Wandering Through Edinburgh

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While in Scotland, my sister Debbie and I spent five wonderful days connecting with new family members from Clan Maitland. The other meaningful connection that we deepened was with the city itself.

Edinburgh captured our hearts on previous visits. This trip, with Edinburgh as our home base, we set out to get to know the city better and strengthen the bond.

Wandering through Edinburgh became a daily, intentional adventure.

Wandering Through Edinburgh Title Meme

Fun Facts About Edinburgh

  •  capital of Scotland and second largest city, with Glasgow the biggest
  •  population of 512,000 (as of 2016)
  •  Scottish Gaelic name – Dun Eideann, meaning “hill of Eidyn”
  •  nickname – Auld Reekie, so called because the smoke from chimneys hung over the city in ancient times
  •  earliest known habitation, a Mesolithic Camp on Castle Rock about 8500 BC
  •  documented evidence of royal burgh in early 1100s with a charter signed by King David I
  • divided into Old Town and New Town, with “new” being a relative term – building began in the 1770s
  •  Edinburgh was surrounded by a high stone wall until the 1700s – the limited space birthed 10 and 11 story dwellings, the first “high rise apartments”
  •  27 year old architect James Craig won the 1766 competition to design New Town
  •  Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  •  Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle both rest atop extinct volcanoes
  •  Edinburgh Castle houses the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny
  •  Leith is the port of Edinburgh – last shipyard closed in 1983 – now used for cruise ships and to dock the Royal Yacht Britannia, the queen’s former floating palace
  •  Temperatures average 72 degrees in the summer – the hottest temperature ever recorded was 88.9 degrees on July 25, 2019 (Debbie and I experienced that record breaking heat!)
Wandering Through Edinburgh Wall
Part of the original city wall, near the pub called The End of the World. To those living within, the wall marked the true end of their known world.
Wandering Through Edinburgh Leith Port
Leith Port, on the Firth of Forth.
Wanding Through Edinburgh on Hop On Hop Off Buses
Wandering Through Edinburgh on Hop On Hop Off Buses

Getting to Know Edinburgh

Those facts about the city offer important information, just as personal details about a new acquaintance does. Green eyes, dark hair, shy smile. Capital city, located in Lothian, hosts the largest performing arts festival in the world. However it takes going beyond the facts to create a relationship. And how do we get to know someone better? We spend time with her, listen to her stories and walk alongside her for a while. We look for strengths to appreciate and choose to accept differences.

To get to know Edinburgh better, Debbie and I did the same. We spent time with her, explored her lanes and listened to her stories.

We began with the bigger picture….riding the hop on/hop off buses around the city to get an overview. Then we tugged on our walking shoes and hiking boots and hit the streets.

Our apartment on Thistle Street, located in New Town, provided an excellent base of operations. We found it easy to explore both Old Town and New Town from that strategic place.

New Town

New Town offers such lovelies as Dean Village, Charlotte Square and Princes Street Gardens, which actually serves as the dividing line between the old and new parts of Edinburgh. Shops and cafés are plentiful in this district.

Wandering Through Edinburgh Princes Street Garden Cottage
A fairy tale cottage in Princes Street Gardens.
Wandering Through Edinburgh Museum Context

Inside the Museum Context on Victoria Street, home to Harry Potter merchandise.

Old Town

Old Town features the Royal Mile. Edinburgh Castle sits at the top of the cobblestone street, which slopes down to Holyrood Palace at its base. Other favorites in Old Town are the Elephant House that J.K. Rowling frequented as she wrote the Harry Potter stories, Greyfriars Kirkyard and charming Victoria Street with its colorful storefronts. Museums of all kinds reside in Old Town, along with a vast variety of shops, cafés and attractions.

Farther out, requiring a bus ride, lies the Royal Botanic Garden, Leith Port and enchanting residential neighborhoods with their Georgian style buildings.

Wandering Through Edinburgh New Town
Looking down Hanover Street, in New Town, toward the Firth of Forth.
The Elephant House in Old Town
The Elephant House in Old Town. We enjoyed a vegan lunch and cups of tea here while it rained.

Wandering Through Edinburgh

As we wandered, we got to know the city by listening to her stories. The knowledgeable tour guides on the buses entertained us with tales from the ancient past and the recent past. Every guide shared different parts of Edinburgh’s story, so the more buses we rode, the more we learned.

Occasionally we used a taxi to reach our destination. During those short rides the drivers kept us laughing and inspired questions, which they happily answered.

Every person, every city has its dark side. Edinburgh does as well. The Dark Edinburgh Walking Tour shared stories about witch trials, mythical creatures, public executions (marked on the street by small gold plaques) and the daring escapades of body snatchers Burke and Hare. Those two enterprising men killed people and sold their bodies to the medical institutes! They eventually paid the price for their crimes, with their lives.

Mostly, though, we learned by following curiosity. If we wondered about something, we checked it out. Interesting shops drew us inside. Wandering through Edinburgh, led by curiosity and the desire to know more, created amazing days of exploration that most certainly deepened our knowledge and our love for the city.

Canongate on the Royal Mile.
Canongate Tolbooth on the Royal Mile.
Looking down the Royal Mile.
Looking down the Royal Mile.

