Sunday; September 13th, 2015
Disclaimer: I have never met a big city i liked.
I’ve been to Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Taipei, London, Paris, and Edinburgh. Today was my first time back to Edinburgh since my trip a little over three years ago, and I have to say…
I don’t hate it!
First, I made the mistake this morning of waking up two and a half hours before I needed to catch the train out of Newcastle. If you know me in real life, you’ll know one of my most frequent complains is being unable to go back to sleep. Once I’ve woken up, the day is officially ON. In a more practical sense, this meant Figure A was my view for about an hour and a half.
I did try my first Costa coffee and I have to say the latte I had was a hell of a lot weaker than the Starbucks lattes I’m used to getting. I was expecting more considering how much of a ruckus ‘Starbucks v. Costa’ was made out to be by a Buzzfeed article I read once-upon-a-very-bored-night. My whelms have landed under target. The barista was legitimately nice though, and I was able to talk to her successfully like a normal human being for a few minutes. Score!
The train ride was pretty peaceful, and I lucked out with a window seat that was more of a wall-between-the-windows seat that let me rest my head against something without feeling guilty about touching glass.
M. met me at the Edinburgh Waverly station. From there, we walked to her hotel room to meet up with her sister and her nephew. The first stop after everyone was ready to go was The Elephant House. This place has in recent years become more well known for the place where J. K. Rowling wrote a good large portion of Harry Potter.
It was pretty busy inside since they still run the high-foot-traffic establishment as a cafe. We spent maybe 15 minutes in line and then another 5 minutes at the counter waiting for the girl who took our order to also make our drinks in front of us. We couldn’t just get up and go to the counter since I hadn’t paid for anything until after she finished crafting all the drinks. The system flow could use a restaurant-style re-design in how people are seated and served food. Currently, patrons are served in a cafe-style flow that isn’t feasible for a place with so many people coming through every day.
The hot chocolate M. ordered was pretty damn cute though. Watching the barista make the drink has convinced me that the trick to making a distinctive design on the foam is to not give a damn about how much of the extra powder you spill off the edge of the cup.
Lunch here was pretty good. Not the most amazing food I’ve ever had at a cafe, if we’re being honest, but it wasn’t terrible either. I ordered a brie, apple, mango sandwich on a morning roll and found the amount of mango spread applied to be a bit heavy-handed. The flavors together made sense, and was good, but could’ve used a little more apple or less mango. The mix was a bit off.
The brownies weren’t loaded with sugar, which I appreciated. The sweetness was just right, but they didn’t have the rich denseness that I enjoy in my brownies. My all time favorite brownies are still the ones they make fresh and in-store at The Scented Leaf in Tucson. Gooey, warm, dark, dense–compared to that holy grail, the brownie I tried at The Elephant House was pale in comparison. The few bites I had lead me to conclude there was too much baking soda in that particular batch. Excess baking soda tends to make for a fluffier bite, a little drier texture, and a more subdued taste. It was more like the consistency of a light chocolate cake–which I actually really like–but I hesitate to think of what I had as a brownie. I think a side of whipped cream and fresh strawberries would’ve made an A+ combination with what we were actually served.
But who am I to talk? What do I know about running a cafe? I’m just a 22-year-old grad student dicking around abroad and food is delicious.
The group split ways so the resident tyke (M’s nephew) could go back to the hotel for a nap. Coming out of The Elephant House and taking a right, we come to this pretty piece of work at the end of the street.
We spent most of the rest of the day wandering around the city, ducking into various free museums.
I haven’t done this before, but I actually walked out of a Renaissance exhibit halfway through it. It always struck me as disrespectful to leave partway through a gallery viewing, like reading a book you don’t like.I realized last year that if you’re 60% through a book and you haven’t enjoyed most of it, no one is forcing you to finish it. And if you’re too tired to keep reading, even if you want to, there’s nothing wrong with putting it down and saving the rest for when you have more energy. Renaissance art isn’t my thing, and I’d spent up all of my mentally alert energy on the top floor gallery. The ground floor started to meld together, and I wasn’t paying any particular piece enough attention… so M. and I left. Edinburgh will still be here, and we were viewing a permanent collection. After a morning in the museum, going back for a hotel day that afternoon seemed like the right choice.
Later that night, M. and I went hunting for vending machines while her sister tried to get her little three-year-old to bed. Turns out, vending machines don’t exist in the hotel we’re staying at. We wondered if that level of automated convenience is a US phenomenon. The lady at the front desk suggested we could either go to the bar for soft drinks or to “the wee convenience store around the corner” on the Royal Mile.
Though a bit cold, the weather was calm, dry, and good so we opted for the corner store. We were about to pass on to the alleyway opening up the Royal Mile. Silhouetted by sodium streetlights was a Scottish man ‘taking a wee.’
For once, we chose a bar over a corner store.
I like Edinburgh. The pace here is leisurely compared to all the other big cities I’ve been to. Just busy enough, but not enough to tip me into annoyance territory. The air still did a number on my throat and lungs, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as LA or Taipei. I consider myself pretty lucky to only be 1.5 hours and £10 away from such a pleasant place.