30 March 2011

Scotland vs. Italy

On the first full day of Sinead and Buffum's visit, we decided to check out our first rugby game. Now, I don't know much about the sport. Going in, I only knew the word 'scrum' and wasn't even entirely sure what that was. We started off the day with Scotland's finest pastime -- day drinking. Before we caught the bus to the game, we stopped by a local pub for a good, old fashioned pint.

One of the first things I noticed about Murray Field was the massive beer tents that surrounded the stadium. In the stadiums that I've been to in the States, food and drink are all available at little kiosks and stands inside. Instead, the ground surrounding were massive. There was a stage with a pre-game concert, massive food tents where you could get any food imaginable, and gourds of people sporting their team colors.

Once we settled into our seats, we looked out over the green field. In true Scottish fashion, the spectacle started with a band of bagpipers. To roaring applause, they entered the field. After a rousing song, they paused to allow the Italian team to take the field. Now, one thing that I loved was how well Italy traveled. The Italian fans took turns chanting "Iiiii-taaaaa-li----aaaaa!" Below is a video of the Scottish team entering the pitch:

This was immediately followed by Scotland's National Anthem:

Now, I am perfectly familiar with England's National Anthem - "God Bless the Queen." I don't have many opportunities, however, to catch Scotland's. It may have actually been the first time I've ever heard it. I hope that doesn't mean I'm a bad Scottish resident. It even came up again during the game, this time completely spontaneously and led by the crowd:

The game ended up great. At half, Scotland was losing to Italy 8-6. Scotland ended up winning 21-6. Luckily, they had many runs like this one: 

I left the game understanding like 50% of the rules, which is a 50% increase from where I was when the game started. So, I would say my first rugby experience was a great success.

28 March 2011

Sinead and Buffum Come To Town

This past week I was lucky enough to host Sinead and Buffum. Both in my sorority, they came over for their spring break to frolick with me in Scotland. They arrived on Friday, just as I was stepping into my last class. Sami was kind enough to navigate them from the airport and we met up at Doctors for lunch. This always seems to be the first stop in my tour around Edinburgh -- but I'm not complaining! It's just so delicious. Plus, it was so integral to my last study abroad experience that I can't help but want to show it off.

From there, we headed off to explore Greyfriars and meet Bobby. For those of you who don't know, Bobby is a tiny little dog that is idolized here in Edinburgh. As legend has it, he held vigil at his master's grave for 14 years. He was fed from the local pubs and was even given the key to the city. Now, his grave is one of the most visited sites in Edinburgh. People and dog-lovers alike leave flowers and plush dog toys for him daily. Oh, and did I mention that there is a statue of him on George IV bridge? The quirkiness of Bobby's story is just one of the many reasons why I love Edinburgh.

After a quick pint on the Royal Mile and a little walk around Princes Street Gardens, we made our way to the top of Calton Hill. Now, I have mentioned this before in passing, but I don't think I've really explained what it is. Apparently, Calton Hill is Edinburgh's version of the Acropolis. It is billed as the "Athens of the North" -- by Scotland, I am sure. On the top of this hill are a bunch of monuments to famous Scottish thinkers and writers. A couple of them are unfinished because the builders ran out of money, so it just adds to the charm. Anyways, from the top there is an amazing view of the city. We were able to time it out so we could catch the sun setting behind the castle.

On Saturday was the rugby game and the Big Cheese, which I will post about separately another time. Both deserve special attention.

We woke up a bit late on Sunday, so we decided that a day in Edinburgh would be best. We headed out to Holyrood Palace. Holyrood is the Queen's official residence in Scotland. The Royal Mile is bookended by the castle on one end and the palace on the other. The day was beautiful, so it ended up being a good choice. At the end of the tour is the Abbey, which is one of my favorite things ever. It is largely in ruins now, but it was gorgeous in its day. It was founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland. Legend has it that King David I was hunting in the forests surrounding Edinburgh when he was thrown from his horse. Apparently, he was then saved from a charging animal when it was scared away by a holy cross coming down from the skies. Hence the name Holyrood, which can loosely be translated to "Holy Cross."

Monday was our trip to Stirling -- which I've already mentioned briefly in a previous post. I'll post about it some other time, because there is some really cool history involving William Wallace aka Braveheart.

On Tuesday we finally made it to Edinburgh Castle. It is the very center of the city and it can best be described as a massive fortress. There were even Americans held there during the American War of Independence. We spent a good few hours at the castle, it's that big. There has been a castle on that site since the 9th century, although the buildings currently standing were built anywhere between the 12th and 21st centuries. I will post more about the castle another time, as there is a lot involved and it is the center of the city.

After a stop at the Elephant House (birthplace of Harry Potter!) for a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee, we made our way to the National Gallery. A smaller art museum, it only takes about an hour to see the whole thing. The real highlight that night was the Ghost and Ghouls tour. Edinburgh is considered to be the most haunted city in the UK. This was my 4th time on the tour -- that's how much I love it. For the tour, we are brought underneath South Bridge to the vaults. There, under the cloak of darkness, we are told of the ghosts that apparently haunt the vaults. There is Mr. Boots, who stalks the rooms and slightly terrorizes the guests. There's the cobbler who is a benign presence and the only ghost that Mr. Boots does not go near. Then there's the crying woman surrounded by bloody rags and apparently leaves scratch marks on the women who enter her room. Finally, there is little Jack who will grab the outstretched hands of visitors and tug at their shirt tails. Now, I don't mean to be cynical, but I can't help but not believe. Despite my inability to believe that any of these sightings are real, I still always have a good time listening to the spooky stories underground.

The next logical step was to grab a deep fried mars bar. Did you know that deep fried mars bars are one of Scotland's finest delicacies? My uncle once joked that all Scottish food was made on a dare. He may have a point...

