The Scotsman Picturehouse

The Scotsman Picturehouse

Tucked away within Edinburgh’s iconic Scotsman Hotel is a luxurious addition to Edinburgh’s entertainment scene, The Scotsman Picturehouse. This new cinema aims to rekindle the magic of the big screen and bring back that cinematic opulence of a bygone era. The film schedule contains a selection of recent releases as well as classic masterpieces, so there is plenty of choice for everyone. I was recently invited to watch a movie and experience their midweek treat package; just one of the many packages on offer.

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Entrance to The Scotsman Hotel

Stepping out from the hotel’s lift gives you an initial glimpse of the what to expect; through the door a small seating area filled with small tables, wooden panelling and luxurious red velvet seating.

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Foyer

The accompanying Picturehouse foyer sells a range of snacks, drinks, specially crafted cocktails as well as my favourite; retro sweets! I was delighted too be able to not only enjoy a glass of wine at the bar but also in my seat during the movie.

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Bar area

As you walk in to screen you immediately feel the decadence beneath your feet due to the claret deep pile carpet. The space is sumptuously cosy and intimate with only 48 lavish leather armchairs, each having their own individual tables and classic empire lamps. The interior exudes opulence and you could be fooled by thinking you have been transported back in time if it wasn’t for the modern touches such as the seats having their own power and USB points. 

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The fantastic dolby surround system provides the perfect sound quality which really took me by surprise. As the velvet curtains are pulled back and the lights dim you feel like you are in your own little world. The seats are extremely comfortable, allowing you to lay back, sip on your choice of drink whilst enjoy the fresh popcorn as you escape into your chosen movie.

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To make the cinematic experience even more enjoyable the Scotsman Picturehouse offers several packages to to enhance your visit. These include:

Classic Dinner & A Movie 

This is the perfect package for a special date or an intimate celebration. Enjoy a specially created two-course menu in a private booth in the gallery of The Grand Café; which I previously reviewed. In addition you can enjoy a glass of Prosecco, a bottle of Innis & Gunn Gunpowder IPA or a soft drink on arrival. 

Brunch and a Blockbuster 

A fantastic chose for mid morning entertainment which includes seasonal brunch at The Grand Cafe, complete with a glass of orange juice and a freshly brewed coffee. This is then followed by a visit to the Picturehouse for a late morning screening.

Afternoon Tea and Matinee 

I love a good afternoon tea treat and this package includes afternoon tea at The Grand Cafe, complete with a glass of bubbles. Afterwards, you can indulge in one of their afternoon screen showings. 

Midweek treat 

For a midweek escape this package includes a movie, alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink and fresh popcorn.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to The Scotsman Picturehouse as it brought an air of luxury back to the cinematic experience. It may cost be a tad more than your normal cinema outing, but the ambience, surroundings and comfort all add to the overall experience. The added package deals make it a perfect night out with a difference. 

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Edinburgh Festivals – 5 Festivals in 1 Day

Edinburgh Festivals – 5 Festivals in 1 Day

You may have noticed the slight buzz  and electric energy around Edinburgh this month. Guess what? It’s time for Edinburgh festivals!!! I was invited to spend a day with Festivals Edinburgh who do a fantastic job in ensuring that Edinburgh remains the world’s leading festival city. Eleven festivals take place throughout the year, five in August alone, so I set out to explore these five fantastic festivals all in one day.

Edinburgh Art Festival – 25th July to 25th August

If you looking to ignite your creative mind and or have a fond appreciation of art, then look no further than Edinburgh’s Art Festival. This festival is the largest visual art celebration in the UK and attracts an astounding 250,000 people each year. It encompasses work from established to emerging artists, providing a creative outlet to showcase their extraordinary work. The festival includes over 40 exhibitions, most of which are free to attend and include an assortment of contemporary, fine and abstract art. 

Firstly I visited the historic Parliament Hall for the exhibition called ‘The Future is Inside Us, It’s not Somewhere Else’ by Nathan Coley. This was a series of large-scale custom made lightboxes which merge original wallpaper from Zuber & Ice and phrases chosen by the artist. The stunning Parliament Hall provided the perfect backdrop to these thought provoking pieces.

My favourite had to be ‘Looking For Luck’ which was inspired by a story about a South American man travelling with his family across the Mexican/American Border. He was stopped by a journalist who asked him why we was travelling to America and the man replied “I am looking for luck”. 

Next I visited Dovecot Studios to explore a selection of tapestries created by the artist, Grayson Perry. The series is called ‘Julie Cope’s Grand Tour’. I absolutely loved this exhibition, the tapestries were vivid, intricate and full of life.

I concluded the Edinburgh Art Festival by visiting the much talked about ‘I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On’ by Alfredo Jaar. The piece is located on a bridge above West College Street and is said to articulate a perfect metaphor for the era we live in. 

Edinburgh Fringe – 2nd to 26th August

The Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world where performers take to the numerous stages and venues (317 in 2018) scattered all over the city.

 

 

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Unlike the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has no selection process and is therefore open to anyone. Performers can present any type of work and then pay a fee to the Fringe. This makes the Fringe an exciting and unpredictable festival, as you never know what to expect. Due to its thrilling manner, The Fringe has given rise to several stars throughout the years.

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The central area for this festival is located on the Royal Mile. On this charming and historic street you will find an abundance of street performers trying to grab your attention, pop-up stages showcasing some acts and copious amount of promoters handing out leaflets enticing you to the many shows available.

