The Never-Ending Story
Last stop: Edinburgh. My taxi driver was Scots-entertaining.
“What would you see if you were only here for 24 hours?‘ I asked.
‘Ah’d get pissed!‘ he replied, ‘Ah’d come home covered in sick, with a donor kebab in my hand.‘
He drove me through Old Town, making jokes about having to watch his wallet, because Australians are all descended from convicts (‘yep, your dross‘, I added). I was enthralled with my first impressions of the city, leading him to add wistfully, before departing,
‘Ah’m jealous of ye…ah’ve seen it all before.‘
Later, I went down to retrace our drive, (with Maison de Moggie, the cat cafe, as my landmark), so I could remember my first glimpses of Edinburgh Castle, in the narrow spaces between the buildings. It’s quite a thing.
I released the cheese…and went walking.
The history of Edinburgh oozes from its streets. Or, should I say, its Lanes and Rows (‘Potter Row’, anyone?), and especially its Closes, the alleyways that branch off the main street of Old Town, the Royal Mile.
Or perhaps I’m getting mixed up with the caped ‘Harry Potter’ guides, which are dotted throughout the city, even at night. I think it’s fair to say that Edinburgh is in the not-insubstantial grip of Harry Potter fever, with many of the businesses declaring their links to JK Rowling’s creation. One eatery sign read, ‘Parts of Harry Potter may have been written here.‘Avizandum, the Scottish law bookshop, situated on Candlemaker Row. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
Edinburgh castle is atmospheric by sunset. I was inordinately thrilled by the placement of this iconic black taxi on its esplanade…Bedlam Theatre, for example, lives in a former Neogothic church, and is the oldest student-run theatre company in Britain.
I wandered without checking a map for a couple of hours, snapping shots of what I felt was quintessential Edinburgh, including a favourite of spired buildings by sunset.
Edinburgh Castle’s position on the edge of a rock isn’t unique, but its placement, smack-bang in the middle of the city, may well be. And if the age of Edinburgh’s buildings gives food for thought, looking up and seeing an imposing castle on the skyline is a veritable feast. Not as yet impressed (soooo many castles)? This one sits upon an extinct volcano. For real.
- the gothic Scott Monument, designed by a self-taught architect, George Meikle Kemp, is one of the most spectacular structures I have ever seen, and it has detail (statues that depict 93 people plus two dogs and a pig, apparently) that I couldn’t possibly have imagined in passing (no regrets)
- the size of the Scottish city is reflected by the size of the monument to Robbie Burns
- Edinburgh is home to an incredible park, Holyrood, that I later discovered has ‘hills, lochs, glens, ridges, basalt cliffs, and patches of gorse’ (no regrets, damnit)
- cemeteries are at least as beautiful as the spaces for the living
Finally, as an acknowledgment to the references to the produce-driven food scene that I have consistently managed to miss, I sat down for my last hurrah; an elegant lunch at Wedgwood (budget be damned!), where I ate haddock croquettes, foraged hogweed, and parfait with rhubarb (three ways), served by this skilled, mysterious, set of hands.
Being away with my daughters taught me things about them that I may not otherwise have learned, and being away with myself was, likewise, illuminating. I learned that coffee and wine need not bookend my day, and that I write best in the dark hours of morning. That nature is magnificent and can be a destination in itself, and that history, particularly when you feel invested in it, is eternally thrilling.
More importantly, I learned that everything need not be controlled, and that venturing beyond comfort zones is important, and that family, being the people who support you, and take pleasure in you, and raise you up, are everything.
Finally, I learned that I love Scotland.
Farewell, ye auld beauty. I will see you soon.