Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inverness: Adventures in the land of Nessie

A few weeks ago Kristen and I decided that it was finally time to head up to Inverness. We had a few goals which we needed to accomplish. The first was to pick out a tartan for my kilt. I have dreamed about the day that I could dance at a Scottish Ceilidh in the proper attire and that day will soon be approaching. We also made friends at the Lord of the Dance performance that Kristen had spoken of earlier and we wanted to see them again. Then of course were the little reasons to go to Inverness being the changing of the leaves, the beautiful river and of course to visit the most famous resident, Nessie.
We opted to take a coach up to Inverness because it happened to be a little cheaper than a train ticket and it didn't seem to be too much out of the way. Since we left at 8:30 in the morning we were able to see some of the countryside of Scotland and it did not disappoint. Although the leaves here don't love turning red, it was still a beautiful fall day.

After arriving in Inverness we checked into our hostel and received a sleep sheet. I had never slept in one before and I was grateful there were instructions posted on the wall. I didn't quite go the full nine yards, but next time I'll make sure to bring a teddy bear. We didn't stay in the hostel long because we had to find my tartan.

And so after fifteen books we finally found the tartan that will adorn me. It is actually an Irish tartan from Donegal County, which incidentally also happens to be where our Irish missionary is from. When I told him about it he told me he had no idea that his county even had a tartan. So I don't really know the history behind the tartan and there might not even be one, but so long as I end up with it in time for Hogmany (New Years) I'll be set.

We ended up with some free time before we met our friends from Inverness for dinner. Since all of the stores in Scotland close at 6 p.m. we decided to take advantage of that and go indoors and do some window shopping. Kristen thought I looked wonderful in these glasses and I thought I looked really special too. Needless to say we didn't purchase the glasses.

When the city center shut down we headed down to the Ness River. I had been telling Kristen that Inverness looked pretty much like Edinburgh, until we walked down to the river. It reminded me of something we might see when we make it to the continent of Europe. Inverness is located on the river and it really is quite amazing.

And of course every city of importance must have a castle. This is no longer used as a castle but as a courthouse instead. It was still really pretty, especially when lit up at night.

We ended up walking up to it anyway and Kristen started playing around in the shadows. It reminded me of my younger days when I would tell stupid ghost stories on my top bunk bed with friends. We did a few of the classic shadow poses and ended up liking this one the best.

Seven finally rolled around the Terri and her mum Elna picked us up for dinner. We had a wonderful time with them discussing the differences between American and Scottish cuisine and tried one of our new favorite dishes. It was turnips and potatoes smashed together. Don't remember the proper name for it, but I won't be forgetting what a great meal it was. It really was great meeting up with our good friends and creating more memories.

Sunday was pure misery. The clocks had been set back on hour and it rained like crazy. We did make it to the Inverness Ward though and that brightened the day up a bit. But it was such a gray and wet day that I never bothered to take out my camera, except for the obligatory two photos for my other blog. But the rain made for a beautiful Monday. Kristen and I decided to take a cruise down the Loch Ness to the Urquhart Castle. The leaves were gorgeous.

And of course we had to look for the beloved Nessie. I thought it was quite nice that they had a replica of her so we could be sure to identify her when we saw her.

Donald was our guide and I found his tall tales to be quite enjoyable. Nothing like a tour guide that will say whatever is on his mind. He made the adventure even better.

And of course you have to have a view of the Loch Ness. I picked this photo because of the shadows on the camera. I would have loved to say that this is Nessie, but it is just a smudge on the camera. But I'm sure that Nessie is hiding just below the surface.

This photo and the following few are the Urquhart Castle located directly on the loch. Is is assumed that a castle has been on this ground for thousands of years. I found it quite breathtaking, even though the castle is no longer being used today. It was really neat to think that people actually lived here long ago. But it must have been miserable back then. The wind made it a bitter cold day and even with two jackets on I was still chilly. If I had been in charge of defending the castle I think I would have given it up and found somewhere warmer to hang out. But people lived that life and I am grateful for central heating.

