Edinburgh

In high school I made a friend named Megan. She was from Scotland, and would tell me about how beautiful her hometown of Edinburgh was. I always dreamed of visiting.

This weekend, I did.

There aren't any flights to Scotland from our local airports, so I was worried the trip wouldn't happen. But for my theater class we had plans to see a production of Macbeth in Amsterdam on Thursday the 8th. This meant I had a ride to Amsterdam that I didn't need to pay for. Normally a bus and train costs around 30€. For less than the price of getting to Amsterdam, I stayed in a hostel and was able to get a reasonably priced round-trip ticket to Edinburgh.

The production of Macbeth we saw, directed by Liesbeth Coltof, was extremely gratifying, even in Dutch (knowing the plot very well made the language not a barrier). The production was stripped down to 90 minutes, so the pacing was perfect, and there was a deep integration of movement into the piece, which I LOVED. An ensemble of entirely young actors (except for one) portrayed all of the supporting characters, and many of them had their dialogue stripped, such as Malcolm, so they communicated only through movement. Our teacher told us the production was created for young audiences, meaning like teenagers, and it definitely felt that loud transitional music and harsh lighting design catered to that. We had a conversation following the performance with the director, which made me very happy.

First Day in Edinburgh

I land in Edinburgh, take one of the very clean, new (opened in 2014) trams and meet Megan in the central part of the town. Walking to her flat I get my first glimpse of the Edinburgh Castle.


Maybe in the back of my mind I knew it would be there. But like when I first saw the Duomo in Florence, this piece of architecture took me by surprise and I was breathless. It's right smack in the center of the town, separating the "new town" from the "old town"

In the evening we went to a production of Godspell from the musical theatre school Megan is attending. Hanging out with Megan and her friends, all studying musical theatre, I was first entertained by the variety in their accents (and my (un)ability to understand them) and by their devotion to this very American art form. Most of the musicals they all seemed interested in, were the American ones. And to me, musicals represent how America took theatre, added this specific style of song and dance, and (with exception of course) removed the meaning and intelligence. The one Scottish musical I learned about was Sunshine on Leith a jukebox musical. Part of what has been intriguing during this trip, is how American culture is seen worldwide.
This production of Godspell was most entertaining for its super spot on harmonies, and wild choreography. And it was done with American accents, though I wish everyone had used their accual accents. My favorite element of the production was Jesus' costume: a Baywatch Lifeguard Outfit. It wasn't until intermission did I get that Jesus was a lifeguard, saving lives...
Their venue, an old church converted into a performance space, was awesome.
But the BEST part of the production was that Miss SUSAN BOYLE was in attendance. I freaked out. Not even 12 hours in Edinburgh and I saw one of their national treasures. Megan and her friends were less enthusiastic.

Adventures

Megan's amazing boyfriend Alex, gave a stellar tour of the city for me. We got close to the castle, saw Hollyrood Palace (where the Queen sometimes lives), and saw of course the cafe which claims to be "the birthplace of Harry Potter". Megan and Alex turned their noses up at that. Some Edinburgh streets, like Victoria Street, are built on top of other streets.


Isn't that weird!

We also went to see a Scottish touring production of Stephen MacDonald's Not About Heroes, which focuses on the relationship between WWI poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Stylized movement was incorporated into the production, which greatly helped me in connecting to this super emotionally heavy piece. I had never heard of the two poets, so this was a great way to get some more insight into WWI, a huge focus of my History of the World Since 1914 class.

Scottish National Gallery

This museum has probably my favorite layout of all the museums I've visited. Regular chronological order! It's so easy to wander through the museum, watching styles develop and change, following along with the text on the wall. Their collection of Scottish artists (of course brilliant) was my favorite section, though they had a wonderful collection of Dutch artists! This moment, of a woman leaning on a piece of art, to look at a da Vinci work they had on display, was great.

Food

Obsessed with trying all of the local foods I am proud to say that I had the following:
  • Haggis - which I think I liked, but in the end wasn't into, the consistency of the haggis I had was off-putting
  • Black pudding - I also think I was enjoying black pudding, but then I found out it was pig's blood, and I didn't want to eat it
  • Irn-Bru - a SODA, which is very popular in Scotland. I'm also told that juice means soda
  • Chippy - chips (french fries/frites) with either a large sausage on it, or something else. Chippy is a general word
  • Nandos - a decent franchise restaurant which specializes in chicken

Lasting Observations

On Sunday, we wandered one of the more student driven neighborhoods of Edinburgh. We passed cute coffeeshops, neighborhood pubs, thrift stores, and a couple locations of the food co-op which is a huge presence in the city. And I wanted to go into these stores, to write, to have a drink, to shop. This is a city I can see myself in. There's so much I didn't see, and Glasgow (about an hour West of Edinburgh) was never on my radar until Megan mentioned it. So I'll have to come back to see more of Scotland, perhaps when the town explodes during the Fringe festival.

Monday

We spent Sunday night in the borders of Edinburgh, where Megan's parents live. It's incredibly rural. But so unbelievably gorgeous. I woke up to see green hills, against red/purple/orange skies. So lovely. Exactly what I wanted Scotland to look like.

I just wish when I had finished admiring the landscape, that I had checked my boarding pass. Because I missed my flight. In my brain, I was leaving a couple hours later than what reality had planned. The most expensive mistake I've made on this trip, and I'm really hoping I never make it again.

All in all, Scotland is quite high on my return list. Perhaps this August?

Thank you again Megan, for being a splendid host.



Location: Well, Kasteelaan 20, 5855 Well, Netherlands
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