Monday, March 12, 2007


view of Edinburgh from Edinburgh castle

I watch a lot of films. I watch a silly number of films from the UK and therefore I found that some things in Scotland were oddly recognizable. It's strange, knowing I have never been somewhere before and yet being surprised to turn a corner and see something that feels innately familiar.

And yet..

I am fascinated by the unexpected dfferences. Things no one ever thought to mention. The odd bits.

The toilets are unusually deep. This is in no way important, so it doesn't exactly come up in popular culture. But they are formed differently than toilets in the U.S. And the shower is in a whole separate room. It makes sense in some ways and I love the shower room at my friend's home which is small and cozy and has wood floors and ceiling. I just didn't know.

handy dandy toy dispenser

I went into the ladies room at a pub and instead of a condom dispenser - which is fairly familiar in the States - there was a sex toy dispenser. Vibrators and flavored condoms and... wait for it.... wait for it... inflatable sheep. That's right. Inflatable sheep. I assume that they are purchased by drunk tourists who think they are funny (I mean, I was sober and I found it funny), but I really can't - and won't - imagine what a woman wants with an inflatable sheep. Maybe it's for gift giving.

another view of Edinburgh from Edinburgh castle

I was surrounded by massive buildings of grey stone. Varying shades of grey, all cool massive stone, making the city almost otherworldly. Yes, there are also greys that verge on beige and black and there are colorful signs in the windows. I WAS expecting a lot of grey and a lot of stone but had no idea that it would be everywhere. It's fascinating. Some storefronts have a facade on the bottom floor shop that has been painted bright fire engine red or rich mossy green - usually with gold block letters to tell you the name of the pub or shop housed therin - and they stand out like bright splashes amongst the old stone. NONE of the buildings I saw were wood and I didn't know how different this would feel to the eye, but it really does. It made me feel like I had stepped into a book, the uniform of stone the city wears.

The wind whips through the streets (I am told Edinburgh was designed originally to have the wind flow through the streets in just such a way to remove the odors once associated with city life) and makes me wobble on my feet. I have never felt wind like this. I knew to expect rain and some grey skies and mist, but the wind is pervasive and presses against you and makes my hair snap in the air behind me. It leaves you with this sense of being surrounded by nature and weather no matter how ensconsed in the city you may be.

And I didn't expect Edinburgh to be so culturally diverse. It was SO diverse that I met Americans and Brits and a Welshman and Germans and an Austrian... and other than chatting to a few people in shops I really didn't meet any Scots. Which was odd. But everywhere you turn, you hear a different language. Edinburgh has a big time melting pot thing going on. I swear I saw a wider diversity of nationalities in Edinburgh than when visiting New York. I didn't spend ALL my time in Edinburgh, mind. I also saw Glasgow and spend a night in a little town on the lower part of the Highlands. But I spend a lot of time just puttering around Edinburgh, hopping busses and shopping and drinking in pubs and watching people through the window while I ate in a cafe. I am inclined to think puttering about is the best way to get to know a place.

Oh, and I had NO IDEA that Dolly the cloned sheep's body had been stuffed and placed on display. But it has been. It can be viewed at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh. It's bizarre.

Dolly's body spins around on a motorized pedestal.

I expected a lot of the other differences. Tea. Lots of tea. And now I'm craving tea all the time. They have crap selection of cold cereal but 50 flavors of "crisps" (potato chips) and more variety of biscuits (cookies) than you can imagine. The traditional Scottish breakfast was huge and included baked beans (which I did expect) and blood pudding which, to my mind, is the UK answer to grits (which I didn't expect). It's like grits in a sausage shape mixed with blood and pepper... if that makes any sense. It's not as horrific as it might sound to my fellow Americans, but not necessarily something I intend to start adding to my breakfast menu all the same.

And while the numbers of brightly coiffed and multi-pierced Punk afficionados in the States seems to be dwindling, I am pleased to report that the practice is alive and well in Scotland. I saw more pink and green hair than I have since... well, since my little sister was in high school and doing her infamous impression of the Horse of a Different Color.

All of this being the very long way about saying that I am back, I am well, I will get back to the normal business of blogging and I absolutely loved Scotland.

I'm going back as soon as I possibly can.

Hollyrood Abbey... in this photo Wonder Woman is taking the place of The Dame, thus preserving her anonymity

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