29 December 2010

It's official...

...I have the worst travel luck in the world.

In the last 6 weeks, I've done quite a bit of traveling. I'm sure you all remember that I got stuck in Barcelona (how could you forget?!). Here are a couple more stories to entertain you:

Coming home for Christmas, I had a relatively simple flight plan. I was supposed to fly from Edinburgh to Paris, and from there to Chicago. Boy, was I wrong to be optimistic. Since my flight was at 6:10 AM and I had to leave for the airport at 3:30 AM, I just decided to stay up and then sleep on the plane. My first flight, however, was delayed...and then delayed some more....until I finally went down to rebook because there was no way I was going to make my flight to Chicago. After standing in line for over 2 hours, I got rebooked on the same flight to Paris, where I would then go to Detroit and then Chicago. Alright, fine, I can deal with that. It got be in about 7 hours later then I had initially planned on, but I was happy to be getting home that day.

The lady next to me on the plane, however, destroyed any shred of metaphorical shining light that I had left. For the first half of the flight she openly bemoaned the fact that I was sitting next to her -- she wanted to sleep, after all, and she couldn't do that unless she had an empty seat next to her. Alright, cue the ear phones. Time to watch a movie and drown her out. Nay. The woman then proceeded to dry heave into an airplane bag for the next oh, 3 hours. The real kicker? She refused to go to the bathroom. So for the last half of my flight I was periodically diving into the aisle every time she gagged, which would then be followed with me asking, "Are you SURE you don't want to go to the bathroom?" Seriously folks, if you have the option to throw up in the bathroom, TAKE IT! This also prevented me from being able to sleep more than a half hour, which was a bit problematic since I had stayed up the night before. By the time I landed in Chicago, I hadn't slept for going on 36 hours. I was a bit delirious, to say the least.

Oh, did I mention that my flight from Detroit to Chicago was delayed an hour? At this point, that was a drop in the bucket. I finally made it home, albeit a little bit later then planned. When I saw my dad at the airport, it didn't even matter that it took me longer to get home. I was just so happy to see him!

On to today...

I decided to come back to Edinburgh a little bit early so I could experience New Years Eve there. They're supposed to do it up right. There is a huge outdoor street party, a torchlight procession to Calton Hill, fireworks off the castle...the whole works. I figured that as long as I'm spending the year here, I might as well take advantage of all the city has to offer. Did I mention that I have some very dear friends coming to celebrate with me? Elizabeth is flying up from London, and Alexis is coming in from Florida. I am beyond excited to see them both, which makes my long layover in Paris all the more frustrating.

We had our itineraries timed out perfectly. I was to get into Edinburgh at 8:20, Elizabeth at 8:25, and Alexis at 8:40. We synchronized our plans, which was clearly a foolish thing for me to do. My flight from Chicago to Cincinnati was delayed, although the time was made up in the air. My flight from Cincinnati to Paris was delayed an hour, and yet we somehow lost time in the air. Add to that the fact that some guy took my nice, lovely window seat. When I told him he was in my seat, he said, "Does it really matter?" Umm...YES! But it was clear from his tone that he was going to make a big deal of it, thus making me seem like the jerk, so I took his stupid aisle seat instead.

I finally got into Paris -- about30 minutes after my flight to Edinburgh took off without me. Compared to the Barcelona fiasco and the vomit-to-Detroit flight, this is not so bad. I was able to get rebooked for a 3:25 flight this afternoon. The only issue remaining? I am of course providing housing to Elizabeth and Alexis, and both are enroute to Edinburgh as I write this. Here's hoping they find something fun to do in the airport!

I have about 6 1/2 hours until my flight, so let's face it...I'll probably blog again later! Peace.

22 December 2010

I had my Chicago deep dish pizza and a huge hamburger, so now I'm happy. I obviously have my priorities straight.

Days still left at home: 6

I seem to have the worst travel luck in the world. After getting stuck in Barcelona and traveling 28 hours to get home, I was hoping for a smooth trip to Chicago. Boy, was I naive to hope. My initial flight to Paris was delayed 3 hours, causing me to miss my connection. After standing in a line for 3 hours, I got rebooked to Detroit an then Chicago from there. My long flight from Paris to Detroit was fine, minus the woman next to me dry heaving into an air sickness bag. Oh, and she also refused to go to the bathroom. Meaning, I had to endure 9 hours of diving into the aisle every time she gagged. I got into Detroit OK, but then my flight to Chicago was delayed an hour.

