30 September 2013

A good ceiling is hard to find

Doors Open Days Edinburgh (part of a Scotland-wide program of opening historic and noteworthy buildings to the public was this past weekend. I didn't go in as many open doors as I had originally intended, but I did make a point to stop into one of the major historic houses set just off the Royal Mile, Riddle's Court, which is managed by the Scottish Historic Building Trust. By city standards, especially in its 400-year history, it's a mansion. Big enough to have its own courtyard, which in Edinburgh's Old Town, is pretty much unheard of unless you're just rolling in ££!

Although I took a few more photos, only a couple of rooms were open and particularly interesting, and both of their showcase features were their ceilings. I'm a ceiling person. I like decoration, and I especially like when it's borderline ridiculous.

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And just in case you're interested in what the view from the window is:


I've been out and about quite a bit lately, and, of course, sincerely trying to do a lot of reading. A real lot. I had to switch bags because I was lugging so many books home from the library. But I've made time to walk around the city, too, of course, checking out new coffee shops, pubs and cafes, and stepping inside places I've passed before but never took a look in.

The weekend was ab.so.lute.ly gorgeous. Both days; it was practically a miracle.

I even touched the Highlands yesterday! I've now been out of the city twice, one for a school field trip to a beautiful contemporary art installation garden called Little Sparta (more on that soon), and then a full day trip, all touristy-like up toward Loch Katrine and the eastern edge of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Heeland Coos coming right up!

In the meantime, here's a different cow!


Kate x

27 September 2013

Settling in


I've done sort of an onslaught of picture posts lately, which I think appropriately relates the sort of exuberance that comes with arriving in a new place--especially one of renowned beauty such as Edinburgh. During the first few days I was here, it was almost impossible to go outside without pulling out my phone to take a picture, or if I thought ahead enough, my regular camera. But I thought that now, as I'm closing in on my third week here and things have begun to (gradually) fall into place, it might be nice to start reflecting a little bit on what being here, so far, is like.

Moving is hard. It's hard when you have to move to a different apartment in the same town you were in, or in the same state. It's a totally different story when you move to another country. I did it on my own, which makes it both simpler and more complicated depending on how you look at it, but I try to imagine having a family and all of those implications as well (doctors, schools, etc.) and it just boggles the mind. Or if I had to move furniture, or ship a car. Eep!

There's so much to think about before you leave, and then when you arrive! And of course, at that moment when you're most stressed from the physical move -- the packing of boxes, the flying/driving/shipping of items, and making sure you can get into your new place as hassle-free as possible -- there's everything to figure out. I have the benefit this time around of having been in the UK for a length of time before, so things like supermarket chains and currency I had mostly figured out before. I needed a little reminding, of course, but it's the sort of thing you take for granted at home, and can make settling in, in a new place, just a tad more challenging.

I started getting orientated to my university and specific program right away after I arrived in Scotland, so in addition to trying to stock toilet paper and figure out why ibuprofen tablets only come in tiny boxes of 16 tablets for the equivalent of $5USD, and what the heck a "flat white" is on the coffee shop menu (a small espresso drink with a thin "flat" layer of really velvety milk foam)--deep breath--there's school to think about.

And socializing! Joining a one-year masters program is like being a college freshman all over again. Nobody knows anybody, most people are from quite far away, so going through similar adjustments as you are, and therefore happy to lend a hand, give advice, or, if it comes to it, commiserate. One difference is our age, which is typically somewhere between 23 to 29 with a few later-comers thrown in there for good measure. The other difference between being a postgraduate and a freshman is that a larger percentage of postgraduate students are already married, more inclined to read and go to bed early (and therefore accept midnight bar closing as, well, acceptable), and... smarter. They want to be here (most of them, anyway) and they want to work hard and achieve something. We chose this. However, that's not to say that studious people don't like to grab a cold beverage after mind-bending seminars. Maybe two... or three.

