Hello Everyone -
Here is my blog about Scotland - where I was 3 weeks ago. I came back from the long break and I was exhausted and sick so I didn't do a blog for Scotland. Then it was midterms and I was studying but now...here it is... the long awaited (I'm sure you've been checking EVERY DAY) Scotland Blog. Once I finish this Blog and my Ethics take home exam I'll blog about Prague. (yeah. it rhymes.)
Scotland, Day 1: Thursday 21 February 2008 - Edinburgh
We arrived in Edinburgh early Thursday evening. It was beautiful flying in over the Scottish highland. Once we arrived at the airport we got on a bus and made our way to the hostel. The bus dropped us off in the middle of the city, just below the castle and we walked up what seemed like a million hills to get to our hostel. We knew as soon as we got inside that this was going to be a great place to stay. One thing I've really started to notice about places that I travel and Hostels that I stay in is that you know right away whether or not you are going to love the place you are visiting/staying. We got our sheets and went upstairs and got situated. We stayed in a 12 person bunk and it was great. The ceilings were really high and everything was really clean. We shared our room with a bunch of Spanish kids who we never really talked to but they seemed nice enough. We then went and decided what we were going to do the next day and after looking at all the brochures we decided on a tour of the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness. We then decided that in order to be rested for our day tomorrow we would have go to sleep.
Scotland, Day 2: Friday 22 February 2008 - Edinburgh
We woke up bright and early in order to walk down to the Haggis Tours headquarters to see if we could get on a tour. Alas they were all full for the day but they had openings on the tour on Saturday. I thought this was actually a much better idea because some of the people that we listened to sitting in the lobby of the office were the most annoying people ever. One girl wore her Ugg boots and was worried about "getting them dirty." The tour operator, this great big, bald, Scotsman gave her a really hard time about wearing her Ugg boots and it was so funny. We booked our tour for the next day and went next door to get muffins and coffee. Let me tell you something about the muffins in Scotland, more particularly from O'Brien's - their mixed berry muffin is something worth dying for. It was the most delicious muffin I have ever eaten. I can't even describe how wonderful it was. I want one right now in fact.
We then went back to the Hostel because Allison wasn't feeling well and so she decided to lay down for a while hoping to recover. This is when Allison contracted the "Plague" Laura had already had it and I would start to get it our second day in Glasgow. No fun. Laura and I set off to adventure! We walked toward what is called "Arthur's Seat" a giant hill on the side of the city that separates two different parts. Briony recommended it as a place to visit and we thought it looked really cool. We eventually found our way over to it after a lot of wrong turns. We climbed about halfway up when it started to pour. The winds were so strong we could barely walk and the rain was just dumping out of the sky - but it was still an incredible experience and I feel that it was very typical of Scotland's weather - nice one minute rainy the next. We emerged on the other side of the "mountain" and walked down the first path off it we saw. Where it put us I'm still not quite sure but we knew that we needed to get back to Waverly Station because that was near our hostel. We got on a bus and after about half an hour we were back by the train station. We ducked into a Mark and Spencer's food hall - although it is a full shopping center the food hall is usually on the bottom floor and it has lots of delicious organic food - and bought food for lunch and dinner because we could cook it ourselves. It was awesome. We then made the 15 minute walk back to the hostel in the pouring rain resulting in EVERYTHING we were wearing being soaked through. My down coat was wet for about 2 days but it was totally worth it because the view was so beautiful and it wasn't horribly cold.
After some food and a bit of down time we went to Edinburgh castle. A spectacular view but the museums inside were really disappointing. They were filled with fake people that were terrifying and in comparison to the crown jewels we had seen in London they were not worth the trip. The view was worth it and when in Edinburgh you HAVE to go to the castle - it's basically one of the required excursions. We then went back to the hostel and showered and had some dinner before going on the hostel sponsored pub crawl. I was really disappointed with the pub crawl because it was basically a bunch of uninteresting people being shepherded from one bar to the next getting progressively drunker. The first bar we went to was called Dropkick Murphey's - yes like the band - and it was nothing special. The second bar we went to was a really lame hard core rockers club where they played awful music. The third club - supposedly the most fun - was called Frankenstein but we couldn't get in because our International Student ID cards don't count as actual ID so they didn't think we were 18. I'm sorry but I feel like I look 18. Whatever. We went back to the hostel and went to bed which was for the best because the next day we had a 12 hour bus tour of the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness to look forward to.
