Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

It's been an amazing day full of adventure here in Edinburgh.

In short, I ate a full Scottish breakfast, toured the Bank of Scotland Museum, went on a whiskey distillery tour, visited St. Giles Cathedral, climbed the 250 meter mountain/hill Arthur's Seat, ate a delicious sandwich, and visited the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter.


I began my day with a hearty breakfast cooked to order at my bed & breakfast. The full Scottish Breakfast included sausages, bacon, eggs, haggis, tomato, beans, toast, porridge, tea, orange juice, and apple juice. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have such a hearty breakfast to start off my day. I ate it all up, and headed down into town.


The Scottish Breakfast


After that filling breakfast, I rode the bus into town, and swung into the Bank of Scotland Museum. It was incredible, with an impressive display of artifacts, including a display of shiny copper banknote print blocks. I enjoyed browsing through the free-admission museum as my food digested. The staff were also very friendly and knowledgable!



Old Bank Keys

After the bank, I ventured up the hill to see another of Scotland's treasures, its whiskey. I had the whiskey tour highly recommended by many, so I paid my fee and ventured into the building to explore the world of whiskey. Luckily, my tour group was really small, (only an English couple and myself) so we got a great deal of attention and care from our guide. After a quick introduction to the process of actually making whiskey, we made our way to a tasting room, where she explained the four most important whiskey production regions in Scotland and the various influences geography have on the character of the whiskey. We then were able to try one type of whiskey from a region of our choice. As we enjoyed our selection, we moved into the room housing the extensive collection of whiskey bottles in the museum. It was an astonishing sight, with the beautifully lit shelves filling a massive room from the floor to ceiling with whiskey bottles. The museum bought the collection from a Brazilian whiskey enthusiast. The collection contains over 3384 bottles, of which none have been opened. After touring the collection room, we finished our tour in the tasting room, where we were each given a small portion of each of the four regions' whiskey to try, as well as some still Scottish Water to add to the whiskey to taste. It was an incredible experience.


The Tour Whiskeys


One Portion of the Collection



Nice “Books”


Expensive Bottle Decorated With Real Silver


Each Chess Piece Contains Whiskey… Checkmate?



My Tasting Set

Next, I walked down the Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral. It was a glorious Gothic-style building with amazing stained glass and interiors. Absolutely stunning, inside and out!

St. Giles

Interior of St. Giles


Impressive Organ


Exquisite Celtic Cross


Next, I made my way down to the corner of the town and began my ascent of Arthur's Seat, a massive hill/tiny mountain that towers over the city. I took a semi-unconventional route up, which was quicker, had fewer people, but was more vertical (read difficult) and unpaved for most of it. It was awesome, and I enjoyed taking pictures along the way. The view when I finally clambered up over the last few rocks to make it to the peak (at 250 meters above sea level) was absolutely breathtaking! I took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed soaking in the amazing view. The day was amazingly clear and I could see for miles, making the climb all the more worth it.


Early Shot, the High Point is Arthur's Seat


Not Sure If I'll Make It


Ice on the Path Looked Like a River Stopped in Time


Nearly Halfway


View From the Seat

Another View




See For Miles


Edinburgh Far Below



After all of that climbing, I needed some refreshment. Luckily, a sandwich store on my way into town vanquished my hunger, with an amazing Cajun Chicken Panini, tomato basil soup, and crisps. Now that my stomach stopped its whining, I could move onto finding the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the Elephant House. JK Rowling wrote much of the first book here, where she famously could barely afford one cup of coffee. (She doesn't have that problem anymore.) It was wonderful, and while the place didn't play up its famous importance besides a few articles and postcards, the bathrooms were a shrine to Rowling. Graffiti from fans covered the walls. Some were funny, some were strange, but some were deeply moving. It's amazing how that one series has connected a generation worldwide. It was so great to see where it all started. Finally, I went home to my B&B, exhausted but happy with an amazing day.





