On the one hand, 2018 might have qualified as the most adventure-packed year of my life. As my husband (then-fiancé!) and I finished up our last few months of long-distance love, I visited the United Kingdom twice in six months – a new record for me! We enjoyed a brief period of quiet time in our new home after that final visit resulted in the happily-ever-after of a granted visa: and then the rest of the summer concluded with a trip to my home, our wedding, and a mini-honeymoon.
I always enjoy looking back over my various voyagings in a given year, so I hope you will indulge me as I post my virtual travelogue nearly a week into 2019!
When I lived in Edinburgh for a semester – five years ago, if you can believe that! – I arrived in the bleak midwinter and departed at the very end of May. Such a schedule prevented me from experiencing the Scottish summer: a simultaneously blustery and sunkissed time, when the evenings stay illuminated until long into the night.
As I planned my research trip, I knew that finding accommodations in Edinburgh itself would probably deplete my fellowship money all at once. In an attempt to be frugal, then, I decided to find lodging in my beloved North Berwick instead, commuting into the city each day via train to keep my appointments at various galleries and archives.
Saving money and staying by the seaside? I couldn’t be happier!
Given the nature of my trip – intended as an investigative art historical learning opportunity, not a vacation! – my days proved both productive and exhausting. On a Friday, I had appointments at two branches of the National Gallery that happened to be located a good distance away from each other. My wrist-worn personal fitness robot informed me that I’d walked over 20,000 steps in the process! I’d return to North Berwick feeling as content in my new knowledge of fairy paintings as I was exhausted, and a leisurely evening stroll by the sea restored my energy.
If you want to avoid the Edinburgh crowds by staying in North Berwick, I’d offer the following words of advice:
- Buy off-peak day return tickets for the train if you can – you save so many pounds, and the “peak time” window during which you are not allowed to travel is surprisingly short. Ask a conductor or staff member on your train to confirm!
- If you’re leaving on a Sunday, hire a taxi or car transfer to get you to the airport or the train station, because train schedules are reduced on that particular day.
- The gelato place near the main street of town is open until 10 PM in the summer. Just saying!
(P.S. Remember the last time I visited North Berwick?)
If you’d told my child-aged self that one day I would embark on an academically sponsored research trip to Scotland to investigate fairies [and their representation in three paintings by a particular Scottish artist], she…probably would have shrugged and said “well, it’s not as good as finding a portal to a fay kingdom, but it will do.”
As someone who grew up fascinated by fairy lore, I find Victorian fairy painting such a compelling and strange epoch of modern artistic production. For one relatively brief nineteenth-century moment, winged creatures of fantasy held centerstage in the world of fine art – occupying monumental canvases typically reserved for history painting. I won’t reveal too much about my particular research angle yet, but through a number of museum and library visits in Edinburgh and Glasgow, I’ve discovered some truly fantastic archival material to help me on my journey.
The experience of seeing these three J. N. Paton paintings in person after studying them for so long, of course, may be as close to real magic as I’ll ever get.
As repetitive as they have no doubt become, I’ve nonetheless very much enjoyed this week’s reflections on 2017!
From the narcissistic standpoint of my personal life, it was quite a mercurial year–featuring a volatile blend of unexpected medical troubles (remember when I injured my neck and spent weeks lying on the floor, or when my wisdom teeth attempted to destroy me?), drastic life changes (somehow I’ve completed a quarter of my MA by now!), and stunning romance that would have seemed impossible a year ago (hey, 2015-me, it’s very important that you get involved in snail mail and decide to write to a certain Welsh pen pal…)
At the same time, I enjoyed a shocking amount of whirlwind travels in 2017, at home and abroad: the saddest part, perhaps, is that my quasi-hiatus from blogging kept me from sharing many of those photos with you, readers! Consider this post, then, a bit of a preview for some travel-blog catching up that awaits later this month.
I promised you castle photos–now, castle photos ye shall have!
Linlithgow Palace in Linlithgow, Scotland, isn’t quite the oldest castle you’ll ever encounter–though in a ruined state, it’s actually looking pretty good hundreds of years past its heyday in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Back then, it was a part-time royal residence, and today, it allows visitors (especially weird historians like me) to enjoy a thrilling opportunity to roam labyrinthine Renaissance halls and towers and dungeons completely unaccompanied. You can basically do whatever you want here, provided you respect the architecture! I even sang approximately three notes of a Palestrina motet to test the acoustics.
Most importantly, as the title suggests, there is a ridiculously adorable deer sculpture on its very ornate, extant, and functional fountain!
Because I studied abroad in Scotland during my college days, folks keep asking me if I was going back to Edinburgh to reunite with some faculty members or friends I’d met in 2013. (They underestimate how much of an extreme hermit I was while on my semester exchange.)
The best buddies I made during my first time in Edinburgh all live in the same place, which makes visiting convenient! They also all happen to be either fossils, ancient Celtic art objects, or other curiosities on view at the National Museum of Scotland. Oh, the company I keep!
Whenever I spend idle minutes organizing the hierarchy of my “Favorite Places on Earth” list (a frequent habit), the tiny Scottish seaside town of North Berwick always maintains its permanent place in the top three.
A week ago, I returned from a wonderful trip to Edinburgh, a brief six-day venture filled with unprecedentedly perfect weather, moderately tolerable air travel shenanigans, and exceedingly lovely company. It was such a quick getaway that I sometimes am overcome with the sad sense that it was all a dream–but perhaps sharing some photographic evidence will convince me otherwise!