Wrapping up my weeklong feature on last November’s trip to Edinburgh today with a look at the Christmas Market. Edinburgh goes all out in this annual tradition, hosting a six week market full of food and craft vendors and carnival rides that runs from late November to early January. We were fortunate, having traveled over the American Thanksgiving holiday, to be here toward the start of this years celebration.
The lights and decorations filling Princes Street Gardens are a sight to behold, especially with a giant ferris wheel and the sixty meter tall “Star Flyer” towering with the gothic Scott Monument over the market below. Dozens of vendor booths line the concourse selling traditional foods and mulled wines along with a variety of handmade wares ranging from glass ornaments to woolen tapestries. It’s an appropriately festive scene, so if you’re considering a winter visit to Edinburgh you may want to schedule accordingly.
If you go, however, I would recommend to make sure that your appetite is in order. I’d say of our experience the only downside came of my own undoing; though not intentionally… I guess this could be considered something more biologic in nature (or sinister, as it felt at the time.) Let me preface this by reminding that at this point we’d traveled through three countries in three days. In this stretch I went from my normal relatively healthy eating habits at home to airport fast food to airline food to pub meals in Ireland and Scotland. Throw in the stress and fatigue of travel, and by this, the third night of our trip when we visited the Christmas Market, my stomach was in absolute fits.
As noted, the market was full of culinary delicacies. Fried foods, candies, assorted meats, gooey cheeses- you name it, you could probably find it there. To be entirely honest I’ve always been more of a sustenance eater; I like what I like and I’m content with a simple meal. I don’t generally mind trying new things, but at the same time I don’t get particularly jazzed at the chance to do so. My wife and her family on the other hand do. I wouldn’t go as far as to call them “foodies” per se, but they certainly like to have fun and indulge in experiential grazing.
We made our way through the market, going from one food stop to the next. At seemingly every option, one of our group would stop and ask about the cuisine, purchase a sample and pass it around. Like I say, I felt sick going into the evening so the smells alone- while presumably delightful given normal circumstance, had my insides churning. Every time I turned around somebody was sticking a new food in my face, and I had to continually decline- an act of borderline treason when in company of the Wallace family. I fell to the back of the pack, partly as an evasive maneuver and part because my gait had slowed considerably in utter fear of the gastrointestinal event I thought might occur. The pain in my gut was horrendous, and I waddled along doubting that the night could possibly end in any way other than with me as the laughing stock of Scotland.
Finally I had to pull Cris aside and explain in no uncertain terms what could transpire. I had control of the situation for the moment, but just one single bite could disrupt that balance of power. While these intimate details did surprisingly little to dissuade her own appetite, my wife took mercy on me and found the compassion to try and act as a buffer.
“Here, pass this to Josh…”
“No, he doesn’t want any.”
“Well then give him some of this…”
“He says he’s not feeling well.”
“Oh come on, it’s so good…”
“He’s not hungry.”
“Will he try a gallon of haggis?”
Unfortunately Cris drawing attention to the situation brought the unintended consequence of strengthening their resolve. My in-laws, bless their hearts, always try so hard to make sure I fit in. In this case, however, their eagerness to accommodate only made things worse.
“Well he has to eat something. Here, how about one of these eight pound bratwursts.”
“No thanks,” I quietly declined.
“Oooooo. Check out this funky bread slathered in goat cheese. That might be interesting…”
My head shook violently in reply.
And so the night went, and so sometimes it goes, when traveling with your spouses family in a foreign land. Gratefully I can report that no actual tragedy would occur, just a lot of bloating and general awkwardness. In hindsight it was fun to see them enjoying themselves and I still feel guilty for being the “Debbie Downer” of the evening- but I’ll gladly take that over the alternate ending that I unlikely could have ever lived down.