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The Royal Mile

Edinburgh International Festival – 2nd to 26th August

Founded in 1947 to bring people together through culture in the wake of conflict, Edinburgh International Festival invites people from all over the world to perform shows in theatre, dance, music and opera. Over the years this spectacular melting pot of creativity has continued to grow, showcasing some of the finest talent around the globe. These hand-picked shows are spread throughout a number of venues in Edinburgh. 

I visited Church Hill Theatre to watch the charismatic show ‘Roots’. The show blends animation and storytelling with a live musical score all whilst telling the fascinating folk tales. This show was very intriguing and cleverly put together. The timing of each of the characters was impeccable and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the musicians who at some points were playing three instruments at the same time. What made it even more impressive is that there were only four people in the whole show, multi-tasking was definitely one there best skills. 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – 2nd to 25th August

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is Scotland’s biggest outdoor spectacle, attracting a staggering 220,000 people each year. Located on the esplanade of the iconic Edinburgh castle, over a 1000 military and civilian performers from around the world congregate to perform a show of a lifetime.

With a prime position on the forecourt, I was able to experience this up close and personal. With its multiculturalism effortlessly mixed with traditional Scottish dancing, I must admit it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever witnessed. I especially loved the performance from the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra who brought a touch of sunshine and vibrancy to the show and the New Zealand Army Band performed their impressive Haka display.

This year’s theme is called Kaleidoscope and is a series of performances with colour and light, comparable to the optical invention which was created by Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1816.

The display of music and dance against Edinburgh Castle is a sight to be seen and should be on everyones bucket list. At the end of the evening I had exclusive access to the roof to witness the spectacular firework finale.

Edinburgh International Book Festival – 10th to 26th August

Edinburgh International Book Festival is a celebration of the written word in all its forms and brings together writers from over 60 Countries.

I attended ‘Unbound’, a free event in the Spiegletent which explores poetry in all its glory. All the readings were passionate and witty, taking you on a journey of different emotions.

As I sat in the mist filled ambience of the tent, I looked back on this fantastic day and couldn’t help but feel truly blessed to stay in the heart of the best festival city in the world. 

 

Edinburgh Festivals – The Survival Guide

Edinburgh Festivals – The Survival Guide

Just because Edinburgh is a small city doesn’t mean it cant handle itself when it comes to an influx of people. Great planning goes into the organisation of such well known worldwide festivals and everything seems to work like clockwork. Although to some Edinburgh residents, it may feel like a strain some days, we embrace the injection of energy and enjoy the perks that it brings. Not only do I love the world-wide talent, exciting shows and food and drink pop ups, I especially love the late night shopping hours and being able to get in a coffee shop after 5pm! Although the city is prepared, YOU should also be prepared! So as an insider, I thought I would give you my survival tips on getting the best out of the festivals and the city.

The bustling Royal Mile

1. I am stating the obvious here but its a very important one. Fail to plan, plan to fail. I always make an itinerary no matter where I go in the world, sometimes I don’t stick to it completely but its great to have a structure in your head so you know where to be to get the most out of your trip. It’s especially important in Edinburgh during the festivals. My first tip if you are coming from another country would be to book your hotels and flights well in advance. The prices of these often go up dramatically near the festival time. Therefore, you could save yourself a lot of money. The recently opened budget hotel, Point A is an affordable choice that has a great location close to the city centre. It’s also good to book any particular restaurants to avoid disappointment and not get ‘hangry’. Most importantly if you are planning to see a lot of shows then grab some tickets, as soon as they are released, and utilise the websites.

Rooms at Point A Hotel

2. It is no secret that Scotland’s weather is rather unpredictable, so you have to be well prepared and wear sensible clothing and footwear. With blue skies in the morning and driving rain in the afternoon, people are often surprised with the constant changes in weather. The best advice is to wear layers as you are able to remove or add throughout the day. If you can, waterproof layers are also advisable. Having an umbrella is okay, however unless you want to do your Mary Poppins impression due to the common surprise gusts of wind, a jacket with a hood should be sufficient.

It is sunny sometimes, I promise!

3. If you ever wanted to work out while walking around, then Edinburgh is the perfect city to get those steps in. Wear comfortable shoes as Edinburgh is built on numerous hills, thus walking from A to B can be like a mini hike. Adding to that is the cobbled streets and uneven pavements (which all add to Edinburghs charm), wearing your Sunday bests, are probably not advisable.

The winding steep streets of Old Town

4. If you are visiting from another country, or even from a different part of the U.K. Be prepared for the Scottish accent and unusual/slang words and phrases. We try our best but often forget to slow down for tourists. Being the capital there are many Scots from around the country and dialects change from town to town. Check out some words and phrases here. It shouldnae be that hard fir ye!

5. As Edinburgh is a small city, getting from one part of the city to the other can be easy, however at busy times (like during the festival) it can take much longer. Luckily we have an amazing bus service called Lothian Buses. The bus journey may feel a tad slower due to the increase in people and the introduction of the 20mph limit within the city but the network is great. Download their app where you can buy tickets, view timetables and get updates on any delays. The buses now accept contactless, so it is now much easier to pay for your journey without searching for change. The Edinburgh Tram system is also a fantastic way of getting to and from the airport or back and forth Princes Street without getting stuck in traffic.

