Monday, May 30, 2011

Edinburgh (edin-bud-ah) and surrounding cities Trip, Long overdue

Being without accessible internet wrecks havoc on the ole blog! I gotta admit, it's daunting to blog about 5 entire days of skipping around England and Scotland... I'm a bit nervous to see if I can stuff it all in. (Ifn you wanna take a look at my good friend Shelisa'a blog, you'll see that her blog is real detailed! Maybe she put in something I missed...) But get ready for the longest post you'll probably ever read (lets be real, you may have to take an intermission to get through it all)

So, on to our trip. All 50 of us (41 students, 2 professors and their spouses, and their 5 kids who are a treat) bussed out of London Monday at around 7:30am to head out.

It was SUPER windy, and I mean super. Like, when I was walking I was blown a bit along… and the bus was practically sailing on the way up there… and my hair was all jumble tumble afterwards cause it was bein whipped into a frenzy! But the wind aside (also the castle wall walk was closed because of the high winds, bummer!), the castle was a treat! It was a castle quite a while ago, and then it was turned into a prison in the Victorian age.
Wall around the castle (closed for the winds).
Photo from this site
The red brick building is the actual prison (looks more Victorian style, no?)
You can see the castle wall around it, and the Lincoln Cathedral spires risin up
in the background too. Photo via flickr
During the Victorian era, social isolation was the punishment of choice. The prison cells and castle were quite creepy as the cells were small and whitewashed and the chapel had small coffin like seats for the convicts to sit in so they could only see the preacher and not even a hint of their neighbors. The bench for the convict was angled downward as to not allow the prisoner to sit very comfortably and boy were those walls close to you, very claustrophobic! I was able to sit in one for a second with the walls closed… never wanna do that again.
A pic of the creepy prison chapel. And don't be alarmed, those are
dummies in the stalls put in by the museum. Photo nabbed from
good friend Tara.
The prison didn’t have too many female prisoners, but there were some! The female convicts were given the task of laundry, though they didn’t have the lady prisoners under 30 years old do the laundry as they may have been “corrupted” by seeing the men’s drawers! This was straight from the plaque I tell you…

The castle (though I’m not sure why exactly) holds one of the 4 copies of the Magna Carta (hand written mind you, and not in English! Rather in abbreviated Latin) which was rather interesting (especially as it is from ole King John’s reign in 1215!).

About a 3 min walk from the castle gate is the Lincoln Cathedral, what a beauty! When you walk in, it is much more an open space than many of the other cathedrals I’ve been in. The floor plan is rather wide and it is so tall! Actually, the cathedral had the highest tower in England for 249 years! But then the high tower fell over… and whoops, lost its title. But the cathedral WAS fabulous. Especially as the stained glass windows were juusstt in the right place for the sunshine to shine through and display the glass colors on the stone floor below. Beautiful? Yep.
photo of Lincoln Cathedral windows from flickr...
 but you can see the colors on the walls from the window
from the sun, which is what we saw on the cathedral floors.
Lincoln Cathedral. Photo via the fabulous Tara
who you can visit here at her blog
another photo from Tara (I owe you) through the buttresses
at Lincoln
On the bus ride to York, it was a bit rainy and foggy outside (as well as cold, darnit) and it continued to be so all week! We finally got our dose of England rain of chill which we have been evading for a few weeks at the London Centre. But, though I didn’t bring as many jackets as I should have, it did make everything much more beautiful! For instance… the Drax Power Station (coal fire powered, so causes controversy there) was just splendid in the fog and rain.
Photo via Simon Gregson. One website said this power station
provides 7% of the United Kingdom's electricity.
Another photo of Drax via this site
In York, we checked into an Ibis Hotel (felt like a luxury hotel after our Bath trip hostel) and went to check out the city.
Our Ibis Hotel in York... not too bad, eh?
photo from here
Apparently, York (as well as Edinburgh actually) are known for their nightly ghost tours! So naturally, we went on one, for 3 pounds. The tour guide was fabulous, he had slicked back his curly hair, was wearing all black and leather gloves, used a cane, and had a fabulous Scottish accent that added a bit of cheekiness to his ghost stories. He led us through a graveyard and by the Clifford Tower, and through a small road in the middle of the city called the Shambles (which had lil shoppes and pubs) and told us all kinds of ghost stories.