Saying “Until Next Time” to Edinburgh

Debbie and I said our goodbyes on a Saturday evening to members of Clan Maitland. And we said our goodbyes to the grand old city the next day. Wandering through Edinburgh on Sunday, we shopped a bit, took photos, gathered memories. (Read this post about creating art from memories.) We occasionally sighed.

Connection is all about developing a relationship. We did that with our kinsmen. We did that with Edinburgh as well. The best relationships, the ones that endure, grow through gratitude, exploration and discovering fresh ways to love and appreciate each other.

My relationship, Debbie’s relationship, with Edinburgh continues to grow. I look forward to discovering more about this city and seeing it with ever wondering eyes. I’m open to every opportunity to visit again and wander the streets and closes and lanes. I love Edinburgh. I think the feeling is mutual. So it’s not goodbye. It’s until next time….

 

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Dean Village

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On this activity-light day with Clan Maitland, in between two very full days, my sister and I checked another “must see” location off our list. I’ve been drawn to Dean Village, in Edinburgh, for years, based solely on beautiful photos that I’ve seen.

Checking the map app on my iPhone, our destination seemed walkable. On this gorgeous sunny day, Debbie and I left the apartment and set out on our own on foot, bound for one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems.

Dean Village Title Meme

Dean Village History

This former medieval village, founded in the 12th century, began as home to the milling industry. A river winds through this valley, located a short distance from Edinburgh’s New Town. Mills sprang up along the Water of Leith, and cottages soon followed, to house the mill workers. The area became known as the Water of Leith Village.

The village was a successful center of milling for 800 years. However, due to the development of larger, more modern mills the village fell into decline. By 1960, the community was filled with poverty and decay.

Fortunately, in the mid 1970s the area’s beauty and tranquility inspired restoration. The warehouses, mills and workers’ cottages transformed into desirable residential homes. Now called Dean Village…”dene” means deep valley…the area attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Dean Village Well Court
One of the most well known renovated buildings in Dean Village…Well Court.
Dean Village Upstream
View from the metal bridge.

Walking to Dean Village

From our apartment on Thistle Street, Debbie and I walked three blocks to Charlotte Square. Intuitively, we knew which direction to go from there, to reach Dean Village. However, my map app took us along a longer, out of the way route.

Ultimately, we came to Queensferry Street and walked down it to Bell’s Brae. If you continue on Queensferry Street, which becomes Lynedoch Place, you cross over Dean Bridge. The village lies below, in the valley.

Walking down Bell’s Brae, we arrived at Miller Row and the Water of Leith. There is a circuitous path through the village that crosses two bridges, a stone one and a metal one. The gorgeous photos that I’ve seen posted are taken along that path and from the metal bridge.

Dean Village Metal Bridge
The metal bridge in Dean Village.
Dean Village Stone Bridge
The stone bridge

Exploring Dean Village

This area is still residential. There aren’t any pubs, cafés, shops or public restrooms. Instead, there are flats and cottages, a school and at the edge of the village, a museum.

We walked Dean Path, exclaiming over the adorable stone cottages, the abundance of flowers and the incredibly homey vibes of the village. Even though there were many others strolling in Dean Village, people respected the fact that this is a neighborhood. It’s a charming neighborhood, to be sure. But people live here and raise families in this beautiful place. Visitors remained quiet, talking softly as they walked.

We all paused to take photos, and smiled at each other as we traded places along vantage points. However none of us laughed loudly or called out to one another or behaved in a boisterous manner. I appreciated that. I’m sure the residents of Dean’s Village do as well.

Laundry in Dean Village
Such a homey scene in Dean Village.
Container Garden in Dean Village
A cottage in Dean Village. I love the Scots’ appreciation of flowers and gardens.

Another Dream Realized

Walking through Dean Village was another dream realized for me. And the photos don’t really do it justice. It is such a gorgeous place. Beyond that, Dean Village is peaceful and idyllic. How wonderful to stroll along the Water of Leith and experience the incredible feel of the village, basking in the warm Scottish sunshine.

Realizing that dream birthed another. Debbie and I peeked into a vacant flat and imagined what it must feel like, to live in this tucked away place. Although Dean Village is only a 15 minute walk from Princes Street and Old Town, it feels like a country burgh, far from the busy hub of the city.

As we climbed back up Bell’s Brae….brae means steep bank or hillside and this road is aptly named…we paused to rest on a bench and allow our dreams of living in such a beautiful place to expand. I don’t know how or when it will happen, but that day, my sister and I released into the universe the desire to own or rent a flat or cottage in Dean Village. The strong desire is released and out there now. I just need to be me and stay in the flow of life, trusting the guidance of the Dream Giver. I’m content with that.

Dean Village Upstream 2
Gazing downstream from the metal bridge.
Dean Village Upstream
Gazing upstream from the metal bridge.

Gratitude for Dean Village

I’m so glad we had opportunity to discover and walk through Dean Village. After the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, this was the other place I absolutely wanted to see while in the city. I’m grateful Debbie was willing to explore this hidden gem with me and appreciated its beauty as well.

Walking back to the apartment I put the map app away. We trusted our instincts to get us back. They served us well, guiding us quickly and unerringly along picturesque narrow streets back to Charlotte Square. Technology is often helpful, however, I can always trust my instincts.

