I won two United BusinessFirst return tickets from Edinburgh to Chicago in a business card prize draw. These tickets offered us free-of-charge access to the new Aspire Lounge in Edinburgh Airport prior to departure.
As our flight departed mid morning, we were looking forward to breakfast in the Aspire lounge. There was fair selection of food including cereals, yoghurts, bacon rolls and croissants. The staff were very friendly.
The lounge had a good mix of seating; comfy sofas, seats at tables, work stations and bar-type stools with plenty of electrical sockets. The WiFi signal was good.
However, I was amazed that the Aspire lounge didn’t have its own toilet facilities. You had to exit the lounge and walk down to the nearest public facilities.
I thought that this coming and going of users must be confusing for staff at the lounge reception. I suggested to the receptionist that users’ hands should be stamped on arrival, a bit like when attending a gig, to provide a quick and easy way to verify legitimate re-access.
In opinion, lack of internal toilet facilities lets down this new lounge at Edinburgh Airport, which should aspire to get its own toilets.
We had lunch at the Hot Flame Restaurant in Quartermile district of Edinburgh on a Saturday in September 2014. Gary, our son who lives in Edinburgh, had heard about the recent opening of this international buffet restaurant, so we thought we’d give it a try.
It’s not that easy to find the restaurant as it’s tucked away in Lister Square, sandwiched between Lauriston Place and the Meadows. The Hot Flame Restaurant was very quiet for a Saturday lunch time, This was good for customers, as I could see it getting pretty difficult to access the food during busy periods.
I really liked the double aspect of interior which made the restaurant bright and airy. The windows at one side overlooked Lister Square. However, I thought that the booths were too small, I assume to pack in as many diners as possible.
There was a good choice of food, but the majority was Indian style, despite the restaurant saying it offered ‘world banquet dining’. The Mexican counter inappropriately had chicken nuggets and potato croquettes. There were a few Italian dishes, which Gary said weren’t that great. There was a ‘live cooking’ station but the only thing being cooked there was nan bread.
I enjoyed the salad selection and the vegetable dumplings from my starter selection.
My favourite main course was the shrimp curry. The meat in the lamb curry was very tender and lean.
The cakes were a bit disappointing. The banoffee gateau was still partially frozen with rather foamy filling. The ice cream was very good, with a large selection of flavours.
It cost £10 per adult for Saturday lunch. It’s £1 cheaper Mondays to Thursday, but £14 all day on Sundays.
I’d recommend the Hot Flame restaurant in Edinburgh if you are a fan of Indian cuisine.
It seems to me that Edinburgh Airport is getting too big for its own boots. As the airport has expanded, levels of customer service have taken a nosedive.
It started with the introduction of a £1 drop off fee in 2010. It was previously free to drop off passengers close to the terminal building.
When we returned to Edinburgh Airport from Prague in late April 2014, the pick up points for the transfer to car parks had been moved further away from the terminal, to make room for the new tram stop. However, there was only one small shelter for all the bus stops. Woefully inadequate for the Scottish weather.
When I returned to Edinburgh Airport from Bratislava in mid June 2014, only one bus arrived to transfer passengers from the plane to the terminal. There was a wait for another bus to turn up. When that second bus arrived at the terminal drop off point, the passengers from that bus couldn’t get into the covered walkway as passengers from another flight had entered further down the walkway. Just as well the torrential rain which was falling during landing had stopped by that point.
There was a massive queue at Border Control. Despite this, not all of the e-gates were open. The e-gates which were open seemed to be operating very slowly. The size of the Border Control area doesn’t appear to have increased, despite the expansion of Edinburgh Airport.
All in all, very poor customer service at Edinburgh Airport for international arrivals, giving the impression of a disorganised and badly managed facility.
It’s time to pull your socks up Edinburgh Airport.
I had lunch for Â£6.95 at the Ashoka Buffet Restaurant in Edinburgh’s Hanover Street (a five minute walk from Princes St) on a Thursday in late Febrary 2014.
I received a warm welcome upon entering the restaurant and attentive service throughout my meal.
I liked the decor in the restaurant, but I thought that the tables were a bit too close together to allow easy movement in and out to the buffet.
There was a fair selection of tasty starters including ‘Tomato & Onion Bhaji’ and ‘Chicken Pakora’.
After everyone from a table of six diners had taken starters, two of the choices had been finished. They were replenished within a few minutes.
I found the chicken in the main courses to be very bland, as though the meat hadn’t been cooked in the sauce. I had two pieces of lamb; one was tender, the other pretty fatty.
I enjoyed the’ Jalebi’ (like donuts in syrup) and the milky ‘Vermicelli’ desserts, but wasn’t keen on the ‘Carrot Pudding’. There was also vanilla ice-cream.
