It’s been a little over two weeks since I got back from my trip to Scotland, and my mind has since been going over everything I saw and experienced in those few days I spent in Edinburgh. While my visit was very short I still managed to see everything that I wanted to see, (but the list was rather short, this being my first time in Scotland).
I saw the university, the castle and I visited the best bookstore I’ve ever seen, among other things, but one of the most exciting places, and the place I’d been looking forward to seeing the most, was The Elephant House. For those of you who don’t recognize the name it is an old café that J. K. Rowling used to frequent and where she wrote a big part of the Harry Potter series, which is what has since made the place an attractive tourist destination, especially for Potterheads. Since J. K. Rowling has always been one of my biggest role models, both as a person and writer, I just knew that this was a place I had to visit.
The Elephant House is located in the old part of Edinburgh and isn’t that difficult to find, I mean the huge letters saying, “Birthplace of Harry Potter” is a dead giveaway, but otherwise it looks like any other charming, Scottish café.
Inside the place looked very old fashioned and charming, as if the place had remained unchanged since J. K. Rowling used to come there. Naturally the place was filled with elephants, not real live elephants of course but decorative ones, on the shelves, and on the wall (until I walked into the place I had been wondering how the café got its name and now I finally knew). The air was a bit chilly by the windows so I picked a table as far away from the windows as possible. I ordered the regular lasagna, (my favorite dish), and an Earl Grey – one does not simply go to Britain without drinking tea. I have no complaints about the food whatsoever. The lasagna was very delicious and served with salad and bread. Every other lasagna I’ve ordered at a café or restaurant hasn’t been to my satisfaction, but this one was great. As for the tea I got a whole pot of it, and I didn’t expect that, it was great.
The café itself might not have changed much since J. K. Rowling sat there, writing, about twenty years ago, but the walls were decorated with pictures of her, writing in the café, a framed autograph, and a cut out news paper article, and there were shelves with merchandise; something that I doubt was there in the early days. The most memorable part of the visit, however was my trip to the restroom, it might sound extremely odd, but if you’ve been there you’ll understand what I mean.
My favorite café and night club back home in the Faroe Islands has grafitti all over the restrooms, but those scribbles don’t even compare to what I discovered in the Elephant House restrooms. Every surface was covered in writing; the walls, the hand dryers, even the mirror was covered in messages written by J. K. Rowling’s fans who had come from all over the world to see the place. If I’d wanted to leave my own mark I don’t think there’d have been room for it anywhere. Sure, grafitti is a form of vandalism but seeing those writings on the wall, a lot of them thank you notes to J. K. Rowling, and some for Alan Rickman, (may he rest in peace), the actor who played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, as well, was evidence that this was a historic place and that the books that came to life in that café had a huge impact on a lot of people all over the world – as if I needed reminding of that. I’ve since my visit read an article about the place in which I learned that they have stopped repainting the walls because new writing always appears after a short while. Personally, I don’t necessarily think that to be a bad thing.
Even after taking a ton of pictures I couldn’t leave the place without getting a souvenir, so I bought a simple, red travel mug with the words “The Elephant House” in the front and “Birthplace of Harry Potter” in the back. I’m very happy with my mug, but I regret not getting more stuff, maybe next time because if I ever go back to Edinburgh I’m eating there again.