• Nadine Almer

Coming Home to Scotland: Part 1 - Edinburgh

Travel Days 278 - 285

4.10. - 10.10.2021

Three cars, three trains and one ferry later we arrived in the most gorgeous hotel room. High ceilings, spacious, queen size bed, office table, huge windows with broad window sills inviting one to sit on them and let the eyes wander over the rooftops of this city. With a separate bathroom including a tub and an entrance area, it gave me the feeling of having checked into a five star experience and being at home. Which was absolutely magnificent because after a day such as this a comfortable, cozy energy was just what Marjorie and I were looking for.

Though the nearly twelve hours of traveling from Rathfriland to Edinburgh, went as smoothly and easy as I had hoped for, everything as planned and scheduled, it were, nonetheless, twelve hours and with multiple small stages of disembarking, change of transport vehicles, waiting and therefore ‘Marjorie-sniff-and-business’-time, some very intriguing nice conversations, it had used up a lot of energy. I imagined myself having this whole time to do some editing, reading, meditation or writing- instead most of the time I was doing nothing but staring outside at the world that was passing us by or making sure Marjorie drank, ate and had an overall comfortable journey wherever we were. I did not eat until nearly ten in the evening, there simply was no need to due to minimal movement (except for carrying ‘Uwe’, my backpack around), and also there would have been no real opportunity to find something vegan and healthy anyway due to time constraints during the changes (my concern mostly lay with Marjorie, so I invested in finding green patches where she can have a break, sniff and do her thing- and let me tell you, Glasgow was not able to provide one single grass blade! Can you believe that?! But this is a different story.)

Looking back I probably could have gone without food anyway, although I would have missed the opportunity to report about Zizzi’s - which is just the loveliest of all delivery restaurants I have encountered since I came to the UK. I had Zizzi’s in Glasgow and Inverness as well, so after our arrival at the hotel, and a short walk around looking for a park (which we found) and some food (which we did not find), I ordered Zizzi’s vegan lentil ragout and bruschetta with a vegan cookie-brownie thing. Delivered was all that and, give-away or amuse-bouche or whatever you want to call it, an on the house surprise: vegan, gluten-free crunchy fusilli crisps. I had to bring them up because this is the third time I ordered from them and every single time was an exquisite, excellent tastebud experience. And the packaging is gorgeous, the overall presentation is done with such devotion to food, it is truly worth every pound.


Day 1: On the Hunt - A Tale of Boots and Buildings

Despite my initial plan on sleeping in, Marjorie and I woke on our first full day in Edinburgh at eight o’clock in the morning. My shoulder and back muscles were aching because of Uwe (my backpack), which led me to do some Yoga first before we stepped outside into a crisp, and very rainy, Edinburgh morning.

For you to understand the next part of the story I have to try and elaborately explain something prior: I have spent the last month visiting every second hand store I could approach, this being two in Rathfriland, one in Castlewellan, three in Newcastle and one in Newry. All for the purpose of bringing new Wellies (waterproof rubber boots) into my life. Without any luck. Parallel, since my options ran low, I started researching Wellington boots that are sustainably made with natural or recycled materials, produced in the UK, made in the UK and possibly, if manufactured or resources gained abroad, with some form of community building and ethical pay as well as additional steps taken to preserve and restore the environment. The companies I have found that met all or a few of these requirements are the following:

Gumleaf

Lakeland

All with special thanks to this blog post.

None of them had what I was looking for though. Since I am travelling and had the luck that so far all of my hosts had provided working boots for me, I needed light-weight Chelsea boot wellies. That way I had waterproof shoes that I was able to wear throughout the year (except those two or three weeks it actually is warm up here in Ireland and Scotland). Also, they would be easy to pack into my backpack, which is chronically short of spare space. So I ended up looking for a brand that I knew because I had worn their Chelsea boot wellies for nearly three years before they broke down (which is ultimately where all of my problems started because I never had as good a shoes as these). To my delight Lemon Jelly evolved as a company now offered what I wanted, vegan and out of recycled materials. Long story short, though I ordered them two weeks ago there seemed to be a problem at customs and they arrived on Monday, which is, as you know, the day I left for Scotland. So, no Lemon Jelly either.

