Sometimes Edinburgh feels like Italy

lunch al fresco

Dear Cath

You know how I was just bemoaning the fact that Edinburgh can be so miserably oppressive in the winter? Well, the last few weeks have been amazing. I mean, it rains a lot and we have gray days, but it’s not been cruel, ruthlessly windy and cold. And it’s the end of October!

In fact today is windy and rainy, but it’s warm-ish. And it feels wooonderful. And last weekend we actually sat outside in the sun for lunch. Our first summer in Scotland we couldn’t do that once. In summer.

Matt and I have been even more wary of this approaching winter because we won’t have our usual reprieve in Atlanta for Christmas. I don’t like thinking about not being together, but my fingers and toes are crossed that this will be the first and last time we spend the holidays apart. And in the meantime I’m sorry you’ll have to hear me give you constant Scottish weather reports.

Winter closing in isn’t all bad though. I love the drama of the light at this time of the year. As the sun makes it’s slow descent, the angle of the light is so intense. Yesterday I went strolling through Princes Street Gardens and up Castle rock just as the sun was setting behind the castle. Soon that will be happening at around 2:30 or 3pm, but for now it’s still at a reasonable 5:30pm and looks beautiful.

tree train edinburgh fall light

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and are getting a touch of autumn in Atlanta. Can’t wait to chat later today!

xoxoxox,

Lar

 

 


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I Love You, Scotland (Update)

aye scotland

Dear Cath

As wee, impressionable ladies in our teenage years you would have been hard-pressed to convince us that we would love this blustery, hilly land of sheep and castles. The closest our teenage love got for the green isles was for Michael Flatly (shouldn’t admit that out loud, huh?) and he’s from that other very green and very damp place.

We were never particularly keen on celtic things or ancestry — our ancestors are from pretty much everywhere else in the world but Scotland. Our naive heads were turned by the idea Paris, London and Madrid. And then we grew up a bit and actually got to travel to those lofty cosmopolitan hubs and we liked them very much indeed, but we didn’t truly fall in love with a place until we met Scotland.

And what an arbitrary meeting too! We knew we were Anglophiles and decided to give Edinburgh a try for studying abroad — almost on a whim. I know there must have been hard days during those two semesters in Edinburgh, but I don’t remember one moment. I remember the train journeys to far-flung castles and warming our hands around mugs of tea. Majestic stone cities and crisp, fresh air. And I remember how completely and utterly heart-broken we were to leave and go back to the States.

It’s been so hard to be here without you, Cath, but I’m glad that the place I’ve spent the longest living apart from you has been this country we both love so very, very much.

As a non-EU member and non-Commonwealther, I don’t get a say in the way things go Thursday, but I really do believe that Scotland will thrive no matter what. It’s a beautiful country full of talented people and I feel so lucky we got to meet and fall in love with her.

Love you like Scotland,

Lar

yes scotland

 

Update 20 September:

Dear All,

Waking up to a No vote yesterday morning was sad and disappointing, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have been worried about a Yes vote and all the unknowns that would have come with it.

In Edinburgh the mood has been subdued, but it was a decisive No in our neck-of-the-woods. Things pretty much are carrying on as usual. Glasgow and Dundee were decided Yeses and I imagine there must be even greater disappointment, sadness and more than a few sore heads this weekend.

I hope that moving forward Scotland gets the powers it wants (and was pledged) while remaining part of the Union and that Westminster gives more credence to those fighting for a more equal and socialist approach to governing.

I also hope that our neighbors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland don’t feel hurt by Scotland’s desire for independence. I really strongly feel it was never a desire to be separate from such wonderful people and cultures, but a frustration at feeling unrepresented and ignored by the powers that be.

Hope you all are having a wonderful (reconciliation) weekend!

Love,

Lar


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Back to Edinburgh

George-IV-bridge

Dear Cath,

I left Atlanta a measly week ago! How does it feel so much longer? Leaving you and grappling with jet lag has been mitigated by Katherine and Maria’s Labor Day (not Labour Day — we don’t celebrate it here) mini visit. We’ve been very touristy: tramping up and down the Royal Mile, watching fireworks, eating haggis, going for afternoon tea and climbing Arthur’s Seat. Today we plan to hit the Palace and National Museum before they both head back to D.C. tomorrow.

