As we look at going home this week, we're excited about returning to our space and, indeed, our country. I think I've realized while I've been here that I am very much an American AND that I resent that conservative politicians and over-produced country singers have made it nearly shameful for me to say that I like
America. I like the movies, the music, the books, some of the TV -- I like the choices, the openness, the variety, the ease of movement. Of course, I've also seen very clearly the things I don't like: the intolerance, the moralizing, the excessive consumerism, the denial of science (can you believe that in the UK there's absolutely NO public debate about whether or not global warming is happening? They all just assume that it is and that we have to do something about it), the cheapening of people's lives and work, the guns, the death penalties, the love affair with the automobile. In the end, of course, no country has it all figured out (okay -- maybe Norway).
But this started out as a blog entry telling you how much I've fallen in love with Edinburgh and how much I'm going to miss it. I guess I'm trying to figure out how to say what I love about it, how it compares to those things I love at home, and how it differs from our home places.
I love how old it is, how layered with history and grime. Walking through 600 and 700-year-old buildings, thinking about families who can trace their ancestry in a direct line back to 1066, I'm struck by how patient this country seems to be, how mature. They seem to have realized that there are certain responsibilities humans have to each other and that taking the time to preserve and understand history might enrich our lives (not just our wallets).
I don't know -- maybe I should just show you some pictures of November and December in and around Edinburgh:
While most of the students and faculty took our last long weekend break (Nov. 30-Dec. 3) to cram in one last trip to the Continent, Dennis and I decided that we wanted to spend that last bit of free time exploring more of Edinburgh, seeing places we hadn't seen, revisiting places we'd loved, and checking a few more restaurants off our "must eat" list. So, we booked a room for one night at the Old Waverly Hotel on Princes Street, with a lovely view of the Christmas markets, Ferris wheel, and twinkling lights of Princes Street Gardens.
Although the wind that first day was so intense that the markets and rides were all shut down, we did blow up and down the street doing some Christmas shopping. We ate a marvelous lunch at La P'tite Folie and a "moveable feast" for dinner, starting with whisky at the Bow Bar, then Foster's and onion rings at Maggie Dickson's, margaritas and chips at a place on Victoria whose name I can't remember (we were getting pretty happy by this point), and ending with excellent Italian food and wine at Gennaro before going to a pretty disappointing concert by the incorrectly named Alex's Hot Club (they played more tunes by Stevie Wonder than Django and Stephane!).
Friday morning was warm and dry and much less windy, so we took a long walk through the New Town over to the Royal Botanical Gardens. We discovered the really interesting Stockbridge neighborhood and then followed the Water of Leith over to the gardens (here's Dennis by the water, at the Stock-bridge).
The Royal Botanic Gardens were beautiful, even in early winter. Here are some scenes from the Palm House, which is the largest palm house in the UK and offers a step back into the Victorian obsession with plants.
The garden gate led us out the back of the RBG and back into the city, where we ate a terrific vegetarian lunch at Henderson's. From outside the restaurant, we got this view of the New Town sloping down to the Firth:
We ended the day with "chocolat chaud" from Le Plaisir du Chocolat and dinner and a movie at the Filmhouse. Writing this, almost a month later, I wish dearly we could do it all again tomorrow. I know we'll be returning to Edinburgh again and again in the future; it was familiar, comfortable, fascinating, and beautiful.