Anyway. It's fun. It's like I get to do something that at home makes me a pretentious turd, but here is required to get a good grade (aka, marks). But whatever: this is totally off the topic I want to write about.
On my walk back from the library tonight, I was stopped by an English guy who asked me where the Royal Mile was. As it happened, he had been headed in the totally opposite direction, so it was good he asked. And of course, since we suddenly were walking in the same direction, and he was probably feeling a tad bit sheepish, he expressed the--what I've come to consider as typical--intrigue that I'm American and giving him (ie. someone from the UK) directions. So it happens. And happens... and happens. Kinda like the one time in London some guy shoved his mobile phone in my face and said, "Please talk to my friend about how to get here from this other part of London!" and I got on the phone and the guy said, "I'm from London and I'm talking to an American about how to get around London."
Anyway. My "I'm a local... but not" moment got me thinking about living in the City Centre (which is what this part of town is actually called, encompassing the Royal Mile and thereby Old Town, as well as New Town and very near-lying areas. It's easy to be annoyed by the constant crowding on the narrow sidewalks (pavements!) of the Royal Mile, or the sound of bagpipers at all hours from all directions (or worse, the bagpipe rock that gets funneled through the souvenir shops' stereos) -- but there are a few things that are really, really great about living in the middle of everything:
Top 5 reason I love living in Edinburgh's City Centre
1>> Personally, I find Edinburgh an outwardly friendly city. Especially downtown. Just about everyone I've ever spoken to, whether in shops or on the street or in a coffee house... they're all brilliant and nice and helpful. If someone isn't... well... they're a poop, and not by any means an indicator of the general feeling.
2>> Being in the center of the city means that pretty much anywhere I want to go, I can probably walk or, at most, take a short bus ride there. So I walk a lot--sometimes to escape the center of the city, but it's that everything is equidistant from the middle is the point I'm trying to make. It's awesome.
3>> Living on and spending a lot of my time around the most-visited area in all of Scotland, one obviously runs into a ton of travellers--of all kinds. Students, tour groups, elderly couples, backpackers, holiday-makers, newlyweds--you name it. And one funny benefit to being American and finding yourself in, say, a coffee shop or cafe (especially something really highly recommended on TripAdvisor or having anything whatsoever to do with Harry Potter) is that any curious (or lonely) travellers might be more willing to ask you if you're travelling too. And then when you say no, but kind of yes, it often opens up a pretty interesting slice of conversation. I know enough about the city to be able to direct someone somewhere, but I'm also still travel-minded and am curious to know where they're from, why they're in Edinburgh and where they're headed. And I think sometimes they like to have a chat for a couple minutes. I remember those kinds of situations well -- it's great to be in an area where conversation can naturally start and flow a bit easier.
4>> There are a ton of coffee shops in the middle of the city, with plenty of roasters and artisan foam art to go around. This is a HUGE plus for me. Prices can seem a little out there, so choose accordingly, but... in the end... a good cup of coffee is a good cup of coffee. And for the sake of inclusion, I'll throw in "cool bars" here, too -- it's easy to get to just about anyplace in Old Town or New Town and not have to worry about how long it will take to get back afterward.
5>> The Royal Mile and Old Town is a wedding party destination--plenty of hotels and bars and restaurants, so whether it's a hen/stag party or the actual wedding, there's a lot happening. But the thing about the actual weddings? SATURDAYS=KILTS!! At no other time are you more likely to walk down the street and see at least half a dozen dudes fully-decked out, sporran and all. It's awesome. I'll never get tired of it.
And oh, bagpipers... I forgive you. It makes me think of Braveheart and sometimes that's okay. Cliche, but... that's the whoooooole point.