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25 September 2007

Stranded in Scotland

Night 3 in Scotland: Saturday/Sunday, 21-22 September
It was the last night in Edinburgh for me and Nicole, and we had just missed our bus.

And so began a series of frustratingly unfortunate events.

Disbelief quickly turned to anxiousness, as we tried to beg the one other bus leaving for London at 22:30 to let us on. No deal--they were with a different company and just couldn't acknowledge our tickets. All the ticket stalls in the station were closed. There were no other buses leaving until the morning. But a 9-hour bus then would be tough--I had class the next day, and Nicole had to catch her plane early that next morning.

What do we do? What do we do? What do we do?! This has never happened before--being stranded in a cold foreign city with no way to get home and no place to sleep that night.

Deep Fried Haggis and a Sinking Feeling

Day 3 in Scotland: Saturday, 21 September (continued)
It was our last day in Edinburgh, so Nicole and I only rested for a short while before getting out the door. We left the hostel and wandered to the campus of the University of Edinburgh. Nicole also became really excited when she saw her favorite supermarket from Germany, Lidl. We went inside, it was all right, a very basic (and affordable) place to get groceries.

Soon afterwards, we ended up at the Royal Museum right a few minutes before it was to close. But we didn't waste our time... we quickly found Dolly the sheep (the first mammal to be cloned).

Climbing Arthur's Seat

Day 3 in Scotland: Saturday, 22 September
For once, I finally got to sleep in. But not too late, because we had to eat breakfast and check out of the hostel by 10:30. Nicole and I left our bags in their luggage room and proceeded to continue our exploration of Edinburgh. Today's goal: Climb Arthur's Seat.

Arthur's seat is an 800-foot high mountain right next to central Edinburgh with beautiful open scenery and some of the best views of Edinburgh and the nearby Firth of Forth. So we set off, walking down the Royal Mile. We passed the Scottish Parliament, with its distinctive modern architecture and sharply acute geometric angles, and Holyrood Palace.

Then we walked into Holyrood Park. There were several paths going in different directions, and Nicole asked which one led to the top, and a police officer told us to go around the long way, down a small side road which didn't even seem to go uphill. Nevertheless, we reluctantly went down that less-traveled road, and along the way we passed some meadows and ponds filled with geese. After swooping around the east side of the mountain, the road finally curved uphill, and wound its way up the mountainside. The paved road ended, and following one of several footpaths led us most of the way to the top. The final few hundred steps were over rocks and boulders, but it also became very windy! We survived, and the view was definitely worth it. You could see for miles in every direction.

Braveheart: The Scottish Highlands

Day 2 in Scotland: Friday, 21 September
On our second day in Edinburgh, Nicole and I took a day trip to Loch Ness! The day before we had found a tour company offering tours into the Highlands for £30. Since we had come all the way to Scotland and had the time, why not see the Highlands?!

The tour left Edinburgh at 8 am, which meant waking up early, scarfing down our breakfast (cereal and bread with jam) and jogging down the Royal Mile to the tour bus stop. We got there just in time, but the bus didn't end up leaving until 30 minutes later.

And we were off into the countryside! Fields and farms began to give way to rolling hillsides. We passed many historic battle sites associated with William Wallace (whom you might know from Braveheart!). If you don't know, the Scottish people are very proud of being Scottish, and William Wallace, who is immortalized as having fought the hated English, is prominently one of Scotland's defining figures.

Our first stop, mainly to stretch our legs and get a few snacks, was a touristy restaurant and gift shop whose main attraction was its Hairy Coo (if you don't know, a Hairy Coo is a highland cow... with long brown hair covering much of its face).

The Athens of the North: Edinburgh

I had an awesome time in Scotland this past week/weekend! So here's a little recap:

Day 0: Wednesday night, 19 September
I departed London with my friend Nicole at 10PM on an overnight bus to Edinburgh. It did feel weird to me that I had no idea which roads the bus was on as we made our way north through the dark night. At least I was able to sleep for a few hours, waking up on the final stretch from Glasgow into Edinburgh.

Day 1: Thursday 20 September
We arrived at a very chilly Edinburgh at 7 AM. As we walked from the bus terminal through the city, we couldn't stop shivering. The streets were also eerily empty. We walked through the New Town, past the Princes Street Gardens and up the hill to the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle.

I was still half-asleep and cold, so Edinburgh at first felt like a dream. A surreal, empty and peculiar city. We zigzagged up a small street that deposited us right in front of Edinburgh Castle. Nearby was our hostel--the Castle Rock Hostel--which lies directly across the street from the castle!