Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

After a nice, long bus journey from London (nine hours!), I arrived in Edinburgh! I had a few hours to kill before I could check into my hotel, so I began wandering around the city as the sun began rising. Edinburgh is absolutely picturesque and very walkable. So began my day's adventures!

 

I started by making my way down the main road towards the castle on a craggy patch of rock that dominates the city. As I climbed the hill, I began to realize just how excellently strategically placed the castle was. In other words, it was a steep, arduous climb, especially with a backpack and duffel bag on my back.

Eventually, I made it to the top and was greeted by a spectacular view. The castle was simply magnificent. I made my way into the castle, paid for a ticket and audio guide, and explored every nook and cranny in the castle. I saw the views from the various embankments, the old cannons, the famous one o'clock gun, the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, old prison keeps, a war museum, a small chapel, and tons (quite literally, I suppose…) of incredible stone architecture. I also learned a great deal of Scottish history from the audio guide, including the stories of the Scottish/English wars and truces, and the castle's varioussieges and rebuildings. It was fascinating, and the history major in me was in pure heaven. The photographer in me was also thrilled, as the high vantage point gave me a ton of great shooting opportunities.

After the castle, I made my way down to a Christmas festival and enjoyed a brunch of a burger and a small piece of dark chocolate covered marzipan for dessert. There were a bunch of fun stands, and it was great to browse and see the attractions set up for the festival, including a Ferris wheel!

Eventually, I made my way to my lodgings, a little bed and breakfast (NB's Bed & Breakfast) twenty-five minutes by walking from the city center. I made it there, and was greeted by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff. They made sure that I was settled nicely into the room and then helped advise me on a bunch of various things to do. (The staff and this B&B are phenomenal. If you are ever in Edinburgh, I highly recommend it. They even upgraded my room for free! Also, funnily enough, another one of the Eric Mistry's of the world has stayed here before. I guess it's just where Eric Mistry's like to stay when they come to Scotland.)

I showered, got cleaned up, and headed (on the staff's advice) to the local coffee shop, Piece Box, for coffee and a supper. It was a phenomenally cute, really friendly place with great staff, excellent coffee, and delicious food! I got myself a mocha and the goat cheese and chorizo sandwich with red pepper relish on wheat bread, served with potato salad. It was a great way to cap off my day! I then retired to my room, relaxed and planned out my day for tomorrow! Stay tuned! All in all, a good day. Pictures galore below.

 

The Castle on the hill.

 

Up at the Top

 

Self-Portrait

 

King and Guardian

 

 

The Famed Edinburgh “One O'Clock Gun”

A gun has been fired from the northern ramparts at 1 PM every day except for Sundays and Christmas since the mid 1800's to provide an audio signal of the time to the ships in the harbor. Why one o'clock and not noon? According to the audio guide, “The Scots, being frugal, decided that one shot per day was cheaper than twelve.”

The Northern View

 

 

Pistols and Surgical Tools inside the War Museum

 

Display of Prosthetics Through the Years at the War Museum

 

The Southern View

 

Box Made By French Prisoner of War.

Prisoners of war contained in the castle could make various items from the meager everyday items in their cells to sell to townspeople every week in exchange for food, tobacco, and stationary to write home on. This particular example is made out of STRAW!

 

Incredible Stained Glass in the Chapel

 

View From the Top of the Castle

 

Christmas Market

 

Ferris Wheel and Scott Monument

 

My Cozy Room

 

My Supper!

 

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Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

Today, I visited Hampstead and got to enjoy a nice bit of nature just outside the city.

 

I began my morning by visiting with Professor Prevost about my paper at her flat in Hampstead, then enjoyed some great conversation with Professor Guenther as well. After all of that, I made my way to Hampstead Heath, a massive park right outside of Hampstead.

Though it was pretty chilly, I was well-protected from the elements. I walked all around the park, seeing lots of beautiful paths, and catching some great shots of some of the birds. It was a very hilly area, but I was rewarded with climbing by a spectacular view of London from one of the higher hills.

After my adventures around the Heath, I decided to warm up with a nice cup of warm cider from a nearby pub. It was nice and toasty, and I enjoyed reading the news in a comfortable armchair as I waited. Later tonight, I will head via bus to Edinburgh, Scotland. Stay tuned! Pictures below.

