On Edinburgh

I think I might curse once every few months. I’ll refrain from doing that here, but Edinburgh was ruddy brilliant in our very short time there. The cobblestone streets with their slightly darkened “gravy” (whiskey) glaze, personal kilt shops, bustling bagpipe buskers and literature pub crawls envelope you in a warmth that betrays the chills of the Scottish climate. There are obelisks and castles- it’s one of the few places where even friscalating dusklight could not make the setting more like a fairy tale. Even with the old-fashioned exterior, it was obvious that in the night, there is nothing more vibrant than Edinburgh. With signs out in the open such as “Whiskey is liquid sunshine” (George Bernard Shaw) beckoning locals to whiskey bars, there’s a sense of light-dependent camaraderie that’s unparalleled by American cities. While walking the Royal Mile, we met an American expatriate living in the city for 9 years. He had two dogs and sported a look reminiscent of Robin Williams from Good Will Hunting sans glasses with a look of satisfaction and peace with himself. Needless to say, I was transfixed.

We walked into a small, independent café called The Edinburgh Larder. We were guided by gods of Yelp and the beautiful artichoke lacquer façade. As we entered, everyone was engaged in conversation but turned briefly to welcome us. There were two people on a first date getting coffee; I could see the guy not knowing what to do with his hands and his napkins. In another corner, I saw four former college students meeting up for their usual morning breakfast and talking about the Scottish Cup. There were vignettes to be written about every table in the shop and a palpable warmth inside. The traditional countryside breakfast fare was delightful yet simple (porridge!), but meeting a native Scottish server was the true experience. He assured us of our choices with a heavenly accent but also a comforting charisma. With a simple “Aye, good choice” while ruffling his full auburn beard and flannel shirt, he turned the hipster café into a home. Somehow just by meeting him for the minute when he took our orders, I could envision him as the sort of guy that would sing ballads and recite poetry. He would be a person you’d like to have a kick about with during the day and get a pint with during the night.

Perhaps I’m romanticizing all of this because of the sheer beauty of the Royal Mile and because of my appreciation of the culture and history of Edinburgh. There’s something distinctly black about Edinburgh; I’m not sure whether it’s simply the charred streets or the dark lager that’s a tonic and a mainstay to many. Usually, we associate black with emptiness and despair, but there was something oddly comforting that I can’t quite put my finger on accurately. Maybe dimly lit night cafés and pubs straight from a Van Gogh painting and Edinburgh’s morning atmosphere just speaks to me. We were in the Edinburgh Larder for about half an hour but the ambiance was better than any café I’ve been to in Berkeley (I do love Berkeley though!).

Edinburgh. A place to find a man’s man. A place that dreams are made of where brilliant authors toil during the day and drink away their existential crises during the night.