I ended up back in O'Hare 8 hours past my initial landing time. So, compared to the Spain fiasco, it wasn't too bad. Now here's hoping that I don't get delayed going back home. Fingers crossed?

06 December 2010

Burning Daylight

Today's Sunrise: 8:27 AM
Today's Sunset: 3:41 PM

Length of day? 7 hours, 14 minutes

To put this in perspective, I have about 17 hours of darkness each day. Let's compare this to Chicago, which is what I'm used to:

Today's Sunrise: 7:04 AM
Today's Sunset: 4:20 PM

Length of day? 9 hours, 16 minutes

Why the much shorter day? Edinburgh is only 1,100 miles from the Arctic Circle. Compare that to Chicago, which is 3,325 miles from the North Pole.

A good friend of mine told me to start taking Vitamin D since I was missing out on so much sunshine. I scoffed, originally, but then I began to notice how much the lack of daylight was screwing up my daily routine. First of all, it's hard to wake up in the morning when it's still completely dark outside. My alarm will go off at 8:00, and although I want to get out of bed, I just can't bring myself to do it! Add to that the fact that since the sun sets so early, my inner clock gets all scrambled and I end up having no idea how much time has passed. First, I'll be surprised that it's only 7:00 at night, and then I'm shocked that it's already 1:00 in the morning. Needless to say, my sleeping schedule is getting shifted later and later. Edinburgh may truly turn me into a nocturnal creature.

03 December 2010

Oh, the weather outside really IS frightful...

Being from Chicago, I was fairly excited to have a winter where it wouldn't explode with snow. Don't get me wrong, I love snow. It's always gorgeous, especially when it's sparkling in the sun or falling softly from the sky just as the light fades. However, for a change, it would have been nice to have a tame winter in which I didn't have to bundle up to my eyebrows just so I could walk to class.

When in the process of leaving Barcelona, disaster struck. I arrived at the airport only to learn that my lovely, direct flight to Edinburgh had been cancelled. OK...don't panic...I tried to stay optimistic, to remind myself that I would get home somehow. But wait, I forgot that I was flying RyanAir. I only had two options: either receive a full refund for the cancelled flight or be put on the next flight...on Wednesday. That would not do! It was Sunday night, and there was no way I could stay for three extra days. Needless to say, I opted for the refund. I gathered up my things and marched over to the EasyJet desk, hoping that they would have some way to get me home. Oh, they did alright...for a lot of money and two flights, I could get back into Edinburgh the next night. Seeing no other option, I went ahead and booked. I said goodbye to Elizabeth and went to find a spot in the terminal where I could spend the night.

Within the hour, however, the very small terminal began to empty. The one coffee shop was in the process of closing, and people were leaving. Feeling a bit creeped out, I called my mom who then booked me a hotel for the night. Thanks, Mom! Best birthday gift I could have asked for! For a change, I actually got to sleep in a bed. Unlike the Gatwick disaster of 2008, I didn't have to sleep in a Starbucks. Instead, I had a bed, a computer, food, a shower, and a TV on which I could watch Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's Passport to Paris in Spanish...which I did. That alone made it totally worth it.

The next morning I departed for Gatwick. My flight went off smoothly, thankfully. I landed in Gatwick and immediately went to the EasyJet desk to receive a weather update about Edinburgh -- the response? "The 7:15 flight to Edinburgh hasn't been cancelled....yet..."

(The very snowy castle that I came home to)

I found a spot in Costa Coffee, where I planned to park myself for the next 8 hours until my flight. The one advantage of a massive layover? You basically have no excuse to NOT do work. Between chatting with my mom on the phone and all of the cups of coffee that I consumed, I managed to write the bulk of one of my essays.

When check-in for my flight opened at 4:45, I planned to be there right when it opened. Good thing, since I was one of the first to learn that it had been cancelled. Luckily I was only the second person in line at the rebooking desk, for I was able to grab the last spot on the last flight to Glasgow that night. If I had been just one person back in line, I would have been stuck in Gatwick for the night.

