Sunday, November 11, 2012

Settling In

Edinburgh Castle

This post begins at the third week of classes. By this time, I am finally feeling comfortable and settled in, I have gotten into a routine, and I am rapidly making a great network of friends. I am seeing familiar faces when I walk to class, I figured out how to watch the U.S. Presidential Debate on Youtube, and I am using the massive quantity of coins that have accumulated in my purse at the cash register with the tiniest amount of confidence. I am so thrilled to be here.

On Sunday, I went on a walking tour of Edinburgh, (pronounced something like "Edinburra" or "Edinborough" not "Edinberg") led by the Strathclyde International Society, along with about 70 other students. It was a really beautiful day to explore Scotland, with hardly a cloud in the sky. We started the tour by taking a potty break. We then walked to another area for another potty break. This comprised the first 40 minutes of our tour.

At least I got a few good pictures out of the time spent waiting.

Our first stop was Calton Hill. There were some seriously steep steps that led us up to this great spot that had such an odd array of buildings.

Edinburgh is known as the Athens of the north. This unfinished structure, which resembles the parthenon in Athens, is named the National Monument of Scotland. It is a memorial to Scottish soldiers and sailors who lost their lives fighting in the Napoleonic wars. Money ran out in 1829 and construction never resumed.

Proof that it doesn't always rain in Scotland. Just look at that sky.

This is an old observatory on Calton Hill.

Views of the bay and city from Calton Hill.

View from Calton Hill. Edinburgh Castle is in the background, perched on its massive rock.

Not quite sure what this is, but it seemed worthy of a picture.

I love the look of this building. I'm not sure what its function was, but I think it's perfect.

My friends and I with Arthur's Seat in the background. I'm so glad Alvin wears a bright green jacket. That is how I can spot the tour group. What a neat slab of land though, right?

The following is a recreation of dialogue from memory of a conversation that took place at this spot.
Jess: "Wow. The people on that hill look like tiny dots. I'm glad we're not going over there."
Fiona: "I think we are. The itinerary says that's where we're eating lunch."
Jess: "Oh."

As the sign implies, these steps went down, down, down, down, down.

The Royal Mile. We didn't really have time to explore the shops here, but they seemed a bit touristy. We really don't have too many tourist shops in Glasgow. The buildings were impressive, though. I felt like I was at a Renaissance Festival.

The Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.

I fancy this building and the clock that accents it.

Holyrood Palace is in the background. It was not a stop on our tour, but I would have liked to have seen it.

I can't believe I am giving this abomination of a building a space in my blog, but this is the horrificly designed Scottish Parliament building. It cost 414 million pounds to build. That sounds like a lot, doesn't it?  Well, it will sound like even more when I tell you that 414 million pounds is approximately $658 million dollars. I didn't take pictures of the rest of the building because I was so appalled by the design. I hear that the inside is quite lovely though. The outside just looks barbaric. I can think of lots of other ways to spend 414 million pounds.

Arthur's Seat, street view. Doesn't look too bad. I am thinking I will have no problem with this. The paths look wide without any majorly steep inclines... You all do remember my inability to climb up the spiral staircase of Bunratty Castle in Ireland? The mental weakness that ensued?  The uncontrollable trembling throughout my extremities? The embarrassment I suffered? This was worse.

Oh, right, that's where we're going to eat lunch. Okay. Just scale the wall, no problem. Actually, you can see the last person going up, he has a blue coat on. It wasn't exactly scaling the wall, but seemed like it was practically vertical. Unfortunately, I was toward the front of the line when we were walking up the hill. When I looked up and saw where we had to climb, I was dismayed. Panic set in immediately and a wave of weakness passed through my body, from head to toe. I looked at my friends and said, "#&*@! I can't do this. Sorry, guys." The path was about a foot wide so I couldn't exactly turn around and walk back down. No, I had to sit in the seat of shame, in the wet grass alongside the path, with my knees tucked close to my body so the remaining 75% of the group could walk by me to get to the lunch spot. Awesome. Everyone was wondering, "Oh, are you ok? You can't handle this?" "Oh, I can handle this. Physically, I can do this. I just have a terrible, embarrassing fear of heights." Then I realized my friends were waiting for me. Bless their hearts. (I hadn't looked up again after I decided I couldn't do it.) I just wanted them to go on so they didn't miss out.

After the last of the group had gone up, I made quick work of getting myself down the path and I sat comfortably here, in the sun, and enjoyed my nutella and banana sandwich and clementines. Then I walked around a bit to take pictures. I wondered where this nice, wide path led to that folks of all ages from the very young to the old were going.

I took a few steps back and said to myself, "Why, that path is the more reasonable way to get to the lunch spot!" Remember the movie Clueless? When Tai falls down the stairs and is afraid she'll be known for the rest of the night as the girl who fell down the stairs? Here, I was Tai, and I was clueless. I could have avoided the stigma of being the scared girl with a debilitating fear of heights had we gone the reasonable route. Anyhow, the group ate at a ruin on the hill. You can see the ruin jutting out and their bodies poking out from the hill. 

It bears mentioning that this is nowhere near the top of Arthur's Seat. It's only about one-third of the way up, if that. There were plenty of people walking about and some with dogs who were having a great time running all over this big ole' hunk of land.

A view of Calton Hill from Arthur's Seat with the Observatory to the left and National Monument of Scotland to the right.

On our way to Edinburgh Castle. Glad to be closer to sea level.

A man whom I have learned so much about during my time in business school.

This is a statue of Greyfriar's Bobby and the story behind this monument is that Bobby spent 14 years guarding his owner's grave after his owner passed away. It sounds like a sweet story, but I'm a little skeptical.

Edinburgh Castle

I finally made it to the place that my dear friend Rich put on my desktop background after he fixed my computer for me this past summer.

View from the castle. I remember reading a plaque here that said the man who designed the layout for the city was only 26 years old. To my untrained eye, it looks like he did a pretty good job.

This touched my heart.

A beautiful final resting place for man's most loyal companion.

I was a bit disappointed with Edinburgh Castle. There wasn't much to see inside. It still functions as an active military base, so some portions of the castle are closed to the public. I expected to see more "castle" type things like, "This is where the King slept" and "This is where they held banquets." The interior of this building was a memorial to those who had lost their lives in battle for Scotland.

Post-gift shop shopping picture time! Mom, I got you a Christmas present here. :) And I sent a few of you postcards that I purchased here.

A lovely day in Edinburgh.

Another view of Edinburgh Castle.

A museum in Edinburgh. I just loved the contrast of colors with the sky and the building. Simply beautiful.

Strolling around Edinburgh, taking in the sites.

At Princes Street Gardens.

Yes, that is a glove ruining the splendor of my picture.

Views of Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens.

Another case of indecisiveness as to which picture is more breathtaking. I quite like this one.

That is a serious piece of earth.

The rest of my third week of classes went well. My big, ugly bruise from archery started to fade, I went with a friend to see, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" in the world's tallest cinema, and enjoyed my last calm weekend before tutorials began.

Up next: Botanical Gardens and Loch Lomond! I know, you all must be wondering when I actually have time to do school work. :)


  1. Nice pictures! I am envious of your travels, wish I could go too. I agree with you on being afraid of heights and smart decision to not climb the rocks to get to the lunch spot. I thought it was funny how you mentioned Clueless...hahaha. Had you realized the easier way to go up sooner, you could have been rollin' with your homies at lunch. haha

  2. Haha! I totally could have been rollin' with my homies! Thanks, V.