A Sunny Day in Stockbridge and the Botanic Gardens: A Photo-Heavy Post

Today was a gorgeous day. I thought I should share it with everyone in this short post.

It’s been snowing here in Edinburgh a lot lately, blizzarding even! Sometimes it even sticks…

One of the very snowy days, at 7am.

One of the very snowy days, at 7am.

 

Crazy Scots.

Crazy Scots.

But TODAY it was clear and sunny, so Ky and I decided to walk into Stockbridge. Stockbridge is a very posh part of Edinburgh that I would absolutely LOVE to live in!

There is always construction to ruin the view.

There is always construction to ruin the view.

Uh oh!

Uh oh!

I love the crescent-streets, they look so posh!

I love the crescent-streets, they look so posh!

Located in Stockbridge are the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are free to walk around. Of course, since it’s winter, they’re not super impressive, but the gardens are still a peaceful break from the busy city.

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WIth the colours so vibrant, the only signs of winter are the leaf-less trees and the dead gunneras.

WIth the colours so vibrant, the only signs of winter are the leaf-less trees and the dead gunneras.

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Ducks!

Ducks!

The serenity of the place was exactly what I needed after a very busy week.

Looking out over Stockbridge - you can see the silhouette of Arthur's Seat, the Castle, and several of the church spires poking up over the city. (It was snowing a bit at this point)

Looking out over Stockbridge – you can see the silhouette of Arthur’s Seat, the Castle, and several of the church spires poking up over the city. (It was snowing a bit at this point)

All-in-all, it was a pretty cool day!

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Christmas Alone… Almost

Last time, I discussed the reasons that led me to head to Glasgow for Christmas, and how I was saved from loneliness by Canadian Amber and Hamish the cat.

On the bus ride to Glasgow, I reflected on how unlike me this was. I consider myself a spontaneous person, but only to a point – normally when strangers and inter-city travel are involved, I’m usually turned off. But ultimately, the thought of being well and truly alone on Christmas day (both my flatmates were away) was too pathetic to face.

So, with a backpack full of ingredients for mulled wine, I arrived at Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station to meet Canadian Amber. Being fair-skinned and ginger, Canadian Amber is the most Scottish looking Canadian I’ve ever met. She is an incredibly interesting person, having lived in small-town Vancouver Island, Victoria, Northern Canada (ew) and Los Angeles (while working in the film industry). She now lives in Glasgow while getting her Master’s Degree. She is also unfailingly kind and eccentric.

Hamish is a borderline alcoholic

Hamish is a borderline alcoholic

As we bussed to Paisley, she warned me that it had the reputation for being a rough neighbourhood. I must admit, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this. Someone, however, made everything better. Ladies and Gentlemen, Hamish the cat!

On Christmas morning, I helped Hamish open his many gifts.

Canadian Amber and her kitteh!

Canadian Amber and her kitteh!

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Canadian Amber and I had homemade eggs benedict for breakfast, then went for a walk around Paisley. No busses were running, almost nothing was open. The sun was shining and the streets were deserted.

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We explored Paisley in almost complete solitude – so surreal!

A cool church in the sunset light

A cool church in the sunset light

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Paisley Abbey

Paisley Abbey

Paisley Abbey gargoyles. Can you spot the one that looks like an Alien chest-burster?

Paisley Abbey gargoyles. Can you spot the one that looks like an Alien chest-burster?

Canadian Amber and I made a delicious poor-man’s Christmas dinner that evening and stayed up way too late drinking various kinds of alcohol and torturing Hamish.

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He did not have the Christmas spirit

He did not have the Christmas spirit

When I went home the next morning, I thought about what kind of person it takes to invite a stranger into their home on Christmas day. I was very appreciative to get a dose of familiar Canadian hospitality for the holidays!

Facing a Lonely Christmas

It’s a sad situation that brought me to Paisley for Christmas. When I first arrived in Edinburgh and went on a CV-drop-off spree, I bagged a job that sounded too good to be true (hint: it was). I was hired at a five-star Italian restaurant as a server (in a hotel) on a SALARY. Meaning, I signed a contract to work 40 hours/week for £15,000/year plus tips, which is pretty good for a server. Everyone seemed very enthusiastic and friendly; the uniform looked like pajamas but oh well!

Ooh, baby! It hits me in ALL the right places!

Ooh, baby! It hits me in ALL the right places!

Part of my contract, however, was a clause that stated I was willing to work over the legal limit of 48 hours per week (“in case of emergency” I was vehemently told). I was also told that it was required for me to sign it to get the job – first red flag.

I soon found out that the hotel put their staff on salary in order to keep them working for as many hours as they needed. I often worked 60+ hours per week and received no overtime pay, but since we had all signed the over-48-hours agreement, we had no legal complaint on our side. I often worked 5:30am to 4pm or 5pm, but the worst shift I worked was 3pm to 4am. I never saw both sides of 4am so often in my life. It’s a horrible time of day. I still have a scar on the back of my hand from jabbing myself with a piece of loose floorboard I tried to move in a zombie-like daze.

Yes, it's very faint, but it's there!

Yes, it’s very faint, but it’s there!