Have you heard of Dean Village? Would you love to visit it as well? Someday, I’ll be back there. I know it.

Check out these Scotland and Edinburgh finds:


 

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Clan Maitland Gathers

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Beyond my desire to explore Edinburgh, another purpose drew me to Scotland this year. Members of Clan Maitland, the Scottish clan I am part of, gathered in the city. To meet kinsmen I am connected to has long been a dream of mine. Five days after arriving in Edinburgh, that dream became a reality.

Clan Maitland gathers in Scotland every ten years.  Family members descended from Maitlands and Lauderdales arrive from the countries they’ve scattered to.  This year the US, New Zealand, England, France and Scotland were represented.

The next few posts will share details about our fun time together and the family related historical sites we explored.

Clan Maitland Gathers Title Meme

Clan Maitland Gathers…for Tea

Clan members met for the first time on a Tuesday afternoon for a very Scottish tradition, Afternoon Tea. My sister Debbie and I walked the short distance from our apartment on Thistle Street to the Garden Room at the Kimpton Hotel on Charlotte Square. A few of our members, including our Clan Chief, would not arrive until evening, however this casual afternoon gathering proved a great way for people who are family yet strangers to break the ice.

What a joy to meet people I am connected with on Facebook whom I’ve never met face to face. We quickly embraced each other as kin and before long conversations and laughter flowed merrily around the room as we enjoyed a wonderful tea time.

That evening we all gathered at the Angel’s Share Hotel for dinner. The group from England arrived and I met Ian, the 18th Earl of Lauderdale and our Clan Chief. He immediately put us all at ease and entertained us with family stories. I learned that the Maitlands descended from the Mautalents of Normandy about 1000 to 1060.

Clan Maitland Gathers Tea Time

Afternoon Tea with Clan Maitland

Clan Maitland Gathers…on the Bus

The next morning we met early for our first full day of traveling and exploring together. Debbie and I smiled when we saw the bus, called a coach in Scotland, waiting for us. Lauderdale is such an uncommon name in the US. It’s fun to see it featured more prominently in Scotland.

Lauderdale Bus

Once on board the coach, we journeyed south to the small burgh of Haddington and our stop at St. Mary’s Parish Church and Lauderdale Aisle.

St Marys Collegiate Church

The Light of Lothian

St. Mary’s in Haddington dates back to 1139. With a length of 206 feet, it’s one of the longest churches in Scotland. Twice, in 1355 and again in 1548-49, the structure experienced extensive damage due to English invasions. The town repaired the west end of the church, erecting a barrier wall to seal off the east end, which remained roofless for hundreds of years.

In the 1970s restoration on the remaining section of the church began. Once completed the barrier wall came down and the church, called the Light of Lothian, continues to shine brightly in the community.

St Marys Interior

St Marys Organ
The magnificent pipe organ of St Mary’s, installed in 1990.

Clan Maitland Gathers…in Lauderdale Aisle

On the north side of the church, a small chapel awaited us. Because of the size of the room, our group of 30 plus people divided. Half of us toured the church while the others sat quietly in Lauderdale Aisle with Ian. Then we switched places.

I’ve read about Lauderdale Aisle, which once served as the sacristy of the church. It became a burial aisle for the Maitlands after the reformation of 1560. Entering through a stone archway, the marble effigies immediately draw the eye. The Renaissance monuments memorialize Sir John Maitland, Chancellor of Scotland under King James V, his son John, 1st Earl of Lauderdale, and their wives.

Beneath the aisle is a burial vault for the interment of the Earls and Countesses of Lauderdale. The  Duke of Lauderdale rests within this chamber as well. There are also niches for the ashes of other clansfolk.

The Doorway to Lauderdale Aisle

Marble Effigies

A Sacred Space

My group sat reverently on narrow wooden benches and listened to Ian share stories about the ancestors buried within Lauderdale Aisle. As he spoke a sacredness filled the room, shimmering in the soft light that filtered in through the window high on the wall.

I’ve so wanted to see this place. To experience it with my kinsmen, to hear stories told by my Clan Chief, created a surreal dream-like reality. I felt connection and awe, and deep gratitude for these men and women, long dead but surrounding us in spirit in this tiny room.

Ian concluded our time in Lauderdale Aisle by telling us that if we so wished, we could have our ashes brought here for interment as well. And he meant it. That amazing offer touched me in the part of my heart that declares itself Scottish and brought tears to my eyes.

St Marys Stained Glass Windwo

Clan Means Family

St. Mary’s Church and Lauderdale Aisle were the beginning of a long day together. We enjoyed lunch in Haddington and journeyed onward to two more places before returning to Edinburgh.

Ian told us that clan means family. I learned when Clan Maitland gathers, connection happens. When Clan Maitland gathers, stories are told. And when Clan Maitland gathers, adventures unfold.

I’ll be sharing more of those adventures in upcoming posts. Come discover my family roots, and some of the finest historical sites in Scotland, with me.

Clan Chief Ian with family
Ian sharing info and stories with us.

If you are a Maitland or Lauderdale, join our clan or read more about us HERE.

And check out these fun travel items by clicking below.