On Tuesday, we went to the York Minster (not Minister, excuse me Granny :) This church was originally a Roman Catholic church before Henry VIII did his thing. Unfortunately the great East stained glass window was under renovation so we couldn’t see that (it has been under construction for 4 years already! They are putting new lead in around the panes and… stuff like that). Apparently in the panes kinda outta the way where nobody can see closely, the Bishops from several years ago had etched in their names! Ha, so our guide told us. What’s great about the Minster (as the guide called it) is that it boasts the most medieval stained glass out of any other Cathedral.
York Cathedral
A bit grainy, but you can see the black curtain
covering the East window of the Minster. They
just put photographs of each pane so us
tourists can get a small taste of what it would look
like. Photo here
In York, we also went to the St. Mary’s Abbey Ruins, just beautiful! But, there was a sunbather right outside in his speedo :). Not as easy on the eyes…
a whole bumload of us at the abbey ruins. 
us bein crazy tourists. nothin new
On the highway to Edinburgh we passed the “Angel of the North” as our bus driver called it. It was just fabulous comin outta the fog.

Here’s some other gems we passed while on the bus…
(kielder forest)
(tweed river bridge- debated to be the border of England and Scotland)

Edinburgh was a great city. It seemed somehow more “medieval” than London and the accents were so homey and warm sounding! We hiked up Calton Hill that first night, and man was it a surprise! There was just a great view all around, a full 360 of awesomeness. Arthur’s Seat cliffs on one side, all of Edinburgh on the other, the sea also.

We also ate (twice!) at The Elephant House, the café where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter. I freakin loved that café! It was rather comfy yet suave, with elephant figurines, lamps, and wall hangings (kinda ethnic like) all over and fabulous food (they even had a sweet potato and haggis Panini!). But the best was the view from the window, Edinburgh castle lookin just so romantic on a Cliffside. I could just imagine Rowling just gaining all sorts of inspiration from those turrets teasin you out the window.

That night, I kinda had to use some facilities, so I went inside a local pub that was playing live music (Wild World by Cat Stevens!--- bathroom and entertainment in one turn, nothing shabby about that) to use the toilet. And guess who I saw hangin solo in the pub! Our bus driver, Tony! Haha we said hello and that was that, but what are the odds! 

Thursday in Scotland
We badly wanted to go to Loch Ness as we were so close! The hostel receptionists were super enthusiastic about it and told us it was only a 1 ½ hour train to the Loch. They musta been a LIL too anxious because when we went to the train station at 2:30pm to go, they told us it was a 4 hour train ride, and not leaving until 4pm! So we had to nix that idea. I was so bummed! But what can you do, eh? When we were walking home from the train station, we saw this little hole in the wall called “The Loch Ness Experience in 3-D.” Naturally, we went in. It was 4.50 for a documentary type movie on the Loch so we decided to go ahead and do it, get in our Loch Ness fix. Tuurrns out, it was in a rather small room with 5 rows of seats, sound we had to put on headphones to hear, and nope not a big screen… but a medium size projection. Ha, I think we got ripped off as tourists. You win some, you lose some.

That night, Tara and I wanted to take a highlands dance class, you know like Lord of the Dance high kickin style. So we took a bus to a studio a bit away, went through a few troubles to locate it, and went in to take a class. It was actually a Ceildah dance class, more like social dancing, but we took it anyway cause hey. We’re in Scotland. So we go in, and it’s Tara and I and about 15 Senior Citizens. And they showed us up! It was a fabulous disaster. When goin home, two of the people (Edward and… a nice lady) from the class were taking our same bus home, so we were chit chattin with them (the lady was asking us if we knew what a trillium flower was. We didn’t. And she was so surprised, “You’re American! You should know what a trillium is...” with a way disproving look. Does anyone know what a trillium is? What the…) But Edward got off at our stop (did I mention he was wearing a kilt?! He was late sixties I would say) and was telling us all about Scottish traditions and history (good stuff from Mr. Native himself). It was great. 

