Here are some of the things I learned about Edinburgh, Scotland:
- Edinburgh takes its status as the City of Literature very seriously.
- The weather is quite depressing.
- The coffee is ridiculously expensive.
- August, being the month of festivals, is perhaps not the best time of the year to walk around because it’s so full that you can’t help but bump into pretty much everyone.
Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and company
George Square 23 is the house where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived from 1876 to 1880. The good news: the house is in front of the university; the bad news: the square was full of people, cars, food trucks and a giant purple cow.
Those of you who’ve been to London probably remember the small, blue signs that tell you whether someone worth mentioning lived in a specific building. I’ve never been to London, so I have no blue signs to remember.
Well, Edinburgh is not like that. According to our guide, the Scots refused to do things like the English, so instead of a cute little blue sign, one has to walk to the doors to be able to read this:
In another part of the city, we arrived at the School of Medicine of the University of Edinburgh, which is where Conan Doyle became a man of medicine. That’s exactly where he met doctor Joseph Bell, a brilliant surgeon who was able to diagnose his patients simply by looking at them. Now you know where Mr. Doyle got the idea to create our favorite detective.
A few steps ahead we find the surgery wing of the hospital, where Sir Joseph Lister, the Father of Antiseptic Surgery, worked. Poet William Ernest Henley spent quite a lot of time there since he suffered from tuberculosis. He’d already had one leg amputated and was now in line for the amputation of his second leg. His friend Robert Louis Stevenson sat by his side during those times and it was then that he got the inspiration to create the famous pirate Long John Silver, from Treasure Island.
Inspiration and influences do not stop here because W. E. Henley was also friends with Sir James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. Barry invented the name ‘Wendy’ upon hearing Henley’s little daughter mispronounce the word ‘friend’; she used to say ‘wend’.
Those were the good ol’ days when everyone was friends with everyone… except for Mark Twain, who also roamed around Scotland for a while, but we’ll talk about him another day.
Right around the corner, we found “La Hispaniola”, which was originally called “Rutherford’s” and it was Robert Louis Stevenson’s favorite pub. Nowadays, it’s a lovely little restaurant that shares its name with the ship from his novel Treasure Island.
If you get closer to the window, you may also notice the silhouette of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used to go to the pub due to its closeness to the School of Medicine.
Speaking of Conan Doyle, I was wandering around Edinburgh, minding my own business, when I came across a little place with a terrifying name:
I’m not sure I’d like to have a coffee in a place that shares its name with one of the most intelligent villains in literature.
Yeah, Edinburgh is full of all kinds of literary references. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bar, a café, a book shop or a restaurant; the point is, you find pieces of literature everywhere, even in the flowerpots.