October 23, 2011 at 9:18 am 35 comments

Scottish Sky

When I originally set this weekend aside as a stay-on-campus weekend, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. It was a smart idea for a couple reasons… Midterms are next week, my past few trips have been over budget, and I’m feeling under the weather. But I still felt a desperate restlessness when Friday rolled around and my friends packed their bags and flew away. Somehow it seems crucial to travel every week as I study abroad – a wasted opportunity to stop and breathe.

I didn’t realize how exhausted I’ve been until I experienced my first lazy Saturday in Europe. Instead of getting lost between train stations, I watched Spirited Away in the castle lounge and ate raisin bread. Today I curled up in an armchair with my art history notes, ready to absorb everything about Romanesque churches, when it hit me. I wanted to write. And for the first time in weeks, I had time.

I hadn’t meant to go this long without sharing my semester with you. Maybe photos of Scotland will help?

From the Castle

Our flight was delayed five hours and we arrived in Edinburgh far later than expected. It was so dark we couldn’t see a single building or street, but we found our way to the hostel and crashed on teetering bunk beds. I woke up early the next morning with no idea what Scotland looked like.

I found the shower room, pushed open the door, and groggily cursed the bright light coming from the window. But when I opened my eyes and looked outside for the first time, I actually dropped my bottle of shampoo, rushed back to the room, and returned with my camera. We woke up to one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen – the whole city bathed in fog, planks of light skimming across steeples and trees and rocky crags.

7:30 AM

We walked outside and realized, in the daylight, that our hostel rubbed up against the Edinburgh Castle. My life is unreal.

Edinburgh Castle

I spent my first day exploring. I tried to soak in the stone buildings, made up of a million colors – almond, tan, khaki, black, a few blush pink. I walked through a park and stumbled upon this beautiful cemetery. Some gravestones weren’t completely rubbed down by wind and weather, and the people laid to rest dated back centuries.


I watched a street performer breathe fire, swallow swords, and lay beneath a bed of nails.

Street Magic

Street Magic 2

More than anything else, I loved the layout of Edinburgh. I didn’t realize until we stood high on a ridge and looked down at the city, but the streets weave and tangle like a knot. The city has layers, with some roads above and some roads below, and massive inclines in between. For some reason, we always ended up walking uphill both ways to and from our hostel.

It didn’t make sense to us either.

Streets of Edinburgh

Our first day in Edinburgh was absolutely gorgeous. People kept telling us not to be fooled by the beautiful weather… I thought it was modesty. Then one afternoon the rain turned on and never turned off. Up until that point I’d marveled at the way I could stand on a street and look all the way down, stretching out forever – that day Edinburgh fog swept through until you could barely see anything.


At night, we tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to find late night food. We sang Brown Eyed Girl at a piano bar and went to a ceilidh – “kaylee,” in my American accent – or a traditional Scottish dance.


Piano Bar

I befriended some of the kindest, warmest people I have ever met.


I left Edinburgh fulfilled and awakened, thinking that I could see myself living here someday.

This semester is a gift. I can’t wait to share more of it with you in the coming weeks!

Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , .

Peanut Butter Jelly Loaf Robbed in Rome

35 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nanna  |  October 23, 2011 at 9:37 am

    You should live in Edinburgh! I was at Edinburgh University for my Master’s degree and it was magical. Looking at your photos made me feel nostalgic and happy at the same time. It’s a great place to be and live. I’m so happy that’s not the trip you decided to skip. Thanks for posting!

  • 2. alifoodie  |  October 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Edinburgh looks absolutely majestic. I live in London but i’ve never actually visited Edinburgh…time to change that I think. Next you have to visit London; local produce in Borough Market, curry on Brick lane, ice skating outside Somerset House at Christmas, The London Eye at night…it’s all magical. Come see! x

  • 3. laubao  |  October 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I liked Edinburgh a lot when I visited it!! It’s gorgeous!!
    It was a surprise finding here photos of Edinburgh!
    Thank you for posting!

  • 4. A Tablespoon of Liz  |  October 23, 2011 at 11:27 am

    wow, all those photos are so beautiful!

  • 5. Brooke Guevara  |  October 23, 2011 at 11:47 am

    wow, these pictures are amazing! I would absolutely love to study abroad, thank you for posting and inspiring me even more :)

  • 6. bell  |  October 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Beautiful photographs and account. I’m dying to go to Scotland as I’ve never been and it’s only about an hour’s journey and the plane tickets from Dublin, where I live, only cost about 30-50 euro… What am I waiting for? I think this post has motivated me to finally go. I’m glad you’re keeping in touch with us readers even when your life’s so hectic. I can’t wait to hear more in the next few weeks!

  • 7. Diana  |  October 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    I just spent the last 4 years in Edinburgh, so when this came up in my google reader I just had to have a look.

    It was by far the best city I have ever lived in and probably ever will. The people are amazing, everywhere is magical, and it was such a great place to make a home. I miss it every day!

  • 8. ruthie@thetwicebitten  |  October 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    What a lovely, lovely post. I’ve lived in Edinburgh for the last 7 years and reading your post made me view the city with fresh eyes. Its easy (but wrong) to get complacent living in such a wonderful city. Did you get a chance to walk around the new town?

  • 9. Elissa's Dad  |  October 23, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I miss you terribly and am so sad you are away but I have never been happier seeing the world through your eyes and seeing the joy that radiates from you when we find the time to see each other on Skype. I want you to come home soon and never stop seeing the world.