Seagull

 

Swans

 

The Fields

 

Bench with a Tree-Window

London from the Heath

Trekking through the Forest

 

Hot Cider Reward

 

Southbank Christmas Market and More!

Southbank Christmas Market and More!

Today was a wonderfully fun-filled day!

The day started with a fun trip to the Southbank Christmas Market, a fun menagerie of food and craft stands of the bank of the Thames. Although the weather was the London specialty of breezy, drizzly, and grey, we had quite a fun time exploring the various stands and seeing the entertainment. I picked up some roasted peanuts and cashews, which were scrumptious. I also couldn't resist the amazing cheese from one of the vendors. I had to get this spectacular cheddar with hot peppers embedded into it.

After the Christmas Market, I went to the Southbank Centre to check out an awesome exhibit on photojournalism. There were some absolutely stunning pictures on display, and it really made me reflect on all of the major events of 2012. There were some breathtaking shots from the anti-Gaddafi protests that I couldn't stop staring at. It was an excellent exhibit. Another exhibit at the nearby national theatre featured stunning landscape pictures from the United Kingdom, which were some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen in my life.

After all of that, I came home, went to the gym, visited my favorite pub with my flatmates, then cooked myself a fun dinner. It consisted of a batch of quinoa, a dish of fried shrimp with egg, some wilted spinach in balsamic vinegar, a garlic cheddar roll, and a small portion of my newly-acquired cheese! All in all, a delectable meal to top off a busy day!

 

Why, yes, that man is playing a tuba/flamethrower combination!

 

Absolutely Delicious

 

Cheese? Please!

 

Happy to see the exhibit!

One of the many displays.

 

Dinner, Mistry-Style.

 

British Money

British Money

Today was a pretty routine day (besides an amazing care package from Emily- THANK YOU!), so I decided to write about one of the more interesting aspects of daily life that I've come to enjoy: British coins.

A good deal of purchasing happens with bills (£5, £10, £20, £50, etc.), but a ton of important purchases happen with coins. In lieu of a £1 bill, the English use a coin. This round, golden coin is always being used for all sorts of things. Not only do you use it to pay for small purchases, but it is also used to unlock the key from public lockers. I always try to keep a few on me, because the pound coin is the most useful change to have.

There are quite a few other coins. Eight to be precise. Some are useful, others are annoying and used as quickly as possible to get rid of them. In order of value:

  1. The Two Pound Coin: while one of the largest and heaviest coins, this is undoubtably the coolest and most valuable. It has a silver disc inside a golden border. A few of these go a long way.
  2. The One Pound Coin: small, heavy, golden. This coin is used for everything. It is pretty much perfect. I wish we used the dollar coin as frequently. It's better than bills when you get used to it.
  3. The Fifty-Pence Coin: larger than all the coins, but thinner. Has seven distinct sides. Very useful in combination with the One Pound Coin.
  4. The Twenty-Pence Coin: Small, extremely useful. Also has seven sides.
  5. The Ten-Pence Coin: Round, about the size of a US quarter. Pretty useless compared to the Twenty-Pence Coin. (For a US equivalent, think of nickels to dimes.)
  6. The Five-Pence Coin: Tiny, silver. Relatively useful, but not terribly practical to carry in large enough quantities.
  7. The Two-Pence Coin: Nearly as large as the Fifty-Pence Coin, Copper, very beautiful. Also, totally useless. It is utterly impractical and I try to get rid of them as soon as possible.
  8. The Penny: Picture the US penny. Switch in Queen Elizabeth for Lincoln, change up the tails' side image. Used occasionally.

 

It has been pretty fun getting to learn a new currency. The best way I found to learn practically and pressure-free was to do self-checkout at the grocery and feed in the exact change if possible. It was a fun challenge, taught me the different coins rather quickly, and also let me get rid of those silly Two-Pence coins. It should be pretty interesting adapting back into the US dollar, but I'm excited at the same time. Currency is one of those things that one seldom thinks about unless traveling, and its fascinating to see how it shapes and reflects the lifestyle of its respective culture.

