An evening spent exploring Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura with Google.
I love Edinburgh. I love trying new places and sharing them with you on this wee corner of the Internet. I love chatting endlessly about clothes, cake and cocktails from one end of the city to the other, so when the lovely folks at Google got in touch to tell me about their Edinburgh #GoogleCityExperts community and to invite me along to their next event, I was interested to find out what it was all about. When a surprise box arrived a few days later filled with sweeties, sequins and a heart-shaped balloon proudly emblazoned with ‘Edinburgh’ inside as a clue to their upcoming gathering, I was intrigued to say the least.
The #GoogleCityExperts are part of Google’s local communities of people who add reviews (and photos!) to Google Maps, and receive access to special events, contests, goodies and lots of other cool things in return (apparently the Madrid City Experts were even on the Spanish equivalent of MasterChef recently!). They launched in Edinburgh last year with the Edinburgh Experiment, which looked amazing – so I knew we would be in for a real treat at their next gathering.
The event itself, ‘I Spy Edinburgh’, certainly lived up to our expectations – and so much more. Last week, for one night only, #GoogleCityExperts took over the Camera Obscura for quite possibly the most exciting school trip I’ve ever been on (and the bar was pretty high!). It was an extra special excursion just for the grown-ups, exploring the unique Edinburgh setting and all its awesome illusions.
After a brief meet and greet on the ground floor we were let loose to explore. The City Experts were given the entire run of the place: with spectacular light displays, mirrors and optical trickery round every corner, accompanied by a generous feast of retro foodie favourites and too-cool-for-school entertainment, it’s the most memorable night out I’ve had in some time – certainly beats my average Thursday evening! Have you ever been in a museum or a gallery after hours? I can thoroughly recommend it.
There was so much to explore and do, and everyone really got into the spirit of things, discovering and experimenting with all the tricks and illusions hidden away on each floor and acting just like big kids really. First up was the light maze, pictured above – a mirrored, multicoloured and completely mesmerising puzzle, filled with changing lights and disorientating reflections. Plenty of ingenious #selfie spots that the City Experts were embracing. One of my personal highlights was this amazing room above; photographer David took that shot of a gigantic me next to a teeny Al on my camera – perhaps the only time I’ll ever be tall!
There were pretty light displays and ingenious tricks on every floor – from the head-spinning optical trickery of the magic gallery with its bendy mirrors, ingenious shadow walls and giant kaleidoscopes, to the glowing holograms (one of the largest collections in Europe), hauntingly lifelike 3D pictures, and unique images of Edinburgh in all sorts of guises, old and new.
I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the Camera Obscura; we had never been before, even though it’s right next to the Castle and I’ve passed it many times – it was definitely an entertaining and mind-boggling way to spend a few hours, you could genuinely get lost in there. It was great to have the place to ourselves too, I hear it gets pretty busy in tourist season. Top tip for rainy Edinburgh days I think! Such a lovely way to celebrate our city with all the #GoogleCityExperts.
We gradually worked our way to the top of the Camera Obscura to enjoy one of my favourite parts of the whole evening – the view from the top. It’s six floors up but well worth the climb for the spectacular views (be warned, there’s no lift and the stairs are pretty steep – luckily we were fuelled by our sweet treats). Just a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh Castle, it’s a pretty unique spot from which to view the city. You can even look through telescopes on the roof, where you can spy people walking along Princes Street – and maybe a tram being tested too!
Luckily I was matching the castle, which was looking rather bonnie in pink – how’s that for outfit coordination?! I’m wearing all M&S (you might be surprised to hear!) and my new dungarees – a wee nod to the theme – received a fair few compliments. They certainly emphasised the bendy mirror illusions; if only I could keep the Kate Moss pins! More on my new purchase soon.
The entertainment was curated by Scotland’s most popular mixed arts night Neu Reekie and was top notch, my personal highlight being the set by band NAKED – like a haunting mix of Metronomy and Haim maybe. The food by Edinburgh’s original supper club Charlie and Evelyn’s Table was absolutely delicious; with a tongue-in-cheek-turned-gourmet take on school favourites – think beans on toast and mac ‘n’ cheese – and some pretty delectable bakes (the sticky toffee pudding on a stick was my favourite, and I ate it before I could take a picture – bad blogger!). It was the best catered event I think I’ve ever been to. The sweeties from the tuck shop on the way out certainly went down a treat too!
Last but not least, we stopped by the infinity tunnel on our way back down – not sure how we missed it on our ascent, but I’m glad we found it in the end as this was my favourite room, and a lovely way to finish the evening. The jewel-hued lights subtly evolved and it had a really calming effect. Completely magical.
Thanks for having us, Google! Can’t wait for the next event already. Click here to find out more about becoming a #GoogleCityExpert.
Have you been to the Camera Obscura? Is there anywhere in your city like it?