Manuela Calchini: Perfect time to taste city tourist trail

Chefs Ben and Terry Harrison show off their cake which is a replica of the Palm House at the Botanic Garden. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Chefs Ben and Terry Harrison show off their cake which is a replica of the Palm House at the Botanic Garden. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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Tourism businesses throughout Edinburgh are gearing up for the busiest season and I’m gearing up to catch many of the exciting things that are on.

To mention just a taste of what’s already been going on during Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, April began with my venturing down a rabbit hole to join the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Edinburgh International Science Festival. The father of molecular gastronomy – Hervé This – produced fascinating insights into the science of food, replacing meat with protein powders to reinvent dishes – they proved surprisingly tasty. The event, hosted by Alex Renton, was educational and well attended and left me considering an entirely different way of seeing food.

I’m looking forward to a repeat visit to Mary’s Milk Bar in the Grassmarket for some delicious, and often unusual, flavour combinations. And a morning coffee at Peter’s Yard, or Earthy, is always fun as I can stock up on lovely, locally made products such as delicious sourdough bread, which is a favourite of mine.

On June 21 the first Cake Fest, supported by funding from Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, will take place at The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and whoever thought about recreating Edinburgh as a giant cake map is a genius. Residents and visitors are being invited to build a giant, fully edible map of Edinburgh and to recreate your own landmark – I expect it’ll be a popular event for more reasons than one.

I’ve already booked quite a few of my tickets for shows I want to see during Edinburgh International Festival and so I’m really looking forward to August. Murmel, Murmel is a play based on the novel by Alasdair Gray and performed by the Citizen’s Theatre. It looks particularly intriguing.

But aside from all the special events and activities being put on this year, I’m looking forward to enjoying original tourism attractions such as a trip to the National Museum of Scotland, which is always fun and inspiring. The Games Masters exhibition that ran in April was incredible – it featured everything from playing the classic PacMan in the arcade to today’s Minecraft and was a real pull for the family market. The museum really is a quality tourism attraction, inspiring people with its collections and exhibitions.

Every year I take a tour around our famed Edinburgh Castle, and I think a walk up Arthur’s Seat for a panoramic view of the city might combat some of my calorie intake with all these food and drink events.

As VisitScotland’s Regional Director I’ve consumed a lot of the tourism product, of course, in Scotland’s capital but there is always something I’ve not done yet – so for me this is climbing the Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens.

Only 287 steps. I feel another opportunity to reward myself with a large piece of cake – perhaps in Maison de Moggy, which is on my daughter’s wish list. A real treat for cat lovers, the café is host to a number of cats and patrons are positively encouraged to interact with the lovely pets – well, Edinburgh caters for everyone!

Tourism is an important industry and relevant to all – whether you’re a visitor here or resident in the city, everyone has a part to play. The ongoing refurbishments, redevelopments and inward investment to Edinburgh are welcomed and critical for tourism, with the important knock-on effect it has into all other local industries. I’d encourage everyone to “do that thing you’ve not done yet” in your own city in 2015 and also to catch at least one of the fantastic variety of events that are being hosted in the city this year as part of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink.

Manuela Calchini is VisitScotland’s regional director for Edinburgh and the Lothians