Edinburgh for the Broke Harry Potter Fanatic! – Around the ‘burgh on 80 Pounds

Edinburgh for the Broke Harry Potter Fanatic! – Around the ‘burgh on 80 Pounds

 

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View of Caleb’s List (Scottish mountains) from Edinburgh

Having initially promised to visit Edinburgh to ring in 2016, I ended up leaving it far too late to book flights within my price range, and spent New Years’ in Kilkenny instead. Luckily I have a friend with whom I could stay in Scotland, and so Ryanair’s flash sale before Christmas allowed me to secure flights from Dublin- Edinburgh for €19.99 for a more budget-friendly weekend in January! (That’s about £15!)

Simple, right?

 Exceedingly so. The Airlink bus to and from the airport which leaves every 15-20 minutes or so was £7.50 for a return ticket, and brought me straight to my destination. While I contributed to the kitty in my friends’ flat for food and drink to last us the weekend (-£20), I still felt guilty enough about staying that I made a point to research all things Harry Potter around the city for us to do free of charge. Inspired by this post on the subject by World of Wanderlust, I happily concluded that an interesting day-tour was entirely feasible and cheap in such a dynamic and fascinating city.

Because who doesn’t love Harry Potter?

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Edinburgh Castle

The truth is that Edinburgh is an exciting and beautiful enough city to mean that any walk up down and around the cobbled streets and ancient architectural delights is sure to appeal to anyone, be they a fan of Harry Potter or not. 12528060_10153291186813483_1893488306_n

 Our first stop, The Elephant House Café, or ‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter’, has risen to fame as the spot where J.K. Rowling sat writing the beginnings of the series that came to define a generation (and my entire childhood, BA degree, the reason I did English in college, and probably the reason I’m writing this right now).

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Arguably the most obvious choice on the list, I was excited to visit this place, but in hindsight The Elephant House turned out to be a café….fairly similar to any other.

12527649_10153286889188483_1551068699_nElephants aside, the fact that J.K. Rowling once sat in there and drank a mediocre cup of coffee and presumably a bowl or two of the rather bland carrot soup is definitely the most exciting thing to have ever happened within those walls.
Coffee, Harry Potter memorabilia and fans’ scribblings on the bathroom walls, along with cute elephant statues and pictures everywhere you can look, the place sounds ideal, right? Yes, in theory. But where The Elephant House excels in reputation, decor and renown, it lacks seriously in the quality of service department. As I’ve described, the coffee itself was mediocre, and the soup only barely satisfactory for the price we paid (£8-£10). As an enormous Harry Potter, coffee, and elephant fan, the prospect of visiting this place had possibly been built up far too much for me, and I left feeling somewhat disgruntled and irritated particularly by the persistant use of the Jokerman font on everything from the sign outside to the cheaply crafted mugs for sale by the till. Still, nobody ever said it was famous for anything but its proximity to JK Rowling in the throes of writers’ inspiration. I’ve written things in worse places.

12540072_10153290315693483_280042630_nWe continued our tour down towards Greyfriars Kirk graveyard, a spooky burial ground which gave me chills down my spine even in the middle of the day – granted, Edinburgh in January is FREEZING at the best of times, but Greyfriars’ was on another level. It took us several rounds of the fairly small but hilly area to find what we were looking for – a medium-sized headstone detailing the remains of the Riddle family, the father of whom, Thomas, has unknowningly lent his name to a famous villian Who Must Not for Ministry reasons, ever Be Named. Tom Riddle, or Lord Voldemort, as those in the wizarding world have come to know him. The name on the headstone which spurred Rowling on to name the most good-looking boy in Slytherin was fairly nondescript, with nothing special to note except for the slightly more worn down pathway and footprints both leading up to and surrounding it.

Onwards from here we merely walked past the Balmoral Hotel into which Rowling supposedly checked in order to finish the 7th installment of the series, feeling more and more like we were taking a tour of Rowling’s psyche in the initial days of her inspiration and writing, rather than a tour of the magical world itself – something I for one was entirely happy to discover. I can imagine how others’ might expect slightly more obvious and tourist-directed attractions selling Potter merchandise and boasting themselves as a huge part of the series, but in all honestly, the genuine nature of this stunning city made it obvious how such inspiration and refuge had been drawn from it in the first place, and the lack of tourist extravagance was a huge bonus for me.

Unrelated to the Potter series, but beautiful all the same, we took a walk up Calton’s Hill to catch a 360 view of the city, and freeze off the remaining tips of our fingers. We also walked most of The Royal Mile, and got great views of the castle and the exterior of Camera Obscura.

