Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Me and J.K. Rowling... or Why You Should Always Take Photos of the Writers Who Lurk in Your Coffee House

Cool Elephant Chair at The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland

This past Tuesday, approximately... well, okay, more like precisely nine months after our first international travel experience, my daughter and I finally finished our souvenir photo album. It is 109 pages detailing a ten day trip and I plan to read and relive every page of it at least a dozen times in the next several months.

Now that that's done, perhaps I can move forward on that travel memoir I had in mind...

Or maybe not, but I did want to share a story about our trip. Honestly, it's a bit shocking to me that I have not shared this story already.

On the list of things to see and do in Edinburgh, Scotland was The Elephant House. If that name does not ring a bell with you, let me elaborate. The Elephant House is the coffee house where J.K.Rowling allegedly wrote the first draft of the first Harry Potter novel.

It's a hard spot to miss if you are in Edinburgh. It's a bright orange building in a city where most everything is dark and gray. In fact, if I took away anything from Edinburgh, it was that Hogwarts and Hogsmeade seemed a lot less fanciful after walking the streets of such a dark and damp, made-all-of-stone city. It's got a huge black castle in the middle of it, after all. There was no need to remind myself. I certainly wasn't in Kansas, after all. (Though we did see Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow wandering the streets of Edinburgh. Go figure.)

Anyway, in the window of The Elephant House, there is a painting of J.K. Rowling sitting at a large round table right in the center of the room. I have to admit I was disappointed. I stared at the image for a bit before shaking my head. Nope. No way. You can't tell me that a want-to-be-writer sat right there in the middle of the room, at the biggest table, no less, drafting the first pages of what would become Harry Potter.

We went in and inspected the options for seating. It didn't take me long to select the far corner of the room, pretty much as far as one could get from the main entry. "This is where a writer would sit," I told my daughter. "Probably with her back to the door, so as not to be distracted."

I think this painting at The Elephant House should serve as a lesson to coffee houses the world over. Take a photo of every writer who frequents your tables. You have no idea when you might be serving the next J.K. Rowling, and it would be really nice for you to have an historically accurate picture on record for when they do get famous.

"Birthplace of Harry Potter" complete with historically inaccurate recreation by an artist.

Evie's Earl Grey Tea from The Elephant House.
I drank Ginger Beer at every opportunity. If we had Ginger Beer in the US, I would almost become a soda drinker.

Our wonderful breakfast of Portabello Mushroom and Goat Cheese on Toast. This is almost a regular dish in our house now.
The women's restroom at The Elephant House.
When I am a famous author one day, my fans will write beautiful tributes to me on the bathroom walls. I'm being serious here. This was the nicest graffeti I have ever read. Some of it even made me a little teary eyed.

**I'm tagging this as "today's stories" even though it took place nearly a year ago. Wonderful trip. So many stories that I can't believe I haven't told yet! 


  1. So what famous story started in my greenhouse chair? BS

  2. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!

  3. This is so cool! I'd love to visit the birthplace of Harry Potter!

  4. What a wonderful story - and so true!

    I can get you Ginger Beer here in Ohio. Come see me!!!!!

  5. They have it at walmart. (non alcoholic)

  6. BS... I think your greenhouse chair deserves credit in a little bit of all of them! Need to spend more time there, obviously. And Callie, if you are talking truly Ginger Beer, not Ginger Ale, I'll have to take you up on it. Yes, it was non-alcholic, by the way. I was drinking it for breakfast! ;-)


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