Sunday, November 20, 2011

Royal Oak Pub, Edinburgh

Saturday night we went to Pizza Express in Edinburgh, because we wanted to go somewhere where we were sure the kids would eat. For the American readers, it's much more like an Italian restaurant than like Pizza Hut, which you might guess from the name. The food is good and they are child-friendly. We had a nice dinner. Afterward, we headed back to the hotel for bedtime.

Rosemary wanted to see some live music while in Edinburgh, specifically some Celtic music. Consulting our guide book and the waiter at our restaurant, we had a few leads to follow after the children fell asleep. My wife gladly stayed behind to get some rest too.

We checked a few pubs on the Royal Mile but couldn't find any with music. It was about 9 p.m. so we thought they'd at least be setting up if not already playing. One other possibility was The Royal Oak, which turns out to be an award winning pub. The awards they won are for being a fantastic live music venue. The room wasn't that big, maybe fifteen by fifteen feet. The bar is in the back and the piano is on the wall next to it. Some bench seats go around a corner by the front. That's where the musicians were set up.

The first guys playing were some mellow fellows who sang and played mostly folk tunes like Simon and Garfunkel, along with occasional traditional Scottish ballads. The main singer seemed to have already dipped substantially into the tip jar for beers. He was a good singer and did a great job.

The accordianist is eclipsed by the base player

The main guy for the second set was a big bloke with a beard and mustache who looked like he was ready to change into the old clothes and fight with Robert the Bruce or William Wallace. He had a bellowing voice that filled the room. When he started his set, he gave a disclaimer: "If you want to listen to music, you've come to the right place. If all you want to do is talk, there's 700 other pubs in Edinburgh, including the bar downstairs. Please go there if you don't want to listen. That's all I have to say on the subject." Then he played. He had a few other people helping him play and sing.

Another customer had a kazoo and he would play along on a lot of the tunes. He would make jokes about having a KMD, or Kazoo of Mass Destruction. He had a lot of funny jokes along that line. At least, I supposed they'd be funny if you'd been drinking for a while. The band members didn't seem to mind him being there. They loved people singing along.

The violinist at one point played a solo of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that got everyone singing. Other popular tunes were "Sound of Silence" and some ballad about a Scottish lass that we didn't recognize, but all the locals did.

We had a great time and headed home around 11. The next morning we'd be off to Edinburgh Castle, perhaps one of the best castles in the world.

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