March 31, 2014


As someone who gleans most of her inspiration for art and writing from her surroundings, I find it fascinating when I can catch glimpses of what it was that inspired other artists and authors. As mentioned in an earlier post, Edinburgh was the city in which the famous Harry Potter was written -- the first couple books in a variety of cafes around the city, the rest of them in the safety of JK Rowlings' writing room.

It's easy to see that Edinburgh played a fairly big part in inspiring particular details from the Harry Potter series -- either that, or there's a whole lotta coincidences going on. JK Rowling wrote the first few books at a table that had a view of this:

That's right, a massive centuries-old castle on a cliff. Hogwarts? Perhaps in part. Below is another view of Edinburgh castle taken from the yard of George Heriot's School, established and opened in the 1600s as a school for orphaned boys. 

George Heriot's School can also be seen from that famous cafe's window -- not the whole thing, but certainly the four towers of the main building. 

The four towers that represent the four different houses of the school. 

The school that looks like a castle that sits under a castle that looks like Hogwarts.

Does no one else think this is weird?

It's me! This is inside the courtyard of the school -- they had an open house week where they were open to the public before fall term started. We took ourselves on a tour.

One of the school's bulletin boards. Four houses?!? Four house colours and crests?? HOUSE POINTS!? It's so Hogwartian I can't even handle it.

Greyfriars Kirkyard and Cemetery also sits right below JKR's favourite writing spot and holds a few more curious proofs of inspiration -- 

First, there's the grave of McGonagall -- yes, a man, but still! And then:

This guy's grave is in the cemetery too. I wonder if he knew his name would be borrowed by an author 200 years later to create an evil wizard character. And yes, JKR could've come up with it on her own... but you've got to admit it's a little weird. 

 And then we saw Hedwig! 

{This post written July 2013}

March 25, 2014

first set of wings.

I have a cousin who spent her youth flying over horse jumps. Is that what they're called? Jumps. Yes, I think so. For anyone who thinks horse jumping is something you can just do without really knowing how to do it... wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. While visiting one summer I was having a leisurely walk-about on a calm old horse in said cousin's pasture when Calm Old Horse caught sight of a jump and had a sudden inspiration to be Brisk Sprightly Horse. Moving up from a walking speed to a trotting speed is a big change. Trotting is terrifying. I have no horseback riding rhythm and then that dang horse jumped over the jump and I thought my teeth had fallen out and been left behind in the grass.

You must realize that the jump was only about 2 feet off the ground -- this is monumentally high to someone who does not regularly ride horses.

So anyway, this cousin o' mine who rides horses into a flying gallop decided that the highest horse jumps weren't high enough and took to the skies as a pilot. This was a very late congratulatory yay-you-got-your-pilot's-license drawing that I managed to finally do this past summer while in Scotland. Cute!

March 20, 2014

week eleven.

If you've been following along with our archived Scottish adventures, you'll know how much we loved climbing up Salisbury Crags. No surprise then that we took another sunset hike this week (this time with beer and doritos... classy).

 How cool are these jets? They passed right over us! They would actually fly over Edinburgh almost every night at around 7PM, following the path of The Royal Mile -- it was part of the Royal Military Tattoo show. So loud!

 We caught a bus to St. Andrews on one sunny Tuesday -- spent the day amongst old cathedral ruins, ancient golf courses, and sandy beaches. Cold beaches -- but still nice.

 This is me on Swilcan Bridge -- apparently at least 700 years old, it's been incorporated into St. Andrews' Old Course (oldest golf course in the world!) and all the famous golf pros pose here with their trophies. I probably don't deserve to stand here as I am pretty terrible at miniature golf but that is besides the point. 
St. Andrews University residence hall where Will and Kate stayed their first year in uni! They probably flirted on that bench there behind me.  

Wayne looks dapper everywhere, even in a centuries-old cemetery. 

As I've mentioned before, during the month of August the military tattoo runs six nights per week and  included in that is a fireworks show! And I'm not talking wimpy little piddly fireworks -- I'm talking intense explosive HUGE fireworks almost every single night for a month. We could set our clocks by them when we weren't popping down to Waverly Bridge to actually watch the show. We went a lot -- probably more than we needed to -- but seriously. Fireworks every night? Way too fun to miss. 

March 18, 2014

window watching.

We live in a student building in South Bridge. It's an old building, though not nearly so ancient as most in Old Town. We're on the third floor which means that there are several flights of steep curving staircases which must be climbed before collapsing into an exhausted heap on the floor of our flat.

"I'd always punish myself after a night of partying by doing my laundry the next day," said the student we're subletting from. "Nothing like climbing up those stairs loaded down with laundry when you've got a hangover."

And that's not the most awkward thing she's said. Interesting duck.

We're wedged between some other flats and a Blackwells book shop. Beneath us, far below on the ground floor, sits an Italian restaurant at which we've never eaten. There's a small door at the bottom of the stairs leading into the restaurant's cellar -- the bus boys sit on empty kegs during their breaks, rapidly texting on mobile phones, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, filling the stairwell with stale smoke. We cough obnoxiously and they don't seem to notice.