Overall, in the last (almost) three weeks, I've begun to settle in and get a grasp on what's expected of me this year, and what I can expect to get out of it. I'm far from settled in yet -- relationships of all kinds are new and tenuous, classes have only just begun, I'm still trying to decide which grocery store is best for regular trips, and my internship has still to be determined altogether. Things are coming together, for sure. But there is quite a bit of settling in yet to do.

This weekend I'm headed to the Highlands on a see-it-all-quick bus tour just to get out of the city and see some hills. I need some expanse! Edinburgh is not an architecturally tall city, but it's a busy one, and I like space. I look forward to getting out for the day and then coming back to the place that's my own, and will feel more and more like mine as time goes by.

I'm having an amazing time, and it can't be overrated how lucky I feel--and am.

Kate x

25 September 2013

I can see for miles, miles, miles

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Over the weekend, a small group and I decided to take advantage of the amazing sunshine (and warmth!) and hike up into Holyrood Park. It's a huge, gorgeous parkland in the middle of the city that is known for its famous peak, Arthur's Seat (in the photo above). We didn't get up to that point in particular, but we made our way (with one false start along a path that was incidentally closed) to Salisbury Crags, where the view is one of the best you can get in the entire city.

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To the north, one looks over the Firth of Forth to the hills of Fife, past Old Town (pictured above is Calton Hill). To the east, you look out over a widening stretch of the Forth, which eventually, if you were to keep going, meets the North Sea. A view just doesn't get much better than that. On the way down, one gets a good overview of Holyrood Palace, which is the Queen's official residence in Scotland, and where she stays at least one week out of every year.


24 September 2013

Oh the view!

I just couldn't wait to show you a photo from my trek around Holyrood Park the other day. Famous for Arthur's Seat, a high climb, it also offers some amaaaaazing views from all sides, no less impressive from a series of outcrops called the Salisbury Crags. On a clear day, you can see for miiiiiiiles.


You are stunning, Edinburgh! Just stunning.

(If you click on the above image, it will take you to my Flickr page where you can view it in larger resolution.)

Kate x

23 September 2013

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

This is just a big fat picture post. Enjoy. :)

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Admission to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh grounds is free, with a small admission charge to enter the glasshouses. There are a couple of cafes, Inverleith House gallery, and plenty of places to walk around or sit and enjoy, with peeks at the city between the trees every once in a while. It's open all year round! And I'll certainly be back there a bunch.

Kate x

21 September 2013

Mostly West @ Inverleith House

Let me just say this first:


Just so you know, in case, you know... you happen to be in Edinburgh, and happen to have a free Sunday, and happen to love contemporary art. Just a fair warning.


As part of a group, I trekked down to (and around) the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh this morning, but split off walked around on my own well into the afternoon. I have to admit that it really (re)awakened the sense of wonder that accompanies being in a new place. After only two weeks in this city, it feels as though I still know absolutely nothing about it and like I've been here for months already. It was like a retreat of sorts to take the bus to the botanic garden, hang out for a warm cappuccino, and check out the Inverleith House gallery's last days of Mostly West: Franz West and Artist Collaborations.

It was an awesome show. I admit that I'm kind of predisposed to love contemporary art shows because I don't study contemporary art. I also stick by the rationale that if I studied it, I would fail to, in my ignorance, be just plain pleased by it. It makes me smile. Or smirk, more often than not, because I keep thinking, "That's weird." Or "What the @#$%?" But occasionally I think, "Holy crap, that's amazing."

That's what I thought about Essenz, in collaboration with Heimo Zobernig, 1989/99.


Inverleith Houses's layout of small gallery rooms over three levels provided a really wonderful flow and arrangement of the work. As the title of the exhibition suggests, Franz West was involved in some capacity with the work, but the pieces were collaborations in various media, completed over the course of several decades. Work was loosely organized by collaboration, and related works together, but other rooms were more sparse. West himself was Austrian, born in Vienna in 1947 and working until his death in 2012. He was awarded the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 54th Venice Biennale.