Arthursseat Tower-restaurant-tea

Once they are gone I’ll have to face the fact that I’m back across an ocean from you. It’s a bad time to be moving into the dreaded dark months of winter here — it already feels like autumn: the leaves are changing colour and the air is crisp. Geek alert: I’m still making my way through the Game of Thrones books and each time someone says “winter is coming” I feel like throwing my Kindle across the room and throwing a hissy fit. I know winter is coming and it will be long and it will be dark and my sister is 5,000+ miles away.

Enough with the grumps though. It’s a new week and a palace awaits.

Love you like George Martin loves the word winter,

Lar

P.S. Memories…

cath-and-lar


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Saturday Morning Round-up

twin-westies

Dear Cath

I think that shot above is you and me in our most Scottish form: wee Westie twinsies with matching tartan collars!

Sorry I’ve been MIA for weeks. I blame it on Edinburgh. We (Edinburgh and myself) basically hibernate in the winter and then come summer and Festival time the City explodes (I don’t explode but I do get over stimulated — fireworks, sun, food, people! Gah!). There’s food stalls and musicians and tourists galore. I’ll have to tell you more about Alex and Dexin’s visit to Edinburgh in the next postie, but I just wanted to give you a general catch-up here before Matt and I leave to go back to the states … IN A WEEK!!!

First up: Thank youuuu for the lovely tee for our bday– I loves it so!

tea-toast-tee

With all the tempting food markets popping up because of the Festival, I’ve gone way off the diet. Exhibit A: Banh mi. Exhibit B: dumplings (bread, cheese, spinach, butter sauce, yum) from Austria:

banh-mi aplines

Sara and I visited the Scottish Parliament a few weeks ago. I know the building is controversial but the architecture totally grows on you. I prefer this to where Congress hobnob:

scottish-parliament

We were at Parliament to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland. It was amazing and incredibly long, covering centuries of Scottish History from this guy (Edward perhaps? Nervous nilly, that one — or maybe he just needed the loo):

Scotland-tapesty

To your favourite Tunnock’s Teacakes:

tunnocks-teacakes

See, this is Matt and I not hibernating. It’s sunny. It’s Festival time. Let’s be paper dolls:

matt-and-lar-festival

And a teaser for the next post with Alex and Dexin … they brought me this beautiful Tyrolean hat from Munich!

(Sheesh I hate taking selfies):

german-hat

I’m worried this last week here might get quite busy and then we won’t be in Atlanta for another two weeks yet — so I’ll try to get another post out so it still feels like you are hearing from me.

I miss you ooodles, but I can’t believe I will see you in 15 days. 15 DAYS!!!!

Love you like Westies love tartan,

Lar

 


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Cheese, Grommit, cheese!

cheese

Dear Cath,

I received a lovely hamper from Harrod’s last week* — a cheese gift set hamper! Really, this should be your hamper because you are cheese and I am chocolate, but I will do my best to share it with you via the blogisphere.

The hamper is everything you need for fancy cheese eating (or cheddar-only cheese eating ;)): olive oil crackers, two different types of olives, an onion relish, a cheese scoop (I didn’t even know such a thing existed!) and three serious-business (technical fromage terminology) cheese knives:

harrods-cheese-gift-set

The past couple of years I’ve mostly cut dairy out of my diet, but I thought getting this hamper was a perfect excuse to be momentarily adventurous with my cheese eating. A fromagey treat that would make me less scared of wooly looking cheese rounds that smell of feet.