 


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The Town Shoe by Arcopedico

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Thank you to Arcopedico for sending shoes for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Traveling internationally with a carry on, space for clothing, shoes and toiletries is at a premium. Just before departing on my recent trip to Scotland, imagine my delight when I received the perfect pair of travel shoes. The Town Shoe by Arcopedico is lightweight, comfortable and oh so easy to tuck into a suitcase. My pair of Town Shoes took up less than half the space of a regular pair of walking shoes and added very little weight to my carry on.

I was excited to try out The Town Shoe by Arcopedico while in Edinburgh.

The Town Shoe by Arcopedico title meme

The Arcopedico Company

In 1966 Arcopedico’s founder, Italian scientist Elio Parodi, invented the company’s first product, a knit walking shoe. The unique shoe features techno elastic uppers, blended with special knitted nylon fibers, creating a custom fit for each wearer.

Parodi understands that the arch of the foot is the central pillar of the spine, and must be properly supported. His shoes have a patented orthopedic sole with two lengthwise support structures.

For many years, the knit shoe was Arcopedico’s only design, and it remains their top selling shoe. However, in recent years the Portugal based company has released several other designs, including the Lytech Line.

The Town Shoe by Arcopedico

The Lytech Line

Arocpedico’s Lytech Line, which includes the Town Shoe, was introduced in 2011. This design features an upper made from patented Lytech material, an ultra-light blend of polyurethane and Lycra. The shoes are flexible, breathable, machine washable and water resistant. The uppers are non-binding, conforming to the wearer’s foot for all day comfort.

The soles are durable and lightweight, with the twin arch support system characteristic of Arcopedico shoes. Because of the sole’s construction, body weight is evenly distributed through the entire plantar surface.

The Town Shoe is available in four colors: black, grey, khaki and Bordeaux, which is a burgundy color. I received grey shoes. They pair well with jeans, capris, shorts and dresses.

The Town Travel Shoe

Wearing the Town Shoe

Traveling with The Town Shoe by Arcopedico

These shoes are so easy to travel with. Pressed together, upper to upper, they take up very little space in my carry on.

In Edinburgh, I enjoyed wearing the Town Shoe as my sister Debbie and I wandered about the city. The shoes are incredibly soft and the stretchy uppers guarantee a perfect fit, as they gently mold to my feet. And, as promised, the support is amazing. Lightweight and comfortable, the Town Shoe by Arcopedico is an excellent walking shoe, ideal for wearing while exploring a neighborhood or a city.

I gave the shoes a proper trial by walking all over Edinburgh in them. Debbie and I spent a lovely Sunday wandering through the Old City, from Princes Street to Victoria Street and the length of the Royal Mile. We also climbed Calton Hill, which offers splendid views of the city from its peak.

And in the New City near our apartment we strolled down Thistle Street with its charming cobblestone surface. All together I walked, climbed and strolled five miles that day, in blissful comfort. The occasionally rain shower didn’t hamper these shoes. The Lytech material protected my feet while allowing the uppers to dry quickly.

Town Shoe by Acropedico

I Love My Town Shoes

These comfy shoes have become a favorite already. I love them. Not only do they travel well and serve as excellent walking shoes, they are that unique blend of pretty and practical. I can pull them on quickly and head out the door.

I appreciate the opportunity to try these shoes out. And I wholeheartedly recommend them to the traveler or to anyone who enjoys a comfortable and gorgeous pair of shoes.

My Town Shoe by Arcopedico will accompany me on all my adventures!

Wearing My Town Shoes

 

Order the Town Shoe HERE. There is a handy size chart on the page, to convert European sizes to US sizes.

You can also order the Town Shoe by Arcopedico HERE from Amazon.

 

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Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

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On this, my third trip to Scotland, I traveled with less of an agenda. At least, this was true for the time that my sister and I had apart from the Clan Maitland events. We built in six days of exploring on our own.

Our primary intention, while in this beautiful and intriguing city, was to wander about and soak up the city and the culture while enjoying our encounters with the people we met.

I said less of an agenda. I did hope to visit several places that I had yet to experience in Scotland. One of those was the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

Royal Botanic Garden title meme

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, founded in 1670, began as a garden to grow medicinal plants. Today the garden actually occupies four sites across Scotland: Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore. Each offers its own special collection of plants. The Edinburgh site is the main garden. Its outdoor collection consists of more than 13,000 plant species and almost 300,000 individual plants.

Originally the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh flourished near Holyrood Palace, at the foot of what’s referred to as the Royal Mile. Hence the name. It is the second oldest botanic garden in Great Britain, after Oxford’s. That first medicinal garden occupied a 40 foot by 40 foot plot, and housed almost 900 plants. When the site became too small, the garden relocated in 1676 to Loch Nor, not far from High Street. Today Waverly Railway Station occupies that space.

In 1763 the garden moved again to Leith Walk, away from the more populous part of Edinburgh. And in the early 1820s the garden moved to its current location adjacent to Inverleith Row. The garden occupies 70 acres and includes a variety of collections including Alpine Plants, Chinese Hillside, Rock Garden, Scottish Heath Garden and Woodland Garden. There’s also an Herbarium on site, that houses more than 3 million specimens.

Royal Botanic Garden Entrance

Creating Time to Explore

On my first visit to Scotland, in 2014, I learned about the botanic garden and yet lacked the opportunity to explore the grounds. In 2017, on our girls’ whirlwind trip through Ireland, Scotland and England, lack of time prevented a visit once again.

