Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Edinburgh, pt. i

Today is the last day of our five day midterm break, and it feels simultaneously like the weekend was too short yet conversely, like it's been forever since I've written a paper.

I spent the break tinkering through the streets of Edinburgh with friends, drifting in and out of farmer's markets and old churches and teeny eateries with names like "Blue Bear" and "Elephant Cafe" and "The Kilted Pig" (The Scotsmen seem to love naming their restaurants after animals).

Quite a lot of our wanders were spent museum hopping: the National Museum, the National Gallery of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Portraiture, and the Museum of Childhood. The last one was a funny squidgy building with five rooms full of old toys, books, miniatures; there was one gallery entirely full of unblinking, impeccably dressed porcelain dolls, and it felt like something out of a bad horror movie. Or a very good one, I suppose, as I shrieked and ran out of the room, missing the bulk of that exhibit.

Edinburgh gave us four days of brazen, glorious sunlight, and I'm not sure that there is anything in the world quite like Scotland in its gladrags. Despite the bustle of the Royal Mile and the hubbub of touristy areas, there were pockets of the city that seemed to exist in a sylvan plane of their own: everywhere you looked you could find bits of tumbling greenery in parks, courtyards, fields with mossy ruins.


We took a stroll on the Water of Leith one morning, with the remnants of sunrise fog fading just as we set out. The sun turned the tree branches to gilded lace, and the riverbanks were covered with lush carpets of ferns and snowdrops. We walked through Dean's Village for a bit, ending up in Stockbridge, at the farmer's market.

The market was right along the water, a flurry of yellow and white tents with heavily spiced air drifting in billows from various food tents: everything from steak and kidney pies to seafood paella.

There was a mud-caked, sunflower-yellow truck selling fragrant, steaming mugs of coffee; there's something distinctly comforting about wrapping your fingers around a cup of something warm and winding through a maze of bumblebee tents.

The fish being sold in the bottom right corner of this picture was "Monkfish Loins" (sign covered by that inconveniently placed pole).
I'm not actually sure what part of the fish that is.
I didn't ask.

Further into the city centre, we ducked into the Elephant Cafe for a bit of a reprieve from the wind-- and also to investigate all the Harry Potter paraphernalia that graced the walls of the establishment where J.K. Rowling had spent so many years writing.

Surprisingly, there was only a slim wall dedicated to newspaper clippings; and quite a lot of them weren't about J.K. Rowling, but were about various other authorial regulars that they'd had over the years. Mostly, the cafe was full of elephants: china elephant figurines (cabinets of 'em), elephant-print chair cushions, elephantine postcards, and so on and so forth. It was all kinds of adorable.

Down the street a ways from the Elephant Cafe, we took a turn onto Victoria, which was cobblestoned and knobbly and old-fashioned in the most picturesque, charming way.

The street was full of old bookshops and stores packed to the brim with mismatched antiques/random collections of old trinkets. I found a plaster dinosaur skeleton in one of them and named him Oswald, but alas, he wouldn't fit in my suitcase.

Until next time, Oswald.

all my love,

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