After the castle we headed back to town and decided to see Up in 3D while waiting for our coach back to Edinburgh. It was a fun movie but really sad. It did make for an enjoyable last day though. We had a great weekend exploring more of our beloved Scotland and the adventures will only get better.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Public Transportation

Public transportation.  Oh, how I love thee!  I have become a HUGE fan of public transportation since moving to Scotland.  I loved it in Vienna when I rode the U-bahn all over the place, but it's been awhile since I've left my fate in the hands of a friendly foreigner at the wheel.  I take the bus everywhere.  It's so nice to get to where I need to go, while still being able to get stuff done.  I've taken to reading the newspaper (provided for free on city transportation - woohoo!) in the mornings on my way to class, and I wanted to share a funny tidbit from today's paper.  Nestled amidst heated remarks in the OpEd section was this tiny bit of hilarity, which I hope you enjoy as much as I did: 

"Yet more Scottish films: A Town Like Alyth, Sleepless in Seamill, Last Tango in Partick, Driving Miss Dairsie, Watership Doune, Croy Story, The Killin Fields, Saving Cairnryan, Brora Brora Brora, Passport to Pitsligo, Chitty Chitty Langbank, The Witches of Prestwick, Nicholas Lockerbie, Silence of the Glamis, The 39 Stepps, Forres Gump, Tain-Spotting, Leith Academy 2, The Great Troon Robbery, The Day of the Jackton, Gorgie Par, Clynderella and finally, Crouching Biggar, Hidden Drongan."  - From the Cory 7.42 train gang
Ha!  See what gems I find in the newspaper while enjoying public transportation?!?!  A little piece of literary humor that gets me smiling in the morning.  Lovely.  I'm sure you all figured out the original movies, but in case you didn't get the reference, everything mentioned is a town/village/burgh or city in Scotland.  Brilliant.  In my opinion, The Great Troon Robbery is the best, but that's only because the 1979 version of the original movie is one of my favorites.  The end.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The first of many Ceilidhs

What a CrAzY fun weekend it's been here in Edinburgh! It started off on Friday with an amazing art history discussion in the National Gallery discussing the "Feast of Herod" by Rubens. If that wasn't enough, how about a hike up Arthur's Seat, providing amazing views of the city and surrounding areas? And the fun didn't stop there either! We ended up dancing the night away on Friday at our very first Ceilidh (pronounced "KAY-lee") to celebrate Simon and Judith's wedding. It was SO much fun! All of the men came dressed in kilts, and it was one huge dance party. Even if you didn't know the traditional Scottish dances (which neither Steve or myself knew), they're easy enough that you can pick them up as you go. Steve was sad that he didn't get to wear his kilt, but we're taking care of that this coming weekend when we head to Inverness to pick out the tartan and give his measurements to our kilt-maker friend. Next Ceilidh we go to, Steve will be arriving in style! We were both exhausted on Saturday morning, but we were really excited to get the day started because we had another visitor to our beloved city - Grandma Simms! The cruise she is on right now docked in Edinburgh for a day, so we got to show her and her friend, Emily around for a few hours before bidding them farewell on Saturday afternoon. It was a jam-packed weekend, but we loved every minute of it!

This is a terrible picture of the National Gallery, but at least you get a taste for what it looks like.

Climbing up Arthur's Seat

Steve came. Steve saw. Steve conquered.

The view of the city and surrounding area was breathtaking. Saturday was the perfect day for such a hike.

This is the church where the Ceilidh was held - pretty cool, eh? Great music, delicious food, and dramatic lighting set quite the stage for a party.

Behold - the kilts!!!

Having fun on the dance floor

I'll never own one (moving death traps, in my opinion), but it was fun to pose next to one!

Welcome to Edinburgh! We spent a lovely morning/afternoon with Grandma Simms.

I was worried I'd be slightly homesick for the autumn leaves up East Canyon, but then they started turning here - the city looks beautiful right now!

