Finding Scotland, Stateside

American Adventures, Edinburgh Expeditions

It’s been nearly three months since I left Scotland. Strangely, I fell back into the rhythm of living back home without too much difficulty. I expected to be pulling my out my hair, moaning, mourning. But I’m not.

There have been a few things that have made the transition back to America easy. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to get lots of foods I had grown accustomed to, the ale I grew to love, and miss the friends I had made.

The food isn’t too difficult. Mostly I ate things like risotto, which I can easily make in America. I miss the sweets quite a bit, but have been sent care packages from friends with delicious delicious chocolate. Walker’s shortbread is an easy fix, too. Tea isn’t an issue, as my mum and I are very picky tea drinkers and prefer the finest in Tesco supermarket tea (my rent is tea bags. I brought back 800. And McVities digestives. I’m good for a few months).

The real trouble? Haggis. Oh my goodness. It’s so good! Especially with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes).

The ale, that was a real concern. I developed a taste for Scottish ales. Innis & Gunn is a real favourite. Imagine my surprise when I found that a local sandwich bar had it on draught, a rare enough thing in Edinburgh, where it’s brewed. That was an amazing discovery. And I can get it bottled at some specialty grocery stores! Win!

Friends, well, thank goodness for Skype! Every day I’m speaking to someone I met in Scotland, some days more than one. And the Far Off Places crew has had conference skypes, which has been awesome to speak with everyone. I’ve even managed to have lunch with one of my Edinburgh friends (he was visiting Boston from LA, was awesome to see him).

And there is always the possibility for visits, both to Edinburgh, and around the world. I’ve friends on nearly every continent, it’s now just a case of traveling to see them!

The (formerly) Non-poetry Fan’s Adventures at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh Expeditions

They say that Edinburgh is the Festival City. Well, it’s true. And if it’s the Festival City, then August is the Festival Month. The Fringe, the most famous of the (four? five?) festivals running this month, is loud, obnoxious, and rather in your face. Tourists course through the streets, making each trip twice as long as it needs to be (my legs are in great shape now that I’ve taken to the hills to avoid them. Really. Hilly streets run parallel to the main ones). Drunks sing outside my window at all hours of the night and morning. And it is really, really loud.

Within this manic, energetic, mildly obnoxious madness, there is an oasis of calm. Located on the far side (for me) of George Street in Charlotte Square is the International Book Festival, the ultimate place for a book-toting, pen-wielding blogger and former English major. The white tents, the deck chairs, the yurts, the green, the books…oh the books. There are at least three book stores. Everyone clutches at a book, one they have purchased, one they have had signed, or one that they wish to leave for another to enjoy.

I’ve only attended two events so far at the Book Festival. The first was last Wednesday. It was an improv poetry slam, the first of its kind I’d attended. Not being a fan of poetry (or so I thought until this May’s Poetry Marathon), I had never even been to a slam. I loved it. I laughed. How I laughed! I drew portraits of the poets, chatted briefly with them after, generally had a lovely time.

Another day I just hung out at the Festival. A friend was interviewing a writer for her magazine, and I tagged along for a bit (not for the interview–I stayed in the Spiegeltent and drew). While waiting for her to get out of an event, and for another friend to arrive, I simple sat and read from the latest 44 Scotland Street book, before having a lovely conversation with two sisters in their 60s who sat at my table. You meet such wonderful people when you smile.

Today, I attended a presentation by Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s current makar (national poet). She spoke about her work, about her background, about the importance of learning poetry in schools. I felt rather embarrassed, not really knowing her work but knowing her name. Doubly embarrassed because, as a former English major, I had never studied poetry in a university setting. Triply embarrassed because I have an appalling memory and cannot remember any of the poems I ought to have memorized as a child. Also felt a bit silly as I didn’t have much to say when I met her after, apart from “I really enjoyed the presentation” and “My name’s Beth…no, short for Bethany.”

My next adventure at the book festival is this Friday, where I am to hear one of my favourite discoveries of the last few months speak. Carol Ann Duffy, the British poet laureate. Her collection of poetry, Rapture, is one of my favourite works, regardless of genre. I am so looking forward to attending her reading. I really ought to pick up a copy of Rapture this week, a second reward for finishing my dissertation, so that I’ll have something for her to sign, should she do a signing.

London Review of Books tent

(C) Bethany Wolfe

When you can’t find a gig shirt you like, design your own.

General Geekiness

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

When I was at the two Morrissey gigs last weekend, I saw plenty of Smiths and Morrissey shirts. I felt a bit out of place, wearing a teal shirt in Manchester and a black and white one in Edinburgh. A Morrissey gig is the one place that if you aren’t wearing a shirt or badge you are ‘that guy (or girl).’

