VISUAL DIARY: EDINBURGH AND THE FRINGE

Edinburgh is nothing short of marvellous. The architecture is stunning, it’s one of the eeriest towns in Europe and in the month of August each year, it transforms into a bustling, vibrant city of festivals. There are many – the jazz festival, the book festival, the marketing festival (umm), the extremely popular annual Military Tattoo but the biggest and brightest is the unmistakable Fringe, the biggest annual performing arts festival in the world.

I went to the Fringe alone. Technically this is untrue because I knew dozens of people in the city (Fact: I've worked both the New Zealand International Comedy Festival and Melbourne Comedy Festival before) but for the most part, I was on my own. But being alone is good for the ego and it’s hard to feel lonely when there’s always something to capture your imagination. A myriad shows (over 2500) in a variety of venues – from churches to caves, teepees to townhalls, and lively streets made exploring the city on foot and finding something to see or do, pretty damn easy.

The main strip, the Royal Mile; much longer than a mile and thus resulting in a unique measure called 'The Scots Mile', runs from Edinburgh Castle on top of Castle Rock to the Palace of Holyroodhouse; is the busiest, filled with a few hundred of the many performers trying to sell their shows. Getting anywhere in a hurry is nearly impossible as you will be handed flyers to all kinds of shows that run the course of the Fringe – live music, stand up comedy, theatre, and musicals, and be distracted by all kinds of street artists, buskers, caricaturists and stalls selling the work of independent artists. Some very good, and some very strange.

One of the best things about a mega festival like the Fringe is you can splurge on the ones you know are good, buy tickets at the half-price booth and experiment with newer acts, or just catch the dozens of shows that are part of the Free Fringe, and spend your pennies on Boddingtons ale.

Scotland doesn’t provide much for culinary exploits and it’s highly likely that a major percentage of your dietary intake will include scotch, tatties (potatoes), cider, and late night Angus steak burgers after late night jazz. It's likely that you will be in a state of disarray by midnight (tends to be the case when you’re equal parts blood and alcohol and these burgers will save you). In a rare moment of bravery, I tried haggis, and it wasn’t half bad – sort of like meatloaf with added oats and a peppery sauce.

My favourite meal though was at Iglu, a gorgeous little cafe in Newtown recommended by my friend Kelly, who is a brilliant chef. At Iglu, my new friends and I played scrabble, drank local lagers and ate bunless wild boar burgers with thick, luscious homemade mayonnaise followed by Earl Grey jelly petit fours.

Although I am far from being a history geek (geography is more my thing), I decided to go on a walking tour, a fantastic way to spend an entire afternoon learning facts and fables and unearthing some of Edinburgh's best local spots. The one I did zigzags across the Mile, down to the Grassmarket, stopping behind the Elephant House coffee shop where JK Rowling penned the first two Harry Potter novels (Here's a lesson in kindness  - they let the then struggling mother nurse only a single cup of tea each day and write, and now they do a roaring trade because of it), the haunted cemetery, the school that Hogwarts is inspired by, and the lush Princes Street gardens. I can’t recommend the walking tour enough. They even run a ghost tour and a pub crawl if you’re so inclined.


*This is a post from my archives.