 

 

The £1 Coin

The Coins (L->R: £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, 1p)

 

The Coins Again.

 

Superb Sunday Shenanigans

Superb Sunday Shenanigans

What a day! In short: woke up, gym, home, breakfast, Bricklane Market, Monument, St. Paul's, fancy Afternoon Tea, home! In more detail…

 

After a nice, long workout at the gym and a hearty breakfast of eggs on beans and rice, I joined Chrissy, Lauren, and Caitlin for a jaunt to Bricklane Market, my absolute favorite London market. It's a magical place filled with amazing food, creative clothing, and some other astounding goods. I started out the market with a steamed bun, and it was delicious! Next, I made my way to a stand selling leather briefcases, satchels, and purses. I have been waiting for months to purchase a briefcase from this stand. I have searched everywhere that I have traveled for something else, but nothing compared in price, quality, or beauty. I finally decided to get it, and I could not be happier. It's perfect, and definitely something I'll treasure for life. Check it out:

Well Worth The Wait…

Next, we browsed around the various clothing sellers, whose wares varied from vintage to designer to somewhere in between. I swung by the vendor who I had bought my leather jacket from, as he always has nice, but inexpensive items, and found an absolute steal. In a effort to reduce inventory, he was selling some items for only five pounds. Including… a perfect pinstriped navy suit. I tried it on and it fit me like it was tailored for me. Another market win!

Happy with that success, we made our way back to the food area, where I got some Thai food. (A mixed plate that included green curry and panang curry on rice!) It was delicious!

Next, we made our way via tube to the Monument! I had been before, but Chrissy was visiting, so I figured it was definitely something worth seeing. 311 steps later, we emerged onto the platform. It was stunning. We watched the sun go down (by 4:30) and then made our way down the stairs yet again.

We then walked to St. Paul's, which was gorgeous and illuminated at night. We walked around it, got some pictures, then made our way via tube to meet up with a larger group for afternoon tea!

Afternoon tea was a delight! We each received our own teapots and a range of finger sandwiches, scones, and little desserts. It was a wonderful way to top off the day! We shared plenty of tea and conversation.

Finally, we made it home. All in all, a good day.

 

Steam Buns at the Market

 

Thai Curries!

On Top of the Monument!

 

View from the Monument

 

Tower Bridge View from the Monument

 

The Shard and the Sunset

 

Illuminated St. Paul's

Tea Time!

 

Adriyel Enjoying Tea!

 

Nibbles

 

Tea Done Right

 

Red Velvet

Red Velvet

Today was pretty routine and quiet, except for a phenomenal play in the evening.

 

Tonight we saw Red Velvet at the Tricycle Theatre. It featured the story of Ira Aldridge, a talented young black actor in London in 1833. He took over the role of Othello after another actor, Edmund Kean, collapsed on stage and was unable to complete the season. It was a beautifully moving performance, and the actor playing Aldridge was absolutely phenomenal. We saw his transformations throughout the play, and he was entirely believable, especially in the emotional scenes. I was thrilled to have seen the play, and to have yet another London theatre experience!

 

Advertising for the Theatre

Poster Outside the Theatre

 

Terrific Tuesday: London Style

Terrific Tuesday: London Style

Today was an action-packed day! To show Georgia and Natisha the full London experience, we went to the London Eye, looked at Westminster and Westminster Abbey from the outside, took pictures at a classic phone booth, and even ate some awesome fish and chips!

 

We began the morning with a tube ride to Westminster. I chose our exit from the station carefully, so we would emerge directly below Big Ben, an awe-inspiring sight especially after emerging from the Underground. We then made our way over to the London Eye, bought tickets, and headed on up to our car in the massive Ferris wheel. It was amazing to see London stretched out below us for as far as the eye could see. The city looked absolutely beautiful in the morning light. Though it was a bit pricy, the Eye was absolutely worth it!

Next, we walked over to around Westminster and Westminster Abbey to see the exteriors. Both were beautiful as usual, but Westminster Abbey was also surrounded by rows of crosses and paper poppies to commemorate the veteran's sacrifices. It was moving to see the thousands upon thousands of miniature memorials.

