Here I am, Scottish but a UK citizen nonetheless, in the German capital of Berlin attending StallwÃ¤chterparty, a political summer party, celebrating Europe and the partnership between the countries that make up the European Union. So how did it feel being part of this prestigious event, representing Scotland, when the country you live in is tangled up in the whole Brexit disaster?
When I received my invitation to attend this years StallwÃ¤chterparty from the office of Winfried Kretschmann, the Prime Minister of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, I admit I was shocked. Why me? The nerves kicked in. What could I possibly have to offer? Would it be awkward? But most importantly, could I bring anything I’ve learned back to Scotland with me?
Before the start of the parliamentary summer holiday, the federal state of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg has been organising a summer party, StallwÃ¤chterparty (Stable Guard Party), for guests since 1964 within the state parliament building in the diplomatic quarter of Berlin. Over the years, it has developed into one of the most prestigious events in politics. The event allows guests an opportunity to interact with esteemed politicians, business leaders and diplomats as well as journalists and renowned personalities from culture, sport, film and television, all under one roof.
Each year, a theme is chosen as part of the celebrations and in 2019, it is not surprising that the theme was Europe and its inhabitants. Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg does not only see the European Union as an economic community, but rather a community of shared values and successes that are to be celebrated by people who want to shape a future Europe from within.
As the only invited representative from Scotland, I made my way to Berlin eager to find out more about this region of Germany, how Scotland is viewed and of course, to experience an event, unlike anything I had ever been to before.Â
There are a few destinations around the world that are thoroughly misunderstood despite being very popular, and Ibiza is certainly one of them. Because it has world-renowned night clubs and has at times been a favoured spot among the rich and famous, most of us tend to think of it as a night-and-day beachside and yacht deck EDM party in island form. That might sound like a pretty good time to a lot of people out there, and it actually can be a fair description of some aspects of Ibiza, at some times. However, thereâ€™s plenty else to love about the island also, which is why weâ€™ve compiled some highlights.
Less than an hour away by train, Edinburgh is the perfect location for a day trip from Glasgow. In the past 11 years that Iâ€™ve been back living in Glasgow, Iâ€™m ashamed to admit that Iâ€™ve probably been to Edinburgh no more than 10 times. So Iâ€™m making it my mission in 2019 to explore Edinburgh and itâ€™s surroundings more.
If you’re heading to the city soon, looking for things to do and hotels in Edinburgh to stay in while you visit, this post is just perfect for you.
When you first think of Edinburgh, Iâ€™m sure that first thing out your mouth would be Edinburgh Castle, THE most historic castle in the world, in my opinion. From the Edinburgh Tattoo to Hogmanay celebrations, its no wonder that this beautiful 12th-century masterpiece is Scotlandâ€™s most-visited paid tourist attraction. But what if you wanted to explore more of what Edinburgh has to offer? Today Iâ€™m showing you what I got up to in this east coast city for the day, just donâ€™t expect me to start putting sauce on my chips anytime soon. Seriously, who invented that?
Food for Fuel
Away from the crowds of the Royal Mile, I started my day with Bross Bagels in Edinburghâ€™s West End to fuel me for the day ahead. A short hop in a tram from Haymarket, its been one of those places Iâ€™ve always wanted to visit but ended up always visited the city when it was closed. I finally made it this time and it didnâ€™t disappoint. I ordered the â€˜Lickinâ€™ Chickenâ€™ (Â£5.50) which was sliced chicken breast, salami, Monterey jack cheese & honey mustard, on a poppy seed bagel. Absolutely delicious. Ross ordered the special of the day and opted to have it on an â€˜Everythingâ€™ bagel. This bagel was filled to the brim with Salt Beef, applewood cheese, smoked crispy onions, sauerkraut and rock sauce (Â£5). We may have also ordered a cheeky third to go. We did need fuel after all.Â
With three locations around Edinburgh, I would make it my mission to try this gem. If you canâ€™t quite manage to make it or live far away, they also do UK Wide delivery of their Montreal style bagels to have at home. Bonus.
Explore Scotlandâ€™s National Museum
Renovated in 2011 at a cost of Â£47 million, within the National Museum of Scotland, there is an abundance of galleries and exhibits for everyone to enjoy. From Scottish History to Dolly the sheep, you could get lost in here for hours. My top tip? Head to the 5th floor first, go through the Enquire gallery towards the lift/stairs to the 7th floor where you can access the roof terrace and are met with some of the best views of the city.Â
Once youâ€™ve soaked in the stunning scenery, make your way down floor by floor. My picks? Exploring East Asia, Ancient Egypt and Animal Senses. Favourites of mine no matter the museum. The National Museum of Scotland is one of the best museums Iâ€™ve been to in a very long time and love how inclusive it is no matter the age. Even better? Itâ€™s free to enter.
