Saturday, August 28, 2010

Innocent Gun

Just a few observations/happenings in Edinburgh so far:
  • The weather has been gorgeous! Mostly sunny and reaching into the mid 70's everyday.
  • The Fringe Festival, an annual comedy festival in the city, is currently taking place, meaning there are very entertaining street performers all over the city and all kinds of comedy shows to attend during the day and night. Last night we went to a comedy act at 12:15 (am!) by a group called the Axis of Awesome. They did not disappoint
  • I have been really impressed by the food so far. I've tried to keep it very native, partaking in such delicacies as fish and chips (yum!), haggis complete with mashed potatoes and turnips (another yum... if you just don't think about what it really is. google it), and baked potatoes where you can order all sorts or pre-made toppings - I chose cheese, onion and pineapple (a very big YUM!). Last night we had a more traditional Swedish meal with crawfish (where I discovered a deep-seated affinity for playing with food that has a face), crab quiche (my contribution which actually fit nicely since the traditional side dish is cheese quiche!), Swedish schnaps, and a delicious Swedish desert of strawberries in a whipped cream-ish mixture
  • Scottish beers are weak!! They're really lacking in the flavor department. I know I got conditioned to like really bitter and hoppy beers with Terrapin, and I was prepared for a lack of bitterness. But man! I was really expecting more out of the beers. I even tried a Scottish IPA (a type of beer that is characterized by it's extra hoppy flavor) and that was a let down! The one beer I've liked is actually a local Edinburgh beer called Innis & Gunn. Even though I was sure every one was saying "Innocent Gun" for the longest time, I finally tried it last night and it does have plenty of flavor, it's just a little too sweet to drink a lot of. I guess I'll just have to hold out for the whiskeys.
  • The busses are a little crazy here. It's not enough to be standing at the bus stop, you have to actually flag down your bus when you see it coming, otherwise it will just speed past you. I found this out the hard way! Then on the bus, you have to press the stop button like normal, only they don't announce or show the next stop in any way, so you basically have to know exactly where you're going to know where to get off! But it is pretty fun to ride on the top of a double decker bus!
  • There are so many GINGERS! Normally I'm very territorial about being "the redhead" but here there is a sense of camaraderie among us gingers. I am at home among my people.
Simon's parents came in town last night, because tonight there is a big fancy party at one of their friends' places. We are all invited! I'm excited to get all dressed up! We didn't get back in till about 3:45 last night (and we walked a good mile or so home from the city center) so today is a pretty lazy day - just doing some quick shopping in the city then coming back to get all fancied up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I think my day of traveling (all 36 hours) counts as the longest trip I've ever made by myself! Although the man at the airport saved my life with the extra weight fees of the bags, I found myself restoring balance to the universal yin and yang almost immediately. 41D was my seat on the plane. Usually I like to ask for a window seat, but because the man who checked me in was doing such a huge favor anyway, I decided I could live with D, which on most planes is an aisle seat - most international planes I've flown having 3 rows of 3. Not this plane. For 8 hours I sat uncomfortably sandwiched between two strangers in the middle seat of the middle row. I usually love flying - the longer the flight, the better! 12 hours China? Loved it! But 8 hours in seat 41D and my perspective has changed slightly.

We arrived at Gatwick 30 min early (6:30gmt/1:30est). In the airport I had to open and repack one of my bags to switch out my giant carry on for my horn. Yes, I checked my horn. And this is how:
  1. place horn safely inside case
  2. pad empty space in case with socks, underwear, etc.
  3. place entire horn case inside large piece of luggage
  4. place shoes in empty spaces of luggage to prevent sliding
  5. pad empty space of luggage with large coats and t-shirts
I was glad to see that my horn made it safely through it's first sub-cabin adventure, although I never really want to have to do that again. So after trading my carryon luggage for my horn I was ready to head off into the city!

