Book talk · Places I've been, Things I've seen

The Elephant House, Edinburgh

As a Harry Potter fan (though probably the smallest Harry Potter fan of the group) when my friends told me they wanted to visit the Cafe that JK Rowling wrote in during our trip to Edinburgh, I jumped at the opportunity. Literature is one of the biggest things in my life. I love stories, I love knowing what inspired people and seeing what they saw when they wrote. JK Rowling has a special place in my heart because of what she has done for children and literature for my generation and the current generation. Jo is the reason a lot of people love reading (including my friend Tasha who was at this trip) and there is a very clever woman. One of the things I love the most about her stories are everything that goes into them. The spells are based on Latin words for what they are for example. She created a whole world, a whole language almost that wasn’t there before. Harry Potter is one of the easiest things to bond over if you are a fandom type person and I have to admire that even if it is not my favourite stories out there.

Jo has a special place in my heart as well because she studied at Exeter University. Although the University is not my favourite thing about the city, I am a born and bred Exonian and having such a connection is so wonderful. (Not our only but this is not the time to talk about what Devon has produced). I read somewhere that Jo based Hagrid on a man she met in a pub in the West Country and I have spent the time since wondering which pub, but while I can’t answer that question without meeting her and asking, I can visit Edinburgh’s Elephant House cafe.

My friends and  I decided to go there after a trip to the Castle, before going to Camera Obscura, both of which were also brilliant. As a cafe, Elephant House wasn’t the best. It was big and packed, not just in terms of the number of people but also the layout of the tables. It also wasn’t cheap, however that didn’t stop me from buying a badge on top of my lunch and Irn Bru.

All in all, I found myself disappointing. The place did not scream Harry Potter in the way that I have expected, but I realised a while after being there that I shouldn’t have expected it. The cafe is Elephant based and there were gorgeous figures and photos of elephants in all colours surrounding the entire place. It’s beautiful but it adds to feeling I got of being packed in and lacking the space to breathe. I say the place did not scream Harry Potter and it’s true, it was more of a subtle whisper. There were pictures of Jo, looking much younger, in the cafe and there was a picture of her holding the Goblet of Fire and looking so happy you can’t help but being happy for her.

“Come and look at the toilets.”

My disappoint at the cafe faded with this comment from one of our group. Getting up and following her in response to one of the strangest comments I have ever heard, I could not have been more amazed.

The tiny toilet block was covered from ceiling to floor with graffiti by fans. From book and movie quotes and references, to worrying poetry, to thanking Jo for writing them, the whole area screamed Harry Potter in a way I had been hoping for from the beginning. A few of my favourites include the toilet with a sign pointing down to the “Ministry of Magic this way” and the list someone wrote of characters who die.

While I might not recommend the cafe for a meal (though I am a cheapskate) I would say that any passionate Harry Potter fan should go and look at their toilets

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