A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland

Ghosts and Princes and Clans Re-united

sunny 18 °C

Last night (which seems forever ago already. On a side note, today is one of those, 'Ok, so where am I again?' days! I'm in York, England, but it doesn't feel like it yet!) I went on a ghost tour of the city, luckily AFTER it finished pouring rain. It wasn't actually all that exciting or haunting or anything though, but I met a really nice girl, Morgan, from Toronto, and her mom Laurie. We hung out on the trip and made pending plans to meet up in a couple of weeks on the beaches of Spain or southern France. I hope it all works out! Not too much to say about the ghost tour, it was interesting, but even me being the scaredy-cat that I am, would have liked to have a few hairs on my neck stand up on a ghost tour. But it really wasn't scary or anything! Went to bed early, and had a pretty good sleep despite staying in a room with 6 guys on a stag and 3 Irish girls who rolled in at 7:30 am. But that's what holidays are for!
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Today I got up, made arrangements at the train station, and followed the masses down the Royal Mile to the 2009 Gathering. And by masses, I mean 40,000 people. And who else would show up but Prince Charles, future King of England!!! Totally was like 20 feet away from him! No good pictures though, other than his backside, but Jasmine got AWESOME ones because of her inside information!!
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Jasmine, the highland mom I met at the Balloch highland games, and I met back up at the gathering, where her daughter was dancing. She told me not to tell, but she had gone on a pub crawl the night before with all the moms on her trip. She had an awesome night out, and happened to meet the royal guards for Prince Charles! The only single mom in the group, who was also a cop, got one of their numbers and was texting the guy all night/morning, and he told them exactly when and where to be when Prince Charles was coming in. How cool! You should SEE the pictures she got of him; close up face shots that were sooo funny, I told her to sell them online, they were hilarious! She was like 3 feet away from him, no kidding. Little brush with fame for the day!

Anyways, the gathering was amazing, and the weather cleared up perfectly for it. They had clan tents set up so I immediately found the MacInnes one and bought them out! I bought my dad and I t-shirts, a clan book, pin, button (which I sported all day) and a tie for my brother made out of the new tartan they had done up this year. They threw in a free clan pen because I'm such a good customer. Just trying to be a good clan member! It was really neat though meeting people with the same family history, and the main organizer even spelled his name like I did without the 'a'! Really cool. I believe we all came from the same thing anyways, but for some reason I felt extra related to these people, most of whom were from the states. Was a really cool experience! After that I wandered around and soaked up the amazing atmosphere at the games.
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I then went on to the highland dancing, literally fought some old lady for a chair (I so let her win; I'm such a good citizen) and sat and watched dancing all afternoon. As you can probably guess I was in heaven! It so made me want to go back home and either set up a dance school, get my judging certificate and judge competitions, or learn how to play bagpipes and pipe at competitions! I WILL do one of those 3 by the time I die :) OH and there was a little boy with the same kilt as me! Nobody ever has my kilt, and he was really cute so I took a picture!
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After a very quick 2 1/2 hour train ride (I was expecting 4 hours) from Edinburgh to York, I walked half an hour with my pack (quite a feat!) and am now writing this blog and drinking a glass of awesome 2.75 pound wine with ice :) life is good! AND there's a Thai spa across the road from my hostel, AND the bagpipes are still ringing in my ears. Should have an awesome sleep tonight on cloud 9!

OH and one more thought: I'm really proud to be from Canada, especially since coming over here. I've had people tell me I come from "the good land", and people are always interested in my home province and the landscapes and weather and anything Canadian. Whenever I'm in a group or tour and somebody asks where everbody's from and I say Canada, they always ask more about it. Whereas anywhere else, like the sates or Australia, they're like, "oh cool." and that's it, but when I say Canada they ask about it or talk about where they've been or say, "I've always wanted to go there!" It's really cool. Anyways, off to bed for me!

