Four weeks in Edinburgh

We moved into our flat four weeks ago yesterday. I'm writing at the window desk in Julian's room, looking out onto the night sky illuminated by the up-lit castle. Last night the sky was purple and the castle truly was beautiful. Even though our view is of the "back" side, it's nice. In between us and the castle is what I lovingly refer to as the "TPS" building (Office Space reference). I'm not sure what folks do there, but our voyeurism leads us to conclude it is some sort of paper pushing. Regardless of what they do there, it has to be the ugliest building in the city, and I consistently wonder who sold their soul and signed off to allow it to be built. If you go out of our flat, turn right, and then left at the next corner, we're about two blocks away from the Grassmarket, which has lots of pubs. That means we get a good bit of street noise, especially on weekend nights, but it's usually folks singing! We haven't heard any fighting or angry noise. If you turn right at that corner, the way that the streets converge makes sort of a triangle on the map. In that area there are clubs of a different variety which led a former bishop of Edinburgh to refer to that area as the "pubic triangle." Irregardless, we haven't had any problems with the neighborhood. We feel safe and are happy with the location of our city flat. We laugh because of the six flats in our building, not one is occupied by a Scot! It's just fine, but not exactly conducive for getting to know Scots folks & culture. We're the only family in our building as well. When we were considering whether or not to take University family housing, I remember thinking that if we stayed in University housing, we would most likely meet other international families, but very few Scots. I thought that letting a flat on our own would help us meet locals! So much for that logic!
April and Julian

Our flat is starting to feel more like our "home" now, as we remember to buy spices when we order groceries, take out the trash, and negotiate the rounded stairs without too much thought. We've already had one houseguest; our good friend April was in Edinburgh on business and stayed with us for two nights. It was excellent to see her, and she brought us towels! Now before you think that they don't use towels here, let me explain! Lots of folks have asked about shopping, and Jonathan wrote about groceries in a previous post. Here's the thing we're learning. We can get just about anything you can get in the U.S. but the US dollar is so weak so everything is very expensive to us. Recently we wanted some Rotel so we found a Mexican grocery store which stocked diced tomatoes and green chilies (spelled chillies here). Excellent! However, the can was 1 pound 60 pence. With the exchange rate of 2 to 1, that comes out to about $3.20! Back home a can of Rotel is 55 cents, so that had better make some really good salsa! expensive beansThis is an exaggerated example, which brings me back to the towels. Here, my friend Maureen might pay 5 pounds for a towel and to her that might be a decent price, but to me that's a 10 dollar towel! It had better wash and dry and fold itself! But to her it would be like paying $5 for a towel would be for me at home. So many thanks to April for bringing us fluffy white towels! We're learning that everything costs about or at least double what we would pay at home. For example, a latte at Starbucks is 3 pounds 40 pence; a basic hair cut is 20 pounds; stir fried rice at the Chinese restaurant downstairs is 5 pounds 60 pence. To folks who earn their living in pounds it's no big deal. It "feels" just like we would when paying $3.40 for a latte, $20 for a hair cut, or $5.60 for fried rice in the States. But to us it feels like paying $6.80 for a latte, $40 for a basic hair cut, and $11.20 for fried rice! It's funny because we're not used to associating "weakness" with the U.S., but that's exactly what we're experiencing regarding the U.S. dollar.

The last couple of weeks have been rough, as I caught a nasty cold which promptly turned into Julian's first cold. I made the mistake of trying to pretend that I wasn't sick. I didn't make any concessions and ended up making myself much sicker. Julian fared much better than me and never ran a fever or seemed to have much ear or throat pain. A few nights ago Jonathan started running a fever, but we had learned a lesson with me. He went straight to bed. Bed rest and cold medicine seemed to cut the cold short for him. The timing was really terrible, as we were just getting ready to implement some sort of daily and weekly routine. So we've lost a couple of weeks but we're hoping to get into the swing of things in the coming weeks. We've got fun stuff coming up... at the end of October we'll go to Carlisle for the district Rotary conference. Then Mom will be here for a week around Thanksgiving! We'll go to Dunfermline and celebrate our American holiday with friends! Jonathan and I are also hoping to take a trip to the highlands some time this fall. We have train passes which are burning holes in our pockets, so we'd better use them! We're trying hard to balance the importance of a routine with the fact that-- hello-- we're living in Scotland! As important as it is to do our daily stuff, we're trying to build in time for play and relaxation as well. We're half way between Princes Street Gardens and the Meadows (park) so we try to get out with Julian as much as possible. We don't want him to be one of those kids who's afraid of grass. ;) The weather really has been beautiful and we're trying to make the best of every sunny bit!

More soon! Much love to all.


  1. I love it when you write on here. It isn't hard to "hear" you voice in my mind. (The video's help with that too) I miss you. Give that baby some sugar!

  2. Watched the bouncey seat movie...he was awed...I'm sure by now he's jumping and screaming.. So glad everone's feeling really made plain the difference in pounds and the dollar... Hope you can settle into a routine soon...we love and miss you gamma and PaPa