I know, it has been ever such a long time since we updated this blog. It was summer's fault, this past glorious summer of many long and sunny days.
The projects were packed away to make room for simple amusements like puzzles and books. Mid-brow fiction was my daily vice; I got into the old habit of finishing a book every other day. And then there was the daily nap in the late afternoon, just before rousing reluctantly to make dinner, which inevitably featured tomatoes, and later on, peppers and eggplants. Amazon.UK (not the France one which majorly sucks) sent me emails at least three times a day about their amazing DVD and book deals and I inevitably succumbed, every week the gardienne brought up a package for V and I to gleefully rip into.
In the evenings, we sat on our tiny terrace and sipped icy cocktails while trying to catch a little breeze, looking at the parade of the people passing by the street below, mostly well-dressed families of middle-eastern holidaymakers making their way to one of the three Noura food outlets around the corner. Friends and my fourth sister dropped in occasionally, or we met for some ice cream outside. So all in, we had a very agreeable lazy time at home to really decompress.
The French like to ask, "Did you go away?" because they probably did and want to exchange stories about their wonderful vacation. Ours was lovely too, and when they heard we went to Scotland the jokes about whisky and bad weather came thick, fast and a little too often.
They're right though, about the weather. Over our two-week holiday it rained on all but two days. It being summer though, the rain usually came and went and we remained quite dry throughout. We started in Edinburgh, then drove up to the Highlands before heading back south to Glasgow. It was a leisurely trip, our modest aims every day was to sightsee a little and eat something really tasty along the way.
I told my mother about our vacation, summing it up as "We ate a lot of fatty foods like scones, cupcakes, butterscotch, haggis, black pudding, bacon etc" and she went, "Sounds delicious!" That's the gist of it, so if you want to know the details, here we go.
We tried to keep costs down by staying at bed-and-breakfast places. Only these days the B&B industry has upgraded themselves and they are knowns as guesthouses. They are, if at all, rated by the Scottish Tourist Board, according to their facilities. We were to stay in 2 four-starred places, and 1 three-starred establishment. My criteria are more more straightforward. How is the bed? and How is the breakfast?
Our Edinburgh guesthouse, 23 Mayfield, scored well on both. Our bedroom was large and comfortable, with a double as well as sofabed for V, plus room for 2 armchairs, an armoire and a proper console with flatscreen TV. Fine, quality linens and solid wooden furniture. The bathroom, though small, has shower cabin and swanky Grohe finishing, so sophisticated I didn't know how to unplug the sink. The owners are very friendly and hospitable, the rather masculine common sitting room is furnished with buttonholed-leather sofas and a laptop for surfing.
Their breakfasts are award-winning. Everyone, including V, pre-orders the night before. The range is wide: tea, coffee, cereals, yoghurts, porridge, fruits and something cooked like traditional breakfast, kippers, pancakes or waffles. The Full Scottish selection includes the amazing Stornaway black pudding, decent haggis, meaty bacon, grilled and marinated tomato, sausages etc of which we choose up to six items. On the first day we tried almost everything, by the second day I had dropped to four and some days I had their pancakes with perfectly crisp bacon.
One morning husband ordered for himself the cheeseboard, it comes with oatcakes which is basically dense biscuits made of oats, delicious. V usually has either an egg or some ham, but always with marmite on toast which she took to liking.
The first thing we ate in Edinburgh was Indian Vegetarian in Southside. At 1.30 p.m. the chef at Ann Purna wanted to go home, so only buffet selection was available. Not much to choose from but food was really tasty, especially their subtle-spiced pakoras. Learning that buffet lunch is so good in Indian restaurants here, we tried another at Kalpna a few days later. Wider selection of dishes, delicious, healthy and inexpensive. We ate better at Indian places than Chinese, but for Asian food, Kampung Ah Lee, also along Southside, delivered the goods. Their Nonya fried chicken, nam-yee marinated pork belly and stirfried kangkung hit the spot for us, but don't order their satay which comes in huge pieces and were undergrilled.
While shopping along Multrees Walk in New Town, we came across Valvona & Crolla VinCaffè. We stopped by for coffee and cakes. Their cupcakes were not too Italian but totally yummy. V ate the whole cake, not just the frosting. We ate a lot of cupcakes during our holiday, this was one of our favourites. Moist cakey crumb, creamy frosting that melts its fruity flavours onto the tongue (and not the icky buttercream type that doesn't soften no matter what). The banoffee pie was acceptable, but the cupcakes were better. I should also have tried a strawberry tart which looked so tantalising with their shiny jammy glaze. They sell books and some kitchen stuff too, I bought a book on housekeeping that is written by a man.
In Part 2, palace cafes and handmade crisps by the castle. Also lots of puddings and a whole roast pig.
Ann Purna 45, St Patrick's Square , Southside T: 0131 662 1807
Kalpna 2/3 St Patrick's Square, Southside T: 0131 667 9890
Kampung Ah Lee 28 Clerk Street, Southside T: 0131 662 9050
Valvona & Crolla Vincaffè 11 Multrees Walk, New Town T: 0131 557 0088