A Travellerspoint blog

A sampling of UK guilty pleasures

overcast 54 °F

Exhausted from a busy few days, we sleep in late this morning and head out for breakfast at about 10:30 a.m. We grab a table at the Southern Cross Cafe (where we had eaten last week) and order two cappuccinos, with a croque madame topped with fried egg for me and a plate of bacon, hash browns, sausage, and egg for Matt. The day is cloudy and spits rain every once in awhile, but at least it isn't the constant rain that we had yesterday.

After breakfast we we walk up and down the Royal Mile, picking up random items from the souvenir shops and browsing the whisky stores. At one shop I test out a miniature bagpipe, which ends up sounding more like an injured goose. We also stop into an antique maps store that sells framed maps as old as 100, 200 years old, some of which I would be very interested in buying if they were a little more affordable. I came across some beautiful antique maps of Ireland as well as an old artistic street map of Dublin from the late 1800s. We look at a shelf filled with antique books and, laying front and center by itself on a shelf, is an atlas of Cuyahoga County, Ohio from the 1870s. How this book found its way to Edinburgh is beyond me. We set the book on a nearby table and flip through the delicate pages, examining the detailed maps of the various cities and comparing the population numbers of the rest of Ohio's counties.

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After shopping for awhile, we have lunch at Deacon Brodie's Pub where we order two ciders (a Magner's spiced apple and rhubarb cider for Matt and an Magner's spiced apple and honey cider for me). The rhubarb cider is especially good—smooth and sweet, with a pinkish color to it. To eat, Matt has a wild boar and chorizo burger—without the bun—and I have tomato soup and a side of rosemary-and-garlic breaded brie wedges with a caramelized onion chutney for dipping. I love stopping at these historic pubs, whether it be for lunch, dinner or just drinks, and being a part of this pub culture. There is such an interesting mix of people, relaxed atmosphere and sense of history that is hard to find back in Ohio.

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The story of Deacon Brodie, who the pub was named after, pervades throughout the area. A real-life Jekylle and Hyde, Brodie lived during the 1700s and was a respected citizen of Edinburgh who held various revered day jobs. His second life, however, included nighttime burglary, a gambling habit, two mistresses and five children from different women. Eventually, Brodie was tried for thievery and hung right in Edinburgh; ironically, he was executed on the very gallows that he had designed not long before. Deacon Brodie's Pub pays homage to this notable figure of Edinburgh's history and even sells pub shirts with a hangman on the back. Though I love pub shirts, which are few and far between here in Edinburgh, the hangman is just a little too morbid for my taste.

We make it through the rest of the shops on the Royal Mile, stopping at two fudge shops to pick up some more flavors to try, including chili chocolate, chocolate orange, and mocha espresso. Weighed down by our shopping bags, we walk back to the flat to drop off our bags and warm up.

At about 7 we walk down the Royal Mile for dinner, in search of a pub that we haven't visited yet. We end up at a place called the Canon's Gait, located near the bottom of the sloping Royal Mile close to Holyrood Park. In the 1500s the French tailor of Mary Queen of Scots lived in the space that the bar now occupies, outside the city walls. We each order a Magner's cider, and I order a salad with chorizo, tomato, goat cheese and onion, while Matt orders Scottish smoked salmon. However, I think he didn't recognize the type of pasta listed in the dish and, when he realizes that he can't eat the dinner because it is mostly pasta, we end up switching. The pasta is actually delicious; it's tossed in some sort of light lemon-basil butter sauce, and the smoked salmon adds a rich flavor to it.

When we are finished with dinner, we walk a few blocks up the Mile to Whiski to try to grab a table before the live music starts. We each order straight whisky (I order a 15-year-old Dalwhinnie and Matt has a cask-strength Caol Ila, which makes his breath smell like he smoked a cigar) and talk about getting another round, but the alcohol (and probably all the walking we've done) makes us sleepy so we head back to the apartment early.

We watch TV for an hour or two before bed, tasting small pieces of the fudge we just bought. I have to say, some of the UK television shows are really bizarre, yet I'm ashamed to say that some of them do grab my attention during those nights when I need some mindless TV time before bed. Here are a few of the more outlandish TV shows that I've come across this past week and a half:

Geordie Shore – This is basically the British version of Jersey Shore, set in Newcastle, England. It is a smorgasbord of binge drinking, arguing, and hookups—trash TV at its best. Like Jersey Shore, it's a cast full of irresponsible, hate-worthy people, yet thanks to MTV, these types of people end up on TV shows instead of fading into obscurity where they belong.

Top Dog Model – Aspiring models compete for a national ad campaign, undergoing a series of photo shoots and challenges along the way. Except the models are dogs. It is a lot like America's Next Top Model, with a panel of judges (one of which completes a Tyra-like speech—“Only four dogs will continue in the competition to be the Top Dog Model,” etc) and a creative director who is on set and examines the dogs' performance. The judges watch the final ads in the judging room and deliberate the merits of each dog model. Think “Top Model” meets “Toddlers and Tiaras,” plus dogs.

Celebrity Juice – I'm actually not entirely sure what the premise of this show is. It has a bizarre and flamboyant host, and the guests on the show mock the week's tabloid news and celebrities. There are a lot of sex jokes, one-liners and politically incorrect humor. But they also do strange competitions, like to see who can stand in a bucket of ice water for a set period of time or, my personal favorite, pop some balloons. Of course, this isn't that easy; the man doing this particular timed event had what looked like a pink phallus strapped onto the front of his crotch (with a pin on the end) and had to stick the phallus through holes in a series of boxes to pop the balloons inside. You can imagine what this looked like; I can guarantee that this sort of thing never would make it to American TV screens.

Even just watching TV can be an experience in of itself here, not that I've watched that much. Usually we are too busy or having late dinners. But sometimes I do come across a real gem of a show that makes me wonder incredulously where the heck I am.

Posted by GoWander 15:31 Archived in Scotland

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