Climb ALL The Things!

Someone explain to me how it's March already.

No, seriously. When did this happen? How do I only have three weeks of classes left?

(Actually, I know the answer to that one: British school is BIZARRE. That's why I only have three weeks of classes left.)

But let's not get TOO ahead of ourselves just yet, shall we?

Last week, I handed in all my assignments and got to laugh in the face of preparing for round two, as I had better things to do. On Wednesday, I met up with a guy named David, who I am apparently related to in some distant, confusing, second-marriage, twice-removed sort of way. I know it's been explained to me before, but I honestly have no clue. In my family, someone tells you you're related to someone else and you just roll with it. So I took the tube out to Brixton to meet him, and he showed me around the market a little bit before we had lunch at a little Japanese place. I had a good time until he said he doesn't like Bon Jovi. Not cool, man.

(...That's sarcastic, of course. I'm not THAT much of a fangirl.)

Thursday was one of those days that I had to schedule for myself on my whiteboard, and it involved waking up an hour and a half earlier than usual just so I'd have time to shower. Yep, one of those. I had two classes and my last scheduled volunteering shift (although there could potentially be more! :D) and I don't even remember what else, but then it was off to Victoria station with Amanda and Lorraine to catch a bus to Edinburgh, Scotland!

Now, each bus ride was about 9 hours long and only cost 17 pounds, so it was definitely a good deal. And we saved money from not spending those nights in hostels. But the first half of the ride was spent with the lights on, and the second half was spent with the heat off and the air conditioning on. And I was sitting next to this enormous French dude who definitely had some personal space issues. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well.

We arrived before 8 am, frozen, stiff, and bleary-eyed, but managed to find our way to our hostel easily enough. It's castle themed and, appropriately, located right below Edinburgh Castle. We checked in with Neal-with-an-A -- we bonded over our oft-misspelled names -- and left our bags in the luggage room before heading out in search of breakfast. Of course, we'd find the American diner. After we ate, we meandered a little bit before heading to the castle.

It was really cool! It was basically a little village inside a fort, not the traditional palace you think of when you hear "castle." It's still an active military establishment, and has lots of interesting exhibits and memorials. I think my favorite was the prison; they created this walk-through exhibit to look like where prisoners of war were kept during the time of the American revolution. There were no cells -- it was a big open room with hammocks and bunk beds. I mean, I'd be okay with being a prisoner in there! :P But the hammocks were swinging a little bit, like there were people in them, and there were conversations playing to make it feel like the prisoners were there and talking to each other. Freaky, but awesome.

It wouldn't be a visit to a castle if we hadn't gotten to see some fancy rooms, too. There was also tons about Scottish military history, and we got to see a canon fired!

When we left the castle, we realized the benefits of traveling without a set agenda. We walked past a whisky distillery experience, and decided on a whim that we should try it. There was a little ride that explained the process of making whisky, and then we got to learn about Scottish whisky, see this gigantic collection, and taste some. I know it's supposed to be some of the best alcohol, but MAN, it was gross. I couldn't even finish the little splash I was given. We got to keep the glasses we drank out of as souvenirs, though. Hah. Hey, it was a fun experience. But no more whisky. EVER AGAIN.

From there, we went back to the hostel since it was now late enough to check in for real, and then stopped at Chocolate Soup for some hot chocolate.

Words are unnecessary.

On the way, we found a guy advertising a free Harry Potter walking tour for later that evening, so we hustled over to our next destination: Arthur's Seat. A mountain, basically. Amanda was all gung-ho about climbing it, until it got really steep and kinda scary and a little more difficult than we'd anticipated. I'm really not doing the climb itself justice (because oh my god), but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and we made it to the peak!

We were determined not to climb down the same way, so we had to wait for other people to start the descent and follow them, which was rather comical. There was a whole troupe of people heading down at the same time. but we stumbled across some really cool ruins and took a detour to take awesome pictures like this --

-- and then really had to book it down to flat ground to make it to the tour in time. It was so worth it! We got to see some of JK Rowling's old haunts, a school that helped inspire Hogwarts, and where she got the names McGonagall and Tom Riddle. And the guide gave us wands to hold. It was a winner just for that!

Being the geeks that we are, we ate at The Elephant House Cafe for dinner (that's one of the cafes she used to write in). The food was pretty tasty, but the best part was the bathroom, where fans have written messages all over the walls. It's basically a shrine to JK Rowling and Harry, which is so awesome. And I left my own little legacy for me and my Marauders!

