Friday, January 20, 2012

The Scottish Adventures of Lindsay and Jessica, Part Two: On My Way... Home

It’s my last day in Scotland and it seems like the perfect day to finish my Scotland blog… why? Well, this morning I woke up at 6 AM to gale-storm winds outside my window. The winds were SO STRONG that the power went out. It’s currently 1 PM and they are still out. While I’m super bummed we couldn’t go to St. Andrews as planned, I was secretly happy to crawl back into bed.

My time here has been SO AMAZING. I am so glad that I finally bought a ticket—it’s worth every penny.
 Our first day in town we went to Glasgow, which is about 20 minutes from Adeline and Alastair’s house. It was a beautiful town with really, really good shopping. As a matter of fact, we had to cut our day trip short since we had so much stuff to carry. We found all of our favorite American brands in the drugstore, so we bought tons of shampoo and face cream and makeup… all things that we didn’t really need but bought nonetheless (Exhibit A as to why I’m so poor). In the end, it was an amazing day—we got tea and breakfast at the Willow Tea Room and then did some shopping by running store-to-store since it would alternate between rain pouring from the sky and sunshine—classic Scottish weather that I’ve gotten to enjoy for 7 days. We then caught a bus back to Houston, the small village where Alastair and Adeline have their house. What was for dinner, you ask? Tacos, of course. What movies did we watch afterwards, you inquire? Avatar and Despicable Me, naturally.

The next day Adeline then took us on a mini road trip up to Loch Lomond, which is simply BEAUTIFUL. It was a 2 hour drive of nothing but rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, glassy lakes, and small, quaint villages. We stopped in Invernerey (SPELL CHECK ON AISLE THREE!) and went to the George Hotel for a nice cup of tea and coffee, stopped at an “Old Time Sweetie Shop” for some sweets and headed back. When we returned to the house, Alastair was cooking us a supper of Balmoral Chicken, which is chicken stuffed with haggis, wrapped in bacon, and smothered in cheese sauce. It was possibly one of the best meals in the history of my life. Simply put, we had an amazing day.

On Saturday, Jess and I made the trip down to Edinburgh for New Years Eve. It was about a 30 minute train ride through the gorgeous Scottish countryside before we arrived at what may be my favorite city to date. Edinburgh is amazing—the architecture is old and beautiful, there’s a castle on the hill, incredible views, and lots of Scottish pride. We first scaled the Royal Mile that leads up to the castle, had a look around, and then did some light shopping back down the Royal Mile, which connects the Edinburgh Castle to the Queen’s official Scottish residence, Hollyrood (SPELL CHECK ON AISLE SIX!) and has lots of shops along the way. We got to see people making tartans for kilts, do a bit of shopping for ourselves, and pop into a really old graveyard (I love graveyards… it’s a morbid fascination, I know.) For lunch we stumbled upon a pub called the Conan Doyle, where we enjoyed two pints of Deuchers beer and two plates of fish and chips (delicious!) before attempting to find the pick-up location for our bus back to Glasgow, which would leave at 1:40 AM after the New Year’s party on Princes Street. Thank goodness we had the sense to find it before we went to the party, because it took over an hour to find and—get this—we had to ask eight (8) different people for directions—EIGHT, and that’s not counting the people who were in pairs.

When we finally (FINALLY!) found Morrison Street, we were ready to get our party on. After grabbing some delicious burgers, fries, onion rings, and vanilla shakes (our last meal of the old year), we headed down to Princes Street and entered into the festivities…

As we would learn after, 80,000 people crammed into the street to enjoy a bevy of live stage performances, food booths, conversation, and light-to-heavy-to-borderline-ridiculous drinking (depending on each individual). Jess and I had a blast listening to the bands and drinking from out of pink and green “milkshake cups” that we’d picked up from “Poundland” (UK equivalent of the dollar store) while the rain poured down in 15-minute spurts. Sometime around 10:30 (after our 4th trip to the port-a-potties) we bonded with three nice English boys from London over spicy curry noodles. We spent the rest of the night just hanging out and having a few laughs with Rich, Duffy, and Simon. It was a good time. When the clock hit midnight, fireworks were set off from the castle—and it was so amazing to see.

Soon thereafter, we bid the boys goodnight and hit up the toilets for a 5th time before heading back to the dreaded Morrison Street. While waiting for the bus, we met a nice German boy whose name I cannot for the life of me remember—he went to St. Andrews and smoked heavily but was very nice. When Jess and I finally got on our bus, we more or less passed out cold from exauhstion after eating the Cadbury chocolate bar that Adeline had so kindly given us as “rations” in case anything went wrong. By the time we got back to the house it was closing in on 3 AM—we didn’t crawl into bed until closer to 5.

When we woke up the next morning (morning? HA! It was about 12:45 in the afternoon) we decided to have a “recovery day” which involved lots of sleeping and eating. 22 of Adeline’s family members came to the house to celebrate the New Year with lots of food and conversation. Alastair and Adeline had made goulash and chili, followed by more desserts than anyone should ever eat (Have you ever heard of “Pavlovian cake”? Absolutely “gorgeous” as the Scottish would say). When we finally went to bed, I’m pretty sure we all had food babies that were about 5-months along…

Monday marked Jess and my adventure to Stirling Castle, an absolutely beautiful castle south of Glasgow in a charming little town called Stirling (duh). When we arrived to the little town, our first stop was a heart-clogging but happy-making meal from McDonalds. Then, only after we were filled to the brim with Chicken Selects and greasy fries, we trekked up to the castle, and spent 2 hours pretending we were princesses in a far-a-way land. The castle was beautiful, massive, and had some actors and actresses dressed in period costumes. It was incredible, even though it was raining and windy—as per the usual. Stirling is such a sweet little town with some of the most beautiful, breathtaking views I have ever seen. I was sad to leave it—but we went back to Glasgow, which I think is equally as beautiful in its own way. Instead of becoming any more cultured, we decided to go to the movies to see New Years Eve (not nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be… Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, and Josh Duhmel in one movie? Yes, please!). The only downside of going to the cinema was that we missed the last bus to Houston, which meant we had to pay 32 pounds to take a taxi back to the house. Ridiculous. But when we got back, Alastair had made us ham-and-cheese pie (so, so, so, so good) and warmed us up a bit more chili from the previous day. We then enjoyed a few glasses of wine and a movie before hitting the sack.

