By Kate McCabe
Potentially having only one New Year’s Eve to celebrate while I’m overseas, I could have spent it anywhere. But what could be better than spending it at the World’s Biggest Street Party?
As an Australian, I could not have made a more appropriate choice.
Hogmanay is the biggest event on Scotland’s calendar, and many Aussie travelers flock to the country’s snow-capped capital, Edinburgh, to indulge in Scotch Whiskey, live music and drunken banter. My only concern was the minus three overnight temperature forecast!
Not only was this one crazy New Year’s Eve, but it became a three-day journey beginning with cheap beers and ended with the unexplained discovery of an uncooked turkey strategically placed on the top of a Christmas tree. Read on.
Hogmanay, a NYE highland fling
Edinburgh was buzzing – carnival rides scattered through the city centre, bars and clubs advertised extended licenses and bagpipe players echoed from street corners.
Temporary fencing lined the streets to control the expected 80,000-plus crowd.
December 29 marks the official first day of Hogmanay. As tradition states, the festival is opened with a huge parade of torch-bearing punters marching from the Royal Mile, through the city and up to Calton Hill.
Ignoring the initial safety concerns of having exciting tourists, small children and drunk Scot’s together carrying open flames, it was quite an experience. It felt as if I had joined some sort of cult. Or better still, was marching with an angry mob to burn witches.
At the top of Calton Hill, a lone piper played upon a tower, a giant ‘X’ (to signify the year 2010) made out of hay was set alight and a spectacular fireworks display highlighted the night sky.
On New Year’s Eve after a few drinks, we wandered over the icy sidewalks down to the street party.
First stop was the Waverly Stage to watch Glasgow group Frightened Rabbit.
Imagine a Scottish version of The Kooks and you are getting close.
The stage was crammed with Scots singing every word to every song. Frightened Rabbit are winners. They just might be my new favorite band.
Moving through the rowdy crowd to the sold-out Concert In The Gardens was a mission. But once we arrived there was an instance music festival vibe with lines for the pot-a-loos and crushed plastic cups scattered on the ground.
Already into their set, veteran London ska outfit Madness throughout all their classics including ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘Our House’, ‘Welcome to the House Of Fun’ and ‘It Bust Be Love’, mixed in with a few tracks from their latest release, ‘The Liberty Of Norton Folgate’.
It was pure enjoyment, but I couldn’t help but feel that we could have been amongst the youngest in the crowd.
Before too long, the fireworks were over and we were headed back up the icy hill to polish off left over cans back at home.
Having the medieval city still topped with snow not only made for a very picturesque image of the city, but it also made it quite difficult to stay upright. And I wasn’t the only one.
I turned just in time to see a tall bloke in an Australian Cricket jersey tumble to the ground. In an effort to save his half-full can of beer, his head was what was left to break his fall on the icy pavement. Ouch!
Barley awake, midday hit and the drinks started to flow once more.
New Year’s wasn’t over yet.
We spent New Year’s Day at ‘Purple’, a small bar in Grassmarket that we name after its colour having never been able to remember it’s actual name.
Promising ourselves to “only stay for one drink…” it was soon 11.30pm.
Due to ‘Purple’s’ 99p shots and £1.50 spirits, a handful of Aussies had soon drank gone through a fair few bottles of booze.
No walk home with an expanding group of Aussies would be complete without a stop off at the kebab shop.
Upon first look at the menu, things seemed normal.
But soon my eyes drew towards some out-of-the-ordinary offerings; Haggis, Black Pudding, Chopped Liver – a reminder that we were not in London anymore.
The next morning in a sharehouse across town, three sleepy ex-pats awake to see their lounge room floor scattered with dossers.
In the corner of the room stands a live Christmas Tree (one which was not there earlier). On top of the tree, like a shining star, sits a full, uncooked turkey.
Some things in life may never be answered.
Did you meet Kate during your Hogmanay adventures?
You never know, you could be featured in our Facebook Hogmanay photo gallery. Check it out here.
How does New Year’s Eve better? Sydney declared the world’s best. Read the report here.