However, on this visit, my sister Debbie and I built in time to explore. Rather than fill our days up with activities, we spent our hours exploring the city and getting around on the famous hop on/hop off buses. When we purchased tickets for the bus rides, we learned that we could upgrade our one day pass the next day for a three day pass that included the Royal bus line, which included a stop at the Royal Botanic Garden. Oh yes, a trip to the gardens became very doable.

Scottish weather is typically cool and rainy. And so it was, our first few days in Edinburgh. We chose Monday as the day to spend outdoors in the gardens, based on the weather app.

Royal Botanic Garden Pathway

Green Lawns at Royal Botanic Garden

Visiting Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

What a surprise when Monday turned out to be a rarity in Scotland….hot, sunny and windy! We opted for lightweight shirts and left our jackets at the apartment. Carrying our metal water bottles and pulling our hair back into ponytails, we hopped on a bus…and hopped off at the garden entrance. Admission is free although there are nominal fees to some of the greenhouses and exhibits on the site.

I’m a gardener. My soul finds great joy and peace in the gardens. I believe my love of working the earth is a result of my Scottish DNA. The Scots love their green lawns and patches of flowers and herb gardens. It’s one of the reasons I feel so at home in Scotland.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh delighted me on so many levels.

Debbie and I wandered slowly through the grounds, making no attempt to see all 70 acres. We agreed to stroll some paths and enjoy our surroundings and find a bench to sit on, amid the beauty found in the gardens.

That’s exactly what we did.

I love that the gardens are not formal. Instead, they are in a natural state. There are beds, of course, and groupings and pathways. However the overall feel of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is abundance, in a wild sort of way, and it seems so fitting for Scotland.

Woodland Garden

Clematis in Royal Botanic Garden

Refreshed in the Garden

We sat for a time on a bench, watching people walk by, sipping our water and laughing as the wind played with our hair. Just as it does when I’m in my garden at home, nature restored and refreshed me.

Simone Weil wrote,

There are only two things that pierce the human heart. One is beauty. The other is affliction.”

Beauty pierced my heart that afternoon, bypassing my mind completely. In fact, I walked through the garden and turned off my need to know the names of all the plants. I saw many that are not familiar to me. And yet, it seemed enough to take in beauty and the sweet scents from a variety of flowering plants and bask in the warm Scottish sunshine…and just be.

My sister and I were simply the Lauderdale girls, walking through the garden, sweaty from the sun, wind blown and incredible happy to be in Scotland. The experience at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was perfect…and worth waiting five years for.

Lauderdale Girls

 

In the sun….and windblown….and look how happy we are!

Check out these fun finds, for your visit to Edinburgh!

 


 

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At Home on Thistle Street

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One difference, on this trip to Scotland, was using Edinburgh as home base. Rather than traveling around the country and staying in various accommodations, we stayed in the Braid Apartments in Edinburgh for the duration of our visit. We took several day trips into the Borders, however we returned to Edinburgh each evening.

Thistle Street, in the New Town section of Edinburgh, became home for 10 glorious days.

At Home on Thistle Street Title Meme

In the Heart of Edinburgh

When we planned this trip to Scotland, my sister Debbie and I gave our travel agent, Ken, very specific requests about accommodations. We hoped for a central location close to Old Town and within walking distance of Charlotte Square in New Town. When Clan Maitland activities began, we’d need to catch the bus in Charlotte Square.

Ken’s choice of the Braid Apartments on Thistle Street served us so well. We found ourselves located minutes from Princes Street, the Royal Mile, the hop on/hop off buses and Charlotte Square. In addition, we discovered nearby vegan restaurants and cafes, a grocery store and we easily located the specified meeting places for Maitland family teas and dinners. The location proved to be perfect!

Thistle Street ViewThe cobblestoned Thistle Street.

The History of Thistle Street

New Town, in Edinburgh, is not new by most standards! At more than 200 years old, it is only new in comparison with Old Town, which is considerably older.

New Town, created during the reign of King George III, is set up in a grid pattern with streets named after the king. There is a George Street and one named Princes, Queen Street and Hanover.

Two smaller streets in New Town represent the union of Scotland and England. Rose Street is named after England’s flower emblem, while Thistle Street represents Scotland’s national flower.

Thistle Street is a small commercial lane, filled with tiny shops, pubs, cafes, boutique hotels and apartments. The building that currently houses the Braid Apartments served as a hub for offices previously. The interior underwent a renovation two years ago, creating 20 modern apartments for short term leases, while retaining the charming exterior.

Braid Apartments Thistle Street

Window View on Thistle StreetView from the living room window.

At Home on Thistle Street

The cozy apartment on Thistle Street housed us well during our stay in Edinburgh. Large windows offer spectacular views of the city as it ambles down to the Firth of Forth.

The spacious rooms provide homey comfort and plenty of storage space. I loved unpacking and putting clothes away, rather than living out of a suitcase for 10 days. Apartment amenities include two large screen tvs, an ironing board and iron, a blow dryer, toiletries, use of a free cell phone, towels and robes and daily cleaning service.

