And Then, We Conquered Edinburgh, Also On Foot

Hello internet people! First off, I want to thank you all, because I’ve officially broken 1000 page views. While perhaps not the most massive achievement in the history of the internet, I’m very pleased to see it. After a moment of celebration, let’s move on to the good stuff, shall we?

This past weekend, I found myself in Edinburgh. Which, if you didn’t know, is in Scotland! We mounted a single coach this time, drove for six hours, stopping briefly at the border to take photos of a very exciting rock that said Scotland on one side and England on the other, and then lo and behold, we were there, at the Royal British hotel in glorious Edinburgh. Emily and I hoisted ourselves up the stairs and dropped off our things in the room before heading out in search of adventure and, of course, food.

The thing we quickly learned about Edinburgh was that not only was it beautiful and full of old stuff, it was compact. Most everything was in easy walking distance, especially since we had done London on foot without much complaint only a few weekends ago. We stopped in to a cute little pie shop by the name of Auld Jock’s to have a cup of tea (or hot chocolate for Emily) and rest our weary (cold) bones. From there we explored, popping in to a few shops to look at Scottish things (such as kilts, family crests, etc). Emily was on the grand mission of encountering her family crest, which she did eventually manage to uncover.

Our other mission was the find the Writer’s Museum, a small a lovely little building dedicated to the memory of some of Scotland’s most famous writers, such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. There I got to look at old notebooks and other artifacts that belonged to those in whose footsteps I am loosely following, if in an American, female, and modern way. Naturally, I had to take a photo with the sign. Perhaps a hint of things to come… a long, long time from now, of course! 

Popped in to a little Italian restaurant for dinner–paninis, of course, which were delicious. I then had my first experience with GELATO, which was delicious. My child size came complete with a bear shaped wafer, which was glorious.

From there, we headed off to do some more exploration until we decided to take up an offer for a free ghost tour. If you didn’t know, ghost tours are big in Edinburgh, due to the prevalence of little lanes, called “closes”, which give a spectacular creepy effect. There is also an underground area which is probably effectively spooky. However, being college kids on a budget, the 8.50 general entrance fee for most of the more famous ghost tours made us ache, so we took this one instead. Although there were no underground excursions, we did enjoy a quite funny host dressed up as William Brodie, who told us some rather creepy tales and kept up a lively comic relief. As nothing in life is free, he asked for donations at the end, but all in all we still got off with what I consider quite a bargain. I highly recommend it if you’re ever in town, sans a great sum of expendable money.

After that thrilling experience, we took ourselves back to our toasty little hotel room to see what British/Scottish TV had to offer us and enjoyed a taste of what the United Kingdom has to offer in terms of game shows, such as Family Fortunes, and the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the name of which I can’t currently recall. Eventually we landed on a channel called “Dave”, and discovered the humour of one Russell Howard, and there we spent our night.

In the morning it was bright and early to breakfast after a shower in the most incredibly small shower I have ever encountered (I bumped my elbows whilst washing my hair, for instance). The breakfast involved a hot selection this time, which was nice, even if my egg was a bit under-fried. Full of bacon, egg, cereal, and toast I headed off with Emily to handle the bulk of our Scottish sight seeing. This included heading to Calton Hill to view several glorious memorials, all perched beautifully on the hilltop there. On our way up the hill, we spotted two things of interest–one was a glorious Scottish cat and the other was a lost forlorn pair of pants (or, I suppose as I’m in the UK, trousers). I have to admit I love a good pair of lost trousers–it’s fun to imagine the different stories that would lead a pair of jeans to be snagged on a twig in the park in the middle of winter.

Having had our fill of the park, we journeyed off towards St. Giles cathedral, which is a gorgeous place in the center of town. Unfortunately, you had to buy a picture permit, so I didn’t get any pictures of the gorgeous inside of the massive old place. Much like Westminster before it, it seemed so full of history and splendor that my usual agnosticism was simply impossible. I was so awe-struck by its amazing beauty and massiveness that I actually sat down in the private reflection area, had a little prayer, and lit a candle. Something about old churches really resonates with me, I guess. Perhaps it’s the fact that there are former human beings buried beneath my feet and in the walls, or perhaps it’s the size, and the splendor.

There was also this thing.

Anyway, from there we headed to the museum, which was full of a surprising amount of fabulous old stuff. We saw old coins, old weapons, and even old remains of dead people. Yep. Skulls.We also learned that it was once common practice to carry a phallus-shaped talisman (you read that right folks, a penis) in the pocket in order to ward off the evil eye and encourage fertility. Imagine explaining THAT these days. From that lovely exhibit, we headed on to look at some information about textiles and a bunch of other really cool museum type stuff. Once we tired of history (for the moment, anyway) we wandered off to see the famous Greyfriar’s Bobby statue and had a brief look at the graveyard before we decided the atmosphere was decidedly creepy, if only because it was inexplicably so much colder in there. Off past the bagpipers, yet again, we searched out our lunch down the Royal Mile, eventually settling on a pub called the Beehive for a good jacket potato. There we were amusingly carded for “Challenge 25” which is where, if you look under 25, they check your ID to make sure it’s all good for you to be in a pub. Naturally, 18 being the drinking age, we were fine.

Refreshed from lunch ,we decided almost on a whim to climb Arthur’s Seat, a lovely former volcano that overlooks the city. Being as gloriously fit as I am, it was a bit of a challenge, not least because it was rather muddy at parts and the steepest incline I have ever encountered, but it was WORTH IT. The view from the top was MAGNIFICENT. No picture can ever do it justice, and I say to you now that if you’re ever in Edinburgh and you do nothing else, CLIMB IT. Don’t think about it. Just DO IT.