Overal, I was happy with my lunch at the Ashoka Buffet Restaurant. I thought it offered good value for money in a central location. I’ll probably go again to either eat either on my own, or with one other person. However, I’d give it a miss with a party of four, as I think it would be too cramped and awkward to get in and out to the food.
I had lunch with one of our sons at the Cosmo Restaurant, beside Edinburgh’s Omni Centre, on a Friday in late February. We’d tried to have lunch there on a Saturday a couple of weeks earlier, after it’d been recommended on Twitter, but gave up when we saw the long queue to get a table.
As I had to check out of the nearby Travelodge Edinburgh Central Waterloo Place at noon, I decided to walk straight to the restaurant to ensure we’d get a table by the time our son arrived at 12.30. When I arrived at 12.15 there was no queue. I was thoughtfully given a table by the wall so that my luggage would be out of the way.
Arriving early also meant that I could take photos without being in anyone’s way.
There’s a good selection of Thai, Chinese, Indian and Italian food. However, a couple of serving stations were empty with signs saying that they were only open in the evening.
With the exception of a fatty piece of lamb, all the chicken, beef and seafood that I ate were of very good quality.
By 12.45 the Cosmo restaurant was full, resulting in lengthy queues at all the serving stations. As it’s a large restaurant, it was getting a bit chaotic with so many people wandering around with platefuls of food. Both our son and I selected food with the easiest access, versus a considered choice, to reduce queueing time.
The desserts were good, with a selection of Profiteroles, Banoffee Gateau, Toffee Apple Tart, Chocoate Cake, fresh fruit and ice cream.
It costs Â£7.99 for lunch on weekdays. I’d recommend that you either arrive around noon or 13.30 on a weekday; lunch is served until 15.00. The price for lunch goes up to Â£10.99 on Saturdays (served until 16.00) and Â£13.99 to eat at any time on Sundays. The website says there is normally a time limit for table occupation of one hour and 45 minutes, which may be reduced to one hour and 30 minutes at busy times, but I don’t know if that’s enforced.
In summary, I thought that the Cosmo Restaurant offered excellent value for money for a tasty, quality selection. I’d prefer to have a larger plate, to reduce the number of times I’d have to queue up for food at busy times.
The ‘Field of Light’ installation by Bruce Munro in St Andrew Square Edinburgh runs until 27 April 2014. It’s an optic fibre display using 9,500 glass spheres which light up and change colour.
I visited the ‘Field of Light’ in late February. Although it seems strange to complain about the lighter nights, I was hoping it would be dark by 6pm, as I had to leave St Andrew Square at that time to attend an event at 6.30pm. However, with all the traffic and illuminated buildings surrounding the Square, it’s never going to be that dark there.
Although you can see the lights from the perimeter of the Garden, I’d recommend that you visit before 9pm when the Garden closes.
I thought that you’d be able to walk through the lights , but they were cordoned off. I wondered if that was because the ground was so muddy after all the recent rain. Maybe it was for health and safety reasons in case you tripped over the wires.
The lilac croci growing around the bases of the light spheres added a new dimension to the installation.
The lights were dwarfed by the 42 metre high Melville Monument in the centre of St Andrew Square Garden.
I stumbled across South Leith Parish Church on my way to the Raj on the Shore restaurant. The church was opposite a none too attractive shopping precinct.
The incongruity continued with a block of flats at the other side of the church yard.
There were several arched structures in the church yards built to house individual memorials, but their roofs and most of their gates were long gone.
There were lots of interesting grave stones, but as the rain was getting heavier, my photo session was cut short. Not for personal reasons, as I was clad in my waterproof jacket and trousers, but because neither my Samsung or mobile phone cameras could cope with much rain.
I’m planning to return to South Leith Parish Church on a brighter day to have a better look around.
I stayed at the Grassmarket Hotel in Edinburgh for one night in November 2013 on a complimentary basis. The hotel is at a central location, close to Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.
The exterior of the Grassmarket Hotel
The receptionist who checked me in was charming. I was allocated a double room on the first floor. I liked the view from my room. The secondary double glazing shut out most of the exterior noise.
View from my room at the GrassmarketÂ Hotel
I thought that my room was quirky and fun. There was a large map of central Edinburgh on the wall opposite the bathroom door.
Edinburgh map in room at the Grassmarket Hotel
The wall above the desk had Dandy comic front pages as wallpaper. The red kettle, teapot and colourful mugs all added to the upbeat atmosphere. There were a couple of single-serving ground coffee packs, herbal teas and Tunnock’s Teacakes. The bathroom was very swish with dark tiles and a walk in shower with a rainhead fitting. The towels were fluffy and the toiletries lovely. The bed was very comfortable, with excellent quality linen and pillows.
