Cozying up to Edinburgh

Our month in Edinburgh, Scotland, has been lovely, and with just a week left in our time here, we can't help feeling like it has really flown by.

It has been a strikingly different month to the previous one in Arles, with much more focus on home time and fewer road trips. I can definitely point to the weather as one cause of that - we can count the days without rain here on one hand. Of course, there were also some days where it only rained for part of the day, but the rain could swoop in quickly, making it tricky to count on a blue sky. The days are very short, as well, and the angle of the sun is very low, so that noon feels more like early evening.

Noon sun Noon shadow These were taken around noon.

All this makes for cozy days inside, and you learn somewhat to put up with going out in a light rain, but, at times, it also made us feel rather isolated and unable to get to know the city as well as we would like.

On the more positive side of that coin, we have been absolutely in love with our apartment here. The building is one of Edinburgh's ubiquitous Georgian townhouses, with 15-foot ceilings, 12-foot windows, and extensive crown moulding. The flat is very spacious - we have the entire 2nd floor of the building - and is furnished and decorated with a classy, modern flare. It is by far the nicest place we've ever lived, and was only possible because we managed to book it on its first day on Airbnb - they had it listed at a lower, promotional rate to get the first guests in.

One of the ways in which we've taken advantage of our flat has been by baking up a storm. We were without an oven in Arles and had been watching an awesome show called the Great British Bakeoff, so we were chomping at the bit to get into a nice kitchen with an oven. We've made meat pies, citrus-date swirl bread, scones, puff pastry, rye sourdough bread (a fail), French bread, English muffins, a pumpkin pie, and focaccia.

Our experience in this flat was pushed over the top by our amazing hosts. They have gone above and beyond for us - coming by once a week to change our linens and do a quick clean up, giving us roses and a card for Thanksgiving, providing extensive help and advice for every question we've had, and even giving us a tour of Parliament House, now the seat of the Scottish courts, where they both work.

Thanksgiving roses

Parliament Hall Parliament Hall - Photo credit: Wikipedia

In addition to Parliament House, our explorations of Edinburgh have taken us to the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; the Royal Botanic Gardens; the Water of Leith, a stream that runs through the city with a lovely walking path along it; Festival Theater, where we saw the Scottish Opera perform Carmen; Arthur's Seat, a volcanic mountain in the midst of the city; and various other wanderings through Edinburgh's New and Old Towns.

The hikes on Arthur's Seat deserve their own gallery:

Still to do: Edinburgh Castle, and maybe a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The food here has been quite good, and we were happy to find that, like in London, there is good ethnic diversity in the restaurants. We've especially enjoyed the ability to get Indian takeout here from a place that is literally across the street from our apartment. There is also quite a drinking scene, thanks to the British love of pubs and the local university population. Our favorite finds have been a modern pub called the Devil's Advocate and a speakeasy called Panda & Sons.

Brendan and I cooked our own Thanksgiving dinner - the first time we've been responsible for cooking the whole thing ourselves - and really loved going to the butcher to get our turkey breast. Game is a big deal here, and the butcher had a plethora of small birds on offer, including pigeon and pheasant, the latter of which was hanging in the window, with all its beautiful feathers on, alongside a rabbit.


The butcher suggested that he wrap a deboned turkey breast in "streaky bacon" (aka bacon if you're in the US), and we're so glad we said yes. Often the turkey seems to be the least favorite dish on the table at Thanksgiving, but ours was moist and flavorful. We'd definitely do it again.

Though Edinburgh didn't celebrate Thanksgiving with us, the city still had an air of festivity thanks to the Christmas markets. After our dinner, we walked around the markets, drank mulled wine and hot cider, and did the Christmas tree maze, which they make more fun with the addition of a scavenger hunt. There are also rides, including a ferris wheel and swings that go up 100 feet or more, but we haven't gone on those (yet).

The impression we've gotten of Edinburgh is one of a thriving city of professionals and students, proud of their city and nation. We have found ourselves very comfortable here, and I can easily imagine us coming back again - though next time, I would do it in the summer!

For now, I leave you with this joyful picture of a Sphynx kitten climbing on my shoulder at a local cat cafe. Cheers!