10 March 2009

Weekend in Scotland

This weekend I went to Scotland. My adventure started Saturday morning at 4a: my alarm sounded. 4.30a I caught the bus. 4.35a I realized I had forgotten my train tickets for my train between Edinburgh and Inverness. I jumped off the bus and ran home, afraid to take too long and miss my flight. On my way back I tripped and fell. I just lay there a moment after realizing what had happened, and slowly picked myself up. Luckily I had been bundled up in several layers so falling onto the cement was similar to falling onto a mattress. I also popped a button off my coat. But I got my tickets, got the next bus and ran through Victoria station to get the Gatwick Express on time. Unfortunately it was still quite early and my eyes and brain weren't corresponding properly, and I accidentally bought the First Class train ticket. £7 more than I needed to spend and no one even checked my ticket. I was quite put off. Then I was assaulted by a little green spider on the train! There was some confusion about my E-Ticket and I had to run around the Gatwick airport and made it to my terminal just as we were boarding. I slept the entire flight into Edinburgh.
I walked around Edinburgh for a bit getting my bearings. My phone is out of credit and I can't top it up online, so I had to wait for Hilary to call me. While I waited I saw a bit of the beautiful city and got a breakfast roll take away with (what the woman recommended): Haggis and Egg.
It was surprisingly good. After a while the egg started to make me feel a bit sick, in conjunction with the thought of actually eating haggis, and I needed a Mars bar to finish it off. But I liked Haggis. 
Hilary called me soon after and we decided to meet, almost just where I was standing at 11, for a free walking tour of Edinburgh. It was Hilary's birthday, and I gave her the lovely hat she is wearing. She's loved it since I bought it, and I just don't like wearing hats, so it was hers. 
The tour was amazing. Edinburgh was a bit chilly, but it was good to walk around and see it. The tour guide was from Arkansas, so no wonderful Scottish accent, but he was sprightly and so pleasantly informative. I learned SO much about Edinburgh, and I definitely think that taking walking tours of cities is the way to go. Otherwise you just don't get to learn about the cool History that pervades it. I just loved it from start to finish. 
Here is an example of something we learned... We were in grass market for a bit of a break, Hilary and her small group and I went into the pub "The Last Drop" (situated across from the old gallows, this affords a clever play on words) and they all had Haggis. I had Toffee Pudding, which was unbelievably tasty. I could barely handle it. BUT not my story. Right next to The Last Drop is the Maggie Dicksons Pub. Heres the story of Maggie Dickson: Maggie Dickson found herself unwantedly pregnant and when she bore the child she hid it in the reeds by the river. The child was discovered and traced back to her. She was accused and tried, not for child abuse or abandoning an infant, but for concealing pregnancy! She was sentenced to death by hanging. When she was hanged, something went wrong and the noose only knocked her out for a bit. Believing she was dead, they loaded her into the hearse for burial. On the way to the cemetery, the hearse driver heard some disturbed noise from the back of his vehicle. He went to inspect, and Maggie Dickson jumped from the back and started abusing him. Since she was technically already punished for the crime she had been accused of, she could not be tried again for that crime, so she opened a pub directly in front of the gallows which at one time had 'killed' her. She lived out her 80 years running that pub and heckling any unfortunate soul who was hanged, yelling things like 'You'll be fine!' 'It's not so bad, really!' 

The tour then took us to this old cemetery. Crey Friars. Apparently it's one of the most popular 'make out' sites in Edinburgh. However, we learned some cool history, and I have never seen a more beautiful cemetery. 
Story number 1: There was a man buried in this cemetery and for years and years his loyal dog came to pay tribute to his grave. They've made a movie from it I believe, and the statue of the dog is the most photographed statue in Europe... Oddly enough, as we entered the cemetery a dog trotted up beside us and was inspecting this grave. I took the photo of the dog, before we even heard about the story. It was pretty neat. 
We heard a lot of stories about the layout of the cemetery. Apparently it was at one time legal for grave robbers to disturb the graves. We heard about two men who were professional killers who made tons of money donating the victims' bodies to science. 
Then we heard about the Mackensie Poltergeist. He is said to haunt this cemetery, next to his mausoleum, adjacent to the courtyard where this evil man tortured hundreds of Scottish citizens who would not consent to change the way in which they worshipped, as dictated by the new King. 
Then we saw the Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Awesome. 
It was really great to spend the day with Hilary in Edinburgh on her 20th Birthday. Before they had to catch the train back down to London, a few of us had tea at this darling tea house. 
It was nice to sit down...

The BYU girls left and I was alone in Edinburgh. I decided to spend my evening watching 'Young Victoria,' and I'm so glad I did. I thought the movie was very well done, and I enjoyed it immensely. 

I stayed the night in the Castle Rock Hostel just by the Castle, and it stormed like mad all night. But the hostel was great, professional, clean, safe... I was quite at ease. But then I woke to this:

Snow. Apparently it rarely snows here... I can't seem to escape the snow...

I left the hostel really early, not sure how long it would take me to walk to church. It didn't take me too long even if I was walking through snow and following a map. I arrived an hour early. 