On a lighter note, we then swung into a phone booth near the tube station to take another quintessential London tourist photo. After all of our Westminster adventuring, we were extra-hungry, so we ventured to The Golden Hind (currently holding the crown for best fish and chips in London in my book) for lunch of fish and chips with mushy peas, tartar sauce, and vinegar. It was as good as ever, and the massive portions of white, flaky fish and perfectly made sides reminded me why this was a great place for fish and chips.

Finally, I headed to class and the gym, per usual. I then made Mac and cheese for dinner, which we all enjoyed as usual. It was so fun to have an extra-packed house!

 

All in all, another great London day! Pictures below!

 

Walking to the Eye

 

In the Eye

 

Westminster from the Eye

 

Pods over London

On Top of the City

 

Hanging Out above the City

 

Another View of Westminster

 

Westminster, Again…

Hello Ben!

 

Westminster Abbey

 

Remembrance

 

The Classic London Shot

 

Calling Everyone

 

Fish and Chips

 

 

Fish and Chips : detail

 

Libraries, Indian Food, and Skyfall!

Libraries, Indian Food, and Skyfall!

It was another busy day in London for yours truly!

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My day began with a trip to The Women's Library, a massive collection of books and archives focused on women's history. We spent the morning exploring our research options, touring the facility, and examining some example pieces from the archives. I am really excited to have access to such a first-rate resource, especially as I begin to do some independent research for my class on British Feminism.

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After the museum, I meandered down to Bricklane for lunch. I ate at Sweet & Spicy again, and enjoyed a lunch special with lamb curry, chana, some pilau rice, a puri, a naan, and some pickled mango. It was very delicious and an amazing treat.

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Finally, I went to go see Skyfall, the latest James Bond film. It was AMAZING. I will definitely be seeing it again when I get home. I particularly enjoyed seeing how many of the locations I recognized, as a good portion of the movie takes place in London. It was pretty fun to see the places I pass every day on the big screen!

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Pictures below…

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The Women's Library

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My lunch

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Pilau Rice

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Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum

Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum

Well, dear readers, I managed to cross an item off of the London Bucket List… I visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum, conveniently located at 221b Baker Street. For a Holmes aficionado like myself, this was an absolute must!

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I rode the tube to the Baker Street station and followed the maps until I found the museum. After waiting in a short queue, I was finally let into the museum. It was a very well-done experience. Although relatively small, the museum packs in tons of memorabilia, from Sherlock's pipes and tools to Watson's medical supplies, to “trophies” from some of Holmes' famous solved cases.

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I toured the house rather extensively, seeing each of the rooms twice and drinking in the experience. It was incredible to see such an amazing literary character brought to life by the artifacts of the museum. The creators managed to craft a believable home from the time period and stock it as Sherlock and Watson would have.

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Enjoy the pictures below!

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The Station

221b Baker Street

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The Front Parlor

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The Tools of the Trade

Pipe Collection

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Sherlock!

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Moriarty!

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I am a Winner

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Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

 

Remember, remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason, why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

Today was the fifth of November, also known as Guy Fawkes Day.

This day celebrates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, an assassination attempt by Catholics on the Protestant monarch, James I. Guy Fawkes and his compatriots attempted to plant a bomb and blow up Parliament, specifically the House of Lords, during the State Opening, killing James I. However, a few hours before the event, an anonymous letter revealed the plot to the authorities. They found Guy Fawkes guarding 36 barrels of Gunpowder in the cellarsbeneath Parliament. (It has become tradition for the the cellars to be searched every Fifth of November since then…)

We celebrated by attending a fireworks display by Southwark. It was a massive turnout, with thousands crowding the park. We enjoyed becoming a part of yet another English patriotic event. It was slightly surreal to be in the midst of such a large crowd celebrating such a strange event in history. It is always interesting to be an outsider looking in on English culture, and this was no exception.

Speaking of surreal, outside-in experiences… I was in the locker room at the gym today when the news on the television began focusing on the American Presidential election. That was strange enough to see from a non-American perspective. Even stranger was where the reporter was based currently… Des Moines, Iowa. Nice to see my birthplace, but totally strange to see it on a Monday morning in London. I'm excited to watch the election coverage tomorrow, especially the British channels.

 

Pictures (and video!) below!