    Keep wringing what you can out of life, I can’t wait to share your experiences over pasta with too much sauce or a warm dog laying at our feet.

    Thanks for this gift and the Irish lasses….

  • 10. wanderingeducators  |  October 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    YAY YOU!! i love love love scotland, and esp edinburgh. it’s an amazing place!

    if you head up to inverness, i’ve got the best B&B for you to visit. or, over to glencoe – an amazing cottage rental, RIGHT where they filmed the hagrid’s hut scenes for harry potter. and, of course, beautiful beaches in mallaig. yay scotland!

  • 11. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  October 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Wow, Edinburgh sounds lovely! What made you choose Scotland as a destination over other choices you may have had? I’ve been all over Europe, but haven’t been to Scotland yet. Looking forward to more pictures and stories from you!!

  • 12. Amanda  |  October 23, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland, your photos make me want to go even more!

  • 13. Stephanie Hodges  |  October 23, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    That picture of the Edinburgh castle is absolutely epic! Your blog always triggers my cravings, this time for traveling instead of sweets :)

  • 14. easy cheesecake  |  October 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Absolutely wonderful photos. I wish that I had as much creativity with a camera. Enjoy yourself in all your travles.

  • 15. liuyu  |  October 24, 2011 at 1:24 am

    so nice!i want to go there at once!

  • 16. Mel  |  October 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Your photos and words are, as always, so charming. I’ve heard a lot about Edinburgh recently, and really hope I get a chance to visit soon! Went as far as London last year. One bad thing about living in New Zealand is how far away from everywhere else it is!!

    Hope you continue to have a wonderful semester. Keep exploring.

    (from a occasional commenter/frequent reader!)

  • 17. Evan  |  October 24, 2011 at 8:23 am

    My heart literally aches at this post…I visited Edinburgh in August and want to go back more than anything in the world. Like you, I felt instantly at home there. Scotland is such an amazing country!

  • 18. Supal {chevrons and eclairs}  |  October 24, 2011 at 9:33 am

    So glad you’re enjoying yourself! These are fantastic photos!

  • 19. Lauren Gillespie  |  October 24, 2011 at 10:25 am

    I did a study abroad in London and we spent a week in Edinburgh and it was so amazing. Have some chocolate soup while you are there :) I can’t wait till you can post more – love hearing about all of the adventures!

  • 20. wanderingeducators  |  October 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

    i forgot one book you should find! the locals’ guide to edinburgh – it’s so much fun!

  • 21. melissamy  |  October 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I spent a semester at Uni Edinburgh for my own study abroad a few years ago. In the photo of the street, my apartment was in the pink and tan building on the left! I miss it every day, and like everyone else has said, Edinburgh is truly a wonderful and magical city. Enjoy your semester abroad, it’s a once in a lifetime experience! Thanks for a great post and as always, great writing and photos!

  • 22. Ruthie Ellis  |  October 24, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I live in Edinburgh! It was such a surprise to read your new blog post and see photos of ‘home’. Your writing about the city was beautiful – it made me appreciate what a special place it is – it’s easy to forget it when you see it every day.

  • 23. Tiah  |  October 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Yay Scotland! I think it is my favorite place in Europe. If you get a chance you should head north – Aberdeen is my favorite city – the buildings are made from granite so they literally sparkle in the sunlight. The islands are amazing – one of the most beautiful places on earth is the Italian Chapel – built by WWII prisoners.
    Foods that you should totally eat – blackcurrant jam which goes great on scones. Coronation Chicken sandwiches – and Skirlie – very uniquely Scottish. Oh, and Banoffie Pie.

    Have an amazing time!

  • 24. Erika  |  October 29, 2011 at 2:53 am

    How exciting, begging for more photos. I haven’t been there myself but it is so beautiful. Hope your having a blast!!

  • 25. Cousin Sharon  |  October 29, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Memories that will last a lifetime, with or without your fabulous photos!

  • 26. Neil | Butterfield  |  November 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

    All is well that ends well. Sounds like you enjoyed yourself.

  • 27. Ann  |  November 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I just visited there on 13Oct! I like the town very much, it was so beautiful :).

  • 28. Anita Menon  |  November 16, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I have visited Edinburgh and loved the old world charm. You brought back those gorgeous memories. Thank you.

  • 29. laura  |  November 18, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Only just found your blog, wish I had found it a bit earlier so that I could have shown you around Edinburgh where I live! I’m English and not from here originally but I have fallen in love with it and hope that I can live here for many more years to come. I’ve lived in many different places over Europe but Edinburgh is the one place that really feels like home
    I’m so glad you had such a brilliant time here!

  • 30. gia  |  December 3, 2011 at 11:39 am

    This is magical. Your pictures are gorgeous. Best of luck!

  • 31. onceuponabite13  |  December 28, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    love the blog and love the photos from this entry!

  • 32. annett  |  January 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    stumbled upon your blog through a cooking website and couldn’t quit reading. You have a wonder gift of word and a beautiful photography style, don’t ever stop sharing your passion.

  • 33. The Hook  |  January 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Beautiful shots! They took my breath away!

  • 34. Cerinthe  |  January 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I can’t wait to start traveling myself. In high school I dreamed of taking a year to study abroad but when I went into nursing school I realized that wouldn’t be happening, It’s still a goal of mine though…

  • 35. Jacqui  |  January 17, 2012 at 1:42 am

    Amazing camera work LOVE YOUR BLOG! You have a interesting way of looking at things. Your great.


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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