Best guide to Edinburgh

Autumn. It’s that time of the year when the broadleaves start blushing and we curl up inside with warming candles. It is also the perfect season to make a trip to Edinburgh and Scotland – the birthplace of Harry Potter. Here are some great things to see and do during your fall vacation in Edinburgh!

Where to stay?

Macdonald Holyrood hotel

Located at the very end of the main street, right next to the highlights of the city. This is a great option for an accommodation in Edinburgh. Comfy beds, spacious rooms with a spectacular view of Arthur’s Seat from the Window. In the morning awaits a hearty and steady breakfast with home cooked sausages, toast, fresh juice et cetera. The staff is professional and polite and serve top notch cocktails in the hotel bar. I definitely recommend this hotel!

A room with a view

Nature

Arthur’s Seat

Our neighbor and a part of the Holyrood Park, and once upon a time a volcano. A pleasant 45 minutes hike from bottom to top makes a great morning excursion. The effort is worth while, because at the top you can overlook the whole city. Pretty majestic!

Some autumn foliage

Architecture

The Royal Mile and the castle

Edinburgh is UNESCO World Heritage listed, and it’s easy to understand when you’re strolling along the Royal Mile – the capital’s main street. The architecture is simply magnificent and it almost fools you to believe you’ve entered the Harry Potter world for real. Especially considering that the Hogwarts lookalike castle – the star of the city is evident wherever you walk. You’ll also find some of Edinburgh’s best pubs and restaurants around the Royal Mile.

Where to eat?

Fazenda

A steakhouse with a twist. Just an amazing place to go to for the meat lover. This place does not only serve awesome food, the concept of the restaurant is also a unique experience in itself. You start off with a huge sallad buffet, picking out your favorites. You do want to leave some room for what will come next, so even though the sallad buffet makes you drool, be gentle with the portion size. What now follows is waiters coming to your table with all kinds of juicy chunks of meet straight from the grill. You choose anything you want alongside with fresh French fries and vegetables from the barbecue. Build up an appetite and go eat as much as you want at Fazenda. I promise you won’t regret it. Inform the staff beforehand for vegan options. https://fazenda.co.uk/edinburgh/

The Canon’s Gait

Cosy place with local cuisine with the national dish Haggis always on the menu. I had the “pie of the day”, and ate a lovely leek and chicken pie with a perfect crust and creamy filling. This place also offers good local beers. Located right at The Royal Mile. This place also have Scottish live folk music during some nights of the week if you’re interested in that.

Where to drink?

The hanging bat

A paradise for the beer nerd with a great choice of home-brewed IPA’s, Ales and Lagers. This hipster hide out with its long-bearded and knowledgeable bartenders is the perfect place for a great pub night. Innovative and inviting interior. Probably the best beer in Edinburgh!

The Waverley pub

A really nice gem for listening to some live Scottish folk music. Grab a beer, have a seat and enjoy the creative musicians improvising in front of you. Prepare to be swept away by bagpipes, banjo, violin, guitar and some haunting acapella song in Gaelic. This is also a great place to hang out with the local crowd.

Markets

Stockbridge market

Gloat in various delicacies from all over the world at this lovely outdoor market. The market is open every Sunday from 10-17. While you’re here don’t forget to take a stroll in Stockbridge, a less touristy district of Edinburgh with a youthful atmosphere to it.

Grassmarket

Same market, different location. Every Saturday from 10-17. Close to The Royal Mile and next to nice cafés and lunch places. Also right next to Victoria street, which is said to be the inspiration for the Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies. A kind of mysterious and magical place and a must-visit when in Edinburgh.

Some great cafées

Made in Italy

An Italian café at Grassmarket. Almost makes you believe that you’ve suddenly been transported to Rome. The café is run by Italians and the coffee here is as one might expect really good. Indulge yourself and order a warming cappucino and a pizza slice. Or for a hot day, a refreshing and creamy gelato.

Deacon’s House café

A really cute lite coffee place close to the castle. Treat youself with a nice cup of coffee and some delicious sweet pastry. A perfect place for reading a book, maybe Harry Potter?