Matteo and I headed to our local cheese monger (do you remember I.J. Mellis on Victoria St?) so that we could choose some cheeses that would show proper respect to the Harrods’ hamper.

i-j-mellis-cheese

It’s a lovely cool, bitty shop stacked full of cheese wheels. If I were a mouse, this is what heaven would look like:

edinburgh-cheese

From a previous stop to the cheese monger (I love that people still monger here!), we know we aren’t up to the task for enjoying kick-in-the-teeth pungent cheese. We looked for smoked cheeses or cheddars and kept it all Scottish. I wish I were brave enough to say we tried this Dorstone, but it’s the stuff of (cheese) nightmares in my book:

dorstone-cheese   

harrods-cheese

Instead we ended up with four wedges of fairly safe but incredibly tasty cheeses: a Scottish brie, Auld Reekie (yes, named for Edinburgh and indeed reekie), Orkney Grimbister that was a bit like Wensleydale (cheese, Grommit, cheese!) and my favourite, a smokey mature yellow cheese called Old Lochnagar.

Matt and I packed up our hamper and fancy cheese and headed to the Meadows for a wee picnic with friends:

picnic-meadoes

I felt rather unsophisticated as I didn’t know which knife to use for what and I ended up using the cheese scoop for our onion relish, but in the end it was all delicious.

cheese-knives

Might I recommend the Ornkey Grimbister and red onion relish on top of a dense olive oil cracker? Deeelicious!

cheese-pickle

We also had these olives to go with our cheese chomping. They are the closest thing that I’ve tasted since those beautiful olives we had in Italy last year (my, that does sound pretentious doesn’t it? I feel the cheese knives would approve).

harrods-olives

Because we won’t be eating much cheese here in the future (back to no dairy again once I finish that Old Lochnagar wedge sitting in the fridge), the cheese knives are coming home with me in August to be christened by you and Troy in your new house!

I’ve also googled cheese knives and can now instruct you that the cheese cleaver will be best for your mature cheddar predilections. So be ready in August with a mound of cheese. I can’t wait to eat some olives and cheddar with you on YOUR deck in YOUR house! Please, please, please take lots of pics — yes even ones full of moving boxes. I feel heart broken not being there with you — and not all the fancy cheese in the world can make up for that!

Love you like onion relish loves Wenslydale,

Lar

*p.s. Dear readers, this is not a sponsored post, but I was gifted the lovely hamper basket by a PR firm that works with Harrods. If you do like these hamper posts, I received a girly non-cheese hamper last year which you can read about here.


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Edinburgh Trams

edinburgh-trams-ticket

Dear Cath,

At this moment it is cold and rainy and gray gray gray in Scotland. Not a shocker, I know, but somehow I’m always a bit scandalized at how audaciously un-springlike Edinburgh can be. People were walking around in wellies and thick jackets today. I bet you guys were in skirts (with bare legs! Kilts don’t count) and sleeveless blouses. I can’t imagine Scotland ever encouraging bare legs and bare arms At The Same Time!

And because Matteo is away, and my mug o tea isn’t being chatty, I’m writing you a blog post/letter. Twice in one week! And as promised: TRAMS.

edinburgh-tram-westend

When was it that we first got so excited about public transport? Was it growing up in Maryland and taking the Metro into D.C. — the place that meant free, cavernous museums and dim sum in China Town? Or was it moving to Atlanta and being able to hop on MARTA a few minutes after getting off a flight (or maybe the way it garbled voice announces “Agnes Scott College” when you pull into the Decatur station)?

I feel like I remember the subterranean transport of NYC, Barcelona and Paris more than any of the major land marks. And still one of my favorite memories from Atlanta is going on the Beltline tour so many years ago (remember this post?).

Getting to know a city’s public transport system(s) has got to be one of the best ways to get to know a city. It’s not a dainty, whimpy how d’ya do handshake, it’s a bear hug that sometimes smells of stale air and looks a little dingy in corners and rumpled around the edges. But the bear hug means you are more than passing acquaintances. You’re free to learn the ins and outs of a place, not just skim the touristy surface. You get to see the good, the bad and the interesting.

edinburgh-transport

Edinburgh is such a compact city and has a pretty darned good public bus system. The bus I take to work across town practically drops me door to door and comes by every 8-11 minutes. The buses are usually clean and drivers friendly. After figuring out the bus system when we first moved here, I was surprised that the city wanted to put in trams. But too much public transport is like too much chocolate cake, so I thought huzzah!

