One of the attractions of Northumberland as a holiday destination is that it’s only an hour or so from Edinburgh. So, if you fancy a change from fishing villages and sandy beaches, you can jump on a train to Auld Reekie.
Liz and I arrived at Waverley station bright and early last Wednesday morning and headed for the coffee shop above Ottaker’s bookshop on George Street. After pausing briefly for a photo-call with the store’s resident Dalek, we fortified ourselves with coffee and cake, then made our plans for the day.
Having cleverly forgotten to pack our street atlas of Edinburgh, I was confident that I could find the way without a map. After a short but frustrating stroll around the back streets of the West End, I was forced to admit defeat. We bought a map and soon made a beeline for the gallery through the crescents and squares of the Georgian New Town.
I'm always amazed by the amount of building that went on in Edinburgh during the Georgian period. In just a few decades, acre-upon-acre of grand houses were built. There must have been an army of builders and craftsmen... and where did all that stone come from?
The Cartier-Bresson exhibition was absolutely astonishing. Although I already knew a little bit about him, I was taken aback by the sheer diversity of his work. As well as the candid street photographs for which he is famous, there were photojournalism shots from all around the world, depicting many of the major events of the 20th century. There were portraits and landscapes and abstract works too, plus a lovely collection of family pictures.
The exhibition is very well presented and structured. The guide leaflet includes a mind-boggling "chronology" of Cartier-Bresson's life and achievements. To say that he lived a full life is a bit of an understatement!!
Many of the photographs of people are timeless: Cartier-Bresson captured the character and humanity of his subjects so well. My favourite quote from the exhibition is:
My passion has never been for photography in-itself, but for the possibility - through forgetting yourself - of recording in a fraction of a second the emotion of the subject, and the beauty of the form.
I left the gallery feeling both inspired and humbled by his genius.
From the grounds of the Dean Gallery, Liz and I dropped down on to the Walk of Leith, a riverside path leads you through the inner suburbs of Edinburgh. A few hundred metres downstream we found ourselves in Dean Village, once a busy milling community but now a very desirable place to live. It's so tranquil, you could easily forget that you're close to the centre of a big city.
We left the Walk of Leith at Stockbridge and headed for the Botanical Gardens, where we had lunch at the Terrace Cafe. Dodging the dithering throng of aging American tourists, we strolled through the gardens and exited by the east gate.
It's a long steady climb up Dundas Street to get back to George Street and the central shopping district. Once at the top of the hill, Liz and I parted company. Whilst she went off to indulge in a little retail therapy, I bought some postcards and raided Brodies' display of tea and coffee in Jenner's foodhall.
Reunited, Liz and I decided to head over to Holyrood for a quick look at the new Scottish Parliament building. Last time we were in the city, two years ago, it was still under construction and a major row was blazing about the soaring cost. I'm told that the building still isn't complete, even though it's now occupied.
To be honest, it's difficult to tell from street level whether or not the Parliament building is finished yet. It looks a bit of a mess.
Most of the postcard shots seem to be taken from Salisbury Crags, a vantage point which overlooks the whole Parliament site. Down on the street it's difficult to get a proper impression: you can just see various disjointed bit and pieces.
To be fair, we didn't have time for more than a fleeting visit as we had a train to catch. Maybe we'll visit Edinburgh again next year and have a proper look round.