22 December 2017

Edinburgh Christmas Markets

Before I start telling you all about our exciting adventure to Edinburgh, I want to apologise for being very quiet on the blogging front recently. I've been completely snowed under with third-year dissertation work but on Friday, I submitted my final piece of writing which means I'm free to enjoy my Christmas break and get back into the swing of things when it comes to blogging. 

As I said, I've been so stressed with Uni these past few weeks, so to take my mind off things, Mum and Dad organised for us to go to Edinburgh to see the Christmas Markets. I'd never been to Scotland before, so I was really excited to explore somewhere new. Mum took my Grandparents to Edinburgh last Christmas and she kept telling me how much I'd love it. Then, I saw Zoella's photos and tweets and I just couldn't wait to get there - it looked so magical! As you can imagine, my expectations were very high.

Our journey to Edinburgh started at 7:30am on Tuesday morning - early I know, but considering it was only £25 return with Virgin, we couldn't complain. It was a three-hour train journey and because there's no rest for the wicked, I spent my time going through my final submissions for Uni. Speaking of final submissions, I've been thinking of posting some of my writing on my blog so if that's something you'd like to see then let me know. Anyway, back to the journey. 

My favourite way to travel is via Virgin Trains and I always recommend for people to reserve their seats as it can get very busy. As we were on an early train, we didn't expect it to be too busy but we couldn't have been more wrong. Thank goodness we reserved our seats because, towards the end of the journey, people were having to stand up. We were sat at the same table as a lovely man from Manchester, and because my Dad will talk to anyone, we spent a lot of time talking to him. He was telling us all about his son who's in his first year of University (oh to be a fresher again) and it was so nice to speak to someone new. People are so engrossed in their phones and laptops, or too busy reading the morning paper that no one actually speaks anymore. It was really refreshing and a lovely start to our day.  

Before we knew it, we'd arrived in Edinburgh.
The minute we stepped off the train, I noted that it was much colder than Liverpool - thank goodness for my 4 layers, woolly hat and 300 denier tights. I love how easy it is to navigate around the city; we got off the train, walked through the cutest little shopping centre and then we were right at the heart of the Christmas Markets. It was truly magical and according to Mum, I stared at them with my mouth open. However, it wasn't time for the Christmas markets just yet as first on our agenda was the one thing we know best - Wetherspoons!

On our way to Wetherspoons, we walked along the small streets of Edinburgh and it was like a true Winter Wonderland. I've never seen a city go to town with their Christmas decorations like Edinburgh do - they put London to shame. The doors were covered with holly wreaths, twinkling lights were wrapped around the podiums and the whole thing made me feel extremely festive. I've missed out on a lot of the festive cheer this year, but I'm so glad I was able to experience Edinburgh and all its festive beauty. I can understand why people love it so much. 

My Dad had been raving about the Wetherspoons in Edinburgh, and whilst I stopped to take photos of every single festive door we passed, he sped ahead to go and get us a seat in his favourite room. The Wetherspoons we visited used to be a bank and to my surprise, it still had the old bank safe for people to go and see. It was bizarre to think that only a few years ago, the room where I was enjoying my scrambled egg on toast would have been full of bankers and accountants sorting out their money. Do you ever wonder what the walls of that pub/bank must've seen and heard? If only they could talk, eh? The pub had lots of different little rooms coming off the main corridor, and my Dad chose what I'm presuming used to be a library or an office. The walls were lined with books, newspapers and magazines, all of which could be taken and read. As you can imagine, I was in my element and my Dad said that he wanted to make sure that we got that room because he thought it'd make me feel like Belle. I did feel like Belle.

As we've established, I kicked off the day with scrambled egg on toast, although I didn't eat all of it as I got more than I was expecting. Mum and Dad both got a bacon roll which looked delicious and made me extremely jealous - I think I'm going to get that next time. As we're on the topic of Wetherspoons, how bloody brilliant is the app!? It allows you to select which pub you're in, browse through the menu and have your food brought straight to the table without even having to move. Forget the fidget spinner, it's the best invention to come out of 2017!

It was only when we left Wetherspoons that things started to go a little pear-shaped. Neither of us had any idea where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do, so Dad took us on a complete detour and had us walking in circles for an hour an a half. In my first two hours in Edinburgh, I saw six Costa's, three Wetherspoons and a Nandos. Is this really what Edinburgh was all about?