Posted by kmcveggie 14:43 Archived in Scotland Tagged events Comments (2)

Edinburgh-- Rain, Hills, and Pubs

rain 15 °C

SO! As some of you know Edinburgh was totally depressing me! The first couple of days here rained like crazy, so that made it hard to sight see, take pictures, and meet people outside of the weirdos staying at my crazy hostel. I did my nails, got myself into a book, called some friends and family, and just hung out for a couple of days (to make things less dramatic!) Edinburgh has definitely brought the homesickness out in me, but yesterday the sun came out and it all got better! I went on a free walking tour of the city, soy latte in hand, ready to start over in Edinburgh and take advantage of the good weather! I immediately met a girl named Tierney from California, and she saw her hostel mate Josh, from Australia. Really cool, incredibly NORMAL people, which was an awesome change from the crazies I've been running into! Very happy to have broken that little streak! Anyways the tour was awesome as usual, our guide Seth was really funny. We didn't learn too much about the history, but more about funny random things about the city. We passed by the Gilles Kirk, city chambers, Edinburgh Castle, the sight of the witch burnings, where the gallows and public hangings once took place, where J.K. Rowling wrote the first 2 Harry Potter books, a creepy cemetery, a school that inspired Hogwarts, and much more. It was 3 ½ hours long, and really informative. We learned where a lot of things originated, like sayings like “shit faced” and “the loo” and other things came from, as well as the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Really fun tour with some cool people.
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This is where J.K. Rowling wrote the first 2 books of Harry Potter. She was so poor that she would turn off her heat during the day and come here and drink tea all day and write. Now apparently she's worth more than the Queen!
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And this is the school that she could see from the window of the Elephant cafe that inspired Hogwarts.
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Then, Tierney, Josh and I got some amazing Thai lunch/dinner, and shopped for souvenirs along the Royal Mile. We all agreed to go on the pub crawl, organized by the same company as the walking tour, so I went back to my hostel to get ready for that. Met up with them at the Bank Hotel bar and began our pub crawl! Met a really cute couple, Justin and Kristin, from LA, and Senka, a girl from Croatia. I had an awesome night! Kristin was so funny, we were laughing all night. And Kenzie, the tour guide, was from Nova Scotia, so we chatted about St. FX University and showed the Americans that Canadians have west and east sides too (haha Kristin.. “You guys do that too?!”) Had quite a bit to drink, as these 3, very well groomed Italian guys kept buying shots for everyone, and drinks were less than 2 pounds all night. By well groomed, I mean they had Monroe piercing and had more heavily tweezed eyebrows than any girl I know. I almost asked what brand of tweezers they used. Really attractive guys, but I’m hoping they went home together because they definitely didn’t give off a hetero vibe! Anyways, once we got to the club, Justin, Kristin and I walked back towards my hostel. I’m so not into clubbing and dancing, even over here! But it’s all good and I had a great night!
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Today I walked down the Royal Mile to window shop, and walk Arthur’s Seat and see the Holyrood Palace. The palace is where the Queen stays when she comes to Scotland, so it was really nice and heavily guarded, even though I’m 99.9% sure she’s not there. I rounded the corner of the palace, took one look at Arthur’s seat, and headed right back up the mile. I was wearing thongs, a skirt, and had no idea that it was a huge hiking dormant volcano! I guess that was really naïve of me, but I just thought it was a nice walk lol. Might do it when I come back in August, we’ll see.
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That’s all for now, not too exciting. It is raining harder right now than I've ever experienced in my life! And it's the middle of July! But I'm gonna try and trek through it soon (I'm buying am umbrella first off!!) and head to Henderson's for dinner, supposedly an amazing veggie cafe, and then tonight I’m going on a ghost tour of the city, and tomorrow is the history making 'Gathering' highland games! Very, very excited about that. And tomorrow night I’m off to York, England! I hope that my hostel in York has free wifi, because I’m about done with paying for it!

Posted by kmcveggie 06:45 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (7)

Stirling: Home of Braveheart

rain 15 °C

Sorry I haven't been on here! It doesn't help when you have to pay for wifi at your hostel, and it only lasts for 24 hours till you have to pay again! Ridiculous! Anyways here goes!