Scotland, Day 3: Saturday 23 February 2008 - Edinburgh and the Highlands
Saturday morning we got up bright and early again, packed all of our things up and made breakfast for the day (I also made a couple of sandwiches which saved me on the long bus ride.) After checking out, as we had to check out by ten and wouldn't be back until 8:30 pm, we walked back to the place where the tour was leaving from and boarded the bus. Our tour guide was a Scotsman named Tom who laughed at all his own jokes. I found him a bit irritating at first but overall he turned out to be really nice and really well informed. We were on the bus with about 10 other people which was nice because we could each have our own window seat. At 8:30 we departed for our tour of the Scottish Highlands. The weather wasn't great but not nearly as bad as it had been the day before. We set off and within a half an hour of leaving town there was already a problem - the windshield wiper had been blown off the side because it was so windy. We had to stop on the side of a VERY narrow road and Tom popped out and fixed it. We then took an unplanned detour so that Tom could fix the windshield wiper properly. We stopped at the bottom of the hill below Stirling Castle and got the opportunity to pose with a statue of William Wallace - who looks remarkably similar to Mel Gibson in Braveheart - or so I'm told, I've never actually seen the movie because I'm the worst film student ever. ANYHOW. We set off again toward the town of Doune where the castle from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is located. After a brief stop there we again set off. We drove through the Highlands and through Glencoe, getting to see Ben Nevis and The Great Glen. Ben Nevis - the tallest mountain in Great Britain, was unfortunately obscured by fog and clouds for the most part but I'm sure it would be spectacular. Our guide said that he sees the summit maybe 10 or 12 times a year because of the height of the mountain and Scotland's notorious fog. On our way to Fort Augustus - our lunch stop around 2pm, we stopped in the town of Calandar - a sweet little Scottish town not accustomed to tourists where I found the best cold medication of the trip! At this point I knew I was starting to get sick and had worked slowly through all of my herbal medication. We also got coffee and cookies from an adorable little bakery. After Calandar we stopped to se Hamish! Hamish is a Horry Coo - or a hairy cow and was maybe the most adorably repulsive creature I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure these don't really exist and this was, in fact, a puppet. Anyhow we said Hi to Hamish and set off again. We finally reached Fort Augustus after driving through Glen Coe and nearly getting blown off the road about a hundred times. It was spectacularly beautiful. Eventually I hope to go back in the summertime and walk the 60km Highland Trail.
We reached Fort Augustus where we could see Loch Ness and we went and found a sweet little pub for lunch. There was a crackling fire and everything! I got delicious minestrone soup, so did Laura. Allison got some kind of vegetable shepherd's pie type thing. We ate and then we went to the Nessie gift shop and found something nice for our friend Corinne back home. Then it was time to go see Loch Ness! We drove the entire way around the Loch and he told us some interesting things: 1. Although not the widest nor the longest Loch Ness holds the most water of any of the Lochs. About 15 feet below the surface of the water the Loch becomes perma-dark meaning that if you put your hand an inch in front of your face you couldn't see it. The volume of the loch could hold 3 times the earth's population. It's a really big Loch. We stopped at a castle and took pictures of Loch Ness and looked out for Nessie - no sightings though. We also went to Inverness which was beautiful as well. Finally we headed home driving through the Highland Perthshire. We crossed the beautiful Forth Bridges and arrived back in Edinburgh. A great trip was had by all.
Now it was time for us to go back to the hostel, grab our bags and make our way to the train station to get a train to Glasgow. We arrived at the train station just in time to make our train and sat in a car filled with drunk 40 something women and a couple of guys in kilts. It was really really loud but really funny as well. We arrived in Glasgow, walked to our hostel and started talking to some people hanging out in our room. Turns out they had been in the hostel in Edinburgh with us the night before and had been on the same pub crawl we just hadn't seen them. Allison and I hung out with them until about 2 am because the 3 boys had to catch a 4:30 am bus to catch a flight at 8 am back to Dublin where they were studying. We played a lot of pool, which wasn't really pool because the balls were smaller, yellow and red and the bumpers were crappy.
Scotland, Day 4: Sunday 24 February 2008 - Glasgow
Okay. So now I'm sick. I can't remember a time when I've had a cold that was this bad. So we all slept till 11 then I got up and showered and realized that I was wasting my time in Glasgow being sick so we got up and went out and walked around. We tried to find a market that sounded really cool and in the process (in the midst of yet another rainstorm) we found an adorable vintage shop that I would have gone crazy buying things in had I not felt so bad. We finally found the market and it was a terrifying adventure. It was basically in the worst area of Glasgow and was really just a flea market of people selling useless, crappy things. We laughed a lot because it was so funny that this is the market that was "not to be missed." Oh well we had a laugh at all of the ridiculous things they sold and when Allison was told by a man selling beach towels, "Betty Boooooooooop, that's for yooooooooou" in the thickest Scottish accent I've ever heard. Try it - put on a really thick, stereotypical Scottish accent and say that. It was so funny.
We stopped at a supermarket and got what would become dinner, crackers and peanut butter for me, and went back to the hostel and sat on the couch most of the day. We packed around seven and went to bed around 9 because we had to get up at 3:30 to catch a cab at 4 to catch a bus at 4:30 because the first train to the airport left at 6:30 and our plane was at 7:15. Overall I really enjoyed Scotland - by the end though we were all just ready to go home. I liked Edinburgh much better than Glasgow but I think that's probably because we didn't research it at all and didn't know what there was to see there or anything. I hope that one day I can return to the Highlands during the summer and really see Ben Nevis.
Finally! Scotland she is finished! Now on to Prague!