Although the WiFi in my room was reasonable on the afternoon of checking in, it became awful that evening and the next morning. I didn’t want to go down to the lobby to work, so I connected to mobile broadband with my USB modem. I was awakened at 7am by the TV in the neighbouring room. I don’t know if the occupants had the volume high or if the TV was on the adjoining wall, meaning that the wall acted like an amplifier.
My room at the Grassmarket Hotel Edinburgh
I was told at check-in that breakfast was served in Biddy’s Bar, the pub next door, until 12.00. I went down for breakfast around 10am. There were a few items out buffet-style, some melon, cereals, ham and cheese that looked a bit dried out, fruit juice, bread to make your own toast with and croissants.Â I ordered the bacon, French Toast and maple syrup.
When there was no sign of my cooked breakfast after around 20 minutes, I went over to the bar to enquire when it would arrive. That member of staff said I’d need to speak to someone else. I spotted the member of staff who had taken my order and went over to ask her. She told me that, when she asked me if I wanted to order a cooked breakfast, I said I didn’t want anything. I was taken aback by this response which was shifting the blame to me. I just left the pub, as I wanted to check out soon and wasn’t prepared to beg for my breakfast.
There must have been some misunderstanding/confusion about my order, mistakes do happen, but the responses from both staff were very unsatisfactory and inappropriate.
In my opinion, the first member of staff I approached should have said she “would find out what was happening”, instead of taking the stance that it was nothing to do with her. The member of staff who I thought had taken my order should have said, “sorry about that, what did you order, I’ll get it for you as soon as possible”.
In summary, I was left feeling very ambivalent about the Grassmarket Hotel. I loved the location and most aspects of the room, but the poor WiFi, the noise from the adjacent room and the issues over breakfast spoiled my stay.
The hotel is re-branding to the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport in January 2014. The lobby was being renovated during our stay.
Our first floor room felt as if it had been recently refurbished; the downside of that was that there was some residual smell from the redecorating, probably due to the room not being aired enough. The bathroom was lovely with a large shower. It was disappointing that the water flow varied in temperature. There was a neat little shelved area with the tea and coffee making facilities leaving the desk space free. The office chair by the desk was so comfy, I wished that I had one like that at home.
Although the hotel offered free WiFi the signal in our room was awful, so I had to use my USB modem. It didn’t feel as though the bed was new, it was a bit soft and lumpy. The duvet wasn’t large enough to cover us both properly. We could hear planes taking off through the double glazing. With decent sound insulation, e.g. as used at the Citizen M hotel at Amsterdam Airport, it is possible to have a quiet room close to an airport.
We had breakfast in the Auberge Restaurant. There was a continental buffet with cooked breakfast to order. However, when the hotel re-brands to Holiday Inn Express, it’ll be a standard Holiday Inn Express breakfast on offer.
In summary, the Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport was a mixed bag. I liked the room size and decor and the price was reasonable.Â But they really should’ve aired the revamped rooms before letting to guests, fitted a decent thermostat to the shower, bought new beds and some larger duvet covers and filled in the potholes in the long-term car park.
I finally visited the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during the Doors Open Days in September 2013. I reckoned that the Observatory would be one of the most popular venues, so we set out from Berwick upon Tweed early with the intention of getting to the Observatory by 10.30 at the latest. We arrived soon after 10am; it was easy to find a parking space and to get tickets for first show at the Starlab Planetarium.
The exterior of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh
In the few minutes before the Starlab Planetarium I posed for an infrared photo in the Library. The hottest parts are displayed in red, so I suppose that the red area around my forehead relates to brain activity, while my nose, eyebrows and cheeks were a cooler white colour.
Infrared photo of me
The Starlab Planetarium was in a domed indoor blow-up tent. The presenter Ally gave an excellent overview of the different seasonal constellations. It was so funny when a young child asked Ally how long it’d take to travel to Mallorca by rocket.
Copper dome of the East Tower at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh
There’s a large telescope in the East Tower.
Telescope in the East Tower
Telescope in the East Tower
Information board in the East Tower
The views from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre over the city and the Forth Estuary were amazing.
View of Salisbury Crags from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre
View of Edinburgh Castle from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre
The Deep Space Gallery was accessed from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre. There were rocket making workshops and meteorite handling sessions taking place in the Gallery.
Light pollution map of Europe in the Deep Space Gallery
Information about the seasonal constellations in the Deep Space Gallery
Normally individuals can only visit the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during monthly Public Astronomy Evenings. Places need to be booked in advance. The cost is Â£4 per adult, Â£3 for concessions and children, payable on entry by cash or cheque.