30 December 2008
Today is the day my wife and I decided to try and visit a number of pubs while getting much of our shopping done. I located, prior to leaving, a list of the “best” CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Pubs in Edinburgh. Armed with that list and a sense of purpose, we set out toward Old Town. We arrived in the Grass Market area of Old Town
at just past 1100 to find that the crews were busily erecting stages and setting lights for the evening’s performance. Grass Market is home to a new Hogmanay party that celebrates dance from around the world. So, while I nipped into the Black Bull #12 and had a pint of 80Shilling for my Da, Marita Beth stayed outside to watch a dance troupe blocking their routine. When the troupe was done, MB came on into the bar to share my pint and discuss the remainder of the day. With the new-found hustle-bustle in Grassmarket, we settled on making this place the end of the day, too. So, we carefully rejiggered the route, finished the Caledonian 80Shilling and headed up to the Royal Mile for shopping. I’m pretty sure we visited every kitsch shop on the High Street and any pub that was on my list (Jolly Judge, Deacon Brodie’s, Half Way House in Fleshmarket Close). We ate lunch, finally, at the Filling Station (bad choice) and continued our walk around the Royal Mile and so back to Old Town. My favourite pub in today’s wanderings was, hand’s down, the Bow Bar on West Bow Street just off Grassmarket. If you find yourself in Edinburgh, do check out this gem of a pub.
Victoria Street
(The photo is from the top of Victoria Steps looking down onto Victoria Street as it turns to West Bow street. Up on the left is the Bow Bar, while the group of people in the upper right are on a “Witch Tour” of Old Town)
Being close to the marvelous B&B in which we are staying, we went back there to rest our feet, warm up a bit and drop off our sacks of goodies. Nearing 1900, we went back out to Old Town to revel in the dancing that was soon to be happening. And, revel we did. We started at one end of Grass Market when the event kicked off and saw/heard a traditional Ceilidh band playing a Gay Gordon. The crowd in the street formed a small open circle in front of the stage where as many as will could dance. From here we walked to the centre stage where some Swing Dancing was being exhibited. Some quite exceptional dancers were this quartet. We watched them until they were done and replaced by a teacher of Salsa. He attempted, to no real success, to get the crowd to sway with him; we left. The last stage was a series of 4 rotating acts warming up the stage until the Bollywood Steps came on on the back side of 2200. We saw an Irish tap dancer who apparently holds the Guinness World Record for “Fastest Feet” – I was unimpressed. We saw a group called French Fling who did not delight on their first number, but duly impressed with their Can-Can routine. We saw and experienced The Tumbleweeds, a line-dancing group who taught the crowd to dance to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart. When confident of the crowds level of competence, he switched the song to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. If you’ve never seen 800 mostly drunk Scots line dancing in the street to a Dolly Parton song, then you have really missed a sight – amazing! The fourth act came on, and I just wasn’t having it, so we ducked back in to the Black Bull #12 and ordered a Deuscher’s IPA. We watched the last 30 minutes of the Hull v Aston Villa game while waiting for Bollywood Steps to take to the stage (the Hull v Aston Villa game was a heartbreaker right at the death and allowed Aston Villa to leapfrog Arsenal into 4th place in the tables). The end of the match and the beginning of the dance coincided nearly perfectly so off we went into the dark cold to watch. Luckily, the stage was set just outside the pub and there was a non-occupied concrete post on which my wife could stand right there. We hoisted her up, steadied her and then watched a truly remarkable 40 minute dance routine replete with props and pyrotechnics. At 2300, it was all over and we headed to “home” to try and sleep knowing that the next day and night would be even more full and tiring.

~KR (Written on 1 January 2009)

Camera: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Exposure: 0.5 sec (1/2)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.8 mm
ISO Speed: 200
Exposure Bias: 4/3 EV
Flash: Flash did not fire