LETTER FROM…Edinburgh

The shifting moods of Edinburgh. Story and photography by Charlotte Herrold, a Toronto writer who is pursuing a Master’s in creative writing at the University of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a moody place. One minute the sun is out and the sky is as blue as The Saltire flag; blink and the city is shrouded in fog so thick you can’t see five feet in front of you. As I type this letter, the view from my window—usually composed of spires and turrets and tiny chimneys (and if I lean far enough to the right, in the distance, the Castle!)—is a blanket of white, like someone has pulled the cable out of my TV and the screen has gone blank.

It’s really no surprise that this is the city that inspired the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Was Stevenson not simply personifying the schizophrenic weather? Or was he writing about the Janus-faced layout of the city itself, divided into the Gothic Old Town and the Georgian New Town? Edinburgh is a city rife with such juxtapositions of old and new: vendors on the Royal Mile sell clan tartans in every form from traditional kilts to cell phone holders; one of the longest surviving pubs in the city centre (dating from the sixteenth century) sits next to a French restaurant that boasts “Established 1998.”

It’s this very duality, this changeability that can make the city look unfamiliar on an evening walk down the same streets I’ve wandered for the past 10 months.

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LETTER FROM…Edinburgh

Story and photography by Charlotte Herrold, a Toronto writer who is pursuing a Masters degree in creative writing at the University of Edinburgh.

I’ve got to hand it to girls in Edinburgh—they are dedicated to their footwear. Despite the rain, the steeply sloping streets, deep grooves between cobblestones, and all kinds of obstacles (the etiquette to pick up after one’s dog doesn’t seem to exist in certain parts of the city . . .), women young and old are still wearing sky-high, razor-sharp heels and actually managing to walk in them.

And it’s not as if they’re hopping from door to cab to door—the way to get around Edinburgh is by (well-dressed) foot. A native Torontonian, I’m used to being able to stick out my arm and hail a cab on any street corner, but such isn’t the case here in Auld Reekie (and by the way, that’s Scots for Old Smoky, not Old Smelly!). If it’s not a pre-hire, it’s not happening, especially late on a Saturday night. So when I’m getting dressed for an evening out, I ask myself: “If I can’t get a cab home, am I going to be able to make it back in these shoes?” or “Will I be warm enough in this cropped jacket if I have to walk across town in the rain?”

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LETTER FROM…Edinburgh

The Bar Missoni in Edinburgh. Story by Charlotte Herrold, a Toronto writer who is pursuing a Masters degree in creative writing at the University of Edinburgh.

It’s spring in Edinburgh. The days are getting longer, trees are blooming in pink and white flowers, and the parks are a sea of vibrant daffodils. The shops on Princes Street are stocked with flirty floral frocks, elegant linen blazers, and sexy summer sandals. Restaurants have set up their patios and switched to summer menus. There’s just one thing missing—the warm weather.

With daily highs rarely climbing past 10 degrees and lows hovering just above zero, it certainly doesn’t feel like spring. And after a record-breaking cold winter, I’m craving some balmy weather. But impending deadlines and post-eruption volcanic hiccups mean a weekend jaunt to somewhere sunny will have to wait. In the meantime, there’s always the next best thing: a sip of Italian luxury at the Bar Missoni.

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