Of course, my flight to Glasgow was a bit delayed, but we managed to land fine. From Glasgow, I found a shuttle to the city center, where I then walked to the train station. Once there, I ran to the train -- which was the last one going to Edinburgh that evening. I still can't get over my luck. If I had been just 5 minutes later, I would have been stranded in Glasgow.

Once I got back into Edinburgh, about 28 hours later than originally planned, I finally saw the reason for my two cancelled flights. On Monday night, there was about a foot of snow on the ground. Not a huge,
debilitating amount for Chicago standards, but if you never get snow, then your city would certainly shut down. Even now, on Friday, most of the roads still aren't very clear. People have left their cars abandoned in the snowy streets until the snow melts, refusing to even try driving.

Almost none of the sidewalks are shoveled -- except for the areas in front of the pubs (Scotland really has their priorities straight). Most all of my classes have been rescheduled to a later date, with one cancelled all together. The library closed early for a few nights so that the staff could actually get home. Our cleaning staff has been MIA all this week - I know, poor little privileged kids have to do their own cleaning. Boo. Some Tescos still don't have bread or milk in stock, and their frozen food sections have been cleared out (guess I'm eating cheese and crackers for the next few days). The airport just opened yesterday, and it had been closed since Sunday. And, my personal favorite, an avalanche warning has been issued for Arthur's Seat. Add to that the fact that our mail only got delivered once this week, and we have got ourselves a ghost town.

Barcelona is so...fuh...fre...fresh?

Thanksgiving in Barcelona - what a novel idea! This year, instead of being sad because we were missing our family time, Elizabeth and I decided to ship out. We opted for Barcelona, which was, even at 50ish degrees, significantly warmer than anywhere in the UK.

Our trip began flawlessly. Despite having no method of communication, we still managed to find one another in the airport. We located a shuttle to
the city center, found a cab, and checked into our hotel. Our first night was nice and chill. We found a lovely Tapas place not too far from our hotel, where we dined croquettes, prawns and mushrooms, and a bottle of wine. What a delicious way to begin our trip.

For our first full day, Thanksgiving, we journeyed to the Catedral de Barcelona, which has the feel of a very classic cathedral. There was plenty of gold adorning the walls and statues of Jesus, complete with the massive crucifix suspended from the ceiling. Outside there was a courtyard rife with fountains, palm trees, and statues hidden in the greenery. Elizabeth and I spent quite a bit of time walking around and admiring our surroundings, admiring the ornate art and exotic plants.

(View down the nave of the Catedral de Barcelona)

(The courtyard/garden in the center)

From there we wandered and somehow found La Rambla -- which is a sight to be seen! Walking in the center of this stretch of road, you are surrounded on all sides by little shops, vendors, and street performers galore. Our night ended at Plaça de Catalunya, where we encountered our first gypsy (curses!) before trying to find our way back to our hotel.

(Chillin' with Jack Skeleton on La Rambla)

Friday was our Gaudi day. Antoni Gaudi is an artist from Spain that is adored in Barcelona. Our first stop on la tour de Gaudi was Casa Batllo, which he designed to look like there were bones protruding from the facade. Indeed, the exterior looked like a cross between The Little Mermaid and Nightmare Before Christmas. To me, the balconies looked like the top half of a skull and a portion of the roof looked like the back of a dragon. It was one of those buildings that I couldn't even believe someone commissioned, let alone lived in. I mean, all of the tile work alone made it look like it was covered in rainbow scales.

(The front of Casa Batllo)

(Part of the roof of Casa Batllo -- designed to look like a dragon's back!)

From there we continued our journey on the metra to La Sagrada Familia. If Casa Batllo was funky, then this cathedral was just downright strange. The outside looked like it was covered in coral, and a lot of the overhangs looked like they were melting. Plus, the tall spires had a weird spaceship vibe. All together, a very surreal effect. The sensation was so strange, in fact, that Elizabeth and I were not even sure if we liked it. Yes, it is impressive. I was definitely in awe. But is it pretty? Well, in a lot of respects, no.

(The famous Nativity facade)

(Statue overlooking Barcelona)

To add to this, once you enter you are flooded with colorful lights coming through the stained glass windows. The tall columns were designed to look like trees, so you feel like you're in the middle of a forest. This is not to mention the scaffolding everywhere, since, after all, La Sagrada Familia is far from complete. Building began in 1882, and the goal is to have it done by 2026, making this the most visited construction site in the world.

