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.

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