Our last full day in Scotland was supposed to be spent taking a road trip up to St. Andrews—but the fact that there was 90-mile-an-our gale-force winds nixed that idea. As a matter of fact, I woke up periodically from 5 AM on because the storm was so loud—the power even cut out. We spent the day using up what precious battery life we still had left on all electronic devices before playing board games and reading by candlelight. Although I wish we could have gone to St. Andrews, I think it was a pretty good day despite the circumstances. We ended up going to a drive to assess the damage the storm had done—a number of trees (massive ones) had fallen, one neighbor’s roof was swept clear off by the wind, and a crapton of fences were MIA. Suddenly, lack of power seemed like the least of our worries. When the power company called to say the power wouldn’t be on until 6 PM the next day, we were a little disappointed but merely picked up our books and kept reading. Jess and I had to sleep in the living room because our rooms were too cold. I spent the night tossing and turning, more or less because Rocky (the dog) snores louder than anyone I know—including my dad (sorry, pops)—and Lady (other dog) kept putting her head on my stomach and whine, which woke me up a few times as well.

When we woke up this morning—the day Jess and I begrudgingly return to Bologna—the power was still out, which meant I had to wash my hair in the ice-cold water of the bathroom sink. We packed up our stuff, had a cup of tea, and were out of the house by 11:15 AM to get to the airport, which is where I am sitting right now—beside a “Top Putt” game in the arcade because I couldn’t find any other outlets to charge my computer.

Obviously, 2012 is going to be an amazing year.

The Scottish Adventures of Lindsay and Jessica, Part One: On My Way

Note: My trip to Scotland took place between December 27th and January 4th. However, despite what my father's Christmas letter insinuates, I do actually attend real, live university classes that have official things like tests and professors and shiz. I have had no time to update my blog! However, my father's Christmas letter got one thing right: Wineries in Tuscany better hire additional wine-stompers for when T&T come to Italy in April!!!


Things I’ve learned so far on this trip: 
Nota bene: I left my house 20 minutes ago.

1. Never, no matter what time your flight leaves, get to the Gugliemo Marconi airport in Bologna before 4:30 AM. There is nothing to do, nowhere to sit, and creepy pictures of puppies that just seem to be staring at you.

2. When in Italian cabs, wear a seatbelt. While you should always wear a seatbelt, it is especially important when in Italian cars or with Italian drivers. My cabbie just ran several red lights in order to see “how fast he could get to the airport.” I thought I was going to die.

3. As a matter of fact, I may have died on the cab ride here. At least my heart stopped beating several times. If Gugliemo Marconi Airport is Heaven, God has a sick sense of humor. If it’s purgatory, it seems fairly legit (although then I don’t know what Dante was talking about…). If it’s Hell, I’d say the Bible mislead us for how bad it would be (it’s still bad, though).

4. 3:57 AM is way too late/early to be blogging.

5. I may get turned away at Security for having too much stuff. A backpack, an unsually large purse that should not actually count as a purse, several jackets, and another, more sensible purse. Thankfully I can fit all of this down to two items (wear the coats, shove sensible purse inside of backpack, carry Pursezilla). They still might think I’m some sort of terrorist… or maybe just high maintenance. I would like to think I’m neither.

Okay, so that last one wasn’t a learned fact—more of a light worry. While waiting for security to open, I just keep watching and re-watching the only thing being shown on the TV: the TSA check-list for carry-on baggage.

… And I just saw a flight attendant walking by with 4-inch heels on. Whatever happened to having a pair of sensible heels for work, Boo? I suppose if you’re feet are going to be in pain for 8 hours, you might as well let ‘em hurt in style.


Twelve Hours Later:

I got to Scotland safe and sound, even after a minor blip that had me running like mad through the Amsterdam airport and a more-than-minor flub at the UK Passport Check that had me spitting lies at the guy checking my passport (long story short: You need a specific “Going-to” address within the UK. If you don’t have it, you could possibly get denied entry into the country. I panicked and went the, “I’m meeting friends of my cousin and they never gave me an address. I have their home phone number, will that count?!” route.) Even though Jessica isn’t technically my cousin, and I technically had a cell phone number, both white lies worked well enough to get me into the country. Lindsay: 1, Scotland: 0.

Jessica’s family-friend Adeline and her 9-year-old daughter, Kaydi, were waiting for me when I passed through the gates. They are both absolutely lovely, and I knew I would feel right at home in their house even before I got there. Sure enough, Adeline was super nice and made me scrambled eggs with salmon and toast on the side when I said I could go for a “snack.” It was super delicious. I then spent 2 hours playing Harry Potter Clue with Kaydi and her 7-year-old brother, Rodden. Adeline then fed me a delicious lunch of home-made lentil soup and crackers with a variety of cheese spreads. She then told me to go take a nap, seeing as how I’d been up since 2:30 AM, which is actually 1:30 AM in Scotland-time. I happily obliged.

Adeline and I went to pick up Jessica after having a dinner of leftover curry takeout. So good. When Jessica got in, we ended up staying up until about 4 AM and having a few glasses of wine with Adeline and Alastair. Then it was back to bed for the both of us…