Over the weekend I read something about the languishing syndrome* which can affect any of us as a consequence of the pandemic. “Change your scenery” was one suggested response. I did that in April, May and June, but stayed at home once the peak holiday season hit.
This week I changed my scenery. I only went as far as Edinburgh, and only for a night, but that is not the point. I booked a hotel – or Residence to give it its posh name (Edinburgh, after all) – which is part of the redevelopment of the old Royal Infirmary hospital site.
I took the bus over from Fife. Pleasant. Relaxed. Free. 25 minutes.
I went for a coffee at one of my old pre-pandemic haunts. It is on The Mound, so the view and the people watching are top notch. It was empty, which I have never encountered before.
I fought my way through the touroid trickle, past the Royal Mile, Harry Potter’s “birthplace” and Greyfriars Bobby. It is a nice city with less tourists in it.
I was born 250m from my hotel. I went to school 200m from there. I can remember being in the old hospital twice – just visiting. I can even remember someone trying to smuggle me into the nurses’ hostel (she failed).
I went for dinner in a Kurdish restaurant I have been meaning to try for ages – fatoush for starter and then a mahshy kebab. It was the best thing I have eaten in a long time. It is the Erbil on Nicholson Street, just around the corner from George Square and a 5-10 minute walk from my accommodation.
My lodgings turned out very well – the Marriott Residence Inn. I had a studio. It was spacious and comfortable. “Studio” seems to be defined as adding a large relaxation area with sofa and chair, a workstation and kitchenette (fridge, microwave, dishwasher etc).
I was on the 6th floor, at the end of the corridor, and completely insulated from any guest noise. The building is in a pedestrian precinct and so traffic noise is not an issue. It is adjacent to a building site – conversion and redevelopment of another part of the former hospital – which creates a bit of noise during the day. With the windows closed (default position in Scotland for 95% of the year) I suspect most of that noise would be gone.
Breakfast has to be delivered to your room (pandemic restrictions), and that limits what is available. Mine was perfectly satisfactory in the circumstances. You could select a room rate exclusive of breakfast and find your own at one of the many cafes within 5 minutes walk.
You have a big choice of eating and drinking places in the vicinity, and many more if you are willing to stretch your legs for 15-20 minutes.
The Marriott was excellent value for money. I paid £146 booking and paying the day before. It would have been £10 less had I not decided to “sleep on it” and make up my mind the next morning. The rate included breakfast and I got a small discount and an upgrade for being a Marriott member.
I think the only occasional inconvenience in the Residence was the 1 person rule for the lift (it is a good and necessary rule, obviously). It has only 1 lift, and staff have to use it too. The encouraging news is I can still manage 6 flights of stairs without dropping dead.
On the safety note, I think all the hospitality places I used in Edinburgh reminded me to check in on the test and trace app, and all had the other safety adaptations I would have expected. Very, very few unmasked idiots spoiled the party.
By contrast, one or two parts of the city centre were uncomfortably busy. I will probably sidestep Edinburgh until the holiday/festival season is over in a month or so.
I had no plans to do anything of a tourist nature in Edinburgh. I know it so well, but I could have re-visited a few places had the mood taken me. My ambition was limited to – literally – a change of scene. An escape from home. An escape from the limitations of small town life. Trying to make the most of what is possible this summer.
* Ed. note: Languishing encompasses distressing feelings of stagnation, monotony, and emptiness.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021