The next day was spent in St. Andrews. Again, I'll post about St. Andrews separately some other time. It's a wonderful little village that sits right on the North Sea. It deserves its own attention. After arriving back into Edinburgh, we immediately made our way to a fish and chips shop on the Royal Mile. There is no way you can come to the UK without sampling some fish and chips smothered in vinegar. 

From there we found ourselves back at Finnegan's Wake for the second night in a row. This is an adorable pub in Grassmarket. There is live music every night, so it has a great atmosphere. Plus, pints are only 1.75, so that's a big plus. Rachael, another girl from our sorority, was swinging through town so she met us there. It was really cool having four Chi Omegas in the same international city. It kinda boggles my mind that we're all so lucky to travel like this. Towards the end of the night we met some lovely Irish gentlemen. They were thrilled to be in the presence of so many American gals and they kept us entertained with their lilting accepts and willingness to buy rounds. 

The next day we woke up nice and late. We were so...uh, tired....from the night before. This day ended up being the most beautiful day of their entire trip. It was a warm 60 degrees, the sky was a pristine blue, and the sun was shining brightly. We decided that since the weather was so nice, we would explore Princes Street and loll in the gardens. After a bit of shopping, we plopped onto a bench and commenced with some good old fashioned people watching. We particularly enjoyed the little kid who kept wandering into a game of rugby unbeknownst to him and a tiny little dog that looked like a wombat. The best part about the gardens, really, were how lush and green they were. Daffodils had sprung up everywhere, which just gave it that little extra touch of beauty.

It was a really great visit. I always love having people to visit. I love showing off the city that I fell in love with years ago, and I especially love having a little taste of home.The week was filled with fun and laughter, as I am sure you can gather from the videos. For the posts I promised, look for them over the next couple of weeks. I am in the midst of writing my final term papers, so I'm going to be writing my blog posts during my study breaks.

26 March 2011

Mom Picture

Pronunciation: [mom pik-cher]
Definition: (noun) a type of photograph that is taken solely for the pleasure of one's mother. It usually involves standing in front/on top of famous monuments and/or landmarks. These pictures can often be found hanging on one's family refrigerator back home. Note: May be modified for the father, known as the Dad Picture. These pictures mainly involve sporting events or beer.

Warning: Some of these examples are awkward. Be prepared.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Grand Place, Brussels

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Stirling Castle, Scotland

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Big Ben, London

Colosseum, Rome

Leaning Tower, Pisa

Duomo, Florence

Blarney Castle, Ireland

Loch Ness, Scotland

Melrose Abbey, Scotland

Modification: Dad Picture

HofbrÀuhaus, Munich

St. Andrews Clubhouse, Scotland

St. Andrews Old Course, Scotland

Scotland vs. Italy Rugby Game

24 March 2011

Hello all! Expect a new post this weekend. I've been hosting Buffum and Sinead so I haven't really been able to update.

17 March 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

There was a leprechaun wearing a kilt handing out green balloons outside of the library today. What a weird Scottish twist.

Sinead and Buffum arrive tomorrow morning, just as I will be walking into my last class of the semester. I can't believe how quickly time has gone by. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in my empty room, homesick like none other.

Once my my final essay is turned in on April 7th, the only thing I have to worry about it my dissertation. I have four months to write 15,000 words, and I cannot wait. This is the part that I really love. My ideal day involves drinking a cup of coffee with a book in hand. Once the weather warms up a bit more, hopefully this will shift to an outdoor setting. Judging by the erratic weather this week, I'm not gonna hold my breath.

12 March 2011

Weather Unpatterned

Alright, Scotland. I thought we had a deal. It's been so nice and sunny these last few weeks. Flowers were blooming in the meadows and birds were beginning to chirp in the early morning.

Cue this past week...

Thursday: In the course of my hour and a half class, the weather went something like this: bright blue skies -- foreboding grey cloud -- blue skies -- mist -- hail -- snow -- blue skies -- hail -- sideways rain -- blue skies -- overcast

Then, we come to this morning. I woke up, pulled the curtains aside and found...SNOW.

The best part? The snow was predicted, but the lowest temperature was also only supposed to be 2*C. Now, I'm not a meteorologist, but I'm not sure how that works...

09 March 2011

Lenten Promises

Happy Ash Wednesday everyone! I hope you all had a very enjoyable Fat Tuesday/Pancake Tuesday/Carnival/Mardi Gras. I ended mine with a bit of Ritter Sport, since today is the start of no sweets for 40 days.

Be prepared, world, for me to be a little cranky this first week. I have a massive sweet tooth that is going to be aching for some sweet lovin'.

07 March 2011

Spring is here!

Next week is the last week of classes for this semester. I don't know about anyone else, but I foresee a lot of boredom in my future. From April 7th on, all I have to do is write my dissertation. Not that this isn't a big deal, but that will literally be my only responsibility.

On the bright side, the weather is definitely starting to turn. On average, it's in the upper 40s/low 50s each day. The sun doesn't set at 3 anymore and there are flowers blooming in the meadows. There are blue skies most days, and I'm actually enjoying having to walk everywhere.

To sum it up, spring is here! Thank you, classes, for being done in time for me to enjoy the weather.

02 March 2011

Dissertation Proposin'

The time has come to complete my dissertation proposal. I can barely think about my essays for this term let alone my dissertation that is due in August. From all of the reading that I've done thus far this year, it was hard to even begin to narrow it down to a topic.

Ready for it? You're going to be thrilled...Water as a Motif in the African Diaspora. BAM! Mind blown, I'm sure. I will be focusing on Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips and The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon.

Due on August 19th, the dissertation has to be 15,000 words. As I've had it explained to me, this is my academic apprenticeship. A little cheesy, but I'll go with it. It makes it seem less foreboding.