(Elizabeth and me inside La Sagrada Familia)

(Me on the top of La Sagrada Familia)

From the massive sensory overload that is La Sagrada Familia we wound our way through the city to Park Güell. To get there, we had to climb up a massive hill that was, from my perspective, straight up the side of a mountain. Barcelona, though, does it right. About halfway up this intense climb we found some escalators that took us the rest of the way to the top. My knee says, "Gracias, Barcelona."

When we finally made it inside the park, darkness was just starting to fall. It was fairly empty, so we got to enjoy the sites without the massive crowds. The Park Güell is where Gaudi did a lot of his early, experimental stuff. The stone columns are swirling, and almost every inch of the park is covered with tiles. My favorite part? The long, winding benches at the top. The twists and turns of the bench make it just that much more fun, and the mosaics here are absolutely gorgeous. Gaudi broke apart a lot of the tiles so that they were molded perfectly to the surface he was working with.

That night, Elizabeth humored me and let me drag her to an ice bar. A silly ambition, I know, but I have always wanted to go to one. An ice bar, for those of you that don't know, is a bar completely made of ice...the walls, the chairs, tables, glasses...everything! When you go in, you're immediately given a bit, fluffy coat complete with a fur hood. We had a blast sipping on our drink while we danced near an ice sculpture of La Sagrada Familia and Happy Feet played on the TV. The funniest part? We ordered screwdrivers, and they came out of the bottle half-frozen.

One thing that I got to briefly experience was the insanity of nightlife there. After a full day of sightseeing, Elizabeth and I were beat by 1:30 -- which is when most people were finally emerging. The vendors on the streets replaced their day products with nightly goods -- namely, cans of beer they tried to sell you the moment you stepped out of the metra. Couple that with the multiple offers for pot (or "hasha? marry-jew-wanna?" aka marijuana), and I was a little overwhelmed with the scene. And I thought I was living in the land of drinking! Sheesh...they could teach Scotland a thing or two.

On Saturday we went back to the Park Güell, where we got to
experience it during the day. This time, the park was PACKED. The weather was nice, so a lot of people were just enjoying the outdoors. You couldn't turn your head without spotting a vendor or a street performer. Elizabeth and I found a spot on the benches and wrote our postcards. The best part? Actually needing sunglasses because it was that sunny. Silly, I know, but it actually becomes an enigma when you live in a country where the sun starts to set at 3:45 in the afternoon.

Before our dinner that night, Elizabeth and I headed over to Font Màgica de Montjuïc, which is a laser/fountain show. If you know what the fountains at the Bellagio look like, it's fairly similar except there's music pumping and lights coloring the water. It was, in a word, mesmerizing. We were both perfectly content sitting on the steps of the National Palace watching the fountain show -- especially when they started playing the scores from The Godfather and Highlander. It made it that much more awesome.

For our last day, Elizabeth and I enjoyed another leisurely stroll down La Rambla down towards Monument a Colon -- the huge statue of Columbus pointing towards America. From there, we found ourselves at the Picasso Museum, which is free after 3:00. Win! They had a wonderful exhibit of Picasso and Degas, so it was a special treat.

(La Rambla, home of fun shopping)

(In case you were wondering in which direction America is...)

All in all, I had a great time in Barcelona! It was a ton of fun, especially since I was traveling with someone that I know so well. Plus, it was the perfect distraction from being so far away on Thanksgiving. When your family is all gathered without you, you can't help but feel a little sad. We were going to find a Subway for lunch so that we could at least say we had a turkey sandwich on Thanksgiving, but alas, we were unsuccessful.

(Gettin' sassy with the lions around Monument a Colon)

(Sitting in the benches in Park Güell)

(View from the plane as I took off...finally)

(Mid-flight, this what I found outside my window. Hello, Pyrenees!)

20 November 2010

Lost in Translation

I had a moment in class the other day that was surprisingly annoying. The girl with whom I share all of my classes made a comment that I don't speak English -- I instead speak "American." I chose to reign in my big, loud, American mouth and refrain from sharing what was on my mind: "Wow, apparently we speak a different language. That's impressive, since I understand her fine." Little frustrating, considering I would instead argue for American-English as a distinctly unique regional dialect of the English language and not a language all on its own. And this got me thinking about those little language differences that get a bit lost.

