Tag Archives: Parthenon

The Elgin Hotel

Today we were back at the Hippodrome picture palace to see Journey’s End,  an excellent ‘must see’ for all those who think of war as a worthwhile endeavour … we were both a bit emotional at the end. Afterwards we decided to extend our homeward journey via one of our favourite scenic routes. Also, having had a wee nostalgia trip in our previous post we thought we might as well persist with the theme … but this time the images are coming from the gents toilet at the Elgin Hotel … too much information??Nostalgic posters at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, Fife Admittedly, even at the time, these images would have been deemed ‘romanticised’ but once again we think it would be interesting to see if the artist could portray life today with such a degree of misty eyed innocence. Talking of things not being quite what they seem, we are not actually in Elgin, that fine highland town where you might reasonably expect to find such a hotel … our scenic route did not stretch that far! We are actually in Charlestown on the northern shore of the river Forth, only a few miles from Edinburgh. The Earls of Elgin have owned everything within sight of this place for centuries so the hotel takes it’s name from them. They even had Charlestown built in the shape of the letter E … but hey, when you are an over privileged toff with more money than sense you can do that sort of thing!  The 7th Earl, Lord Elgin, was perhaps the most well known in that it was he who, in 1803, stripped the Parthenon of its marble sculptures  because he wanted them to decorate Broomhall House, his home on the outskirts of the village. They, of course, became known as the Elgin Marbles and they continue to cause as much controversy today as they did back then. Such was the fury at the time, Lord Byron carved ‘Quod non fecerunt Gothi, fecerunt Scoti‘ in the rock at the Acropolis, meaning ‘What the Goths spared, the Scots destroyed’ … not sure who was the worst vandal though? For what it’s worth, we think that Britain should do the decent thing and return the Marbles to their rightful place … but then again, when was the last time Britain did the decent thing?

Snowdrops at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, Fife
snowdrops … signs of spring at The Elgin Hotel

Anyway, Charlestown itself is a lovely village which kind of belies the fact that it was once a shipbuilding port and even functioned as the ship-breaking centre for the boats of the German Imperial Fleet brought down from Scapa Flow at the end of World War I. Internal view of the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, FifeBefore we move on to the important business of scones, perhaps there is just time for a teansy bit of tittle tattle. Controversy obviously follows the Elgins, because In 1990, the current Lord Elgin’s son, Lord Bruce married one Amanda Movius, a 23 year old Alaskan with reportedly ‘pop star’ looks. She had been in Scotland on holiday but, after a whirlwind romance, ended up as Lady Bruce with a vast baronial estate and a 30,00 square foot mansion. Having embarked on several extramarital affairs however and setting up a failed clothes shop in Edinburgh she fled Scotland leaving behind a mountain of debt. Back in America she continued with a life of deceit and dishonesty until last year she was eventually jailed in Texas for credit card fraud, drink driving, possession of marijuana and obstructing the highway. We tell you this simply to illustrate that, heaven forbid, aristocrats are just the same as the rest of us, just a lot more privileged … not to gossip you understand! Enough of all that, what about the scones? Scones at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, FifeUnfortunately, mid-afternoon, we seemed to be the only people around. Nevertheless we were very well looked after by a couple of ladies who soon had us sitting in front of the fire and supplying us with tea, coffee and a couple of fruit scones. ‘Disappointing’ is the word that best described them. They were presented with a basket of prepackaged jams and butter … and the cream was scooshie … arrgghh!

A whisky timer at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown, Fife
whisky timer

We enjoyed them however because after walking in the icy Siberian blast of the Beast from the East it was nice to be sitting here in front of a nice fire with hot drinks and some scones .. even these scones! On the bar they had two whisky bottles made up like a giant egg timer. No one seems to know why it’s there or where it had came from. Apparently it has got slower over the years and currently, the time for one bottle to empty into the other, stands at 67 minutes … fine if you like your eggs really hard boiled!

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ps: a photo has been sent in from our Emirates correspondents. It is taken from a menu in Abu Dhabi and among the items in their ‘Arabic High Tea’ is a scone. An Arab sconeWe had no idea that Arabs ate scones but you learn something every day … many thanks to our correspondents for that.  They did not furnish any information on what it was like, we will have to have a word … though at 113 dirhams (£22) it’s not exactly cheap. Labneh, by the way, is a kind of Greek style yoghurt … think we’ll stick with strawberry jam!

The Scottish Cafe

As we walked back to Waverley station in Edinburgh we had to pass the Scottish National Gallery … you can’t miss it, it’s the large imposing Parthenon like building at the bottom of the Mound. View towards the Scottish National Gallery, EdinburghAs you have probably gathered by now, Pat and I are not exactly what you might call ‘mad keen culture vultures‘ but we do have our moments; the odd concert here and there; the odd exhibition now and again. Sooo, as we approached the rather grandiose home of Scotland’s art treasures we had but one thought … ‘they must do a scone in there’!

Gallery at the Scottish National Gallery
Inside the Scottish National Gallery

Once inside and as we walked around one of the galleries we paused in front of a small Rembrandt and wondered if you might be interested in our thoughts on the iconicity of the gesture spatially undermining the substructure of critical thinking … or … if you might like us just to get straight to the scones? Okay, the scones have it! Like many galleries it is both fabulous and pretentious in almost equal quantities but The Scottish Café wins, hands down, when it come to pretentiousness … who came up with that name? It had better be good!? Internal view of the Scottish Café & Restaurant at the National Gallery, EdinburghEarly signs were less than encouraging because it’s a bit of a soulless barn of a place and all self service. The young girl we got to help us was not from the UK and acted as if she wished she had never come … when asked if we could have something other than a paper cup for our coffee … no, was the monosyllabic answer! Ah well, after our recent sojourn at the Wee Lochan this was a bit of a let down. It’s not cheap either … £3 for a fruit scone must have had deceased sconeys everywhere spinning in their graves. In their favour, it has to be said that the café and the rather nice looking restaurant next door, do try to use locally produced Scottish fare and a large blackboard, next to where we sat, explained it all in exquisite if somewhat bewildering detail. Food source map at the Scottish Café & Restaurant at the National Gallery, EdinburghThere was only one scone left which meant that we had no option but to share, so we got a pain au chocolat to share as well. A scone at the Scottish Café & Restaurant at the National Gallery, EdinburghAfter we had cleared a table to sit at we looked at what we had got; a self cleared table, an expensive scone, a wooden knife, two pats of butter, a wee bowl of jam and coffee in paper cups. Things were not looking too good. Pat, however, started on her half of the pain au chocolat and was soon making all sorts of soft “mmmmm” noises. Eventually, once I had unpacked the butter and spread the jam, I took a mouthful of scone and, damn it, it was good as well! Maybe it was because of our expectations being lowered to such an extent by the surroundings and the service that we thought they were good, but no, they actually were good. In fact it might have got a topscone if we hadn’t felt it would unfair to the likes of Fonab Castle and the Wee Lochan where the value for money is much much greater – no topscone! You see, we can be ruthless when it comes to maintaining standards!

View from the Scottish Café & Restaurant at the National Gallery, Edinburgh
View from The Scottish Café & Restaurant

Talking of standards, we watched the debate in Parliament about Trump’s state visit later this year. It was good to see our elected representatives at full throttle, giving it wellie on both sides of the argument while struggling to make themselves heard over the anti-Trump protests going on outside in the street. The visit will go ahead of course because, at the moment, the government is grasping at anything that looks vaguely like a straw … but it’s a pity he won’t be able to address Parliament … with all the eloquence of a football manager, it might have been a good watch.

p.s. apologies to football managers everywhere.

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