What else is there to do?

Dean Village

Don’t forget to pay a visit to the charming area of Dean Village. Close to Stockbridge, which makes it ideal to combine the Sunday market with a stop at Dean Village. A 40 minute walk from The Royal Mile where you walk alongside with the river of Leith. Bring your camera and photograph the picturesque stone houses and lush gardens. Make several stops and make sure to treat yourself with some coffee and snacks. This serves as a great midmorning activity. Not convinced yet? For more reading about Dean Village, check out the awesome blog Earth Trekkers.

Free ghost tour

A unique and fun way to get to know Edinburgh better. Join the free ghost tour and learn something about Edinburgh’s spooky past. Don’t expect to be scared, because then it might disappoint you. Rather see it as an interesting an different kind of activity and take advantage of the fact that it’s free. Our guide Rory was an excellent and slightly eccentric guide with some pretty impressive theatrical skills. He made sure to give us plenty of laughs during the walk. He finished the tour by kindly asking us to rate him at TripAdvisor, but preferably not as a previous tourist, with the words “Rory ruined my holiday”.

Reading tips

A vaccation is a great time for catching up with some reading. I personally enjoy to read local authors and books set in the landscape or cityscape I’m in. Obviously the Harry Potter books serve some great reading when in Edinburgh. However the books might be to clumsy to bring. Another author I’d like to recommend is the Scottish writer Peter May. Read The Blackhouse and dive into the Scottish culture and soul, solving mysterious murders together with the main character. A pleasant read.

Tips when travelling with type 1- diabetes

2010 was the year, October the month and I was 21 years old. I had just returned from a three week trip to Ireland with its haunting and mesmerizing lanscapes. My thirst for travelling was replaced by another thirst, not nearly as pleasant. It wouldn’t go away despite how much water I drank. Besides, I was exhausted. I must have recognized the warning signs somehow, since I immediately asked my dad to bring his glucose meter to the kitchen table – my father who was diagnosed with diabetes type 1 at the age of 17.

Eire – the emerald island

An innocent blood drip carried an inconvenient truth as the number 22,7 appeared on the screen. That’s how I found out I had too diabetes type 1, and it hit me like a bullet. Dreams crushed right before my eyes and I thought to myself the most horrible thought, “What if I will never be able to travel like I’m used too again”. It was the lack of freedom that caused my greatest fears.

2019 and nine years later I think back at this moment and smile. As it turned out my life would not change as dramatically as I was anxious about then. During these nine years I’ve studied a semester in Mexico, travelled like a nomad i Colombia and kept exploring cities in Europe. Having that said I can now proudly confirm that it is in fact possible to experience the world as a diabetic. But just as unreliable as commuting timetables can be in Guatemala, my friend diabetes can come with some obstacles. However not invincible ones. I would therefor like to share some of my learnings with future travelers and diabetes buddies. Enjoy!

Tikal – Guatemala. No timetables needed here

Learning 1 – Always pack a manual glucose meter

Nowadays I have a sensor glued to my arm with which I measure my blood sugar. Although this is a life-changing invention one can never be too safe. After a sweaty day at the beach the sensors tend to fall off, and you might not have room for too many sensors in your luggage. Also my monitor that comes with the sensor mysteriously broke in the safety control at the airport on my way to Edinburgh last year. Unfortunately I couldn’t see this misfortune coming, which resulted in panic and an expensive story at a pharmacy. So, unless you want to make the same mistake as I did, always make sure to bring an extra glucose meter!

Edinburgh – amazing city, amazing time, despite the glucose meter incident

Learning 2 – Look up everything about vaccine before your trip

In 2016 I traveled to Colombia. I left for Colombia without vaccine against the yellow fever. Stupid me, since the virus existed in areas we aimed to travel to. Luckily they offered the vaccine freely at both the airport and the bus station in Bogotá. The luck however faded when I was denied the vaccine because of my diabetes with the vague explanation that “insulin and this vaccine don’t go together” (you had to fill in a blanket where one question specifically asked about diabetes). It later turned out to be false facts.