My favorite room in the apartment was the large fully functional kitchen. The refrigerator, stove (called a hob in Scotland) and microwave meant we could cook at home. We shopped for groceries our first evening in Edinburgh and prepared healthy, wholesome meals during our stay, for a fraction of the cost of eating out. I enjoy cooking. And cooking in Edinburgh? Precious.

Cooking on Thistle Street

All the Conveniences of Home

The apartment also provides a dishwasher and all the kitchen essentials such as pots and pans, cutting knives, silverware, plates, cups and glasses. Braid Apartments stocked the kitchen with a large assortment of teas, a loaf of bread, milk, juice, jelly and butter. I loved the electric tea pot. It made creating cups of hot tea a snap.

A washer/dryer unit in the kitchen allowed us to do laundry, which was a great help. How wonderful to pack clean clothes for the trip home.

And due to the recent renovation, the bedroom has a wall air conditioning unit. Most buildings, homes, hotels, restaurants and businesses in Edinburgh do not have air conditioning, since Scotland is so cool, even in summer. However, during our visit a rare occurrence happened. All of Europe, including Scotland, experienced unusually hot temperatures, creating a host of heat related problems. Debbie and I felt gratitude for that air conditioner unit! We slept comfortably with it running. Thankfully the extreme heat only lasted a few days before more typical Scottish weather returned.

Apartments on Thistle StreetCute apartments across the street. I love the different colors on the doors.

Grateful for Thistle Street

During our stay, I became quite fond of our little apartment on Thistle Street. We spent most of our time out exploring Edinburgh or traveling with our Maitland/Lauderdale family members throughout the Borders. But as the days wound down and the light softened toward dusk, our steps always led us back to that quiet cobbled lane.

The Thistle Street apartment was many things during our visit: convenience, sanctuary, pit stop, shelter, personal café…and for 10 days, it was home. It’s where we dwelled in peace and comfort, rested tired feet, refreshed ourselves with healthy meals, pots of tea and hot showers, and set out on new adventures.

We felt sad, locking the door of the apartment for the last time, and yet grateful for all that it provided. I highly recommend the Braid Apartments at 27 Thistle Street, Edinburgh. I hope to stay there again…soon.

Check out this Guide to Edinburgh:

 


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Seeds for the Soul Vegan Restaurant

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Thank you to Seeds for the Soul Vegan Restaurant for providing complimentary lunches. All opinions are my own.

 

On this fine summer day in Edinburgh, my sister Debbie and I hopped in a cab, excited to experience lunch at Seeds for the Soul Vegan Restaurant. Living in a city in the Midwest, USA, my vegan restaurant options are limited. It is a real treat to enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer for plant based dining.

Seeds for the Soul Title Meme

Seeds for the Soul

After a short cab ride, we arrived at our destination in a part of Edinburgh we’ve not visited before.

Seeds for the Soul, located at 167 Bruntsfield Place, delighted me the moment we walked through the door.

Before I even spoke to Katie, the manager, I spied a table with a little chalkboard sign on it.

“Reserved from 12PM Cindy”

How’s that for a sweet welcome?

This 100% vegan restaurant provides intimate seating in a cozy area at the front of the restaurant and a larger room at the back. We enjoyed a table in the front, with views out the large window.

Seeds for the Soul front

Seeds for the Soul back

Changing the World, One Plate at a Time

Seeds for the Soul offers an impressive menu. From full vegan breakfasts to an assortment of hearty and healthy lunches and specialty drinks, this cafe believes in changing the world one plate, one meal at a time.

They make most of their food from scratch using organic and locally sourced produce. And they take to heart the words, “be the change you want to see in the world”, offering cruelty free meals, always.

We ordered Soul Bowls for lunch…the Middle Eastern one for me and the Asian one for Debbie. And of course, we requested a pot of tea to accompany our meal, Breakfast Tea this time.

Seeds for the Soul lunch bowls

Soul Bowls

How beautiful our meals were, when they arrived, visually pleasing as well as delicious.

The Asian Soul Bowl (top of photo) features seasoned tofu, rice noodles, avocado, lettuce, carrot, coriander and black sesame seeds with a ginger-garlic tamare dressing.

The Middle Eastern Soul Bowl (bottom of photo) is filled with falafel, hummus, roasted curried chick peas, spinach, cucumber, carrot, red cabbage and sesame seeds with a mango chutney.

We savored our incredible lunches. This is soul food indeed, real ingredients thoughtfully prepared and lovingly presented. Each bowl came topped with a perfect pansy, which is not just a lovely garnish. These pretty flowers are edible.

As we dined, Debbie and I enjoyed people watching out the window. We also appreciated the artwork on the wall, by local artist Samantha Fung. Her art is whimsical with important messages about treating all living creatures with kindness. Samantha happened to come into the restaurant while we were there, accompanied by her adorable dog.

Seeds for the Soul Artwork

Casting a Vision

I so appreciate the lunches provided by Seeds for the Soul. And even more importantly, I appreciate the mission and the vision the owners have.

They recognize that wholesome, clean food creates health and happiness. Therefore, they make it a priority to use the best ingredients available, free from preservatives, chemicals, refined sugar and all sorts of other nasties. Seeds for the Soul serves food that nurtures the body and the soul, that’s why it’s made with great love and care. 

And I LOVE that this company has the mission of reducing waste and pollution.  All takeaway boxes, bags, cups, cutlery, and napkins are 100% biodegradable. And all the waste that’s produced when preparing food is composted or recycled daily.

