For 3 weeks every August Edinburgh is taken over by some of the worlds most talented, bravest people all out to entertain, get noticed, indulge and challenge. With the thought nurturing in the back of my mind that I really should do a stand up gig on the joys and challenges of being 60 the above poster was one of the first I saw in the city and I instantly realized I may have to up my game if I’m going to embark on a late career change of direction.
For us as mere spectators and in most cases as a participating enthusiastic audience, 3 days here every year should be made compulsory by law! There simply is nothing like it. A bit like the Hong Kong Sevens I always say don’t think I’ll go ‘this year’ but something cracks and sure enough I join the rest of the world trying to find reasonable accommodation in the city. Not easy.
This year I reverted to being a student again – OK I had to lie about my age but it seemed to work. Seriously, all are welcome as the University opens the doors of the many halls of residence and you can stay in a lovely if compact en suite room in the middle of the city for less than £50 a night. A bargain. I was at Brae House on Abbeyhill so a 15 minute walk from all the action on the Royal Mile. Perfect for a budget stay and 2-3 nights.
Everyone wants to know what to see and its quite a challenge to get this right when so much is on offer. Any really good shows that have 5 star reviews are instantly sold out so you either rely on instinct, pot luck, talking to strangers or constant research. I reckon the first two are the most valuable and with no show being more than an hour long and many free [minimum £5 donation expected]what could possibly go wrong? You can do 4-5 shows a day with a reasonable interlude in between to digest the enormity or otherwise of what you have just seen.
I saw a mixture of stand up comics [some good some average]. A one man show about cocaine in Colombia -Stardust – excellent. Four super talented actors in Catch of the Day – a true-ish tail about catching a sturgeon off Ireland and I thought it was all going to be about Scotlands first minister Nicola Sturgeon! More pot luck than instinct.
Two wonderfully talented ladies in The Half. An alternative comic called Kate Berlant that I really can’t begin to describe. ‘The Best Play Ever’ at 10.30 in the morning in the Radisson Blu with 3 so so talented guys. ‘I, Sniper’ about a Russian lady sniper in WW2. All this and a host of walk-in shows and street performers everywhere. The weather was lovely and if you want a more cerebral, mature side to Edinburgh then head to Charlotte Square and the Edinburgh Book Fair. Oh and there’s the main Edinburgh Festival of course and this includes the world famous booked out Military Tattoo.
So where to eat and drink just to keep your energy levels topped up?
The Edinburgh Cafe for a full Scottish every morning at the bottom end of the Royal Mile.
The Whisky Bar for late night music.
Cafe Royal – an Edinburgh institution for seafood and a great vibe in the adjoining bar.
The Pear Tree – Fringe Central pub with music and venues all around.
Kebab Mahal – without doubt the finest restaurant in Edinburgh. If you’re staying in a student hostel that is.
The Caledonian – now a Waldorf Astoria Hilton and along with The Balmoral the best act in town although so many new hotel projects are in the pipeline to ease the supply of hotel rooms in the city. Eye waveringly room rates in August – and thats if you can get a room but you are at the beginning of Princes Street and in the lap of luxury.