Friday, September 7, 2012

Fireworks, The Hollies and Other Happenings

It has officially been four days of wonderful craziness. Between changing in a random B and B's garden to feeling like we're falling into the sky, we have surely adventured.

Leith, Calton Hill, Fireworks
Five days ago, my parents and I ventured into Leith, the seaside, port town part of Edinburgh. It used to be its own city, but is currently a part of Edinburgh proper. We walked around the town some, and ended up at Teuchter's Landing for a bite to eat. It was a cozy little place that was an original docking site for traders back in the day. I decided after that meal that I have definitely had my fair share of fish 'n chips and that I have no future desires to bombard my intestines with that much grease. As much of a grease lover that I am, the fish 'n chips may have been over the limit (in such a good way, of course!).

Later in the day, we climbed up Calton Hill (somewhat equivalent to Roman Ruins in a way) in order to watch the fireworks that marked the end of the Edinburgh Festival. The fireworks came from where the castle was (in the middle of the city), and practically half the city was atop Calton in order to watch 'em! It was quite the event; most people had come prepared, blankets to sit on, wine and scotch to drink, hats to wear. We, us odd Americans in the crowd, froze our little tuchuses off without any booze or blankets to keep us warm. The fireworks did provide ample distraction, thankfully.

I must say, by the way, the fireworks over here are much more elaborate and coordinated than ours back home. It was also very interesting-- the locals knew to bring along with them a radio so that they could listen to the music that was being played at the Castle that went in accordance with the fireworks. Luckily we had a friendly local nearby us who was friendly enough to share their bit of home with us.

Arthur's Seat, Spoon, Centotre
The next day, we decided to do the intense hike up Arthur's Seat. Probably equivalent to one of our hikes in Sedona, AZ, we were more or less prepared for the intensity. Of course, somehow, there were plenty of people hiking up in flats, sandals, and whothehellknowswhatelse that does not usually make sense for hiking a huge hill (made by volcanoes). At any rate, the views atop Arthur's Seat were simply stunning; I love being in this city that is literally teeming with beauty all over the place.

Upon first arriving here, I was somewhat concerned I'd have the reaction I had when I visited Iceland earlier this summer; the bleakness, cold, and cloudiness would kind of overtake my ability to notice the rest of what's around me. Luckily, Edinburgh is full of parks, it's not actually THAT cold all the time (just a lot of the time), and the buildings, monuments, churches, everything has beauty in so many different ways.

After Arthur's Seat, we sat down to a wonderful late lunch at the Spoon Cafe. This is a place I will definitely be returning to once the semester starts. The chairs, tables, plates, jugs, cups, lamps, everything seems to have been purchased from an antique or estate sale; none of it quite matches but it all looks quaint and fits very nicely in this cafe. They also serve fantastic food that will be hard to avoid. ALSO, it's apparently the place where J.K. Rowling wrote much of Harry Potter when she lived in Edinburgh. It had a different name back then, but still. I like the thought of that.

More crazy running around the city ensued after lunch, and we ended the day with a late dinner at Centotre  (pronounced Chen-to-trey, as in the number 103 in Italian). This place had phenomenal chefs and sourced all of their food locally, except for some of their food which they sourced from independent places in Italy (which they had a map of on their menu--where all the food came from). It was a very warm, welcoming place where we had a very tasty Italian dinner and dessert; fancy and delicious.

England Driving: Hawick, Oxford
After all of this Edinburgh craziness, of course we had to push our limits even more by getting in a car, driving on the wrong side of the road, for a full 8 hours on our way down to Oxford. The original plan of taking a bike ride in the middle of this long day got scrapped after a tad bit of an accident getting out of Edinburgh. Once everything was settled with that, we wanted to stop in Hawick, which is one of the original producers of wool goods in Scotland. Sure enough, it was full of factories and mills for wool goods. We were able to pop into an active one and bought some of their goods straight above where they were made! That was very exciting and was a successful stop.
We didn't get into Oxford until about 9PM that night, but luckily were able to find a fantastic Bengladeshi place to eat and fill our stomachs.

The next morning we explored all around Oxford; it is a beautifully old city full of college students and plenty of spots where we felt like we were in an episode of Masterpiece Mystery (the Inspector Lewis and Inspector Morse series, of course). Many beautiful pictures of old churches, libraries, quadrangles. Definitely a place where I could see myself doing a Rhodes scholarship or simply pursuing a graduate degree. Although I do wonder about the stereotype of the preppiness that exists amongst the students...

England Driving: Bristol, Bath, Pentsford
After Oxford, we went to our next stop: Bristol and Bath. We have come away from this crazy trip with quite the anecdote.
Arriving in Bath, we set out to find our Bed and Breakfast called The Hollies. Following an "address" (it was just a name and a street) from something printed out from the internet, and after much turning around and turning around again, we finally pulled into The Hollies. It was marked simply by a sign on a gate in the driveway that said "The Hollies" and "AA 4 star rating". We pulled in, went around the garage, through the garden to the house (it was offset from the road). Their garden, was one of the most beautiful gardens; overflowing with roses, tiger lilies, and many other rich smelling flowers and plants. The house, Georgian architecture, looked exactly like the pictures on the internet. It had a nice little area by the garage with a birdbath and bench, as well. We knocked on the front door, hoping someone would be home. Nobody answered. Nor did they answer our fifth phone call to them.

After going in to the local pub at the corner to use the restroom and get my Dad a drink, my Mom and I ventured around the area to the other Bed and Breakfast across the street, and another one across the other street, knocking on doors. Once we came to see that nobody had any idea where the owners were or where they could be, we had a decision to make: either drive to Bristol to meet Mom's colleague in our travelling clothes, or, to change in the garden of The Hollies. So, why wouldn't we change in a Bed and Breakfasts' garden? Personally, I thought it smelled very nice, and it was a very pleasant experience.

