Apr. 20th, 2011

rhythmaning: (whisky)
For the last two months, I have spent a couple of nights in Edinburgh each week, since I have been working with a client there. It has been very interesting: a different view of the city I lived in for fifteen years, and is still my favourite city.

I stayed in a different hotel each week, save for one week. This wasn’t a deliberate choice, though the longer it went on, the more I was likely to keep it going. I wanted to try out different bits of the city, and a couple of places I stayed in because of their locality. On the other hand, three of the hotels (including the only one I stayed in twice) were in the same street.

All the places were located and booked through LateRooms.com, though I was told by a couple of places that I’d get a discount if I booked over the phone, or that the hotelier would make more if I booked direct (one hotelier appealing to my wallet, the other to my conscience).

I found it very illuminating: it was certainly a different of seeing the city. Every place I stayed in felt different, for different reasons; I have “favourites”, though it also feels a bit more random than that.

I was on expenses; but whilst I could have had my choice of hotels – at someone else’s expense – that frankly felt wrong. So this also made me think of work expenses. My main policy for expenses is “is it reasonable?” I was keen to get good value for my client, both in hotels and travel; but I would put my comfort first.

There isn’t much that hotels have to do. You have to check in, maybe watch TV, go to bed (and hopefully sleep); get up, bathe, eat breakfast (if it’s included…) and check out. It isn’t actually too complicated.

I have known for quite a while that I don’t really go for “corporate” hotels – since I had a job that took me around the country stay. Instead, I prefer characterful places – somewhere with a bit of personality.

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Here – in order (and hence the most recent places – probably the ones I have best recall about – are last) - are the places I stayed in.

  • Holiday Inn Express, Leith - sorry, Edinburgh Waterfront. About as corporate as you can get, I guess, but I needed somewhere quickly for my first couple of days, and it was useful to be near my client in Leith. It was fine: it did everything it had to
  • A Georgian Residence (11 Moray Place). The only B&B I stayed in. The main reason I chose it was to spend some time there was to experience the house: a large Georgian house over four or five floors in the New Town. It was a lovely building; the bedroom I had was huge – larger than a whole floor of my house. If anything, I felt a little lost in the space. There were two downsides, really – two reasons I chose not to go back: the water pressure in the electric shower was useless, little better than a dribble; and it really felt like I was intruding in someone else’s house. This isn’t surprising – and the people there were very friendly; it’s just that it was someone else’s house. It felt a bit like a time warp, too – decoratively, it felt like the 1980s
  • Royal Terrace Hotel. This was great, but the room was small, and it was also the most expensive place I stayed; but I couldn’t really see what I was paying for: aside from room service – which I used once – it was a room with a bed, a TV, a shower. Just like everywhere else. Sure, it had a restaurant (which I didn’t use) and a bar (which I did); but Edinburgh isn’t short of either restaurants or bars
  • Sandaig Guest House. I thought this place was great. Overlooking Leith Links, a short walk from where I was working. It was cosy and comfortable, had a big bath. Breakfast was great. And there was a welcoming glass of sherry for me. I’d have happily gone back – although their prices went up as the month passed, and I decided to try places a little more central

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  • I spent two weeks staying with a friend – this worked superbly since I wasn’t reliant on restaurants or cooked breakfasts (hard to turn down if you’ve paid for them!). I didn’t want to outstay my welcome though – albeit that I have an open invite back!
  • Terrace Hotel. Not the Royal Terrace; the Terrace Hotel. Just along the road from the Royal Terrace Hotel, though, so they get lots of confused people. This was the only place I went back to twice. Another Georgian building, it was similarly spacious. They had got my booking wrong, so it wasn’t quite the welcome I might have expected, but it was friendly. The breakfast was great. All in all, I thought this place was a bargain
  • Abbey Hotel. Back the other way along Royal Terrace. I am not sure what kept me coming back to Royal Terrace, although it was central enough to have lots of restaurants and bars nearby but not really too near where I used to live (which I think would have been a bit freaky). They upgraded me since they were quiet, so I had another large room. They were very friendly. I liked this place a lot, too. The only downside was that there was plumbing or heating noise in the night, which woke me up
  • 28 York Place (they don’t appear to have their own website; I thought they did…). I am in two minds about 28 York Place. It is very central; it had the most stunning view which would take me back like a shot; but they seemed the least organised, too. The bin in my room hadn’t been emptied and so was full of someone else’s rubbish when I arrived – and they didn’t empty it the next day either. Compared to the Terrace or the Abbey, the room was small (but fine). The bath was good; there was no breakfast. But the view was superb – and I’d go back just for that…


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rhythmaning: (whisky)
Whilst I’m at it, talking about Edinburgh, I thought I’d mention some of the place I hung out in. These are probably some of my favourite places in Edinburgh!

I spent several evenings at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, both at the Vaults and at 28 Queen Street. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I doubt this will surprise you. It is just a great place to hang out – good but informal food, great drink. The Vaults in particular is a very relaxing place – I spent several evening there, including a great whisky tasting which I meant to post about – a valedictory tasting led by Laura, who was leaving her job at the society after several years. I saw that just by chance – I had popped in for a night cap the day before, and noticed it was on. It was great – most of the people at the tasting were SMWS staff – it felt just like a leaving do, with great whisky and some wonderful stories.

I ate two or three times at V&C’s VinCaffe. Good food, great wine. I had breakfast there one day, too. I wasn’t working. I had a hangover. It was great.

I also went to the Guildford Arms a couple of times – once just to drink, once to eat and drink. When I lived in Edinburgh, I used to go to the Café Royal, just next door to the Guildford, but it was packed out when I popped my head around the door, so I went into the Guildford instead. I can’t remember going there before. They had a great whisky list, friendly service and a beautiful ceiling. The restaurant was good, too.

The friend I stayed with for a couple of weeks recommended Café Fish - just across the road from the Vaults. I went there twice, and had their very superior fish and chips both times. I liked this place. The fish was very good.

I had a great meal at Zanzero. Again, great food, great wine, and a great welcome. I’d have gone back, but I only stayed in the western end of the New Town once, so it didn’t make sense – I’d have had to walk past other places to get there. I didn’t make it to Zanzero’s big sibling Centotre for dinner, although I did have breakfast there when I stayed over and hung out with the Edinburgh Coffee Morning crowd. Great coffee and great conversation!

I spent one evening watching football in the Cambridge Bar - good burgers, good beer, lousy football – and another with a crowd of old friends at Café Andaluz - lots of tapas, lots of wine, lots of friends.

There were of course places I liked that I didn’t get to visit – the one place I feel I missed was the Shore Bar, probably my favourite pub. It’s where I had planned to go before I found out there was a whisky tasting to go to instead…

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