Books and Travel, Part 2: Alexander McCall Smith and Edinburgh

Alexander McCall Smith is an amazingly prolific writer. His #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books are big hits all over the world. Although he lived and worked in Botswana and clearly loves the place and its people, I enjoy him most, I think, when he writes about his beloved Edinburgh. Year ago I picked up The Sunday Philosophers’ Club and have followed Isabel Dalhousie’s adventure since. When we were headed to Edinburgh on this trip, I found I still had two to read: #11 A Distant View of Everything and #12 The Quiet Side of Passion. So I downloaded those to my Kindle and we made our way to Auld Reekie.

It took us a bit to get there from Birmingham. What should have been a straight-forward 4 hour train trip became slightly more complicated. There had been heavy rain and flooding and this made much of the rail track in the north of England impassable. So, we started out in Birmingham and then had to leave the train in Preston. We got on another train to Glasgow and then had to leave that train in Carlisle. A mad, escorted dash through the Carlisle train station (luggage in tow) got us on another train to Glasgow. We finally arrived there and then got a train to Edinburgh. The same tickets applied throughout, and Virgin Trains has refunded our entire ticket price as well.

In Edinburgh we met our friends Eileen and Wally Powelson. They made their way from Lancashire where Eileen was born, where they’d had a good visit with family. Our time in Edinburgh started well with a good pub dinner. Then, on Sunday, we headed out to see the town. After a good tour of Edinburgh Castle, the rain finally caught up with us. It poured! We kept on down the whole Royal Mile, and then found a taxi by Holyrood House. The ride back to the hotel was a welcome relief!

We had dinner at a very good Indian/Pakistani restaurant (Resom) in an early celebration of Eileen’s birthday the next day, On that day we went to Princes Street and shopped a bit, had a good lunch at the Conan Doyle Pub, and then went to the Royal Botanic Gardens. We really enjoyed these magnificent gardens, and learned some things about the Flow Country in the north of Scotland. We’ll be there in a week.

That night we went to the Edinburgh Tattoo, something I’ve wanted to do for years. It was amazing and wonderful. We began with a lovely dinner in the Amber Room at the Scotch Whisky Experience. It was very good,, and we had delightful dinner companions. Colin from Nottingham was traveling to Scotland with his mother from Hull. They were great to talk with, and we learned much about the joys and sorrows of their lives.

The Tattoo was as wonderful as expected. I thought often of my father, who loved British military bands and pipe bands, and how much he would have loved this. I thought also of Isabel Dalhousie and her Edinburgh life, her bassoon-playing husband and her young sons, and all the ways in which she thinks and evaluates her life and the lives of those around her. I learn a lot from her (thank you Mr. McCall Smith) and take her reflections into my own remembrances of Edinburgh.

Here are the Isabel Dalhousie novels in order:
The Sunday Philosophy Club (2004)
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (2005)
The Novel Habits of Happiness (2006)
The Right Attitude to Rain (2006)
The Careful Use of Compliments (2007)
The Comfort of a Muddy Saturday (2008)
The Lost Art of Gratitude (2009)
The Charming Quirks of Others (2010)
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (2011)
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (2012)
A Distant View of Everything (2014)
The Quiet Side of Passion (2018)

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