A Sunrise in Perthshire

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Cath and I are both on mountain weekend get-aways: she’s in the Blueridge Mountains in Georgia and I’m in the Highlands of Perth in Scotland.

I’ll do a proper post for Monday, but I had to share these misty sunrise photos with you! It was breathtaking in person and my non-existent photography skills don’t do it justice.

I wish you were here to gulp in big lungfuls of this air with me: it is sharp and cold and so clean. And its so quiet here. Once in a while birds twitter, the wind rustles the autumn leaves, the cows moo, but otherwise it’s utter stillness. I think this city girl is turning into a country girl in her old(er) age.

Matt and I are staying in a wee stone cottage complete with a crackling fire, tartan rug and bedrooms tucked under the eaves. I’ll show you more Scottish country twee-dom in Monday’s post!

—–

Dear Cath,

Matt and have gone into serious hibernation mode here in Perthshire. It’s freezing rain most of the day, so we’ve holed up in our roasty, toasty cottage and eaten our way through lots of vegan/gluten-free meals. Gluten-free toast (with coconut oil and manuka honey — soooo good) and lots and lots of roiboos tea.

It’s been getting dark here around 5, so last night we went to bed around 9 pm, as in we were asleep by then! Hence my ability to be up way before sunrise.

Hope you and Troy are having a wonderful time up in the Blueridge Mountains! Can’t wait to hear all about your trip! Are you guys hibernating as well?

LOVE YOU like mountains love mist (they do),

Lar

 


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Cemeteries, Skeletons and Stretchy Pants

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I didn’t think about this at the time these photos were taken, but I hope it doesn’t weird you guys out that I look so cheerful in a cemetery. I know headstones and buried bones are morbid, but I’ve always been a sucker for old stone (Cath too — she just was partying at a cemetery in Decatur a few weeks ago). If they are in the middle of the city like this one in the pics, they are beautiful, serene green spaces tucked into bustling urban life. This particular cemetery is just below Edinburgh Castle — a pretty darn good view if you are going to rest your bones anywhere for eternity, eh? (Sorry, too morbid again?). And I do enjoy reading headstones and thinking about what those people living in 1830 in Edinburgh must have been like.

Even if you still aren’t a fan of tip-toeing around burial plots, doesn’t it get you into the Halloweeny mood?! It makes me want candy corn and caramel apples, and to smell bonfires crackling.

Since our two year stint in the UK began, it seems more and more people are embracing Halloween. Nobody knows what candy corn is (or Milk Duds) and it’s still sometimes tricky to find pumpkins, but there are more decorations this year than the previously. Just look at these at our favorite local, FYUL. Martha would be proud!

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Re: the stretchy pants. I’m afraid Cath will continue to have to be the lone fashion inspiration on this blog. Apart from having a teeny tiny wardrobe these past two years, I’ve also discovered the joys of leggings and jeggings! Those black stretchy things that even at their peak of trendiness a few years ago made onlookers feel ambivalent at best and like they got a dose of TMI at worst.

But I’ve embraced leggings and their pants-pretending cousins, jeggings, whole-heartedly. My abdominal area is still not quite back to normal after my surgery 10 weeks ago, and an elastic waist band feels like a gentle hug rather than a corset like my skinny jeans do. And they are perfect for layering cosy sweaters and tees. If you are worried about a TMI situation occurring (or is that me just being paranoid?), layer longer tees under your shorter sweaters or blouses.

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Outfit details: gray cardi Lands End, black tunic and leggings New Look, fair trade necklace by Mettle, shoes are Vara by Ferragamo

———

Dear Cath,

I’m so sorry you’ve been dealing with this nasty virus right when you are meant to be in NYC! I wish I could be with you to give you chicken soup and then fly with you to your conference. I’ll be thinking about you all week and sending you lots of healthy, happy vibes from Edi!

Love you like candy corn loves Oct. 31,

Lar


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My Love/Hate for Autumn

FYUL-AsianCajuns

Clear, cool days. Crunchy heaps of leaves. Crisp air (a cliche, but it is so crispy, isn’t it? Not another word for it). Pumpkin-spiced, cinnamon-y coffee drinks. Scarves and wooly sweaters/jumpers when they are still a novelty to layer and not just a means of keeping the winter from sapping your body heat. Oooo it’s all so good isn’t it?

