Edinburgh 2011.... Day One (The Journey)

August 25, 2011

Despite having lived in Edinburgh for almost a year on and off while doing my MSc, I’ve never been up there at festival time. We decided to rectify this, so earlier on in the year (way earlier on in the year) we booked some accommodation for the second week of the festival and made our plans to hit the city for a festival holiday. Over a few posts I’ll describe in laborious detail what we did, what we saw, and what we (or I) thought of it. Which you’ll enjoy, I’m sure.

Getting to Edinburgh from Cardiff is pretty easy, but fairly expensive. You can fly, drive, or get the train. Flying is pretty quick, but moderately expensive. The train is pretty cheap if booked in advance, but takes a long time and if you don’t book in advance it basically requires the sale of your first born son to get a ticket. (Don’t get me started on the cost of rail travel blah blah blah). I didn’t bother to work out the cost of driving in our car; given the appalling state of it I wasn’t totally convinced it could do another trip up to Scotland and back - for sure if we were going to drive we’d need to get ‘whatever it is that makes the funny noise while braking’ fixed, plus the petrol, and we had nowhere to park up there, and there’s the whole actually having to drive 500 miles thing. After some back and forth we settled on getting the train. Luckily, because we’re the organised type (read: Lisa is organised and drags me along for the ride) we were on the ball for the advance tickets, and managed to get singles from Cardiff to Manchester for £13 each, then from Manchester to Edinburgh for £17ish each, (and the same on the way back), giving us a return cost of £60 each - pretty good.

We caught a nice early train out of Cardiff on a Sunday morning, bagged a table seat and sat back for the million hour trip to Manchester. Unfortunately for us it seemed like everyone in the world wanted to take the same train as us, by the time we got to Hereford it was rammed. A nice man (ex quality assurance chap with a nice terrier dog) took one of the seats opposite us, and he was soon joined by a skinhead Chelsea fan on his way to Stoke to watch the match. I managed to bury myself in my laptop watching a movie, leaving Lisa to make polite conversation. Ha. From what I can gather the conversation seemed to revolve around working out the price of drinks when serving at a bar. Or ‘mental arithmetic’ as it’s sometimes known. The train from Manchester was a bit better in terms of overcrowding, but not much. This time the conversation was totally football dominated. We sat by a young guy from Sunderland, who wasn’t just an avid Sunderland fan, he was an avid football fan. He seemed to know every player in every team in the whole football league, and every transfer that had occurred over summer. Usually when people ask who I support, and I reply ‘Shrewsbury Town’, there then follows a long conversation explaining what exactly that is, and inevitably there’s some explanation about how there’s a whole bunch of football going on aside from the premier league. Not with this guy - within a millisecond of the words ‘Shrewsbury Town’ leaving my mouth he was engaging me in conversation about the town players he’d played with when he was at Carlisle, where the ex-manager was now, how his son was doing, how we were looking for the new season, and on and on. Once he got going there was no stopping him. Some Scottish guys got on at Preston, and it was soon revealed that this chap’s football knowledge didn’t stop at English football - oh no, he could engage the Scots in any amount of conversation about the SPL as well. I wondered for a bit what he could do with a memory and passion like his if he applied it to something other than chasing Sunderland up and down the country and harvesting in every bit of football columnist opinion he could find. It scared me a bit, so I stopped talking to him and read my book instead. At some point I fell asleep, and when I woke up he’d gone. Probably had a five a side match to get to.

We got into Edinburgh at about 5.30pm. It was gloriously sunny and warm, and it felt good to be there. I’ve always loved the city, more than any other I’ve found myself in. Most times I’ve been there I’ve arrived by train into Waverley, so walking up out of the station felt right and a bit like coming home. It’s a strange feeling to experience in a city that you’ve spent a relatively short amount of time in, but I was genuinely excited to arrive back in Edinburgh again. Our accommodation was only a ten/fifteen minute walk from the station so we headed straight there to get checked in before our first show.

We booked accommodation in March of this year, opting for a University run studio apartment in the city centre, in the Richmond Place Apartments. Edinburgh University actually give alumni discount when booking rooms in _some_ of their halls and holiday flats, but not the ones we booked, so it came in at about £100 a night. Fairly pricey, but pretty cheap by festival standards, especially considering the location and the facilities available.

The accommodation is actually in a university halls of residence - basically it seems the university have converted a floor of a residence tower block into studio apartments. Above the apartments are six or seven floors of normal university halls. Because it was summer I guess the place was pretty empty and therefore pretty quiet, although there did seem to be some students coming and going. I can imagine in term time it must be a pretty noisy place to stay, but in summer and at festival time it’s fine. The flat itself was really nice, way better than my house; although that’s not hard to achieve. The room itself was decently sized, you could swing a cat in it for sure. It was kitted out with all mod-cons, everything one could want for a week away in Edinburgh. About here would be a good place for a picture, but I don’t have any, because I forgot to take any - if you are desperate to get an idea of what the place is like, go here and click the link for 'Richmond Place studio apartment; with mezzanine. Our room was almost exactly different from that, while being pretty much the same.

So, we checked in, threw clothes in the wardrobe, and left to go get some festival…

Next: Edinburgh Festival... Day One (The Shows)

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