Arriving in Edinburgh
Although I didn’t have to wake up as early as I did for Berlin, I was faced with the same mix of emotions I did that Friday back in September. Half of me was filled with drowsy anxiety and the other half was straight up excited to take the Hogwarts Express to Scotland.
For the first time this term, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before Sainsbury’s or the nearest Prêt’s were open. So I bided my time before heading over to Kings Cross. I got there in plenty of time (which was plenty of time to get mixed up and lost).
We were supposed to meet at Prêt à Manger, the Kings Cross location. That sounds straightforward enough, save for the fact there are, in fact, two Prêt’s right next to Kings Cross on opposite sides. There are also, believe or not, two Prêt’s within the station itself. So out of the four, guess which three I went to and guess which one was the correct one.
Eventually, I got myself together, got checked in with my respective chaperone and managed to make it on the train in one piece. The journey took about four hours. Most of that was spent chit-chatting with Hope and falling asleep despite my most noble efforts. I had been looking to savor the last bits of the latest The Read episode. But alas, next thing I knew: I woke up in Scotland.
Grabbing some grub
Before our walking tour, we set out on the town to fuel up. This little group excursion definitely went better than our first foray in Berlin. We settled on Larder Go, an offshoot of The Edinburgh Larder cafés and restaurants.
I ended up ordering a cheese and tomato chutney sandwich. I had already eaten a version of this sandwich before, but the home-made chutney and freshly baked bread put it a cut above.
On our way back, we paused to watch a fire juggler on the Royal Mile. A bit of light entertainment, if you will.
Making our way downtown
Over the next hour or so, we trekked around Edinburgh and soaked up medieval tales about city limits, noblewomen so bougie they demanded to be carried and the Scots’ iconic school of linguistics (Eh-din-burra, not Eden-burg. The Mercat Cross, which we’d now call a Market Cross.)
We also saw the historic residence of John Knox. The 16th-century Scottish minister was a Protestant outlier in a largely Catholic country. After fleeing Scotland, he worked for awhile in Germany and Switzerland.
It’s in the latter country he linked up with fellow Reformer John Calvin. Within the last decade of his life, he returned to Scotland and got the props he deserved. Finally, Catholicism was out and Protestantism was in vogue.
Something I noted as I walked around the town were the plethora of performers on Edinburgh’s streets.
Streaked in blue, there was Scottish warrior William Wallace à la “Braveheart.” There were a group of “Middle Eastern”-looking men posing in what I can only describe as an Orientalism Lite manner. There was a fantastical looking 18th-century dame with a remarkable yellow wig. Up close, her face looked like she had been playing in some Becca highlighters.
And naturally, there was red-weaved centaur nervously pawing the streets of Edinburgh.
They caught me off-guard, especially since they were heckling passersby with shouts of “Cómo estás?” Apart from their hispanophone tendencies, the centaur’s presence alone confused me. Still, mythology is beloved in Scotland (its national animal is the unicorn, which makes our eagle look basic at best). And the next day, I did notice a fresco in Holyrood Palace that featured a centaur. But that might be reaching.
Storming the castle
After the tour, everyone (the Harry Potter team, as we dubbed ourselves) was inclined to visit Edinburgh Castle.
All I knew of Edinburgh Castle was what I had learned from the Lore episode I had chanced upon about it. Or, as I explained to people with conviction, “I listened to a podcast that confirmed that there are ghosts in Edinburgh Castle.” In 2001, there was an iconic study done to gather data on paranormal activity in the castle. It was conducted as a part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.
With that in mind, I thought we were set to embark on a spooky adventure.
The visit just ended up being plain ol’ gorgeous instead.
Solving a riddle
Before we retired for dinner, we stopped by Greyfriars Kirkyard. Among other hotspots in Edinburgh, this is a location famed for its ties to J.K. Rowling. Which is why we came: we heard tell of a Potter-related headstone and wanted to find it.
This is the same graveyard we’ll haunt the next day, when we head out on a night-time ghost tour.
I think having come here in the daylight took the mickey out of any devastating story our ghost tour guide could have thrown at us at dark.
As for Potter hunting, we had a few false starts.
And finally, after scouring every headstone and sidestepping a couple that was actually making out in a graveyard (what if I told you they weren’t the only ones on a graveyard date?), we found it. The headstone of Thomas Riddell.
Hope’s sleuthing helped a bunch, because then we knew what to look for. Victory was ours.
Closing the night at the end of the world
World’s End pub is named as such because it’s located at the old city limits of Edinburgh. It’s right where the walls of this protected city were and for many in the 16th century, the world outside the walls was none at all.
At the pub, my dinner was a mix of old and new: I had yet another fish + chips and my first (half-)pint of Guinness.
Guinness is dark. Guinness is very hopsy, from what I recall, and tastes like the earth. As a newcomer to beer, I am not sure if I’m into it. Yes, it’s bitter, but it’s wooing me the same way coffee did with its bitterness. And a hot-take: the fish + chips I had in Scotland were the best I’ve had yet. The tartare sauce at World’s End was nuanced and divine.
To top it off, I split a sticky toffee pudding with Ibi, and I thought all of the spices and the hot raisins made the pudding taste like an autumn hug. Also: shout-out to Hope for taking the plunge and trying haggis, which was described as tasting like peppery ground beef.
When I finally got in for the night, I was happy to rest. That plopping-into-bed feeling wasn’t nearly as satisfying as collapsing on the bed the next day, after our hike to the peak of Arthur’s Seat.