Saturday, May 28, 2011

a wee bit of scotland

I warn you now, this post could probably win an award for worlds longest post. I typed it up in Word and it was over 10 pages long double spaces. So just like my last trip post, I've broken it up into logical places so you can take a break when you get bored. And then when you feel like being tortured some more, you can easily come back and finish reading. enjoy.
also, for some reason it's not letting upload pictures. so hopefully i can get that to work in another post later so you can actually see the things I'm talking about.

sleeping beauty ugly

We left for our trip North this morning. It started with a bright and early wake up at 6 so that we could pack up and head out before 7:30. Then it was a three hour bus ride to Lincoln, where we stopped to eat our lunches we made before we left and check out this castle. Here’s the thing about castles. In my mind, castles are these great big cool magical things. Like the Disneyland castles. Ok maybe not like the Disneyland castles, but definitely bigger than the castles that we’ve seen so far. The places they call palaces are more like the castles in my mind but the places they call castles are more like…mansions. So still big and pretty cool, just not as big and cool as I thought they would be. Anyways. So then we drove another couple of hours to York, where we stayed the night. Here’s my problem with busses though. I cannot stay awake for the life of me. It is a serious problem. I fall asleep whether I want to or not. And then I don’t even fall asleep looking cute; I just look like a freak. I either have my mouth wide open and my neck lolled to one side or I have my whole entire head hanging forward and rolling around all crazy. I am not a normal person when it comes to sleeping while sitting. I’m sure many a people have laughed at me while sleeping on the bus.

Once we got to York, it was only 3ish so we had the rest of the day to explore. We basically just got lost but that’s ok, it was still cool. We found a little street market that was closing down for the day so we got a bucket of strawberries for only1 pound. And then we wandered some more and try to get into this castle and this castle museum and this Viking museum and a few other things and all of them cost a buttload to get in so we vetoed them all. Finally we decided just to get some dinner because apparently the whole town shuts down at 5:30. Every shop we tried to go into was closed. But then we discovered that none of the places to eat open until 6. So for that half an hour, your just stuck doing nothing. Finally we got into this little Italian place that had early bird specials from 6-7, which is a weird early bird time seeing as how I find that a pretty normal eating time. It was a good little restaurant, though I definitely prefer my mom’s spaghetti. After dinner we searched for something to do until 7:30 but with no real avail. We ended up eating warm cookie dough from Pizza Hunt and standing in the cold until our Ghost Tour started at 7:30.

I was pretty terrified of the Ghost Tour when we were standing there waiting for it to start. I don’t always do so well with scary things but I figured it couldn’t be too bad because it was still light outside. It doesn’t get dark around here until pretty late. So this older guy (he was grey haired so I’m allowed to say older) dressed up in like olden time clothing walks down the street with a super creepy face creepily ringing this bell. So we all conglomerate around him, because that’s what you do when you see creepy people on the street right? He starts us on our tour and let me just give you the short version of things. First of all, not scary. At all. Second of all, pretty funny so worth the money in the end. Third of all, he was kind of a dirty old man…there were definitely some dirty jokes stuck in all of his little stories. Anyways, short summary of it all because I don’t really even remember any of his ghost stories, it was funny but not scary but still cool.

After Ghost Hunt, the town was still closed down so we just went back to the hotel. There were only two people to a room and the hotel people had assigned us rooms alphabetically. Crazily, Tara and I ended up in the same room, which ended up being perfect because then we could all watch a movie and not bother anyone else’s roommate. So Tara, Kaylee, Amy and I watched Shakespeare in Love, which was in the Centre and was rated for age 15 and up in UK ratings. But UK definitely has a more liberal rating system because if you weren’t already aware, Shakespeare in Love has quite a bit of nudity in it. We ended up fast-forwarding through various scenes, thinking that once we had gotten through one, we would be safe for the rest of the movie. It was a good plot line but the unnecessary naked people in it made for quite a problem so it won’t be on my list of movies to watch again.

