But I've been seeing the photos of the various meet-ups in London and Edinburgh and thought, "I want to be there! I want to meet those people, my kindred spirits. I want to see Filofaxes displayed in beautiful, historic British shops—their natural element, after all.
"And why not? It's only a plane ride away. At 6 hours, no longer than a routine flight from Boston to San Francisco. And it's really ridiculous I've worked with Steve this long and never met him in person."
So as soon as the announcement went up, I decided it was time to take the plunge. I spent the weekend researching flights and hotels, sorting out the budget, and figuring out a way to explain the whole thing to my husband without letting him think I was crazy (a fact I've managed to hide from him for over 20 years now).
Once Steve got over his initial shock, he buckled right down and helped me finalize my plans. He kindly found a flight that we could both take from Heathrow (he was already in England) to Edinburgh, so he could help me find the hotel without getting lost. Steve did a really good job laying out our full schedule in his post, so I'll mainly focus on my own impressions and photos.
I had no trouble recognizing Steve in the airport, having seen his picture many times. But photos, email, and even Skype can't transmit a person's kindness, energetic stride, or infectious laugh, which I heard for the first time when I mountain-climbed my way onto the high stool at Prêt-a-Manger for a sandwich before our flight. I already felt like a real Brit! (Note to America: We need more places like this offering quick and healthy food.)
Being members of the Facebook group Filo Dieters United, Steve and I were on the lookout for healthy options, and walked most everywhere. And Edinburgh is hilly. In some cases, you need to climb stone stairways to get from one street to the next! (I took a picture of one of the staircases, but my computer ate it, along with all of my pictures from the Letts Filofax tour—luckily Steve got plenty of good ones with his Digital SLR.)
Steve and I got to our hotel late Friday night, and Saturday morning enjoyed a nice walk to the Fruitmarket Café to meet Natalie and Maria. It was one of the smallest meet-up groups ever, but we still talked for hours. The small group gave us plenty of time to talk about our organizers and systems in great detail. The café reminded me a lot of Le Pain Quotidien, where we usually have our New York meet-ups. Lots of salads, sandwiches, and light dishes that let you save room for the creations of the excellent pastry chef.
Then Maria took Steve and I shopping and I mean shopping. She knows all the shops and stores: the historic Jenners department store with its excellent selection of Filofax organizers, inserts, and pens; Ryman, an office-supply store where I was able to get some A5 items that are hard to come by in the U.S.; Paperchase and Tiger, both of which had lots of cool gift items as well as stationery; and a fancy pen shop where I got to touch some gorgeous Filofax iPad holders and other items I'd never seen in real life before. Before retreating to the hotel, Steve took me to the Marks & Spencer food hall, where we grabbed some healthy sandwiches and fruit. (Brilliant idea, Steve!)
On Sunday, Maria met up with Steve and I again and played the role of tour guide in her home town. We bought tickets to a double-decker tour bus that stopped at major points of interest and let passengers hop on and off. We saw Edinburgh Castle (from the outside), the Scottish Parliament Building (from the inside), St. Giles' Cathedral and its amazing architecture and stained glass, and even stalked around Holyrood Place, the Queen's residence. (Her Majesty didn't invite us in for tea.)
Lunch on Sunday was a highlight. Maria again knew the best place to go—an Italian caffé across the street from the Elephant House, where J. K. Rowling first sat down with a cup of coffee to write about Harry Potter. I had homemade pasta that tasted just like my grandmother used to make in her little kitchen!
Steve and I talked a bit about how meeting fellow Filofax fans often feels like meeting long-lost friends, and it really is true. On the top deck of the tour bus in the brisk air, the three of us shared laughs at the driver's funny anecdotes and some silliness of our own.
We were tired at the end of the day and made another quick trip to M&S for the evening's supplies. I confess, I (again!) had trouble waking up for breakfast the final morning, but I did manage one last walk up the hill with Steve to Waverley Station, where we met Laurie (another first for me!) and Margaret, who kindly did the driving to Dalkeith in her cool sky-blue Peugeot wagon. Being in the back seat gave Laurie and me a chance to talk (and me a chance to see one of her own Going Places planners up close).
Steve and Laurie both did such a great job covering the Letts Filofax factory tour, there's really nothing I can add. Our hosts were very kind, although maybe a bit bemused by our enthusiasm for their products and the directness of our questions. They showed us everything from editorial (where the planners are filled with the appropriate information, holidays, etc.) to shipping!
And now, the pictures:
|Steve showing Natalie the diary pages he printed for his super-soft leather organizer (with 30mm rings!)|
|Maria's magnificent A5 in side view|
|Maria showing Natalie her work A5|
|A view from Edinburgh Castle|
|St Giles' Cathedral|
|A close-up view of the castle entrance|