Continued from Part I…
Thursday morning, we awoke to another lovely morning of dry weather. I have to say, I was quite surprised to find myself overheating for the first time! Having finally figured out how to dress for damp and gloomy Scotland, it was surreal to have to remove both my scarf and my jacket for most of the morning.
One of the things we’d spotted the day before, while on a run to find an enormous list of British candy recommended by my good friend Collette, was a “Kaleidoscope Exhibition” at the University of Edinburgh. As we suspected, my parents-in-law were equally intrigued by the concept, and so we set off that morning to check it out.
However, the exhibit wasn’t open for another hour or so, so we decided to visit another of the day’s destinations: Gladstone’s Landing on the Royal Mile. This quite small museum takes up one floor of an apartment that dates back to the 17th century, which housed both poor and rich over its two centuries or so of use. It was very well done, one of the more impactful of the exhibits we visited this week; I highly recommend it!
It was hard to pick a favorite part. Seeing the authentic kitchen, complete with a (fake) rat next to the baby’s cradle by the fireplace and the toilet next to the stove (gahhhh!), was definitely a highlight, as was the exquisite living/bedroom of one of the wealthier tenants. Just look at that Italian-style painted ceiling, which is all original to the house, as it had been inadvertently preserved by a later dropped ceiling! Just gorgeous. Also, the woodwork throughout was beautiful, and as the daughter of a kitchen and bath designer, I have quite a soft spot for beautiful cabinetry.
We then headed to the kaleidoscope exhibit at the University. I didn’t get any good photos, because there’s nothing really to take a picture of! It’s all experiential. That being said, the Japanese, who co-sponsored the exhibit, have really elevated the kaleidoscope to a true art. The toy was always one of my favorites as a child, even though its pleasure was quite shortlived. Even now, my eye gets tired after looking in them for a half hour or so, but there are few things as satisfying as a beautiful kaleidoscope. Fractal art comes close, but even that doesn’t compare to the satisfaction of hearing the click as the components move around and create the next image for your eye. I kept thinking I’d need to buy one for those occasional moments when I needed a shot of beauty, but I’m quite enamored with the idea of making one – they seem so simple! I’ll have to do a little research and maybe set up an artist date with myself.
From there, Mike and I headed to lunch. By now, it had clouded up again, so comfort food sounded very appealing. Not gonna lie, though, I was feeling a bit pub’d out. So we decided to search for a Thai restaurant a good friend had begged us to visit. “Best Thai food I’ve ever had,” he had declared passionately, so we did feel we should give it a try. After a walk in the mist, we found it! Thai Orchid, near the top of the Royal Mile.
It was a beautiful restaurant; I was particularly enchanted by the design of the light fixtures. And my Panang Curry was the most flavorful I’ve ever had. The tofu was springy and satisfying, the sauce rich and creamy, and the addition of peaches and pineapple was inspired. So if you’re a fan of Thai food, visiting Scotland, and weary of fish and chips, do consider Thai Orchid on Johnston Terrace! You will enjoy it, I promise.
At this point, Mike and I had about two hours to kill before our exciting appointment at Maison de Moggy, a cat café. (Squee!!!) So we began to wander in and out of shops, which is admittedly less delightful when you’re also trying to avoid the rain. However, among our traipsing, we discovered the best ice cream shop either of us have ever been to. EVER. This is not an exaggeration! I know I’m prone to dramatics, but I have Mike’s parents’ later confirmation of this one – they are very sincere people and not at all hyperbolic, so when they also said it was the best ice cream either had ever had, I knew we were right.
It’s called “Mary’s Milk Bar” down in Grassmarket, and the menu is pretty darn simple: ice cream, hot cocoa, and chocolates. Mary, the owner, is surprisingly young – barely my age, I think. But the strongly vintage, vaguely French atmosphere is enchanting, and the flavors are phenomenal. I had one taste of Fresh Mint ice cream and knew I’d be dreaming of the flavor for weeks. It’s the only mint product I’ve ever had that ACTUALLY tasted like a mint plant. (I found out it’s because she steeps mint leaves in the milk overnight before making the ice cream.) My batch had been made about two hours before I ate it, and it was unbelievably creamy. The other flavors were also fantastic (salted caramel, violet, etc.), but Fresh Mint won me over completely.
And then, we went to the cat café. It’s hard to be away from our kitties for this long, so the notion of fuzz therapy was very welcome indeed. But this cat café one-upped my love of cats, as most of the cats were longhair breeds. Gahhhhhhhhh! My dream is to own a diva of epic proportions, like a Persian. And to my delight, there were not only Ragdoll kitties and domestic shorthair with smushfaces, there was a Persian mix whose dad was an award-winning show cat. And he KNEW it. His name was Guillaume, and the window was his personal, fluffy throne, upon which he could gaze with disdain and boredom at his kingdom of Edinburgh. He did not notice if you petted him, except eventually to curl away from you with a clear sign of “I need my beauty sleep, child.” He did, however, bend to my will when I had a treat in my hand and he was forced to reach up on his back paws to get it. :))))))))
It was a lovely, relaxed hour, and I really hope there are more cat cafes around the world. I think they fill a very important role both for owners and non-owners.
The next day, Friday, was a travel day. We got up early to pick up a rental car with Mike’s parents and headed out to East Lothian for a day of castles and fishing towns. Stopping for a short (breathless) jaunt up to the top of a random monument in the countryside, we got some beautiful views and a good little hike in before making it out to Tantallon Castle.
Tantallon was built on the cliffs of the Firth of Forth (the bay leading out to the North Sea). It was dramatic, by far the most deteriorated castle we saw on our trip, and comprised of lots of historical battles and intrigue. Mostly, though, it was just an impressive location. And with the sun coming out to warm the chilly breeze, it was a lovely morning.
From there we headed even farther east to Saint Abb’s Head, a small community of fishermen and sheep herders with some ridiculously beautiful views. (First we stopped for lunch at a restaurant I can’t really recommend, as Gordon Ramsey would have a heyday with them, although I admit that their smoked haddock fish and chips was superlative. I may never go back to regular fish and chips.)
For our final day in Scotland, we kept it simple. Mike and I headed up to Calton Hill, a favorite tourist spot due to its panoramic vistas and several cool architectural buildings, both ruined and not, including this Parthenon one. It was a lovely, gentle morning, and the sun was nice and warm, but it was very hard to take good pictures! Definitely worth walking around if you’re in Edinburgh. They’ve got some nice paths around it, which if I hadn’t been struggling with some shoe issues, I might have taken. (Finding out your trusty boots have holes in the soles…not fun, especially in mud and mist.)
Then we headed to the Museum of Edinburgh. Perhaps I was experiencing museum fatigue, or perhaps I was just ready to move on to Paris, but the only part of the museum that really stuck with me was the children’s play area with a bunch of authentic costume pieces. I know, I’m such an actor. But the best part was that I hung them all back up from the sad, uninspiring piles they’d been in when I entered. Look, so inviting! Just makes you want to try them on!!! (If I hadn’t been wearing four layers, I might have done so.)