Yesterday I literally flew out of my hostel in Glasgow. I had met a guy who I just didn't get a good vibe from so I'd been avoiding him the last day and didn't want to risk bumping into him in the lobby. I got into Stirling just before noon, checked my stuff, and went out to explore the town. And what do you think I found? A mall :) Of course I went shopping! I found a really good second hand book store, and I've been looking for a new book for a couple of days now, and I found like 4!! So I got 2, and one's a really big one, so I'm going to try and read it really fast and pick up another book before I go. They were super cheap too! So I was happy about that. I also got a couple new items of clothing and cute new shoes and.. oh you probably don't care that much! Haha. But I did find the CUTEST shirt that was WAY too big but it was only 5 pounds and is now my new sleeping shirt, check it out:
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Cute! I also found some great pre-made vegan food from Marks and Spencer, so I got meals to last me the next 2 days, and it means I get a break from cooking so I was all smiles! I went to an early evening showing of My Sister's Keeper, which was sooo good, I even cried! And if you know me you know I don't cry in movies, but I definitely was tearing up quite a bit. When I got back to the hostel I finally found some guys who spoke English: Wolf from Baltimore, John from New Zealand, Ian from Scotland, and Mike from Aussie, and we ended up going to 2 pubs, checking out some live music, and Ian was showing me some local beers.
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Didn't make it a late night though. Today I got up and the sun was shining and all was great! I headed out to the post office to mail some overdue post cards, then made my way up to Stirling Castle. And when I say 'up' I mean WAAAAY up. This friggen town is built on a hill, and man am I out of shape! I passed everyone on the way up, though, so it wasn't just me! Seriously it was quite the hike up the road to the Castle, but it was really cool. Was pretty pricey for what you get though, so I'm not sure I would do it again. It gave beautiful views of the whole city, however, so I guess it was worth it. And the gift shop was awesome! The tour didn't teach me much, and it was pouring rain and crazy-windy by the end, so I headed back to my hostel for a little break from the elements.
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OH I did learn something crazy: they are renevating the castle (I think they're always revovating castles) and they are putting in these tapestries that take a team of women 4 years, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day to make 1. And they've only done like 4 of like 20! Kind of crazy, and I don't think I appreciate them as much as some people would, but here's a photo.
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After warming up and drying off I caught the bus out to the William Wallace monument. The bus driver dropped me off and was like, in the typical Scottish way, "You just go 'round the corner, up the wee hill, and then right and you're there love!" I'm like ok thanks! RIGHT up a huge ass hill, and like a ten minute walk after that! Anyways, got there, paid the entrance fee, and the ladies like, "It's a ten minute up the wee path, dear, or you can take the courtesy shuttle." I'm like oh I'll just walk up the wee path. 20 MINUTES LATER I'm soaking wet from rain and sweat and I'm at the effing monument. And my calves were burning.
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So you get in and you walk up these teeeeny tiny stairs. The monument was built in the late 1800's, and it must have been built by very thin people because you could hardly fit 2 people on the stairs. If someone was coming up, the people going down had to stop and wait. And it was a loooong way up: 264 stairs! With 3 different stopping points on the way up. I couldn't help thinking that if you were a big person, you'd have to make everyone wait at the top so you could go up because there's no way you would fit!
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Anyways it was really interesting; it told the story of William Wallace, and a little bit about other noble Scottish men, and about the making of the monument. At the top is supposed to be an amazing view, but the weather and mist proved otherwise, and you had to focus more on not being blown away than how far out you could see.
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Tonight I went and saw Harry Potter. I'm really into the movie theater right now apparently! Hey, it's been a while! It was really cool because I'm pretty sure there were shots of some things I've seen over here. Pretty sure, anyways. And it was one of those moments when a) you realize you just saw a movie, for the second night, all by yourself! and b) you walk out of the theater (or, sorry, cinema) and forget you're in Scotland! That second part was really cool. And other than the brattiest little kids I've ever met and apart from me yelling at them halfway through (even though they barely understood my accent) the movie was awesome! I totally have the hugest crush on Ronald Weasley :)

