Monday, December 28, 2015

Cullen Skink Anyone?

The festival, with it’s thousands of shows can be overwhelming for the uninitiated, but after grabbing a free book listing events and stopping in a pub for a pint to confer we decided to head to the ticket office to get entry to a couple of events.  Being easily distracted I was constantly being sidetracked by the ongoing free street events that were taking place but my companions kept me going and I eventually ended up in a rather lengthy queue to secure tickets.  Although I am generally a rather reserved person by nature I do at times enjoy
chatting with fellow travellers in line-ups such as this so I didn’t mind the experience.  We ended up with tickets to a comedy show and then a music event later in the evening.  Finding the venues was a bit of a challenge but Shelby, who as I said has an amazing internal navigation system, managed to herd us up and down staircases, along narrow streets and into some of the most remote areas of Edinburgh I have seen in my many visits there. 

The Underbelly Edinburgh (Underbelly Limited)
The first show took pace at the Pleasance Courtyard, a small street filled with clubs owned by the University of Edinburgh student union. Unfortunately, I can’t remember more details but the first show was a terrific comedy act in a small stone-enclosed warehouse type room. There were maybe thirty people but it was filled to capacity.  We then headed over to the Underbelly on Cowgate, a rather unique and edgy venue located beneath the George IV Bridge. As you traverse the archway at the entrance you enter a dreary stone courtyard off of which are countless rooms where shows take place, stairs, which seem to defy all safety standards, numerous bars and other nooks and crannies.  Apparently the space is only used during the Fringe and the dark and dank atmosphere of this unique locale is not to be missed. We entered the rather dungeony, cave-like room and managed to find seats on one of the wooden benches right by the stage.  I didn’t really know what to expect as the kids had picked this group. Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum are a Melbourne based duo who perform hip-hop and beatbox.  Now, I suppose it could be my age – I was about to hit the half century mark after all - or it could have been my complete disinterest in this type of “music”, or it could have been the exhaustion of the day, but I am somewhat chagrined to say that despite the amplitude of the sound (trust me, I think the walls were shaking) and the screaming, ahem, singing of my three companions, I did in fact nod off for forty winks.  The kids raved about the show afterwards and it must have been good because even though Shelby suspected I may have suffered some ominous health related incident, since my head was nodding forward and I was probably drooling, she opted not to bother rousing me until the show had ended! 

The kids were definitely on a high after the experience as we headed over to Deacon Brodies Tavern on the corner of The Royal Mile and Bank Street for a bite to eat. We sat upstairs and ordered pints and bowls of Cullen Skink.  Now the name might sound like some type of super-industrial cleaner but this is a traditional thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions.  Be sure to try this tasty treat if ever you visit the land of heather!  Although we hadn’t been able to get tickets to the Tattoo itself we were able to watch the departure of the bands and the crowds from the Castle through the open windows of Brodies. 

Now I’m not saying you need to be extraordinarily fit to visit Edinburgh – I mean it isn’t the Great Wall of China or Machu Picchu – but walking that incline to the top of the Royal Mile at the end of an exhausting day can seem to be a bit like climbing Mount Everest. By the time we reached our closet, umm, room we were all ready for a good sleep!

View of the Tattoo letting out from Deacon Brodies Tavern.

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