Spending a few hours at an Airport these days is no longer all about waiting in a Departure lounge for your flight to be called. Today, having the time to browse the boutiques and enjoy a relaxing drink or meal can be a wonderful leisurely experience.
Edinburgh Airport has developed dramatically over the years – and it’s not just about the arrival of the new Trams transporting passengers to and from the city centre to the Terminal.
I recently had the opportunity to spend half a day Air-Side (without a Boarding pass to fly off anywhere); it’s like wandering around a small town with many famous High Street shops and fine choice of bars and bistros to while away your time.
Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s busiest with more than 40 airlines serving 100 destinations serving nearly 10 million passengers a year, with around 1 million passengers a month in peak seasons.
Of course, the absolute beauty of Airport shopping is the World Duty Free store and here is an extensive display of beautiful Beauty products, perfumes, fragrances, aftershave, spirits, wines and chocolates as well as luxury bags, jewellery and fashion accessories. We all want to treat ourselves before jetting off on a well earned holiday.
Some fascinating facts and figures about World Duty Free shopping: A bottle of Chanel 5 is sold every five minutes, five bottles of whisky every minute, and a lipstick every 30 seconds. We girls love our lippy!
Here you have all the top international brand names – Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo, Dior – it’s all here in one store whether you want to purchase a Seiko Watch or Glenfiddich Scotch. I was extremely impressed by the World of Whiskies (there are 12 across UK Airports), selling whiskies from Scotland, Ireland, India, USA and Japan. The enticing news is that there are 90 Travel Retail Exclusive whiskies only sold in WoW so you can pick up something very special as a gift or your own personal tipple for your trip.
Single malts, rare vintages and select casks, a smoky Laphroig from Islay and an exclusive Talisker Dark Storm. Mackinlay Shackleton Rare Highland whisky was re-created to match the original Scotch found in Antarctica, a preserved remnant of the 1907 Expedition.
Whisky tastings are also offered by Matt Cross, WoW specialist, to help you decide what to buy and learn about various different single malts, grains, new blends and brands.
I sampled a dram of Haig Club, the exciting new David Beckham-branded Whisky – you may have seen the James Bond-style advert filmed in the Highlands of Scotland.
Haig Club may look like a macho drink but will suit ladies too – the taste and texture is smooth, mellow and light with a distinctive ginger-spice-sweet flavour. Bottles of Haig Club were flying off the shelves and into shopping baskets all around me!
Beyond WDF, glam Mac and Jo Malone counters for gorgeous makeup, and round the corner, Accessorise, Boss, Dixons, Boots, WH Smith for cameras, gadgets, books and bags. And do visit the Designer Sunglass shop – Gucci, Prada, Ray Ban and even Tiffany- Holly Golightly – shades. How divine!.
All this retail therapy made me rather thirsty so a pit stop for a glass of wine at The Sir Walter Scott bar, run by JD Wetherspoon. At around 12 noon it was packed out with passengers having lunch before their flight.
Open (and licenced) from 3.30am, it’s open all day closing after the last departure. Hearty pub food from breakfast bacon and eggs, to sandwiches, pasta, burgers, fish and chips et al.. Children’s menu too and great value prices for good food, beers, wines and spirits.
In order to experience a few bars and brasseries, I began to graze around the airport. Yo Sushi is a popular and fun way to eat. I sat on a stool as the colourful plates of healthy Japanese tidbits pirouetted their way around the conveyer belt. I tasted Salmon dragon roll and Tuna Tataki & Ponzu – delicious yellow fin sashimi. This is upmarket, stylish fast food – perfect when you are watching the departure board!
And then I walked over to Thermidor’s for a gourmet lunch. This is an island bar with high stools where you can enjoy a platter of Scottish seafood and caviar with chilled champagne. Jonathan Mitchell, the manager, told me that many business class travellers will take a detour from their airline VIP lounge to come here for a glass of fizz and bite to eat before their flight.
The House champagne is Besserat De Bellefon: I sipped a small glass each of Grand Tradition Brut, Des Moines Rose, and Blanc de Blanc NV. Ice-cold, crisp and sparkling which hit the spot. With this, I tucked into a superb selection of fishy canapés -peat smoked salmon, mussels, scallops. sea trout. Fish and Fizz complement each so wonderfully.
A couple sitting nearby were sharing a bottle of Moet, raising their glasses to toasting the start of their holiday – this is such a romantic place to sit for a delicious meal, away from the hustle and bustle of the airport crowds.
Thermidors is part of a collection of other airport eateries – The Gathering (with fabulous views of the runway), a Deli and café and The Fringe Bar each offering a selection of fine food and drink for all tastes and budget.
And this is an innovative idea – browse the artwork on display in the Airport Gallery. Changing exhibitions of reasonable prints, paintings and jewellery. Purchases are delivered free to an address in or around Edinburgh, and despatched by mail or courier worldwide.
And one final fact about World Duty Free shopping: the mountain of Toblerones stocked in store could cover six football fields.!
More direct routes are launching every year at Edinburgh Airport, including most recently new worldwide destinations with Qatar, United, US Airways and SAS and Eithad. Wherever you may be flying off to, enjoy a relaxing time at the Airport.
The good news this Festive season is that Gin is In. Forget mulled wine, egg nog and Champagne (well, maybe a glass or two of fizz on Christmas day), the fashionable tipple today is Gin – with tonic, spruced up in cocktails or deliciously, warming Gin liqueurs.
