I was supremely lucky to have Elizabeth and Alexis as guests for Hogmanay. I always love showing off Edinburgh to new people, mostly so I can finally express why I love living here so much. It's hard to put into words my love for the city, and a lot of times it just has to be felt.
After getting trapped in Paris, I finally arrived in Edinburgh around 6:00 on the 29th. I met the girls downtown, where we then made our way to my flat. After some relaxation, we headed out for a bite to eat and some drinks in my neighborhood. It was an early night, however, as we were all exhausted from our travels.
The next day we set out to see the city. After a quick bite to eat at Doctor's, my personal favorite, we headed to Greyfriar's to see Bobby and explore the kirkyard. We couldn't resist a stop at the Elephant House -- which I knew that Elizabeth would love. Once of the first things we bonded over was our mutual love of all things Harry Potter. We all sat, sipped our coffees and munched on our treats as we surveyed the glory that is the Elephant House. In addition to being famous for being the place where J.K. Rowling wrote the first HP book, it also happens to be a very cute cafe. It must have taken years to collect all of the elephant paraphernalia that plasters the walls.
(Elizabeth and me in the Elephant House)
From there we wound our way up to the Royal Mile, where we poked around in all of the tourist shops. There's just something about being able to find a cashmere scarf next to a singing Nessie stuffed animal that makes those shops so fun. Our brains were all a bit foggy still from our travels the day before, but we luckily remembered that that night was the torchlight procession. We made our way down to St. Giles Cathedral where we collected our torches. After poking around some more shops in that area, we went outside to join the mob of people already gathered with their torches.
You've all read about Hogmanay already, so I'll move on to New Year's Day.
We all woke up nice and late on January 1st, fully aware that we probably weren't going to be leaving my apartment at all that day. Let's put it this way: after my shower, I just put on fresh pajamas. We had yet to go grocery shopping, so we planned on just ordering in. Only problem was, most places didn't open until 4:00 at the earliest. Alexis braved the cold to set out to the Tesco down the street to buy some frozen pizzas, only to discover that it was closed. Next stop? The BP gas station up the street. For lunch we had a feast of BP frozen pizzas and soda. Pretty swanky, huh?
Deciding that we were being too lazy, we decided to at least go out for dinner. Where did we end up? TGI Fridays. A little taste of Americana was right up our alley that night, and we thoroughly enjoyed the statue of Jordan in the corner. Afterward we headed to the movie theater where we caught Due Date. After lounging around all day, we needed a little humor to energize us since we were heading to St. Andrews the next day.
If you ever find yourself in Scotland, St. Andrews is a must. It's an absolutely adorable
town that is so much more than the famous golf course that it holds. It is right on the North Sea, so the air is salty and sweet. The Old Course was our first stop. We wandered around a bit, explored the club house, and wound our way to the famous bridge. Now, I'm no golfer, but even I can appreciate the beauty of the course. It's right on the water, the greens are hilly and lush, and it is surrounded by old, stone buildings.
From there we made our way to the Cathedral, which is one of my favorite places I've been to ever. It's completely in ruins and its massive grounds have been converted into a graveyard. It may sound morbid, but I find graveyards hauntingly beautiful. I love the legacy that a tombstone can hold. For many, it remains the one reminder that they once lived. We can be so wrapped up in our own lives that we sometimes forget that there are those that came before us. For the average person, their grave marker is their own personal history book.
(St. Andrews Cathedral)
After walking around the cathedral, we walked with deliberation to the castle. It's a strange sensation to have to plan your day around how much daylight you have remaining, and at that point we only had about an hour left...it was 3:00, by the way. Stupid early sunsets! Although the castle was closed because of the holiday weekend, one can still manage to see most of it from the outside. The castle in St. Andrews is almost completely destroyed, and only 2 major walls remains. If anything, it's even more beautiful from far away because of the waves that crash into its base.
(St. Andrews Castle)
In order to see picturesque Scotland, you must travel into the Highlands. Only here will you see the lush, rolling hills and mountains topped with snow.
Our first stop was Stirling Castle, where William Wallace AKA Braveheart is of the utmost importance. For many, it was believed that whoever controlled Stirling controlled the Highlands. As a result, Stirling became the site of many a battle during the wars for independence. It was really brought into prominence while the Stuarts reined, who built up the palace and living quarters.
Our next stop was a quick visit with Hamish, the very famous Highland cow, or "coo" as he is known in Scotland. Why is Hamish so much more famous than his counterparts? He is especially old for a Highland cow at 17 years. Our next stop was Loch Lomond, where we had lunch at a pub. It true Scotland style, it was raining at this point so we didn't admire the views for too long. From there we were off to Glengoyne Distillery. We went on a very lovely tour of the distillery, which culminated in taste testings of 2 different whiskeys, a 10 and a 17-year old.
(View of the snow-topped Highlands)
(Inside the Glengoyne Distillery)
(Video of Hamish)