Which brings me back to the fabulous story of this first day in Edinburgh: I intend to spend the rest of the week purely within the magical beauty of nature that the city surroundings have to offer. Which is what I usually do in every city. So, usually, Marjorie and I hit the city attractions and necessities (like postcards, and this time second hand shops) on the first day. Pretty much aimlessly wandering around and exploring. Day one therefore was dedicated to green spaces for Marjorie and second hand spaces for me, and my future perfect fit (Chelsea Wellington Boots). After all there are, I guess, a hundred or more of those shops throughout Edinburgh, I was convinced I would find my one item of absolutely necessity.

Strolling along a part of Leith Water, the rain continuously increased its might.

By the time we found ‘Poppy’s’ (->Note: the cafe is actually to the right hand side of the linked address, but unfortunately they are not registered on Google Maps), a lovely independent cafe that serves delicious soup, my sneakers (Ethletics, if you were curious about this brand) and socks (Nikin, the company that plants trees for every sold item, if you were wondering) were soaked. While having a nice conversation with the barista, I asked if he knew the way to some second hand stores. And he told me, lo and behold, that just around the corner were a dozen of them, all crammed together right and left to the street. Feeling lucky, and a due to the soup a little warm, again, Marjorie and I set out on the quest to find me some shoes.

Since this long story is getting too long now, I will conclude with this: I went into eleven second hand shops and none had anything remotely waterproof in my size. So, you may ask aloud in sheer suspicion of how this tale will come to a victorious ending, how did I accomplish the challenge then?

After a few more streets and corners, some shoe shops, some outdoor stores, I found a store that looked independent and unique. Unfortunately I was not very mindful in the moment to take her card with me, but very certain that I would be able to retrace my steps on Google Maps and find her shop. Which I indeed accomplished, but she, like Poppy’s mentioned earlier, is not registered on Google, which is why this link to the shop will only serve as a reference point to more or less where the building is that houses her shoe store. Anyway, she had vegan shoes, she had something remotely similar to Chelsea’s and although she did not know where the glue for the the souls came from or the rubber, I gave in to my desires, sinned, bought them and felt surprisingly relieved that this month long search had finally come to an end. Be it even with less of the morals and principles code than I initially anticipated.

Now equipped with dry and exquisitely warm feet, I felt energised to get back to roaming freely and aimlessly around town. In doing so we completed a few of the most tourist-y sights, more or less by accident. Edinburgh castle , the inner city, Princes Street Gardens, New College (and later Old College), the University of Edinburgh, St. Gile’s Cathedral, Grassmarket, and last but not least Greyfriars Kirkyard, wherein its graveyard, apparently, JK Rowling found inspiration for naming some of her characters from the Harry Potter book series (most famously probably McGonagal and Thomas Riddell, though differently spelled in the books).

And thus ends the glorious tale of the first day, but not without leaving you with an image of my conquest:

Day 2: Bonnie Beach Bliss

Day two started off with a ray of sunlight streaming in through a gap in between the curtains. It was the most amazing start, pulling them apart and being greeted by blue sky and intense, warm sunlight. With this weather there was absolute no question in my mind where to go. We set out for the ocean. I knew the general direction I needed to take, this being Leith. It turned out to be harder than I thought it would be though. All the people and bus drivers were absolutely charming and helped me out the best they could, still I got lost three times. I got as close as seeing huge ships and hearing the seagulls, but no beach in sight. In the end I ordered an Uber driver to get Marjorie and I to Portobello, saving us another hour along an industrial area. And how glorious it was! I am definitely not someone who enjoys being in the sea, but being by the sea or on top of the sea is my most valued experience. Every time it is like realising that you can take deep, cleaning, healing, cleansing breaths. It feels like absolute, ultimate freedom. Indescribable, unfathomably enriching.

And so we strolled along the seemingly endless beach towards Portobello, sat down here or there, let the sun warm us, the breeze cools us down, the sea swirl around our ankles.

By the time Marjorie was exhausted we encountered a bus stop and, turns out, there is a direct line from Haymarket (where our Travelodge is) to this gorgeous seaside! It always is such a pleasure getting to know a new city, and when you come back the next time you know how to handle everything, how to get to places and what to revisit.

Back in our room Marjorie slept almost instantly, not even stirring when I unpacked my delivery to eat, this time vegan Maki and a nourishing vegan bowl with a variety of the most delicious food. As I myself felt a little tired, probably from all the sun and wonderful excitements, I tended to some long overdue postcards, journaling and the book that I started on Monday and have not had the chance to continue since then. (Ken Follett “A Place Called Freedom”).


