The Athens of the North: Edinburgh and why visiting Scotland’s capital is a must-do this Summer

If you ask people from all over the world what they know or think of about Edinburgh, they will most likely say ‘its beautiful’, or ‘I’ve heard that its beautiful’. Its one of those places that, if you have never actually been, there is no way of truly understanding the gothic architecture, the mysterious atmosphere or the classy yet haunted vibe of the city. Described as the ‘Athens of the North’ by Europeans who have visited both cities, the ancient architecture is just a small piece of a complex city-scape that is a meshing of old and new.

The old town towers over the new town, boasting the old Royal Mile and the usual tourist shops selling kilts, whiskey and shortbread. But a whole day can be spent on this one street- performers and artists frequently inhabit this area putting on shows, shops offer whiskey and shortbread tastings, bars like The Tron and various pubs offer respite from the inevitable rain, and at the top Edinburgh Castle overlooks both sides of the city, old and new. The nightlife is a mix of grime, class and cheese, with the most trendy clubs on George Street and the underground scene located, well, literally bellow the city’s ground level in the old town’s Cowgate. The Three Sisters pub is a must-do, with its Harry Potter-esque feel and buzzing atmosphere.

Of course, there is also the Fringe. If you haven’t before, book to travel to Edinburgh with friends for a week and see as many shows as you can. Comedy, cabaret, cirque, dance, opera, theatre, classical music and live bands make for a thrilling experience. Shows prices range from expensive to free- the Free Fringe offers shows at no coast at all, you just have to know what you’re into. Most shows are in the £10-£30 range, and are well worth it too. This city is proof you don’t need glaring sunshine to enjoy the summer.

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The beginnings of a creative piece

I wasn’t sure whether or not to post this, but it seemed natural to use this blog as a space for everything I write. So here it is: this is the start of a piece I wrote about isolation when you first move abroad.

Her head knocked against the bus window. Not too hard, but everyone heard it. They must have looked for a second, maybe even just half, with a glance of concern so minute she could barely feel it. She appreciated its tenderness, revelled in it, and then closed her eyes hard to block them all out. The tenderness was too much and it would be gone quickly.

When she opened her eyes again, she felt the words she didn’t know hit her ears like a sharp, cold wind. She was smaller than them and, as she looked out the window, felt like she was standing out there, in that cold wind she was so unaccustomed to.

‘You’ll get used to it’, they said laughing, sipping cocktails on their veranda, pale rocks and a mild breeze rapping the sea against the sand that had cooled to the perfect temperature, when she could go and wade slowly towards the sea. The grains no longer sizzled nor shocked, and on this bus she craved them even at their hottest, piercing her feet as she ran and then let out a sigh when she finally got to the darker sand, the forgiving sand.

Those journeys from veranda to sea seemed to take forever, and yet nothing felt as long as the moments here. The bus looped around the French streets and she could see only perpendicular angles- rectangular flats in a multitude of baby blues, yellows, pinks and whites. She couldn’t get used to the strange lilt of life here, nor the boxed up nature of the architecture and the university. To her it all looked as if it had come out of an IKEA box, pre packaged and ready just to be erected by men who wanted to make it for ease, not beauty.

Eyes open and a jolt back to the present. The buildings were changing, getting taller and yet those colours spread out like a disease that had touched everything but the city centre. Why did they all have to be painted these sickly tones, she wondered. She couldn’t ask anyone, they wouldn’t understand. What if she started, right here, talking about verandas and the sunset and her favourite part of the sea, and about the time they all told her she’d get used to it here?

No one would understand. She could speak English, but nobody wanted that here. They didn’t want her and her half baked attempts at French, not even when was nodding and smiling. They knew she wasn’t one of them and yet she tried to be, tried her hardest to make them see her in her three dimensions rather than reduced to a caricature of who she really was due to language.

‘Are you ok?’ She was met suddenly by the concerned glare of a tall, pale girl, and the shock of hearing english snapped her out of her dreams. In this moment she nodded and stammered a ‘yes’, and the girl looked at her like she was crazy. Maybe she was crazy, but this bus would make anyone mad. It only took two minutes for the girl to start again talking in French, and that moment like the glances of pity she had just experienced after banging her head, was over in a flash. A sprinkle of comfort, followed by a sizzling dash of bitterness.