We strolled down the main, commercialised street and although the Christmas decorations were beautiful and the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers made me feel somewhat festive, I couldn't help but think that it was a waste of time. I can go and look round Primark and New Look in Liverpool, I wanted to see things in Edinburgh that I couldn't see anywhere else. I'd been mentioning for weeks that I'd love to go and see Edinburgh Castle. We stood at the bottom of the hill staring up at it and wondering just how we were going to get up there without injuring ourselves. Dad didn't want to visit the castle, so we continued to follow the circle until we arrived back at the train station. Eventually, Dad found the map he'd been looking for, which just so happened to be right outside the train station, and we decided to walk across the bridge.

Now, this is the part of Edinburgh that I fell in love with. We walked across the bridge into what seemed like another world. Every other shop was selling tartan scarfs, which I just so happened to purchase, and the sweet sound of bagpipes echoed down the streets. At one point, I thought I was in a film. It's exactly what I wanted Edinburgh to be like, exactly how I'd pictured it in my mind, and exactly what I needed to restore my faith in the beautiful Scottish city.

As we continued to venture up the hill, I noticed that each little side street had some form of story to tell. If you look around, you'll find little signs pinned to the wall telling you about the history of Edinburgh and I really learned a lot from just walking up towards the castle. Edinburgh has so much history that I didn't even know about. It didn't feel like I was in the UK; it's completely out of this world. Dad and I stopped for a picture with a bagpipe player and I couldn't stop taking photos of the beautifully decorated Boswell's Court. The Christmas trees sparkling down every little alleyway looked so magical. It really got me into the festive spirit.

When we eventually reached the top of the hill, Dad turned around to us and said that he didn't want to walk all the way up to the castle as he thought it would be too far. So you can imagine the shock on his face when Mum and I told him to turn around and the castle was right in front of him. The walk up to the castle really isn't as bad as you first think and you're there before you know it, plus the little stops at the tartan shops help to get your energy back. After a long debate, Mum convinced Dad that going into Edinburgh Castle would be the best way to spend the afternoon.

We walked up to the bag check, which I was super impressed with as not all tourist attractions check your bags, and Mum asked the security man where to get our tickets from. He laughed and told her that we had to walk a mile down the hill, turn right, turn left and we'd see a little shop which was where we could purchase our tickets. Mum looked at him in disbelief, until the girl next to him gave him a knock on the arm and told us that we could get the tickets inside. Mum let out the breath she'd clearly been holding and we all burst out laughing. It was so nice to see someone enjoying their job as much as he was.

 
I'm trying to think of the words to describe how beautiful Edinburgh Castle is but I just can't find them. It was...well...breath-taking. I'll admit, we were a bit hesitant when we heard about the price because we've been mugged off by this kind of thing before. Y'know when you pay £50 to get into a tourist attraction and there's literally nothing there? Well, you'll be glad to know that Edinburgh Castle is nothing like that.

It was very, very windy at the top of the hill but the view looking over the castle walls was stunning. We could see where we'd been walking and where we'd been looking up at the castle thinking that it was too far to walk up. I could see the Christmas markets just starting to light up and if we looked hard enough we could even see the sea. I'd love to go back there in the summer because I think it would be a completely different experience again - the cold wind was putting us off looking around a little bit. 

The first stop on our tour was one of the many museums that the castle had to offer, displaying memorabilia donated from World War One and World War Two. Not many people know this, but my favourite subject in high school was history. I've always had a fascination with the World Wars and the Royal Family so as you can imagine, this was of a particular interest to me. I learned a lot about Edinburgh's history and read some both heartwarming and heartbreaking stories about servicemen who fought in the war. If anything, I got some ideas for some really good short stories. Outside the War Museum is a Dog Cemetry and as you look over, you can see the small gravestones of the dogs who've been killed in battle. It was absolutely adorable. 