Get a caffeine hit
What I love about Edinburgh is the number of high quality independent coffee shops there are in the city. While in the West End we popped into Cairngorm Coffee after brunch for my first coffee of the day. It was the first time I had visited this branch and loved the decor inside. Alas, I couldnâ€™t spend too long here because I had to explore the city. So after a quick piccolo, we jumped back on the tram and headed central.Â
Later in the day, to soothe my sore feetÂ and give them a rest after hours of walking, we headed to Lowdown Coffee in one of my favourite streets in Edinburgh, George Street. Lowdown is a beautiful small coffee shop a stone’s throw away from Princes Street and is by far my favourite in Edinburgh. From knowledgeable staff to ever-changing beans, their coffee has never let me down. They also do some great cakes too.Â
Greyfriars Bobby, the most devoted dog around
Greyfriars Bobby is definitely the most famous dog in Scotland. So famous he has a life-sized statue of himself outside Greyfriars Kirk. Bobby slept next to his masterâ€™s grave for around 14 years before his own death in 1872.
My visit to Greyfriars Bobby was tinged with sadness as my beloved dog Bobby (and his namesake) passed away last Friday, 15th February. Iâ€™m filled with sadness at losing him after almost 13 years together by my side. My visit to Edinburgh was at a time earlier this week when I wanted to keep myself busy and clear my mind as its still so raw. Seeing this statue in real life, knowing Bobby was named after him by my late grandfather brought some joy to a very sad week.
Dogs called Bobby really are the greatest.
Stroll through Grassmarket
Nestled within the heart of the Old Town, Grassmarket is one of the most picturesque and lively areas of the city. With colourful shops and curved street its no wonder locals and tourists alike flock here. Victoria Street is a popular spot for independent boutiques, food and drink. In the olden days, the area was used as a cattle market and more notoriously, where public executions took place. I visited as the sun was started to set and the sky was utterly beautiful. Definitely very magical around that time.
Explore the gardens
Separating the Old Town from the New, the Princes Street Gardens are a wonderful setting for relaxing away from the hectic city life. During warmer days, these gardens are overflown with people basking in the sun. In autumn, filled with visitors to the Edinburgh Festival and with Winter comes Winter Wonderland and Hogmanay. If you love exploring, monuments and nature, this is one sight not to be missed and once again, even better, is free to enter.
Authentic Mexican at El Cartel
With hundreds of restaurants in the city, its no wonder that you could dine at a different restaurant daily. Edinburgh is a melting pot of International cuisine catering to the diverse residents who call Edinburgh home. We decided to dine at El Cartel on Thistle Street for something quick before our train ride back to Glasgow.Â
Freshly-made, authentic Mexican street food, we ordered Duck Carnitas, Carne Asada and Baja Cod Tacos with Chamoy Chicken Wings and JalapeÃ±o Bombers on the side. This was undoubtedly the best Mexican food Iâ€™ve had in Scotland. Tacos were bursting with flavour, taking on a modern twist with ingredients such as pomegranate, dried cherries and pecan salsa. The JalapeÃ±o Bombers were addictive, I could have eaten platefuls of these but all in moderation and all that. You canâ€™t book a table at this branch, so wait in line and youâ€™ll end up thanking me later.Â
No sooner had I finished my last bite than it was time to head back West to Glasgow. As we had a tram pass, we jumped back on the tram from St Andrews Square to Haymarket to catch the connecting train to Glasgow. A quick 48 minutes later, I was back West Side in my natural habitat planning my next adventure.
Have you been to Edinburgh before? What are YOUR favourite things to do in the city? Let me know below.
Collaboration post: Spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.
Ahead of Burns Night on the 25th of January, I spent an evening with Asda, showcasing their high-quality goods from suppliers across Scotland and creating a spectacular Burns Supper for us all using some of these products.
I have a confession to make, up until my Burns Supper dinner with Asda, I had never been to one before. I also couldn’t tell you much about Robert Burns other than the fact my brother shares his birthday with him.
So what happens at Burns Suppers? The whole point of Burns Night is to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns, Scotlands National Bard. Guests are piped into the dining room and seated then grace is said before the main event.
Our menu for the evening with prepared by Asda’s Head Innovation Chef Mark Richmond and his team who created some delicious recipes to help inspire us in the run-up to Burns Night, using some of the fantastic Scottish products available in store.
January. A new year and a time for fresh starts. A time when half the population are partaking in Dry January, Veganuary or have made it their NYE resolution that this will be the year theyâ€™ll become a fitter version of themselves.Â
To kick a new series on the blog called ‘Cooking The Booksâ€™, Iâ€™ll be taking a closer look at James Haskell & Omar Mezianeâ€™s latest book Cooking For Fitness and attempting to re-create one of their dishes that stood out for me.
British & Irish Lion Rugby superstar James Haskellâ€™s, brand new cookbook, Cooking For Fitness. James has teamed up with the UKâ€™s top performance chef Omar Meziane to create this unique recipe book designed specifically to boost training performance and achieve your body goals. The book includes 79 quick and easy recipes with clear instructions and uses honest uncomplicated ingredients, most of which will already be in your kitchen cupboard. The recipes have been carefully designed with both male and female fitness enthusiasts in mind – whether your aim is to build muscle, strip fat, increase resistance, improve performance time, aid recovery or simply fuel your training, the recipes will help you do just that.