Monday, August 20, 2012

Edinburgh Day 3: Arthur's Seat, the Tron and Kathak Dance

I am sitting in front of a ruined chapel on Arthur's Seat, looking out over a lake in Holyrood Park out towards the Firth of Forth (Arthur's Seat is a hill and the Firth of Forth is the wide mouth of the Forth River [I think I have that the right way round...], opening out into the sea. It pretty much is the sea). I'm waiting for the ball to drop in the tower beside Edinburgh's Folly, the unfinished Parthenon on one of the hills near the city, which will mean it's one o'clock.

I still haven't gone proper grocery shopping and forgot to get anything for breakfast last night, so I went out to find breakfast this morning, after which I was going to climb Arthur's Seat. After much walking I found a Sainsbury's and got myself some blueberries and Scotch pancakes (a.k.a. pikelets), as well as a pair of sunglasses - I hadn't realised I would need them in Scotland. Now I just had to get to Arthur's Seat, which you can see from most parts of the city with its crags and rocky head.

I found some tour buses and reasoned I must be getting close, stared through the bars at Holyrood Palace and walked past the Scottish Parliament, then found a track. It was a very steep track, paved by convicts in the mid-nineteenth century, and runs up below the Salisbury Crags, which are still quite high up and give an awesome view of the old town, the castle and the sea. I originally thought this was Arthur's Seat, but it turned out to be the larger hill in behind. A bit more walking up very steep paths and rock-faces masquerading as paths, and I was at the top, along with at least fifty other people.

The view is incredible. It's the highest point of the city and you can see in all directions, out to the Forth Bridge, over the Old and New Towns, out to Portobello Beach. I braved the midges and went right to the very top rock (the midges seemed to like this very top rock, a lot). The cliffs drop off on almost every side and it's a bit of a puzzle getting down, because so many people have climbed over this hill so many times that there are paths, or things that look like paths, everywhere. I took one that ended in a small chasm, so had to retrace my steps back up and find a better way down.

I think I'm going to have sore legs tomorrow.

I walked up the Royal Mile and stopped in a few shops and a museum of Edinburgh life, then was caught by the former church that is now called Tron, and was holding free music. It's an incredible venue, with exposed stone and ancient stained glass windows behind the stage. An accordionist was playing when I came in, but that soon changed to a pair of singer-songwriters on guitar and box. (I'm not sure what the instrument I'm calling 'box' actually is. It looks like the back of an old speaker, and you sit on it and tap/bang it to get a range of percussion. I will continue to call it a box until I find out what it actually is.) I'm pretty sure one of the guys was a Kiwi, from his accent. I really enjoyed the songs with harmonies.

By this time the previously-sunny day had clouded over, so I made a detour to the hostel to get my Kathmandu jacket. You may remember my ode to my Kathmandu jacket from some time ago. When I got back to town it was properly pouring, so I went to find a coffee shop close to the theatre to sit for the rest of the afternoon with my iPad. Writing in an Edinburgh cafe. Very JK Rowling.

The concert for the evening was the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company doing both traditional and contemporary Kathak dance. After much thought, I decided that Kathak could also be called slap-dancing - like tap-dancing, but with feet slaps instead of taps. The dancers, both men and women, wore bells around their ankles in the traditional first half, stamping and wending their arms this way and that. The second half was the contemporary half, and I think my favourite. This is strange, because this half did not have bells, and usually I like bells. I think the percussion of the foot-slaps was easier to hear, perhaps, and it's amazing how fast they can do it. The movements also seemed bolder and more impassioned in the contemporary Karthak, and there was lots of diggadiggadiggadig chanting, which I really like and would love to someday learn how to do. I'm not sure if my mouth moves that fast, however...


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