I was home on the west coast last weekend.
Just for a day — actually, just for 12 hours — and it got me thinking… Is home where we settle? Or is home where we know every curve and line of the land, where we can watch the rain approaching the shore, where we could wander for hours without being found?
I arrived back in Edinburgh on a damp Monday morning and — for the first time — it felt ordinary. I jumped on the 22 and stared out the window: the hotchpotch of shops on Leith Walk, the scummy water at the Shore and my favourite café flowed past like familiar friends. It was finally happening; Edinburgh was becoming home.
There’s another reason for my change in feeling towards the east coast city.
We’ve been here four months, and only in the past one have we really made the effort to explore. A Saturday jaunt to the Botanics with friends, an evening at the theatre (sounds so posh, but really wasn’t!) and a few hours of bouldering at Alien Rock… It’s all helping me feel like I know the city more, like I’ve seen past its touristy façade to the everyday life of Edinburgers.
In this post, I wanted to share two walks from two separate Saturdays. The first was a grey stroll along Portobello promenade. Despite the weather, families and couples alike strolled down the pavement, small faces shot past on bicycles and dogs bounded before their owners.
There are definitely prettier cloudy-day places…
… But a mid-walk stop at The Little Green Van — a pop-up café right on the boardwalk — lifted our spirits. They serve handmade hot chocolate by the Pittenweem Chocolate Company and we went a bit crazy for the flavours: Himalayan pink salt and caramel, hazelnut praline, dark chocolate and orange, chilli… It’s expensive at £3 for a regular sized cup, but it made the bleak sea view a little less oppressive.
A week later, and we were filling our stomachs at the Flotterstone Inn in the Pentlands. Thanks to a cute guidebook my friend Zoe got me, we knew the ‘popular’ eatery would be mobbed… and even on a cold, damp day, we were right. I didn’t think the food was that outstanding, but it filled a gap and we headed onto the road.
Flotterstone is a bit of a mecca for weekend walkers and families. As we wandered — past tiny tots wobbling on stabilisers and ‘serious’ tarmac pounders with walking poles — light rain fell on our jackets. But the Pentlands’ low hills remained dusted in white which made for some almost-perfect reflections on the reservoir.
I know Edinburgh isn’t the west coast and — although it’s beginning to feel more familiar — I still mourn the lack of real hills. The backdrop to Flotterstone reservoir was smaller than the trig point near my childhood home. I just miss the ragged, wild coasts of Argyll and the clouds rolling in over the Clyde.
And most of all? I miss the silence. However nice a weekend ‘escape’ the Pentlands and Portobello might be to city dwellers, there’s still a few too many people. I’m holding out for those coastal corners where it’s just me and the sound of the sea.