Monday, July 27, 2009

Edinburgh 30.6.09: Skye Terriers and Murano Hedgehogs

Another nice, slow day. Ian took us on a driving tour of various areas of Edinburgh, beginning with Valvona and Crolla, which he thought we’d like to see for its significance to Alexander McCall Smith’s stories.

It was certainly a beautifully arranged shop with beautiful food, but far less splendid than various sources had made me imagine. We looked but didn’t buy, since we fly to Germany on Ryan Air in two days and weight restrictions are strict.

From there to the Morningside area of the city, where J.K. Rowling used to live, and where she liked to shop at Waitrose. We went there to buy ingredients for our meal tomorrow. Didn’t spot J.K. Rowling or Alexander McCall Smith.

We did, however, enjoy a good cup of Italian coffee at a café on the main shopping street down from the store. And in a small second-hand shop for the disabled across the street, I found a pretty little handmade vase from Guernsey that I’ll bring back as a souvenir of my time in Edinburgh.

Then on to the Grassmarket, where Ian dropped us to shop. It was rather touristy and uninteresting, so we quickly found our way to Westport, a street with several used bookstores that Ian’s daughter Jennifer had kindly marked on a map for us.

Several of these turned out to be closed because it was Monday, so we could only stare longingly at the books displayed in their widows. We did find one open, though, and spent a delightful hour or so in its narrow tunnels of books guarded by a sleeping dog at the entrance—something we had just encountered at a little antiques shop in the Grassmarket, where a Skye terrier in a basket sleepily sprawled across the threshold as we stepped into the store.

People unfailingly helpful and hospitable even when we bought nothing from them. Steve had wanted to find a replacement for the two small thistle-marked whiskey glasses he’s broken from the set we got on our last visit here.

We looked in several second-hand shops to no avail, asking in each where we might find something like that. In each, we received recommendations to stores of nearby competitors, along with detailed instructions (Ebay, etc.) of other options to try if that failed.

In the shop with the Skye terrier at the door, I did spot, however, an adorable Murano hedgehog for Mary’s collection, and bought it. It’ll be handsome in her collection, with its dots of green, yellow, red, and blue on bottom catching light and throwing ribbons of color up into the sparkling crystal.

Then we stopped for a glass of beer and a sandwich at one of the many pubs on either side of the central square in the Grassmarket, and spent some time sitting and writing there, in a garden behind the pub, and on a bench in the square.

We walked on to a Barnados benefit shop selling old lace, and I found a pretty antique linen tea towel fringed with lace for Billie, and a handbag made of reclaimed vintage fabric (green and gold, glimmering in the light) for Kate. The day had turned sunny—our first sunny day since we arrived—and it was pleasant to be out.

A taxi ride home then with a taxi driver from Mauritius, a rest, and then to dinner at Fishers, a seafood place in the oldest part of Leith, where Ian had made reservations, since we wanted to take him and Donna and Albert out to thank them for their hospitality and celebrate Albert’s graduation.

A wonderful meal—fish cakes (smoked haddock and salmon mixed with mashed potato and bread crumbs) with a garnish of rocket salad and Sancerre wine to drink. Donna shared her appetizer of mussels cooked in white wine and garlic, and they were succulent, tender, and delicious.

For dessert, we shared an array of sorbet (raspberry and red currant), toffee cake, strawberries melba, and truffle cake. The latter surprising, since it seemed to be made with ground walnuts, like a Reine de Saba cake. It was delicious, light, not too sweet, with a smoky deep chocolate base.

Afterwards, a little walk around the old harbor area, very romantic as the haar settled in, muffling cries of seagulls above us. We went into the lobby of the old Malmaison hotel (Fishers was across from it) and admired the beautiful square, solid architecture and appointments one finds in many old Edinburgh houses and buildings. And then home to bed, and another chapter about Henrietta, Christopher Wren’s redoubtable traveling cat.

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