Above: Joe Says, Anton Herzl, 2007.


As the incredibly friendly and helpful woman at the reception desk told me, many of the pieces were interactive, and according to the exhibition guide, "West saw art as participatory." So unsurprisingly there were switches and seats and boxes that challenge the barrier between viewer and artwork, making the viewer more of a participant than a passive passer-by. (Above: Hangover in collaboration with Anselm Reyle, 2011; Below, L-R: Girl's Imagination, 2011, and Nairobi Haute 5, 2012, both also in collaboration with Anselm Reyle).


I always love a good guestbook:

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I fell in love with this stately little house. Of course, not really very little all. Just plain lovely. I was inspired to sit for forty-five minutes or so and sketch this view of it before the clouds started to look a little too threatening to sit outside. But before I left, I made sure to catch this outdoor Franz West installation, Bateau Imaginaire, Franz West and Heimo Zobernig, 2004.


I have so many more photos of the Botanic Gardens proper that I'm excited to show you, so look out for another RBGE post soon!

Kate x

18 September 2013

Moments on the Mile

I want to always be a tourist. It's not hard to think that way when you're in an internationally renowned historical and cultural center, but it's amazing just how quickly I start to fall into my usual rhythms, start going to the same places, sticking to the same area -- my comfort zone. Comfort zones are all well and good (we need them, we definitely do), but on that note, it's absolutely worthwhile to keep from getting too complacent by always making time to be a tourist. So I take my camera with me (in addition to my phone) most--if not all--of the time. I try to stop and take in places, really observing how I and other people interact with them. I like to stop into temporary exhibitions (see below), and also see the interiors of buildings I may have walked by a hundred times. There is always something new to learn, and something that will captivate and potentially inspire.

So, with that, my trek down the Royal Mile this morning. Objective: Get to Scottish Parliament and look at a gigantic tapestry. Secondary Objective: Take my lazy old time.


So here's this guy. An unavoidable feature on the Royal Mile in front of St. Giles High Kirk, here stands the sculptural likeness of Walter Montagu Douglass Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch (bewklewk? buckloo? bewklew? It's a mouthful even without the Scots pronunciation)... by William Birnie Rhind. Anyway. I've passed it numerous times and only just this morning stopped to really take in the detail, primarily, of the pedestal, which includes a series of these bad boys:

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...and a whole bunch of decoration. It's nice. Also, it stands in the place of the Old Tolbooth, first established on the High Street (fair warning, "Royal Mile" is something of a tourism construct -- it's still primarily considered the High Street, or Lawnmarket, or whatever the street is you're actually on) in the 14th century. Though now an open square in front of St. Giles Cathedral, there are markers in the pavement, some with dates, that outline where various walls once stood. The Heart of Midlothian, in the bricks on the pavement, also marks the spot of the Old Tolbooth.

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My primary goal was the walk to the opposite end of the Royal Mile, to the Scottish Parliament building, where an exhibition in its final week, The Great Tapestry of Scotland, is on display. There are well over 150 panels showing Scotland's history from the very beginning -- like, 400+ million years ago -- up to the present day. The website has some fun facts about how much thread was used and how many people actually worked on it, but it was mostly about the history. And Alexander McCall Smith was kind of The Man behind the whole project. It was cool, but I would hazard a guess that I was perhaps one of the very, very few visitors there under the age of 50.

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And then I sort of meandered my way back up the Royal Mile, stopping for a coffee along the way and a break on a bench for a little bit, a few photos. It's always interesting what catches your attention when you sit down for a few minutes and simply look around you, studying everything big and small. Like little tiny people walking way up on Arthur's Seat, which provides the backdrop for the rather abrasively modern parliament building.

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Many of the final photos in this post were taken just outside the cemetery gates where Adam Smith is buried, among many other notable people. I didn't want to juggle a grande Americano and my camera, so I saved the visit to the actual churchyard for another time, but it won't be long!

Kate x