Lucky for Matt and I, we moved to Edinburgh just at the tale-end of all the hullabaloo about the tram works that were incredibly disruptive to local businesses/storefronts. And to add insult to injury, the project is massively over budget, two years over due and only goes to about a third of the locations promised. Trams are a touchy subject in these parts, to say the least.

(There’s a clever public transport prankster going around and changing all the official tram logos to be more “honest”).

But even with all that, there was a palpable (palpable, I tell ya) excitement in the air this past Saturday when the trams officially opened to the public. I woke Matt up early so we could go ride them (I dangled the promise of cups of strong coffee to get him out of the house — though I think he’s quite a public transport fanatic himself, just more of an afternoon fanatic than a first-thing-in-the-morning fanatic).

The trams were smooth. They were quiet. They were heavenly!

Edinburgh-trams-first-day

Edinburgh-trams-inside

I’m not sure if I ever held double-decker buses in any sort of romantic light (I must have done, being an anglophile and whatnot) — but I so wish I could swap my bus ride to work every day with a tram ride. As the trams don’t go all the way down to the Shore like they were supposed to, it’s not worth switching up my route. Oh but that it were!

edinburgh-trams

I can’t wait to hear about the Atlanta street car! I have a romantic view of street cars too (not so much Tennessee Williams, but Judy Garland).

I know you are so busy (you’re buying a house, you’re buying a house, YOU’RE BUYING A HOUSE!!!) so don’t worry about writing back. I just will pepper you with mildly tedious photos of my going-ons so you feel like you are in Edinburgh with me. And I will imagine myself packing boxes and nesting with you!

Love you like cities and public transport,

Lar


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Calton Hill

calton-hill-1

little-white-dress

white-lace

calton-hill-2

calton-hill-observatory edinburgh-calton-hill

Dear Cath,

It was sunny yesterday! And it was warm enough to not wear a jacket (some of the time). And it was a Saturday so we got to wiggle our toes in the sun instead of wiggling our fingers by the glow of the computer. AND it was the first day of the Edinburgh trams (public transport post to come soon — exciting!). It was almost too much for one day: like eating an entire cake and washing it down with a milk shake with a side of french fries.

Do you know what the icing was to my chocolate cake? A new dress. I’ve never been one for wearing white — at least I can’t usually do it confidently without flenching at all foods on the way from plate to mouth or sit on anything convenient like a bench or stone wall. But a little white dress is so tempting when the blossoms are nodding their head in encouragement and the sun is beaming down at you. A little black dress just doesn’t feel like it does justice to such supportive spring-time offerings. So I bucked up the courage, bought this mini from H&M (sadly, not the Conscious Collection) and even sat on some outdoor stone steps … with impunity.

——-

Have you ever been up Calton Hill? I don’t remember ever going as students. Matt and I rarely go as it’s across town for us, but what a lovely place. Gorgeous views of town after just five minutes of huffing and puffing up a hill (rather than the 30 up Arthur’s Seat). There was an artist up there doing watercolours and tourists taking selfies. And the most exciting thing of all, the Collective. It’s an art collective that is turning all the observatory space into exhibition space that’s free and open to the public.

Art for all, gorgeous views, a wee snack bar that sells home made goodies: Calton Hill is my new favourite daytime Edinburgh haunt.

Oh also, apologies for the rough scribbles on the photos. I’m trying out the drawing tablet Chris got me for Christmas. It’s way harder than Garance Doré makes it look.

This week will be a long one because Matt’s away for a conference. Want to skype during the week?! I’ll probably blog more too so I can distract myself from missing him (while he eats his way through all of the chocolate in Belgium-nomnomnom). More importantly, as a dedicated public administrator of urban spaces, I feel it’s my duty to give you a more detailed account of Edinburgh’s trams.