Instead I had to visit a private clinic in Medellin to get the vaccine (not free anymore). I then had to lie to the doctor when he asked me the same question; “Do you have diabetes?” “No”, I answered, and tried to keep a steady voice. So in order to avoid any hassle, make sure to have all everything concerning vaccine covered before you travel!

Medellin – Colombia, finally I got the vaccine

Learning 3 – Always bring a medical certificate

As most diabetics might already know, you are sometimes obliged to show a medical certificate concerning your diabetes at airports. Even though diabetes is a world spread phenomenon, a ton of insulin shots in your bag may appear a bit fishy. So, always make sure to bring a certificate signed by your doctor in case of an emergency.

What I however didn’t know before was that it’s also a great idea to bring the same certificate when you’re about to enter a nightclub. Well, at least that was the case in Mexico City. When the guard searched through my bad and found the suspicious insulin shots she turned ambivalent. My explanation wasn’t worth anything and I had to leave the shots with the guard until I left the club. Thank God I still had my glucose meter available, and my blood sugar levels just happened to be stable. But still, it caused too much unnecessary stress. So, make sure to bring your certificate when you go clubbing! (Or whenever you fear someone might examine your bag).

Mexico City – fantastic city, even better with a medical certificate in the purse.

The absence of knowledge from other people

It can be a struggle in itself balancing your blood sugar levels when travelling. Dealing with other peoples prejudicies surrounding diabetes on top of that gets really tireing. One misconception is the equivalence between diabetes and obesity. Sure, it’s not entirely false, since diabetes type 2 can develop from overweight. However one cannot draw any parallels between obesity and diabetes typ 1. In fact scientists still don’t know the causes of diabetes type 1. And still you often get comments from random people saying things like:

“How can you have diabetes? You are not particularly big.”

Another peculiar bad habit is when people tell you diabetic horror stories. My Spanish teacher in Colombia felt it was a great thing to tell me about his uncle who tragically past away in diabetes. A colleague of mine came to think of a girl who “turned into a vegetable” after a night with too high blood sugar. A third person refused to serve me potatoes because she read somewhere that it’s “really dangerous for people with diabetes”. Well, I can’t say these narratives qualify as any feel-good-stories, and I’m not sure I need to hear them.

I do however realize that people in general mean well, so I decided to use my travels to spread knowledge about diabetes. As diabetics we serve the important purpose of educating confused souls about this diagnosis. And what better way of doing that than travelling? What do you say, are you with me?

The injustice of diabetes

Important to add is that diabetes still is an incurable disease. And without access to insulin it will eventually take your life. The world is an unjust place where many people (particularly in poorer countries) cannot afford insulin, and that is a truth sometimes impossible to understand. Undoubtedly this serves as one of the explanations for the misconceptions and lack of knowledge regarding diabetes.

Ten alternative things to do in Warsaw

In November 2015 my boyfriend and I paid a visit to the cool capital of Poland, and we fell completely in love with it. Especially since it kicked ass even during the greyest month of the year. Here follows my top ten best and slightly alternative tips for Warsaw, which work any time of the year!

1. Free walking tour

Start off your Warsaw trip with a free walking tour in the old town. This is a great way to get to know the city better. Why? Because the tour is led by local enthusiasts who love their city and who are thrilled to share their love with you. We joined the Jewish Warsaw tour which took us to places where the Oscar award-winning movie The Pianist was set. A big tip if you’re planning on joining this walk is to watch the movie before or after the tour to make the experience even more vivid. As the headline indicates the tour does not cost you a penny, although you are more than welcome to provide the guide with a symbolic amount of money after the tour is finished. Find out more about the tour here.

2. Scare yourself to death at Horror House

Ever wondered what it would be like to stand face to face with your creepiest horror characters? Well, you need no longer wonder, because Horror House serves that exact purpose. Prepare yourself for the scariest 20 minutes of your life and expect to ramble around in darkness, desperately searching for keys while you’re trying to escape your worst nightmare. It’s a somewhat life-changing experience. Ready to find out more about yourself? Well, visit Horror House and decide for yourself what you’ve learned.

