Well, I’m here. We did it.
I am officially a resident of Edinburgh, Scotland. As are my husband and two cats, Marcellus Wallace and Kiara Mala. The four of us are easing into a somewhat normal routine after putting nearly everything we own into storage (AKA various generous family members basements).
Though, we haven’t actually moved into our new flat yet, I feel relieved that the traveling with cats is done (for now). For the moment, we are hopping around in AirBnB’s until our move-in date later in September.
I feel like I am still reeling a bit from our journey getting here.
The day we left the U.S., we flew from Detroit to Paris, where we took a taxi across France to Calais, where we boarded a train through the Chunnel and spent the night on the border of the U.K. in Folkestone. (Whew!)
As I’m sure you can imagine, the cats were not pleased. They were so broken from all the travel by the time we got to our tiny hotel room, almost 24 hours after we departed Michigan, they looked at us like: You put us through all that for THIS?!
[They had to use a disposable aluminum turkey tray for their litter box for two days, and it was horrific for them. (Spoiler: they survived.)]
The next morning, we took a train up the coast of England all the way to Edinburgh, with one stopover in London to switch train terminals. Surprisingly, the cats really hated the train more than anything else that we put them through. I’m guessing it was because it was so loud.
From Edinburgh, we rented a car and drove out to our little cottage in Gorebridge where we lived for 2 weeks while Fringe was on in the city centre. The masses of people reminded me of Chicago. I wasn’t expecting that.
On the other hand, Gorgebridge is quiet.
Our cottage, though quaint and picturesque, was infested with spiders the size of my hand — and flies that drove my husband mad.
Why people in the U.K. do not put screens on their windows is beyond me… I get the whole “we don’t have mosquitos” thing — but Jesus H. Christ, ya’ll have some nasty bugs and — AND — I can’t open a window without my cats wanting to leap to their doom. They are definitely used to the concept of screens on windows. I would love to leave a window open at night for the fresh air, but either a fresh batch of flies come pouring in or tarantulas creep in for a snuggle.
But, c’est la vie.
We took the cats outside several times on their leashes (I’m not nuts, I just don’t want them to run away) because we stayed on this enormous estate that was mostly surrounded by wheat fields, so there was a lot for them to sniff. Alas, they just cowered in fear, for whatever reason. So, sufficed to say, they are still adjusting.
In the last few weeks my husband and I did a lot of adventuring.
In a month we will no longer have our rental car, so we are trying to get as much use out of it as possible. The public transportation here is pretty good, but train travel is expensive and it seems taking a bus takes twice as long to get where you need to be. Though, the roads are incredibly small and our car is just a little bit too big.
Our first weekend we spent traversing the Highlands. Though, it was quick because we know we’ll be back with family. This time, we took a route up north that our friends drove, and had success with, to Inverness where we spent the night. We saw Loch Ness and visited Glen Affric, where I fell into an ice-cold river trying to jump across said river, because my husband thinks he’s a ninja.
It’s really his fault, because he egged me on after he made it across safely. 😉 But I digress…
The next weekend, we visited Glasgow, which is a pretty rad city. I definitely anticipate being back there, especially because we discovered an underground vegan club. Why Detroit does not yet have one of those is beyond me. The vegan scene is alive and well in the U.K., that’s for sure. And I have been all too happy to take part.
We went into Edinburgh several times for Fringe and just to explore. We embarked on a literary pub crawl which was an exciting way to see the city on foot. We found an underground speakeasy pub called Panda & Sons that is posed like a barber shop on the top floor. We broke out our winter jackets, because it hasn’t been warmer than 65 F. We switched our phones over to a U.K. service and dealt with the trials of that. My husband got a proper U.K. haircut (men really take their hair seriously here). We met one of our new neighbors while we were traipsing around our actual flat, trying to get a look because Braemore (the real estate agency) won’t let us see it until the day we sign the lease. I discovered the glory of T.K. Maxx. We hiked part of the John Muir trail. And we tried tons of tasty vegan restaurants in the area.
But because of all that yummy food, I veered off my normal healthy eating path and ingested a lot of grains, including gluten. (I blame pizza and vegan cheese!) Thus, I was quickly reminded why I never do that, because my face, arms and back broke out terribly in hives and painful cystic acne and my throat became very swollen for a few days. So we are back to cooking our own meals, drinking herbal tonics, taking supplements, doing yoga, and I am avoiding delicious gluten and grains, because I am clearly more allergic than I even realized.
Side-note: bread is more delicious that I remember it being. 😦
But life is getting back to normal, now, two weeks since we’ve arrived in Scotland.
I took five days off work for the move, but then I was right back to it last Monday. However, our cottage in the country doesn’t have any internet service, so I’ve been forced to work out of various cafes in the area. (I say forced gently.) It isn’t a big deal at all, because I’ve fallen in love with hot chai lattes with coconut milk, so I can sip those whilst I work in the cozy comfort of coffee shops.
One such cafe is Steampunk Coffee in North Berwick. I have fallen terribly in love with North Berwick. I think my husband prefers the wildness of Edinburgh, but there is something about small seaside towns that just… I don’t know.. relax me? I love that no matter where you are in town, you can hear, smell, or see the sea.
It’s very grounding.
Edinburgh is such a large city that sometimes you forget you are right on the sea. And if I’m being perfectly honest, the ocean is half the reason why I wanted to move to the United Kingdom.
Anyway, we found North Berwick by total accident. One morning we woke up and were like, “We’ve been here two weeks and haven’t yet been to a castle.”
So, we set out to remedy that with a visit to Tantallon Castle, which is only a half hour from Gorebridge. Tantallon is a magnificent mid-14th-century fortress that you can climb to the top of. The day we were there, the sky opened upon us with a quick downpour, then gave us a double rainbow right over the sea.
It was pretty magical.
Afterward, we stumbled upon North Berwick on our journey back home. Well, let’s be honest: we were looking for a pub. And we found one there.
Because it is so close to us, and it’s about 30 pounds to park in Edinburgh right now because of Fringe, we’ve been back to North Berwick a few times for the free parking, WiFi, cool people, and seaside wanders.
I keep reminding myself that in a month, life will be completely different than it is now. So I’m trying to enjoy the last remnants of summer before the cold Scottish winter takes me and we are living in the heart of the city, walking to the beat of Edinburgh’s drum.
But even with all of our travel and adventure, I’ve felt the pangs of homesickness, of my old life and family left behind. I wept for a moment, caught in the wind of the Highlands, for a life that no longer exists.
Hadn’t I wanted this?
Isn’t this what I had been yearning for?
A new country?
A new life?
And after a moment, I realize it is still what I want.
More than anything.
But it’s hard to miss those you love most when you’re surrounded by them and caught in the normalcy of daily routine.
But now I’m here and they’re there. I can’t just take a walk with my sister on a Tuesday night because we feel like it. Or stop over at my grandparent’s house because I’m driving by. Or go for a swim in my in-laws pool. Or make a vegan dinner for a loved one.
And I know they’ll visit us. And if we stay overseas like we plan to, we’ll come home, too.
But everything is different now.
There is no going back.
I guess that’s the thing with life, isn’t it? You can only move in one direction: the present.
And so I wept for that. For the end of an era — and the beginning of a new chapter, the ink of the first lines written, still drying.