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Saturday, May 29, 2010

You Take the High Road and I'll Take the Low Road

Monday, May 24 - Wednesday May 26, 2010

Three days in Scotland!

We began out Scottish excursion at King's Cross. Our train did not leave from Platform 9 3/4, unfortunately...but we did head up into the north! It took about 4.5 hours to get to Edinburgh from London, during which I read Macbeth and a bit of Wuthering Heights...kinda depressing, but still good :) My seat buddy was Kristen - see our cute selves to the left. Kristen must really love her water...

We trooped through Edinburgh to our hostel, Smart City (the name alone is wonderful ha ha) which was actually the nicest hostel we've stayed in so far. It was, dare I say, rather smart :)

We spent the afternoon up at Edinburgh Castle, where I proceeded to take my first awkward stand-next-to-the-guard-who-can't-move-or-smile-or-anything picture. I have resisted taking them because I feel like it's a little too awkward and a little too embarrassing, but I had to this time. He was in a kilt! We took some pictures with some guards inside the castle too. One of them pointed his gun at my friend Jenni for a picture. It made me nervous. My mom said never to point even a fake gun at people, and this was a trained soldier with a real gun! But it's okay - he didn't shoot her. And the picture rocked. We wandered about the castle for a bit - we saw the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (or Stone of Scone) upon which the monarchs of Britain (and Scotland, when they had one) are crowned. The view from the castle is wonderful - you can see the entirety of Edinburgh.

After the castle we saw a place that offered free samples of haggis - so of course we tried it! It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. And the lady told us there is worse things in hot dogs than in haggis, which I'm not sure made me feel better about my life...anyways, the haggis wasn't bad. I wouldn't want more than maybe two bites. We went shopping for souvenirs and on the Royal Mile and I found a blue police box...TARDIS? No...not quite...but maybe a distant cousin or something...I bought a Scotland Rugby shirt and I finally found a Cladagh ring! Those are the Celtic relationship rings that you flip a certain way depending on whether or not you're single. I have decided that everyone should have one. It would save a lot of time. There are kilts and rugby stuff everywhere, as opposed to London where you only see football stuff everywhere you go. Edinburgh is really like a mini London but with Scottish accents more than English ones. And Scotland has their own money! I had no idea. We actually learned that it's not even really legal tender, but they still use it. It's exactly the same as British pounds except they have Scottish people on them along with the Queen. It is a really interesting place, and quite beautiful.

On our second day in Scotland we decided to have an adventure and take a bus out to the sea. I've learned that you're not supposed to call it the coast. Scottish people don't know what you mean when you say that - to them it's the sea. After a lot of questions the nice people at the bus station told us where we could catch a bus that would take us to a beach called North Berwick.

For the small sum of 6.70 pounds we took said bus to the most beautiful stretch of beach. I was expecting craggy, rocky beaches in Scotland - nope! Sandy, lush, beautiful beaches is what they have, at least where we went. It was gorgeous! And the sun was shining and the waves were was heaven. We walked along the beach for a bit and reenacted Chariots of Fire (don't worry, we filmed it) and just marveled at the wonderful Scottish landscape. I love getting out of the city. I mean, the city is great and all, but the small towns outside of the city are where my favorite places have been. The British countryside is absolutely gorgeous.

After the beach we grabbed lunch and got on the bus again, which for some reason took around two hours to get back. We all fell asleep at some point on the bus, so I was afraid we had missed the stop we needed to get off at and would find ourselves back in North Berwick, which wouldn't be all bad, let's be honest. The bus did take us back to Edinburgh, however, and upon arriving my friend Stephanie and I saw the Edinburgh theater was showing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We both thought it might be fun if we could see it for cheap, so we went to the box office and purchased nosebleed tickets for 12 pounds.

Upon arrival back at the hostel I had the most wonderful thing waiting for me - Emily Anderson! She's interning in Edinburgh with Scottish Parliament and I had wanted to meet up with her, but had no means of communicating with her. She had apparently found some of the kids in our program by their handy dandy study abroad backpacks and asked if they knew me. They brought her back to the hostel and that's where I found her! It was such a wonderful moment. It was like having a bit of home find me here, which is always welcome. Emily came to dinner with us to the Elephant House Cafe, which is where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books!

We sat at a table where through the window you could see Edinburgh Castle looming up on the hillside, her inspiration for Hogwarts, and also a graveyard down below where, if you look hard enough, you can find headstones bearing the names of characters, such as Moody and Tom Riddle (though spelling is sometimes changed). It was so cool to sit there where she probably sat, thinking up the stories that had such a profound influence on my life. It was wonderful.
After the Cafe, Emily took us back down to the theater, where we bid farewell for the time being. Stephanie and I proceeded into the theater where they informed us they were re-seating the balcony seats because they weren't very busy that night - we ended up on the 7th row - 7th! We went from nosebleeds to 7th row!

So, we’re sitting there in our awesome seats and the play begins – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The play was definitely made for children, with a few inappropriate jokes thrown in for the parents that didn’t really fit and worsened the show, I think. But the performers were fun, the songs are great, and the romance (which is always my favorite part of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) was really good – they definitely got all their key moments just right. But the best part, by far, was Chitty itself. There’s this one part where Chitty drives off a cliff with the characters in side – the stage went all black, and Chitty rose into the air and showed them falling in slow motion before sprouting wings and flying – it was the coolest thing I have ever seen, no joke. It looked totally legit, like the car was actually falling and then actually flying. I loved that part so much. That was my #1 favorite part. Other favorites included the romantic moments and the baron and baroness. Favorite songs included Truly Scrumptious, Toot Sweets, the title song, The Old Bamboo, and Posh. I’ve always loved the music. They added a few new songs, which were okay, and they shortened and improved Truly’s Lonely Man song which I was so grateful for since I could not hit the fast-forward button during it like I usually do with the movie. All in all, it was a very successful experience – I loved it!

Our final day in Edinburgh began with a hike to Arthur’s Seat. We didn’t go all the way up, but we took some awesome pictures overlooking Edinburgh – I am going to have so many awesome jumping pictures from all over England when I get home ha ha. We then got a tour of Scottish Parliament where I ran into Emily again! Yay! The Parliament building really stands out from the rest of the buildings in Edinburgh, but not in a way that I liked. They went all modern on it…I’m not the biggest fan. But being there and seeing the actual place where the Members of Scottish Parliament actually meet was really neat. We learned a bit more about Scottish parliament and how it functions. It’s interesting because they still have to report to British Parliament in Westminster – they’ve been given some powers and responsibilities, but they still are under British control.

After lunch we hopped back on a train at Waverly Station and headed home to London (I still can’t get over that London is my home!). The train ride was about 5 hours long. I got some homework done…but not much…which is why I spent much of the night and plan on waking up entirely too early to finish…this happens quite a bit, so no worries J

Lastly, but not leastly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY IRISH TWIN JOSH! I love when May 26 roles around because I get to have a twin for 3 weeks. It's the best. I thought about Josh the whole time I was in Scotland - he would have loved it! I know he already loves Scotland, even though he's never been there. I wish he could have been there with me.

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