Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Edinburgh, Scotland

Last Thursday, January 31, Sophie, Annie and I hopped on a bus to Edinburgh. Annie is Sophie's roommate. She is also an exchange student, and is from Spain. Annie came at the beginning of the year in September (which I think most exchange students do in the European area) and initially came to better her English. She sounds great! 

So we hoped on a bus at 10:30 p.m. After 9 hours of driving we had arrived in Edinburgh at 7:30 a.m. We had a full day ahead of us! We check into our hostel called the Royal Mile Backpackers first. This was my first hostel experience. Have you all been in hostels before? If not, they have a few different rooms (some all girls, some all guys, and some mixed), and then you pretty much rent a bed in that room. We stay in a ten bed all girls room. 

Above is a corner of our room. That's my bed on the right bottom and that's Sophie's on the top right. They also name the beds. Mine was called Late! They have bathrooms for you to use, and also a common area for you to hangout and maybe meet some other travelers. There were some Spanish girls in our room when we first got there, and they were talking in spanish wondering if we were going to go through their stuff and take their ipod. Why do I know this? Because Annie of course! She was going to tell them that we weren't going to take their stuff, but thought we would keep her language knowledge hidden a little while longer. As soon as Annie spoke English they would be able to tell that she was Spanish by her accent. 

So fair warning to everyone, when I come back I will have an British/Spanish/Southern/Abby accent. :)

The first touristy thing we did in Edinburgh was go to Edinburgh Castle. Wow. Is all I have to say. 
Front View (above) 
Left of the front

 More left to the one above
Clear Right side based from the front view photo

What do you think? I couldn't even really believe it was real at first. I just wanted to stare at it forever. It also made my heart beat a little faster, but it's the closest thing that I have ever seen to Hogwarts. 

WARNING: I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I just love love love love everything about every book, movie, etc. So this trip was like wow! maybe it IS real ;) Hogwarts is the school that Harry attends, and yes, it is a castle. 

You walk through the gates (a little pricey with 15 pounds) and then you have 25 museums or places to look and see and learn. It's truly amazing! Maybe I am just in awe because it's really different from American history, with the kings and queens and all that jazz. Anyways. You should all go to Edinburgh. I was already in love with the place and I hadn't even been there an hour! 

I should mention in Edinburgh they have this famous (almost mile) called the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile starts at Edinburgh castle and continues (all down hill from the castle) it ends at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is where Queen Elizabeth stays when she comes to Scotland once or twice a year. You can walk straight down the street and you'll hit it directly... kind of cool! At the very least it is convenient for tourists! Everything is so close in Edinburgh too, so it was great. 

Picture of Sophie, Annie, and I by a classic Scottish wooden man. 

After about 3 hours in the museum (we started hurrying because the weather turned really windy and rainy...they say save at the very least 3 hours to see off all Edinburgh Castle!) we had time to grab a small bite to eat before our free walking tour that we found (score!)  

We popped into a small cafe. And it just happened to be one of the things on our list to do... Elephant House!!! Why is this so exciting??? You'll catch on eventually... 
Where J.K. Rowling sat and starting writing... what was she writing??? 
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone! 
My tour guide said that they said she would go there and buy a cup of coffee and write, because letting her coffee go cold was cheaper than heating her house. (If you don't know, J.K. Rowling went from nothing to everything quite quickly with the Harry Potter series)

More about Harry Potter later, a little more about the walking tour for now. 
The walking tour was really great for it being like I said windy and rainy..... and 3 hours long... We saw a lot of the main points of Edinburgh, and we learned a lot. We headed up the Royal Mile and she pointed out a few things. 

This is on the sidewalk of the Royal Mile. People claim that it is the dirtiest place in Edinburgh. Hundreds of years ago when people were still hanged, tortured, not a solid "jail" system, and no plumbing. 
There was a small building used for taxes and to house criminals. They were usually nailed to the outside of the building. So people hated that building because it took their money, and there were always criminals there. They would walk by and spit on the criminals or just the building if there were no criminals. They would also take their bins (that they used for their toilet) and would empty the bins on the criminals as well. 
The heart in the sidewalk is the only thing left of all the mess, and it is still tradition to spit on the heart as you walk by (so it's still pretty dirty!)
Yes, I spit. No, Sophie and Annie didn't. I blame it on softball? Having two brothers? Half living in the country with Rachel? 

One of my favorite parts of the walking tour was the stories (more to come tomorrow), and a little graveyard we went to. 

This drunken fool was quite amusing. He was with a buddy and a woman and they were hanging out in the doorway to the left of him. He came out and yelled, "I'm alive!! I'm alive!! Ahhhhhhh!! Boo!" 
I personally got a kick out of it, I'm not sure if everyone else did. 

The cage above were used often to save the bodies from body snatchers. More on body snatchers tomorrow! 

So, are you bored with the graveyard? Thinking why was it that exciting and such a great thing for me to see? 
   Take a look. 

Fine...... It has also been said that as J.K. Rowling would write and then she would walk around Edinburgh for hours. So, why is this a big deal?!

Because have you ever heard of Lord Voldemort? If so, you may have heard that his real name was Tom Riddle. The first head stone indeed says Thomas Riddell (with a little spelling adjustment to the last name).  

The second stone says William McGonagall. The last name may sound familiar to, I don't know, Professor Minerva McGonagall.

The third headstone isn't spelled the same, but could also be the name of the character Alastor Moody aka Mad-Eye Moody. 

Pretty exciting for a Harry Potter fan! I must say!! 

I'll leave this post with a few pictures from the rest of the tour. 

Annie, Sophie, and I with Edinburgh Castle behind us. All the green is Princess Gardens. 

 A couple city pictures of Edinburgh. 

Haggis, neeps, and tatties.
Considered the national dish of Scotland! 
For those of you who know me, I am not an extreme meat eater. So if it's not beef or chicken I will usually pass it up, because I am perfectly satisfied with side dishes! 
I knew that I had to try things on my trip, so this is me spreading my wings. 
I asked the bartender what was in the haggis. She said that it was sheep, mixed with oatmeal, and some spices. 
Big breath. Big girl pants. I ordered it. 
Neeps and Tatties are turnips and potatoes. 
On the left is a whiskey gravy sauce that I put on it. 
Now, Haggis is traditionally cooked in an intestine. Yep. I didn't ask if this one was, but if not, it is usually cooked in a sausage casing. I'm assuming since this is a little pub, that it would be the sausage case. 

First bite, very small first bite, was alright. It kind of tasted like breakfast sausage. I ate maybe one of those circles, but probably not quite. Mostly because of the texture. It was loosely put together and so you would scoop it on your fork and put it in your mouth, and the pieces went every where. I had to swish my mouth with my beer after each bite to get it out of the crack of my gum/lip. Now that is what weirds me out, and that was the biggest problem. 
I did eat all the neeps and tatties... and finished my beer. So overall, not too bad of a meal! 

Now, after I just googled what is traditionally in Haggis I better cross my fingers that that is not what I ate, because I will forever stay away from new meat encounters. 

Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal,suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.

I will post a the few other stories I mentioned in the next few days! This was only half of day one that I just shared. Yikes!!!