Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Elephant House in Edinburgh

Today is a writing day. I have writing to do for work, and writing to do for my own project... and writing for this blog. So, I figure by this evening I will have logged quite a few hours at my desk, staring at my laptop and tapping away at the keys. I do most of this work in my own home. I like being able to wander around in between thoughts- get snacks, kiss on one of my kitties- but there is something really beneficial to writing in public spaces-- sometimes. 

The thing is, you have to find the right place. And I just ... haven't. Not a place that I like enough to return to day after day (or at least a couple of times weekly).  Each time I attempt to work in public, I usually find something to gripe about. Maybe I'm not looking for the right things. My criteria are as follows:

-plenty of natural light

-decent table top/ work space 

-good coffee/ tea/ food stuff

-busy enough to feel lively, but not so busy where I feel I shouldn't take up a table too long

-no more than the average amount of babies/toddlers (I think I sat in the middle of a mom's club once!)

-easy to get to from home

** extra bonus if I feel safe enough to go to the restroom without packing everything up and taking it with me**

Sounds good, right? And not too difficult to find, but alas, my search continues. I would love to join the ranks of writers that have penned their opus in some charming cafe, while sipping on tea or lattes and letting the hum of the world around them penetrate their words. I want to find a cafe like the ones listed here.   

Of course, this discussion leads me to remember a wonderful experience I had a a lovely cafe in Edinburgh. Being the huge Harry Potter fanatic that I am, there were two coffee shops I had to visit during my visit to Scotland's capital- both claiming to be spots where Ms. Rowling wrote the first book of her fantastical series. One was The Elephant House (The other might get a post of its own on Dreams & Happy Things as well, but The Elephant House definitely gets to be posted first:)

It is a cafe that serves all the normal array of hot drinks and baked goodies, but also offers hearty soups and savory pies (with lots of vegetarian options!). I remember walking through the cheery red entryway and being greeted with smells of deliciousness! I placed my order at the counter and then wandered around to get a sense of the place.

The Elephant House is decked out with, appropriately enough, elephants. Trinkets, paintings and sculptures of the mighty beast adorn the walls. My favorite was the cork board of patron sketches, though. There were elephants of all shapes and sizes drawn by folks with all levels of artistic talent and style. And some came accompanied by notes- both funny and heartwarming. On the wall beside these sketches, The Elephant House proudly displays a framed newspaper interview with JK Rowling in which she mentions the cafe.

I passed through to the delightful back room, which is both bright and cozy. I gazed around the room and picked a perfect spot by the window. I couldn't help but wonder if Ms. Rowling sat at this very table as she invented the fantastical world I love to visit. I am sure it is a thought that runs across every Harry Potter fan as they take a seat...

My view is breathtaking. Blue skies and the Edinburgh Castle! I gaze out the windows for quite some time, and even jot down a few thoughts in my own notebook... until... I have to do it- I take out my copy of The Philosopher's Stone and I lose myself in a world of magic and wonder. Once, I feel a little self conscious- I know that reading this text at this place screams tourist!!! (like my photographing everything didn't already do the same) but I figure, for me, this little cafe... it's like a pilgrimage of sorts! I want to pay homage. And I happily did.  

I sipped chamomile tea.

Read my favorite book.

And soaked in the Edinburgh life that buzzed around me.

All beneath the castle walls.   ahhhhhh.


  1. Hiya! working on your own writing project? glad to hear that. I liked Marigold Marsh.

    also, I too am searching for a good cafe to call my own. let me know if you find a good one around LA.

    anyway, take care!

  2. Thanks Ben! I will tell you if I discover anything great. I want to check out the Last Bookstore soon. Not a cafe (although I hear they are planning on adding one) but might still be a good place to write-

  3. Though of another criteria for writing in public places: plenty of working electrical plugs! Gots to keep the laptop juiced up-