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Edinburgh is Laid Out with an Artist’s Eye, Even in Names of Shops

A colorful double-decker hop on-hop off tourist bus

A colorful double-decker hop on-hop off tourist bus

By Jawahar Malhotra

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND: If you are a tourist trying to take in all the sights in this picturesque city, you can surely build up a strong appetite walking around in Edinburgh, not to mention some strong leg muscles too. From the entrance plaza at Edinburgh Castle on the west to Calton Hill on the east is just slightly over a mile, as the crow flies, not counting going up and down the hills. And if you tack on the walk through the New Calton Burial Ground, slight diversion to the Holyroodhouse Palace and visit to the modern Scottish Parliament, you can easily tack on another mile or two.

The Scottish Arms has some quaint sayings painted on its façade

The Scottish Arms has some quaint sayings painted on its façade

But all that walking makes you hungry … for food and other diversions.
There are such a slew of shops that catch your eye and their signages are often the most amusing part. A very European feature is to make the shop names as unusual as possible that you have to remember them, regardless of what is being sold. Take for example “Omar Khayyam”, an Indian Restaurant. Khayyam was neither Indian nor visited India, he was Persian. The Mosque Kitchen, located next to the Edinburgh Central Mosque, close to Maqbool’s Supermarket, served a variety of halal food.

Deacon Brodie’s is a landmark in itself

Deacon Brodie’s is a landmark in itself

Or Black Medicine Coffee, which does not sell herbs or witches brews but has a nice atmosphere for sipping coffee. Taco Mazama is one of two Mexican restaurants and Oink serves delicious pulled pork and is located just two blocks from the Holyroodhouse Palace and the Queen’s Gallery gift shop (which has richly decorated interiors).

The Oink serves delicious pulled pork

The Oink serves delicious pulled pork

A taxi driver (who was Bangladeshi with a long beard) told that that of the 15,000 Indian restaurants in the UK, 75% are owned and run by Bangladeshis. At the Red Fort (which actually has Chinese vases as decoration pieces), the manager (who gave me a good deal for dinner at $13) was Nepali, and he barked orders to through the dumbwaiter to the cook in the basement who was Bangladeshi. The Lamb Rogan Josh was anything but authentic – it was more like previously boiled lamb simmered in a sauce of onions and tomatoes – but man, the hot naan was huge!!

An eye catching bicycle parked in the traffic island

An eye catching bicycle parked in the traffic island

Edinburgh, a city of just over 500,000 people, is not a city of many cars, yet it is well connected by bus and a five-year-old single tram line that runs from the airport to the center and ends at York Place, almost at the base of Calton Hill. There is also the 20-year-old bus service – the 100 Airlink – 24/7 from the airport that has been retrofitted with 6-month old sparkling new double-deckers that have pre-programmed stop messages and even a video monitor showing information in sign language.

Red Fort is a favorite for its late dinners

Red Fort is a favorite for its late dinners

The Airlink stops outside the entrance to the Waverly Train station from which passenger trains run to the surrounding towns and villages and even further afield to Dundee, Glasgow and other parts of Scotland.

Maqbool’s Supermarket, next to the mosque.

Maqbool’s Supermarket, next to the mosque.

Waverly Station (next to the Balmoral Hotel) is the main train station like New York’s Penn Station. It is submerged below the street level and is covered with a large glass-covered roof supported by exposed steel trusses spanning at least 200 feet across the tracks. Walking around in the city, even late at night, one doesn’t get nervous and the city remains approachable and safe.

The Queen’s Gallery at Holyroodhouse Palace

The Queen’s Gallery at Holyroodhouse Palace

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