In an effort to get out and see more of Scotland than just its capitol, Walt and I booked a full day bus tour of the Highlands. It sported two castle tours, a walk around Loch Katrine, a sheep dog demonstration and, what I’ve been waiting for, a hang out session with some highland cattle.
But first, we stopped just outside of a town called Falkirk to take a peak at a massive statue of a pair of kelpies. What’s a kelpie, you ask? Well, if you had read the Harry Potter books, my friend, you wouldn’t have to ask such a silly question.
Edinburgh’s summer feels a lot like the Seattle’s fall to me. Crisp, with bright breaks of sun through the near constant rain drizzle. God, I love it. But when rain kept us in for our first weekend and sickness kept us in on our second (Walt had a rough cold), I finally looked up and realized we’ve been here for two weeks and haven’t seen a lot of this city we’ve find ourselves in.
It was high time to change that.
Yesterday morning I got up and out early. Sipping my takeaway coffee, I walked down a quiet, drizzly street toward the City Art Centre. I was really early, I usually am if I’m nervous about something.
Our new digital nomad compadre, Sam, had told me about an organization that puts together free networking events and community discussions all over the world. The meet ups are designed to be quick and easy going. Just a way to have a coffee and a bite to eat with other creatives before the workday starts. Every month, each city chapter organizes a speaker to address the same universal topic, so no matter where you are in the world, you’ll be hearing discussions on the same theme.
I hadn’t heard of this organization before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys have. They’re called Creative Mornings.
At least once before on this blog I’ve bragged that Walt and I have become pretty good at choosing great neighborhoods to live before arriving to a city. I should have known that after tooting my own horn like that, it was only a matter of time before I had to eat my words.
I don’t want to say we landed in a bad neighborhood in Edinburgh… it’s just different. I chose our apartment as I usually do: estimating our commute to potential co-working spaces, grocery stores, restaurants and things to see. Most of the time this puts us pretty close to the center of town, which often raises the rent of the flat. Finding a workable compromise between price and commute is generally pretty easy, and Edinburgh didn’t appear to break that pattern. I found our flat to be very centrally located next to a ton of restaurants and attractions, and still within walking distance to a cluster of co-working spaces. Sounds great, right?
Turns out, our place is smack dab in the middle of Edinburgh’s biggest tourist trap: the Royal Mile.
Our first workday in Edinburgh, Walt and I made a friend. Ok ok, in reality, she made friends with us. After we sat across from her at the Melting Pot coworking office space, I complemented her NPR tee shirt (I’m traveling around with the same one), and we walked into the same pakora restaurant for lunch, she put up her hands and said “Ok, I want to know your story. I’m Sam.”
I think the universe felt it owed us for our horrible (attempted) travel experience yesterday, because our flights today went off without a hitch. Sure I may have cried twice in an airport today, but I’m racking that up to bottled up anxiety and running on four hours of sleep.
Completely exhausted but resignedly elated to have landed in Edinburgh without incident, Walt and I organized a little game on our 30 minute tram ride into town. We listed all the overtly Scottish things we could think of and assigned points to be awarded to the first person to spot that item. On our list: thistles, Tartans, red-haired ladies or gents, haggis, anything Harry Potter related, Highland Cows, kilts (warn in earnest, not just in a shop or warn for tourism purposes), a pub and – the most coveted list item – someone playing a bag pipe.
We assumed this was just a list of Scottish stereotypes. Sure, the people of Scotland notoriously proud of their cultural heritage, but Edinburgh is a modern city and people who live there have stuff to do. I mean, maybe with a touristy part of town that has all these things lined up one after the other, but it’s probably just going to feel like any other part of the UK.
This may still hold true, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Because as it happens, our flat for the next month is flanked by an ridiculously overpriced pub sporting signs for haggis, fish & chips, and nips and tatties on one side and a tchotchke shop that sells Loch Ness monster rain ponchos and tartan fidget spinners on the other. Yep! We are in the heart of the biggest tourist trap in all of Scotland!
Welcome to Edinburgh!