Living in Scotland, we start fall early. Right at the beginning of September to be exact. The temperatures dropped, I started wearing layers and drinking even more cups of tea (something that doesn’t really slow down in the summer in Britain — a cultural difference I’m still slightly confused about. Hot tea on a hot day cools you down, you say? I tried it and I’m not buying it!). Curling up in a cozy blanket and lighting a chai scented candle. Yes. You feel good, autumn. You really do.

The flip side to autumn wrapping it’s luxurious cozy arms around me is… the impending darkness. Living in Edinburgh we are pretty far north — on par with Sitka, Alaska. I don’t know much about Sitka (was there a Sandra Bullock/Ryan Renolds movie set there?), but it sounds cold and northern. Edinburgh isn’t the same kind of cold, but it is the same kind of dark. By the middle of December the sun will have set by 3:39 pm. That doesn’t sound too crazy until you factor in the angle of the sun before it sets — it’s just 15 degrees or so off the horizon. All. Day. “Long.” Making the days dusky rather than, well, sunny. And the sun is just barely above the horizon after 2:30 pm, so it is pitch black by 3:30. Oooo I’m getting shivers down my sweater-swathed back just thinking of it!

I remember even living in southern Atlanta I would feel a twinge of sadness knowing the days were shortening, but before living in Edinburgh I had never experienced dusk all day — a sun rise so low it doesn’t clear the five story buildings that populate Edinburgh.

So as much as I love the change of summer into glorious fall, I also inwardly panic. So what do you do with the panic? You bring out the big guns: the sun lamp, the vitamin D pills, the whisky, the making-the-most-of-it by planning a holiday someplace with a fireplace and stacks of books. You learn how to hibernate.

But before Matt and I go into deep hibernation mode (I think we are about four more weeks before we can’t tear ourselves from our sun lamp-lit flat), we are trying to soak up Edinburgh’s goodness. We have to because during the winter there’s a lot of mumbling, at least from me: (grumble, grumble, rubs hands together) “Why is it so dark, why is it so cold and windy! We’re inside and it’s still windy! Why is the freezing rain horizontal? How is that possible?.” Repeat. And repeat until… oh.. end of April. Wah wah. Whine whine. I’m a deeelight to live with in the winter, I can tell you!

But there is a lot about Edinburgh that is spectacular in the mean time. This stony city was made for the riot of colours autumn wears and the coziness you feel safely tucked away in a pub or café. Matt and I just discovered a new neighborhood haunt called FYUL (that stands for Food You Utterly Love, though I like to pretend it’s an Icelandic word I don’t understand). As you can see in the photos, the decor is gran’s living room meets salvaged loft space, and the food is delicious. Oh and do you see — the chairs are wearing tweed! I love a good tweed-covered anything (including vintage cars). We’ve already been three times in the past week. It’s so good it might actually keep us from hibernating the entire winter season.

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Don’t forget to enter Cath’s Fantas Eyes giveaway below, lovely readers. I’m pea green with envy — such lovely sunnies.

——

Dear Cath,

I know you’ve Instagrammed FYUL but I had to do a proper post and tempt you even more! Today when we went back I got the veggie plate and the muesli again. Deeelicious! Matt got the soup with the crusty bread. That’s one of the hardest things being on a gluten-free diet — no eating the crusty bread with the toasty soup or the grilled pita slices with the humus. Le (grand) sigh.

Has hints of fall hit in Atlanta just yet? I can’t remember exactly what it felt like this time of year. The leaves haven’t actually started to change here, but the air certainly has. I forgot how beautiful Edinburgh can be on a blue-blue sky day when you can see for miles and miles.

I wish we could cozy up together under a faux-fur blanket and watch You’ve Got Mail while drinking spiced hot drinks (I can’t bring myself to say Pumpkin Spiced Lattes when I know I can’t drink the coffee or the milk — I’m going to learn how to make vegan chai that’s delicious  – I’m gonna!).

Sending you lots of love from autumny Edinburgh!

xoxoxoxoxo,

Lar


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Vintages Cars Rahhh!