In Manchester, I had my sketchbook, and spent the time before the gig drawing pictures. One t shirt I saw and liked was just his silhouette, filled with song lyrics. I liked the silhouette. Amy has a cool shirt with the gladioli (a favourite prop of Smiths-era Morrissey) and I thought I’d combine the two.

This is just the first draft, I’m hoping to smooth out his profile and fix the quiff a bit.

I really want to get this screen printed. I’ll have to play around with the placement. I’m thinking having it really large on a v-neck shirt.


May Day, or Beltane’s Aftermath

Edinburgh Expeditions

Happy May Day to you all!

Last night, I stood out on the cold Calton Hill with about 10,000 other revelers to banish winter and welcome in summer. We watched the Beltane Festival, a modern reinterpretation of the pre-Christian Spring celebration. We weren’t entirely certain of what we were getting ourselves into, only that there would be fire

The Drummers

The Drummers, Beltane 2012

At nightfall, we moved to the other side of the Acropolis, to welcome the much-needed fire! It was absolutely freezing on Calton Hill–I wore my heavy down coat and shivered more than at Hogmanay (New Year’s celebrations). Unfortunately, being a bit vertically challenged (and in the middle of the crowd), I couldn’t see much more than this, the Processionals lighting the fire.

Lighting the fires

Lighting the fires

After, we watched some fire dancing (including flaming hula hoops), thoroughly impressed. I’d like to try my hand at it some time.

The night continued on, still freezing cold. There were more processions, dancing, and finally the Green Man and May Queen lit the massive bonfire! Warmth at last!

Dancing by Flames

Dancing by Flames

For more serious information about Beltane, visit

In which Beth eats unusual foods (for her)

Edinburgh Expeditions

Whenever I’m travelling, I try to eat a new thing every day. Living in a new country, this doesn’t happen daily, particularly as living somewhere entails me making my own food.

Today, however, I managed to eat a meal filled with foods I never had consumed before. I went with a few of my friends to Saigon Saigon, which is one of the tasiest Chinese restaurants in Edinburgh.

We looked over the menu and then ordered, my friends (two from China, one from Taiwan) suggesting and selecting some of their favourite dishes. I just had one request: whatever we ate, there had to be at least one dish that wasn’t too spicy.

We ended up with five dishes. One, my favourite, I can’t recall what it was called. But what else did I eat? Let me preface by saying yes, I knew what I was eating. And it was all delicious.

Shredded chicken–my choice. Not too spicy at all.

Roasted duck tongue–a favourite of one of my friends. A bit spicy for my taste, but I did eat three tongues. As well as the bones of two, I didn’t realize there were bones in it…the crunchiness should have tipped me off.

Cow stomach–I’ve had stomach before, when I was in Italy (lamprodotto). I wasn’t a fan then, I’m really not a fan now either.

Pig’s feet–Um, these were delicious. Succulent and tasty, with a lovely sauce.

Sadly, the duck gizzards were unavailable. My friends said that they’re delicious, and I wanted to try them!

For desert, I had coconut milk with soga and tapioca. Wonderful!


And no, I still haven’t tried haggis.


A Windy Day at Rosslyn Chapel

Edinburgh Expeditions

Yesterday, a few friends and I ventured through the wind and rain to visit Rosslyn Chapel. After missing the bus (and noting that the 15A wouldn’t drop us off at the Chapel), we were off to a late start. Killing time with a cappuccino, we caught the later bus and were off, an hour after we had meant to.

But that was okay. We drove about a half hour outside of Edinburgh to Roslin, and a quick walk up to the chapel’s visitor center. Then through the sliding glass doors to see the chapel itself.

No internal photography is permitted, but we took full advantage of there still being daylight to shoot the exterior. There’s some lovely stonework, which I find beautiful, even in its decay.

Stonework, Rosslyn Chapel

(C) Beth 2012

I loved wandering around the building, looking at the statues of saints and angels. Living in Italy, if only for four months, instilled a fascination with these images. At Rosslyn, my favourites were on a memorial stone.

Love Conquers Death

(C) Beth 2012

I think I photographed all of the angels on this stone…there were so many! This one was my favourite photograph, though.


(C) Beth 2012

The interior of Rosslyn was stunning. Not being allowed to take photographs, I sketched instead (but none of my sketches were quite up to par, so sadly I shan’t share).

The carvings were beautiful. I can’t even begin to describe them without falling into cliche. A place that must be seen by one’s own eyes!