Lauren at Gordonstoun: Edinburgh

Laura and I got up at 6:15 on Saturday morning to take the train down to Edinburgh, where we stayed with her host family, the Kings. After Elizabeth and James (her host mom and dad) picked us up at the station, we went back to their flat for lunch. Edinburgh is broken down into the “old town,” which was built in the 1600’s, and the “new town,” which was built in the 1800’s. It reminded me very much of Mary Poppins. The sounds of bagpipes echoed through the cobble stone streets. After lunch, Laura and I went exploring and got to be tourists for a while. We stopped by Edinburgh Castle, and walked down the High Street, which is the oldest part of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is really not very big, especially compared to San Francisco or New York City. We walked around the city for the rest of the day, exploring both the old town and the new town.

I woke up at 10:30 the next morning, feeling refreshed after my first opportunity to sleep in since I’ve arrived in Scotland. Laura and I had breakfast, and once Mrs King got back from walking the dogs, I went on a run through the city and up to Arthur’s Seat, the local dormant volcano. I did get a little lost, but utilized my map well enough and found my way. I admired the amazing view from the top in Arthur’s Seat, the stone chair perched on the old volcano.

On Monday, Laura and I took a tour of Mary King’s Close, one of the underground neighborhoods that slopes from the High Street. It was not always underground, but in the early 1800’s, the close was covered and more buildings were built on top, level with the castle. It was really cool seeing how the first people to inhabit Edinburgh lived, but I’m quite fortunate that I was not one of them (though the living conditions did improve once sewage pipes were installed). Mary King’s Close is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland, which also gave the visit an edge. After the tour, Laura and I did some cashmere shopping and had lunch at The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. I was shocked to learn that there are two versions of the first book and movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the American version, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the version that British children have grown up with. The stories and movies are the same, but the name of the stone was changed, and according to, it was renamed to due apparent inconsistencies with the American and British understanding of the word “philosopher,” which could have potentially damaged US sales.

On my last day in Edinburgh, Elizabeth, Laura, and I went to visit the Britannia, the decommissioned royal yacht. It was really neat seeing where the royal family would go to relax. The Britannia was commissioned in 1953 and sailed around the world until 1997, when the government decided it was too expensive to keep running. The Britannia was still using its original engines when it became a tourist destination.