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View from atop Calton’s Hill

That evening, in true cheapskate style that suited my poor purse down to the ground, we attended a house party where food and drink was supplied, and entry to the pub afterwards was free. El Barrio, a Latino pub/club proved a great evening’s entertainment with great music, cheap drinks (£5) and people alike! The Three Sisters not too far away has also proven a favourite spot on previous occasions, but one night out this particular weekend just after Christmas was more than enough to satisfy everyone!

 

A yoga class at Meadowlark Yoga (£12) the following morning and a tasty vegetarian lunch at the Forest Café (£5-£7) which caters for Edinburgh’s artistically-minded and creative cretins (ie, the biggest hipsters in Scotland), I was happy to conclude that my weekend away had altogether cost no more than around £80 pounds (flights included).

 

I spent my final 3 pounds on a hot chocolate in the airport as I left the chilly Scotland behind to return to an equally as freezing Dublin airport. All in all a great weekend and definitely extremely affordable.
But fecking COLD!!

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Happy January!

 

 

 

Useful Links:

Airlink Edinburgh
Ryanair
WOW – World of Wanderlust
The Elephant House 
The Royal Mile Edinburgh
The Three Sisters EdinburghWebsite/Facebook/TripAdvisor
Calton’s Hill Edinburgh
Meadowlark Yoga
Forest Café
El Barrio 

Let’s Be Honest…

Let’s Be Honest….

 I would love nothing more than to recount remarkable tales for you. To tell of great deeds and funny stories, incredible experiences I’ve had and interesting things I’ve witnessed. I relish in being of interest to people – seeming knowledgable of certain topics when they arise in conversation. I have so many ideas and plans and potential project ideas and life desires that when I get excited about them I could talk for hours on end until you’d be sick of seeing my eyes light up about all the possibilities under the stars.
‘Get real’, you’d probably say.

My blog I use as an outlet to put some of these more outlandish ideas into shape, to actually sit with them momentarily and coax them into some sort of comprehensible versions of the raving notions and ideas they really are. Even with this, I feel I rarely fully capture the essence of what I think or feel, because the passions are so fleeting and frequent and eccentric that it’s difficult to latch onto them when they pass by. Although I would love nothing more than to be a source of wisdom, advice, and comfort to anyone in need, the fact of the matter, of MY matter, and the only matter I will ever truly know, remains that I am only one human.

Only one human, who can only undertake and process one moment, one feeling, one experience at a time. Even at this, I have astonished myself with some of the friendships and connections I have managed to make in moments when these feelings and experiences have become jumbled and panicked in my mind. Those I care about and surround myself with all come from different backgrounds; we have shared experiences, emotions, good times and bad times together. I have shared struggles, lent on shoulders that were there when I was confused and couldn’t handle things by myself, and gulped down cups of tea made out of pity, out of love, out of concern by people who have shown me genuine care and affection. The one consistent thing I have found about the human race and people’s opinions towards mental health and hard times and ‘shit we’re going through’ is that in general; everyone gets it.

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Being open and honest about my own difficulties has helped me connect on deeper levels with people, and form bonds of confidence and trust stronger than your average friendship or aquaintence. Discussing things nobody really wants to discuss. Discussing things with people that they themselves feel uncomfortable about sometimes has a weird way of drawing you closer together. When you are your true self more and more, you delve into the true essence of what it means to be you – you may never find the answers, but hey, it’s fascinating (and sometimes scary!) to look. When you get the opportunity to be this self with people and different walks of life, you really realise the universality of our condition; our struggles, and of our mindsets, wants, needs, and tendencies as human beings.
Age is but a number. Nationality, religion, height, weight, shape, size – these are all just contributing factors which make up the way people have been shaped and categorized in an effort to glean some sort of understanding and make sense of the mass of people and identities who now walk upon the earth.

None of us really know why we’re here. In accepting that fact instead of continuing to struggle to ascertain myself as something different or special or to discover something new; in accepting myself and my body and condition for what I am; an unknown mass of cells making up one seven-billionth of the worlds’ population; there is a sense of freedom that I never thought could have been achievable by doing what I did and being open about struggles when they were occuring.
Because the truth is that we are all struggling. Each little tiny ant to roam the 7 continents we call home is struggling. It is how we choose to process and consider this struggle that makes the difference.