The owners’ vision is to plant ‘Seeds for the Soul’ in every city in Scotland.  Doing so would support and promote natural food and local organic producers. And they can educate people about the benefits of a vegan diet while keeping the planet healthy for future generations.

Seeds for the Soul intends to spread love and health to as many people as they possibly can.

I can wholeheartedly agree with that intention. Please visit this restaurant  in Edinburgh and be fed, on many levels. And watch for great and mighty things from this company.

Seeds for the Soul for Cindy

 

 

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Connect With People Who Remind You Who You Are

This morning a quote I saved five years ago popped up in my memories on Facebook.

Connect with those who remind you who you are. Ralph Smart

The words felt like an important reminder, on several interconnected levels. I saved the quote by taking a photo of it.

What I didn’t realize is that the quote was a nudge in a particular direction, a path that began to unfold. They might even be classified as a command.

Connect With People Who Remind You Who You Are

Remember Who You Are

In most of my favorite stories, a key part of the main character’s journey is remembering who he or she is. Often there are struggles, challenges and disappointments that serve to awaken the hero or heroine of the story.

As he or she awakens, another vital character steps forward and asks, “Who are you?” Or a statement may be uttered instead. “Remember who you are.”

I love those transformational stories, where people become who they are created to be. I love even more that our journeys evolve in the same way. Something alarming or achingly beautiful awakens us. As we become fully awake, fully aware, we begin the ongoing journey of remembering who we are.

I’m awake. I’ve remembered who I am. My journey now is about living fully as me. I keep my little mascot Absolem on my writing table. He’s the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, who asks me daily, “Who are you?” Absolem and the framed art piece next to his mushroom are wonderful visuals that remind me, daily, of who I am.

Connect With People Who Remind You Who You Are

Thomas Moore

I’ve been re-reading The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life by Thomas Moore. His charming book is providing a foundation for next year.

Greg is reading another Thomas Moore book, Ageless Soul. As we ate lunch Greg asked if he could read a portion of the book aloud to me. He added that the words reminded him of me.

I often travel to Ireland by myself now, and I know I’m looking for and experiencing something important and quite deep for me. When I’m there, I often just walk the streets of Dublin, taking in all the sights that by now are very familiar to me. I seem to be looking for lost parts of myself, and I wish I had even closer ties to Ireland. I wish my grandparents, instead of my great grandparents, had been born there so I could now be an Irish citizen. What is that wish, except some desire to be more closely connected to that important part of my identity? I’m looking for a past, perhaps a lost sense of myself, which seems essential. Thomas Moore

I so identify with Thomas’ words. The way he feels about Ireland and the city of Dublin is how I feel about Scotland, and Edinburgh. I too just want to walk the streets of my favorite city. I want to know Edinburgh at a deep and intimate level. Which is a way of saying I want to know myself in a deep and intimate way. Something essential about myself waits for me in Scotland. I’ll be back there next summer, to discover more about what it is.

Connect With People Who Remind You Who You Are

Connecting With Thomas Moore

I realized that the words Greg read and the quote I saved this morning are both pieces of a larger picture. Thomas Moore, through his books, reminds me who I am. He’s one of my “people”, that I want to stay connected to.

My thoughts from there took a big leap.

Every person…author, actor, speaker…that I’ve felt strongly about meeting, I’ve met. I put the intention out there, and in beautiful and often mysterious ways, the universe rearranges itself and the opportunity is offered. We meet. There are a few dear souls who are already gone from this world that I would love to chat with. I have to content myself with a soul connection that is known on a different plane.

However, Thomas Moore is alive and well and he is a kindred spirit. The nudges and soul taps today have raised my awareness about possibly connecting with this inspiring author, this man who reminds me who I am. The intention to connect…and it does not have to be a face to face meeting…is released now into the world and the universe. I let go of the outcome. Dream Giver…I give this desire to you.

Thomas Moore…let’s connect and talk about enchantment, Ireland and Scotland.

Connect With People Who Remind You Who You Are

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The Edinburgh Way of Life

On the fourth day of our three country adventure, my traveling companions and I took a short flight from Ireland to Scotland. Edinburgh Airport was our destination. Because the flight was so brief, we didn’t climb high above the earth. Instead, the countryside, rivers, buildings and houses were easily discernible from my window seat vantage point.

This was perfect for me. I watched intently as we flew low across the Borders and approached Scotland’s capital city. Although I enjoyed visiting Ireland and England, Scotland calls strongly to me. My soul answers that siren call, energetically stretching out ahead of my body to connect with my ancestral home.

I am not typically a big city girl. Joplin, with a population of 55,000, is just about the right size for me. How then to explain why this sprawling metropolis of almost half a million people has captivated me so, earning the title of My Favorite City in the World.

I love the energy of Edinburgh, home of national festivals and endless activities, museums and universities, cathedrals, historical sites and a castle. Together Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town form a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws more than a million visitors a year.

I was grateful to be one of those visitors this year. Here are additional highlights of our first day in Auld Reekie:

First glimpse of Edinburgh Castle. Our apartment was in the neighborhood behind the ancient fortress. From almost anywhere in the city, you can look up and orient yourself by locating the castle.