A lot of Edinburgh's history is based around Mary Queen of Scotts and we were fortunate enough to be able to look around her Chapel, the Grand Hall and her Chamber Room where she gave birth to her son, the future King. I remember studying Mary Queen of Scotts for my history GCSE exam and reading all about it brought back my childhood interest in the subject - I realised why I loved it so much. In one of the museums, we even saw the crown jewels which were on display in a guarded room. Sadly, I couldn't get any photos to show you but if you get the chance to go to Edinburgh then visit the castle and go and have a look for yourself because it's something that can't be missed. 

We spent hours browsing, shopping, reading and learning but as I said, eventually the cold wind got a bit too much and we decided to call it a day. We had a few photos taken and then headed back down the hill towards the Christmas Markets for crepes, hot chocolate and bratwurst sausages. 

Oh wait, did I forget to mention the part where we called into a small pub for a brandy because we were that cold? Oops! Dad's finally got me hooked on brandy with its healing powers and ability to warm your body up in seconds. And the lemonade is mine, but I did have a brandy afterwards just to balance it out a little bit. It was so nice to kill some time at the bar before it went dark - we'd done a lot of walking with minimal rest and it was what we all needed. If we wouldn't have stopped, I don't think we would've enjoyed the Christmas markets as much as we did. 

Then it was time for the main event, also known as the sparkliest, most magical Christmas markets I have ever seen. After a quick stop in Primark for Dad a jumper (because he'd stupidly worn a t-shirt full well knowing it was going to be cold), we made our way back to Wetherspoons to see the big blue dome. Each year, Edinburgh has something different, normally with a bit of sparkle, to welcome in the Christmas season and this year, it was beyond beautiful. I'd seen this on Zoe's Instagram stories and I was determined to find it. As you can imagine from the size and the amount of sparkle, it wasn't that hard. I couldn't stop taking photos of it, and to make things even better, right underneath it was a gin bar. What more could you want? It was like all my Christmas wishes had come true at once. We had some photos taken and then made our way back down the main street towards Edinburgh's Christmas! 

The closest I've been to a Christmas market was in Manchester, so as you can imagine, Edinburgh was a completely different ball game. I'll be honest, I don't know where to begin because there's so much to tell you about but not enough time. 

The twinkling huts lined the cobbled paths as we walked up and down admiring the different stalls and handmade gifts. I'm one of those people who goes to Christmas markets but never actually gets anything, however, I did come home with some tree decorations to commemorate our trip and also to say thank you to my grandma and grandad for minding the dog for us. I think it's really important to support small businesses, especially on Christmas markets as it's their only time to show off their talents to a wide audience. 

Apart from the pretty lights and Mr BublĂ© playing from every speaker, my favourite part of Christmas markets is the food. In particular, the bratwurst sausage. I'd been promised one of these and it didn't disappoint. There's nothing that screams Christmas more than a bratwurst covered in tomato ketchup, a hot chocolate with cream and your nose running because you're so cold. We devoured every bite, before heading off to explore some more. The market winds down the pathway like a snake, so it's really easy to navigate your way around. You'll also find that the stalls will start to repeat themselves so don't worry if you've seen something at the start of the market, you can always pick it up towards the end. 

Eventually, you'll reach the balcony where you can look down on the fairground rides and the Christmas tree maze. Well, this is just another thing that blew my mind. It was like looking down on trees that had been sprinkled with pixie dust. It was pure beauty and I don't think I'll ever see anything like it again - it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life. The trees lead you to Santa's grotto where you can go and meet the man himself,  and there's a little train that will take your round to see all the lights in their twinkling glory. However, I'm a little too old for that so we decided to watch from afar. I also tried to convince Dad to come on some of the rides with me, including my favourite the Crazy-Hopper but he said that he'd end up being sick, and that was the last thing we needed on our train journey home. 

Before we knew it, our time in the beautiful Scottish city had come to an end. We jumped on our train, which sadly had no heating. and slept the whole way home. We'd done that much walking, I woke up the next morning and my thighs were in agony! 

Edinburgh, I'm truly in love with you. I've found yet another one of my favourite places and I can't wait to go back and visit again very soon. If you want to check out the Christmas markets, they're open until 6th January. Please, please, please get up there because it's something that needs to be experienced by everyone. If you're not in the Christmas spirit yet, then Edinburgh is the place to be. 

If you want any more details about the Christmas market, then you can find information out here

Lots of Love,
Meg
xxx


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