1.) Pants here do not equal jeans or trousers. Pants are instead referring to your underwear. So when an American unknowingly exclaims, "My pants are wet," most likely they will garner juvenile giggling from passersby.

2.) Tea often refers to dinner and not always to the hot beverage. Also, pudding is a phrase used for all desserts. So one would first have their tea (chicken and rice) and pudding (cookie) for their evening meal.

3.) Aluminum is straight up spelled differently here. Here, it is aluminium, and your neglect of the extra 'i' can really throw people off.

4.) The word 'fanny' is particularly hilarious. In the US, 'fanny' is a seemingly childlike name for a person's rear end. In the UK, however, 'fanny' is a slightly derogatory word for a woman's...erm...'lady bits.' So be aware and refer to your fanny pack as the more appropriate 'Bum Bag.'

5.) Floors are numbered differently here. The 1st floor actually refers to the ground floor. So I live on the 2nd floor of my building, which would be the 3rd floor in the US.

6.) A cigarette is called a fag here -- which, frankly, was hard for me to even type let alone say. I was aware of this one before, but it was still a shock to hear it actually said aloud.

7.) If you say 'Z' here, they tend to look at you with a completely blank face. "You know...the last letter of the alphabet?"....."Oh, you mean Zed?" What is this 'zed' you speak of? That's not in my ABC's!

8.) This one just makes me happy inside: instead of cross-walk, they say zebra crossing. Too cute!

14 November 2010


  • With the absence of Thanksgiving, Christmas season starts here freakishly early. Although stores put out their Christmas decorations back home before Halloween has even hit, it doesn't really hit full hysteria until the turkey is carved. For a couple of months now, though, decorations have been out and stores have had entire sections dedicated to the beauty of aluminum trees and fairy lights. I spotted my first decorated house about 6 weeks ago -- and it wasn't the house that just leaves their lights up all year but only turns them on when it gets cold again.
  • I leave for Barcelona in 10 days. All of a sudden it's so close! I still feel like I just got here, but now I find myself with only 3 weeks of class left. In exactly 4 weeks from Tuesday, I'll be on my way to Grayslake to spend the Christmas holidays.
  • I have found that cooking for myself is both fulfilling and frustrating. I enjoy the satisfaction in having made my own culinary creation -- but I have also realized that I have about 4 meals that I continually cycle through. There are only so many times a person can eat turkey tacos or teriyaki chicken.
  • Despite my complaints about the Christmas-overload, I do love that I live in a place where it's socially acceptable to begin watching my Christmas movies. Why hello, Elf and Love Actually...
  • Although it may be a huge time suck, Facebook is the greatest invention in the world. In just the click of a mouse, I can catch up with a friend thousands of miles away.

09 November 2010

Gimme, Gimme (the Cliffs of) Moher

This past weekend was spent in Dublin. What a magical place -- Guinness is the cheapest drink you can find, there are huge ornate cathedrals on every corner, and a bed and breakfast is amazingly affordable. Sadly, I did not see any leprechauns. Dang - I could have really used that pot of gold. After a frustrating RyanAir flight in which we were nailed with a ₤40 fee because we hadn't printed up our boarding passes early enough (damn you!), we
arrived at our bed and breakfast safe and sound.

Once our bags were dropped off, we set out to see downtown Dublin for the first time. We grabbed our first pint of Guinness in Temple Bar before heading to The Button Factory to see Hired Hands and James Vincent McMorrow. The concert was absolutely beautiful – even with the 6 drinks.

On Saturday we woke up bright and early and transformed ourselves into super tourists. We began at O’Connell Street before we headed to Trinity College. After a brief stop to check out the whiskeys available in town, we stopped at Dublin Castle, Christ-Church Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral before heading to lunch at the Brazen Head Pub – the (apparently) oldest pub in Ireland. After a morning of walking around in the chill, my Beef and Guinness Stew was perhaps the most delicious thing I had ever tasted, especially since it was served in a huge yorkshire pudding.