At the end, Tara and I stuck out our hands for a shake and he gave us a hug and a whiskery kiss on the cheek. Sweet ole man. We got home around 10:30pm or so, but Edinburgh is tricky because since it is so far north of the equator it doesn’t get totally dark till around 11pm, so it was still light when we arrived back at our hostel.

He was telling us about St. Giles Cathedral (a 10 min walk from our hostel, it’s located on High St.) and that years previous, there was a stained glass window that said: “Glory to God in the Highest”

Funny enough, Edward said the “e” was knocked out and that it said “Glory to God in the High St”! haha and since it is indeed located on High St. it gave the locals a good laugh.

Friday in Edinburgh and Lake District in Windermere
Friday morning (at 6:30am. Yep. You heard me.) A few friends and I hiked up Arthurs Seat. Took around 30 min or so up and the same down… well actually a bit more down cause we took a weird way, but hey.) And lemme tell you, it was all foggy and though we couldn’t see the view from the top, all the fog was makin my heart sing it was so beautiful. On the way to the top, there were these fields of yellow Gorse flowers all in bloom, and with the mist swirlin around, it was just perfect. Also... do these photos look similar at all, hmm? I learned about the one below in Art History a few semesters ago, and the setting was just too perfect not to recreate it.

Romantic era painting (Provo room mate, Kelsey's favorite :) by Caspar
David Friedrich titled Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.
 I gotta be honest with ya though, the hike was hard for me! The other ladies were pros and were just hikin up a storm, annnnd I did ask for a teensy break. I’m a baby, get over it.

Lastly on Thursday, we bussed down to the Lake District, a National Park of London (the largest according to our Director).

Lake District
Our bus driver Tony was great as he told us all sorts of things on the bus rides (believe me, he knew everything and anything about everything) including the fact that most houses in the Lake District had slate rock roofs. The slate looked real solid and clean on the houses. But it is rock! As a roof! And it is heavy, so the house has gotta be pretty strong to support it. But the slate is great, according to Tony, because it does NOT erode fast at all and can last a hundred or two years! In addition, slate is real non porous and so rainwater doesn’t crack the slate when it gets below freezing. Kinda cool, eh?

Also, little known fact: the Lake District is known for its peaks! Funky huh? And Tony was saying, odd enough, the Peak District in another part of England is known for its lakes. Whatevs, silly Englishmen J

There were all kinds of green hill swathed in mist when we bussed up, and sheep just EVERYWHERE. On one side of a hill, Tony pointed out to us a concrete “pillbox.” It was a small little concrete fort with openings around it for gunmen to shoot out of during WW2. A lot of them had been destroyed, but now and then one pops up says Tony. It was nuts to think that these sleepy, rolling, farm riddled hills mighta been bombed during the War.

We also took a hike in the lake district around Holmes Fell. Here's a little photo. The hike was rather swampy and wet and cold... but hey, the view was stunner. Tony was a bit peeved though cause we were super late...

In the Lake District, we stayed at YHA Windermere Hostel. It was like a cabin the middle of the forest and the views were magic. I'll post a pic soon...


  1. So happy to know at York, you went to the Clifford Tower, where all those people died. It was so sad...But then you went through the Shambles- and wasnt that great. Grandpa and I, your late Uncle Geofrey and Thellie spent the night in York. And tsk tsk...We had trilliums in the woods back of our house on the Mt.Holly-Huntersville Rd. Trilliums because the had 3 leaves and 3 petals - a pretty wild spring flower, mostly white, but a few pink.
    And did ye eat Haggis in Bonnie Scotland? Love from ye Granny!

  2. haha you are so funny...gosh I love and miss you! Looks amazing, and I bet kels loves that picture you took :) Too cool!