Wednesday, November 23, 2016


"I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home." - Alan Rickman

So, normally the bus distinctly does not go to Hogwarts, you've gots to take the train*, but that might just be because the bus trip could potentially take 14 hours.

After 14 hours of busing from Wales to Scotland, I have never been happier than when we finally arrived. The bus-ride-that-never-ended was frustrating, the hour and a half it took to get checked into the hostel was unbearable, but it was all made right again with dinner at El Toro Loco -- my first burrito in MONTHS. We stayed at the Cowgate Hostel, by FAR the WORST hostel I've stayed at so far unfortunately, with only its location going for it; it is a perfectly central starting-off location.

Initial introduction to the neighborhood was the pub across the street, The Three Sisters, boasting their Harry Potter week of events, re-dubbing themselves The Leaky Cauldron. Anything Harry Potter is a good omen. The bar hosted football and rugby watch parties on its outdoor patio, serving Butterbeer out of kegs, where large groups drank and sang at the top of their lungs all day and night.

After finally figuring out the room situation, we bee-lined for the square and I burst into the mexican restaurant arms-flailing, on the verge of tears, "I'm just so happy you exist! I'm so happy you're here!" I called across the glass barrier to the servers. Barbacoa, jalapeños, hot was the best goddamn burrito of my life. It was after 10pm at this point and we were past due to start drinking, so we went directly to the club that Viva Trips** was hosting for us, stone cold sober. One of the only things Viva did right the whole weekend was this club, Silk. It was a multi-layer dance club and it was PACKED with international exchange students, all displaying stickers of their home country's flag across their chest; it was incredible to share the dance floor all night with people from all over the world, flags waving proudly from everywhere. Plus, the music was PERFECT and they had real fishbowls. The entire last half an hour or so, from 2:30 - 3ish, they played nothing but Latin music and a girl from Brazil enthusiastically pulled me into her squad's dance circle. It was the most fun I've had out in Europe.

Isabelle and I tried to venture out further to smaller clubs -- having gotten insider info from my lovely friend Brighid who's studying at the University of Edinburgh for the semester -- but unfortunately inner city scenes mean inner city prices and it was the weekend...we weren't about to pay four pounds entry at 1am. The girls we met in line were absolutely smashed and total sweethearts, though, so still an altogether successful detour. We made our way home around 3:30 and, after the worst shower of my life, slept for exactly four hours before it was time to go, go, go again on our walking tour of the city.

It turned out to be not so much of a walking tour as just a directed walk around town, absolutely no tour was given whatsoever, but we still hit most spots on my list: started at Calton Hill for those early morning views over the city and a climb on the monuments, stroll across North Bridge to The Elephant House (PERFECTIONNNNNNN; got a latte and a breakfast roll), Greyfriar's Bobby (sorry I definitely rubbed that lil dog's nose for good luck even though I know I read locals hate that particular tourist trend...), saw Tom Riddell's grave, Prince's Street and Gardens, Holyrood House, the base of Arthur's Seat, and just outside Edinburgh Castle. Our hostel's just around the corner from Victoria St. (speculated inspiration for Diagon Alley) so we stumbled up and down that road a few times, as well. (Fun fact: Sunday morning I burst through the doors of what looked to be the only not-full cafe on this block and was actually, physically thrown out the restaurant? If that's what it was? I still don't even know because I asked if I could order coffee there and the guy replied, "We're closed," shoving me out as he shut the door in my face. Lol what????)

We roamed a farmer's market set up in the square, ate at The Three Sisters, and then wandered Edinburgh's Christmas Market for HOURS. I bought so many gifts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was my first UK Christmas Market and the most spectacular display of Christmas spirit I've yet to experience. The sun was just setting on the horizon as we got to the top of the ferris wheel; Edinburgh constantly re-defined magic for me over and over again. Everywhere you look is astounding architecture, breathtaking views, cute shops and cafes, bagpipes fill the air. I'm obsessed.

Saturday evening we explored the bar's upstairs The Three Sisters, home to the Edinburgh Napier University student union: a bar completely transformed into The Leaky Cauldron. I'm not sure if it looks like that all the time, but they went ALL OUT. The walls were painted with cauldrons, burning candles on every table, stacks on dusty books and brooms lined the walls, every TV playing the HP soundtrack over video of a Leaky Cauldron set. This was magical, the 2 pound pints for students were the cherry on top. The video of the Leaky set was extra fun when they started playing Fetty Wap and Wiz Khalifa. I went to the same restaurant and had the same dinner from the first night because I'm the worst kind of burrito-fiend American tourist; sorry, Haggis, maybe later.

Saturday's club was ok, the music wasn't as good and the drinks were more expensive, but the bathrooms were funky as hell and we all got glow sticks and our faces painted. It was exactly how 16-year-old me imagined a British clubbing experience would be, honestly. It was super great to be surrounded by international kids the whole time (EVERYONE knew the actual words to Numa Numa, it was an incredible thing to be a part of) but it would have been cool to hang with some actually Scottish peeps, too. I'll have to work harder to seek out the locals next time.

This was when my ankle started to rebel against the rest of my body, that's not entirely unexpected after a full day of walking followed by a night of dancing, so I limped home early through the quieter neighborhoods with my lovely friends. The men singing in The Three Sisters courtyard lulled me to sleep.

The next morning was rough; my ankle had only gotten worse throughout the night rather than better and we were out on the town with all our luggage at 10 am with nothing but time to kill until our bus left at 2. Coffee and breakfast killed an hour, but the cafes are so small that hanging around really isn't an option with people fighting for tables. So we wandered, limping, aimlessly. (This was when I was thrown out of that restaurant...Never forgive, never forget.) We finally settled into a bar and ordered exactly one cup of tea to sit for two and a half hours.

As usual, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this gorgeous city, but I was looking forward to my tiny Swansea dorm room home. The trip was only 10 hours this time...Bless. The bus driver entertained us with a Scottish comedian's special followed by the classic, Old School. Both were honestly more offensive than they were funny, so. He tried.

Regardless of all the mishaps and frustrations, the fact that my ankle has caused me intense pain since Saturday, the buses, the motion sickness, the hostel, the bitter cold...Edinburgh is a top contender for my favorite city in the world. The whole weekend I was overwhelmed with the desire to live there, I would move in a second. I can't wait to go back to Scotland.

**The worst trip company, would definitely not recommend.


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