Love you like lace loves white,

Lar

 


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Exploring Lindisfarne Castle

Lar-lindasfarne

Dear Cath,

Are you ready? This is gonna be a long ‘ne — lots of piccies. Get your scrolly finger limber and settle in with a cuppa. Oh wait, you probably don’t want hot steamy tea in Atlanta at this point, do you? Iced soy latte then?

We are house museum people through and through, aren’t we? Remember one of our very first AsianCajun posts? House museums make me giddy. I think it’s all the historical voyeurism. What did they eat, draw, listen to, see? Lindisfarne Castle, run by the National Trust, totally scratched all the nosy itches. You would love it! But since you weren’t there, I’ll take you! Step-by-step through this post:

Lindasfarne-Castle-view

Firstly, it’s located on Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island) just off the north eastern coast of England — spitting distance to Scotland. It’s a lovely walk from the village of Lindisfarne to the castle rock (see below). It sits in the midst of a green, sheep-dotted field on the shore:

HolyIsland-castle

The castle was originally built by Henry VIII to keep out invading Scots (maybe to be used again come September?) but was never used for more than housing bored military men.

Lindasfarne-edwin-lutyens

Skip ahead a few centuries and Edward Hudson, editor of Country Life magazine, decides he wants to make the castle his summer home. Who doesn’t love a bit of cold stone and rain for a summer holiday? Regardless of his questionable climatic tastes, he was by all accounts a lovely, shy man who would entertain the likes of J.M. Barrie, Lytton Strachey, Anna Markova and cellist Madame Suggia here.

Country-life-magazine

To make his castle more hospitable, Hudson hired famed English architect Edwin Lutyens (pronounced “loo-chins”): an arts and crafts man through and through. So this castle is arts and crafts coziness meets Elizabethan stone. A good combo if you’re into dark rooms, roaring fires and comfy sofas.

Lutyens’ signature is his herringbone brick, which you see a lot about the castle passageways:

Edwin-Lutyens-herringbone

Want to see the kitchen? Here’s Matt inspecting some veg:

Matt-veggies

Lindasfarne-castle-kitchen

I love when house museums are set up to look like their owners just left. In this case, they made a mad dash for the sun as they were having their tea and reading the newspaper:

newspaper

And someone was just about to give the dishes a good scrub-a-dub:

oldsoap

They were expecting guests for dinner too:

Lindasfarne-castle-dining-room

I love this Yves Klein blue in the dining room:

Lindasfarne-blue

Someone spent their morning sketching:

Lindasfarne-watercolours

Writing letters:

letters

Powdering their collars (?):

stiff-collars

This is known as the ship room because of the wooden ship suspended from the ceiling. A good place to kick your feet up and read Country Life magazine:

Lindasfarne-ship-room

Another good reading spot: the windowseats looking out toward the ocean (don’t they look like the Mary’s windows at Applecross in Persuasion?):

windowseats

You could also go upstairs to the music room and listen to Madame Suggia play her cello or at least have nose around her sheet music:

Madame-suggia

Or maybe a room tidy? Seems you’ve left your Edwardian chemises hanging all over your Renaissance canopy, tsk, tsk:

edwardian-chemise

A few things didn’t exist when Mr. Hudson was around, like this anthropomorphized tapestry chair:

anthropormorpized-chair

Another delight? Famed gardener Gertrude Jekyll planted a small garden where the garrison used to keep their veg patch:

Lindasfarne-gertrude-jekyll

Lindasfarne-garden

She also landscaped the harder-to-reach bits around the castle mound by shooting pellets of seeds into the cliff-side: gives Garden and Gun magazine a whole new point of inspiration. Nicely done, Gertie:

Lindasfarne-flowers

Here’s one last look of the castle (and the sheepies!) from Gertrude’s garden:

Lindasfarne-castle-2

And one last view to the sea from the castle:

Lindasfarne

How’d you like the tour? Could you smell the salty air and the rain moving in across the grass?

I hope you are having a wonderful time in Detroit, Cath! I know that you are probably not going to house museums (Detroit must have some beautiful, crumbly old places) while you’re conferencing, but I do hope you are having some fun.