To complete our day of touristing, we then headed over to the Guinness Storehouse. We fully enjoyed our tour around the factory, where we learned all about how Guinness is made and how it got its start. The best part? The free pint at the end of the tour and the 360-view of Dublin.

Sunday was spent gettin’ our tourist on at the Cliffs of Moher. It was absolutely remarkable. I could barely comprehend what I was looking at. The cliffs went on for 5km and were a 400m sheer drop off. At the very highest point is O'Brien Tower, which was built long ago to provide visitors with a gorgeous view of the cliffs. It was beyond windy, so I left with my hair in a huge knot at the back of my head. I was perfectly content just watching the waves crash into the cliffs. It was one of those moments when I couldn't even believe that what I was looking at was actually real.

Really, my trip to Dublin was a lot of fun. Ireland has a very similar feel to Scotland – although you may not want to tell either of them that. I enjoyed the food, drink, people,
sights, sounds…most everything except the hurricane that headed our way on Sunday night. I was, however, very surprised by how big and busy Dublin was. I was expecting a smaller, more laid back city, kind of like Edinburgh. Instead, it was hectic, very diverse, and crowded. Dublin was not exactly what I was expecting, but I had a great time nonetheless.

Most of all, it was just nice to travel again. I love going to a new place and experiencing everything that it has to offer. It was good to get out of Edinburgh for the weekend, to break my routine. Going to Dublin only made me more excited for Barcelona in a couple of weeks – I can’t wait!

04 November 2010

Mustachioed Adventuras

This past weekend was a double-whammy of fun. Not only was it Hallowe'en, but I also had a visit from Claire and Kaitlin! They arrived on Friday night at about 1:00 AM. We spent the next couple of hours talking and catching up. They told me all about France and their travels thus far. It was so nice to see some friends from home. The next day I had the daunting task of showing them around the city. There are so many great things about Edinburgh, so I always struggle to find an itinerary that will do it justice. Surprises of surprises, we were blessed with beautiful weather. For once, the sky was a clear blue without a cloud in sight. Le French chased the rain away! Merci!

We started out at Greyfriar's Bobby - my favorite part of the city. I love the quirkiness of Bobby's history. I mean, there are not many places in the world that would give a key to the city to a dog. Plus, the trees are all changing so the graveyard was beautiful with the blue
sky and fall leaves scattered on the ground. From there we made our way to the Elephant House so that we may soak up some caffeine and JK Rowling's genius before we went to the castle. I've been to the castle at least 8 times before, but it never ceases to amaze me. From the 1 O'Clock Gun to the historical reenactors, it is swimming in adorableness. I forced Kaitlin and Claire to take every imaginable tourist picture, culminating in Claire yelling, "Dear God, woman! Back off!" She came around eventually and joined in on my Michael McDonald impersonations. Woman, you do a good "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

After our lunch of haggis, we went out in search of Hallowe'en costumes. Our solution? Mustaches! Kaitlin outfitted herself with a curly blonde mustache and a top hat, and she was thus transformed into the Monopoly Man. With a simple bowler hat and thick eyebrows and some upper lip fuzz, Claire became Charlie Chaplin. For myself, a splendid handlebar mustache and green suede hat transported me back into the 70's a la Burt Reynolds.

Our night on the town began at Doctors where we sampled our first cider and watched X
Factor, followed by a jaunt to Malones right down the street. We ended at Finnigan's Wake, where there was a live band playing some traditional Scottish folk songs. Perhaps the
strangest part of the evening was how attractive our mustaches made us, complete with a Polish med student chatting me up for a full half hour and a drunk 60-year old man telling me that he's always had a fetish to discover what it felt like to kiss someone with a mustache. Sorry dude - you'll need to fulfill your fantasy elsewhere.

After fully appreciating the extra hour of sleep - thank you, daylight savings! - we headed down the street to partake in our first traditional Scottish breakfast. Our plates each had about 8 different kinds of meat, which totally explains why there's such a high instance of heart disease here.

After getting our Atkins on, we made our way to Holyrood to explore the palace and
abbey. The abbey was particularly breathtaking. I was standing in the center, with the ornate stone walls on all sides of me and the deep blue sky above. I could hear the trees rustling in the wind and the flutter of a bird's wings as it took flight. I'm not a particularly religious person, but you can't help but feel God's presence when standing in the abbey's ruins.

