Friday, December 4, 2009

Scotland in Detail: Part 1: Canadian Guide?

I highly suggest that if you ever tour any major European City to look into the free walking tours. The one that we went on was great! Well, since nothing is really free, the guides work strictly on a tip-base so they make the tours as entertaining as possible in order to keep you hooked until the end! And our guide, Kate, did just that! Kate is a young 25 year-old that literally fell in love with Edinburgh when touring about 6 years ago- and decided to make it her home ever since. She clearly answered two questions before we started the tour, one being about her "Scottish accent," which she obviously did not have since she was from Canada!

Our first day on this adventure started at 3 am when we got up to leave by 3:30 am to catch the 4:00 am Aircoach to the airport. I have missed the Aircoach before and at that time in the morning it only comes once an hour, so we were standing at the stop in the cold at 3:40 am surprisingly enough with a few other Americans who were studying abroad as well.

He touch down in Edinburgh about a quarter til 8 and hit up the tourist information where we pick up fliers, maps and book our tickets for the musical, "We Will Rock You," for the next night. It's starting to get light, so we hop in the bus to take us to the City Centre where our hostel was right on the Royal Mile. Seeing the city for the first time in the early morning light added even more to this magical city. I know it sounds goofy- but this city is seriously the most beautiful city I have ever been to. Once we got down into the City Centre and you see this huge castle sitting on a huge rock in the middle of the city, you seriously have to do a double take, blink a few times and still wonder if you are in a childhood fairytale or a dream. Seriously, a jutting rock in the middle of the city with a castle sitting on top of it!

We easily find our hostel which is right off the Royal Mile, get checked in, drop our stuff off and were out of the door before it was even 9 am. We book a coach tour for the next day so we could see some of the country as well and then we hiked up the Royal Mile to the castle gates just as they were opening for the day. We had about an hour and half to explore the castle before our walking tour was going to start at 11. Being that it was St. Andrew's Day, we got in for free and it was here that I truly appreciated the garment known as the kilt. I always rolled my eyes when my mom said things like, 'There is nothing sexier than a man in a kilt." GROSS MOM! But that was before I laid eyes on a guy that worked at the castle in the Great Hall. Ok mom, I see what you mean now! I was too big of a chicken to go up and start a conversation, but stayed and truly appreciated the 'Great Hall' longer than I think most tourist would ;)

And I looked around the rest of the castle as well, including the Honors of Scotland, the chapel, the prison and all of the bedchambers, etc. Could have spent more time there, but our tour was soon to start, so after a hot chocolate from Starbucks, we began our tour with Kate. Highlights included Sarah's ear getting mailed to the Cross of something, I can't remember the name, for stealing some haggis for me since I was hungry; Seeing the chapel where the Queen Knights all of the Knights in the Order of the Thistle, including Sean Connery recently; Learning about Greyfriar's Bobby (google it); Seeing the Elephant Cafe where the first two books of Harry Potter were written by J.K. Rowling; Learning the true story behind Dr. Jyckle and Mr. Hyde; Heard stories of murder and mystery and the epic tale of the Stone of Destiny! At the end of the tour I tipped Kate five pounds because she was really good and Sarah Jay and Mariel and I were getting pretty hungry and were freezing! So it was time to go back to the hostel, get some hot tea and hot chocolate and find a grocery store.

After getting some substance in us- we headed out to enjoy the fireworks to celebrate St. Andrew's Day that were going off at the castle! I was quite impressed with the display personally as I was still in my childhood amazement state of mind - I'm in Scotland, in a beautiful city and there are fireworks lighting the night sky! Then it was time to call it a night as we had been up since 3 am remember?

Fantastic first day in Edinburgh and we still had our highland tour the next day, tickets for "We Will Rock You," and another day to still decide what we wanted to do! But those adventures will come in Part 2 and 3 as I have wasted plenty of good study time uploading pictures on facebook and blogging :)

Some other tid-bits of excitement:
- My article is getting published tomorrow in the Irish Field!
- I got an A+ on my last Business Management MCQ on marketing!
- I got another A+ on my last Farm Management assignment!
- I'm enjoying my advent calander as a countdown until I go home and it says 12 days!
- Christmas Party tonight with the girls :)

Cheers from Dublin!


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