|A Cottage by the Sea||
Good thing I chose to carry my computer in my backpack the other afternoon. I almost told myself no, but every time I leave it behind, I am sorry. This time, for sure. Here I sit in a corner in the Writers Museum, especially designated for people like me. At least that how I feel. The sign on the table in front of the couch invites me to relax and browse, but I figure writing is implied and accepted.
The museum features exhibits about Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
It is run by the Edinburg City Council and is located in the Lady Stairs House along the Royal Mile. It gives inspiration to all kinds of writers, including me, a woman, who at my stage of life, is happy blogging.
Raining. Not intermittently but steady enough for me purchase an ‘I love Scotland,’ umbrella.
Rhythm is important for writing. I am especially conscious of it when traveling alone and staying in the same place for a week. I have time, lots of time; time not taken up traveling from place to place or talking with a companion. It’s up to me to get the beat going and to keep it lively and inspiring.
This morning I needed a break after writing in the flat, so I weathered the weather with a visit to the Scottish National Gallery. A painter’s inspiration (Italian, Flemish, Dutch, French, English, and Scottish paintings from the Renaissance to the twentieth century), but truly inspirational for and kind of creativity.
In the midst of the visit, a poignant moment, ordered by Her Majesty’s Government, as everyone stood “in remembrance of those who lost their lives and all others that were affected by the attack in London on Saturday.”
Upon leaving the museum, I dodged the puddles and umbrellas and returned to the National Museum of Scotland, this time for lunch in the Museum Brassier, located in the bowels of museum, most likely the crypt of an ancient church. Delicious Cullen Skink (smoked fish chowder) and a half smoked salmon pate sandwich, both food and ambience conducive to writing. Thankfully it has become socially acceptable to open a computer at a restaurant. I always have my MacBook Air in my backpack.
My week writing in Edinburgh is ending. I have spent this rainy afternoon in my rented flat, writing, reading and packing. I will go out to eat tonight and then tomorrow before 6, I’ll shut the flat door and walk to the bus stop and wait for the airport bus. I’m very grateful for this time, and have enjoyed sharing this writing diary with you. Hopefully you have gleaned some ideas for a solitary writing, or painting, or sketching, or photography or, you name it, trip.
Is it safe to say that every city has a public library? For my purposes, yes. The Central Edinburgh Library is directly across from the National Public Library, where I spent the morning, writing in the café, and signing on to easy internet access.
This was also the day I decided not to visit Edinburgh Castle. The lines were long and the crowds too big for my liking.
Instead I walked to the to the Royal Botanical Garden. I was too late in the day to go in, but in my wanderings I came upon the Water of Leith Walkway, “a public footpath and cycleway that runs alongside the small river of the same name through Edinburgh, Scotland, from Balerno to Leith.” A comforting place for someone like me who wanted to be alone.
I returned from this outing, happy to write at home, just as it started to rain.
After all that talk about staying in and brewing my own coffee, I woke up this morning and decided to go out to a café, and so I did!. One of the charms of traveling alone is how easy it is change my plans. There is no one to confer with.
It didn’t take long to find a spot with right ambience for me to work at my computer while sipping a huge cappuccino and savoring a buttered croissant. In fact, I may find a different cafe tomorrow, aware as I am that it is cheaper to eat in.
Since the forecast was for afternoon rain, I then set out early for sightseeing/inspiration. First stop, Greyfriars Kirk (church) and Graveyard, where Greyfriars Bobby is buried and memorialized. Over the years several children’s books have told the story of the dog’s loyalty to his master. My favorite, perhaps because of the illustrations, is by Ruth Brown.
Next stop, the state-of-the-art National Museum of Scotland located across from the church. I concentrated on the sections exploring Scotland’s story, but the other exhibits are equally impressive. They include: Discoveries, Natural World, World Cultures, Art, Design and Fashion, Science and Technology, and a Learning Center, special Exhibition Gallery, and Research Library.
I mention these different offerings to encourage those of you who are not writers to spend a week pursuing your craft. How about “Seven Days Photographing (or sketching) in Edinburgh.” If you are a musician, spend the seven days delving into the history of Scottish music and attending local concerts.If you are a weaver or knitter, there is history to be explored, exhibits to view, and stores to peruse.
