Sunday, April 7, 2013

Scotland: The Land of My People (Well, some of them)

I know its been a million years since I've last posted. Well maybe not a million years but still over a month, which is totally unacceptable. I've been so caught up in the amazingness of London that I have been neglecting all of you, and for that I am sorry. But the good news is my classes are officially over and I have two months to call London my playground and to catch you all up on my thrilling adventures. I'll start off where I last left off: Scotland.

Before I went I figured this wasn't going to be far off from London or our trips to small English towns like Bath or York. After-all, the U.K. is the U.K., right? Boy, was I mistaken. Scotland had its own culture entirely. They take tremendous pride in their gruesome highlander ancestry, their breathtaking scenery, and gorgeous medieval castles. Not to mention, it is the birthplace of Harry Potter.

Friday morning we met out tour group at King's Cross Station for a six hour train ride. Our train took us through the gorgeous English country-side and through New England-like seaside towns in Northern England.

When we arrived in Edinburgh and I stepped off the platform my eyes drew right to our tour guide Graham who was waiting for us in the traditional Scottish kilt and knee high socks. He walked us a few blocks to our hostel where we checked in, dropped off our stuff and headed back out on our walking tour of the Royal Mile. The highlight of the tour being walking through a cemetery (as a big scardey cat I was not too keen on walking through a field of dead people in the most haunted city in the world). J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time in this cemetery and got many of the names for her characters from the tombstones. As soon as Graham informed us of this my eyes were peeled the entire time for a familiar name. Nothing. Not even a common name like James, Harry, or Lily. As I gave up hope and walked out of the graveyard I saw it. There it was, "William McGonagall". We finished out tour at the Edinburgh Castle which lies atop a volcano and offers and amazing view of the city.

After we were released from our tour my friends and I headed to dinner at the Deacon Brodie pub. Deacon Brodie was the man who inspired Jekyll and Hyde. For desert we walked down the road to Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling would sit for hours each day while she wrote Harry Potter. The cafe was adorably decorated with an elephant and Harry Potter theme. The bathroom walls were drowning in notes to Jo written by visiting fans from across the world.

The next morning we were up early and already saying goodbye to Edinburgh. We spent the next two days on a bus driving through the Scotland Highlands. There was a very simple schedule for this tour: ride the bus for an hour or so, get off for five minutes for a photo opp, get back on the bus, and repeat. The first day we saw the gorgeous scenery and mountains where scenes from Braveheart, Harry Potter, and Skyfall were once filmed. Our last stop of the day was at the Clansmen Center where all fifty of us squeezed like sardines into a room smaller than my dorm. We were shown how the Highlanders used to live; everything from what they wore, what they ate, and the gruesome ways that they'd kill each other in battle. I won't go into details, but boy am I glad I was born into this modern age. Life for a highlander was miserable.

I found Nessie!

Our hostel that night was in Fort Agustus, a village on Loch Ness that is not bigger than my campus. The town was so tiny that there was only one pub open for dinner. After dinner our entire tour hung out in the hostel bar playing drinking games and singing karaoke. It took me back to my high school senior trip at Rocking Horse Ranch.

Sunday morning we were up early again and back on the open road. We circles are Loch Ness with unfortunately no Nessie sightings. On our way back south we stopped at the field where the Battle of Culloden took place almost 300 years ago. There was a tomb stone for each clan instead of individual soldiers. The whole experience was a bit eerie but still very interesting. My only regret is that I didn't learn what clan my Scottish ancestors were apart of before I came on the trip.

After our last stop it was straight back to Edinburgh where we caught the train back to foggy ole London.