Scotch Whisky & Irish Breakfast
Most of the people in my hostel are Aussies or Kiwis on their walkabouts who are staying and maybe working in Edinburgh for several months. They say "Cheers" and "As you do," and only a few of them can afford a plane ticket home.
At a whisky store on the Royal Mile I bought a bottle of Islay scotch called Caol Ila that tasted like smoke and seawater and shared it with a New Zealander named Paulie who said it was alright but that the smoothest whisky he had ever tasted a Scotsman doled out from a flask secreted in his belt and had made himself.
At an Irish bar, where someone ordered a pint of Guiness at 9:30 Sunday morning, I finally enjoyed a full English breakfast, with bacon, pork sausage, mushrooms, a potato scone, hash browns, baked beans, black pudding, tomato, eggs, and soda bread.
The hostel has a kitchen that always smells like exotic cooking, and it makes eating a lot cheaper. I ate a 50 pence can of baked beans with sausages. The sausages had the consistency of tofu only I knew they were made of some kind of meat. Now I'm sticking with pasta, which is universally cheaper.
On my third day there I took a tour of Edinburgh Castle, just up the rock from my hostel. It says something about Scotland when a military fortress is the center of their capital.
It's an old city and a city in flux. Up through World War 2 the British Empire employed Scotsmen in making ships and fighting wars. Now tourism and whisky are the biggest industries, and the government is the largest employer. Most Scots have moved abroad, and the remnants are die hard nationalists.
Edinburgh is very modern. I saw indoor malls, something unheard of in Southern England, a gang of bikers on 4-wheel ATVs who revved their engines under the red lights, and another on mopeds. Everyone in a kilt was asking for change.
The most engaging sight on cold nights in Scotland and Northern England are the skinny British girls, who insist on wearing spaghetti straps and maybe a light cardigan in spite of the wintry 30 degree weather. Their high-heel sandals somehow find footing in all that snow and ice, and they don't shiver or turn red.
Summer would be a much better time to visit, when the air is clearer and warmer and highland tours easier. Edinburgh holds a very California-like festival in August that fills the city with music, street performers, and hippy crafts.