I had been debating for several days before the trip if I would try to navigate the Tube (£1.80) with my two bags weighing over 50lbs each or if I would just take a taxi (~£20). After struggling... no, not just struggling, straight up battling my bags just to get them on the Gatwick express I knew there was no way I was getting anywhere fast with them on the Tube, or period, really. Fortunately pretty much every bus in the city stops by London Victoria, so I found one that would go straight to King's Cross. And Although I was obviously out of place with my giant suitcases on the full bus, it only cost £2 and my luggage and I both made it safely across the city.

When I arrived at King's Cross, they were just announcing the platform for the train to Edinburgh. Unfortunately it was the 10am train and I was on the 1:30pm train. Yes. I was almost 4 hours early to the train station. So I got a luggage trolley, loaded up what was surely well over 120lbs of luggage and hung out. for 4 hours.

***side note to Harry Potter fans:
Of course my first instinct while at King's Cross Station was to visit platform 9 3/4, so
after about an hour in the station I did just that. Immediately I faced several problems with this endeavor. First, you can't even enter that section of the station without a ticket (I wonder if they accept letters from Hogwarts?). And from what I could tell, tracks 9 and 10 no longer share a platform. Forcing what is sure to be hundreds of young wizards running straight into the tracks to reach the Hogwarts Express. However, when in London in 2008, I made sure we sidetracked out to King's Cross to get some pictures at the infamous wizarding platform, but it appears that area is currently blocked off for construction. I hope they get it ready by september 1, for the first day of school! ;)

Four hours later, after sleeping, eating, reading, doing circles around the station, etc. I loaded everything on to the East Coast line to Edinburgh - a 4.5 hour journey. Despite the strain of now having been awake for 24 solid hours, I only managed to doze for about 1 hour on the train. for the other 3.5 hours I plugged in my iPod and watched the British country side fly by. It was gorgeous! I would recommend taking a train across the UK just to see it all! Shahida and her boyfriend, Simon (who I also knew from Zurich), met me at the station! Thank God Simon was there, because he carried one piece of luggage up the 4 flights to their apartment and came back to get the mine before I even reached the 2nd floor!

I think I managed quite well, not having slept for so long. I allowed myself to sleep till noon yesterday, thinking I deserved a solid 11 hours of sleep after my long journey. But I was up by 9 this morning, so I don't succumb to jetlag. I haven't really noticed it too much so far.

Yesterday I spend the day sleeping and reorganizing my suitcases so I could actually find things in them, then we went into the city to have fish and chips for dinner (which I actually liked!) then went to the movies (only £3 because it was student night) to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Today I'm meeting Shahida for lunch at work then wandering around the city before meeting up again for dinner and drinks!

There are a lot more plans in the works, but there'll be time for that later.

Monday, August 23, 2010

the art of leaving

I would like to dedicate my first post to the man who checked my bags.

I had already paid an extra $50 to bring a second bag (you're only allowed one), each at a weight limit of 50lbs. Anything above that would result in a $150 fee! After packing and repacking all night, slowing convincing myself I don't need this jacket or that soap, my bags weighed in at an unfortunate 56lbs and 53lbs. So there we were, my mom and I, on the airport sidewalk -- toss the mac and cheese; keep the horn, but lose the mute; move some magazines to my carryon... in our struggle one of the street check-in men came over to see if he could help. He carried the bags over to his scale, now weighing 51lbs and 52lbs. A total of 3lbs over! So he says to me "normally I would say just put all the extra weight in one bag, so it's only $150, but I'll take care of you." He printed my boarding pass and sent me on my way without a single fee. So if that's any sign for what's to come this year, looks like it's all gonna work out!

Now I'm just sitting at the airport, broke down and bought internet because I have about 2 hours to kill...

I'll land in London at 7am local time (2am EST) and have about 5 hours to kill before catching my train to Edinburgh. The train is another 4.5 hours, getting me to Edinburgh around 6pm. Putting my total travel time at a grand total of 20 hours (25 if you count from when I left Athens). I think I'll sleep well.

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