You,ll need to find a better Prince first Mum.' Belle was also gutted after realizing we were only stopping at it for a photo opportunity. 'Not this cut price sewn up pockets Fagin.'
'That was cruel!' She admonished.
'Don't worry.  My restaurant of choice serves excellent grub as well. Top notch quality fillings in the basement with a barber's shop above .' I reassured them. 'This place is far too posh for the likes of us anyway. We'd only feel out of our depth in there.'
'I don't think I would.' commented Anne, disappointed.
'Me neither, Scrooge McDuck.'  Belinda disappeared briefly after delivering a petulant slap on the head of this bad Santa, her hopeful curiosity prompting a cheeky wander around inside but came out again a short time later... repulsed.
'Sussed out so fast ?' I surmised. 'Must be the outfit your wearing. Shabby chic hill savage. Never mind. You can look at what you missed online when you get home. It's almost the same thing with a virtual tour nowadays so no need to splash the cash in hard reality. Ah, The wonders of technology,'

Two pairs of hostile eyes followed my retreating back as I continued up the hill to the castle. Act Four. False hope then disillusionment. A classic theme.
There was plenty to see for free though in this fine city and the baby bats roosting in my pockets slept on undisturbed. Edinburgh Castle above.
A view across the city. Johnston Terrace, Grassmarket  and George Heriot's School.
A closer view. Edinburgh being stuffed to the gunnels with business and political movers and shakers this is one of the most prestigious young person's detention centres in the entire UK. Future giants of industry, commerce or education may well reside here, training to take their rightful place at the apex of society.
Radisson blu. Edinburgh. A four star hotel on the Royal Mile. You can tell its posh when they leave out letters... or use another easily recognized language. Same in other countries abroad where you have shops like 'Le Cockney Tossers' or Jeune Ecole English Punk Rock. A tried and tested formula for any business. In France stick a few English words into any shop title or restaurant- simply reverse that in the UK... or leave out a letter instead of 'bleu' when folk get more savvy. That's my take on it anyway.
Edinburgh has a real atmosphere at night so I tried to capture it in these photos.
Painting atmosphere and mood with a camera. Or attempting to anyway. Why should it always be a human face looking down from the moon? Our brains are designed to fill in any gaps to see the world that way but any self respecting alien with the same innate portrait recognition traits might see a very different image. Just a thought.
St Giles Cathedral.
Back Stairs. The Mound.
You can't really go wrong in Edinburgh's Old Town... so many great views.Night or day.
Ghost Bus. West End.
West End again.
Old period housing.
I could have explored for ages but Anne and Belinda were running out of stamina... and patience.
'Where's this bloody restaurant then? We're starving.'
'Right. Follow me.'
I led them into a dark alleyway between tall ancient buildings off the Royal Mile then down a sloping ramp to a right angled bend at the bottom...we passed a gate of sorts...
Which led in turn to the start of a long, long tunnel...
No tourists around now................... just us.
'I don't like the look of this place.' Anne remarked.....'are you sure it's safe?'
'This is where the restaurant is situated.' I explained. ' the other end. Trust me... I'm a tour guide.'

Somewhat reluctantly, they followed me down into the bowels of the earth... further and further down...and the tunnels got narrower.. and darker... and deeper. Soon running water started to appear...under our feet.
'No way.. let's turn back. Argh! This is disgusting! My good boots!'
'No chance of that. This is a genuine rite of passage.' I informed them. 'All the best people use it here to get around. This avoids the crowds, the riff raff, the working classes, and the traffic jams above. A fast track to the top. All cities have them installed. '

they were not too keen however..... but after a while we started to rise again from the mire...

And came out right beside the sea.

'How did that happen?' Belle asked.
'I have no idea.' I replied. 'But this is our destination. I'm very lucky when it comes to finding wormholes and time portals.'
Act Four closes.... exit ... The Rabbit Hole.

Belinda's personal choice of video this week and it is stunning. Fantastic artwork, great imagination and short story telling that really deserves a watch full screen from this interesting Icelandic band. A unique four minute vision.