3. Go to a concert

Why not combine your weekend in Warsaw with a concert? I did it, and I can honestly say that it was that Jose Gonzales concert that made the trip go from great to awesome. Not only because a concert in itself is an amazing activity at any time, but more so because a concert gives you the best chance to really be part of the local community. The tourist label that automatically pops up on your forehead when you travel abroad disappears, and instead you become “one of them”, united in a passion for the music you are now sharing as audience. The concert creates a sense of togetherness and presence. Check out available concerts in Warsaw here.

4. Have dinner at a Communist-themed restaurant

Yeap, you got it right. In Warsaw you have the rare opportunity to eat hearty Polish food accompanied by portraits of famous communist figures, such as Lenin and Mao. The story goes that Lenin himself was a frequent guest at this quirky restaurant called Oberza pod Czerwonym wieprzem. You’ll get a menu that is divided into two sections – namely, dignitaries and bourgeoisie. Which one will you choose? Whatever you go for the food won’t disappoint you. Book ahead, it’s a popular place among both tourists and locals.

5. Polish homecooked with a pianist

Hopefully you’re not tired of Polish cuisine just yet, because here’s a restaurant you should really try out when in Warsaw. At U Kucharzy you dine fantastic Polish food in front of an open kitchen to delicate tones of Chopin performed by a pianist – if you are lucky. The restaurant is spacious with an elegant interior, and the staff is there to keep you satisfied. Finish off the meal with an ice-cold and excellent Polish vodka, and if you’re in for a treat, a tasty Polish apple pie.

6. Eat the cheapest lunch ever at a Polish Milk bar

Are you travelling on a strict budget and need a cheap place to have lunch at? Don’t worry, at the traditional Polish Milk bar Mleczny Familijny you can eat plenty for less than four bucks. Maybe it won’t be the most inviting atmosphere, but the low price definitely makes up for that. Also, you will really feel like a local, since it’s a popular place especially among students and seniors. A heads up though is that the menu is only written in Polish. Could be a great chance for an adventure!

7. Schnitzel, beer and entertainment

After a long night out there are few things better than a nice before-bedtime-snack. Forget McDonald’s and Kebab, grab a schnitzel and a nightcap beer at Podwale 25 – Piwna Kompania instead. Here you can even have a lullaby to put you to sleep, since some traditional Polish folk musicians come with the meal. This is also a go-to-place for the beer nerd, especially for those who are into the typical Czech pils.

8. Become James Bond for a night

If you’re up for an untraditional pub alternative Podwale Bar and Books could be something for you. Even though it might appear a bit snobbish at first because of its evident gentleman’s corner attribute, there is still a sense of coziness and funkiness to it. In fact the ambience is rather intriguing with a great collection of single malt scotch and a James Bond-film constantly rolling in the background. It’s also a pleasant hide out for the book worm, since the shelves are loaded with plenty of literature of various genres. An interesting detail is the choice of one might say psychedelic art in the bar, which mainly consists of chimpanzees wearing weird outfits.

9. Some chocolate please

Are you a devoted chocolate lover like me? Then the chocolate café Batida is a must for you. Here you can indulge yourself in chocolate in all forms and shapes. I highly recommend their hot chocolate of high-quality cocoa which literally melts on your tongue. Other options include chocolate tartes and different kinds of chocolate pastries. This place is a haven on a chilly day, few things compete with a hot cup of chocolate when it’s freezing outside. At least if you ask me.

10. Coffee with love

Do you also feel like many people treat their coffee with disrespect and indifference? Do you get slightly upset when you find an open package of coffee on a counter loosing its aromas in vain? Well, luckily there are some folks who take these flavorful beans way more seriously. The mysterious café Sklep z kawą Pożegnanie z Afryką is definitely one of those places. Each coffee bean and country of origin is humbly described in the menu and once you’ve picked your bean it’s time to choose which brewing method you fancy. This is simply put a heaven for coffee lovers.