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Today I woke up, unemployed, in my parents’ home, with no particular plan or goals for myself to achieve for the day. Instead of asking myself ‘What the hell am I doing with myself?’ I chose to sit up and say “What CAN I do with myself?”
The answers to this second question were endless. They ARE endless.
I didn’t glean any monetary income from today, but I sure as hell didn’t waste it.
The sun was shining. I sent a few emails. Applied for a few jobs. Did a bit of my TEFL course online. Went to a yoga class. Made dinner. Now I’m writing this. I had every intention of creating and writing something informative, witty, groundbreaking, even, but instead I’ve accepted that the flow simply wasn’t there today. It simply wasn’t ready; the right mental stream and balance wasn’t open.

In spending so long stuck in an unbalanced, panicked and chaotic mental state, I now feel the effects of actual order and balance hyper-sensitively, and as such I am more proactive in everything I do.
I don’t mean to make it sound like the low I hit a few months ago was beneficial to me, because it was honestly the most confused, upset, and terrified I’ve ever been in my whole life. But I’m a firm believer that hitting rock bottom sometimes is necessary to be able to build your way all the way back up to where you were, and go even higher.

Like J. K. Rowling once said; “Rock bottom became the firm foundation on which I built the rest of my life”.

And she wrote Harry Potter. Enough said.

We all go through shit. We all feel like shit at times. It’s whether or not we let those feelings win, and decide not to try anymore that defines who we are. Each day is a choice. Each hour is a choice. Each step, each outfit, each meal, how we choose to spend each evening is a choice we can all make.
Do yourself a favour, and be honest with yourself. What is it you want to do? What is it that you love?
Take the time to listen to yourself – your ‘authentic’ self, for want of a less-cheesy expression, and be the contribution to this world that you would look at and say ‘I wish I did that’.
Be a radiator instead of a drain. Radiate that which you want and rave about seeing and doing, instead of just taking it all in and swallowing it up.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for once. When it comes down to it, even opening up and letting others in is only a method of dealing with ourselves – a way to help us process what’s going on in our own minds. In the end it’s up to us individually to be honest with our own needs, wants, and be that little bit selfish when it comes to putting ourselves first. Because let’s be honest; we’re all we’ve got!

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  An Unopened Letter To All Those Who Have Ever Borrowed a Book From Me….

Once upon a time there was a book.

The book appeared sometime between the Christmas my sister left for Germany, and the Summer I sat my Junior Certificate exams, without any prior warning, introduction or presentation. It was in her room one day when I went on a routine snoop around the house, restless teenager that I was, friendless and desperate to expend my energies on anything that didn’t involve Maths or Business Studies spreadsheets.
I don’t want to mention titles or authors for fear of this becoming a review-like piece of writing, but despite it’s gloomy and untelling cover, this book was possibly the most incredible thing my young and impressionable brain had ever taken in. I say this whilst coolly glossing over the likes of Harry Potter, my copies of which were even then becoming dog-eared and tattered from overuse.
But this book was incredible. It was one of those can’t-put-down, mind-opening, read-in-a-day kind of novels that only find their way to you once in a blue moon, and stay with you for much, much longer. I’m fairly sure it was one of the first novels to ever have such an effect on me. I still remember a lot of the little details that made it so intriuging – clearly even the fact that I’m writing this about it now says it all.

I haven’t read this book in over 7 years, yet I am still willing to bet that it is up there with my top 5 of all-time.
Thing is, I can’t test this theory, because shortly after reading it and being exposed to the newness of such a thrilling read for what was possibly the first time, I made the mistake of lending it to a friend in school, and she has yet to return it. So excited was I to be able to share such an experience that I’m fairly sure I forced the book upon this particular friend, insistant that she read it and thus creating an outlet for myself to which I could express my love and fascination. I ignored the fact that she seemed extremely disinterested and agreed to take it purely to humour me.

 I stopped asking after a week or two had she finished it. Or even started it. I gradually realised that my fascination with it was something that possibly would not be experienced by everyone, let alone someone I had forced it upon.
I was patient.
About three years later, finding myself at a bit of a reunion-gathering in this friend’s house, I completely innocently spotted the book in amongst a lot of other books on a shelf that looked like it hadn’t been touched in …well…about 3 years. Saying nothing, I wondered silently what to do. I hated the thought of an awkward conversation asking for its’ return, yet my rightful ownership and burning desire to read it again got the better of me.
‘Is that my book? Have you read it yet?’
She hadn’t.
For some reason, we laughed about it, and agreed that she could keep it that bit longer in the hopes of her eventually getting around to reading it.

That conversation took place a few years ago, and is the reason I’ve just ordered another copy of the book on Amazon. I’m looking forward to reading it again and seeing was it worth all the fuss!

I don’t mind lending people books – in fact, I quite like doing it, sharing any quality reads is really a nice thing to do sometimes. But I’ve started writing my name on the books that I actually invest in and buy, just in case they find themselves in the hands of someone who forgets where they came from.

