(If you missed it, you can read part 1 of my seasonal roundup here)
Everyone has their festive traditions. It might be a particular meal, an activity or spending time with a special group of people. One of our festive fitness traditions is to take part in a Santa run during the month of December, however our most important tradition involves a bit less fitness and a bit more indulgence…
Steve and I first met back in the spring of 2008, but it was not until later in the year that our paths crossed again and we met for coffee. That “coffee date” being a rousing success, the following weekend we went on our first “proper” date and, it being December, Steve organised an appropriately festive day out to Edinburgh with skating on the outdoor rink, browsing the Christmas markets and sampling the glühwein. These were pre-smartphone days so I only have a couple of pictures from an ancient camera to record the moment for posterity!
Neither of us are going to be troubling Torvill and Dean any time soon, but there’s something so special and Christmassy about ice skating surrounded by all those beautiful lights, so every December since then we’ve headed back to Edinburgh for a pre-Christmas day out (and confirmed that our skating has not, in fact, improved!). On a couple of occasions other friends have come with us, but more often it has just been the two of us and over the last couple of years we’ve fallen into a pattern of skating, drinking and eating lovely food. Without this trip, our Christmas would feel incomplete…
(For some reason I couldn’t find pictures of us both from 2011 and 2013, but we definitely went to Edinburgh those years. Apparently we were more interested in glühwein on those occasions judging by these shots!)
This year, our trip took place exactly a week before Christmas. I still had a week of the school term ahead, but it was still a fantastic day out and really made us feel like Christmas was just around the corner.
Steve had booked us on a train at about 9:15am, but despite an impromptu bonus run to the station when we mistimed our departure, we still managed to miss it. Fortunately there was another train a few minutes later and a lovely rail employee, filled with Christmas spirit, allowed us to to travel without having to pay a fee to change our tickets. I do hope she had a lovely Christmas after being so kind.
Arriving in Edinburgh we made our way straight to the ice rink as we had booked our slot in advance. I always feel kind of nervous as I exchange my shoes for ice skates and there are definitely a few wobbles until I find my balance, but soon I’m whizzing reasonably confidently around the ice (until I see someone fall, then I’m straight back to hugging the barrier!). One of these years I might even learn how to stop without having to head for the barriers at the side! Steve is less adept on skates as he didn’t do any skating at all (ice or roller) while growing up, whereas my sister and I had roller skates so there’s still some muscle memory in there. Poor Steve has spent so much time training himself to run, that the motion of skating goes against every instinct he has, however this year he did start to improve his form a bit and manage a PB of 5 laps of the rink without having to hold on to the barrier! That’s Olympic-qualifying standard, right 😉
They don’t let you take photos on the ice (we got a row for that last year) so we had to take our photo just before stepping onto the rink.
A great feature of this rink is that once you have finished skating and retrieved your shoes (which after a half hour or so of skating feel very strange!) you have to exit through the bar. Funnily enough, we’ve never been in a rush to leave here and like to celebrate a successful skating adventure with a festive adult beverage. This year, we chose a sloe gin hot apple toddy and it was delicious!
After our drink, we headed over to the Christmas market. This year the layout was a bit different as the whole Christmas experience in Edinburgh is constantly being refined. The market is always busy, but the new layout and management of the entrance/exit did help. The stalls were full of the usual types of gifts and foods, but I did find a couple of fun photo opportunities as we wandered around:
There were also some reindeer visiting from the Cairngorms:
And then, I spotted it…
Obviously, we had to try something, but since we were on our way to have some food we opted for a Nutella hot chocolate instead of a crepe. Good, but not quite as good as that Nutella coffee I had in Paris. Yum!
Our favourite place to eat on our Christmas trip to Edinburgh is the Chocolate Lounge on the Forth floor of Harvey Nichols (yup, it is the 4th floor but is spelled like the river that flows nearby – see what they did there!). There’s always a bit of a queue as you can’t book, but it’s totally worth it. You sit on a high stool with a conveyer belt going around in front of you like at a sushi bar, but instead of sushi, it’s examples of the chocolate products you can order. It being Christmas, we ordered a glass of champagne each to go with our food. Steve has a sweet tooth so always orders some kind of dessert, whereas I prefer savoury and my favourite thing to order here is the dipping plate (don’t worry, there’s still some chocolate, it’s just mixed in with the balsamic vinegar. Sounds weird; tastes amazing!).
It’s quite clearly a dish for one, but when it was brought out the waitress, rather inexplicably, asked if it was “just” for me or if I was sharing it. As if! All I could think of was this:
After eating, we still had plenty of time before our train so since it was getting darker we set off to see some of the amazing Christmas lights, starting with The Dome then heading along to the Street of Light display:
There were some further stalls by the Street of Light, and we finally found exactly the kind of emporium we were looking for:
Yes, there were samples and yes, we ended up buying some gin!
After which there was just enough time to grab a coffee before getting the train home (we were in plenty of time for this one!).
So there you have it. Our most important Christmas tradition of them all. We had another fantastic day out to Edinburgh enjoying some festive indulgences and creating more happy memories. Roll on the 2017 edition!
What is your favourite festive tradition?
Any exciting trips recently or in the near future?