Forget Mallorca – Life Is Better in Portobello!

An image of Portobello resident, Lars, with his dogs Boo and Bentley taken by Luke McAdams as part of A Taste of Photojournalism course.
(C) Luke McAdams

Hot off the press from an intensive photojournalism course in the local area, LUKE MCADAMS meets Lars, a Swedish retiree who chooses life in the reborn Edinburgh seaside community of Portobello.

Struggling with nerves, and a blustery February day, I approach a gentleman walking with his two small dogs along a side street barely 30 metres from the busy beach in Edinburgh’s Portobello, and ask if he would speak to me for 10 minutes about the area.

I’m taking part in A Taste of Photojournalism, a two-day workshop to tool myself up on the basics of travel writing. It’s an on-the-job training course as I am about to find out.

Prevaricating for 20 minutes, shuffling up and down Portobello High Street, I had less than 40 left to find a willing interviewee, to conduct a conversation and return to Tribe Porty, on Windsor Place, where our
group was reconvening to compare notes.  The heat was on.

Apologising for his two companions, mother and son pair Boo and Bentley, who were ready for dinner, Lars Petersson accepted my request.  Being a seasoned professional, I fumbled my initial attempt to start the recorder on my phone, and we were underway!

The image shows a lifeguard hut and directions to the beach as part of A Taste of Photojournalism course taken by Luke McAdams.
(C) Luke McAdams.

Swedish Lars, it turns out, is 66-years-old, and has lived and worked for 11 years as a mental health nurse in Leytonstone, East London before heading north to retire with his Irish wife in Portobello.

When asked what he likes best about Portobello, Lars says it was very friendly and welcoming after a slow journey north, along the west coast of the UK, taking in Wales and Liverpool: “There’s nowhere with so much life as here”, says Lars enthusiastically, highlighting the community use of the beach, from kids playing to ‘top class’ beach volleyball practice and the Joppa Community Tennis Club (to the east end of Portobello), where he keeps fit.

Portobello has a ‘fantastic’ high street in contrast to the many across the UK which are dying out, says Lars.  London, he adds, still has a few good ones.  He recalls conversations with locals who have told him that Portobello, like most seaside resort towns, had fallen out of favour since the 1960s when package holidays appeared. 

This trend, he feels, is beginning to reverse, noting towns like Margate and Ramsgate on the North Kent coast which are also picking up. Initially, artist communities sprang up, bringing other businesses.  Lars says younger people, like the generation his children belong to, are “fed up with going to Mallorca and sitting at the airport”, furthering the popularity of British seaside resorts to live and holiday with families.

The image shows the promenade running by Portobello beach. The image was taken as part of A Taste of Photojournalism course by Luke McAdams.
(C) Luke McAdams.

When I ask which local businesses / cafes / bars in Portobello he would recommend?  He replies: “All of them!”  Specifically, he calls out Miro’s cafe (there are two branches, one on the beach promenade and the other on the local high street).  He likes to take visitors to The Espy, an Australian-run bar located near Miro’s on the promenade.

Apologising for taking more than my allotted time, I grab a few photos of Lars, Boo and Bentley and exchange contact details before bidding farewell and remembering to stop the recorder in my hand.

I then relax and scuttle back to rejoin the others!


Miro’s Cafes:

The Espy bar (on Facebook):

Tribe Porty:

Lars plays tennis at Joppa Community Tennis Club:

A Taste of Photojournalism: