Laundry in multi-layered Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city that requires the description “vital.” It is old but not dominated by age, beautiful but not limited by appearance. I imagine that it, like Seattle and San Francisco, are exciting places to live and work.


One of the interesting things about the downtown is that it has two levels.  It is disconcerting, to walk down the street and glance over the side of a bridge, and realize that there’s a whole level of street far below. In fact, Bridge street it itself a bridge, riding nonchalantly above a whole lot of arches and vaults—there’s a tour, which I haven’t had time to take, but if you’re one of those who was really turned on by the subterranean sections of O Jerusalem, this one’s for you.) The puzzle is, was it deliberate (“Those shops on the ground are run by such bastards, I think I’ll just build another street over their heads, that’ll show them.”) or did it just evolve? In the town of Chester, the dual levels are just wide walkways fastened onto the fronts of the buildings, so that the street level pavements (ie, sidewalks) are duplicated on the first (ie, second) floor of the shops. Very efficient, if a bit difficult to give addresses. But Edinburgh’s Bridge Streets appear to have been designed by Escher. I’m not sure how drunks manage it.


In any case, the event in the Blackwells just around the corner from the hotel was on the upper portions of Bridge Street, so I didn’t have to plumb the depths. The event was small but enthusiastic, and we had a good discussion about the nature of fiction before I signed books. Plus, I even had five minutes to look at the bookshelves before the store closed up for the night.


In Edinburgh I also got my hair washed, ditto clothing (which, because I hate giving cottons and silks to a hotel service, involves the bathtub, many leaves of laundry soap I buy from a travel catalogue [heaven help you if you handle it with wet hands,] raw hands from twisting the garments, and a complete lack of dry towels since I’ve used them all to roll up the still-wet clothes and step on them. It also involves clothing strewn all about the room overnight, and ironing underwear and socks to finish the drying process.) (Can you tell I’ve done this a lot?) (And I’ve often wondered what the maids think, one person using so many towels, and so thoroughly.)Â


However, clean and only damp around the edges, I left one hire car at the airport and set off for Orkney (and yes, Chris, I agree: the Edinburgh airport is a more civilized place in terms of retail aggression.)Â


More on Orkney tomorrow, the Internet gods permitting.

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  1. nkk1969 on June 16, 2008 at 8:38 am


    Doing laundry in hotels is interesting, to say the least. When I have more time, I’ll tell you what happened on my last trip to Germany while staying at a 5-star hotel in Frankfurt. (Short story is: You can take a redneck to a foreign country, but she remains ever the redneck.)

    I have to run back to the hospital now. My son suddenly came down with a nasty case of pneumonia and will be in there a few days. The DH went to the hospital to give me time to come home, shower, grab a few minutes of sanity (this includes checking in here, at LOM, and the LitForum on Compuserve), and get back up there. Gotta run.


  2. Joyce on June 16, 2008 at 10:30 am


    And I thought I invented that step on the rolled up towel trick.

    According to a recent documentary (Discovery or History channel, not sure which), the upper level of Bridge Street came first as a sort of combination bridge and market. The supporting vaults were soon enclosed as handy storage for the shops above but were just as quickly abandoned due to flooding. The space then became part of the slum area that included Cowsgate. Here’s a link to a bit more detail


  3. tangential1 on June 16, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I’m going to Edinburgh next month! My first trip outside North America. Will definitely have to check out the layers of town=)

    Although now you have me a little wary of having to do laundry while on my trip…hmmm…

    And, since you brought up Seattle…doesn’t Seattle have a city below the city too? Theirs is rather defunct, as I recall, and is now just a tourist attraction (a tour that I have not been able to go on yet), but its there.

  4. Kerry on June 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I adore Edinburgh, and have been on the “ghost” tour that includes the vaults below the bridge. I found a great article that explains them:

    Basically, the vaults were designed originally simply to hold the bridge up over the valley known as Cowgate (the bridge was built in 1785). Eventually, as businesses built up on the bridge and land got really expensive, people built floors into the vaults and turned them into real estate (shops for the businesses above the bridge, then later as places where the poorest of the poor lived). It only took 30 years for the vaults to become completely unusable, so they were filled in. A chance excavation revealed them in 1985, and the rest is, well, history 🙂

    My favorite part about Edinburgh: at even an inexpensive hotel, the in-room tea service includes shortbread cookies. Yum!

  5. Anna C. on June 16, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I took my kids and husband to Edinburgh for just a day last March (we were vacationing on the West coast) – I hadn’t been there since about 1980 and had lost my sense of what a great place it is. It looked different when I was a hardworking high school student with no spare cash.

    I can’t wait to hear about the Orkneys – my mother was born there and lived there, daughter of a country minister, from about 1935-1945. She and I are wondering what Russell might be doing there, and when.

  6. Chris on June 17, 2008 at 4:35 am

    Wonderful to catch up with you in Edinburgh, come back again soon!

    All the best for the rest of your trip, and safe journey home when it comes round.


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