Working this much also aggravated my knee injury, returning me to as severe a limp as three week after the injury.

I tried dealing with this in as grown-up a matter as possible. I approached the Human Resources manager and inquired about my excessive hours (and also subtly reminded him that he’d told me I’d only be working this much in times of staffing emergencies – perhaps I was just naïve). All he replied to this was: “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about the hours.”

Umm… OK?

When I quit two weeks later, my manager and the Human Resources manager were shocked. SHOCKED. And quite upset. “Why?!” they asked. “You only worked 49 hours this week!” I don’t remember exactly what I said to them at this, but I clearly recall holding back a string of profanities.

I worked at this place for a grand total of five weeks – the shortest time I’d ever spent in employment, and some of the most physically exhausting weeks of my life. After quitting, I took a chance emailing a café that had offered me a position I’d turned down in favour of the hotel – and out of sheer luck, they were hiring again! I was re-offered a position, but the only problem was that for the first 4 weeks, it was only part-time.

This lack of funds, right around Christmas time, meant one very important thing: I was broke. My English family would have been happy to have me, but because of holiday travel prices, the cost of visiting them skyrocketed far out of my affordability.

Christmas in Cornwall 3 years ago.

Christmas in Cornwall 3 years ago.

I faced the terrifyingly lonely prospect of spending Christmas day alone.

What I knew I was missing: a lovely family Christmas in Cornwall!

What I knew I was missing: a lovely family Christmas in Cornwall!

Christmas Eve morning, however, I received a text message from a Canadian girl I’d met a month before for about five minutes (she was friends with my landlord). It was something about how sad it was to have Christmas with a lack of snow. I replied that because I was too poor to visit anyone, I was spending Christmas alone. Immediately, and kindly, she informed me she was in the same situation and that I should probably remedy that by bussing to Glasgow that evening. At first, I was reluctant to go – having just ended a very dark, moody month, I had resigned myself to the solitude and depression ahead of me. I almost turned down her generous offer out of sheer self-pitty and my dislike of things-not-planned-in-advance. But she had a cat. So I said yes.

A couple of hours later, I hopped on a bus to Glasgow to spend Christmas with a stranger.

We’ll meet Hamish the cat and Canadian Amber next time in “Christmas Alone… Almost”

Conquering the Law (But not Actually): A Day Trip to North Berwick

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North Berwick (pronounced bear-ick, like Derick) is a seaside village East of Edinburgh. Boy do I like my seaside visits! Again accompanied by my Canadian companion, Ky, we ventured out of the city limits to seek the serenity of the sea.

Most British seaside towns I’ve seen – which is a fair few – follow one of two “themes”. Either they are attraction-based (arcades, manicured beaches, piers and waterfront boulevards), or they are functioning fishing villages. North Berwick seemed to be a fusion of the two.

It was strange for me to see the used, worn fishing equipment, boats and run-down waterfront row houses next door to two golf courses, the Seabird Centre, sailing lessons off the beach and a children’s play area.

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Sailing school!

Sailing school!

North Berwick has two beaches, each with it’s own wee off-coast island. In the spring and summer, you can join a boat tour out of the Seabird Centre that takes you out to these islands, which are apparently rich with wildlife.

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On the eastern-most beach, there is a man-made sea pool!

On the eastern-most beach, there is a man-made sea pool!

North Berwick has two golf courses, which is two too many for such a small town!

North Berwick has two golf courses, which is two too many for such a small town!

A unique landmark of North Berwick is the Law: a steep, high hill (or “Scottish mountain”). The Law was the shape of a very large pimple. This area of Scotland has quite a few such mountainous zits; whiteheads when it snows.

The Law from the beach.

The Law from the beach.

Anyway, the Law is a popular conquest for local hikers – though Ky and I couldn’t muster the motivation to follow in their footsteps (as my title hopefully suggests; I have a bad knee after all!)

North Berwick is a beautiful place to go explore – the beach is fantastic. Ky and I found a “Historical Glen-Walk” path that held such gems as an old house with a tree growing out of it, and some ruined cottages.

Yup, it's growing right outta there.

Yup, it’s growing right outta there.

"YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME PUNY HUMANS" - Nature

“YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME PUNY HUMANS”
– Nature

P1080888Close to town, we discovered an old graveyard complete with a big ruined church. It was supposed to be gated shut, but since none of these things are regulated in the UK, we found a way in anyway.

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Inside we saw a GHOST! No, it's just me.

Inside we saw a GHOST!
No, it’s just me.

The best part of the day, however, was our lunch at Buttercup Café.

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The café was located in the front room of a converted row house, where the living room would have been. There were about six small tables squished into this space. There were four servers. FOUR. They all looked to be no more than 80lbs apiece soaking wet; with their toothpick wrists they seemed only able to bring one item at a time (two-handed) out of the kitchen. Coming from the service industry myself, and often I handle a sixteen-table section on my own, it was hilarious watching four girls struggle to serve six tables between them.

They were all lovely, and I’m hoping, since it was a weekend, that they were in training.

While heading back into the city, Ky and I realized we’d finished our first list of places to visit.

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Where should we go next?