6. This is maybe easier said than done but try and avoid Princes Street, unless of course you are out for a fantastic days shopping. This street is usually packed full of people coming from all directions and at this time of the year, it doesn’t make walking through the city a pleasurable experience. Instead, head to the other side of the road and walk through Princes Street Gardens. It is more open and pleasant, enabling you to see the ever changing architecture of Princes St on one side and the old town and imposing castle on the other… much better for photo opportunities!

Princes Street Gardens

7. Queues! I’m sorry tourists but we like our queues, we are still British after all. Whether it’s buses, banks or ticket lines etc we like to be in straight lines and heaven forbid you should cross it. Don’t be offended if you get a sly look if you skip the queues, it’s just in our blood. 

8. If you cannot come for the entire month, why not try to come at the beginning of the festival or the end. Come at the beginning and you will get the chance to snap up some free or 2 for 1 tickets. Come at the end and you will experience the great closing ceremony with its fireworks against the beautiful castle.

9. On a serious note, it’s now time to talk about pedestrian lights. Red means Stop, so don’t be tempted to cross the roads on a red man. We’ve seen it many times during the festival where tourists walk out in front of buses and cars, causing serious accidents.

10. Although being in the festival is incredibly entertaining, there is still an entire city and country out there to explore or relax in. If you are a little tired, there are plenty areas to go to breathe a sigh of relief. There are pockets of relaxation around Edinburgh and you just need to know where to look, head to my previous blog post for some ideas. 

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Dean Village

Edinburgh is a fantastic city to visit at any time of the year but at festival time you can see an exciting and unique side to the city. Follow these steps and your guaranteed your time will go smoothly and you will get the best out of the city making you long to come back again and again. Most importantly, just have fun!! Haste Ye Back!

Edinburgh’s Christmas – 2018

Edinburgh’s Christmas – 2018

The days may have become shorter, but all this darkness provides the city with the perfect chance to sparkle. On the 18th November fireworks emblazoned the sky and Christmas came to Edinburgh again. This year, Edinburgh Christmas has pulled out all the stops to make it an extra special one. Edinburgh with its majestic castle, cobbled streets and its backdrop of historic buildings makes it the perfect place to truly enjoy the spirit of Christmas and a chance to set your inner child free.

The famous Star Flyer soars above the crowds

Here is my very special #BluBlazerGuy guide to enjoying a festive night in this beautiful city.

The Christmas Market

Sitting in the east-end of Princes Street, under the shadow of the old town is the quaint Christmas market. This festive market is filled with an abundance of traditional wooden stalls selling an array of bespoke goods from around the world, making it perfect for those extra special gifts. Wander aimlessly with a mulled wine in-hand, leisurely perusing as the lights twinkle around you. With a huge selection of food stalls, you are never short of choice, from traditional German sausages to chocolate slathered waffles there is something for everyone.

My favourite place is the Johnny Walker Bothy Bar, a two-story bar situated on the mound, selling a delicious selection of whisky cocktails and their very own take on a hot toddy.

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On its upper level, step onto the outdoor balcony which provides the perfect view of the Christmas market below and allows you to relax with your drink and absorb the magical sights, sounds and smells.

View from the Bothy

The Forth 1 Big Wheel 

Proudly standing in Princes Street Gardens is the iconic Forth 1 Big Wheel.  As you step inside one of its 36 enclosed weather-proof pods, you are slowly elevated above the bustling crowds.

With views of the grand castle on one side and the Victorian-Gothic Scott’s monument on the other, it truly is a great way to experience unrivalled views of the city in all its beauty.

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During your experience, listen carefully to the much-loved commentary by Boogie and Arlene from Forth one. On a clear evening I recommend arriving just before dusk so you can get that perfect view of the sun sinking behind the castle.

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Ice Skating

Only minutes from Princes Street is the elegant St Andrews square housing its very own Rekorderlig Cider Lodge. Circling the Lodge is the famous ice rink where you can grab your skates (and your loved one, if you are anything like me) and slide around the beautiful elliptical ice rink.

Silent Light

Can you imagine dancing carefree under a carpet of 60,000 lights all synchronised to the music you are listening too? Well, you don’t have to imagine, as this year’s new addition Silent Light brings this to life. A world’s first, Silent Night merges two themes from previous years; the Street of Light and the Silent Disco.

Silent Light (photo by Edinburgh’s Christmas)

With five Silent Light shows a day with an array of different tracks to listen to, there is something for everyones taste. What makes it even more appealing is that 50p from every ticket goes to a wonderful charity, One City Trust. So now you can have your very own street party while contributing to a worthy cause. After all, it is the season of giving.

La Clique Noel – Part Deux 

Situated in the famous Spiegeltent on Festival Square is the weird and wonderful La Clique Noel show.

Grab one of the Posh seats for a great view

Prepare yourself to be dazzled and astonished by this group of talented artistes who perform a spectacular array of daring acts. Think of it as a very sexy circus show with some of the performers making you gasp in astonishment. The hilariously funny host Bernie Dieter captivates the audience with her devilishly dark humour. Her sultry singing is infectious, and I found myself entranced by her every time she sashayed her way onto stage.

Bernie Dieter

This quick moving show will surprise you at every turn, with comedy, magic, burlesque, music and more. My personal highlights were the sultry Heather Holliday who took sword swallowing to another level and the famous Fancy Chance, who had me grabbing at my scalp as she swung precariously over the audience by her hair.

