My Perfect Week in Edinburgh: The Grand Graduation Finale

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter how hard you try, you will still have a million things left on your ‘must do before I leave’ list whenever you move house. Or maybe it’s just me. Leaving Edinburgh was no exception. As my final week in Edinburgh approached, I knew I had to plan my time carefully in order to see and do everything I wanted. It was time to write a list.

This was not just a list of things I hadn’t done yet. I also listed my favourite places. I didn’t know when I would be going back in Edinburgh, so I had to make sure that I hit up as many of my favourite spots to say goodbye. It was the perfect week, the perfect last hurrah. There was food, history, book shopping, a fancy robe…everything I could have asked for.

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The best part about staying in a new part of town was finding new cafes. This one, called Cafe Noir, is over near Haymarket.
Sunday – Graduation Shopping and Take-out

On Sunday Devon and I took the train up from York. Rejuvenated by Christmas market shopping and perusing the cake selection at Betty’s Tea shop, I was ready to make the most of our last week. We grabbed a cheeky Cornish pasty for breakfast before hopping on our final train of the entire trip. It seems so long ago now, even though I am writing this less than a month after we got back. Let me tell you, I miss the European train network every day.

I digress. The entire reason we came back to Edinburgh was to attend my graduation ceremony, and I had absolutely nothing to wear. Not to worry though. All we needed was a quick trip to Primark. After refilling at one of my favourite soup spots, Café 1505, Dev and I headed out to get some fancy clothes. Of course, as these things usually go, our quick trip turned into a 2 ½ hour process, but we got dresses! And I even found some super cozy Christmas leggings. Win-win. We topped off the night with some take-out and quality British TV.

Monday – Tea and Book Crawl

During my initial planning of Edinburgh Week 2016, I noticed that nearly half of the list consisted of revisiting my favourite cafés. Edinburgh has no shortage of cafés of all kinds. You’ve got the low-key breakfast joints, the industrial-style hipster hangouts, and the classic student cafes. Seeing as there were more cafes than days on my list, I knew I’d have to be a bit creative if I wanted to see them all. Luckily I had just the thing in mind – a tea crawl! A tea crawl is just like a pub/bar crawl, but you are looking for tea and cake not alcohol and chips.

Thanks to my highly detailed mental map of cafés throughout Edinburgh, I managed to plan a route that hit up almost all of my favourite spots. I even threw in a few book stores to break up the steady supply of snacks.  Starting from Project Coffee down in Bruntsfield, Devon and I worked our way up towards Grassmarket, stopping in Armchair Book s to survey the new stock. We ended up hitting at least five cafes before reaching the Waterstones on Princes Street. I plan on doing an entire post on the cafes of Edinburgh in the future. I could go on about them forever!

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The inside of Armchair Books, one of my favourite spots in all of Edinburgh. (Excuse the poor quality photo – I didn’t want to whip out my huge camera in the middle of the shop.)
Tuesday – Vietnamese Food

Tuesday was a pretty relaxing day. We had to wait in the apartment for a friend of mine who was coming to join us that afternoon. Not to fear – this was all part of the plan. Some of my fondest memories of the UK involve me and my friends sitting around watching cheesy British TV. No one does day-time TV like the UK. Between Pointless, Catchphrase, The Chase, and so many others, you are never at a loss for entertaining game shows. It’s good practice for Pub Quiz.

For dinner we headed to one of my favourite spots – Vietnam House. Located in towards the West End of Princes Street, this funky little restaurant has some seriously good noodles, and they even serve lemon sorbet inside of an actual lemon! I’m sorry, but that is literally the coolest thing ever. (Wait. I think that was a pun. I didn’t even mean for that to happen. I guess I’m just naturally hilarious.)

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I had to take one last walk around the old neighborhood.
Wednesday – GRADUATION!

Yes, you heard right. Wednesday was the big day. It was the day I was officially deemed a Master. And there is no better way to prepare yourself for an important moment like that than by spending quality time with your family and stuffing your face with a giant stack of Nutella-smothered pancakes (because I am an adult). Cue Treehouse Café. Located in Bruntsfield, this place has some crazy good pancakes. The stacks are huge. I’ve never been able to finish one, but I am not going to stop trying any time soon.

After eating our fill, I headed off to get my robe. Graduation robes in the UK are way better than American ones in my experience. They are all different colors depending on your degree, and they have hoods with fur. It’s a good look on everyone. Snape chic. After the ceremony I was starving, so we decided to forgo the reception a twenty-minute walk away and instead grabbed some burritos and headed to see Fantastic Beasts in theatres. All in all I’d say that day was a success.

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Robe – check. Degree – check. Burrito – check!
Thursday – High Tea and Pub Quiz

There are few things more British than afternoon tea. It is the kind of thing Americans mock British people for while jealously watching from our side of the pond. Located above Waverly Station, the Balmoral Hotel is one of the most famous spots in Edinburgh. This is where J.K. Rowling finished the last Harry Potter book. She even signed one of the statues in the room she was in. You can now spend the night there for a ridiculous amount of money. It is also a well-known spot for tea.

The meal was an absolute dream. It began with little mini bowls of soup followed by sandwiches, cakes, and miniature cones filled with lemon sorbet. The ₤35 price tag is a bit steep, but you get the three course meal plus unlimited hot drinks. I would definitely recommend it though. The entire experience was amazing. There was even a live harpist. How is that even real? We topped off the experience with a stroll through the Christmas Market. I bought a cotton candy that was bigger than my head. I was in heaven.

From one British institution to another, the three of us headed to Grassmarket for Pub Quiz that evening. I was determined to sample the full spectrum of British culture in my final week. As you can guess from the title, Pub Quiz is a weekly trivia night. Most popular pubs host one. You could probably find a pub quiz for every day of the week in Edinburgh. After bounding into the top three after round one, we ended up in a mildly disappointing fifth place. We got killed by the music round. Stupid British indie music. Regardless, I still got to eat chips and sip on my cider, so I was a happy camper.

Friday – Museum

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t insist we visit at least one museum. On our last day in Edinburgh we spent a few hours roaming the halls of the National Museum of Scotland. We got to see the Lewis Chess set (inspiration for Wizard’s Chess), ancient carved stones (inspiration for the golden snitch), and a giant whale skeleton (with no known connection to Harry Potter).

On the way back to our rented flat, we hit up the Christmas market one last time. We grabbed the last few souvenirs for our family back home. There is nothing quite like a European Christmas Market. One of the reasons I loved Edinburgh in the winter was because of the bright lights and cheery music of the market. I’ve heard there are a few in New York, so I am excited to go find some more magical winter wonderlands in the future.

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The Edinburgh Christmas Market.
Saturday – The Flight Home

And that was that. We blinked and suddenly Devon and I were back on the airport bus. Only this time, we were headed back to America. I couldn’t believe how fast it had come to an end. It seemed like a dream. It felt as though I had dreamt up this whole trip and never actually left Scotland. It’s crazy that no matter how long you’ve been gone or how many places you’ve seen, it always feels the same the day after.

So here we are. I am currently sitting in my new apartment in Brooklyn after a long day’s work at my new job. I’m a few months behind on my blogging, but I am determined to get back up to speed in 2017. I hope you enjoyed following along on my crazy adventure. I am sure glad to have had the company! For now it is back to the daily grind, but I will be sure to explore my new home and keep sharing it with you!

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Edinburgh from Arthur’s seat.

 

 

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