At the West End of Edinburgh, downstairs beneath the Rutland Hotel, is a secret Aladdin’s cave, the city centre home of Edinburgh Gin Distillery. There are two Copper Stills, named Flora and Caledonia which give a unique and iconic backdrop to the basement bar here, Heads and Tales, run by Bruce Hamilton who works in collaboration with this new venture.
Spencerfield Spirit Company founded Edinburgh Gin in 2010, creating a fresh, new juniper grain spirit with distinctive botanical flavours for a truly Scottish gin.
Which European city consumes the most gin per head of population? Barcelona perhaps, Paris, London? No, it’s Edinburgh. Not surprising really going by the history of gin making (and drinking) here over the centuries.
To learn more about the origins and heritage of Gin, book a place on one of three EG distillery tours (Discovery, Connoisseur and Gin Making Experience), which includes a tasting or two at the end.
Accompanied by a couple of friends, I joined the standard Discovery Tour led by the young and enthusiastic guide, Ewan who certainly knows everything you ever wanted to know about Gin. Fascinating facts and figures – such as that in 1777 there were eight licenced distilleries and 400 illegal stills in Edinburgh and Leith.
We heard all about the Gin Craze with a plethora of gin dens and palaces in London, through to the more civilised creation of G&T, the popular drink of Ex pat Brits in tropical outposts around the Empire. We had the chance to smell the various ingredients to make gin, including juniper berries, coriander, cloves, orange peel and other secret herbs and botanicals.
The original Edinburgh Gin blends juniper berries with the Highland scents of heather, pine and milk thistle and has a fresh, spicy aftertaste. Among other awards, it won Gold Medal at the SIP Spirits awards in San Francisco.
In recent years, Edinburgh Gin has developed imaginative new flavoured products such as EG Raspberry Liqueur and EG Elderflower Liqueur, rather like a contemporary take on traditional Sloe Gin; perfect on its own, used in cocktails or as an ice-cold summer spritzer.
For a winter warmer, a very special Rhubarb & Ginger liqueur has been launched. It’s a soft pink-peach colour and although it looks like a soft fruit drink, it has quite a kick!. I sipped it first of all, just neat – smooth, fragrant and simply the taste of winter. I then added a dash of tonic which made a refreshing aperitif.
You could also add sparkling wine, or create a Cosmopolitan-style cocktail with the addition of Edinburgh Gin. The original Cosmo in the 1920s was Gin with raspberry, not Vodka with Cranberry as drunk by Carrie and her NY friends, The Rhubarb and Ginger Gin has a sophisticated, classy, bittersweet taste – I love it.!
Be warned – the new EG Cannonball Navy Strength Gin is 57.2% ABC/100 proof. Ideal for a classic martini with vermouth and orange bitters.
And the latest tipple is the limited edition Christmas Gin which is infused with the traditional spices of frankincense, myrrh and nutmeg. There are only 200 cases of this exclusive festive season Edinburgh Gin.
Alex Nicol, managing director of Spencerfield Spirit said: “This is a bold move for us but we think it perfectly represents our innovative distilling and unique ideas for flavouring which really bring the Christmas spirit to life“.
Edinburgh Gin Distillery – 1a Rutland Place, Edinburgh EH1 2AE
t. 0131 656 2810
For tour information and booking on line: http://www.edinburghgindistillery.co.uk
Heads and Tales bar – http://www.headsandtalesbar.com
Spencerfield Spirit established in 2005, by Alex and Jane Nicol, was named the Best Small Company at the 2014 Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards.
As a Theatre-lover, I have seen hundreds of musicals over the years and seen many star performers (Michael Crawford in Phantom, Elaine Paige in Sunset Boulevard, Alan Cumming in Cabaret ….), but then I went to see Wicked at the Playhouse. And it blew my socks off!
Of course, it’s already a global smash hit. The original Broadway production (2003) won three Tony Awards while its cast album received a Grammy Award. It celebrated its tenth anniversary on October 30, 2013 making Wicked one of the longest-running Broadway show. Box office records broken around the world – Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, and London.
The inspiration for Wicked takes us back over a century to the original story. L Frank Baum wrote the children’s fairytale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, which turned into a series of 14 books about wizards, witches, scarecrow, tinman, lion and munchkins in the land of Oz.
Baum was apparently a fantasist, a romantic dreamer who followed in the literary footsteps of Hans Anderson and Brothers Grimm delighting in the joy of entertaining children; his son Frank recalled how his father “told us whimsical stories before they became the material for his books”.
I love Judy Garland and her cute dog Toto in the classic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz – you don’t have to have seen it to enjoy this show, but it helps. Lions, and tiger and bears, oh my!
The musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman is based on the novel, “Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witc of the West” by Gregory Maguire, and tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz, how Elphaba becomes the Wicked Witch and Galinda become Glinda, the Good Witch.
The dark, dramatic plot, interspersed with much wit and humour, flows along at a cracking pace by a melodic score, powerful ballads, romantic lyrics and song and dance chorus numbers.
Leading the cast are Emily Tierney as the glamorous Glinda – so reminiscent of Reece Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, – and the brilliantly talented actor/singer Ashleigh Gray as the scary, evil-eyed, green- tinted Elphaba. They are both superstars of the Musical stage.
Wicked is simply bewitching from start to finish. Absolutely, wickedly wonderful and five star fabulous – superb cast, music, songs, set, design, costumes, orchestra …. not forgetting the flying monkeys. Pure magical entertainment for all ages – from around 8 to 88.!
Polish up your broomstick and fly off over the rainbow to the Playhouse before the show ends on 10th January, 2015.