Heather Holliday

Keep your eyes out ladies and gentlemen for the final act by the muscle-clad Stephen Williams. I won’t spoil the surprise but his act which encompasses balance, aerial strength and dance was a captivating and perfect way to conclude this fantastically varied show.

Stephen Williams

I’ve only touched on a few of the rides, shows and attractions available at this years Edinburgh’s Christmas. For more information visit the Edinburgh’s Christmas website, where you can buy all your tickets and plan your visit for this six week festive spectacular.

Don’t forget that Edinburgh residents will receive a 20% discount on rides and attractions with a valid ID.

Edinburgh’s Christmas is on from 16 November 2018 – 5 January 2019

Blublazerguy

Restoration Yard – Winter Woodland Cinema

Restoration Yard – Winter Woodland Cinema

Restoration Yard’s 18th century stables welcome indoor winter woodland cinema for Christmas classic screenings.

 Following last year’s sell-out screenings at The Biscuit Factory, Hobo Cinema’s Indoor Winter Woodland Cinema moves to Restoration Yard at Dalkeith Country Park, Midlothian. This immersive experience will see the Wellbeing Lab transformed into a woodland cinema, with set design from Pyrus Botanicals, showing a programme of classic Christmas films.

Whilst an outdoor, crisp winter screening sounds romantic, the reality is more likely a cold damp one. Hobo Cinema is the best of both worlds – beautiful winter floral and foliage canopies, wood chipped floors, and twinkling festoon in the warmth and shelter of Restoration Yard with gourmet popcorn, rich hot chocolates and spiced mulled cider on offer. A real festive treat designed to get even the most bah humbug amongst us onside.

Hobo Cinema’s programme is varied with everything from heart-warming classics through to Hollywood favourites and 80s nostalgia. Rogue Village hope their cross-generational programming will bring families together to share in timeless cinema.

Co-Director, Jenny Maniam, says ‘for so many of us, it’s a certain Christmas film that really helps us to connect with the magic of Christmas. We’re screening ten classics in a beautifully designed space for a warm, fuzzy, festive experience whether you’re creating your first Christmas memories, building your own traditions or looking for that spark of nostalgia’.

Rogue Village seeks to present an alternative to soulless multiplexes by putting an emphasis on environment and experience. Botanical set designers, Pyrus Botanicals (who US Vogue recently tipped as one of the top ten florists to follow on Instagram) will ensure the design goes way beyond a few strategically placed Christmas trees with their critically acclaimed work. Quality food and drink are also at the heart of what Hobo Cinema offers and Restoration Yard will be designing a festive twist on cinema favourites.

As well as viewing Christmas classics in a twinkling winter wonderland – without the December chill – cinema-goers can also enjoy a winter warmer of a meal either before or after the film.

With Restoration Yard’s Dinner & Film package, available 21st-24th December, festive film buffs can enjoy a two-course winter menu and film entry for just £31.50 for adults and £20 for under-18s – making the perfect date night or get-together with family and friends.

The special festive offering will see Restoration Café extend its usual opening hours into the evening, with all dinner sittings for the Christmas package at 6.30pm.

Choose from movies including Home Alone, The Snowman, Love Actually, The Nightmare Before Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and The Polar Express – with filling fayre like chargrilled Buccleuch steak ciabatta, panko crumbed Peterhead haddock, cheese nachos, garlic mushrooms and a selection of moreish desserts, served up pre-or post-screening.

Stephen Begg, sales and events manager at Restoration Yard, said: “There’s nothing quite like a festive film to get in the mood for Christmas, and it doesn’t get more festive than a movie experience at Hobo Cinema. The fully immersive experience will make visitors feel like they’re watching their favourite Christmas classic in a winter wonderland, complete with mulled wine and hot chocolate and plenty of other winter warmers. It perfectly complements the woodland surroundings of Restoration Yard and Dalkeith Country Park.

“The Dinner & Film package is absolutely ideal for a cosy Christmas date night, office night out, to bring the kids or get-together with family or friends. Not only do you get to enjoy a fantastic movie, but you also get to experience a taste of Restoration Café’s delicious Christmas menu.”

Rogue Village Co-Director, Jenny Maniam, said: “For so many of us, it’s a certain Christmas film that really helps us to connect with the magic of Christmas. We’re screening ten classics in a beautifully designed space for a warm, fuzzy, festive experience whether you’re creating your first Christmas memories, building your own traditions or looking for that spark of nostalgia.

“The addition of dinner at Restoration Café to creates a full package perfect for Christmas parties, family get-togethers and an alternative Christmas night out.”

The Dinner & Film package is available on all 4.30pm and 8pm screenings, with dinner service at 6.30pm.

Under-18s price includes children’s menu, but can be upgraded to the adult menu for £7.50 per person, payable on the day. Ticket purchases are subject to booking fee.

Standalone film tickets are also available for all screenings.

 

Hobo Cinema: An Indoor Winter Woodland Cinema

Address: Restoration Yard, Via The King’s Gate, Dalkeith Country Park, Dalkeith, EH22 1ST

Dates: Friday 21 – Monday 24 December 2018

Times:Various, visit www.roguevillage.com for screening schedule

Tickets: £13.50 adult / £10 children. To book tickets or for more information visit

www.roguevillage.com or www.restorationyard.com.

