WEST COAST ABROAD

Travel

Edinburgh, Scotland : Part One

The best part about living here is how easy it is to get away.

Matt was a Marine, who worked for/with/on the President’s helicopters. He travelled, for 5 years, wherever the President went. This made my wanderlustful heart insanely jealous – which is a terribly ugly trait in a girlfriend. I’ve always wanted to forgo a wedding and spend whatever the cost on a Scandinavian cruise/honeymoon instead, seeing as this may have been my only way to get to the motherland. Weddings are a money trap and, anyway, I have the rest of my life to create ‘the best day(s) of my life’ with Matt.

In any case, I definitely got my wish…heh. And a man who appreciates my wish to see/do/travel. At the first mention of Easter vacation, we decided to make full use of Ryanair and booked tickets to Marseille. We chose Marseille because it was the lowest cost to a coastal town. I may have tried to convince Matt that I speak enough French for us to get by…but nothing gets by him, including – apparently – my inability to even speak English that well.

On travel day I had grown hesitant and we didn’t seem excited to go on our first trip. Weird, right? Well, when dropping off the dogs before heading to the airport, I received a text from Ryanair saying “No flights to France. Air traffic control strike. Call **** for a refund” Wha-?

We still left the dogs, but went home and jumped online to see that our options were either a refund, or exchanging the tickets to go to a different place. After a quick search of available flights, and weather predictions, we decided to forgo the wanted beach vacation since all of Europe would be under a cloud that weekend. Then we saw Edinburgh and both had giggle-fits and decided we were going to ‘Mother-Effing Scotland! Yeah!’

Best turn of events EVER. Even though we left a day later and I suddenly came down with a vicious cold. Matt says he didn’t feel good either… he also says, “Tell them that we spent the entire time trying to feel better by overdosing on Scottish tea and experimenting with what scotch would make us feel better fastest.” True story.

sweet relief

For the record, the best scotch was Glenkinchie, sampled at Edinburgh Castle.

Speaking of castles, and cafés, we made it our mission to see tons of castles. When you spontaneously go on a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to go-but never thought you’d be able to-so you never spent the time really looking up what to do there…you figure things out as you go. Castles and Scotch became our plan.

Disclaimer: New camera…possibly amateur pics…

Thursday morning, bright and early, our little hotel (which was really just some converted dorm rooms on University of Edinburgh’s campus) served us a wonderful traditional Scottish breakfast (Matt had haggis and blood pudding EACH morning), and we set off on foot to explore the entire city. The hotel was about a mile or so from The Royal Mile, so we walked…but had a shoddy map and no real idea of where we were going. The plan was to get to Edinburgh Castle.

“where are we?” “i don’t know, but i love this bridge.”

Here’s what: I had a nasty cold settling in, right? It was only slightly warmer than a Swedish winter, and Matt decided to only bring and wear his new hiking boots…which ended up being a size or two too small. Just remember all that…then know we decided that shit wasn’t going to stop us from having a good time. Our motto: “We are in M****F**** Scotland!”

We quickly and idiotically passed The Royal Mile and ended up under the North Bridge. Then we kept walking until we ended up at Calton Hill, with monuments and some seriously awesome views.

scenes from calton hill
i took a picture of matt
matt took a picture of me. and i felt this way, blurry and like a hot mess. well done matt.

From there we spotted Holyrood Palace (I looked in vain for Harry) and Edinburgh castle, got our bearings corrected, then headed to the castle.

probably the closest i’ll ever get to my prince harry
oh…that’s where we need to go.

On the way, we stopped for tea, enjoyed a delicious scone, and then were cut off by a man in full kilt get-up…who I then paparazzi-followed for a couple blocks trying (unsuccessfully) to get a good shot of. Katie=No Shame.

unapologetic tourist moment

Edinburgh castle is…awesome. Coming up to face it, Matt said it was the first castle he’s seen that actually looks like a “real castle” (Swedish castles aren’t all stone and crenulations).

holy crap. wow.

It’s old and completely overwhelming. The views, the beauty, the history…we spent the entire day there wandering around, each listening to our audio guides, and trying to just imagine…

amazing
war memorial
canon view

At lunch, I was having a hard time breathing, we were cold, and the line to see the crown jewels was long. We hadn’t seen everything yet and didn’t want to leave, so Matt suggested we go get some tea and lunch at the castle’s restaurant. Really? I’ve never been one of “those people” who eat at such places. Too expensive, too grand, too much, whatever…but I was desperate for some warmth and tea. I ordered a beloved hot tea and a sandwich, and Matt ordered the tea time special of small finger sandwiches and sweet treats galore. Plus…the Glenkinchie. I don’t like whiskey at all, but a little sip of that cleared my sick face right up… if only for a moment.

such a fine moment

After the castle, we were lured to a wool shop that also had bus tours to some other part of Scotland. We weighed our options and decided on the castles tour in Northumbria (I know that’s England). Then we proceeded to have an impromptu pub tour on our mile long walk back home. It may have involved sampling different Real Ales, scotch whiskeys, a death-metal pub that was super friendly, and a pub quiz at The Maltings that included too many questions about America, which…despite that, The Haverluk’s still lost… Good fun!

the auld hoose! when they say big nachos…just take their word for it.
before the pub quiz. matt had laphroaig, i had a strongbow

Friday, we set off on our tour, stuffed in the very back corner of a mini bus with a guide named Eric – who Matt and I both fell in love with – and set our sights on magical places.

Lindisfarne Castle:

lindisfarne castle is on holy island. picturesque is an understatement.

Bamburgh Castle:

bamburgh castle from inside eric’s bus, and from behind his highland cow
moody sky!

Alnwick Castle. You may know this as the Harry Potter castle, which is cute and all…but I haven’t read the books or seen the movies. I know this castle as “Pippa Middleton’s possible boyfriend‘s family home”. That’s right folks, judge me all you want.

alnwick castle

Anyway, the place is stunning. And…we happened to also eat at their restaurant there, too.

i found prince charming! and he’s mine, alllll mine 😉

After our last castle stop, Eric was to show us Flodden Field…but, since this wasn’t his regular route, he had a hard time finding it. To be fair, the English countryside is very pretty and I didn’t mind taking a long joy ride around it, but it does look the same if you aren’t used to being there. At one point, there may have been a decision on Eric’s part to turn around on someone’s drive, and we may have backed into their medieval stone wall, and perhaps set a stone or two free…and perhaps left a part of the tour bus free to hang with those stones as well…but, if he’s not telling, neither am I 😉

saw our first blooms of 2012, daffodils!

Then, it was back to Edinburgh. I’d definitely say that Eric made the tour. He just further proved our suspicions that Scottish people are wonderful. I love tour guides like that! It was a great day, and as someone who despises being a tourist, I HIGHLY recommend taking some kind of Scottish bus tour. It’s all worth it. My mom is planning on a highland tour when she visits next month, and if she talks it up too much…Matt and I will probably find ourselves trying to steal a highland cow soon after 😉

To be continued…

4 Comment

  1. OOH! This may be the tour I am taking through Rabbie’s from High St on Sept 6. That is after the 3 day Isle of Skye tour that includes Loch Ness where I will try to find the “monster.”

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