At the end of another stressful week--albeit with the enjoyable company of my brother Quadrophonic--I decided to have a bit of a splurge. Originally my plan was to break down cardboard boxes, hoover and nail some pictures to the wall. Ah ha ha ha.
My alarm went at 6 AM, and at 6:16 AM, Quadrophonic and I hustled out into the darkness towards the train station. I bought a return ticket to Edinburgh (£3.30).
After a mad dash down Princes Street for the airport-bound tram, I said bon voyage to Quadrophonic and retraced my steps towards the railway station. What in Edinburgh is open at 6:50 AM, I wondered.
The Balmoral Hotel was the answer. I toddled in, glad to be wearing a tweed skirt suit, and asked if the brasserie were open yet. It was indeed. There a charming Continental waiter informed me that breakfast was £29 and kindly agreed to bring me a cappuccino instead.
So I sat at a chic brasserie table as light dawned on Edinburgh, writing a letter to a friend. The cappuccino cost £5, but it came with two cookies and the hotel was safe and warm. Then, since I was already there, I popped down to the spa to see if I could get a massage today to cope with my stress-damage. I could.
My next stop was the Brew Lab for some Hipster's Ruin (aka avocado toast). Feeling the urge to splurge I got the version with smoked salmon and dill (£6.95). To the barista's surprise, I did not order any coffee. I explained that I had already had two coffees this morning. She was surprised again, for I had entered the hallowed portals of the BL no later than 9 AM. (I made my first coffee this morning at 6:02 AM and drank it from a portable cup on the train.)
Then I went to the Central Library, where I spent a happy hour browsing and reading David Lodge's The Art of Fiction. Then I went next door to the Children's section, and spent half a happy hour reading Rosemary Sutcliffe's take on Beowulf (£0).
Next I thought I had better replace some opaque tights now riddles with holes so I went back to Princes Street and struggled against the crowds towards the House of Fraser department store. I was distracted from. my purpose, however, by the sight of Waterstone's Bookstore, where I would have bought one or two books on Stoicism, had B.A. not called my mobile at the psychological moment. So, despite spending a happy hour looking at all the gorgeous books for sale in Waterstone's, I spend exactly £0 there.
To my surprise, the House of Fraser was having a 50% off sale as it is closing. There didn't seem to be any tights for sale, so I went out again. Thoughts of Beowulf lingering in my mind, I went to Oddbins around the corner to see if they had any mead. They didn't. (£0.)
I directed my steps through Charlotte Square and down Rose Street to Debenham's department store, and the route to opaque tights was so complicated, the limited selection of colours was a great disappointment. So again I spent £0, and ended up on Princes Street instead of back on Rose Street, so I never passed my favourite shoe shop Rogerson's Fine Footwear, where I probably would have bought new black loafers. This means I continued to spend £0.
When I got to Frederick Street I resisted Hotel Chocolat because I have come down for the first time in my life with eczema, and sugar may be to blame. But I did end up back on Rose Street. Although they do have coloured tights, I scurried past Primark. I hate Primark.
I do not hate TK Maxx, however, so I zipped across the street to have a look for tempting discounts. I almost bought £3 worth of pumpkin-spice coloured ribbed tights, but they were for women of heights up to 5'10" and I am but a wee shrimpie.
So I went to the MAC counter of Harvey Nichols and bought my annual tube of Russian Red lipstick and a matching lip pencil. If I have not learned the lessons of history, I will forget them in various pockets and lose and find them again for the next 8 months before irrevocable losing the pencil and then two months later losing the stick (£31.50, the humanity).
And then I toddle back to Princes Street and returned to the Balmoral Hotel where I had a £60 Swedish massage in the Spa, which included all the water and tea I could drink, the opportunity to lounge by the pool reading the Financial Times (truly), plus the comfy slippers to take home if I chose, and I did. Although £60 seems like a lot of money to spend all at once, I don't begrudge it, for I am a firm believer in the power of massage to cure stress-related ills, and if I got a raise, I would have one a month.
So if you have ever wondered what an actual resident of Scotland does on a day off in the beautiful and very well touristed city of Edinburgh, that's my answer. I point out, however, that this is not Edinburgh on £10 a day. For that I recommend having your coffee at Brew Lab with the Hipster's Ruin and then spending the afternoon in the library, the free art galleries, and window-shopping. But if you turn up at 6:50 AM, there is no hope for it: you either have to find a hospitable hotel or freeze in the railway station waiting room.