Day 3: A Hike to Remember

Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh, was at the top of my bucket list and when I woke up on day three, I somehow knew, this was the day. I jumped out of bed and could not contain my excitement, even skipping Yoga in pure joy for a proper hike with amazing views. This time around, and because of the very educational bus ride home yesterday, I knew exactly where to go, which bus to take and when to get off. It truly was the perfect day for a hike, the wind cooling and the clouds preventing the sun from warming everything up. It was pretty steep, and I felt out of breath two times, which reminded me that it had been nearly six months since I left Scotland, I had become soft with all these rural, concrete streets and forest parks, and without the long hikes I used to do with Marjorie and the other dogs, Glen, Wisp, Rocky, Freyja and Bolt.

Once I was up there, the challenging walk up was forgotten. If I was ever asked under which condition and in which city I would settle down in, it would be Edinburgh, simply because of Arthur’s seat and because it is so very green. From up there it almost surprised me how green it is. It looks like most of the city outskirts has been nestled in between parks and trees, rather than the other way around. And oh this view, 360 degrees of pure glory. The vastness of the ocean, the majestic mountains (or hills more like), the medieval buildings scattered in between. You could forget that you are in the middle of a city when you are up there, walking among the hills.

But, it also reminded me so very much of my beloved Isle of Lewis and how much I ached to be back there. Especially the wind made my heart beat faster. Remembering the storms on the island and how wild everything there was. I screamed in excitement against the wind, I screamed a thank you to Scotland, to Edinburgh. I screamed towards the Isle of Lewis, soon my heart and soul would be coming home.

Vastness without any city, solitude without any human disturbance, beauty without any concrete.

Soon.


Day 4: Picture Perfect Peace

On our last days we usually visit the places we liked the most. This time around I figured there was one more new route I wanted to explore, so off we went, down to the Water of Leith Walk again, this time heading for the other direction to the outskirts of the city. Although it started out nicely, due to several diversions (again!), and heavy rain setting in, we turned around after just two hours and sought shelter in our hotel room. Marjorie seemed tired as well from the hike the day before to Arthur’s seat, so I thought I could use the time, get some work done and see if she was up for a walk in the late afternoon.

Surprisingly enough, we ended up at Holyrood Park once more. Or not so surprising, because to me, it is a glorious part of the city, resembling free and wild Scotland the most. The reward for heading out in spite of the rain was immeasurably enriching: The rain stopped, the wind ceased and we were able to spend our last evening on the top of Edinburgh, witnessing a striking sunset. We did not go up to Arthur’s seat, mostly because there were a lot of people up there, probably having the same plan like us, witnessing the sunset. Instead we explored the other huge hill, in front of Arthur’s seat and enjoyed the colours and textures only nature can provide.

By the time we came back, Marjorie was absolutely exhausted and while I am writing this, on the train to Inverness, she has been fast asleep for almost three hours.

The morning of our departure towards the Isle of Lewis, we took a little stroll along the Water of Leith Walk, to give Marjorie a chance to do her business, and went straight to the train afterwards. The journey on the train was pleasant and I got a lot of editing done. There was so much footage, so much beauty captured, so much joyful experiences and explorations crammed in just a short four days. It only ever really hits me how fortunate I am to being able to live this adventurous life when I am revisiting what Marjorie and I have seen, where we have been, what we have done. Of course I have moments of pure gratitude during the adventures as well, for example I cried while witnessing the sun setting over Edinburgh on our last evening there. But taking it all in and letting it sink in, making it more real mostly comes while working with the footage, the videos and the photography.

If anyone of you out there is troubled by having to make a decision between a secure life and giving it all up because of the call to adventure, I will gladly share this: It is worth ten times what I thought was security. Fr me now it becomes clear that security is an illusion after all, very much like time. But unlike security, time is our most valuable asset and wasting it our most secure way of regret in the end.

By now, I still do not know where I will end up, but I also feel that I can work towards something without being too attached to it being the only possible outcome. I love this life, I love traveling, I love exploring, I love leaving comfort zones and getting to know myself better along the way, I love meeting strangers and getting to know them, becoming friends in the end, I love being exposed to so much life.

With that said, thank you all for following my journey and showing me so much love and support throughout!

From my heart to yours, love and light, beloved souls

Nadine

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