A Few Days in Edinburgh

6:23 AM

Some trips are about waking up at 7AM and squeezing the most out of every moment in a city to see all the museums, taste all the things, follow guidebook walking tours, take selfies with all the landmarks, and etc. Some trips are about seeing friends, against the backdrop of a new place that makes your encounter feel somewhat surreal. You keep saying beyond-obvious things like..."Dude. We were in America...and now we're in Europe?!" My trip to Edinburgh was of the latter persuasion.

My friend from high school, Aditi, is doing a semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh. Above is the Old College. Yes, some people go to class in buildings like this.

While she was in class, I had a few hours to explore for myself, and that's one of the reasons I really love Edinburgh – it feels warmer, cozier than a place like London because the architecture is more stone and less glass and it is far more walkable. No getting lost on the Tube for me. (I went to London for a few days before Edinburgh, and I went all the way out to the Edgware station...which is around 40 minutes outside of central London and away from Edgware Road, the actual station I was supposed to go to. Sigh. Something like this happens every time I am in London.) It's even really easy to get from the airport to the center of the city and back – I took the bus to the airport at 4:45am for £4 and felt great about it. 

When I went to the National Museum of Scotland (free!), aside from the five floors of artifacts about Scottish history, my favorite fact that I learned was on the "natural world" side of things. You see that skeleton? That is not a dinosaur. It is a SLOTH. Until about 10,000 years ago, sloths were apparently so large that they lived on the ground, were up to 5.5 metres tall, and weighed up to 5 tons. Thank you to the great nation of Scotland for giving me my new favorite cocktail-party fact.

Just a few steps away from the museum is Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling holed herself up against the Edinburgh rains and wrote much of Harry Potter. Although there are several cafés that claim to have hosted her, Elephant House is the most worthy & was extremely packed. I admired their collection of elephant figurines and sense of pride from the outside. 

Aside from gargantuan sloths, the best part of the Scottish Museum is the view from the rooftop terrace. It miraculously stopped raining long enough for me to admire the beautiful sight of Edinburgh Castle in peace.

Edinburgh is full of charmingly winding roads like this Victoria Street. I wonder if the idea of painting all of the stores in bright colors is the same idea they have in St. Petersburg – when the skies are always gray, you gotta lift the mood somehow.

You can't tell, but there are at least 2 or 3 whiskey shops on this block alone. Totally forgot that Scotch equals whiskey...and refers to Scotland, and that whiskey is Scotland's 'national drink' although Japan recently won the title of best whiskey. Whoops.

Speaking of which, does this Jack & Coke in a can thing exist anywhere else in the world? Also saw gin & tonic, Bellinis, mojitos, etc. in a can...huh?

Anyways, even the cathedrals in Edinburgh seem cozier, like St. Giles'. It's not too big, and the ceiling and many other decorative elements are painted in bright colors, unlike the monochromatic style in France (those all used to be painted as well, but then they decided plain stone is classier). 

Luckily for me, Aditi knows that my priorities in life are approximately food and food, so we checked out a bunch of great places. The breakfast of zucchini fritters with beetroot chutney we had at Kilimanjaro Coffee was, we swore, the best of our lives. Eating a bagel with peanut butter at Elephants & Bagels, the offshoot of Elephant House, was like tasting America. But the penultimate victory was having a delicious plate of daal and rice surrounded by this amazingly cheerful décor for onl£3.50 at 10 to 10 in Delhi

10 to 10 was the penultimate victory, because the ultimate was having afternoon tea. I don't understand how probably the most beautiful place to do so – The Dome – was the cheapest arrangement we could find at £25 for two people (the others were at least that for one person). 

It was basically like celebrating Christmas two months early, because what you can see from the columns outside is just a taste of the elaborate decorations they've hung up. Inside the main rotunda and bar (not where our tea was), they have a gigantic tree up covered in sparkling lights and every tier of the building is bedecked with bows, ornaments, and all that jazz. In the tea room, they were definitely playing Christmas songs. The real "Christmas came early" moment was when they brought out our two pots of tea and tower of perfectly rectangular sandwiches, warm scones, and mini pastries. We definitely layered each bite of scone with butter, clotted cream, and jam at once. 

This is a bad picture, but it was the last thing I did in Edinburgh and if the world is a figment of our collective imaginations, this is definitely one of the pieces I contributed...a bar called Panda & Sons.

On the street-level, it looks like a barber shop with a fake hairdryer and all, but then you go down stairs, pull open a fake bookcase (!), and enter the prohibition-style speakeasy bar peppered with panda imagery. It's very large with a lot of small tables (but our group of 10 stood by the bar), and the cocktail menu is thick and creative. I had an excellent "Super Gin & Tonic" and another girl chose a hot-toddy-style drink served in a precious teacup. If someone wants to propose marriage to me, bring me here and I will surely say yes.

Finally, this is a shot of Arthur's Seat from the walk up to Calton Hill. Both places are worth getting up to for panoramic views of the city and the rolling hills, although we chose the lazy route of Calton Hill (which takes about five minutes) since getting up to Arthur's Seat takes half an hour each way or so and time is food. (See what I did there?)

Thank you so much for hosting me, Aditi! Hope you have a great rest of your semester!

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