That's another thing I forget to say in past posts: it's so funny the different words we use. Like chips are crisps and fries are chips, and if you go to get fries and ask for fries, some people won't even serve you until you say chips! And when I ask where the washroom is they look at me like I have four heads. I hate saying 'toilet' it's such an ugly word! Ian taught me that real ladies say 'the ladies' anyways so I'm gonna try and adopt that one. Also, it's a damn good thing I got new shoes before I left because they are saving my life! All I do is walk around, and here all I do is walk up ginormous hills! But I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow; something I've been waiting for forever! Hope everyone is well and that's in sunny in your part of the world! I'm very jealous! :)

Posted by kmcveggie 01:50 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (10)

Let the Games Begin!

semi-overcast 17 °C

TODAY WAS AWESOME! Went just under an hour's train ride away to a little town called Balloch, where there was highland games going on. Got there, wandered around the little shops, and a lady had a "Scotland 2009 Vancouver Island Dancers" coat on! I couldn't believe it. So we chatted and I actually ended up sitting with with a group of 60 highland dancers and their families from the island! Jasmine and her daughter Julia were from Port Alberni. How awesome is that?! The dancing was amazing; I was in heaven! I even saw a couple of people I recognized, and one guy, Issak Lisak, who I've danced against like a million times! Crazy small world we have. AND there were lots of boys in kilts! Haha they were old men, but still! Not too much else to say but I did take like a hundred pictures so here they are!
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Today I wasn't feeling 100% so I slept in quite late, and then walked around Glasgow and into the cathedral grounds and such. No good pictures, however! Anyways, off to Stirling tomorrow. The weather here is crap at the moment, but I'm in Scotland and it's supposed to rain, right?

Posted by kmcveggie 11:48 Archived in Scotland Tagged events Comments (5)

Glasgow and Beyond!

overcast 16 °C

WOW I've been a wee bit busy, as they say in Glasgow! But it's about time to update this baby and get on with things!