The Elephant House


Magically Delicious Cocoa


The Deathly Hallows


Touching Quote.


British Museum, Yet Again

British Museum, Yet Again

After a morning spent organizing and sorting out details, I made my way over to the British Museum for a quick visit before class. I ended up spending my time on only two artifacts, but it was time well spent. Today, I looked at the Rosetta Stone and an Easter Island Head.

I first examined the Easter Island statue. It was immense. Even though I have previously seen pictures of such statues, and even passed by this particular one to get to the Asian exhibits, it wasn't until I stopped and really looked at this statue at its feet that I realized how impressive and beautiful it is. It is so simple, yet elegant, without superfluous carvings or details. Just a timeless, simple stone face, watching for eternity. It also amazes me how little we know about these statues. They are famous around the world, yet no one has much, if any, information on their origin or meaning. It's so incredible knowing that this mystery just sits in front of us, a forgotten people with a forgotten culture.

The Rosetta Stone is another amazing relic, one that unlocked what could have been a mystery for ages, the secret of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. This single slab of stone, marked in three languages and discovered by chance, was the key to understanding the Egyptians. In a world of “what ifs” where the Rosetta Stone remained buried and hidden, one can only imagine the frustration of the historians and archaeologists who could see and record the hieroglyphs, but could never understand their meaning. Another whole civilization would have been lost in the sea of time, leaving only the monuments and tombs as a beacon of their existence.

It's always interesting to reflect on our own time after seeing these incredible relics. What will survive of us? Thousands of years from now, what will the relics be? Will the generations that follow us be amazed by the primitive communication devices we carry? Will the iPhone sit in a glass case for viewing? Or will it be something else? Perhaps a Twinkie, still wrapped in its plastic? (…or perhaps not anymore, in light of Hostess closing down.) No matter what the object is, it would be interesting to see what little pieces of our modern world survive.


Easter Island Statue


The Rosetta Stone


Detail of the Rosetta Stone


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.


Visiting the British Museum

Visiting the British Museum

Today, I decided to pay a visit to an old friend, one we haven't seen in awhile, The British Museum.

I made the Southeast Asia collections my focus for this visit. The British Museum has some phenomenal religious artifacts, especially in regards to their collection of Buddhist works. I roamed the exhibits, trying to capture the beauty and grandeur of these ancient pieces. They were all so incredible and interesting. It was an absolute treat to explore this section of the museum and to rediscover the grandness of the British Museum. Pictures below…


Ivory Buddha


Ravana, a demon from Hindu mythology




Stone Buddha Image

Large Stone Buddha


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!




Tea Done Right


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




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!


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.


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.


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!


Pictures below…


The Women's Library



My lunch


Pilau Rice


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!


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.


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.


Enjoy the pictures below!


The Station

221b Baker Street


The Front Parlor


The Tools of the Trade

Pipe Collection






I am a Winner


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!








The Travel Day!

The Travel Day!

Today was a day of planes, trains, and automobiles! (Ironically, in reverse order. Also, with some buses for added flavor!)

Our morning began at 6:45, when we left Gocce Di Capri in a van driven by our host, Marco. A short time later, we were departing the Sorrento train station for Naples. From Naples we caught another train to Casserta, where we had a quick coffee and sandwich break at the railway cafe. Then, another train took us to Bari.

We spent some time in Bari walking around, looking at the sea, and enjoying our final bites of Italian pizza and gelato. I also met an Italian pug. (Pugs always have great names, and this one, Carolina, was no exception.)

We finally boarded the shuttle to the Bari airport and made it with plenty of time to spare. We chatted with some of the flight attendants as we were being seated, and got moved to extremely spacious exit row seats! (A little extra politeness and smiles always pay off somehow!)

Finally, a few buses later brought us home to our flat.

We did it! Italy accomplished!


Also, Happy birthday, Mom! You are the best!

Bari Boats



The Last Gelato


Carolina the Pug



Comfy in my exit row!!!