Goodbye, Edinburgh

It wasn’t easy, but I made it out of exam-month alive, with a few shreds of dignity and a teaspoon of sanity left—although even these may be wrenched from me when the grades are released. I limped along with the help of coffee and wine and over-sleeping and under-sleeping. My eating habits were irregular or non-existent, and I didn’t leave the flat for days at a time. But miraculously, exams finally came to an end, and I am grateful for that and for the fact the no one threw eggs or flour at me. (Apparently Scottish students celebrate the end of exams by wasting food and ruining their clothes. I don’t quite understand the appeal, but lots of people seem to enjoy it!)

Even more bizarrely, as of this moment, I have one full day left in Edinburgh. Not that my last day will really count for much—laundry, fridge defrosting, packing, cleaning, returning library books and somehow ridding myself of a two-pound bag of small change will occupy the rest of my time here. It all feels incredibly unreal. My flat is empty, my friends have all gone home, and I will soon follow suit—in less than 48 hours I will be reunited with my friends, my family, my boyfriend and my cat! I wish I could say that I’m excited to return home, or heartbroken to be leaving Edinburgh, but mostly I just feel like I don’t want to defrost the fridge.

This is how I feel about defrosting the fridge and leaving this city that I love so deeply.
This is how I feel about defrosting the fridge and leaving this city that I love so deeply.

But before all this packing began, I said goodbye to the city the best that I could, and made some wonderful final memories. On a sunny/showery morning I finally made it to the Royal Botanic Gardens and spent hours just walking about and soaking up the sunshine. The May weather is still unpredictable, but there was enough sun to make up for the rainy spells (and the hail that fell the previous day).

2014-05-25 20.32.20 2014-05-25 21.24.36

Afterwards, I got a final coffee and a scone with clotted cream and jam at Kilimanjaro Coffee, and the next day I treated myself to millionaire shortbread at Black Medicine Coffee Co. (my excuse is that I have to use up all of my pound coins, which they won’t convert at the airport.)

I ventured to the top of the National Museum, and regretted that I hadn’t known about their rooftops gardens before, because the views are absolutely stunning.2014-05-23 19.57.21

I had the chance to spend a final evening with my Gaelic 1A classmates and the other members of Comann Ceilteach. We had dinner at the Kama Sutra, an Indian restaurant on Lothian Road that, unexpectedly, offered menus in Gaelic!

And finally, to celebrate their respective last nights in the city, I had the pleasure of going out to the Dragonfly Cocktail Bar TWICE with my lovely flatmates. Four cocktails, thirteen different types of liquor, and many shenanigans were had. cocktails

Everything is about to change. I’m saying goodbye to Tesco, cobblestones, late-night chips with curry sauce, double-decker buses and daily rain. I’m saying hello to 24-hour diners, humidity, Rita’s Water Ice, and the chirping of cicadas all night long.

None of this seems real. I can’t believe I’ve already been here nine months, and I can’t believe I’m already leaving. It seems like yesterday that I was struggling through the Fresher’s Flu and getting lost on the way to Tesco and climbing Arthur’s Seat for the very first time in the rain.

Now I have to return to packing. It’s time to go. I have so many roots, friends, memories and beloved haunts in this city that I know I will never, ever leave it completely. And I know that I will return in the flesh one day. I’ve spat on the Heart of Midlothian (three times!) so it’s my destiny.

As my final tribute to the city that I have called home, I present an excerpt from William McGonagall’s poem “Beautiful Edinburgh.” McGonagall has the reputation of being the worst poet ever to write in the English language, and that combined with the fact that he was born and he died just up the road from my flat allowed me to really enjoy this terrible poem about a wonderful city:

“Then, all ye tourists, be advised by me,
Beautiful Edinburgh ye ought to go and see.
It’s the only city I know of where ye can wile away the time
By viewing its lovely scenery and statues fine.

Magnificent city of Edinburgh, I must conclude my muse,
But to write in praise of thee I cannot refuse.
I will tell the world boldly without dismay
You have the biggest college in the world at the present day.

Of all the cities in the world, Edinburgh for me;
For no matter where I look, some lovely spot I see;
And for picturesque scenery unrivalled you do stand.
Therefore I pronounce you to be the Pride of Fair Scotland.”

Mar sin leat, Dùn Èideann–until we meet again.




  1. dbt027 says:

    So sorry to lose you without getting to make a connection. So glad you got to be here. We cannot wait to see Scotland in the flesh for ourselves as a family. We’ll be coming to American August 5-26. If irony proves true, we will probably bump into you there instead. Ha! Happy travels. I love the last photo, it looks like you could jump up and grab that cloud. Cheers. Thompsons

    1. rebeccagyllenhaal says:

      I was also really sad that I was never able to make it to Colchester! But do come up to Edinburgh if you get the chance–you will fall in love. 🙂 I’m very happy to hear that you’re coming Stateside this summer, I will make sure to meet up with the whole Thompson clan! Take care in the meantime!

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