Edinburgh. Southside Guest House. Look no further!
I have many things to tell you about Edinburgh, but before I go into how and why the capital of Scotland conquered me, you should know about Franco’s house – Southside Guest House.
I do not recall how I came across Southside Guest House. I just know it got shortlisted once I started to look for accommodation for the 2 nights we were going to spend in Edinburgh. I had a relatively long list of options, but ultimately, apart from the good reviews, I valued the location and, obviously, the price. In general, Scotland is not very cheap when it comes to accommodation, especially if you’re looking for a place to surprise you with something more than a bed and, eventually a shower that you do not have to share with other tourists. Edinburgh is no exception, moreover, is top of the list when it comes to high prices of hoteliers. And I, if I have to be honest to the end, I really appreciate the comfort when traveling. I would not want anyone to understand that I only stay in 5 star hotels, because that’s just not true. I admit, I am always looking for places with personality, tastefully decorated, with an original touch, that emanate warmth and make me dream and feel glad that I am their guest. And, if possible, to leave me that sweet regret at the end, for the simple reason that I can not stay longer.To make the long story short, Southend Guest House, with a score of 9.4 on Booking and some pictures worthy of the elegant guesthouse, caught my eye and was declared winner.
The House on Newington Road 8 was built in Victorian style in 1867 and inhabited by different owners (some more or less famous) until 2004 when it was purchased by Franco and his wife, Lynn.
Franco – the man behind Southside Guest House
I did not meet Lynn, but Franco greeted us on arrival and familiarized us with his stylish guesthouse. Franco speaks English flawlessly, but his name and his elegant accent quickly make you understand that he is not Scottish. It only took a few minutes before our conversation turned from English to Italian. Franco is originally from Tuscany, grew near Florence and after his life was divided between Scotland and Italy. He loves both Edinburgh, the place where he choose to start a family, and Florence, where he returns annually at least 3-4 times. I could not guess exactly how old is Franco, but I hope I am not too wrong if I say he’s on his mid 60s. But before I get you bored with the host’s biography, what I really wanted to say is that in all my travels so far I have never met a man so attentive and polite and, particularly, so dedicated. Franco seems to have all the time in the world for his guests. There is no question that he would not answer with elegance and his endeavor to give you the best advice and suggestions far exceeds the register host-tourist.
The house, as you might already expect to hear, is just like its owner. It has only eight rooms, stylishly decorated with antique furniture and wood floors. The final touch, so to speak, It’s given by the paintings that hang on the walls. Replicas of famous Picasso and Modigliani delighted us in the room with lilac walls that we were assigned. The room overlooks the main street and has huge windows. And it also has the original interior shutters, made of white wood, which can be closed over the night to alleviate the outside noise. From the first moment you step into the room you get a good feeling and the warmth embraces you that much that you do not feel like going anywhere. Something that does not happen, as you are in Edinburgh and there is just too much to see waiting for you out in the streets!
On the corridor of our floor we also found a library with books worth reading ( the kind of books that make you feel sorry you can not stay longer to have time for them) and a table with glasses and a bottle of whiskey. Franco encourages us to serve ourselves, whenever we feel the need. Unfortunately, neither I nor T. like spirits, so the bottle remains intact.
The first night at Southside I slept like a rock and I woke up with all my expectations already met. But breakfast awaited us with a new surprise. Franco, like a magician, welcomes his guests in the small restaurant on classical music, with a serene smile that has the power to push away the clouds even from the sky of a city where it rains a lot, like Edinburgh.
The room where breakfast is served has a fireplace, chandeliers and the same huge windows. We are encouraged to sit at the table near the window, and Franco explains at length what breakfast contains. To start we can serve ourselves from the buffet and then the hot plate comes. I quickly choose the main course and while T. is studying the offer, I gaze upon the little things in the room, the white porcelain plates and the cutlery that seems to be made of silver.
The food is incredibly good, the fruit is fresh, the toast is perfectly done, the milk for the coffee is hot (because I like it so). You can not wish for more. And yet … Franco succeeds one more magic. He offers us champagne and orange juice. Just to start the day with joy and with huge expectations from the entire vacation in Scotland, where we’ll be staying for about another two weeks.
The whole experience gives me serious thoughts, and half joking, half serious, I tell to T. that any aspiring hotel manager/owner should pass by Franco for a training in hospitality and especially in kindness and humanity. Franco, who seems to be a character from those beautiful Italian movies is as real as he can be. I’d almost say in our tourist “careers” we should only meet people like him. Not because he offers you champagne, but because he makes you feel special and welcome to a place where, maybe, you will never return.
We leave Franco with a bit of sadness but also with the enormous pleasure to have known him. Before leaving he asks us a few things about the UAE, where he has never been. Then he reminds T. not to forget to drive on the left side. With me he chooses to speak Italian once more, telling me he hopes we felt good at Southside and we’ll come back soon and wishing us “Buon Viaggio in Scozia !”
P.S. Now, 2 weeks after we returned from Scotland, looking for the site of the guesthouse to share it with you, I read, among other things, that Franco has a huge background and experience in the hospitality industry. I think, however, that other are his great strengths and I return to my above idea: anyone who wants a career in tourism and not only should definitely pass by the house on Newington Road 8 in Edinburgh!