Monday, February 8, 2016

donald, where's your troooosers?

It's 12.30am on a Tuesday morning and I'm listening to Mexican music; about an hour ago I arrived back from the city centre after having unlimited sushi with a Belgian and a Hungarian in Madrid. Yesterday I arrived back from a cheeky little jaunt to the land of porridge, kilts, bagpipes and haggis.

Scotland wasn't originally on my list of must see places in Europe - that is, until some friends of mine moved there and managed to convince me to come over for Waitangi weekend/her birthday/because another friend was there. The time spent searching for the cheapest flights instead of listening to my lecturer was well worth it. Europe just keeps getting better and better. It couldn't sound any more cheesy, but it's so much fun meeting all these incredible new people and seeing so many amazing places.

Of course, before I left, everything was an absolute disaster. Aside from meeting a lovely friend of a friend from Spain, nothing on Thursday went right. Hospital visit (only an eye infection), delayed appointment - not quite knowing if I was supposed to be knocking on the door or still sitting in the waiting room, coming home at 4pm after not eating all day and being famished, then having a bleeding nose while needing to pack (tampons are actually great for shoving up bleeding noses), putting money on my travel card and having the sum leave by bank account but not go on the card like it was supposed to, not being able to withdraw money from an ATM either, getting on the wrong train to the airport... honestly, the odds were not in my favour at all.

But once in Edinburgh everything was a treat. And moreover, an English speaking treat. Although my Spanish is good enough to understand signs, most conversation, etc, it's so much more comfortable when you're not subconsciously making an extra effort to figure out what's going on.

As per my travel standard, the first day in Edinburgh began with a walking tour. Our tour guide was one of a kind. He didn't just explain the history/monument/architecture/random sidestreet alley, he acted it. He was all over the place - jumping up and down stairs, pretending to chop off his head, lying on the ground, you name it. It made for a very interesting, yet bitterly cold from all the standing, walking tour. The absolute coolest thing was seeing the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, it being across the road from a cemetery with a view of a school that looked like a castle, and an actual castle (Edinburgh Castle). Even a muggle like me thought that was a bit magic.

Our tour guide doing his thing

That 'castle' in the background is actually a private school (Hogwarts)

Edinburgh Castle
That afternoon, we visited Edinburgh Castle, which was right in the middle of the city. It was chilly, raining and windy, but the views were clear and the audio-guided tour interesting and not too long. There was a massacre at the castle called the Black Dinner (or something) which is what everyone's favourite GOT episode, The Red Wedding, was based on. Being typical Scotland, we then ran through a torrential downpour and I was thinking to myself what terrible weather for summer, before realising Scotland was also in the Northern Hemisphere so it was winter.

Saturday was more like being in Wellington on a typical weekend than being a tourist, which was also so nice, especially since so much time travelling is spent trying to cram as much as possible into the time you're in a place. We walked up Carlton Hill in the morning and got some great vistas of the city. One of my must-do's while there was get a flat white from a place called Wellington Coffee, a coffee shop owned by Wellingtonian's (if I recall correctly). There's nothing quite like walking into a café and realising how similar it felt to home - even the interior layout of places in Spain is different. The coffee was great - I miss my flat whites and long blacks!

Carlton Hill
mmmmm coffee
The chance to sample haggis came upon us when we visited some markets in the afternoon, but unfortunately (or fortunately) none of the quaint little stalls actually sold haggis. Just haggis dumplings or haggis samosas. Not authentic enough, sorry.

Some friends of friends were having a leaving party that night, so we went along to their lovely flat to watch the England v Scotland rugby came (not a good result for Scotland, unfortunately), and farewell them. Guitars came out, and one of the songs that they all got really into was one I sang in my primary school choir (don't know why I was in a choir, I can't sing) - 'Donald, Where's Your Trousers'. So I got to hear an authentic version of the song two decades later. Small world syndrome struck again, when two of the people at the party turned out also to be exchange students studying in Madrid for the semester.

I was surprised at how many people actually wore kilts around the streets (maybe it was because it was the weekend of a rugby match?), how prominent tartan and tweed was in everything, and also the fact that they invented a macaroni and cheese pie which was delicious. One weekend wasn't long enough to tick off all the boxes in Scotland, but now it's on my list of places that I'll have to come back to.

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