me & Craig
I was very excited to go up to Scotland this past weekend for my longest (and farthest away) weekend trip yet. Soon after class ended on Thursday, I'd say probably about half of the people on the program showed up at the train station awaiting the 6-hour train ride up north to Edinburgh
. The mass exodus up to Scotland was mostly due to The British Open, much like the first weekend at Wimbledon. Apparently, we weren't the only ones who wanted to travel north, and the train was very crowded all the way up until Birmingham. A bunch of us even had to stand for the first hour or so. But after that it was smooth sailing. We got into Edinburgh (pronounced "Edinburrow") at around 11pm.
balls of steel
It was a little cold and rainy but we (a group of 10 guys and a girl) eventaully found our hostel and got checked in. The rooms were dorm style, 18 bed mixed, but we pretty much dominated the room and had a good time. For what it was worth, it was a nice, secure hostel. That night we were all just hungry and tired, and had a wonderful take-out meal from Pizza Paradise, a neaby junkfood stand. I had some amazing fish and chips. It was a great way to end the night, and we all went to bed to get up early to explore the city.
The first thing we did Friday morning was head up to Edinburgh Castle and check out all the stuff up there. It seemed like more of a small walled city up on a bluff, and was very cool. It did have a lot of touristy museums and attractions, but was fun nonetheless, and we did have a great tour guide on the way up.
the castle's chapel
After spending a while there, we had an amazing greasy luch at the Pizza Hut buffet. I know American food might not seem that excited when you're in another country, but you quickly realize how much you miss it. I have no problem gorging myself every once in a while for the good of American food. Free refills too. So anyway, after that we went and explored the new Scottish parliament building, as Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. Their Parliament just split from Englands in 1999, so the building was brand new and creepily modern in its architecture. Afterwards, we went across the bridge to explore the "new town."
This area of Edinburgh was beautiful, and we were able to walk in a wonderful park down below the castle. There is a lot of great flowers, greenery, ice cream stands (the day was a bit cold for that), and even a sand volleyball match.
a whiskey shop
It was pretty cool. As it was becoming evening, we explored a side road with a bunch of pubs on our way back to the hostel. Some of the names of these pubs cracked me up: there was "The Bad Ass," "Dirty Dicks," "Filthy McNasty's," and "Hogshead" (from Harry Potter) just name a few. We couldn't pass up the temptation of having a beer at (the surprisingly clean) Filthy McNasty's, and watched The Open a little on the TV. After meeting our friends back at the hostel, we went out to dinner at a cool pub called "The World's End." Here, we got some authentic Scottish food. I ordered some haggis, which apparently is sheep intestine filled with oats and boiled. Didn't taste nearly as bad as it sounds, and was actually quite good. After dinner, a few of us went to the bar across from out hostel, "Whiski," where they have over 100 different types of whisky.
valley below the castle
It was great, and we ended the night sipping on some good scotch and having good conversation.
Saturday was our day for The British Open! It's actually called The Open Championship, but I guess we generally know it by the other name. We got up at the crack of dawn to catch the 5:20 train into Carnoustie. It was a little over an hour up the eastern coast and definitely considerably colder than what we've been used to in southern England (althouhg this can mostly be attributed to the weather). Unfortunately, they do not allow cameras inside the grounds (distraction to players), so there are no pictures from that day. But I can tell you what it was like.
We entered the grounds at 8am, when they opened, and basically had free reign to walk wherever we wanted.
The way it works is people in last place tee off first, and the leaders end up starting about midday. You basically can just follow a pair of golfers however long you want, and stop or switch it up at your pace. There are grandstands that you can sit in around the greens of every hole, so it was cool sometimes to sit for a while and see a couple of groups go by. The course is huge, so walking around and trying to see everyone is tough, but I did see some pretty big names, including: Tiger Woods (like 5 feet away!), Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, a bunch of the younger Americans, and some others that I can't remember. I'll be honest, I'm not much of a golf fan, but it was a fun and new experience, and the cold did not stop us from having a great time. It is kind of funny though how serious they are about people being still and quiet during the shots; many times I longed for a Happy Gilmore style of play.
We caught a train back to Edinburgh in the early evening, had dinner at Pizza Paradise again (I had an amazing kabob this time!) and chilled at the whisky bar for a few hours. It was a very good, relaxing night to end the trip on.
We found ourselves with another interesting trip back home. A few others and I woke up for the early train back to Oxford
(at 8:50), but when we got to the train station, we found out that the train would go no further south than Birmingham due to flooding. We would have to find an alternate route. Which brings us to...you guessed it...London! It's always a pleasant surprise to unexpectedly end up in that city. We took a 5 hour train ride from Edinburgh to King's Cross Station, which also happens to be the one mentioned in the Harry Potter books.
Lucky for us, they have actually made a sign between platforms 9 and 10 which designates the famous nine-and-three-quarters which we all so love and enjoy. Don't worry Mom, I took a picture. After that, it was a short tube ride to Paddington
station, where all the Oxford trains depart from. A short 1 hour train ride later, and we're home in time for dinner!
Unfortunately for Dustin and I, who sprinted out of the train station toward's the bookstore in Oxford where we reserved our Harry Potter copies, the train came about 5 minutes late. We arrived at Waterstone's Bookstore at 5:05pm, exactly 5 minutes after closing time. Oh well, maybe tomorrow. At least I'll be able to get stuff done tonight.
Can't say that much for the next three days though (I'll be in seclusion). All in all, Scotland was a ton of fun, and probably my favorite accent to imitate. There, bagpipes, kilts, and plaid are always the hip fashion, and I think I could definitely pull it off!