Sunday, June 12, 2016


Well, friends, it's been a long while since I've posted (relatively speaking--one week feels like a long gap in this summer-in-England blog). I've been to Scotland and back! It was most definitely a work trip, and I found that after a full day of research at the library, I didn't have much mental energy left to spend more time on the computer in order to blog. And of course, long days at the library don't leave much time to see the city! But I do have interesting things to report and lovely photographs to share.

Because it was our anniversary (five years!) we splurged on first-class train tickets up to Edinburgh. First class was really nice: the seats were larger, and leaned back; lunch and coffee were provided; and we had free wifi for the entire four-and-a-half-hour trip. I made good use of that time, organizing my library plans for Scotland. By this point, I've spent countless hours on various libraries' online catalogues, and countless emails back and forth with the librarians in special collections--and the summer is only half over!

Our apartment rental was close to the Edinburgh train station, and right in the middle of the city center. Close to everything, overrun by tourists, just a few blocks from the two libraries at which I worked (the National Library of Scotland and the divinity school library of the University of Edinburgh). And because the area was so close to the university, there was an astonishing array of restaurants, coffee shops, and interesting shopping, all within my graduate student budget.

Because it was an apartment rental and not a hotel room (hooray!) we were able to buy groceries and make our own meals about half the time. The other half, we explored some of what Edinburgh had to offer. In the end, we tried four of the Edinburgh's supposedly best coffee shops, and liked one so much we went there twice. We had great Thai food, an authentic and truly delicious Scottish breakfast (you can tell it's a place beloved by the locals when it's a tiny hole-in-the-wall diner frequented by construction workers), and awesome falafel. And we accidentally ended up finding the very cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter! We weren't looking for it--I'd forgotten that I should--but we walked past it one evening and when the falafel place was already closed, we went back for dinner.

Happily, I finished all of my library research with a day to spare, so we were in the end able to play tourist. That day, we returned to our favorite coffee shop, Brew Lab, for breakfast, took a tour of the Museum of Scotland, found the falafel place (open this time), enjoyed Scottish art at the National Gallery, and finally, caught our train to Aberdeen. And of course none of these research excursions is complete for me without seeing a church or two; here we attended a morning Communion at St. Giles and were able to walk around the church and churchyard of Greyfriars.

The National Library of Scotland, and the place at which I spent the most time

First breakfast at Brew Lab - Husband's flat white, my Earl Grey tea, and two amazing pastries, a cinnamon roll and a custard-filled donut

Second breakfast at Brew Lab - same beverages, granola with fruit and yogurt, fruit salad with yogurt, and two equally amazing pastries, pain aux noisettes (chocolate and hazelnut-filled croissant) and a jelly donut

Amazing, amazing falafel and shawarma at Elfalafel

St Giles Cathedral

The National Museum of Scotland

A cast of the world's most complete set of T-rex bones (the bones themselves would be too heavy to display in this pose)
The lens assembly from a Scottish lighthouse
The Lewis Chessmen: twelfth-century, Norwegian in origin, found in a large collection of chess sets and other gaming pieces. A really iconic archaeological find. 

King James VI and I

Our tour guide telling us about King James' childhood. This scholar of the English Reformation couldn't help but cringe at some of the facts he got wrong (but it was fascinating to get the Scottish point of view)

Eighteenth-century printing press

The natural science room was my favorite

An orrery (working model of the solar system, except that this one no longer functions because its gears are worn out)


A klezmer can-can, performed by bagpipe rock band. Yes, this really happened.

Some favorites from the National Gallery. I spent a lot of time looking at the partbook, trying to figure out what it was (too blurry to make out much, but definitely late sixteenth/early seventeenth-century music printing.

#dissertating. Martin Luther!

This one reminds me of Jane Eyre

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