About Rogue Village

Rogue Village is an arts and events company based in East Lothian operating nationally. With a clear and distinct brand, they are driven by a desire to offer forward thinking, inspiring and unifying events particularly outside of city centre environments. Their hugely successful Canteen Street Food Festival attracts more than 2000 people every month and Hobo Cinema offers unique cinema experiences. They also deliver private parties and events across the UK.

About Restoration Yard

Restoration Yard is an inspiring retail, food and wellbeing destination that sits alongside the magical Fort Douglas adventure playground at the heart of Dalkeith Country Park, just a few miles from Edinburgh’s city centre.

With design at the heart of their brand, Restoration Yard blends old and new perfectly. The 18th century stableyard was sensitively restored in 2016 to showcase its original features, while creating a contemporary retail and leisure destination with floor to ceiling glass windows for the stunning Park views. The Store boasts a wide range of departments from the luxury Foodhall to womenswear, menswear, house and home, kids toys, books and stationery. Restoration Café offers breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea and exclusive use evening events and weddings.

The wider Park hosts upgraded walking and cycling routes, and a full programme of events runs throughout the year.

Edinburgh Cocktail Week

Edinburgh Cocktail Week

A Whisky Escape Room challenge, over participating 80 bars, a new Cocktail Village, a hidden Masterclass Hub, a Pornstar Martini Party, and distillery tours are just some of the highlights you can look forward to hopping between at next month’s Edinburgh Cocktail Week, 15th – 21st October, as they reveal their full programme of events and 82 signature cocktails.

Over 80 bars across the capital are taking part in this year’s Edinburgh Cocktail Week (30 more than last year) including Harvey Nichols, Tigerlily, Dragonfly, The Voyage of Buck, The Voodoo Rooms and The Grand Café, with each bar designing a unique Signature Cocktail which can be enjoyed for just £4 each with an ECW wristband – £6 for a weekday band (valid Monday to Friday) and £8 for a weekend band (valid Saturday and Sunday).

Over 82 Signature Cocktails

This year’s expanded format also sees the introduction of a new Cocktail Village at Festival Square, which is free to enter with a wristband. Enclosed within a marquee, the Cocktail Village will act as the social hub of the week-long cocktail celebrations, where attendees can meet up with friends and catch up over £4 cocktails from 15 pop-up bars such as Edinburgh Gin, Grey Goose Vodka, St-Germain, Johnnie Walker, Rumbullion Rum, Belvedere Vodka and Poco Prosecco, plus a very special ‘Golden Ticket’ themed bar from The Pop Up Geeks. As well as lots of cocktails to try, there will also be live music, DJs and drop-in style masterclasses and tastings to keep revellers entertained.

Cocktail Village, Festival Square

Organiser Gary Anderson commented… ‘We wanted to give the event more of a festival feel this year, so we have introduced a much larger programme of things happening all around the city for wristband-holders to hop between on their cocktail adventure, as well as extending the event to seven days and increasing the number of bars taking part to spread footfall. As a city of event-goers we all love a pop-up space to hangout in, so the Cocktail Village is an exciting new development for the event and the city. It has been designed with an outdoor festival theme to make you feel like you are in an autumnal garden while being in the comfort of an enclosed marquee. With this year’s expansion also came a lot of work with brands and distribution to ensure supply meets demand; a challenge some bars faced last year. New partnerships with brands and local distributors will ensure sufficient stock levels are in place with backup stock from local warehouses just a phone call away.’

Between sipping, sampling and socialising around the bars and Cocktail Village, there is also a programme of events, masterclasses and parties for wristband-holders to attend throughout the week, kicking off with a Pornstar Martini Party hosted by Absolut Vodka at 4042, Edinburgh’s newest late-night venue. Partying continues throughout the week as Altos Tequila host a sleepover themed party at Tonic with a menu of £4 ‘Agave Dream’ inspired cocktails to choose from. Entry to both events are free on a first-come basis and tables can be booked in advance by contacting each venue directly.

Pornstar Martini Party at 4042, hosted by Absolut.

Thrill-seeking wristband-holders are invited to join Chivas Regal for a whisky themed Escape Room at Nightcap. Designed for both experienced and amateur whisky drinkers, attendees must use their senses to guide themselves through a labyrinth of flavour, collecting whisky along the way to unlock and create their own personalised blend at the end of the challenge, before enjoying a complimentary cocktail in the Nightcap Lounge.

Escape Room at Nightcap

Another exciting addition this year is ‘The Secret Spirits Study’ pop-up on Queen Street – a masterclass hub by day and underground bar by night, hosted by Wemyss Malts and Darnley’s Gin. Those eager to sample and get creative can look forward to experiential masterclasses such as ‘Mixed Drinks Through the Ages’ which explores the past, present and future of cocktails through sampling and hands-on cocktail-making. Or take ‘A Liquid Journey’ and sample six botanical spirits to discover how they react with one another to form the award-winning Darnley’s Gin range, while ‘The Secret to Blending Whisky’ masterclasses take pupils on a laboratory style flavour tasting before crafting a personalised blend to take home. In the evening The Secret Spirits Study will transform into a hidden cocktail bar with a programme of bar takeovers with mixologists from across Scotland showcasing their skills to create £4 cocktails for wristband-holders to imbibe on in the lounge or underground bothy.

