One Small Step to the Beginning (8/3/14)
To begin my big journey to the United Kingdom, I left my house around 3:30am for my bus at 4am so I could catch my plane at 6am. It was scary, taking that step out my door for my first adventure alone; not to mention the wind was blowing at 45+ kmph (26+ mph). When I got to the bus stop I was shocked at the sheer amount of people also waiting for the same bus. There were 20-35 of us students leaving at 4am for the airport. Crazy! Most students I asked were going to Budapest though, who knows why.
I arrived in Edinburgh around 7:30am, about an hour and a half after my flight took off from Dublin. My friend picked me up from the airport and then we walked to her house after we got off the bus. At first we walked around for about an hour or two, just seeing Edinburgh for the first time. It was pretty amazing, but I was WAAAAAY too tired to take it all in. When we got back to her place, we had a lunch, then both took a nap before we went out for a night stroll after dinner.
On our stroll, we went through an art installation by Bruce Munro called Field of Light in St. Andrew’s Square. It was a beautiful installation of 9,000 translucent spheres lit up by fiber optic “stems” connected to a few centralized “light bases” all over the small “park”. Afterwards, we walked around the main street of “New Town”, aka a street full of retail chains. I noticed a lot of men walking around wearing kilts. There was a game going on against France and everyone was painted in France’s colors and wearing…kilts?! It was REALLY weird, but apparently kilts are not just a “traditional celebration only” kind of thing, it’s an everyday, celebratory attire it seem.
The (Edinburgh) Royal Botanic Gardens (9/3/14)
Today was wonderful. My friend and I took a trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh. It was free to get in. I applaud my friend for staying with me the whole two hours of me staying there getting excited about every other little thing.
It was pretty awesome though. I got to see so many flowers in bloom. I met some new flowers that I had never met before (like the hellebore genus), and saw some flowers I had fallen in love with but rarely seen in real life (like the snowdrops). We also visited the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden with this nifty stone pavilion that was decorated with seashells on the walls and pinecones on the ceiling that was collected from all over the world.
Edinburgh Castle: A War Memorial (10/3/14)
Today’s journey: the Edinburgh Castle. It started with a grand walk from the Scottish Parliament at the bottom of the hill at Canongate. Canongate turns into The Royal Mile, which turns into High Street, which turns into Castlehill, which is topped off with the castle. Crazy street naming schemes. At the castle – which was REALLY expensive in my opinion (£16) – there were several views of sweeping landscapes and several war-related things. There was even a war memorial in the castle itself and a weapons demonstration.
Aside from all that, I learned a little bit about some random things going by going through the war memorial and into the random displayed of the Edinburgh Castle. For one, I learned that swords were often decorated and given as gifts. Such swords were just used as display, never really used for battle or combat, sort of how like Americans are sometimes depicted to have a display of rifles and/or guns on their walls. Then, I learned that there was such a thing as a button stick, which was used for polishing metal buttons on a uniform without ruining the actual uniform. I think my favorite random fact – which I probably should’ve known, but I’m often oblivious to history and politics – is that Scotland has their own set of crown jewels apart from Britain. I love their crown as it’s decorated with pearls more so than other gemstones, thus having a more classy air than a regal, shiny, sparkly, in-your-face royalty kind of fashion. That’s probably just me being biased because I like pearls.
A Visit to the Scottish Parliament (11/3/14)
My last full day in Edinburgh. Also, my best day in Edinburgh. I was left to my own means for the day, as my friend returned to her usual schedule of work from 9 to 5.
We started the morning with her taking me to the Parliament. The public entrance to the Parliament had a security screening that required you to go through it, structured almost like airport security with bins and metal detectors. Then, coming in, I was given a visitor’s pass and my friend treated me to breakfast at the special cafeteria for the people who work there. I was also fed haggis, which my friend had apparently taken a liking to. Then, she showed me around where she worked and talked to me about how she got to see her assigned member of Parliament every day and such. Seems like such an different experience than people who intern for American political establishments where they may never meet the person they work for.
When the beginning of the day was over and done with, I took off on foot to explore Edinburgh. I remember I had seen this peculiar monument on a hill the day before at Edinburgh Castle, so that became my first sight to see. I walked down the main road until I could see the monument from a side street and took the side streets towards it, always keeping my eyes on it. Along the way, I kept my eyes open to the city of Edinburgh and got to indulge myself in the beautiful, old architectural styles of Old Town.
After a bit of walking, I ended up at Calton Hill where my monument of interest, the Dugald Steward Monument, stands. I climbed up the hill to find – again – sweeping views of the city. It was absolutely breathtaking. I loved it. There were a few other monuments and buildings there. The two I was disappointed about was the observatory and the Nelson Monument. I had wanted to go into the observatory, but it’s not open to the public and the Nelson Monument is essentially a tower from which you can see a wider view of the city – but it cost money to go in. Either way, it was totally worth the short “hike” up.
Afterwards, I meandered by way to New Town and onto Princes Street again and walked the Princes Street Gardens where the daffodils and crocuses were out to greet spring. It was so relaxing just to sit there and take in the sun and indulge in the splatterings of purple and gold crocuses in a corner of the field, framed by white and yellow trumpets of sunshine.
When I had gotten my healthy dose of vitamin D, I went indoors to The Scottish Café and Restaurant outside the Scottish National Gallery. I was happy to get some Wifi – yes, as a child of this technological generation, I must get my dose of wifi every so often. Upon getting connected, I received an e-mail inviting me to visit my study abroad coordinator at the University of Edinburgh and began to plan an afternoon meet-up with my new Irish friend, who happened to be taking a class trip in Edinburgh.
So, off I set on foot to the University of Edinburgh. When I got there, I found it rather confusing, but thankfully maps were easily accessible and visible. It’s a rather small campus but I loved how it had a beautiful park attached to the side of it. There was so much field space, I could only imagine having a picnic there and running around flying a kite there in between classes when it was sunny outside, like today.
After my short and pleasant visit with my coordinator, I met up with my Irish friend and proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon, and the latter part of the evening, after dinner, with him. At night, we went, with one of his friend and my friend, to a random beer garden and got to talking. Later on, we were invited by his classmates to a nightclub called The Hive. It was pretty weird, because they played heavy metal music. WHY would you do such a thing? I can’t imagine dancing to such a thing, but the stay there was short-lived, thankfully. The night was topped off to the beautiful Field of Light installation before we closed off my last full day in Edinburgh.
A Bittersweet Farewell, Until Next Time (12/3/14)
My few hours in Edinburgh, I was lucky enough to have the time to take in the Princes Street Gardens again. I wished farewell to those beautiful gold and purple crocuses and spent time longing only for the beautiful Scottish spring memory to remain fresh in my mind. I was ready to move forward onto the next step in my journey down the United Kingdom, but at the same time, I was reluctant to move past the beauty that was that moment. But…
come what may. When the time came, I was accompanied to the Waverly Station to embark on my first train ride. Then, off to Liverpool I went.
Things I Learned “today”
- Pounds have different tail designs on both coins and notes, much like the Euro.
- Kilts are worn in almost ANY celebratory event, including weddings. They are often worn with a sporran, which is essentially a nice-looking fanny pack since kilts sometimes don’t have pockets sewn into them.
- Bulmers Irish cider is only sold under such a name IN Ireland. Outside of Ireland, it is known as Magners Irish cider.
Additional Pictures of Edinburgh: