A Weekend Guide to Edinburgh

It’s been awhile since I’ve traveled abroad (insert laughter as people remind me it’s only been three months), so as I’m in the midst of planning my New Years Eve trip to London, I thought why not make another guide? Edinburgh is one of those places that I have been to a fair amount of times and each time, I discover another extraordinary place. It’s like any city that way, but instead of all the hustle and bustle you feel from a city like London, New York, Paris, and Rome, it feels more relaxed, laid back, more Scottish. While I am no expert when it comes to Edinburgh, I’ve had friends let me in on their dirty little Edinburgh secrets that I’ll share with you.

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Where To Stay

Hotel Indigo
Located right on Princes Street, literally across the road from the Edinburgh train station, Hotel Indigo is a gorgeous hotel that has a rustic and charming look that you want in your Scottish hotel. With images lining the walls of the staircases to the smoking chairs on each floor to the wonderful views of the castles from the rooms, Hotel Indigo is the spot to lay your head at night when you’re in the city built on top of a city.

Airbnb
The past couple times I’ve visited Edinburgh, I did Airbnb. I stayed in a room in a house where other people were living and it was one of the best times I’ve ever had. I’ve met so many interesting people who’ve given me insight into the city, and have also cooked me some really great food.

Castle Rock Hostel
If you’re on a budget, I recommend Castle Rock Hostel. The location seriously could not be better. It’s around a 10 minute walk from the train station and a one minute walk from Edinburgh Castle, could anything be better?

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What To Do

Arthur’s Seat
Yes, yes a cliche, but seriously it’s an incredible hike with views that are worth sweating quite a lot to get to the top (or is that just me?).

Edinburgh Castle
While I don’t think you need to necessarily pay money to go inside, I do think you should head to the top of the Royal Mile and see the castle up close and personal. The views from the top are spectacular and, in my opinion, worth mixing with the crowd.

Red Door Gallery
I can’t rave about this spot enough. Every time I go to Edinburgh, I immediately head here for some new cards to send to people in the post, new posters to hang in my non-existent house, and pins to add all over my denim jacket. If you’re a lover of all things Star Wars and Doctor Who, trust me when I say that this place is the one for you.

Diagon House
Victoria Street is a treasure trove of amazing little shops, including this one. If you’re a Harry Potter nerd (how could you not be?), you need to head inside. Diagon House is home to all things Harry Potter and looks like a shop you might find if you went to Diagon Alley before catching the train to Hogwarts. The winding staircase, the Deathly Hallows jewelry, and Hogwarts house scarves will leave you with very little money when you exit hours later.

Hannah Zakari
Tucked on a side street before you enter Grassmarket is Hannah Zakari, a gorgeous quaint shop that has jewelry, clothing, cards, and a plethora of other little odds and ends from independent artists. Whenever I want to grab a souvenir my friends will actually like, I head here for funky rings, cat t-shirts, and cards with boobs on them.

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Where To Eat

Mary’s Milk Bar
I think this little secret isn’t so little anymore. Mary’s Milk Bar in the Grassmarket is a gorgeous little ice cream and hot chocolate spot that I’ve frequented more often than I’d care to admit. The selection of flavors are ones you can’t find anywhere else (Mince Pie, anyone?) that will make you want to sample every one of them. Plus, the inside and outside are Instagram-worthy.

Lovecrumbs
Thanks to the wonderful What Olivia Did, I stumbled upon this place on the way back to my Airbnb in February. While it was blistering outside, I snuck inside for some warmth, brownies, and delicious peppermint tea that made me one of the happiest people on Earth.

Montpelier
I needed a place to sit and work for awhile and Montpelier was the perfect setting for me to do that. With amazing wifi, delicious tea and coffee, and a phenomenal brekky, I was hooked (might have gone here quite a few times. Don’t mind me.). Also, if you’re looking for somewhere to get a fancy cocktail and some locals, this is also the place to be.

The Elephant House
If you haven’t guessed, I’m a massive Harry Potter fan which is why The Elephant House is on this list. The “birth place of Harry Potter,” as the sign boasts outside the door, has some of the most delicious sweets I’ve ever tasted. I highly recommend grabbing a warm brownie with ice cream on top with a side of tea and resting for the afternoon with a book or great company.

Karen’s Unicorn
This is a little pricier but I think it’s so worth it. Karen’s Unicorn was some of the best Asian food that I’ve eaten (plus, had a really great house red wine that I downed). With some fantastic mood lighting and very personable staff, if you’re in need of Asian dishes, Karen’s Unicorn should top the list.

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Dear February

Dear February,

You were good to me, like most Februarys. Most people don’t give you the credit you deserve because they are either too cold or too bitter when the 14th comes around. But I appreciate you more and more each year. I spent most of this month traveling around and visiting cities I’ve never seen before, like Amsterdam and Berlin. Cities that I can’t wait to go back to and discover more of. I want to devour the cities until no stone is unturned.

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As much as I love you, February, knowing that you’re already gone is hurting. In a couple weeks I’ll be 25 and I still feel like I haven’t grown up yet. I still feel like I am 16, awkwardly walking down the hallway in high school wishing my acne would go away—which it still hasn’t nine years later.

I hate that you’re so short. I hate that it’s always a blink and you miss it when it comes to you.