Secret spirit study

If a break from cocktails is needed, festival-goers can head along to The Empress of Broughton Street for a beer & whiskey pairing with Jameson Whiskey and local craft brewers Barney’s Beer, or be the first to take a tour of the Sweetdram distillery as it opens for the first time, exclusively for wristband-holders. Tour tickets cost £4 each and include samples of Sweetdram’s Escubac (described specifically as not a gin) and their Smoked Spiced Rum.

Local gin producers Pickering’s Gin are also joining in the cocktail debauchery with a collaboration with Brewhemia for a whirlwind week of food & gin pairings, ‘How to at Home’ cocktail classes featuring Pickering’s new Pink Grapefruit & Lemongrass Liqueur, plus tastings and competitions with co-founders Marcus Pickering and Matthew Gammell in the Brewhemia Boudoir.

Brewhemia’s signature cocktail.

And the fun and benefits of an ECW wristband don’t end there: wristband-holders can also enjoy a complimentary cocktail with beauty treatments at NOW by One Spa; promotions at the Official ECW Bottle Shops, Royal Mile Whiskies and Drink Monger; 50% off a ride with mytaxi; and free entry before midnight to Edinburgh’s top late-night venues Lulu, 4042 and Shanghai – visit the ECW website for T&Cs.

The Wellesley – Jazz Evening

The Wellesley – Jazz Evening

 

The Wellesley; beautifully restored before opening in 2012, this intimate luxury hotel adjacent to Hyde Park in London is the perfect place to escape the busy streets of the city. Its beautiful facade lures you in, where you can enjoy the many luxurious services of this glamorous boutique-grand hotel. After travelling to London from Edinburgh, I was in search of a place that provided a fusion of fine dining and live music. I was thankful that I chose The Wellesley and stumbled upon one of their many Jazz evenings held at this hotel every Friday and Saturday.

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Colonnade Lobby (photo: The Wellesley)
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Entrance to The Jazz Lounge (photo: The Wellesley)

Arriving into the beautiful colonnade lobby I was led by their very attentive staff to the intimate Jazz Lounge; a dedicated space for both up-and-coming and high profile artists. The first thing I noticed (being the interior design buff that I am) was the opulent dusky pink colour of the room, adorned with mirrored panels and chandeliers. The grand piano sat empty in front of a beautiful beaded crystal screen inspired by a Coco Chanel dress. The individual crystals sparkled under the spotlight awaiting the singers entrance.

As I sat down to peruse the menu created by Chef Michele De Monaco, I was offered a chilled sparkling glass of champagne which provided a fantastic start to an opulent and relaxed evening. The menu itself was filled with a choice of tantalising dishes. After an amouse bouche of fresh and flavoursome cuttlefish, I chose a starter of pan-fried squid, basil pesto, sugar snaps and courgettes. The starter was beautifully presented and the flavours married perfectly in the mouth. The next course was a Roasted Guinea Fowl with a potato and leak mash and a cacciatora sauce. The succulent game melted in my mouth and the rich sauce was a perfect addition to this simple yet delicious dish. Last but not least and my favourite part of any meal was dessert. After the rich main meal I chose a refreshing coconut and lime bavarese with a cool and tasty chocolate ice cream.

Throughout the meal, jazz singer; Sara Dowling accompanied by the pianist Gabriel Latchin entered the room. They both took their places in front of the crystal screen and immediately impressed me with their relaxed and effortless style. As the pianist delicately played, Sarah’s velvet tone cascaded around the room, filling each and every person with joy and contentment. With old and new classics you were whisked through decades of music and I especially loved their rendition of my favourite song; Secret Love. Sara Dowling is a freelance Jazz singer singing in some of London’s top spots such as Ronnie Scots and 606 Jazz Club, so it’s no wonder she was asked to sing at this beautiful hotel.

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As the hotel is famous for its luxurious and fine cigar room, the staff presented us with our very own ‘edible’ cigars presented in a beautiful Cohiba Behike box. Accompanied by a delicious dry martini it was the perfect ending to a relaxed evening. The choice of music, the exquisite food and service were a perfect combination for what has been one of my favourite and relaxed nights in London.

 

A special deal is available until march 31st which includes a 3 course meal with Champagne and entertainment for £45 or 5 courses with champagne and entertainment for £65.

If you would like to experience the amazing voice of Sara Dowling, head to The NED for Brunch on 25th February at Bank or Hampstead Jazz Club on March 1st.

Edinburgh Festivals

Edinburgh Festivals

The Edinburgh International Festival

It seemed from out of nowhere posters and billboards appeared around the streets of Edinburgh. Cleverly coloured in a luminous yellow, they are perfect for grabbing everyone’s attention against the otherwise grey historic buildings of the city. The International Edinburgh Festival has arrived! “Welcome world” is their slogan and it surely feels like the entire world descends on this great city. At this time of year, the crowds swell to capacity and the city buzzes with excitement, as if it has been awakened from a long slumber.

 

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Edinburgh International Festival invites people from all over the world to perform shows in theatre, dance, music and opera. Over the years this spectacular melting pot of creativity has continued to grow, showcasing some of the finest talent around the globe. These hand-picked shows are spread throughout a number of venues in Edinburgh, such as The Hub, The Usher Hall and The Lyceum to name but a few.

This year the Edinburgh International Festival opened with an outstanding outdoor show, the Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time. Blending together animation, lighting and music from the Scottish rock band Mogwai, the geological history of Edinburgh was beamed onto the awe inspiring Edinburgh Castle rock face.

