22 Hours in Edinburgh

Last week, I spent 22 hours in Edinburgh, Scotland.

It was a spur-of-the-moment trip, the destination chosen for a reason I can’t even recall. A ten-hour Megabus ride seemed a reasonable mode of transportation (hey, the tickets were crazy cheap), so off Briana and I went along with our wicked cool (look guys, I’m using New Hampshire lingo!) friends, Alyssa and Kristen.

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The general mood of Megabus

The thought was “oh hey, the bus ride is overnight; therefore we can just sleep and awake in Scotland!” What ideal notions those were, but of course they weren’t met. I was able to sleep a bit on the cramped bus which smelled of body odor and stale fast food, but it definitely wasn’t enough to be considered energizing. The frequent stops throughout the night to various English towns probably didn’t help.

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A field of lights that greeted us

We arrived bright (well…dark) and early in Edinburgh and disembarked from the bus, muscles aching from the tight quarters and odd sleeping positions. After a few wrong turns, we arrived at our hostel, High Street Hostel (I’d recommend it), which to my delight was blasting a Coldplay playlist. We left behind some of our luggage then hungrily sought out some sort of breakfast. After a bit of disappointment over the bacon offerings at the café we chose, we ventured outside as the darkness had finally lifted, full and sleepy, yet nonetheless ready to explore the town.

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IMG_3984It’s important to note that I knew very little about Edinburgh other than a couple of photos I had pulled up on Google before deciding “yep, looks nice; let’s give Scotland a go!” I was certainly not expecting the absolutely beautiful scene that I was presented with. The Old Town where we spent our day looked as if I had stepped back in time. Had the storefront facades and occasional KFC and McDonald’s been removed, it would have seemed as if the town had made the collective decision to remain in the Medieval era, leaving the rest of the world to its own modern dealings. Whereas London has the old architecture juxtaposed along with the new, Edinburgh was simply the old. In other words, it was fantastic.

IMG_4047I also went into this trip with minimal plans. We had a bus ticket and a hostel booked, but the rest would be decided as we went along. As someone who generally always has some sort of plan in place, how wonderfully freeing it was to simply explore the city by whim!

IMG_3990We saw a sign offering free walking tours of the city, so as poor uni students, we eagerly jumped at the opportunity. Our lively tour guide, Billy, led us through the brick-laid streets, spouting off random trivia and intriguing stories about the city, like that of Maggie Dickson, who was hanged, thought dead, but found alive after they heard her banging on her coffin en route to the cemetery. The day was cold, dreadfully cold, the kind of cold that lingers within you long after you’ve entered warmth, but fortunately Billy kept us interested in the sights and stories of the town.

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Edinburgh Castle

Of course, for me, that best part of the tour involved Harry Potter. Who knew that J.K. Rowling had written the first Harry Potter in Edinburgh? Not I! Billy pointed out the café where she penned the first novel and also led us through an old graveyard which inspired several of the characters’ names in the books (most notably Tom Riddle).

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The cemetery where J.K. Rowling found inspiration for character names

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The grave of “Tom Riddle”

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The Elephant House The cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter

The remainder of the afternoon and evening consisted of lunch, a look into the National Library of Scotland (which had on display an annotated copy by Ms. Rowling of the first HP), and an exploration of a few of the town’s pubs before turning in for the night in preparation for another ten-hour bus ride home. My only regret is that we couldn’t stay longer; there are so many more things I’d like to explore in Edinburgh!

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Annotated edition of first Harry Potter from J.K. Rowling

IMG_4069What my 22 hours in Scotland taught me was that sometimes a bit of ignorance and a dose of flexibility and spontaneity can bring about many happy surprises. From the beauty of the architecture to the Harry Potter fun facts, Edinburgh certainly had a fair number of them. As I continue debating what path I should take after graduation in December, it would do me well to remember that I don’t necessarily need to have everything completely planned out; joy can still be found in the unknown.

Until next time, cheers!

Currently Listening:

“Elevate” – St. Lucia

I saw St. Lucia, the project of Jean-Philip Grobler, open for FUN. in Philly back in 2012. I liked the music then, but kept forgetting to follow through with listening to more of his stuff.

St. Lucia’s new album, “When the Night,” was released in the U.S. last October, but I finally bought it over Christmas break. It’s marvelous, so I definitely recommend it! Elevate is my favorite song from the album thus far.

St. Lucia will be opening for Foster the People at the Ryman on April 25, and although I can’t make it (much sadness), if you’re in Nashville you should give it a go and I’ll simply live vicariously through you. Tickets are still available here.

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