Wellington Statue

The Scott Monument near the Princes Street Gardens.

The Scottish Saltire, white cross on a sky blue background, and the red, white and blue Union Jack.

Because my son is a police sergeant, I like to take pics of police cars in other countries. Edinburgh’s police car.

I wrote about Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful little dog who refused to leave his owner’s grave after the man died. Bobby is buried just inside the cemetery gates, near his owner. I wondered about the sticks. My niece and sister pointed out that dogs like to play fetch, chasing after a thrown stick. Ahhhh, yes, I got it.

The grave of Bobby’s owner, John Gray. Bobby remained near this site for 14 years, until he too died. The city adopted him and made sure he had food, water and shelter. More sticks as a memorial at this gravesite.

Greyfriars Kirk Cemetery.

The leaves were beginning to turn in Edinburgh and the weather was much cooler than in Missouri, necessitating long sleeves and jackets.

Everywhere I look in Old Town, it’s like a scene from a Charles Dickens novel come to life.

We concluded our first day in Edinburgh with dinner at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. William Brodie, 1741-1788, was more commonly known as Deacon Brodie. He was a respectable cabinet maker by day, and a city councilor, who maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill of stealing and partly to fund his gambling habit.

Part of his job as a cabinetmaker was to install and repair locks in prestigious homes. Brodie used his day job as a way to get info about his clients and to make wax impressions of the locks’ keys, allowing him to easily enter the houses later and steal. Brodie was eventually caught, found guilty of his crimes and hanged before a crowd of 40,000.

Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture made by Brodie, was fascinated by the dichotomy between Brodie’s respectable life and his true nature, and was inspired to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a result.

In fact, Stevenson found Edinburgh itself to be leading a double existence.

I love the history and colorful stories associated with Edinburgh. I feel like I have only just begun to learn these stories. The city has so much more to reveal to me.

My earnest desire is to live in Edinburgh part time. My grandchildren are still young and I could not be away from them or my adult children for long. My family is here in the States. They are dear to me. I envision myself living a month in Edinburgh and then three months in Joplin, going back and forth throughout the year.

I have released that desire, that dream, to the Dream Maker. I don’t need to figure out the hows or the whens…I will just hold to the whys. Edinburgh feels like home to me. It feels right. A mixture of contentment and excitement fills me there, in a way that it does not elsewhere. I am open to all possibilities, and attached to nothing. If I am meant to be in Edinburgh part time, the way will be revealed to me, and I will simply take each step as it is shown to me.

Writer Ian Rankin said, “Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life. I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.”

My sentiments, exactly.

Exploring Edinburgh Castle

The focus of our second, and final, day in Edinburgh was the castle perched solidly atop volcanic rock, high above the sprawling city. The weather was decidedly Scottish…cool and drizzly, with periods of light rain. We weren’t deterred. Donning hoodie jackets over warm layers, we set out on the day’s adventures.

Here are the highlights of our explorations:

Edinburgh Castle has existed in varying degrees of size and fortification since the second century AD. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving structure in the castle complex, and also the oldest in Edinburgh. Most of the other buildings have been destroyed during bombardments and rebuilt.

Our tour guide, Robby, was knowledgeable and guided us expertly around the castle grounds, telling stories and sharing interesting facts.

Looking out over the battlements, toward the Firth of Forth. The castle is at the top of the Royal Mile, in the heart of the Old City. Edinburgh’s New City stretches out toward the water.

And looking to the west.

The stone structures comprising the castle are beautiful. The castle grounds spiral upward by way of cobbled courtyards and streets. The former royal residences are at the peak, where they were most protected. Today the castle house’s numerous museums and exhibitions and it is one of the most visited sites in the world.

The Great Hall.

The Royal dining room, and a sculpture representing the crowning of Robert the Bruce, located in an alcove off of the room containing the Crown Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny. Photos were not allowed in the Crown Jewels room.

I love the Stone of Destiny, a slab of ordinary looking stone that the kings of Scotland were crowned upon. King Edward I of England took the stone, and for 700 years, it rested beneath the throne of the English monarchy. But it was officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

Group pic in front of the castle.

We walked through a stark recreation of the living conditions in the castle’s prison rooms, where prisoners of war were held. Americans ended up in here as well, when they were captured as enemies against Great Britain. The rooms, while fascinating to explore, held a troubled energy that empathetically created discomfort in my chest. We viewed the original wooden cell doors, where prisoners had scratched words of hope and detailed works of art, including an American flag.

We enjoyed a light lunch in the castle’s tea room, and later shopping on the Royal Mile. However, most of our day was spent within the castle walls, looking, listening, learning. This was not just a tourist stop for us. The history here is part of our history as well.

The Scots are my people. This is my land. My heart dwells here in joy and peace, and embedded in my DNA are characteristics that sprang from this rich and fertile land. I’ve loved every moment spent in Edinburgh.

Tomorrow we head south to Lauder, in the Borders. This area of Scotland has great significance for my family. I am looking forward to visiting Thirlestane Castle again and

sharing that journey with my mom, sisters and niece.

Alexander McCall Smith wrote about Edinburgh: “This is a city of shifting light, of changing sky, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”

I so agree. I love this city. My heart has been pierced by its beauty and energy. Edinburgh, I will be back.