Monday, March 31, 2008

Hamish, the sexy beast

After Manchester, the fam and I took the train to Edinburgh, Scotland. If you are ever traveling in England, I would definitely recommend taking a train. We saw beautiful stretches of English countryside. The rolling hills were just promising to become the verdant summer pasture, and sheep dotted the hillside like popcorn balls. It was a very peaceful picture, and some of the sheep even had little lambs tripping beside them, which was awfully cute.

Edinburgh is a great city. It is broken up into 'Old Town', which includes Edinburgh castle and the Royal Mile, and 'New Town', which as the name implies, is the newer part of town. We mostly stayed in Old Town because most of the tourist attractions are there. The Royal Mile is a road that runs through Old Town and has lots of pubs and shops to peruse. It is called the Royal Mile because it has Edinburgh castle at one end and the Scottish parliament building and Holyrood house, which is where the Queen stays when she is in town, at the other. There are also tons of alleyways, or 'closes' along the royal mile, which are really fun to explore. Some of them have even been sites of massacres, and one of the things most tourists do is go on a ghost tour of these closes. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go on a ghost tour, but I would definitely do it if I ever go back.

We did get to explore Edinburgh Castle (see the first picture), which is a must see if you are in the city. Not only does it have tons of history, it also houses the crown jewels of Scotland and has some of the most amazing views of the city itself.

After spending a day exploring Edinburgh, we took a bus tour of the Scottish highlands and Loch Ness. It was wonderful!!!! The Scottish highlands are a gorgeous backdrop that really belies its turbulent past. You are surrounded by giant hills with deep valleys and mirror-like lakes (known as lochs--make sure you practically spit on a person when you say it!). It is so beautiful, it is hard to imagine the bloody clan fights that took place there. I cannot say enough about it, but I know I can never do it justice in words alone. You just have to see it!

On our way to Loch Ness, we stopped to meet Hamish, who is a very studly Scot. He is a highland cow (see him in all his glory above), and I only mention him because he is cute and because I think he pulls of bangs better than I do. If you don't know what I am talking about, refer to my "Big Bangs" post. Amazingly, he can still see treats from miles away despite his crazy 'do.

The main stop on our tour was Loch Ness where we took a boat tour around the lake. There is a marine biologist on the boat that tries to convince you with sonar data and pictures that Nessie lives, but I'm not sure I was convinced. However, Loch Ness is a really interesting place in its own right. It has tons of weird fish, such as the cannibalistic trout known as a ferox and giant eels that bury themselves deep into the mud of the lake's bottom. It also has beautiful scenery in case you didn't get enough of it on the way to the loch. It was really fascinating.

Once we got back to Edinburgh, we went out for dinner in Grassmarket, an area that has some of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh (I think the oldest has been around since the late 1600's, but don't quote me on that number!). We ended up going to a pub called Maggie Dickson's, which owes its name to a very lucky woman. The short story is that Maggie Dickson was accused of murder and hung for her crimes. As her coffin was being pulled to the graveyard, the rough ride delivered by the cobbled streets of Edinburgh was enough to jump-start her heart. Imagine the surprise she caused when she started banging on the lid of her coffin to be let out. Luckily for Maggie Dickson, Scottish authorities figured she had already died once for her crimes and didn't need to die again. She was was granted pardon and went on to run an ale house and have lots of kids. You can read the full story here.

All in all Scotland was awesome. The people are so friendly and helpful. It really is a magical place.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My trip across the pond

I can't believe I haven't posted anything since February!! I am absolutely horrified! What a slacker I have been! The two people out there that regularly read my blog can flog me later. If it is any consolation, I have plenty to blog about right now. My husband and I recently went on a trip to the United Kingdom with his family, and it was absolutely fantastic. We were only there for ten days, but we hit just about everything. Here are some highlights, and I promise to post some pics as soon as I can tear the camera away from my husband (it is new, bright, and shiny, which are all things he is fascinated by). I may have to do multiple posts to make sure I cover everything, so bear with me.


My husband and I flew into Manchester where my brother-in-law is studying at the university this semester, and that is where our adventure began. Manchester is a nice city with a really young demographic. There isn't much for sight seeing (although they do have some free art and science museums), but it definitely has a fine selection of clubs and pubs. We definitely had our fill of beer and pub food, including fish 'n chips and mushy peas, while we were there.

In Manchester, I had my first experience staying at a hostel. It really was not too bad since the one we stayed at was clean and the people were friendly, but it definitely had its downsides. For instance, I never had a hot shower the entire time I was there. The best I could do was lukewarm. Also, I was the only girl in a room with four sets of bunk beds all occupied by men. I made my husband sleep on the bottom bunk so he could guard my honor as needed. Other than that it was not bad, and one of our roommates was a very nice Norwegian guy who hung out with us while we were in Manchester.

The weather was almost always cloudy and chilly while we were there. I had planned for this and I made sure I was nicely bundled up in jacket, hood, and gloves. Congratulating myself on being so well prepared, I stepped out was amazed at what the native Manchesterites wore, in particular the young women like myself. Most of these women were wearing club clothing, which hardly covers anything, and none of them had jackets. Imagine wearing tube top, miniskirt, and heels while it is 40 degrees F and raining. I thought they were crazy!

Football (soccer to us yanks) is huge over in the UK. Manchester has a very well known football team called Manchester United, and as you can imagine, the city loves its football. We got a chance to see the Manchester City team, which I think is a step below Manchester United, play while we were there. I have never seen anything like it! The opposing team's fans had their own specific section, and this section was completely surrounded by a ring of security guards to keep Man City fans out and keep the visiting team's fans in. The crowd was constantly singing fight songs, but the only one I could understand was "Come on City! Come on City!" Instead of shouting obscenities when the ref made a bad call, which is standard protocol for any Red Sox's game, the fans yelled out, "Rubbish! You're rubbish!" For some reason, I found this hilarious, and I couldn't help but get caught up by all the energy and foreign accents surrounding me. It was a lot of fun.

Put on your kilts and break out the whiskey because my next post will be about Scotland...