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I made some new friends as I traveled around this month. I met Sarena in Amsterdam, as we traveled around the canals, eating as much food as we could stuff into our faces, and breathed in a city that has so much strange and fascinating history. I met Christine, Kayla, and Dan in Edinburgh. Christine challenged me as we climbed up Arthur’s Seat and as my very un-fit body huffed and puffed the hill, we made it. And it was the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. I was so proud of myself. Kayla and Dan made me feel so welcome in my Airbnb, giving me tips on places to go in the city that was now their home—at least for a little while.

And then I met up with an old friend in Berlin. One who always gets me thinking about what’s next. Makes me think that maybe I can make it here in Europe and not regret the choices I make on a whim. Not regret spontaneity and this weird internal longing I always have with a country that’s not technically considered home. I’m so proud and jealous of how much she is making the world her oyster (as much as I hate that phrase) and it makes me believe that I can do that too.

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The last week, though, I’ve felt a little out of place, February. I’ve been out of touch with people from back home and am starting to feel like I don’t quite know who they are or who I am anymore. The world has gone on without me and as I get pictures sent to me from home, more and more things look so different and I can’t quite recognize what home actually is. Is that weird, February?

I received a text message from a friend, someone who I met under strange circumstances, someone who I’ve only hung out with three or four times, someone who feels like I’ve known her my whole life instead of the past couple years, and the text made me miss my friendships more than ever. I love this town. I love my students. But I need something bigger. Something that has people and life and a car or a metro so I can get around. I need people, and as much as I claim to hate people, it’s nice being around them every once in awhile.

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February, you made me miss life. You made me miss connections as I traveled around Europe and made some good ones along the way. I appreciate you more than you know.

2016 Travel Bucket List

Towards the middle of 2016, I want to travel as much as possible and figure out what I want to do in life. Below is my bucket list for all the adventures I want to get up to while abroad. Anything you think I should add to the list?

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1. Canal ride in Amsterdam
2. Visit Trinity College’s library in Dublin
3. Swim in the sea in Capri
4. Go to the opera in Vienna
5. Just sit and stare at the Norwegian Sognefjord
6. Take a dip in the cold water in Iceland
7. Have afternoon tea at Sketch in London
8. Enjoy a pilsner at the highest beer garden in Germany
9. Bike around Amsterdam
10. Enjoy a boat ride in Greece
11. Drink wine around France
12. Stand atop the clocktower in Bruges and pretend I’m in the movie
13. Learn to ski in Switzerland
14. Get lost in Porto
15. Harry Potter tour around Edinburgh

Cigs and Pine // Scotland

Cigs and Pine // Scotland

12 October 2013; 8:23AM

Cigarettes and pine is what Scotland smells like. Nat and I got off the £13 MegaBus smelling like sweat and lack of sleep after 9 hours of attempting to sleep in an upright position.

The bathroom was our savior at 8 in the morning where we wiped down our skin with baby wipes I kept in the sides of my bag and dry-shampooed the sides of our hair. I watched as Nat meticulously put on her MAC Russian Red, fluffed up the sides of her hair before shaking her head and shoving her orange beanie over her blonde hair.

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Cigarettes and pine. What an odd smell.

It was too early to check in with our Couchsurfing host and the light was just coming up in the Medieval town. The dark stones echoed under our boots as we made our way to the city centre to find wifi and coffee.

Costa.

After sitting in Costa for nearly an hour, we found food and the bus to our home for the weekend. The place was weird with a bunkbed in the living room and two couches. A Spanish couple mumbled something to us as we walked through the door. A South Korean boy nodded as he grabbed tea from the kitchen. Another boy from the Philippines asked us our names while our host locked the door behind us. A cat walked around my legs.

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I’m Natalie and this is Mackenzie.

We took another bus. We had no idea where to go. The Docs were too expensive, so we ended up looking at bargain priced items from Misguided and looking at old Cathedrals. We walked up the streets and down the streets and through old churchyards where graves have been since the 1600s.

The city built on top of another city.

We were tired and decided to see The Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote those books on a napkin. I had a coffee while Natalie read which bands were going to be playing at some festival sometime soon in the local paper that happened to be laying on the table next to us. There was graffiti in the bathroom.

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This way to the Ministry with an arrow pointing down into the toilet.

Across the street was Nandos where we stuffed our faces with peri-peri sauce and a nice cheeky chicken sandwich before walking to a local Tescos at night. Edinburgh Castle was lit up in the sky like some kind of beaconing force lighting our way forward to aisle 4 to pick up cheap red wine.

We sat outside in a hotel parking lot next to a movie theatre and popped open the bottle of wine. Stumbling out of the bars next door were girls in short dresses and heels waiting for their boyfriends to slip their arms around their waists to take them home. After a half hour, we had a buzz going and bought tickets to see a movie. I fell asleep in the movie. There wasn’t a happy ending.

We took the wrong bus home.

Glasgow from a train is beautiful. Fast, wild and free. It is full of bacon butties and IRN-BRU. When we got out of the train station the air was full of feathers in the square. It looked as if they just had a pillow fight and everyone was laughing.

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We walked to another Cathedral where people were checking the “vibes” of the spirits in the place. I was really hoping there wasn’t anyone there as I stepped on a gravesite to get the perfect picture for Instagram. Sorry.

I found my own personal TARDIS. I found signs outside bars that I identified so well with. We had pizza and white wine and talked about boys and walked through a fun fair watching children screaming and eating candy floss by the fist full.

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Two hours later, we were watching Children of Men with the South Korean, the Spaniards and the Filipino and sipping Soju.

The next morning we almost snuck out through a window since the doors were locked but we made it to the train station in time all while Nat wore her dollar sign socks.