Okay, so it’s been a long time since my last update—sorry! I promise to be better in the future. For a while I had no idea what to write about, then school got quite busy, and then I began to feel like I wasn’t doing enough in terms of experiencing Edinburgh because all I do is sit in cafes and read (I can’t complain about that, though, because it’s all I ever really want to do anyway). But I feel like I’ve reached a point where I’ve figured out how to manage the work, experience this wonderful city, and socialise with everyone I care to socialise with. It’s a challenge, but one that I’m totally willing to take on. [Guaranteed this will all change when I have to start thinking about term papers, but I don’t want to think about that quite yet. I am slightly (read: majorly, immensely, entirely) terrified of the level of insanity and general mental unrest that will bring.]
Anyway, I just had a lovely weekend with friends from my program. My weekend tends to start on Wednesday as I am finished class for the week by eleven o’clock Wednesday morning. We’ve started a little tradition of going out for coffee/early lunch each week and last week around ten of us took over Elephant and Bagel, the sister café to The Elephant House, which you will remember from my first Edinburgh blog and the place where Jo wrote Philosopher’s Stone. Elephant and Bagel is right near central campus and is far more low-key and serves everything you could ever want on a bagel. At this lunch we decided to go see Midnight in Paris (2011) that night. I had already seen this film but was eager to see it again as I enjoyed it so much the first time. Although I loved seeing it with Ally and Jamie in Ottawa this summer, seeing it with 8 other Literature and Modernity students was amazing as I was no longer “that person” in the theatre laughing at all the Obscure Literary References that no one else gets. Where we come from we measure our lives in coke spoons. Enough said.
On Friday several of us decided to walk up Calton Hill. This walk is nothing compared to Arthur’s Seat (which I’ve yet to tackle) but we said we’d tell everyone that it was a strenuous hike and we felt so accomplished after climbing the stairs cliff. Despite the rather underwhelming climb to the top of Calton Hill, the view from the top is phenomenal. It was lovely to see down to Leith and to watch others crest the peak of Arthur’s Seat—let’s just say it was inspiration for my future hike up Edinburgh’s extinct volcano. Unfortunately the sky was rather overcast, so the photographs aren’t quite as I’d consider ideal, but they’re beautiful nonetheless. Have I mentioned that I am constantly amazed by this city? There was a moment atop the hill after I had just captured a photograph of the low-lying New Town, turned around and was staring at what could easily be the middle of the countryside. With some headphones and blinders it would be so easy to forget you’re in a city at all. Unbelievable.
Following our jaunt up the hill one friend invited us over to her new flat in Stockbridge for teatime. Stockbridge is in New Town, which is the Yorkville/Notting Hill/ I won’t say Upper East, but Upper West Side of Edinburgh, if you will. It’s lovely. I mean, Old Town is far more authentic and historical and I’m so pleased I live and go to school there, but there is definitely a certain charm to New Town that I love. The city switches from the winding and multi-leveled streets of Old Town to a more familiar grid system north of Princes Street and the streets in this area are lined with lovely Georgian townhouses, boutique coffee shops, and a seemingly disproportionate number of cycling stores. On our way to her flat we stopped at an adorable cupcake shop called Bibi’s where we retrieved cupcakes for our tea. I have to say that this afternoon (and eventual night) we spent in this flat was so lovely as it just felt so homey. I can’t complain about having somewhere to live that required little-to-no hassle, but I would so love to live somewhere where I can sit somewhere other than my room to read and relax, and where I don’t have to plan my dinners around the six other people trying to use the hob. Beyond that, even the ability to cook a proper dinner in a setting that is conducive to having friends over would be a blessing. I just would love to live in a setting that makes me feel like I actually live in Edinburgh, as opposed to temporarily living here. Basically, I’m saying I’d rather freeze in a drafty, old, New Town flat than stay warm in a University-run, well-insulated, residence hall.