dumbledore’s army

We started out the day going to York Minster. This is another one of the England’s many cathedrals. If I remember correctly, it’s the largest cathedral in the northern part of England. But every cathedral says they are the biggest somehow so I could potentially be making that fact up. But it is really famous. We got a tour around it, which was nice. It makes cathedrals so much more interesting when we actually get information about them while looking at them. Otherwise, as one particular friend likes to say, it’s just “another flipping cathedral.” The windows in York Minster were absolutely amazing. There were so many of them and a lot of them had been fixed up so they were really clear and pretty. They are in the process of restoring a bunch of the windows and the ones that have already been fixed up are some of the coolest stain glassed windows I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know before that visit that when the stain glass windows would get cracks in them, to fix it they would just put another line of lead in it. This is why they are so hard to tell what the heck they are pictures of most of the time. I thought they were just always crazy complicated pictures but this is not so. They are actually very understandable when there is only lead in the original places. I think the stained glass windows were my favorite part of the whole minster, but it was a great place as a whole.

After the minster we had a little over an hour to explore before we had to get back on the bus. As we had already discovered yesterday, basically nothing it free. But we did find the ruins of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Or Abby. Or something. I don’t remember but they were these great big ruins and they were awesome. The best part you ask. Well the best part would have to be the man who was basically naked and sun bathing right in front of the ruins. All he had on were these super tiny shorts. I took a picture for you all to appreciate the view as well. It reminded me of the time my parents took a picture of mr. thong man in Mexico forever ago. If you don’t know that story, then you’re probably better off, but anyways. Here’s the question you should all be asking instead. What the heck was this man doing sunbathing in front of these ruins? He really had no better place to do his sun bathing? What a crazy.

After this fun filled experience, it was time to go back to the hotel to get on the bus. It was quite a walk and so we walked along the top of the city wall. Once we got to the bus, we drove the 5 hours to Edinburgh. I must have a lot more experience with long car rides than some of my fellow study abroaders because 5 hours doesn’t seem like a particularly long drive to me, but some people thought it was an insanely long ride. I’m glad I’ve had lots of long driving experience or I’m sure the drive would have freaking stunk. Once we got to the hostel, the rooms were assigned again. This was sort of disappointing only because me and some of the other girls already had great plans for rooming together, but that’s ok. We have a great group in our room and it’s fabulous.

By this time, it was time to eat so we went to The Elephant House, which is the cafĂ© where J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter. It is a great place. Not only was the toilet seat in the bathroom decorated with an assortment of Harry Potter pictures, there was a place to sign up for Dumbledore’s Army, directions to Tom Riddle’s grave and the food was the bomb. I would love to be able to go there all the time. Not necessarily for the Harry Potter aspects, but because it’s just a great atmosphere.

Edinburgh is dumb just like York and everything closes way early so there were slim pickings on what to do after dinner. We ended up climbing Calton hill, which is basically a hill with a bunch of old ruins and monuments. It was beyond description. I’ll just let you look at pictures so you can see what I saw. Except for obviously I saw it in a much cooler way than you will be seeing it as. Sorry to rub it in…While at Calton Hill, we had climbed one of the monuments for some pictures. Kaylee hadn’t come up yet and Amy was calling to her to come over except that Kaylee was walking sort of behind these two guys who thought Amy was talking to them at first. So one of us saved it by saying Kaylee’s name but the boys still came over anyways and offered to help Kaylee up and take our picture. It was kind of awkward at first but then we started talking to them. One of them lives in Edinburgh but is originally from Ireland and the other is from Long Beach, California. Mr. California was just visiting and Mr. Ireland was showing him the sights. Hannah and I ended up talking to Mr. Ireland, which was cool because we could talk to him about both Ireland and Edinburgh. I love talking to the locals.

After the ruins, we just ended up coming back to the hostel. Nothing to exciting but the day was long enough without a huge party to end the night.

finding nessy

So this morning we got up early and went to Tom Riddles grave because nothing was open yet (even though it was 8. What is wrong with these people?). It’s pretty legit. And there was a grave for a Moody, a Black and a McGonagall. Looks like maybe Rowling went to gravesites for name inspirations. Afterwards, the stores were finally started to open so we went looking in those but then we saw the rest of our group walking to the castle, where we had plans for a tour. We joined up with them then instead of meeting them at the castle.