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On an unseasonably windy and cold night, the excitement of the gathered audience along Castle Terrace grew. As the music started and the castle rock began to light up in a spectacular array of colours, I was dumbfounded by the amazing creations in front of me. History was unfolding in front of everyone’s eyes and the deep, thought provoking music of Mogwai was a perfect hypnotic blend. Between volcanic explosions, comets, space, poems and thought provoking quotes, the journey became a roller-coaster of surprises, whereby the next part being better than the last.

 

 

I couldn’t help but look up and feel quite emotional. I felt proud that my city is able to put on such a show but I also had the realisation that I am so lucky to be able to stay in such a historic and beautiful place. As the music came to a dramatic end, everyone gasped as the slogan “Welcome World” was splashed against the imposing rock…and to think this was just the beginning of an amazing month of festivities.

 

At the end of the festival you mustn’t miss the spectacular Virgin Money Fireworks concert, bringing the festival to a dramatic conclusion. Yet again the castle is used as a fantastic background to this fireworks concert. Reminiscent of the famous Hogmanay street party that takes place in Edinburgh, the show consists of the beautiful sounds of the Scottish chamber orchestra with choreographed fireworks. Watch the crowds faces light up in colour as the fireworks soar above them, it’s the perfect way to enjoy the ending to such a fun filled month.

For more information on shows, tickets and venues visit The Edinburgh International Festival Website.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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The fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and performers take to the many stages and venues (313 in 2015) that are scattered all over the city. Unlike the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has no selection process and is therefore open to anyone. Performers can present any type of work and then pay a fee to the Fringe. This makes the Fringe and exciting and unpredictable festival as you never know what to expect and many stars have been born out of the process.

The central area for this festival is located on the Royal Mile. On this charming and historic street you will find an abundance of street performers trying to grab your attention, pop-up stages showcasing some of the acts that are taking part in the festival and copious amount of promoters handing out leaflets enticing you to the many shows available.

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For more information on shows, tickets and venues, visit Edinburgh Festival Fringe and see my recommendation below.

Venues

As i previously explained at the beginning of this post there are an abundance of venues all over the city. These venues grow and expand with pop up bars and restaurants and unique, quirky areas for relaxing with friends before or after a show. These areas can be enjoyed come rain or shine and are perfect for soaking up the atmosphere of all the festivals.

Check out my recommendations below;

The Pleasance Courtyard

The Pleasance Courtyard is a short walk from the city centre and houses seventeen venues in the one place. As you walk through the archway entrance the atmosphere is electric. Filled with the energetic chatter of festival goers the area is perfect to eat, drink and socialise. With an abundance of shows going on here, you really don’t need to leave all day.

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You can’t get lost with these quirky directions

 

St Andrews Square

St Andrews Square located bang in the centre of Edinburgh, with the towering Melville Monument and surrounding historic buildings, is a perfect little haven for soaking in the festival atmosphere. Sit in the Edinburgh Gin bar and chat with friends, enjoy some culinary delights from a number of small food stalls or catch a show in the famous Spiegeltent.

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St Andrews Square
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The Famous Spiegeltent

 

Enjoy the numerous eating places such as Valvono & Crolla, Henderson’s, Via Napoli, Lov Mexican, Buffalo Farm BBQ, Scottish Ice cream or my personal favourite The Crema Caravan (featured in a previous post) selling a delicious range of gourmet creamy creme brulee.

 

Enjoy the lovely colourful artwork that is on display in and around St Andrews Square.

 

Also at St Andrews Square in the grounds of the Royal Bank of Scotland is the Caorunn pop-up gin garden. Not only do they sell amazing Caorunn Gin cocktails but the garden also showcases some artwork from local artists. A number of food places selling a delicious selection of street food is also available. With covered seating, picnic area and occasional live singing, it is perfect come rain or shine.

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George Square Gardens

The Assembly venue at George Street Gardens is an impressive contained area with spiegeltents, covered bar , eateries and fun faux grass sculptures. This venue is relaxed and chilled throughout the day but comes alive at night. Hosting lots of shows such as cabaret, circus and music this is not a venue to be missed.

 

Underbelly Cowgate

Under the shadows and arches of the old town in Edinburgh, the Underbelly in Cowgate certainly brings this area to life.  Containing seven venues, three bars and a cow cafe it is a great venue that has a completely different atmosphere to the others. This is where I experienced my first taxidermy puppet cabaret show called ‘Sing for your life’, the strangest but most hilarious hour of my life.

 

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Show – Jess Robinson : Impressive (The Pleasance)

On Monday 8th August due to rave reviews, I attended singer/impressionist Jess Robinson’s show ‘Impressive’. You can certainly tell why she chose the name because within five minutes she had rattled off 99 impressions without losing a breath

The full house looked on in amazement as the vocal gymnast took you on a whirlwind ride of singing, impressions and comedy. Her energy was so infectious it spilled over into the crowd. With the help from her band she gave amazing impressions of Paloma Faith, Beyonce and Adele. Winding back the years she then transformed into the the soothing voices of Judy Garland, Julie Andrews and Billie Holiday. It didn’t stop there, with further impressions of TV personalities such as Mary Berry, Kirsty Allsopp and my personal favourite ‘Sonia’ from Eastenders.

Her voice is spectacular and I especially loved her rendition of ‘Songbird’ sung in the voice of Amy Winehouse. The dark room and the single spotlight provided a dramatic and skin tingling performance.