I apologise for the tangent, but I guess if I were to give advice to a student who is considering studying abroad, I would suggest that you try to find private accommodation instead of settling with University accommodation. This is, of course, easier when doing postgraduate work because your programme (especially taught programmes) generally foster great friendships and you don’t necessarily need the basis of accommodation to get to know people like you do during your undergrad, in most cases. Of course, university accommodation is practical for many reasons, and definitely was/is for me, I just wish it felt a little less like halls sometimes.
Anyway, the rest of Friday evening was brilliant. We ran out to Sainsbury’s to get ingredients to make Spag Bol, which basically meant several bottles of Sainsbury’s £4 wine and some 85p pasta. As we ate/drank wine we watched Downton Abbey, which is this amazing itv period drama feature Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville among other amazing brit actors. It’s phenomenal and a must watch. When you finish reading this blog you must go watch it. MUST, I tell you. You will not regret it.
The tail-end of my weekend was just as eventful as the first half. Saturday morning I woke up early and headed up to the castle where there’s a weekly farmers’ market. I didn’t buy anything really, as I wasn’t heading back to my flat afterwards, but it had quite the selection of locally grown/made items. I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast so I got some proper Scottish oatmeal at a cart. They had several different toppings for the oatmeal to choose from and it was a tough call between vintage marmalade and whisky and honey. I couldn’t resist trying whisky and honey, though and I have to say that it was AMAZING. Yes, it was before noon, but there was only a wee, WEE dram poured on top. WEE, I tell you. Stop looking at me like that, I can see the judgment in your glare. Yes, I had whisky for breakfast. I’M IN SCOTLAND! IT’S WHAT WE DO. [Speaking of whisky… it’s all I drink now. Well, that and red wine, but at bars it’s only whisky. It just feels like the right thing to do, plus it’s cheaper than other drinks. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t having a dram as I write this blog…stop judging]
Following the farmer’s market, we (Caoimhe and I) walked through a graveyard next to the castle. It was quite impressive, especially in the magnificent Edinburgh sun. Changing tones completely, we went to a little teashop in New Town where we had—wait for it—a pot of tea and read Virginia Woolf for our class we had this week. Following tea we went to our friend’s flat for tea and CARROT CAKE she made that morning. Oh my god it was wonderful. We then watched more Downton and then headed back to our respective flats to continue reading our absurd amount of class material.
Sunday was another great day in Edinburgh and midday was occupied by hitting up a proper CAR BOOT SALE. It was as awesome as it sounds, I promise you. I picked up some old china teacups and saucers, and other general trinket-y things. This car boot sale occupies the lower level of a parking structure just off Princes Street and is magnificently vast. We were there for two hours and we got through just about half of the cars. I think a second trip is in order.
I loved this past weekend in Edinburgh. I finally began to feel like I properly live here, and I think that’s what any student going abroad looks for: a sense of belonging where you don’t necessarily belong, an ability to feel at home wherever you go… Although I do wish I had a “real” flat here, there are many other ways to really get a sense for living in a new place and capturing what “real life” is like (because, let’s be honest, student life isn’t really “real life”). Of course, doing the “touristy” things is necessary for experiencing a new place, but there’s so much out there that can make the place where you happen to be studying into the place where you happen to live. Good friends, local food, cheap wine, and car boot sales. That’s all it takes.
Song of the Day: “Knots” by Lisa Hannigan. You know Damien Rice? You know how a girl with a fantastic voice accompanies him on both O and 9? Yeah, that’s Lisa. She’s amazing. Very much her own style, but I frankly think she’s far more pleasant to listen to. DO IT. Downton Abbey and Lisa Hannigan. Do. It.
SIDEBAR: My blog is famous! Not really, but it’s featured on this website! (See my face? SEE IT?) I encourage you to go check out the site if you’re considering studying abroad at some point. I know most of you who read this have graduated, but if you haven’t, you should consider it. Truthfully. You won’t regret it.