Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Between break, traveling, and finals, I just haven’t had the time. I’ll try to make some more posts about my travels and Scotland soon.
Basically because this post isn’t anything special – I’m not recounting a specific trip I’ve been on or relaying any noteworthy story. I just thought I’d post a bunch of pictures from my time here so far. Here we go:
The other day happened to be a very sunny one here in Edinburgh. Not quite as common as back in the States. The warmest it probably got was around 55 degrees I believe. So it was nice. I should specify – nicer than usual, but not “oh my gosh guys, grab your beach towels and rev up the grill cause warm weather is finally here” nice. But apparently that’s just my American perspective because one sunny day and people started coming out the woodworks to lay out in the sun like it was 70 degrees. Seriously, I saw people in shorts and tank tops. It looked like a nice spring day in Central Park, when people cram into the open green to picnic and enjoy the weather. It was kind of adorable.
Earlier this evening a friend and I ventured into Starbucks (I know, I know, of all the cafes in Edinburgh, why are we going to a place we could go to back home. Because it’s right by campus and we were tired!). Now I love me some iced tea (unsweetened thank you very much) but it’s pretty much nonexistent here. I’ve been going through iced tea withdrawals and I needed some in my system so I asked the Starbucks barista if they had plain iced tea. She looked at me with the most confused look on her face and asked “What??”. I then had to explain what iced tea was – like regular hot tea, but like, cold with ice in it. She asked me skeptically, “So you want…English Breakfast tea…and then…made cold?….with ice in it????!?!?”. She made it and it was fantastic but her reaction to the notion of iced tea tells me tea that is not served hot with milk is a completely foreign concept here.
So I guess the next 50 degree day when the sun is out I’ll go explain to a barista how to make me iced tea then take it out to the park where I will join the masses in laying out in a sun dress.
I made a trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castle about a week ago. I had been looking forward to visiting Lindisfarne in particular since before I left for Scotland as I had studied it quite a bit the previous semester in my Independent Study course on Anglo-Saxon England. It was a cute place that reminded me a bit of Tangier Island in the Chesapeake. The monastery which existed on the island during the time of St. Cuthbert, the writing of the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the viking raid 793 no longer exists as it was made of wood. Stone ruins of the priory built under the Normans (I really hope I’m getting my history right here) still exist though and a friend and I were able to explore those.
I was also able to visit the castle, which is about a mile away from the village.
Extra special side note – there were seals just across from the shore of the island that you could see basking in the sun! Cuties!
Later in the day I visited Bamburgh castle, which was also amazing! You could see Lindisfarne from the castle (and you could see Bamburgh from Lindisfarne). They’re just across the water from each other. I didn’t get the chance to meander all the way down to the beach but was able to walk a short trail which was lovely.
I thought I’d make a post with what I suppose would be helpful information for anyone reading this blog that has plans to travel to or study in Edinburgh in the future. This is pretty much just a hodge-podge of things I’d tell anyone thinking of coming here, so it may seem kind of random. These are things I wish I’d either been told in advance, or that I think are just nice things to know. Here we go!
- Bring a bag with you when you go grocery shopping! Most grocery stores do not automatically give you bags like they do in the U.S. You can ask for one, but you usually have to pay for it. Best not to learn the hard way like my friends and I and end up spending an extra five pounds so you can carry your things home.
- You can’t buy alcohol after 10 PM. Not a problem really, but if you think you’re really going to want a glass of wine while you stream re-runs of Doctor Who at 11 (or, you know, for other occasions), then just go to the store before 10.
- Jay-walking is legal here. Just look out for cars, and remember they drive on the opposite sides of the road here!
- ATM’s are free!! Yeah, there are a few ATM’s throughout the city that will charge you, but don’t use them, because most will not and it’s a glorious thing to get cash for free!
- Everyone dresses extremely nice. Whereas in the U.S., 95% of the students on campus are wearing old jeans and sweatshirts with pizza stains, the vast majority of the students here are dressed like they just walked out of Teen Vogue. So you might want to save your sweatpants and hoodies for your flat, lest you be seen as the sloppy kid on campus. (But if you really don’t care, then where what you want!)
- Apparently tips aren’t expected here. If my friends and I leave a tip the waiter looks like they want to cry and hug us. So it’s nice if you leave one, but you don’t have to. (Which is kind of nice when you’re a college kid living on a budget!)
- Don’t bring curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers, or anything like this. These things use motors to run and are really tricky when using adapters. They easily “blow up” and break when plugging them in with adapters/converters. I suggest just going to a cheap store (Poundland, Pound Stretchers, charity shops) and buying one there. Just give it to someone or throw it away before you leave.
- If you’re looking to buy things cheap, go to Nicholson Street. This is where all the charity shops, Pound Savers, Poundland, etc are located. Stuff for your room, toiletries, envelops, and even some food – shop here first. You’re probably going to get it a lot cheaper in a shop on this street than somewhere else.
- Don’t bother bringing or buying an umbrella. If it’s raining hard, it’s probably also going to be very, very, windy. It will just blow inside out and break. A coat/jacket with a hood is good enough.
- If you are coming to Edinburgh as a student, don’t bring bed sheets or blankets with you. Either buy them when you get there or pre-order a bedding pack from the university. (Or do both, there isn’t much to the bedding pack but it gives you something sufficient to sleep on so you don’t have to run out shopping as soon as you get there.)