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What is a vintage car rally? From what I can gather (from first-hand experience two weeks ago) is that you get together with other vintage car owners, drive around the countryside like something out of a BBC mini-drama, and then picnic whilst sizing up everyone else’s retro wheels. And you can dress up if you want.

Now I’ve never owned a vintage car (unless you count a 1991 Buick Park Avenue), but I happen to know a dashing couple who do (see Juliette and Chris below). And then I had the chutzpah to invite myself along when they mentioned they were going to a vintage car rally one weekend. Ooo me! Me! Me! I’ll go! I’m sure I endeared myself to them bouncing around the back seat and asking lots of boring pertinent intriguing questions about vintage British cars and the people who buy them.

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(Above) Just look at that wee rural lane we’re driving in! Convoying behind our fellow vintage car rally-ers!

(Below) What the back seat looked like: Juliette’s Harris Tweed purse and my hat mingling with Juliette’s car pillows. I love having car pillows in your car in lovely patterns. Maybe wouldn’t work as well in a Chevy Lumina or Ford Fiesta, but in a 1958 Morris Minor — just the right amount of practicality (lumbar support) and charm.

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My favorite car of the day (apart from our Morris Minor), this gorgeous Ford Model T:

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The Model-T’s owner had covered the exterior (yes exterior) in soft dove grey leather (yes leather!) and the interior in Harris Tweed! A Scottified American vintage car — spiffy!

And who doesn’t like a well kept 1960s/70s Mini Cooper (below) — I wish they were still so cute and dainty. Their previous proportions were probably far less safe, tis true:

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Oh wait, I lied. The Model T-weed (get it? har har) was my second favorite. This guy was my favorite, favorite:

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He was part of the AA (we know it as AAA in the States). He’d travel around in his motorbike to rescue stranded drivers with his side car chalk-a-block full of handy bits and bobs: first aid kit, gasoline, torch (flashlight), booklets and a wry Scottish smile (see that? What a lovely man):

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Ohhh here was another favorite (turquoise below):

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It was an all day affair. We convoyed to Glenkinchie Distillery, ate our picnic in the grass, wiggling our toes in the sun, ooohed and ahhhhed over the pretty cars, then back in our cars for our afternoon convoy to a lovely estate, tea and cake and awards given. I feel so utterly British. Like a 75 year old British man. Vintage cars, crazy rallies where they picnic on the croquet green and eat cake, and at home by 6 pm. Ahhh yes. Fits me to a (Model) T. Puns. I should add puns to the me-as-an-old-man list.

Have you guys ever been to any sort of car rally, vintage or no? I really thought the best part would be getting to dress up all vintage-y, but I totally forgot about that bit in the end and just enjoyed being along for the ride.

———-

Dear Cath,

When we win the lottery, we’ll buy a wee cottage up here for summer days just like this. And a vintage something on four wheels. Pack a champagne picnic and pretend we fell out of an Evelyn Waugh novel.

Italy: THREE WEEKS!!!!

xoxoxoxoxo,

Lar

 


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The Gardner’s Cottage Edinburgh

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Birthday dinner has to be good doesn’t it? Especially a 30th birthday dinner. You need to ease yourself into a new decade with a little bit of something nice. It’s okay that you a teetering on the brink of your 30s when there’s fresh-baked sourdough bread with a buttery crab spread and chocolate cake at the end. I can handle being four decades old if this is how it starts!

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Dr-Matthew-Crane

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Matt took me to the Gardner’s Cottage in Edinburgh for a delicious introduction to my 30s. Gardner’s Cottage is part of the farm-to-table movement, but not because it’s hopping on the bandwagon in a fad-y way. The building used to literally be the gardner’s cottage and they use the bits and bobs they grow in their garden in most of their dishes. So apart from being lovely to look at, environmentally friendly, locally-sourced, and very healthy, it’s some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. And for 7 set courses at £30, it’s a steal of a deal…really and truly.

And like any respectable blogger (and annoying dining companion) I took (discreet) photos of every single course:

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Dear Cath,

It was terrible, terrible, terrible (times infinity!) to spend our 30th apart, but I can not tell you how much this meal eased my pain. When you and Troy are next in Edinburgh we will have to go. It’s a lot lighter than a lot of the massive dinners you guys go to, but so, so, so delicious. I wish I could send you some of that crab and fresh baked sourdough via Royal Mail. Sooooo amazing.

