I realized something recently about how I feel when I travel.
There are all these little details happening at once; the smells, the sights, the feelings, the realizations. The moments when you lock eyes with a stranger and give them a smile, and that feeling of holding hands with the one you love while you walk through a brand new city.
I take lots of pictures and then think to myself how absurd it is that I'm taking so many pictures, because I have this feeling that I'll always remember how it looks and feels. It seems impossible to forget. But as time goes on, the sharpness of these incredible details become foggy. When I look back at the photos I took I'm stunned at the details that I had already forgotten.
So before we left for this trip to Europe I made a pact with myself. I promised to take notes, soak in the memories, and to take as many pictures as my camera could hold.
Even knowing that I wanted to soak it all in, most parts of our trip were too dreamy to feel real. I felt like I hardly wanted to close my eyes for fear of missing a precious detail. It's so hard to describe, but you feel this incredible happiness with an edge of sadness. Because you know that it is one of those truly special moments of your life that you'll never get back, and you'll always remember with such fondness.
For now I remember Scotland like it was yesterday, like the most vivid dream.
These are the notes that I took, the little things that made an impression on me while I walked around the quaint city of Edinburgh. It was quiet mostly, because Michael and I were absorbing it all, one detail at a time. I wrote:
The baby lambs rolling in the fields on a sunny day. The adorable, jolly accent. The way every bathroom has tiny sheets of toilet paper that are dispensed like tissues. The Nira Caledonia Hotel breakfast in bed. The views from Arthur's Seat and the yellow flowers. That crispy, savory steak pie. So much beautiful rolling green. The air that smells so fresh that it almost has a hint of sweetness to it. I love Scotland.
Here are a few snapshots of our time there, plus a few suggestions in case you find yourself there sometime soon...
If you were to travel to Scotland, I'd suggest:
1) walk the Royal Mile
Take the AirLink bus from Edinburgh Airport to City Centre. Grab a coffee at the coffee cart on the corner (it's not the best coffee, but it's definitely the cutest coffee). Then walk up the 'News Steps' to the Old Town (brace yourself for about 200 steps). Turn right and walk the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle.
2) Breakfast at Elephants and Bagels
Walk through the University of Edinburgh to Elephants and Bagels (sister restaurant to the Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book). Order the pesto, tomato + cream cheese or the brie + honey. Wowwwww, it was tasty.
3) Coffee at Black Medicine Coffee Co.
Now's the time for the best coffee. Make your way to Black Medicine Coffee Co., and soak in the sights along the way. We ordered Hot Chocolate and an Americano...mmmh
4) Take a detour in one of the side gardens
Sprinkled among the cobblestone streets are these perfectly manicured, magical gardens (in Scotland it's called a close). Get lost here. We found a beautiful garden called Dunbar's Close.
5) Tour the Palace at Holyrood
Because Scotland's history is such an integral part of how it feels as a country, you'll get such a thorough idea of it by taking a tour of the Palace. It's beautiful and intricately decorated. The audio tour will leave you feeling like your mother's version of a tourist, but helps paint the picture of the country's rich history.
6) Hike Arthur's Seat
All I can say is that this hike changed my life. It's so incredibly gorgeous, and it's doable for anyone who is moderately in shape. See the city from a different angle. Take a deep breath, maybe even bring a picnic or a flask.
7) Stay at Nira Caledonia
Nira Caledonia has officially made it in the books as my favorite hotel of all time. It's the perfect combination of personal, quaint and luxurious. I've never had a hotel staff take better care of me, and we paid a very reasonable price. The breakfast in bed will literally knock your socks off. I'm swooning just thinking about it all.
8) Eat at The Scran and Scallie
Explore Stockbridge + Raeburn Place, Shop George Street. Try the steak pies and the "Taste of Scotland" beer flight at The Scran and Scallie. Oh and you must order the brownie and a coffee for dessert. This street is adorable, make sure to get there a little before your reservation and a little before the stores close.
9) Drink scotch
Taste a few different varieties of scotch whisky (if you're not up for a trip to the pub you can taste some excellent scotch at the Nira Caledonia bar.) This is the quintessential Scottish moment, so be sure that your bartender knows what he's talking about.
Scotland is forever in my mind as the most peaceful and beautiful place that I've ever been. I can't wait to return one day soon for an opportunity to see Loch Ness, drive through the highlands, tour the Lagavulin distillery on Islay, and eat everything they put in front of me. It's so cheery and delightful.
Thank you, Edinburgh, for such an impressionable visit and for changing our idea of what travel could be.