Go (firth of) forth and conquer modern Edinburgh

For a modern architecture and design lover, Scotland is not the first country that you’d think of visiting. But my husband is from Scotland so that means that every year, whether we want to or not, we travel there to visit family. The perk: we get to live like a local in another country. The downside: rain.

On this visit, I took my son Noah to Edinburgh, the most iconic of the Scottish cities. I knew Noah would love the art and architecture there and we needed a little alone time. Travelling together as a family for 3 weeks is a bonding experience but the group decision-making and being out of your routine can drive everyone a little crazy!

The minute we emerged from Waverly train station, we could hear the bagpipes and see the castle. Edinburgh Castle is like one of those creepy paintings where the eyes follow you wherever you go – no matter where you are in the city, you can still see the castle looking down at you.

Noah and I both avoid large groups and tourist traps like the plague (which struck Edinburgh in 1645 and almost wiped out the city), but we were both drawn to the Ferris wheel in Princes Street Gardens and so on a whim, we went for it. The views of the entire city down to the Firth of Forth were well worth it!

Back on solid ground, we headed over to the free Scottish National Gallery to check out the Impressionists and watch the street performers. And then to lunch at the new Eden Locke hotel and Hyde & Son coffee shop designed by Grzywinski + Pons. I saw it online while back in the US and just had to check it out. The tropical minimalism (I just made that up, but is should be a thing!) is so refreshing compared to the old Scottish tartan, brass and velvet interior look that runs rampant in Scotland.

After our tea and croissants, we headed into Old City to take a look at some of the modern architecture. Our first stop was the Museum of Scotland to see Dolly, the first cloned sheep, and to check out more city views from the modern green rooftop.

We then braved the crowds and walked down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace and the new Scottish Parliament building. This is one of my favorite spots in all of Edinburgh thanks to the urban planners and landscapers who designed the wading pools, a tiered terrace covered with wildflowers and much needed open space that allows you to take in the view of Arthur’s Seat (an ancient volcano).

It was a sunny day so plenty of people were wading in the water and sunbathing in front of the Parliament, a post-modern building with branch-and-leaves design by architecture firm EMBT and Spanish-Catalan architect Enric Miralles (he died before the building was completed). Noah was in awe of it and took a ton of photos to post to his Instagram account. We laid down in the grass, head to head, for a much needed rest (be prepared to walk a lot in Edinburgh and mostly uphill!) and talked about how no matter where you go in the world, people are pretty much the same; and what we were both going to be when we grew up :-).