The Edinburgh castle is way sweet. We took a free tour from one of the worker dudes at the castle and he basically just showed us the different places we could check out while we were there. But he was really nice and answered a bunch of questions Tara, Hannah and I asked him after the tour. It’s interesting how different the Scottish accent is compared to the English accent. I mean they are so close but their accents are completely different. I think that the Scottish are a tad bit more difficult to understand. Ok, maybe more than a tad bit. Some of them are super hard to understand. I feel like they talk really fast so it just doesn’t work very well. But back to the castle. The coolest part was probably the Crown Jewels. They were gorgeous and there was this little museum thing before you got to the jewels that told a bunch of the Scottish history which I really liked because I didn’t know hardly anything about Scottish history. I mean even though their history is so closely linked to England presently and they have been ruled by the same monarchs for quite some time, they still have a very different history and I didn’t know basically any of it. I will definitely be catching up on my Scottish history when I get him, especially about Queen Mary. And no, this is not a joke. What else am I going to do this summer?

We spent quite a while at the castle so by the time we left, it was lunch time. We were so impressed by The Elephant House yesterday, we decided to go back for lunch. The food really is delicious and the place is so cute. Then after lunch we went back to the shops for some souvenir junkola. Basically every store had the same stuff and it was all pretty expensive, so I didn’t buy much and sorry family but you aren’t getting much. Once we had finished, we went to the train station with plans to go to Loch Ness to find Nessy. Yes, this is a serious plan. Yes, I wanted to go so badly. And yes, Nessy and I are on a first name basis. We went to the info desk at the train station so that we could get there in the most efficient way. And she informs us that it takes 4 hours to get there. And the train doesn’t leave until 4. Dreams of finding Nessie were shattered and I sat in the station and cried. OK. Maybe I didn’t cry, but it was pretty devastating. I can’t believe I’m leaving Scotland without seeing the Loch Ness Monster…

Since all of our hopes and dreams had been thrown out the window, we decided to go back into town to find a dance studio. Tara wanted to find someone that would teach a highland dance class so she could do a little Scottish jig. We found the dance studio and they found us an available class that was a 20 minute bus ride away. It didn’t start right away so we decided to go to the Loch Ness Experience. Sounds freaking exciting right? Well we get into the theater for this thrilling event and we stick our 3D glasses on and our big DJ headphones so we can hear and get ready for the ride. And about 15 minutes in, I fall asleep. Quite the experience, let me tell you. It was this weird, old documentary with a bunch of information I could have found out on Wikipedia. Oh well. I learned some new stuff about Nessy and that’s better than nothing I suppose.

Afterwards, we went back to the hostel. I decided that I didn’t particularly want to spend my money on a highland dance class so I let Hannah and Tara do their thing while I went off with some of the other girls. We didn’t do much, just grabbed some dinner and then came back and we are now watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. A great way to end the night, if I do say so myself.

my pet sheep

This morning was a pretty chill morning. We were leaving Edinburgh at 10 and there really wasn’t really a whole lot more I wanted to do there. I absolutely loved Scotland, it was by far one of my favorite destinations, but everything I would have done couldn’t really be done real fast this morning. So instead I slept in, which was really weird because I haven’t done that the whole time I’ve been in the U.K. Scotland is a beautiful place and everyone was so nice. I feel like I got to know the people of Scotland so well even though we weren’t there for very long. And I love all the sheep farms. I have decided, after driving past the thousands of sheep we’ve passed while on the bus the past couple of days, that I will be getting a pet sheep when I have a house. And it will be an indoor sheep that is potty trained and I will shave it often so that it just stays small and cute and we will frolic in the grasses together and it will be absolutely wonderful. I hope whoever marries me is okay with this plan. Also, in case you were wondering, no I did not eat haggis, nor did I ever have plans too. Sorry but that’s disgusting.

The bus ride was just another bus ride. Nothing exciting there. It was about four hours until we got to Windermere in the Lake District. The Lake District is mostly private land but then the government turned it into a National Park. It feels like real England here and I’m loving it. It’s so nice to be away from the city and in a little village with indescribably beautiful scenery all around. We went on this boat ride around the lake which was cool except that Loch Ness would have been cooler…but anyways. Then we wandered around the little town and it was super cute , except that just like every other place we’ve been too, everything closes super early.