- Don’t call pants “pants”. They are called either jeans or trousers here. I say don’t do it but let’s be honest, you are going to end up calling them pants anyway and it will be awkward because “pants” here are underwear. This mix-up is inevitable. Accept it.
I was so excited to visit Durham, England this past weekend. Such a lovely city! It’s about a three-hour drive from Edinburgh, but totally worth it. (Probably shorter by train.)
I visited Durham Cathedral, which was absolutely amazing! As both a history nerd and a Harry Potter fan, I loved the place. The history buff in me geeked out over the fact that I was, you know, strolling through a gorgeous Norman cathedral built in 1093. Two major historical figures, which I studied last semester, were buried in the cathedral – St. Cuthbert and Bede – so it was pretty cool to see those!
The Harry Potter fan in me nerded out over the cloisters. This served as the courtyard at Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films! So not only did I get to visit a cathedral, I also got to visit the wizarding school of my childhood dreams.
While we were able to see the castle from the outside, my friends and I were not able to get tickets to tour the inside. Instead we strolled through the streets and shops in the city. Could not get over how cute this city was!
So yes, I would definitely recommend making a trip to Durham, perhaps for more than one day as there is a bunch of awesome stuff outside the city which would be great to see. (Escomb Church – look it up!)
P.S. On a completely irrelevant note – the sun is the weirdest thing here. When I arrived in Edinburgh it was completely dark by about 4:30. I would leave my last class (which ends at 5) and it would be dark out. I leave class now and the sun is still shining. There’s become about an hour difference in sunset time in only about three weeks. It’s so disorienting, I thought I was losing my mind. Apparently, by the time I leave Scotland in late May, the sun won’t set until about ten o’clock at night! (Thought this was interesting enough to put on the blog, but not enough so to get it’s own post, so I’m tacking it on here.)
So having been in Edinburgh for about three weeks now (and being an avid people watcher), I’ve been admiring how students on campus dress. No sweatpants, pajamas, dirty jeans, and hoodies here. I’ve yet to see that kind of casual dress on campus. Everyone is very put together and carries him or herself in a more mature and classy way than I’m used to seeing. Being a girl who likes clothes, I’ve paid the most attention to how the ladies on campus dress. (Sorry fellas, not talking about your nice fitting cardigans and Beatle boots today.) Most of the girls dress nice, but edgier. More street fashion than in the U.S. Nothing overly feminine or girly. Their shoes are literally always one of two things: Doc Martens or these little black booties with a slight heel or wedge. They wear a ton of scarves but they are either never wrapped, like they just hang long over the neck, or they are big enough that I think they are actually blankets that are swallowing them. (Looks snuggly though!) Their coats are always cute. They look like something you’d find at a thrift shop. Not many classic pea coats or winter jackets. They’re more so statement pieces. They wear a lot of beanies here too – like the beanies that are knitted with the pom-pom on the top.
Of course everyone on campus isn’t a clone of each other. Not everyone is wearing these things, but this is what I see most often. (And I like it!)
Yesterday I went to Glasgow to get a feel for the city. (And my feeling is that it is not as awesome as Edinburgh, but still cool.)
I hung out with my friends Amara and Steffi all day, so of course we had a ton of fun. We were dropped off at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum first. (This was an ISC trip.) It was pretty cool. They had a weird foot exhibition which freaked me out because, ew, feet. But they also had medieval armor and a mummy and a dinosaur skeleton which were pretty awesome.
After our trip to the museum, we were dropped off at George Square, where we promptly looked for someplace to eat before we died of hunger. Not far from where dropped off was a restaurant called “Jamie’s Italian” which the three of us geeked out over because it’s Jamie Oliver’s restaurant and we love that guy. It wasn’t as pricey as we assumed it might be so we ate there and the food was splendiferous! (For the record, I had risotto with wild mushrooms and smoked mozzarella as well as a brownie topped with amaretto ice cream and caramel-amaretto popcorn.)
We didn’t have a ton of time after eating so we explored the various shops close by. The street reminded me a lot of Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland. We did some touristy shopping for a bit. I bought myself a haggis because I couldn’t resist. Look how cute it is!!
There was also a random TARDIS in the middle of the street. Steffi and I are big Doctor Who fans and of course flipped!
Over all, Glasgow is a nice city. It definitely has some great shopping that I would go back for. (Especially since it’s so close. It only took an hour to get there by bus and I’m sure by train it’s even faster.) Edinburgh is definitely prettier though. Less industrial. It has more character. But that’s just my personal opinion.
I finished my first week here in Edinburgh by climbing Arthur’s Seat yesterday. It’s an extinct volcano on the edge of the city which upon climbing offers some incredible views. The International Student Center (ISC) led a bunch of us there. It was a much steeper hike than I anticipated! Also fairly muddy. (Protip: don’t wear converse while climbing Arthur’s Seat!) Definitely worth it though! There are ravens (or are they crows, I can’t tell) nesting in the sides of the cliff and they fly all around as you climb. I think I’ll be climbing Arthur’s Seat a few more times while I’m here. There are a ton of different peaks and cliffs to venture up and I want to explore it more.