Yoga as a Symbol For Movement…

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A list I made close to a year ago had one thing on it near the very top that I thought would never, ever in my deepest dreams be achieveable.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that wild of a goal, but for someone like me who finds it hard to locate even the goalposts on a football pitch let alone take a shot at one and score, it was a pretty out there task for me to set myself. I’ve probably confused you now with thinking my aim was to become some kind of sports guru and become successful playing for some prolific team or other – I regress.
No. My goal was yoga.
“Yoga. Yoga. Yoga”.
I had written this after a hastily scribbled list of numbers, on a cheap paper towel probably acquired from the latest coffee shop where I’d sat in confusion flailing about mentally and trying to somehow quieten my racing thoughts and notions by writing them down on the closest thing available. It looked something like this:

2. “I want to be able to do all the really really difficult yoga poses”

The funny thing is I don’t think I even knew what I was talking about when I said ‘all the really difficult yoga poses’, because, let’s face it, there are hundreds! Even now after a years’ full practice and endless research, both online and group-setting classes taken, I am still encountering new poses and variations. New variations that have kept varying as the practice has grown and been shared over centuries of yogis discovering the benefits of it. I couldn’t possibly have known the extent of the goal I had set myself. It was almost like setting myself the challenge of sampling every flavour created of Bertie-Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans – a task made all the more challenging given the fact that they are a fictional confectionary craze, but let’s not bring the blurred lines of ‘fact and fiction’ arguments of Harry Potter into this…

My point is that in setting myself such an unrealistic goal, I was inevitably setting myself up for failure. Not failure in the sense that I have not achieved anything since I began practicing yoga, but failure in that there will always be something new about each pose or breath to learn; new variations to experiment with, and ultimately, new things being established that I do not know about the practice of yoga. Not only that, but in my practice these days, I no longer aim for the perfection of doing the ‘difficult poses’ for the sake of it – if my body is feeling up to it, I do them. If not, I don’t. The focus has shifted from wanting to do the poses, knowing that they are achievable, to actually just being in the moment and feeling and listening to my body.

In seeing how far I’ve come in a year, and realising that although I have progressed and learned a great deal, not only in regards to yoga practice, no surer have I ever been that there will always be more out there ahead of us in life to experience, and that the world is an ever-evolving, ever rotating sphere of confusion on which we just happen to be positioned; downward-facing dog or not.
The point of writing this was not to brag about how steady and reliable my headstand now is- although I am quite proud of it! – but merely to reinstate a point I’ve made before which we all know to be true, yet always seem to gloss over in the heat of moments that seem as endless as they are intense;

Life is a continuous progression from one moment to the next, each one irrelevant to the one which has gone before it, save when we choose to link them together.

In setting myself the task to learn things that I not only did not know existed yet, but were yet to be established as the variation of themselves that they currently are practiced as, I was straining my gaze into a black hole of impossibility, instead of focusing on the now.
The poses I have perfected to date have only been perfected in the moments in which I was positioned in them. I have the ability to say that yes, I have done this, but in reality every headstand I have done since the first has varied, and every one I will do from now will vary from that also. Things change. People move on. We grow; lose weight; gain weight; balance out; live.
In the end all we have is this moment.
All I have and can know for sure right now is the truth that I possess the ability to do those yoga poses, and that last year I didn’t, or else, hadn’t discovered I could yet. I’m not saying every time I do them they are perfect, or correct, or the same as before, but I know that I have previously achieved some sort of competency in them. If I never try to do a headstand again, I’ll be content in knowing that I once achieved it, and so achieved a part of a seemingly impossible goal I had once set myself and considered important. But like I said, the importance of actually doing them has disappeared completely. I’ve gotten to the stage where I see even setting myself goals to be slightly pointless, preferring rather to keep possibilities as dim ideas in my head, instead of focusing my energy too much upon the future.

All we have is now, and when we consider the syncronization of thought and action that yoga makes achievable, all the lists and plans for potential action or future possibilities that have not in fact happened yet seem fairly pointless. With correct yoga practice, we move in the now, for the now, with no agenda or hidden desires behind our movement save a need to feel our physicality and sit comfortably within it in that moment; a return to the Sattavic principles of spirituality where childhood and the purity that is associated with it are sought after.

I will definitely someday qualify officially as a yoga instructor, but as of now I have no set plans in place to do so. If it happens, I’ll be all the more appreciative of it having not thought into it and over-planned practices that haven’t yet occurred. I’m comfortable right now sitting as I am, as I would be were I positioned in any of the many poses I have thus far encountered, and have yet to try.