As if that wasn’t enough, the story also revolved around her recent divorce and the five stages of grief that came along with it. This great mix seemed to blend effortlessly and the end result was a fun, light hearted and energetic show that I didn’t want to end.

I managed to catch up with Jess to ask her a few questions with regards to her ‘Impressive’ show:

Can I ask how you came up with concept of your new fringe show ‘Impressive’?

So much has happened in my life since last year’s Edinburgh festival – such as running away to join the circus following a surprise divorce. There were too many silly adventures to share along with loads of impressions. So I had to include them. Plus, for a while, it was all I could think about. It’s been silly and funny and a bit cathartic.

Your song “I’ve got 99 voices but a bloke ain’t one” was a hilarious and fantastic show opener, is it difficult going between so many impressions in such a short time and has it ever went wrong?

It was very difficult to begin with and the voices come so fast after each other, I always have to be careful to keep them accurate / define them. But after a while of practicing, it was almost like learning a dance routine. After a while muscle memory clicks in.

 Your impressions are faultless and without giving too much away I love your Sonia! How did you find out you had this talent and is there any new ones that you are working on?

I’m always working on new impressions, but Sonia from Eastenders is an old favourite. She was one of the first impressions I learned to do to make my school friends laugh . . . (before I even knew you could do voices for a living).

You have an amazing singing voice and my personal favourite of the show was when you sung ‘Songbird’ in the style of Amy Winehouse, where and when did you learn to sing like that?

Amy’s voice is a favourite of mine. It always has been. People used to mock her when she was alive… Actually I voiced a couple of sketches about her a long time ago on ITV’s Headcases. In this year’s show though, I wanted to do a tribute to her.

Your show combines singing, impersonating and comedy. All throughout the show you do a lot of running around the stage and dancing, which looks very energetic. Do you ever get to just wind down in Edinburgh and enjoy the festival yourself?

I do get to wind down a bit. But I’m always a bit wired after my show, so it takes a while (and a couple of drinks!). The last week of the festival is always a little quieter for me, because by that time, I’ve given up trying to do spots in other people’s shows and I’m just enjoying watching them instead.

What’s your favourite thing about the city and the festival?

I LOVE the clash of cultures. You can see all sorts of weird and wonderful acts at the fringe. I also love that I get to stay with my family while I’m here. It’s the best of both worlds: the fun of the festival and good home cooking… And someone to let me in when I’ve inevitably locked myself out after a wild night.

Thank you Jess Robinson for taking the time out to answer my questions. visit the fringe festival website to book your tickets now for this amazing show.

Edinburgh Festivals Magazine Launch Party

 

Entering the launch party area.

I was lucky enough to attend the launch party of the Edinburgh Festivals magazine, held in the speigletent in George Square Gardens. The party sponsored by Edinburgh Gin, showcased some of the up and coming acts that will appear throughout the month in the festival and also introduced everyone to the new Edinburgh Festivals Magazine.


The night was hosted by broadcaster, writer and comedian Mark Dolan. Every five minutes, a new act would appear on stage, ready to give it their all to impress the crowd of media and PR professionals. One act that really stood out and grabbed everyone’s attention were The Magnets, a group of six beatboxing guys creating fantastic music just using their mouths. They were really infectious and soon got the crowd dancing along to their impressive beats. The magnets will be playing all month long at Assembly George Square Gardens and you can book your tickets here.

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Mark Dolan

 

The magazine is a slick publication and jam packed full of information about all the Edinburgh Festivals and includes exclusive interviews. It is your perfect guide to everything you need to know. For more information head to their website.

 

Foodies Festival, Inverleith Park

On 6th August I was invited to attend the popular annual event, the Foodies Festival which takes place in the lovely Inverleith Park. The Foodies Festival is the largest celebration of food and drink in the United Kingdom and so I wasn’t surprised to see the long snaking queue waiting to get in to this fantastic event.

 

The long queue of foodies

 

As soon as you step through the gates your senses are bombarded with smells of tantalising food, the sound of chatter from the crowds relaxing around the grounds and the sight of hundreds of stalls showcasing every food and drink imaginable.

 

The grounds were arranged into many areas and my favourite was definitely the Street food avenue where I got to taste a beautiful Sri Lankan cashew nut and pea curry. Another favourite of mine, which also takes place at the Christmas foodies festival is the Artisan Producers section. From an array of chocolates, fudge, sauces and cakes, it was difficult not be tempted by all of them. I especially loved the Pacari chocolate stand. I have previously blogged about this brand , their dark chocolate covered espresso beans were a highlight and also their rose flavoured chocolate; I had to buy some of course!

 

 

At the drinks section I was lured in to the ever popular Edinburgh Gin, which I already love. With flavours such as Raspberry, Rhubarb and Ginger how can you resist? I was captivated with their new seaside Gin captured in beautiful blue and white labelled bottle. Flavoured with seaweed, scurvy grass and ground Ivy, giving it a more sweet and delicate taste. Definitely one of my new favourites.

 

The Foodies Festival is a must if you are visiting Edinburgh next year. Visit their website for more details or follow them on social media.

There are many other festivals happening throughout Edinburgh in August that I haven’t been able to mention. Click on the links below to check them out.

Edinburgh Art Festival

Edinburgh Mela

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Until next time, hope you have enjoyed this post! Blu Blazer Guy.