Love you like Lutyens loved brick!

Lar

 


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Beachy waves and a glimpse of spring in Edinburgh

Dear Cath,

I know we’ve both been so busy this last little while. Too much happening. At this moment you are getting a potential house inspected and then off to Detroit, and then Oregon! Egads, lady, how do you do it?

Whenever things are more busy I feel like I have to share more pics with you because I haven’t gotten a chance to tell you all the things. Inconsequential things like, my hair actually behaving some days. I’m trying to air dry it more often and sometimes it comes out like this (just added a teeny dollop of avocado oil to the tips):

beachy-waves

And spring has sprung in Edinburgh! We also still have plenty of grey, cold and wet days, but there are some glorious rays of sunshine thrown in for good measure. One day I even went bare-legged… and went all goose-pimply:

I’ve never seen bluebells before (I don’t remember them from years previous in Edinburgh — too cold?) but they pop up everywhere, pretty cemeteries included:

bluebells

Bleeding hearts always remind me of our garden in Maryland. Ooo I so miss them and the peonies, lavender, lilac and lily of the valley!

bleedinghearts

Do you remember the cherry blossoms in the Meadows? Last year the blossoms froze before they could bloom. I was holding my breath until they opened all the way. Just lovely, aren’t they?

edinburgh-cherrytrees

And a requisite Castle pic:

spring-edinburgh

I know Atlanta is already hella hot. I can’t remember what heat feels like, but I can imagine almost warmish!

I hope all your conferences go well. And house buying! Eeeee so exciting slash I know incredibly stressful — I so wish I was there to walk around the house with you and squeeze your hand.

I’ll show you pics of the castle we went to last weekend in the next letter/post. You will love it. It’s kind of Bloomsbury meets Renaissance holiday home.

Miss you ooodles and love you like bluebells love May!

Lar

 


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Sunny Edinburgh

spring-dress

edinburgh-sunny

Dear Cath,

Can you believe how sunny it is in these pics?! And blue, blue, blue sky as far as the eye can see (which isn’t far because of the hills and stone edifices everywhere). And yesterday was actually warm enough for us to sit out in the sun. Matt got a sun burn on his forehead and I look exactly the same shade as in the middle of winter. Do you tan easily? I feel like I must naturally have SPF 85 in my skin.

But still — sunny! Things are so much better when it’s sunny. My bones relax and everybody is wonderful. It’s like being tipsy on vitamin D. Though that wasn’t quite enough to scare the monkey-brain away when I had my check-up this week for endo. But to make myself feel better post-appointment I hit the harder stuff: retail therapy. Did I tell you they now have a homewares department at the big H&M on Princes Street?!

I bought a-this pillow (Standard Vintage Edition No. 3 of what? A newspaper? Pillow fluff wrapped in an enigma, printed on sustainable cotton):

h&m-home-2

And a-thiiis pillow which I’ve been lusting after for two years on their website. It’s washed linen and feels heavenly soft:

H&M-home

This weekend has been even more indulgent — no more shopping but lots of eating-off-the-“diet.” We met up with friends and went to Spoon. It’s about a 10 minute walk down Nicholson street from where you lived. Right across from the Festival Theatre. I’ve never been there for brunch and it was delicious. They even had proper American fluffy pancakes which they smothered in yogurt, honey and slivered almonds:

pancakes

And look! I had my first plate of kippers for breakie! I felt very Jeeves-and-Wooster at the morning buffet. They were delicious though incredibly bone-y:

kippers

I had to take the requisite coffee photo as well because Matt showed me that the updated version of the Google camera app can do this really cool out-of-focus thing (also used it in the photo of me at the top of the postie). Isn’t it lovely? Makes me look like I know what I’m doing with a camera — or at least a phone camera:

flat-white

A girl could get used to this: sun, gluten, linen pillowcases. Apparently that’s all it takes.

I hope you had a linen-pillowcase kind of a week/weekend too!

Miss you so much — more than any amount of sunshine and pancakes can make up for.

LOVE,

Lar

 


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