I got into Glasgow at about 1 yesterday afternoon after a really long train ride (first one, by the way!) and checked into my awesome hostel 5 minutes away from the train station, and was helped by a very cute Scottish reception boy! Haha, just a bit of fun but anyways the hostel is unreal; I'm on the 8th floor so I have a great view, awesome bar in the lobby, really good breakfast (for a change!), good, clean kitchen, nice rooms, I could go on! It's the EuroHostel, if anybody wants to stay here I highly recommend it!
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Anyways I quickly got changed and headed out to find Mono, an all-vegan cafe I've been dying to get to, and I hadn't eaten since 6 am so I was starved! I found the place easily and it was unbelievable! Super cute, suprisingly big and inexpensive, and a huge, all-vegan menu! It took me forever to decide because I actually had choices! I could choose off the WHOLE menu and that NEVER happens! I'm lucky if I have 2 choices! As a vegan, you eat whatever you can, and I'm never unhappy about that because I'm not a picky eater, but to have a full menu to choose off of was something else! All you vegans out there should be very jealous! Anyways, I got the staple: huge bean burger with lettuce, tomato, caramalized onion, mushroom, and melted vegan cheese with a salad and fries. It was unreal, like UNREAL lol. Serously, check out there menu here:
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very cool for me! I talked to the girls working there for a bit and it was so cool, definitely made me want to open one at home! THEN I saw a sign advertising that they needed a supervisor and I actually thought about it! How awesome would it be to live in Glasgow and manage an all-vegan cafe? Super awesome!! Still thinking about it! Will go back for another before I leave, for sure. THEN no sooner I walk across the street and right into a vegetarian pub! The 13th note is a mostly vegan bar serving pub food and vegan cocktails, with vegetarian options as well. I took a look at their menu and noticed that they had vegan ice cream! So of course I got some and chatted to the bartender. They have live gigs there every weekend and a few weekends ago they had a band playing until really late, and the band members went out to McDonalds and bought bangers (pretty sure that's what she said she had a really thick accent!) for all the fans in the room, and the staff actually made the band members take the food outside and eat it. HOW cool and bitchy is that?! Haha I loved it!
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Aftert that I just walked around and checked out the sights, shopping, etc. Also walked by the River clyde and got a couple of photos.
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Yesterday night my roomate, Maria from Argentina, and I got all dressed up and went downstairs to Osmosis, the bar attatched to the hostel. We met a couple of guys, a group of guys from Ireland with incredibly thick accents, and a solo guy, Sean, from Aussie. We were all getting kind of hungry so we set out for some food and found a japanese/indian place that had AWESOME veggie sushi, like baby corn rolls and veggie rolls with smoked tofu, mushrooms, avocado, etc. Yummy! This blog seems like it's all about food lol but to be fair I've hardly eaten out this whole trip, so I've been eating like a queen in Glasgow! Anyways after dinner (at 10 pm, everyone eats super late here) we found a bar called Common, serving 1 pound drinks that we just couldn't resist! And they were actually drinks like full bottles of anything (Bulmers, Bacardi Breezers, Stella, anything! Double highballs were 2 pounds!) We actually met up with Sean's roomates there Jordan and Jameer, both from California, totally by accident, and had fun drinking and dancing and admiring all the Europeans' dress and style. We also watched Jordon's crazy dance moves that unfortunately left the ladies running AWAY from him... haha. The 1 pound drinks made it easy for everyone to buy rounds; a round for 5 people was the cost of 1 drink anywhere else! So Maria and I had a couple of drinks then walked back to the hostel around midnight.
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This morning I was up bright and early for my full day tour to the Highlands, Loch Ness, Inverness, and various other cities on the way up. The tour was a little pricey, and I knew I would be spending most of my time on the coach, but I had to do it just to go up and see more of Northern Scotland. We drove up, stopping a couple of times for tea and pictures. We had a stop at the Three Sister Mountains in the highlands and there was a random bagpiper (really bad too lol) who's probably there everyday. Even though he was horrible, it made for some cool pictures, but hard to get just him in the picture as all the tourists were rishung towards him to get pictures. Very cool though!
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We drove through a bunch of little towns, and the tour guide was a really nice, funny, very scottish old man. He knew every little detail about every town, so that was good. We finally made it up to Loch Ness, with a stop to look at the remains of the Urquehart Castle, which was blown up when the family evacuated it way back when, so that no one else could live in it. That's one way of making sure nobody wrecks your house.. blow it up?!
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We took a little hour long cruise of Loch Ness and searched for Nessie with no such luck (boooo). Met 3 flight attendant from Dallas, Texas, who REALLY wanted to see her! They were cool girls though, and definitely made me want to be a flight attendant one day! They actually do charter flights, and they flew over a whole bunch of the golfers for the British Open, and they wait in Scotland until it's over then they take the golfers up to Canada for another tour, then they go home. So cool! They've been everywhere! Anyways, the boat cruise was nice, and then we were on the road again. We covered over 600 km's in one day, so it was a lot of driving, but beautiful scenery, and probably a once in a lifetime thing! The cafe that we stopped at for lunch had veggie french onion soup too, so I was a happy camper!
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Got back into Glasgow just before 8 and organized my trip to southern Loch Lamond tomorrow for the highland games! The girls at the tourist center were amazingly helpful, and saved me from going 2 hours further to a different games, so that was good! Very excited for tomorrow; probably gonna take it easy tonight; even though the bar literally right next to me is hopping, I might just go to bed! Happy birthday Dad (yesterday), I sent him a postcard 10 days early from Dublin and it got to him right on time! Hope everyone's well at home, and that you're having better July weather than I am! It rains a lot here as well, but I'm loving it :)

Posted by kmcveggie 14:25 Archived in Scotland Tagged train_travel Comments (3)

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