Having changed and smelled all of the flowers in the garden, we officially realized that the owners were not going to be there any time soon, and that we had a problem. We had luggage packed into the backseat of the car, and, of course, we were about to have to fit 2 more people back there upon picking up my Mom's colleague and her boyfriend. So, off we go, dragging our luggage (including my Dad's computer bag, with the computer) behind the garage, through the garden, and next to the front porch of the house, praying that it won't rain. We call the house again, leave another message letting them know that we left our luggage for them to bring in once they got there, and for them to call us.

We make our way to Bristol and pick up our dinner buddies. They show us a few beautiful sights in Bristol (including a majestic suspension bridge over a gorge) and then we head off to an extremely tasty (and very fancy) dinner at The Muset. About halfway through our starter (cornish fish soup with samphire), Mother gets a phone call. She answers it, and attempts to understand a British accent. So, essentially, she is listening to a bunch of mumble jumble on the other end and simply nods her head. However, she does pick something up from the other end; upon ending the conversation, she informs us that she just spoke to the owner of The Hollies. In Pentsford. Not Bath. Pentsford, 10 miles south of Bath. Totally different town. We had left our luggage at the wrong Hollies.

Amid our sheer bewilderment, we all put on smiles and laughed some at our slightly odd and ridiculous situation. I needed to hear this for myself; that the Hollies we left our luggage at is in no way connected to The Hollies at which we were booked for the night. It seemed inconceivable that this could be the case; how could there be two places within such short distance of each other with the same offthebeatenpath name? I called back the person who informed us that they were not the owners with whom we left our luggage, and found that, in fact, they had no idea another Hollies B & B existed! She found it inconceivable that we would make that mistake, like we were the dumbest Americans she's ever dealt with. Hah. She was also somewhat unthrilled at the idea that we would be coming in around 11/1130 it was "much past her bedtime".

Somehow we made it through dinner without too much worry or bother over the fact that our luggage was in a random B &B's yard, and we made our way back to The Hollies in Bath. There, we thankfully found all of our luggage untouched, unscathed, and just where we left it. Of course, finding the new Hollies was a trip in and of itself (we drove past it about 5 times before calling them for the third time trying to understand what they were saying). We learned at this new Hollies that their name was not as uncommon as we had thought; there were two "The Hollies" within Pentsford alone! (but only theirs the B &B)

All in all, we made it to The Hollies in Pentsford (which had an amazingly beautiful garden and yard leading down to a creek and rolling hills), stayed the night, and in the morning, we made off for Glastonbury!

England Driving: Glastonbury
Glastonbury was a perfect little town; quite the hippie (and, when I say hippie, I mean hippie. Straight from the 60s/70s) town full of magic shops, fair trade shops, incense, spiritual healing centers, and coffeeshops. It was quite the eclectic bunch of people and places within this town, and it felt somewhat like we were in a movie about a quaint, offkilter place in England. That's Glastonbury.

We climbed the Tor (pronounced tour to us Americans) which gave a beautiful look-out onto Glastonbury and beyond. From there we could see the hundreds of farms, fields, forests, sheep, and horses residing among Southern England. An interesting thing happened when I was standing up after finishing the picnic; my feet were on the downward slope of the hill, and I pushed up onto my hands and then looked through my legs-- down the hill, down into the town, and down to the horizon. Once my vision hit the horizon, it legitimately felt like I could fall into the sky. Everything was completely upside down and I was going to fall into the sky. Mother tried this with me for a while, as well. We continued to laugh hysterically for a good 5 minutes while doing it. I'm positive most of the people on the Tor must've thought we did drugs with some people in Glastonbury (based on the looks and feel of the town, it would be totally understandable). But, hopped up on ridiculous happiness, we were doing alright.

While it wasn't quite as tall as Arthur's Seat, an old man with a Jeopardy-like mind stopped us on our way down, letting us know that he was pondering the fact that if we had started at sea-level (600 meters lower), climbing the Tor would be equivalent to climbing the Great Pyramid in Egypt. We proceeded to have a 20 minute discussion with him about the history of the finding of America, where rock comes from to build the fences in the UK, the history of the Midwest. It was quite informative and was a pleasant addition to our already pleasant day.

Sadly, the pleasant day had to get shoved into our little car and make its way back up to Edinburgh. 8 hours. On the wrong side of the road.

Back in Edinburgh
Doing all of this on the wrong side of the road, listening to an array of accents from Scottish, to Northern to Southern, I will say that it was a learning experience for living within a different culture and society. Going with the flow of the place makes for much less stress and many more things can be learned along the way than trying to force anything or impede on the being of a place and people.

Oh! Before I forget, I want to definitely give a shout-out to the Hampshire College Women's Soccer team (and Men's team); the Black Sheep are going to dominate against Paul Smiths College and have a ton of fun doing it. Yeahhh Black Sheep!

Today it was nice to be back in Edinburgh, explore the variety of shops near where I'll be living, see the Castle up close and in person, wander through the Kandinsky to Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery, and listen to some fantastic bagpipe playing. I have set my sights on a variety of places I need to visit, but, for now, I need to probably get some sleep to prepare for moving in tomorrow! (although, I may be more excited about going to the farmer's market at this point...oops). No, definitely excited for moving in, setting up my room, putting up the sunny pictures of the Valley I took while I was there, and meeting my flat mates! The journey might actually really begin tomorrow...

Till next time,



  1. I started to read this and decided to save it for my flight to San Jose tomorrow. It will be nice to have you along with me.

    Love - Aunt T

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  3. I tried Skype, FB, and all sorts of things but I can not get a hold of you!