Great Scott! Part 2: Pubs, Plants, and Plenty of Walking

After getting  a much needed night of sleep (almost a full 12 hours) we set out to continue our Edinburgh adventure. The day began with a short walk to the National Museum of Scotland where we spent the better part of 2 hours, although we could’ve spent all day in there. Considering the age of the country, Scotland has so much history and culture that it’s hard to even begin to encompass it all within one building. One thing I found most interesting about the museum was that they had an exhibition on Dolly the Sheep, where they actually displayed the stuffed clone that I had heard so much about in junior high and high school sciences. The museum was huge and I definitely recommend going if  you’re into history and culture and have some free time in while in Edinburgh. After browsing for a bit throughout the museum, we headed out to get some lunch at The Edinburgh Larder, a small cafe/deli along the main strip. Their soups and sandwiches were delicious, and served as much needed fuel for all the walking that was to come.

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We began walking toward Holyrood Palace in hopes of touring around there for a bit, but decided instead to take the “short hike” up to Arthur’s Seat. Mind you, neither one of us were very properly dressed for this outing, which turned into a two hour excursion. As we walked up the side of the mountain, we gained better and better views of pretty much the entire city of Edinburgh, from the coast all the way inland. I swear I kept stopping every ten steps just to take the same exact picture I had taken a dozen times, just because the view was so spectacular. We got to the top of the mountainside only to realize that there was another whole set of steep, stone stairs to climb up even further, to where we thought Arthur’s Seat was. On the way up I had to keep stopping to shed layers since the hike was rather rigorous and I was dressed for the Scottish rain and cold and not for a nice, sunny hike. That being said, there were several families, children, and even dogs that were taking the hike, so don’t let that discourage you from making the trek if you ever find yourself in the area. When we got to the top, we realized that the view was worth all the efforts and then some. And then we quickly realized that we weren’t even at Arthur’s Seat yet, and that we had to descend the other side of the hill in order to climb up a different hill to the actual peak. Once we finally get to the actual top, it was almost as if we were on the top of the world (or at least on the top of Scotland). The day we hiked to Arthur’s Seat, the sky was so sunny and clear and we could see for miles an miles over the city. It was one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen, and well worth the bit of effort it took to get to the top.

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After spending some time trying to capture Edinburgh’s indescribable beauty on camera (and not doing it justice) we took the very sketchy walk down a different path of the mountain. By this time we were craving a snack, so we popped into a pub called No. 1 High Street for some grub. I ordered cullen skink, a traditional Scottish chowder with smoked Haddock, potatoes, and onions. It wasn’t until I got to the bottom of the bowl when I realized that rather than slicing up the fish into pieces and dispersing it throughout the chowder, an entire filet of fish was just placed at the bottom. I had thought it was odd that the recipe had listed fish as an ingredient, but I hadn’t yet tasted any. Just a tip if you ever order cullen skink: make sure you cut up the fish and eat it with your chowder rather than letting it sit at the bottom. The chowder was delicious nonetheless. We then headed out to explore the University of Edinburgh, the biggest Uni in the area. Although it wasn’t a very big campus, it had a nice library and a delightful park to take a sunset stroll through. The whole area of Edinburgh is very easy to maneuver around and, aside from lots of hills and sets of stairs, is very pleasant for walking.

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Once we got back to our hostel, we decided to pop over to the Fiddler’s Arms pub across the street for some more snacks, or “nibbles,” as they call them here. Throughout the trip we had seen signs that had advertised either a free ghost tour throughout the city, or a seven pound pub crawl.  Although we were both pretty tired and would’ve just as well turned in for the evening, we decided to make the most of our trip and go on the pub crawl, which turned out to be the best decision we could’ve made. The crawl began at a pub called Jake’s Place and ended at the Hive Nightclub and covered four other pubs between the two. Our crawl leader was named Marius and he was a towering Scottish man with the most luscious beard you’ve ever seen. If it weren’t for him and his straight up awesomeness, the night wouldn’t have been as amazing as it was. Since it was a Sunday evening, there were only about 15 of us which made the pub crawl so much better since we could actually mingle with everyone in the group. Throughout the evening we made friends from Edinburgh, London, Australia, and even met some other exchange students from New York who were studying abroad in Leeds. My favorite pub was by far The Oz Bar, an Australian-themed pub in the center of the city. It had a very relaxed environment and everyone there was extremely friendly. The Hive was equally as amazing and had several different dance rooms that played all different sorts of music genres. Nothing quite beats belting out the lyrics to Grease’s “Summer Nights” with 50 of your closest foreign strangers. Overall the experience was easily one of my favorite memories from the trip and I would recommend the Edinburgh Pub Crawl to anyone looking to meet new people and have a good time on their stay, although I would recommend going on a night that is not a Friday or Saturday in order to avoid a group of 150 people.

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By the time we got to day three of the trip, we were pretty darn exhausted. We spent the majority of the morning in the hostel cafe (I had to finish some last minute Uni work before we did anymore exploring, whoops) before making the trek to see the rest of the town. As we had already pretty much covered all the main city bits of the area, we walked a ways out into the suburbs to visit the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Although it was a bit out of the way, it was well worth the views. The Gardens were huge and so so beautiful, greener than anything I’ve seen in the States. At one point there was an older man casually listening to music while he fed the squirrels of the gardens. He saw me admiring the little creatures and, without saying a word, gave me a couple of seeds that he had and motioned for me to bow to the ground and hold my hand out flat for the little furry friends. Once I did this, a squirrel came up to me and ate the seeds right out of the palm of my hand. I thanked the man, and we continued walking through the naturally awe-inspiring sights. After we had walked throughout the gardens and eaten lunch in the cafe center, we set out on another long trek of a walk to see the coast.

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Now before I continue, let me tell you that although the beach looked somewhat similar to those in California, it was hardly anything like them. Sure, there was sand and ocean but there wasn’t a soul in sight sunbathing on the shore. I was bundled up in two pairs of pants, heavy duty boots, a sweater, scarf, and a winter coat and was still freezing. The beaches here (at least in the winter) are much less popular tourist sights to visit. There was a stone/sand bar that stretched out over half of a mile into the sea that we decided to explore. At the end of the bar, if you stood just on the edge of the stones and looked out into the open waters, it felt as if you were hovering over the middle of the ocean. It was quite the feeling to experience.

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Since we had walked quite a few miles out of the way to get to the coast, this meant that we had to walk the same way to get back into town. Along the way we took a detour through Inverleith Park and took some time to appreciate the greenery and sights along the way. We stopped by a pizza shop to get some dinner before heading back to the main town center. The place was called Franco’s Kitchen Ltd. and it must have had about 30 different types of pizza options, among other foods. We ended up ordering a half meat/half prosciutto pizza that was quite delicious.

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After dinner we walked back up to the main city center near Scott Monument and did some window shopping before heading back to the coach station. At this point it was only about 5pm and our bus wasn’t due until 9, but we were so spent from all the walking that we couldn’t even stand to do anymore sight seeing. Sam ended up passing out almost as soon as we sat down, provoking one of the security guards to come and ask me if he was okay. In the four hours that we waited for our bus, we had two different security guards/staff personnel come check on us to see if we were alright. That should give you somewhat of an indication of how tired and completely worn out we looked. In our defense, we had just spent three full days surviving on mediocre sleep and walking nonstop through the hills and streets. Despite how exhausted we were by the end, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about the trip. I loved everything about Edinburgh, and it has very quickly jumped to the top of my list as one of my favorite cities. I cannot wait to go back someday and see what other adventures the city has in store for me! Who knows? I might even find myself sitting atop the green hills sooner than you’d think…

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