Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 10th- Adventure to Lindisfarne!

Before Lisa and I had even planned this trip to Scotland we had decided that we wanted to go to Lindisfarne- which is in England, about 45min or so from the border.  It's also called Holy Island, and is known for being the first place in Britain that the Vikings attacked,  because of the Lindisfarne Priory.  Also- it's famous because of the Lindisfarne Gospels- currently in the British Library.  Saints Aiden and Cuthbert are the most well known monks on the island.

It was an adventure getting there since it's an island for half the day, and of course the day we went, the castle was closed and it was super windy and rainy!  But it was fun and well worth everything!

We left Edinburgh around 9am for the 40-45min train ride to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where we would catch a cab, since the bus that goes over the causeway to the island, seemed very sporadic, if it ran at all, during the winter.  We finally got a number from the tourist info woman, and began the 20ish minute drive to the island.  It was around £22 for the one way, but totally worth it since our cabbie also played tour guide and told us a little bit of the history of the area and little facts here and there.

He dropped is off at the Lindisfarne Center, where we went through a little 3-part exhibit (that the woman at the front desk had to go in and turn on for us) about the island itself, the vikings, and the Gospels.  It was pretty interesting, especially the short videos they had here and there about the Vikings mainly- as well as the history of the Gospels, which are around 1300 years old...pretty neat!

From there, we walked to the Priory ruins, run by  English Heritage (I got in free because I'm a member- hooray!)  We spent 30-40 minutes wandering around taking pictures and trying to shield ourselves from the very gusty wind.  After that we, of course since I was on the trip :), went to find a souvenir store.  This store was closing as we got there (well, closing in about 20 min) because they wanted to leave the island before it flooded.  We should have thought about that before we made our plans...     And of course , as we left the store it began to rain, hard, so we ran back to the Priory to ask for a place to eat, and we were given directions to the Crown and anchor pub.  Best Steak and Ale pie I think I have ever had!  It was absolutely delicious!   Lisa had the fish and chips, and I even had a bite of the fish, and I didn't hate it!  

Even the pigeons were cold

 While we were eating, the local old boy's club came in and started drinking and talking about various things.  From them, we learned that the Castle was closed (even though it had said open on the website...) so we made ourselves comfortable at our table that we would sit at until the tide went out again- about 6 hours later.   While we were there, more and more people trickled in- some because of the rain, others because there was a big rugby game on- England vs. Ireland I think?I didn't pay attention because I don't understand rugby, and watching it just made me even more confused.

So as the old boys club saw that we were in the pub for the long haul everyone began to get a little more chatty and friendly, and I found out that one of the men had actually spent a day in Chattanooga!  What are the odds that I would find someone who had been there on a tiny island off the coast of England?!

Well, we decided to brave the wind and rain after a couple of hours of being in the pub, to go up and at least look at the castle.  The bartender said he would watch our things, and we bundled up to head out into the weather.  I think this wind was the strongest I've ever walked in (minus the straight line winds and tornado winds we had on Signal a few years ago).  Thank god for Eddie Bauer!  Their raincoat cut the wind to nothing! And my upper body stayed dry, as did my legs from the calf down....everything else- soaked, which made sitting kind of uncomfortable later on.

We made it to the castle after going through a couple of fences (No locks or signs that said we couldn't!)  We passed a lot of sheep, and even saw Bamburgh Castle in the distance.  It was pretty cool!

From Lisa (I'm not that fat, many layers!)
When we got back to the pub the crowd inside had grown considerably so we made ourselves comfortable between the two bigger tables on the bench, making friends with the family beside us that had two small, and progressively hyper, children- Ben and Zoe.  Ben was the funniest, because he kept saying things about his mom and dad like, how his dad liked to go to the pub and drink 4 or  5 pins, and how his mum ruined her shoes because she had to wade through the water because they got stuck somewhere.  They were cute.
From Lisa (I'm not that fat! Just layers!

Apparently, the people on Holy Island don't stand in front of fires to dry off, because I was asked if that's what people do where I come from- stand and warm their bums in front of fireplaces... seems normal to me! He also said I did not sound American...

The game ended around 4ish and the most people were gone by 5-5:30, and we still had about 1.5 hours to wait as our cabbie wasn't picking us up until 7.  Longest afternoon ever, but it was so much fun!

We made friends and had some good memories, and hopefully I'll make it back this summer!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Scotland Day 1: Edinburgh

Well, I'm back after a long break from blogging!  Sadly, there probably won't be too much for me to blog about this term, since I won't be traveling that much, and mostly researching which is boring to think about let alone write about!  :)

So, I went to Scotland from February 19-16, 2013, during my school's Reading week.  I went with a friend from my German class, Lisa.  We left on the train from King's Cross in London around 800 in the morning I think, and got into Edinburgh around 1-ish.

My bed was Little Miss Bossy
We checked into our hostel- Royal Mile Backpackers (Fully recommend them- it's pretty awesome!  The rooms were set out to different themes.  The only other one I remember was Gotham City.  Ours was Little Miss, and since I loved the books when I was little, I was super excited- not going to lie!  Breakfast was cheap and good, the beds were comfy and warm, and there's a fireplace.  All in all, not bad for ~£10 a night!), left our stuff in the room and set out for Edinburgh Castle!

Some pictures of the castle- description of day is after!)

View from the Castle wall

So, while it wasn't raining, it was a grey day, as you can tell from the pictures- yet still fairly clear!  It was foggy at first, but by the time we left, no fog!  The castle was literally 10min from our hostel, if that.  Our hostel was directly on the Royal Mile (High Street) so 10min one way was the Castle and about 15min the other way was Holyroodhouse Palace at the opposite end of the Mile.  Pretty decent location!

We spent about 3 hours at the castle, including a late lunch which was pretty decent.  This was my second time in Edinburgh, so my second visit to the castle, but it was still very interesting!  I went in to a couple of the little museums located inside that I hadn't been to before, they were all about war- mainly Scotland's role in various wars throughout history.  It costs about £14 to get in (Only seniors get the concession price, but as an English Heritage member I got 1/2 off!)

Another very cool part of the castle, is that they have the Scottish Crown Jewels- The Honours of Scotland- which are nothing like England's.  They consists of a giant sword, a scepter (I think) and the Stone of Scone! (That's the nickname, the real name is the Stone of Destiny).  No pictures allowed, but here is the website should you wish to know more about them! The Honours of Scotland .

After the castle, we went to the Scotch Whiskey Experience.  We paid for the 'attraction' and got a little ride in a cask to hear, and see, how whiskey was made from a dapper looking ghost.  The main part was the tasting experience and learning a little bit about whiskey.  I tried the lowland whiskey I think, whatever the one was that they suggested for beginning Scotch drinkers...well it tasted exactly like whiskey to me- no hints of whatever it was they said there would be....just whiskey and it was gross.   While there, we also saw the world's biggest collection of whiskey bottles!  This was actually pretty cool- everything from the cans of jack and coke, and normal whiskey bottles to bottles that look like nuns, and chess sets that are really flasks...crazy stuff but really interesting!  No idea how much it's worth- but it's a lot!

For dinner, I have found my ideal traveling partner, because she suggested the Hard Rock Cafe!  And those of you who know me well, know that I absolutely love the Hard Rock!!

After that we back to the hostel  to go to sleep to be well rested for our adventure to Lindisfarne (The Holy Island) the next day, and what an adventure it was!