This is a small sample of what the Ceilidh was like - we can't wait to go to another one!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

All things Irish

      Interesting title considering we live in Scotland, eh?  What can I say?  I've never been able to make up my mind which "ethnicity" I prefer because they are both so dang cool.  So this week, I'm honoring the Irish.  You know how bad things occasionally happen, which in the end, turn out to be really great?  That totally happened last week.  I was on Princes St. heading toward the National Gallery to purchase my ticket for a conference taking place this last week.  I bought some Christmas wrapping paper (Enrichment service project...people looked at me like I was a lunatic for starting Christmas so early this year), purchased my gallery ticket, and proceeded to take the bus back home.  Somehow, with all the weird stuff I was carrying, I managed to lose my bus pass from the time I got on the bus to the second I got off.  I noticed my pass wasn't in my pocket right after the driver closed the doors and pulled away from the curb.  Great.  I was able to replace it a couple days later, and that's when all the fun began!  I was browsing through the pamphlets at the Lothian bus office while waiting to get a new card, and lo and behold, I spied my little eye on something TOTALLY FANTASTIC!  A pamphlet advertising "Lord of the Dance" coming to Scotland this week.  I saw the flier Monday, and purchased tickets for me and Steve to see the show on Wednesday.  Luckily, my husband rocks - he was up for the adventure without complaining about having to watch men in somewhat-tight pants and somewhat-high heels bust a move on stage.  =)  It was absolutely amazing!  Irish dance rocks - thanks Steve!
       The best reaction to the news of going to the show comes from our favorite missionary, the one and only Elder Brophy from Dublin, Ireland.  Steve told the Elders he wasn't available Wednesday night after 5pm because I was taking him to see LOTD.  Elder Brophy was shocked that we were going to see it, and made some funny comments, which sounded even funnier because of his sweet accent.  I think Steve was a little hesitant about what he was in for after hearing them, but at the end of night on Wednesday, he was converted to the Michael Flatley fan club, and he was tapping his feet the whole way home.  He made sure to do a little jig for Elder Brophy the next time he saw the missionaries.  =)  Note - we didn't actually see Michael Flatley as LOTD, but really, the leading male dancers are all the same.
       We made fast friends at intermission with two ladies (a mother and daughter) from Inverness, who offered to take us out to dinner when we manage to visit their town.  Steve and I asked tons of questions about what to do and where to stay since we're trying to plan a weekend trip up there.  My parents have a favorite kilt-maker that works in Inverness, and they want to buy Steve a kilt as a memento from Scotland, so now we can kill two birds with one stone - buying a kilt, and having fun with the natives!  Again, how fortuitous that I lost my bus pass - it led to a great show, and some great connections with peeps in Inverness!
       So, in the end, Lord of the Dance was absolutely fantastic.  We still love Elder Brophy, even though he has poor taste in entertainment (though, considering the fact that he's currently a missionary, we look past that and still have him and his companion, Elder Seletos, for dinner), and a trip to Dublin during the next 10 or so months is definitely in the works.  Ireland, how we love thee!

     This is who Steve wants to be for Halloween this year.  This is the bad guy that fights the good guy for the sweet belt with a jewel-encrusted insignia "LOTD."  It's a pretty sweet belt....I'm considering having one made for Steve as a Christmas gift.  You have to feel bad for this guy.  He's a fantastic dancer with some pretty sweet moves, but from the very beginning, you know he has no chance.  Hello?  The good guy ALWAYS gets the girl AND the sparkly belt.

The real McCoy.  Yes, Michael Flatley - THE Lord of the Dance. 

Éirinn go brách!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

AiH....who knew?