Our day of sightseeing ended with a trek up Calton Hill. I had never done this before, so this was a new experience for us all. The view was remarkable, and we caught it just as the sun was setting. The sky was a gorgeous hot pink, and we just sat and watched the buildings slowly light up.

Another highlight of the weekend? For Hallowe'en we went on a ghost tour of the underground vaults. Our guide was adorably socially awkward, complete with a lisp. He would sometimes forget what his next line was, or he would slip out of his accent. All in all, it was a hilarious way to celebrate Hallowe'en. To end their visit, we met up with the other Chi Omegas for lunch on Monday. We had 6 of us gathered, which kinda blew my mind! That's a sizable to group as it is, but then I remember that we're in Europe. Woahhhh....!

23 October 2010

Sunday, October 24

Ikea is perhaps the most magical place on earth. Screw Disney! I made my second voyage to the motherland this week. After spending far too much money, I awkwardly made my way home on the bus ladened down with brand new pillows, candles, cooking pans, lights, and a potted plant. To top off a wonderful day of shopping, I came home to my brand new posters that had been delivered while I was out. In just a few short moments, I was able to set up my new room once and for all.

(View from my window. Hello, Arthur's Seat!)

Besides the move, I've been busy with classes. I have my core class, which is my entire program...of 2 people. Since it is so small, it is an obviously much more intimate setting. It is essentially impossible to hide, so I have to make sure I am really on top of my work and am fully prepared. Bad news for my productivity: I have discovered that all of Boy Meets World is on youtube. I constantly fight the urge to revel in my childhood and to instead tackle my huge stack of reading.

This is compared to my class of 8 people, which seems huge in comparison. I have been really enjoying the reading for that class. It focuses on Latin American, Chicana, and Native American female authors. Without this class, I would perhaps never know about many of these books and some have piqued my interest enough that I would consider them for my dissertation.

When I look up from my books, I realize that I have a lot of visitors and trips to look forward to. Over Halloween weekend I have a couple of sorority sisters coming to stay. I am beyond excited to show them around and give them a taste of why I love Edinburgh so much. Just one week later, I am flying off to Dublin. Having been to Ireland once before, I am excited to once again experience the culture and beautiful scenery. And again, one week after that, I have another trip to the Highlands to look forward to. This particular trip is being operated through my building, so I have the wonderful opportunity to visit yet again and instead enjoy the fall colors this time around.

Beyond that, I have big Thanksgiving plans with Elizabeth. Barcelona, here we come! I cannot even begin to comprehend how much fun we're going to have. It seems absolutely surreal that I have the opportunity to do this kind of traveling with one of my best friends. We both somehow managed to move from our small town in Illinois to the UK, and we get also get to experience these places that we've only read about and seen in travel books. Whaaaa?

18 October 2010


How can a place this untouched still exist in this world? With the massive influx of technology, the world seems like such a crowded place. In the shortest moment you can find someone new online, in a completely new unknown corner of the earth. And yet, there are still places like the Scottish Highlands. Scotland has a population of 5 million people, and only 1/4 of that population is centered in the Highlands. To put that in perspective, that's only about 21 people per square mile. Think of the open land! No wonder there are so many sheep roaming around.

There is no cell phone signal, so your only form of entertainment is the physical world around you. And man oh man, the vistas are out of this world! The mountains are, in a word, majestic. The lochs are so still that they provide a perfect duplication of the horizon, and the grass is so green it looks fake. This day in particular was a gorgeous day. We don't get many of those too often, so it was particularly unique that I got to enjoy a blue sky while in the Highlands.

Look at that amazing blue sky! This was the view from the parking area for Kilchurn Castle.

Kilchurn Castle
This picture basically defines the Highlands for me. Kilchurn is situated in the center of Loch Awe, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Can you imagine living here?

Doune Castle
This castle is just inside the Highlands. This is where the majority of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed. It was all I could do to not constantly quote the movie or sing "Knights of the Round Table" for all to hear.

Invararay Castle
This is where the Duke of Argyle lives - still! This looks like it was ripped straight from a Disney movie. All it's missing is a princess and her trusty animal sidekick.

O ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye
For me and my true love will ne'er meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.