Edinburgh Napier University
With four new roommates and a whole building of other new neighbors, I now have friends from all over the United States, but unfortunately none from our lovely host country yet. Hopefully those will come in time, but for now the living situation means that we are all excited to just play the tourist. After sleeping in to rid ourselves of jetlag, six of us headed north from our new home, Wright’s Houses, toward the Royal Mile, aka tourist-central in Edinburgh. With one rather simplified map we wandered in the general correct direction, enjoying the incredible streetscapes along the way.
Nearly every street is lined with small shops and cafes and VERY few chain establishments of any kind. Subway and Starbucks are the only “American” chains that I have seen at all. No McDonald’s yet! I just want to stop and sample something from every cute little café…maybe a toastie (my new favorite—just a panini-type sandwich made with white bread but it is somehow so good!). In our wandering we even happened on The Elephant House, the café where JK Rowling used to sit when she was writing Harry Potter!! It seemed to be fate since we were just talking about trying to find it that morning.
By the time we miraculously happened upon the Royal Mile, we had decided there was no point in even trying to not look like tourists. With my wopping camera hanging around my neck and our skimpy map in the other, I know that I fit the bill perfectly, but I couldn’t make myself care. It was my first real day here so I felt entitled to be a lost, picture-taking American. Even having been here before, I was stunned by the beauty of the city: the castle, the palace, the cobblestone streets, the shops, everything! I still can’t believe that I live here for the next five months or so. We walked all of the way down the Royal Mile (the road stretching between the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House, the Queen’s Palace), encountering all kinds of storefronts and characters along the way—the “knight” painted all in silver who fell in love with Stephanie L, the I Love Scotland store, the Wild and Sexy Highland Tours office, the orange-haired street performer with the financial guilt-trip, and the tiny convenience store with postcards and Stephanie R.’s blue Monster. When we finally got down to the palace we took pictures at the gates, all of us being too cheap at the moment to spring for the admission fee. We then meandered over to Holyrood Park to get a better view of the Salisbury Crags, enormous cliffs that rise right out of the heart of the city. We make plans to return soon, with more sensible shoes, to hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat as we see many people doing on this lovely Saturday.
We soon turn around and go back the way we came, right back up the other way—heading, this time, toward Edinburgh Castle, the stunning ancient sentinel of the city, both in its modern and medieval incarnations. We stop to take a quick picture with “William Wallace,” but we’re soon in the large open space leading up to the castle. We admire it from outside, still feeling the pinch of the exchange rate at this point to shell out 15 pounds for admission; we know we’ll be back though! After enjoying the view of the city and snapping a few more shots, we headed down the hill, making sure to toss some money in “William Wallace’s” collection bucket since we’d forgotten when we got our picture taken. Before heading off in search of sustenance, we detoured into the Scotch Whiskey Experience building and enjoyed a sample; it was definitely easier to keep warm after that!
We checked out some of the restaurants on the Royal Mile, but soon decided it would be to our penny-pinching advantage to venture a little farther from the tourist district before we settled on a place. After a short walk, we picked a place at random. We all kept it relatively safe (ie. fish and chips, hamburgers, omelets, etc) but Alex tried the Chicken Pancakes which ended up looking really delicious. Savory pancakes seem to be a thing out here; it’s kind of like a quesadilla made with a pancake as the tortilla and various random fillings. They really like to put weird stuff on bread products here. The variety of hot rolls, toasties, and paninis is astonishing. From the Chip Butty (French fries and butter on a roll) to coleslaw on a toastie, I’m pretty sure they’ve made everything into a sandwich, which isn’t really a problem with me.
When we left the café at about 4:00 pm (16:00 in UK time) it was already almost dark. That’s one of the hardest adjustments to living here; it feels like bedtime before you even eat dinner. Hopefully I will adjust soon! Anyway, we hustled back home, stopping at the “Pound Strecher” (essentially a Scottish Big Lots) to pick up a bunch of necessities like pillows, towels, dishes, etc then ran into the little grocery store, too, so that the newest arrivals could pick up some things. We got back to the “flat” and soon launched into trip planning ideas. We are all super excited to travel as much as possible! No definite plans yet but Dublin is looking awful good for St. Patty’s Day…