Once we (slowly) made our way back down to safer levels, we felt deserving of a break for some tea and scones, and stopped in to a cute little tea shop where I had cream tea, to which I am now thoroughly addicted. Cream tea generally consists of the house tea and a scone (or two, depending) with clotted cream, jam, and butter. A heart attack, surely, but a delicious one at that. From there we dragged our weary selves back to the hotel to relax for a little while before we dared take on more of the city. We enjoyed a bit more glorious comedy TV and then headed out for a quiet dinner in, you guessed it, another pub. After dinner, we wandered through the National Gallery for a little while before heading back to the room for a nice quiet evening and some much needed sleep.

Emily and I at the Peak of Arthur’s Seat

But the story doesn’t end there! Although Sunday marked our trip home, it also marked two significant stops on the way. First, we stopped at Chester’s Roman fort, which is a part of Hadrian’s Wall. That’s right, folks. Hadrian’s Wall. I stood on a bit of Roman history, and it was magnificent. Even if it was also incredibly cold.

After the wall, we headed on to Durham for lunch and a look at the GORGEOUS cathedral there. Seriously, that building is amazing. GO. I urge you, religious minded or not, to have a look at the amazing architecture. And, it’s free. Unless you want to climb the tower. Sometimes being a badass costs extra, and having climbed a mountain the day before, we decided to give that one a pass. Afterwards, we did a little shopping, most notably in the Oxfam bookstore, which is gloriously full of old books. Then we grabbed some baked goods, got on the bus, and finally headed off towards home sweet castle.


Standing on REALLY OLD WALLS, and Other Such Things that Really Excite Me

All right, internet people. Studying abroad is a busy business (see what I did there?) and I’m sorry if you feel I’ve neglected you. It’s also exhausting keeping track of my official blog and this one, as I can’t possibly post two in the SAME DAY, heaven forbid. But excuses aside, I bring you the latest updates from my European Adventure (which is, mostly, a United Kingdom Adventure).

In so far as travels go, I have recently journeyed to both York and Nottingham. The York trip was much more extended, and thereby there is more that I can say about it. York is a glorious old town full of exceptionally old stuff–a motte and bailey castle, for instance, and a wall that goes around the city and dates back to ROMAN TIMES. That’s right, folks, ROMANS! Who, has I now know, were the first invaders of Celtic Britain (probably). And do you know what you can do in York? You can walk. On the wall. That ROMANS built. SEE?! (Disregard how stupid I look in this picture. Think about instead the fact that I am standing where ROMANS stood. ROMANS!) Can you tell I’m excited? I’m excited. I loved that wall. As my friend Cassie can attest, I was insistent about touching it. A lot. (But not in a creepy way. Proabably.)

The exciting Roman wall aside, York is a gorgeous little place. It has a great museum (I assume–we didn’t go in) that has excellent gardens. The gardens are free (even more excellent) and have various old buildings in them, such as the ruins of St. Mary’s cathedral, which looks like it must have been quite gorgeous at one time. Shannon and I enjoyed the feeling of putting our hands on the stone that was laid long long before we were ever even a whisper beginning to dare to disturb the universe (had to throw in the Eliot allusion, because I adore him).

Just me, conquering York . You know, do as the Romans do and what not.

Aside from the really cool old buildings and things, we visited the art musuem, which was free and glorious. There was a lovely exhibit on controversial art in which I spent a lot of time awkwardly looking at naked people and trying not to feel awkward about it and instead appreciate that it was ART (but also, it was BOOBS. A lot. Of boobs.) From there we made our way the famous Betty’s Tea Shop (though at the urging of our British professor we opted for Little Betty’s, which being slightly less well known is also slightly less crowded). After a (worthwhile) wait in line, we found ourselves seated in a gorgeous bay window area and enjoying the delicious Yorkshire cream tea and scones. I could eat those scones and drink that tea every single morning and never get tired of it. It was worth the wait and the cost (which wasn’t that unreasonable, really).

From there, we wandered into to COUNTLESS old bookshops. Full of, you guessed it, REALLY OLD BOOKS. I bought a glorious old collection of Tennyson poems (it’s a HUNDRED years old!!!). If you couldn’t tell, York was kind of amazing, even if it was really, really cold and really, really windy. If ever I were to leave good old Ohio for good, I think it would probably be to live in York. Above a secondhand bookshop, across the street from my beloved REALLY OLD WALL. London was fantastic, but York’s got that quaint atmosphere that a book loving writer like me just loves. And the history, well, it’s frankly inspirational. I could write a novel a day in a flat down there, that’s for sure. Up there? Wherever it is in relation from where I am now.

On the way home, our bus got stuck in traffic for a glorious two hours, but we survived it and came home to a dinner of toast and cereal.

The next day, a bit tired and a bit sore, I jotted off to Nottingham on my first ever TRAIN RIDE. The city was nice, and I look forward to going back and checking out the castle, as is proper.

That stuff we’re holding in the middle there? Haggis.

In other news, I had some haggis at our school’s celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. There was also a very miniscule amount of whiskey punch, which was whiskey and ginger ale mixed together and was also relatively good. The haggis was tasty, but my brain betrayed me while eating it so I had to stop. Maybe next time, though!

So that’s pretty much that, I guess. Words can’t capture the wonderful experience I’m having here, but if you know anything about me, you know that’s not going to stop me from trying. This weekend, it’s off to Edinburgh, Scotland! Adventure (and homework) await!