When we told people of our trip to Europe this year when they heard of our timing the most popular response was generally “Summer time? -It will be expensive then”. Well yes, accommodation does cost more this year but it was a price we were prepared to pay.
As much as I would like to see a ‘White Christmas’ one year, I’m glad we made the choice to travel when the weather is far more favourable. A warm summer’s day here has been about on par with a warm winter’s day back home – just a tad warmer, and fortunately the nights are MUCH warmer. Any cooler though and I would hardly call this a seasonal ‘escape’. One great thing about this time of year is the activities that go on, one such event is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. How many years growing up have I seen this on the tele each new years, though sadly with less and less coverage telecast back home?
We couldn’t come here without going, so back in January we jumped online to investigate tickets. Tickets start at £23 and go up to £57. There is also the option for a ‘Stewart Package’ for the grand sum of £199. For your money, in this package they offer:
- Fast track access to the Castle Esplanade avoiding the queue
- Welcome drink and two course dinner with wine in the Jacobite Room at Edinburgh Castle
- A “Welcome to the Tattoo” presentation joined by select members of the Tattoo cast
- Emerge from the Castle drawbridge and be escorted across the Castle Esplanade to your seat
- A superior, wider seat with armrest in the premier seating area of the open-air stand with exceptional views of the Tattoo performance
- Tattoo souvenir programme for each guest.
We considered this seriously. £57 for a good seat meant an extra £142 for this deal. Ok …there’s a program included, let’s assume they’re about £15, we’re down to under £130. There is a better (wider?) seat, a bit of la-de-dah and no queuing. That has to be worth a little so let’s bring it down to £100. If we go out to dinner somewhere else it was likely to be £25 each so this was effectively costing us £75 extra for a ticket to be a VIP guest …with me so far? Of course, you then expect to be given the VIP treatment and things to be ‘extra special’ and of a high standard. We were only ever going to do this once …so hey, let’s just go for it and spend our AU$300 each (yes, OUCH) per ticket.
Answer me this. If you were paying this kind of money for a ticket to a event such as this, dinner included, what would you expect? There are about 100 of these tickets per night available, not many in terms of catering. Certainly I expected a lovely plated meal and excellent service, some divine dessert and of course, drinks. I recently assisted at a charity event back home where tickets were $160 per person, not cheap. There was good entertainment for the night and a 3-course meal (savouries, main and dessert), all of which were high quality and elegantly plated and served to the table. I’m not sure what drinks were included but hey – this was for charity.
What did we get – A CARVERY. There was a choice of beef and/or turkey with vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Nothing flash, and the vegetables were barely cooked, I found them unacceptable. Dessert was a choice of ‘tarts’, or should I say a shortcrust pastry shell with either chocolate mouse or custard with a few raspberries thrown in or some cheese – self serve. I sat and pondered for a moment ….I do seem to be rather critical of a lot of the food I have had these holidays. Is it just me? Am I too picky and hard to please? Are things just more expensive here so you don’t get the quality I would expect for the same amount at home?
There was a fellow at the next table dining alone. With a bit of a sigh he made a comment expressing his disappointment at the meal. I refrained from comment at the time but we started a conversation about where we were from etc. When I mentioned ‘Australia’ he spoke of his desire to travel there but the need to save as we were ‘expensive’. I had to agree some things did cost a bit more, or in the very least on par, but also our trip to Sweden and Copenhagen had proved to be very expensive compared to home. It was agreed. We mentioned how a lot of what we have done has cost a bit more as we have looked at the ‘experience’ for taking back to our work and that I was a high school cooking teacher back home. “Oh” he said, “So how does tonight’s meal measure up?” It was agreed – it measured up very poorly for the price we paid.
But that’s not all. We were offered a variety of drinks as we passed through on the way in. Wine, orange juice, lemonade or a cranberry drink. As we sat at the table we were offered wine constantly, or your glass was just topped up regardless of your desired (bad practice that in terms of Responsible Service of Alcohol …makes it hard to know just how many full glasses you’ve had). Hubby ordered a coke for himself and was surprised when it was given to Miss 8. Later, I asked for one for myself. On returning from the bar the waiter proceeded again to give it to our daughter. “Ahhh, it’s for me” I said. He proceeded to mutter something in a foreign accent (no, not Scottish) about ‘only free for children’.
“Excuse Me?” …that was in part a failure to hear correctly exactly what he said, and in part confusion over the situation. He proceeded to repeat that soft drink was ‘only free for children’ and was a ‘paid bar for adults’, a cost of £2.50 a glass. WHAT??? This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered this. At our medieval banquet there was as much beer or wine you wanted for free, but want something non-alcoholic, you had to pay. This didn’t make economic sense to me as I know soft drink, specially ‘post-mix’ is much cheaper than anything alcohol (and let’s not forget our responsible service of alcohol ethics of providing non-alcoholic options). The programmes we spoke of earlier were only £7, so we in fact were paying £135 for a 2-course dinner and a few extra privileges …and I was now being asked to pay for a £2.50 soft drink! Are you kidding me???
Bags had been checked into the cloakroom and hubby didn’t have the right change. Fortunately, on his way back from getting it he spoke to a supervisor and complained about the expectation to pay. He expressed that I didn’t wish to drink alcohol (I actually just didn’t want their wine) and why should I have to pay, I’m effectively no different to the paying guest next to me even though she is considerably younger. I’m not sure if she just made an exception but we didn’t have to pay, good for them, there would be a rather cranky redhead to deal with otherwise (already not impressed).
The rest of our evening fortunately improved significantly when, although it was raining a little, we had a great view of the show and were pleased we didn’t have to deal with the crowd.
I am yet to see if there is a feedback option for our ‘Stewart Package’, certainly I will be emailing them anyway that for my £135 extra (about AU$200) I would expect a LOT more than a very simple carvery roast, basic dessert and not much extra. Incidentally, their ‘Wallace Package” available on Saturday nights has the premier seating without the meal for £130, effectively our dinner (and minor entertainment) cost £79. Certainly, if you ever go to check out the Tattoo buy yourself one of the best seats in the house at £57 and grab a program,well worth it. It might even be worth (at a stretch) the Wallace offer. As for the rest, forget it!!!