We've both been to Edinburgh a number of times, both as tourists, with family and friends and for work related meetings. Instead of walking down the famous Princes Street, or up the hill to to towards Castle, we decided to turn right as we got out of Edinburgh Waverly train station and walked down to Leith. Leith was once a famous port and docks area of Edinburgh.
You'd expect to see giraffes at a safari park or at a zoo, not in the city. These two elegant creatures were certainly making their presence known.
Leith Walk had a number of banners promoting Leith and some of its past and present known residents such as The Proclaimers. Every one knows there most famous song 'I'm gonna be (walk 500 miles)' from the album 'Sunshine on Leith'. The song was popular in States as it was featured in the move Benny and Joon starring the talented Johny Depp. Whilst walking down the walk, we got distracted by a sign of a village stall at the Blue Drill Hall selling local vegetables and home-baked goods. Enticed by this and the idea of a drink to quench thirst rather than hunger, we followed the sign. Although the selection of vegetables, herbs and fruit was small, I was still rather impressed. Its such a wonderful idea and has the potential to grow. I wondered if there was something similar happening in and around Glasgow. I was also impressed with the Blue Drill Hall itself. Its a community space is in the middle of tenement where there is little green space. We stopped and had a coffee, I couldn't resist a brownie. I smiled as the young girl behind the counter permitted to choose which brownie I preferred. Of course I pointed the biggest one -my excuse - I'll share some of it with D. I also picked up this leaflet from the Edinburgh Community Backgreens Association (ECBA). ECBA is a non-for profit organisation that was set up in 2006 to work with local redisents to regenerate tenement backgreens into beautiful community greenspace. I think this is a marvellous initiative. Often on the train into and out of Edinburgh you get a glimpse into so many tenement back gardens, some looking overgrown, neglected and quite frankly a waste of space. Its good to learn that there is such an initiative that not only encourages people to grow their own, reduce their carbon footprint. In doing this it encourages residents to take some kind of shared ownership of that space - the start of communities in some case. We do live in a world where people don't talk to their neighbours as well as their own health and mental well-being, so initiatives such as these are extremely encouraging.
The other thing that impressed both D and myself were the number of independent fresh fruit and vegetables stalls in Leith; not just those owned by South Asian Scot families selling imported fruits: doughnut peaches (see below) and veg from warmer climates, but also selling local and seasonal produce: gooseberries, rhubarb, beetroot and broad beans. I counted 10 in this one area. Why is there not something like this happening in parts of Glasgow? As someone who enjoys here fresh vegetables, this is one big void in Glasgow. There are a handful of independent veg shops in Glasgow, namely in the West End, but they don't appeal to the common and average person. These are more lifestyle grocery stores and as much as I like the West End. I don't want to put myself in that particular bracket.
Anyway, back to the walk. We stumbled across this mural on Ferry road. It depicts the history of Leith and its connection with the sea. I had read that there were three life-sized sculptures known as Cavorting Sailors in front of the mural: one holding a whisky bottle, another reading an old sea chart and one rolling a barrel. There was no sign of any of them. When I got back home I read that all of these were not only vandalised, one was actually stolen - that's respect for you.
Leith also has a large South Asian Scots community, particularly those of the Sikh faith. In fact I've written briefly about the Leith Scottish Sikh tartan. So it was wonderful to see this presence being recognised and represented in the mural.
Onwards and upwards towards the harbour we walk. Only to be disappointed. So much road works going on and so many roads and paths closed. When we got to the harbour, well there was not much to see or share (sorry). There was nothing there recognizing Leiths important role in the world and links its links as one of the main gateways to Scotland. Leith ships did trade with the Baltic, France, America and the Mediterranean, carrying coal, grain, fish and hides and returning with spices, cloth, whale oil and wine. The harbour today reflected none of its history, instead it seemed nothing more than a 'yuppy' and aspirational location for some.
So we walked through it, looking for something to acknowledge its past. We did pass some of these depictions. Well by now, my little feet were getting tired and I was wanting to eat something. So back up to Leith Walk it was. We stopped at this little family run eatery called Gaia Delicatessan and Cafe.
I hope they don't mind, but I couldn't resist taking a picture of this rather creative peice amongst the menu pages. (Click on image). The menu itself was impressive. There was plenty of choice for vegetarians, but I was happy with the soup. D had 'tomato and basil' and I had 'puy lentils with broccoli'. Both were fresh and flavourful, the prices were fair and the service excellent. If I was resident or worked in and around Leith, it would be a place I would lunch on a regular basis. One I recommend if your ever in Edinburgh. After refuelling our bodies, were were ready for another lap.
I noted a little French shop: Les Cargot Epecurie in the basement of this restaurant. Now having been to Paris last year for my belated honey-moon, I wanted to see what this little place had to offer.
For a moment, I felt like I was back in Paris. Did I leave empty handed? No. I left with 1kg of puy lentils and a sip of apple cider.
Our last stop was the famous vegetarian eatery Hendersons now approaching its 50th Birthday. Not that I wanted to eat more food, I was already quite full. I just like looking to see what they have on offer, as well as for inspiration. I learned today that it was also an arts venue.
Our walking pace had reduced dramatically so we decided to call it a day and walk back to the train station.
Oh I had picked up six 'saturn peaches' also known as 'peach doughnuts' . Far more sweeter and juicier than the round perfect peach bum brand.
I also found them much easier to eat. Here's ten reasons why you should try a peach doughnut.