Also, can you tell I love that pink dress? I was beginning to worry I shouldn’t have bought it. Barbie Pink? Summer dress in Edinburgh? Peter Pan collar?! Not practical and not too “me” but it’s my favorite thing now and makes me so happy every time I see it. I actually hang it on the back of our door so I see it every day. The color makes me so happy.

Hope you are having a lovely start to the week!

Love you so much, fellow 30-year-old,

Lar


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The Scottish Highlands

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Catherine and I consider ourselves city girls. We feel at home in a city, we love the energy and the diversity and all the stuff there is to do. I can marvel at quiet, beautiful, open-spaced country, but it intimidates me a little.

So it says a lot that the reason Cath and I fell in love with Scotland many years ago was not  because the gorgeous city of Edinburgh alone wooed us, but because we saw the Highlands.
A little background for those of you who haven’t been, the Highlands are the hilly and more mountainous bits of Scotland that start north of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Depending on how technical you want to get, the Highlands make up more than half of the land mass of Scotland, yet most of the population live in the cities. So when you are tramping around the Scottish countryside, you can go for miles and never see another soul.

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Sure, the Scottish Highlands have been overly romanticized (overly Brigadooned), but I think you can forgive the marketing people who push the rolling hills, William Wallace version of Scotland. It really isn’t too off the mark. I mean you don’t see men running around in kilts, but the austere beauty is totally real.
What makes it so stunning, even to a city mouse, is partly the emptiness. There aren’t many people or trees — just stretches of dramatic hills and mountains covered in burnt colored peat and purple blushed heather.
It is “Skyfall” without a de-jawed Javier Bardem. It’s Brigadoon without the kitschy tartan costumes. And it’s most definitely this Johnny Walker ad with Robert Carlyle.

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 But it’s also way better in person than on the big screen. It rains a lot and there are often moody looking clouds, but the air feels so clean and untouched. I almost prefer the Highlands because of their broodiness (clouds, misty, fog). The Highlands are beautiful in the sun, but they are perfect on rainy days with bruised skies.
Last weekend Matt and I took a train two hours north of Edinburgh to hike around the hills of Pitlochry. One down side to falling in love with the country? You end up forgetting about your urban sartorial trappings. I used to try to do a more glamorous hiking look (pretty boots, nice jeans, layers of jackets) — but that totally gets in the way when it’s rainy and windy and your legs ache from propelling yourself upwards for three miles. Also, you kind of don’t care how you look because you’re distracted by the beauty of the landscape all around you (until someone reminds you how weird you look on Instagram – gak!).

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Strange for city girls to fall in love with a rugged, windy, lonely place. I guess it’s true that opposites attract.
So what are you? City or country mouse and has any place in the world made you want to dip your toe in the other?
—–
Dear Cath,
One of my happiest memories will always being taking trains around Scotland with our Historic Scotland passes. Wasn’t that the best? Next time we are in Edinburgh together we have to castle hop.
Also. I MISS YOU!
xoxoxoxox,
Lar

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What’s the Haps in Edinburgh

Scotland-June

While Cath has been entertaining you with lovely fashion in Atlanta, Matt and I have been desperately trying to soak up the wee bit of sun coming our way in what is known as Scottish summer: a slight breeze, just above 60 degrees — and that’s as hot as it gets all year round. Interspersed between these “hot” days is the usual weather: 38-50 degrees, windy, mostly cloudy and sometimes rainy.

But one way Matt and I are coping with this mostly-winter-all-year-round business is by embracing all things that make rainy, dark-skied living bearable: becoming members of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society (oolala), dragging our visitors around town and reminding ourselves how beautiful ole Edinburgh is, and eating good food.

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Last month Matt became an official member of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society. How do you become a member, you ask? Love whisky and hand over some  moola, et voila! Not only do you get exclusive rights to sit in the Society’s leather-chaired club rooms around the city, you also get to swirl more drams of whisky (sniff, sniff, glug, glug) and pretend you taste all the 32 different notes you are supposed to taste in each cask.

