TRAVEL NOTES::DAY 3 | OFF TO A SLOW START AND THE ELEPHANT HOUSE

elephant house edinburgh

Jetlag got the best of me today. I'd intended on getting up early to attempt a brisk walk or jog in the cold of Edinburgh, but sleep took over instead.

When I finally was able to keep my eyes open for longer than 10 minutes, I decided to start getting ready to find some coffee. Today was off to a slow start.

There is a nice coffee shop just up the hill and around the bend from my flat. My son would love it as it has elephants covering the walls and window ledges. Elephants were everywhere to be seen. The Elephant House is where I spent a good portion of the midday - as it was the middle of the day when I finally ventured out.  

I sat in the back near a window with a view of the Edinburgh Castle. The sun was streaming in and shining directly in my eyes. But I wanted to soak in the atmosphere regardless of the sun - which, by the way, is not something I would have expected in Edinburgh. I was hoping for some rain and clouds. Perhaps tomorrow. 

At first I wasn't sure what to order but I knew that coffee needed to be one of the items. The girl in front of me had ordered a scone, so I did the same. The scone turned out tasting like the fluffy biscuits back in the States. Not the scones I'm used to, but a wonderful taste nonetheless.

I had also ordered a banana which I saved for later and now remember that it is still in my bag. Then I saw that the soup of the day was an interesting combination of flavours - carrot and coriander. So I ordered that as well. I intended on being there for a while and combining my breakfast and lunch seeing how I wasn't sure I'd be eating anywhere else until I made dinner back at the flat. 

So, there I sat and watched people come and go. The couple next to me, directly at the window, were from Spain visiting for a couple of days. I struck up a conversation with them which was short but pleasant. They were not used to the cold as in Seville it was 20C degrees warmer. I told them that Texas was not much different.

Several tables away and in the middle of the room were seated random people around a large round table. I was supposed to sit there as there was one spot open, but I ended up gravitating towards the window - much to the chagrin of the person seating me who was trying to maximize space. It was crowded and getting a seat was not easy.

There was an older man at that table reading a book on Berlin. I watched with fascination as he moved his head back and forth quickly as he went through page after page. He appeared to be speed reading.  

The concept of group tables is not something one sees in the States - at least not anywhere I've been. It's a great concept albeit the Scottish are not known to be the first to strike up a conversation. This was confirmed by the girl who sat at my table - directly across from me. She commented on the journal I was writing in which led to another interesting conversation and another person with whom names were not exchanged.

All I knew of the girl was that she was from southern California studying a semester abroad in the field of physics. I asked her opinion of the Scots and she explained that they are reserved but once they warm up to you, they are quite nice and genuine. By contrast, she continued, the Irish are the exact opposite. Loud and boisterous and ever so friendly. She gave me a few suggestions on places to visit - Calton Hill and Arthur's Seat - and then she was off to class. She wasn't too happy about having to return home shortly before Christmas.

As I finished off the last of my now cold coffee and soup, I wondered where to go next. I gathered my belongings and left table 12, hoping to return another day for a new experience.

Last night I had googled 'kitchenware shops' and discovered Lakeland. I made my way to Hanover Street and was happy when I walked into the store. I needed a zester, as the flat had none, and ended up leaving with two small cake pans in addition to the Edgeware zester with the slide-on catcher for containing the zest. 

Small cake pans, measuring 4" and 5" pan with 3" high sides, gave me an idea to convert some of my recipes to personal cakes. I wanted to buy more of them in a 6" and vowed to return after my trip to Dublin when I didn't have to worry about weighing down my travel bag for the regional flight. They also had Niederegger marzipan - even the torte and fruit shapes.

Hesitant to approach the saleslady to ask about bulk spices, I was glad I did. Although her store did not carry what I had wanted, she took me outside the store and pointed me in the right direction to where I might be able to find them - which I did not, but that's not the point. She was friendly and helpful yet reserved. The salespeople I did not find pushy as in the States. They did not follow you around and guilt you into more purchases than you'd intended on buying. It was a pleasant and welcomed change.

More walking around the Princes Street area where I attempted to acquire a SIM card for my iPad as my iPhone is locked and thus not an option. I walked into one store and there was a 40-minute wait. I decided I'd rather not wait. Then I found another store, but that too was busy. I gave up and wondered if I should skip the card altogether. After all, it was a rather pleasant feeling to be disconnected - at least until I returned to the flat.

Back at the flat I readied to make dinner. I've not yet ventured out to a restaurant or a bar at night but I will soon. A potato gratin with sautéed onions and bell peppers and topped with feta with a mixture of 200ml of whole milk and one egg was dinner. Again, I found it challenging to make a meal that served only one portion efficiently. I ate half of the meal, leaving the other half for tomorrow.

Tomorrow I hope that jetlag will have passed and I can get an earlier start to my day with a return to The Elephant House for breakfast.