We were quite exhausted after that, but we wanted a Scottish pub experience, so we hit up a place right down the block from our hostel. I saw something called ginger beer on the menu and, since my friends said it tastes exactly like ginger ale, I ordered it. Finally, an alcohol that I can honestly say that I enjoy! Do they have it in the US? Hmm.

It was a chill little place, but by 11 we were basically comatose, so we decided to call it a night. I pretty much went right to bed and got a solid nine hours of sleep, which was disgustingly necessary.

The next morning was fairly leisurely. We were checked out by around 10 and went back to Chocolate Soup for breakfast. Interestingly, one of the songs that was played while we were there was Stone Cold Steve Austin's theme song from back in the day. Definitely unexpected, and definitely a bizarre combo with my hot chocolate and lemon muffin, but it made me love the place even more.

We spent a lot of time popping in and out of shops, as none of us had gotten any souvenirs yet, and we stumbled across a wedding and a little market. There was a free tartan weaving exhibit that we had to see, just because we were in Scotland, and why not? We ventured down the hill and walked around in a rather giant park, making our way towards an equally giant monument. On the way, we stopped in the National Gallery, just because. We climbed the aforementioned giant monument and got some beautiful views of Edinburgh (because after Arthur's Seat we obviously needed more stairs and more beautiful views! :P).

Back on the ground, we ate a questionable-tasting but cheap lunch of a hot dog, chips, and a can of Irn Bru (seriously) before walking down the road to Nelson's Column (and another hill to climb, obviously). It drizzled for about five minutes, but afterwards there was a rainbow, and the lighting was absolutely fantastic, so it was worth it. Seriously, everything in Edinburgh is beautiful. Really high in the air, but beautiful.

Back on the ground (again), we went to the National Museum of Scotland to see Dolly the sheep. We went to some other exhibits too, and Amanda dressed up in some costumes in a kid area and convinced some tourists she was a worker there. She's an actress -- that should explain some things. Haha. We didn't stay there for too long since we were getting tired, so we walked through the graveyard from the HP tour one more time and went back to the market, where I bought a ring that (brace yourselves) actually fits on my ring finger!

At this point, we only had a few hours left in Scotland, and we had yet to try haggis, so we popped into a pub and got some for dinner. Actually, we got haggis, neeps, and tatties. Not really sure what a neep is, but tatties are mashed potatoes. None of it was at all bad, and the meat pie we decided to split as well was quite delicious. We went back to the pub from the night before for a drink before taking some pictures of the castle at night. We still had some time to kill before our bus left, so we smushed onto a couch in one of the lounges at the hostel and busied ourselves for a little while. Lorraine was reading the Hunger Games, the poor thing. Her emotions will never be the same.

And then it was another night spent on a bus. It got progressively better; the lights were off from the beginning, but it still felt like the Arctic until about 3 in the morning. But then the heat was on and the lights were off, and it was as close to glorious as it was gonna get! Nonetheless, I napped for about four hours when we got back to Queen Mary.

(Random final thought about Scotland: bagpipes are always audible. ALWAYS. The place is basically set to a soundtrack.)

When I was conscious again, I headed into central London to meet up with Connor! It's been about four years since I've seen him, if not longer, and it was so good to reunite! It's bizarre to think that our entire friendship is based on a week spent in a treehouse for reality television. He was with one of his friends that's also studying in London. We had tea and saw some sights -- I can now check Abbey Road off my list!

This week has been pretty slow otherwise. On Monday, my architecture class had a site visit at the Royal College of Physicians, and on the tube back to campus there was an ad for Castle. Made my entire day. :) Oh! Jen, Amanda and I made our final bookings for our Eurotrip, which is super exciting! All that's left is to purchase our Eurail pass, and then we're all set. And we're leaving for Paris in less than a month. Holy epic, Batman!

Yesterday was spent sleeping late, procrastinating, and working on a presentation for my British history class that I'm doing in seminar tomorrow. You'd think there'd be more information on how the Cold War impacted British society. Leave it to me to pick the topic that apparently doesn't exist in most literature. I finished it up today, after my weekly Wednesday nap. Seriously, can the sun show itself on a single Wednesday? Please? It's so easy to be lethargic when it's so dark outside!

And now the moon is full and Margaux is on her way to visit me so Moony and Prongs can maraud together once again. :) Should be an interesting weekend!

1 comment :

  1. Excellent! Fun to read about your adventures.