Traveling alone and staying in one city for a week different from touring with a companion. I need a focal point, a project. Maybe writing is a way for me to talk with others while cherishing the week alone.
Since morning coffee is such an important part of my writing life, I want to straighten out a few things about coffee in Edinburgh. The city is full of coffee houses, packed with coffee drinkers all morning long and even into the afternoon. The same is true in Italy. The difference for me is that at least on this visit I have chosen to brew my coffee in my flat and stay in for the first part of the morning to sip and write. In Florence, my schedule was different. I’d walk for the first hour of my day to avoid the crowded sidewalks of the compact city and to watch the city wake up. I’d have my first cappucchino while standing at a local bar, and then later enjoy an another cup while sitting down and writing at a cafe.
Today I have done more walking than writing. After a coffee/writing morning, I set out to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat. I ended up walking around half its base and then getting lost before finding my way to the Royal Mile and a three o’clock lunch of fish and chips.
Now I’m back at the flat, reading and writing. I’ll probably have some cereal for supper before thanking an evening walk.
I was up early this morning, always my best time to write. When I wrote my books for teachers, I wrote an hour every morning before heading off to the classroom. Wherever I travel, I try to keep to my normal time schedule. And as you might imagine, traveling alone as a senior, my night life is a minimum.
Today I took advantage of this best writing time by staying in the apartment until mid-morning. By then I was desperate for exercise and in need of inspiration. Robert Louis Stevenson became my muse as I walked through Queen Street Garden to 17 Heriot Row, to gaze at the front door where Stevenson lived during the early years of his life. Looking up at the window, I could almost hear him reading his garden of verses to me. After all, he and I are sharing the same garden. I can almost hear ‘The Lamplighter’ and ‘Night and Day’.
Next stop, The Parish Church of St. Cuthbert, the oldest Christian site in Edinburgh, and where Agatha Christie was married—for the second time. The divorce proceedings from her first marriage have all the intrigue of a Christie mystery, but I’m not suggesting inspiration other than to note that a fascinating life can inspire fascinating writing.
Continuing with the writing theme, I sat outside the church writing postcards. Then through the Princes Street Gardens and up the hill to the Writers’ museum at Makar’s Court just below the castle. The museum features artifacts, portraits, and a narrative of Robert Burns (1759-1796), Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).
‘So much inspiration, no time to write,’ I thought. But then I came to a couch and table, and a sign inviting me to sit down and rest. And, so I did. Taking my journal from my backpack, I began to write.
My first day in Edinburgh, the only sunny day forecast for my week’s stay. But, I am here to write no matter what the weather: write, sightsee, walk, eat, and pray. I travel alone; I love it.
Renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel is my first money saving decision, although truth be told I love spreading out in a homey environment. In the kitchen I can I make salads for lunch, brew my own coffee, and at the least heat up take-out for supper. With discipline, I can be a frugal traveler. I’ll see how it goes.
My day started with an early morning excursion to the local supermarket for breakfast supplies: coffee, juice, cereal, milk, eggs and a butter croissant, and then home to my rented apartment to fuel up for the day.
A writing vacation always calls for inspiration. I can’t write all day, and why would I when there is so much to see in this city? I plan my day for both. Today I joined The Book Lovers Tour of Edinburgh, an hour and a half walking tour led by Allen Foster. We started at the Writer’s Museum near Edinburgh Castle and walked to Southside, the university area of the city, where we heard stories and saw places where literary legends such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie, Alexander McCall Smith, and J.K. Rowling spent their time.
After all that inspiration, and lunch, I decided I’d better get a little writing done, so off I went to the Queen Street Garden, a private garden for those living on the block, and across the road from my apartment. As I was writing, a woman came by and sat with me for bit, telling me a little of the history of the garden. Evidently, as a little boy Robert Louis Stevenson played here. Inspiration from my secret garden, which I know is secret because I have a key. I write on.
I love to travel alone, and so I do. My husband of 54 years loves to stay home and garden, and so he does. But he knows I love to go off by myself for extended periods of time. For five years (2009-2014) I rented a cottage by the sea, an hour and a half from our home, and spent the weekdays there alone. For the past twenty years I’ve been traveling by myself, primarily to Scotland (Iona, the Highlands, and Edinburgh) and Italy. When I say Italy I really mean Florence, with occasional short stops and excursions around Tuscany and Umbria and to Rome.