Once we got to the hostel, we grabbed a room key and we got to choose our roommates and there are eight of us in the room. We all went walking around the hostel because we’re on this hill in the middle of all the beautiful greenery. It’s been raining off and on all day. I really can’t describe how Englandy it finally feels. I mean London is great and I absolutely love it there, but I love the quaint little village England a ton too. And maybe I feel that way more than usual because I’m pretty tired of big giant city all the time. I hope you can get just a glimpse of the amazing area we’re in from the pictures.

Now we’re just all hanging out at the hostel. It’s a super cute hostel and is pretty homey feeling. Because it’s raining and we’re a pretty good walk from town, there really isn’t any other option than just hanging around the hostel, but that’s ok. It’s refreshing to have an earlier night in. That was probably the most boring thing you’ve ever read, but it just hasn’t been the most eventful day but don’t give up on me, tomorrow could hold stories that will amaze you. Or maybe make you fall of your chair laughing. Or maybe make you fall of your chair asleep. Who knows. You’ll just have to wait about...mmm…2 seconds to find out…

“i don’t care if i die”

This morning started out packing up everything again and loading it on the bus. We drove about 45 minutes to some other town in the Lake District to check out the Beatrix Potter museum or something along those lines. I don't think anyone was really excited about this. We all just wanted to be on our way 'home' as we now call the Centre in London. I didn't even know who the heck Beatrix Potter was or that she wrote Peter Rabbit until this trip and I don't think I've ever even read Peter Rabbit. So clearly I was being a super happy camper about this stop. We got there about 25 minutes before it opens so we just wandered around yet another town. The whole wandering random towns that all look the same is getting kind of old too. I don't feel the need to wander around every town we stop in. But anyways. Enough negative nancy. So we wait until 10:30 and our professor reads the sign again and finds out that it actually doesn't open until 11 on Fridays. So again we wait. At 11 we all come back together and are informed that it actually just isn't open today....Seriously. Pretty ridiculous. And I blame it all on our stupid travel agent who had been less than impressive this whole trip. (She doesn't even have everything planned out for us for the next two weeks. Uh hello? We kind of need to have that done.) Even though the museum is closed, we are still forced to wander around for another 45 minutes so I end up at this bakery and buy an entire loaf of delicious bread for lunch. Super exciting stop.

After the non-existent visit to Beatrix Potter, we drive another 45 minutes (ish) to get to this place where we are going to hike. It was a beautiful area and I had no problem hiking. Our professor made it sound like it was just kind of a stroll through and he said it was shorter and easier than our last hike so I was thinking it was going to be more of a walk than anything else. It definitely started out that way. We were on a paved road and when we got off the paved road it was a pretty clear path. We saw a cool sculpture by this artist who does random sculptures in nature without expecting them to stay put. This one was turned into a sort of wall thing though, so I'm thinking it'll stay there for a while. We also walked past a pretty little river/waterfall. and past a giant old slate quarry. So it started out great. But then we got to the part where he told us we were going to hike up the top of the mountain where there is no path and the whole side of the mountain is muddy from the rain the day before. Sounds great huh? Yeah it was. By the time we reached the top, almost all of us had muddy brown covered shoes. And then we got to climb back down the muddy mountain. Fabulous. It was really pretty once we got to the top though, I just wish I had been a little more prepared for what we were going to be doing because it definitely wasn't a stroll through nature. My favorite part of the hike though was toward the end when we were walking on the paved road to the bus and I suggested we switch sides of the road so that we were facing oncoming traffic and that way we wouldn't die on the side of the road. Kaylee just goes "I don't care if I die," summing up the entirety of our day. Exhausted and partially annoyed, we were all ready to be done and get home.

Once we finished our hike, the next stop was a bathroom and then home. They wanted to make the bathroom stop a dinner stop as well, so we drove for about an hour and 45 minutes before stopping again to use the bathroom and grab some food. Then finally it was home free. Another 5 hours on the bus, playing name that tune and dancing like freaks in the middle of the aisle and finally we are back in London. It was a great trip but it's nice to be back to the familiar.

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