The flat is small. We can't stick our elbows out in the WC without hitting a wall -- and there's a toilet, sink and shower in there. It gets stuffy when it's too warm (which fortunately isn't often in Edinburgh) and if you use the hot plate and the toaster and the microwave at the same time, a fuse blows.

It is not, perhaps, a dream home. But we love it -- oh, we love it! It is across from a grand old university building. It is one hop over from Lidl, the best grocery store in the history of grocery stores. It is a 2 minutes' walk from the National Museum, from the High Street, from Edinburgh Castle, from a handful of parks. The bus pulls up in front of our door -- almost like a limo! A really full limo packed with Scottish people!!

And if we'd rather not go out -- the view from our window is perfectly fascinating. I'll hang out the window like a regular Juliet watching the Scottish world go by for ages.

Billy Shakes got it right -- all the world's a stage, particularly during tourist season on South Bridge. We can point out people who are obviously North American -- the men in polos and bright white Nike shoes, the women in jean shorts and t-shirts decorated with American flags. Double decker touring buses drive down our street -- the kind with the open top -- and we wave enthusiastically at the baseball-capped heads, catch someone's attention, then howl like six-year-olds when that person points us out to their fellow tourists, only to have us duck out of sight when everyone looks our way. Really mature, I know. 

In the Old College building across the street there is a large library which doubles as a venue for weddings and other celebratory dinners. We can see into the kitchen -- the apron-clad chef moving things around on a stovetop, a tuxedoed server placing bottles of wine on a cart. Against the outside wall of the Old College is a convenient alcove for buskers -- a young guy pounds away on his acoustic guitar as the girl beside him belts out a rousing rendition of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues. She does a fantastic job but there's not many people about so we end up being the only audience clapping and cheering from our third floor window when she finishes up -- they both give us majestic bows before packing up and heading further downtown. 

Unfortunately the convenient alcove is convenient not only for buskers -- but also for the inebriated weekenders who can't seem to find a proper toilet. Edinburgh, with all its charm, is still a city filled with late-night rabble rousers who straggle up and down our stretch on Friday and Saturday nights, wandering out onto the road in front of city buses (yes, we saw this happen... thankfully the good bus driver had his wits about him and was able to stop in time) and urinating on century-old walls. Fortunately we don't have to witness this too often as we're usually sleeping by this time, but the effects of a night's partying is usually still present the next morning -- disgusting little rivulets of urine sleepily drifting down South Bridge's sloped sidewalks. We watch and cringe in horror the next morning as unknowing tourists and mums with prams and businesswomen in heels march STRAIGHT THROUGH IT.

Some interesting fights break out on South Bridge too, the most fascinating being an altercation between a woman and her ex-boyfriend -- the woman at the time was on a date with her new boyfriend. Now, when Scottish people argue heatedly it's pretty much impossible to know what they're saying if you yourself do not possess a Scottish accent, so for the majority of their "conversation" we weren't completely aware of what was going on. The poor woman finally blew off her ex and crossed the street to rejoin her current date (who was trying to pretend to not exist, I think), but the ex was hollering after her: "I'M GON' TA MARRY YOOOOOO!" We were just about falling out the window from laughing so hard.

Didn't realize our monthly rent would include such quality entertainment! Thanks South Bridge. 

{This post written in July 2013}

March 11, 2014

week ten.

A wee slice from our tenth week in town.

A view of the Firth of Forth from the Promenade in Portabello (or Portabelly, as the locals sometimes call it). Portabello is a town just outside Edinburgh -- near where our church was. 

We were joining the Niddrie gang for curry and a pint after evening service (just a little British).

Princes Street Gardens in full bloom -- the roses were tremendous all summer long.

Edinburgh's floral clock of summer 2013! Did you know that this exact place is where the floral clock originated? The first EVER floral clock in the whole world! Planted right here! In 1903! Fantastic. Every year it depicts something special -- an anniversary or something. This summer: the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh zoo. 

The Edinburgh Festival started this week. For the whole month of August Edinburgh is awash in several festivals. Mostly it's dramatic arts -- comedies, plays, theatre -- there's some musical performances as well. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo springs into action, performing six nights a week for a whole month on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. I can't remember the exact stats, but the city's population absolutely explodes in size. The Royal Mile (pictured above) is just swamped with people for weeks and weeks and weeks. Getting through the crowd without being handed flyers or sung to is rare. 

Also, I have no idea who that man is. He seems to be the focal point of my photo. I think he's about to hand me a flyer. I probably rejected him. REJECTION!

 To escape the crowds we'd come here -- good old Arthur's Seat and Holyrood Park. Tourists mostly didn't venture this far... nice and quiet and greeeeeeeeeeen!

And if I really had to run errands on the High Street -- I'd be out early in the morning when the Mile was still utterly deserted. I like it when I can hear the birds sing.

I feel like that was an old lady-ish thing to write. I am apparently an old soul.