When Abby and I were in middle school, we decided that one day we would go to Europe together. We specifically decided that we would be in the UK. It was probably due to our mutual love of Harry Potter. Many years later, that dream became a reality. Thankfully we chose to study abroad in the same semester, and even more so, that Abbs is in Scotland. The trip was long overdue, and being around someone you know from the States makes being in Europe a little less intimidating. Plus it’s just nice to see a familiar face after such a long time.
My time in Scotland was full of ups and downs. It was probably my first trip that was actually stressful, but with so much stress comes a lot of learning and I’m already looking back on it with a new perspective.
For some odd reason, every time I’ve traveled, it has rained. Edinburgh was no exception. It rained the whole time. I am sick of the rain and the cold. Be warned that my pictures may have rain spots on them, and I don’t know enough about photography to figure out how to get nice pictures in bad lighting (Dad, halp).
I flew in on Thursday and met Abby at the airport. From there we took a forty-five minute bus into the city. One thing became apparent as we climbed on the double-decker bus: the Scots drive on the wrong side of the road. The entire trip messed with my head. I kept looking left and then right. Or is it right and then left?
After dropping my things off, we met one of Abby’s friends, Allegra, yes like the allergy medicine, and they showed me around the city for a bit. We grabbed lunch at a pub and I had haggis, tatties, and neeps (something with meat and oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and mashed parsnips). It was delicious and just the kind of comfort food I was in the mood for on a cold and rainy day. We walked down the street Diagon Alley, from Harry Potter, is based off of. That was pretty cool! All the buildings were very old and the stone had a worn look to it, but that just gave the city character. I also decided to get my ear pieced! It took me about a minute to say “yes” but, disclaimer, I had been thinking about doing it for about a year now so it wasn’t that spontaneous.
The 17th was St. Patrick’s Day. I took a solo trip to the Edinburgh Castle during the afternoon. I walked to the castle, and as I got closer and closer to it, I began to understand why castles were the best defense and offense in the Middle Ages. The cliff sides were crazy steep. Once I got up to the castle, I was able to see down on the city a bit. I really enjoyed walking around within the castle walls, but it was cold and rainy again. I was able to see the ‘One O’Clock Gun’ go off, which goes off every day at one pm since 1861. It was a way to let sailors know what to set their clocks to. As I walked around and gazed through arrow slits, I was blown away by a few thoughts. I was standing and walking along areas where men stood and waited for an attack and where soldiers gave their lives for their country and cause. I almost couldn’t comprehend that. It’s very different reading about history in a textbook than seeing it right before your eyes. This castle was also older than the United States. It was probably the oldest thing I had seen so far in my travels, except for certain sites in Spain perhaps.
That night we went out to celebrate our Irish heritage. There were a lot of fun things going on around the city even though we weren’t in Ireland. We went to a pub and got Baby Guinnesses, which were a mixture of bailey’s and kahlua. They were great.
The next day Abby took me to a lookout spot of Edinburgh, but it was just our luck that the weather was misty. It created a mysterious and spooky feeling though. Afterward we walked down some streets and stopped by a little cafe called the Marshmallow Lady. I was looking forward to this the most. If you didn’t know already, I love food so much. The shop is famous for their marshmallows, and for me, their marshmallow milkshakes. I could have one of those every day. When we walked in the door, we were hit by the most delicious smell of lemons. Sadly they didn’t have a vanilla-lemon milkshake, but a cookies-and-cream one made up for it. Next we headed the Botanical Gardens. They had plants from all over the world. At one point we were walking through the forests of China.
The next day was by far my favorite, except add the milkshakes and it would be ten times as amazing. We strapped on our tennis shoes and set out for Arthur’s Seat. Imagine the Highlands, but take it down a notch or two. That’s this hill we walked up. It had an amazing view of Edinburgh from the top. The only problem was the wind. My goodness the wind was frightening. We honestly felt like we were astronauts on a different planet trying to walk through a wind storm. I had to hold my glasses on my face otherwise they would have flown off. Despite that, I could have spent hours hiking up and down the paths created by people.
After that adventure, we met up with Allegra again for some fish and chips and a walk along the beach. For two girls from a landlocked state (Abby and I since Allegra is from New Jersey), being by the ocean is really neat.
During my last full day, Abby and I took the train to Stirling. I liked being able to see the countryside zip by as we traveled. Stirling was a cute town. It rained on and off while we were there, so we kept ducking into cafes to get out of the rain, but that just gave us a chance to experience local stores. Stirling, too, had a lot of history. There’s a huge monument to Wallace on a hilltop, along with a castle.
When we got back from our day trip, we went to trivia night at a pub Abby and her friends frequent. They hadn’t won before, but that night was the lucky night. We won! The most entertaining category was celebrity baby names. Who are the parents of Sage Moonblood?
The next morning, I left for my flight back, but lo and behold, I read my ticket wrong and missed my flight. Yes, I missed it. Me. The girl that always has it together. I do not know if I have ever been that stressed in my life. Honestly, I wanted to throw up. I kept calm as best as I could, but being stranded in a foreign country is not fun. My best option was to fly out the next day, so I headed back to Abby’s for one more day. I locked myself away for most of the day, too nervous to do much of anything except work on blog posts. Abby’s mom was kind enough to send Abby some money so we could eat out that night, in hopes that I would relax. I did not get much sleep that night.
I am writing this post on the plane as the Norwegian mountains appear below me. I cannot begin to express how happy I am to be back in my home away from home. Norway is now my European safety blanket. Adding an extra day onto a trip, all because of a stupid mistake, didn’t relax me at all. A lot of the glamour associated with traveling and vacations has worn off at this point. I mean, I made through almost three months of being in Europe before something went wrong, but wow, I do not want anything else to go south. I learned a lot from the experience though, and even if I messed up, I fixed my mistake, all the while being in a country that I was unfamiliar with. There’s always a bright side!
Scotland was fun, but I am happy to be back in Norway.
I leave tomorrow for my next trip, this time to northern Norway, so hopefully I’ll have a post up soon after.