Chapels look the same everywhere, don't they? So I spent basically all day at church since I arrived an hour early, and sacrament was last, so I had to stay for all three meetings, and then there was a missionary farewell munch and mingle, so I stayed for free food. During my nearly 5 hours at church I met every single missionary serving in that ward, and that is not something light. There are 4 sets of elders, 3 sisters, and several senior couples. At every turn there was a new missionary! Most of them were from America as well, so we all talked for a long time. Apparently there was an elder who had just left yesterday, being transfered to Inverness, who is from Redding. My Redding! Crazy. I didn't recognize his name and was sad not to meet him. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Castle. Scotland is so lovely. Even though I was seriously affronted by strong Northern gales, I loved it. Even though I was pelted with ice and snow, I was in awe. 
It was cold. Let's be honest. It was very very cold. But it may have been the most beautiful Castle I had ever seen, and I kind of liked facing the cold. Maybe I felt like Frodo or something, bundled up with a backpack hiking up this craggy city. 

I was very sad to have to leave Edinburgh. Two days wasn't enough. 

At 5 I hopped to train headed for Inverness. It was a three and a half hour train ride. I was anticipating studying for my cooking final, but realized that I had forgotten a few very important pages, and couldn't study all that much. And my written final is tomorrow. Man, I need to run to school after this and start studying...

When I arrived in Inverness (Inbhir Nis in Gaelic, meaning "On the mouth of the river Ness"), it was raining. And my hostel was dodgy... Initially they put me in a room of 8 empty beds, one old man, and myself. I asked to be moved. I got another empty room with a sleeping Hungarian woman (I was told). I de-robed, made up my bed and huddled under the covers for warmth on a very miserable mattress. I was not warm enough. I woke at 7.30a, unable to sleep more, and I checked out about an hour later. 
View from my bedroom window in the hostel. I walked around Inverness waiting for the tourist office to open so I could figure out how to get to Loch Ness for the day. 

Inverness was kind of picturesque, but there wasn't really much there, and the morning was miserably wet and cold. 
I went to Tesco and bought bread, dried apricots and cheese, and ate that for the day. 

I bought a seat on the Loch Ness tour leaving in 30min, and headed to the bus station. Again, the tours are worth it. (Except that we didn't get to go into a Loch Ness gift shop, and I am pretty sore about that. AND there was a Loch Ness museum that I found out about later, also we didn't get to see that...) 
But I did get to ride on a boat across the Loch. I didn't spot Nessie, but it was still pretty early in the day. She may have been asleep. 

I bought some Scottish tablet, as well. Delicious. 
We did get plenty of time to explore the old ruins of Castle Urquhurt on the Loch. It was beautiful. And who could ever get enough of looking at Castles?
Despite the cold, I really really loved Scotland. It was so green, and I can only imagine that springtime here is breathtaking. While exploring the castle grounds I was struck with a thought. So many people are keen to be cynics about mythical stories and superstitions, and religion and stuff like that. I've heard it argued for religion before that even if you end up being wrong, did you waste your life living as a good person? Was it really detrimental to your existence to believe in a higher power? I say, No. And that is how I feel about myths and legends and superstitions. It doesn't hurt me to say that I believe in the Loch Ness Monster, or fairies or goblins, or bad luck, or ghosts. I am still a rational and intelligent person that enjoys believing in these fun things. And yes, I will tell my children that there are fairies and creatures of that sort. How fun for them to get to believe in that stuff. When they are older, they can make their own decisions about it all. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, and believe in fairies. 

When the tour was over, so was my weekend in Scotland, though definitely not the end of my day. I took a bus to the airport and as I was boarding the plane, the last sight I saw of Scotland (before my camera died) was a rainbow. How lovely. 
But the flight was awful. There was a whining toddler whose parents could not get to be quiet behind me, and a screaming infant in front of me. I felt very motion sick from being on buses and boats all day, and the incessant distress of these children was giving me a headache. Then I had to spend money again on the train from the airport to Victoria station, and then it was back on another bus before I finally made it home. But had to run back to FHE, because I'm kind of one of the people in charge. Today was too long.

 I spent way too much money this weekend, and I'm starting to worry that I will run out very soon. Good thing I'm only here for 3 more weeks to the day. Now I just have to be frugal with eating for the next couple weeks, and really limit myself on spending whilst in Prague. Friends, I don't know if I will be able to afford to buy you those sweaters... though I would really like to.

So that was my weekend in Scotland. It was amazing, and I feel so blessed to be able to do all the things that I have been able to do since I've been here. What a great set of experiences and stories. 


Lauren said...

"bread, dried apricots and cheese"

This made me hungry, jealous, and incredibly happy all at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I have lots of heritage in Scotland. I wanna go so bad. :(

I'm so happy for you though. I'm so hungry. K, bye.

With love,
M. Daniel Hayes

Kristy/"Grammie" said...

Sounds like you had another wonderful trip! Lots of great photos, good food and wonderful company! Good luck on your finals. Please let us know when you leave for Prague and the day you run. We'll need help (instruction) on how we track you...please can you help us? Are you coming back to Redding before you go back to BYU? If not, we will see you in Mexico...can't wait! ♥Dad & Kristy

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