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These days I’m not actually tippling (the above photo is all a farce! deep sigh) but I still love going with Matt to the whisky rooms. The arm chairs are so comfy, I love the smell of whisky (and think you can get tipsy after a few deep inhales of this 60% cask strength dram) and you get to read all the descriptions and tips for how to drink the stuff. The text is all a bit tongue-and-cheek (or at least, I think it’s supposed to be!). Here’s one suggestion for a whisky from the peaty regions of Scotland:

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And here are some of the descriptors I pulled from another cask entry in their whisky bible. Even if you aren’t a big drinker and particularly dislike the intensity of whisky, doesn’t this make you want a tipple?

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So good, isn’t it? The doughnuts are just on there because I liked the way they looked and think a whisky that tastes of doughnuts would be pretty high up there on the lists of things I would drink daily.

If you aren’t a big whisky drinker and know very little about the stuff, the next time you want to impress someone do this: pour yourself a wee dram (no water until after the first sip, and definitely no ice), swirl, sniff (with mouth partially open — yes you will look a bit dopey, but impressively so), sip and then say something like “a note of vanilla with a bit of peatyness.” Not nearly all whisky is either of those things, but hopefully the person you are trying to impress won’t know that, and vanilla and peat seem like fairly common notes in whisky. Or you can be inspired by the descriptions above and make up your own favorite meal and pretend you taste that in your dram.

Ever wonder what peat is/looked like anyway? Now you know:

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I leave you with one last delightful swirl of a description:

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But we aren’t just pretentiously sniffing amber liquids over here, Matt and I have also been playing tour guide to our lovely friends from the states! Here’s a classic Edinburgh Tourist Photo:

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Edinburgh very rarely looks this (above) sunny, but I’m so glad she was all sun-shiney and almost-T-shirt weathery for Alison and Greg (note: the hardened Scot in the T-shirt on the right, reasonably attired Atlantans on the left).

And of course, no good haps wrap-up is any good without food pics! These are a little subdued on the food front because I’ve been following a wheat-free, mostly dairy-free, meat-free diet for months and months. At times the old foodie in me cries a little at having to eat another bowl of beans and rice, but it’s all in the name of hopefully going pain free one day. And it’s not all bad — just look at the deliciousness below:

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I hope you guys have been enjoying a lovely spring/summer too. And if this kind of weather isn’t your thing (you love layers and roaring fires), come for a visit in Scotland the other 11 months of the year. You’ll be in love!

——–

Dear Cath,

I’m sorry that you always have to slog through my mishmash posts. You always have such beautiful fashiony things going on in the ATL. My fashion awareness I believe is at an all-time low. The strange thing is I don’t miss it until I see how lovely you look and I’m like “ooo I should wear a dress again.” I blame it mostly on the chilly weather here and my inability to wear contact lenses any more. I will give it a try once we are in Italy though! Speaking of which, I’m actually getting really excited for our trip. It seemed too far away to dream about until recently.

I hit up the library yesterday and got all of this:

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That Eat, Pray, Love in Rome book is actually by the guy (Luca Spaghetti) that Elizabeth Gilbert met in Italy. I thought it would be kind of cheesy and as if he were just coat-tailing it (maybe just a tad), but it’s totally gotten me so excited to go to Rome. You should see if the DeKalb Library has a copy. Unofficial AsianCajun Book Club, book one.

Hope you are having a wonderful time at the Southern Blogger Society brunch today! Wish I could be there with you!

LOVE,

Lar


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Edinburgh Pop-up Shop

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Ziggy Sawdust + Paper Aeroplane: First Birthday Pop-up Shop! from Fiona Purves on Vimeo.

I am so very inspired by these two lovely ladies. Fiona (aka Paper Airplanes) makes beautiful, handmade stationery and Amy (Ziggy Sawdust) rehabs furniture into wonderful retro pieces. And these two creative entrepeneurs happen to have a pop-up shop this weekend in Edinburgh: May 25-29 at Whitespace, 11 Gayfield Square.

I know a lot of you guys aren’t Edinburgh-based, but Cath and I love highlighting independent creatives who are charting their own course and making beautiful things. I wish you guys could join me this weekend. Local Edinburgh readers, let me know if you’re going!

——

Dear Cath,

I know you really, really want to go to this. Where is our windfall of money when you need it? I’ll take lots of pics and send them your way and buy some bits and bobs to send back to you — or give you when I see you in August.

So glad we got to skype today — it’s not enough, but I guess I should be grateful that we don’t just have to rely on payphones and calling cards (remember good ole Spain or our first trip to Italy?).

Hope that you have a wonderful week! Miss you ooooodles as always. I’ve now come to accept the fact that being apart won’t get easier. Boo to infinity.

Love,

Lar

 


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What to Do in Glasgow

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Glasgow feels like another world compared to Edinburgh, but it’s just a short hour train ride from our flat. It’s the grittier, younger (as in Industrial Revolution versus Edi’s medieval), bigger, less expensive (yahoo!), rainier (I know), but warmer (usually — it’s all relative) and flatter city. It has the majestic River Clyde running through its heart and delicious food on almost every corner. Matt and I were just there for the weekend but are smitten, so if you have 48 hours in Glasgow, this is what we recommend:

1) Do something arty. There are museums, galleries and house tours galore. Might I suggest House for an Art Lover, designed by Charles Renne Mackintosh in 1901. At £4.50 — that includes the audio tour — it’s a steal-of-a-deal. Yes, audio tour. We are wild and crazy when we city hop.

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2) Take a wee stroll through the city and hit up some of the beautiful parks. We went through Kelvingrove to get to Byres Road — home to all things delicious.

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3) Shopping. Since moving to Scotland I’ve put the kabash on my spending habits, but I’ve been saving my pennies (pences?) for a trip to Cos. Glasgow seems to have at least twice the number of high street shops that Edinburgh does.

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4) Riding the subway! Edinburgh’s bus system is brilliant, but I miss subterranean public transport. Glasgow’s is like a mini London tube — it just runs in a circle (you can’t make a mistake regardless of where you want to go) and is known as Clockwork Orange (it’s round and its branding is orange).

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5) Eat delicious food! Our new favorite restaurant? Hanoi Bike Shop (yup, it’s a restaurant). The most delicious Vietnamese food I’ve ever had. We loved it so much we had dinner and brunch there (15 hours apart).Hanoi-bike-shop

——

Cath,

I can’t believe you’ve never been to Glasgow! I think you would love it because it feels like Edi is to Washington as Glasgow is to New York — and you loves New York! People are also much friendlier (again — fits the analogy!) and warmer — it made me miss the ATL. Strangers never come up to you in Edinburgh, but in Glasgow we had people start conversations with us in elevators (gasp!), at restaurants, on the street! We have been so Edinburghified we both just kind of blinked at people.

Next time you are in Scotland, we’ll go together okay? Save your pences for Cos! Do you see the boots in the pic? They are heavenly!

Miss you terribly terribly mucho.

Your Banh Mi-ified Sis,

Lar


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News Alert: The Sun Came Out in Scotland!

AsianCajuns-Lar-Edinburgh Edinburgh-walk Edinburgh-sunny-day

This is a rare, rare sight: Edinburgh basking in the sun. In fact, we’ve had three consecutive sunny days — and that hasn’t happened since August! It’s still barely more than 45 degrees, but Matt and I spent three hours Sunday morning sitting outside and clawing wiggling our fingers at the vitamin D coming from the sky.

For those of you lucky enough to be in sunny climes, let me give you a few stats about Edinburgh to put our euphoria in perspective:

• Seattle is 50% sunnier than Edinburgh (and we’re much further north, so the sun we do get is quite a bit weaker)

• Oslo is sunnier than Edinburgh 10 months out of the year

• Throughout the year, on average, Edinburgh has less than four hours of sunlight per day

• Atlanta has twice as many hours of sun per day on average than Auld Reekie (see above)

• On the shortest day of the year in Edinburgh, the sun is only 10.7° above the horizon — that’s dusk for most of the world

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but my-oh-my can she be gloomy and moody.

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——–

Dear Cath,

You might have seen President Obama in person, but I saw THE SUN in person! Can you tell my brain has been mangled by the lack of vitamin D? All I can do is dream about sunny climates and yearn to be there. Thank goodness spring is coming or I would have to start walking around with my SAD lamp permanently strapped to my body.

Is it the weekend yet? I want to skype with you!

xoxoxox,

Lar

 


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