      Story: This one begins on my first day of school.  I walked up Chambers Street, swiped my university card to get into the Minto house, and was there confronted with a booth for something with the acronym AiH.  Great.  What's that?  Who cares - I got the bookmark they were passing out (which, I threw away rather quickly without even looking at it....shameful!), and headed on my merry little way to my classes upstairs.  That was three weeks ago.  Fast forward to today.  Meeting at 1:00pm with the associate director of AiH - Art in Healthcare for a sweet internship.  A SWEET internship!  Who knew that I could fuse my two loves into a stellar, six-month internship?!?!?  Art and medicine - I'm totally stoked.  I get to catalog and organize the collection, give seminars and lectures at medical facilities that contract with AiH, and they also want me to curate an exhibition in a gallery space to advertise and make new contacts within the community.  WOO-HOO!!!  I'm kinda excited...  And, AiH is located off Leith Walk, which is pretty ghetto, BUT, that means it is also where all the cool shops, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and really cool gallery spaces are located.  I walked around the area for a bit today on my way to and from my interview and decided this was definitely something I could get used to.  I'm really glad it worked out - it all happened really fast (I got an email yesterday asking if I was interested, had my interview today, and landed the internship immediately).  Only potential downside: I'll be dealing with contemporary Scottish artists, and their work - we'll see how it goes.  Contemporary art, for me, is like eating beets, or mushrooms, or liver - not really my favorite, or even sub-favorite, I quite loathe it actually, but after looking through the collection with the director today, I think I'll be able to handle it.  Maybe.  =)  

Monday, October 5, 2009

Edinburgh Castle

Yes, we do live in the land of castles. Today we bought our historic Scotland pass which allows us into 78 historical sites within Scotland and supposedly we can also go into some English ones too. So with this special pass we can now go into the thirty plus castles on this list. Not all of them are as up to date as the Edinburgh Castle, but at least we live near the castle that is still in use today. Not as a residence, but for the Scottish Military Tatoo, which we plan on attending next August. You can still see the bleachers that are being taken down. I suggest you check out some videos on YouTube and then come visit us next August.

Though the inside is beautiful, I must admit that the outside is breathtaking. Something about seeing a castle from the bottom is just really cool. But the inside was neat too.

There were a multitude of museum and other historically important objects and buildings. This was from the Royal Scots Grey and the history of their battles since their creation. I thought it strange that the American Revolutionary War didn't get mentioned, but maybe they didn't make it across the Atlantic.

Of course every castle must have a set of cannons which are no longer is use. However, there is one cannon that goes off everyday at one o'clock. We didn't hear it today, but when we go back with the next batch of visitors we will be sure to plan the visit accordingly.

This is a view from the cannon hole. In the distance you can see the bay which leads out to the North Sea. It is really cool living on the water again, although it is still quite cold and to think that it is on October! Here is a challenge for you though. See how many Scottish flags you can find in this photo. Click on it to enlarge it. If you want to see more of the pictures of the castle then just click on this link or go to my facebook account to make comments on it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Welcome to Scotland

Yes, the Adams are finally together in the beloved land of Scotland. It was a long journey, though a wee bit shorter than expected. While it took Kristen's visa four weeks to get processed, mine was here in two. Apparently someone was watching over me and I was able to get everything turned in correctly. A special thank you to my father-in-law who ran to the courthouse to get the necessary stamp on the marriage certificate and then mailed the completed application all between pictures at the temple and a wedding luncheon. And the week before he even managed to find this lovely coat of arms for our front door. It would have been cool if I was Scottish, but at least our kids will be.

As you can see we were quite happy to get back together again. Yes, two weeks of separation wasn't terrible, but it wasn't really ideal either. But I have loved being with my wife and finally starting our life together. We only have to answer to one another and we can take the bus whenever we want, even at 23:30. It just might become a habit, you know jumping on a random bus and seeing where it takes us. We might even drag a few of our visitors on a night bus journey through town (be prepared Jon and Sarah for you will be the guinea pigs). Though we should probably be careful, as I ended up in the red light district the other day.

Of course Kristen wasn't the only person excited to see me. While Kristen and I were waiting for the bus the other day I decided that I needed a photo by the bus arrival timetable. She snapped a few that she didn't like and then this dude came up and grabbed a hold of my arm. It was quite humorous and I decided that if people are crazy enough to do this here then of course I should love the place.

No visit to Scotland would be complete without a kilt and what better tartan than a tartan that doesn't really belong to anyone. I think I have almost decided upon the one above. Apparently purple is a great color for a men's sports team. I expect that I'll be buying a few more Scottish souvenirs, though this should be the first. I might eventually find a football jersey to use back in the states, or on the thousands of fields here in Edinburgh. Scotland has treated me well so far and it is even better to be sharing it with the girl I love. Cheers!