Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Brown Warrior in Edinburgh


Hello all! I have never dedicated a post before, so this will be my first time. This post is dedicated to Brandee's mom, Terri Duncan. She specifically wanted Brandee to tell me that she reads my blog every night before she goes to bed. Thanks for reading, Mrs. Duncan, and I hope you especially enjoy this post!

So, let's get started. I am going to focus on our trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, but I think I need to preface that with Justin and Brandee's arrival to London.

Daniel was going to take the tube to Heathrow airport to pick them up. About half way there, the train stopped and the announcer said that they are sorry for the inconvenience, but somebody is "under the train" a.k.a  somebody committed suicide, so all passengers will need to get off, as the line is now closed for clean up. Isn't that a lovely thought? So, Daniel had to take a cab for the remainder of the way to the airport AND a cab back, totaling 110 pounds! Side note- I read that 100 people a year jump in front of the tube in London. So sad! Anyways, that gave Justin and Brandee a charming first impression of Jolly ol' London!

OK, so they finally arrive to our flat, we do some exploring, and then take a private car (much, much cheaper) to the airport.

There is nothing as spectacular as a 1 hour flight. We took Little Red (Virgin Air) and although it was a bit more expensive, the experience was great! We could check luggage free of charge, they offered complimentary drinks, and the seats were very comfy. We got there so easily, hopped in our 4th cab of the day, and arrived to our destination.

This is where the fun really starts.

Not the flat where we stayed. But you would think so if you hear Justin describing it.
We used a site, Air B&B, to book our flat. We wanted to save money, and found that renting a flat was much cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Especially if it is a one bedroom flat that you are SHARING with the person who lives there (your host).
It was my fault. I had no idea that it was even an option on Air B&B to share someone's flat. We were so confused when our host let us in- her clothes were everywhere, kitchen counter was so cluttered, and HER CAT WAS SITTING ON THE BED WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE SKEEPING IN!
Her cluttered kitchen
The bathroom was teeny tiny, had enough hot water for only 1 shower every 30 minutes, and the toilet took some coaxing to flush.
Daniel and I laughed and called it a "true Scotland experience". We got to sleep in queen sized bunk beds! And we were right by the castle- could see it from the window! Plus, our host could help us out with what to do and we were saving so much money.
Justin and Brandee, well, not so much. They thought this was going to be a reenactment of the movie Hostel, and if I had a pence for every time I heard from Justin that he either wanted to take the next flight home to Houston or pay an exorbitant amount for a hotel, then I'd be a millionaire!

Yep, that's a roasted pig with a knife through it's head
 Justin and Brandee's culture shock continued for the rest of the night. They quickly learned that, along with the rest of Europe, Scotland is nothing like their manicured, brand new neighborhood in Suburbia, Houston. Things here are old, a little dingy. People are loud. Public transport gets interrupted by people killing themselves. Streets are crowded. It's very, very different.

The next morning, we woke up rather early. Justin wanted to get the hell out of the flat (before our 110 lb Scandanavian host would wake up and lock him in her closet for torture and experimentation), and we also had quite an itinerary for the day.

Our first plan was to walk to the castle. We walked the long way, and went through a lovely park to get there.


Old men playing the bagpipes, wearing elf ears and Santa beards. I love Edinburgh!
A race was getting started, and everyone was wearing Santa costumes! Bagpipes were being played and there was just so much excitement in the park. It was a great way to start our (windy) morning in Edinburgh. 

Once we were out of the park, we had to walk up some very steep hills to get to the castle. There's no way my bike could have made it up there. It was so cold, yet we were taking off our jackets once we made it to the top! 
The castle was the best I've been to so far. The hill it is on top of was created by a volcano 3000 years ago. People inhabited the hill around 2000 years ago, and the castle began being built over 1000 years ago. There are two statues framing the castle- the one on the right is William Wallace aka Brave Heart aka Mel Gibson.
Perks of being on top of a hill- great views of the city! And AWESOME wind blown hair


We started off with a 30 minute tour of the outside of the castle. Our guide, Euon, taught us all about the castle's history. I highly recommend taking the tour if you go and visit!


Trying to get the dang audio guide to work



The creepiest statue in Edinburgh. That's supposed to be a pope. Looks to me like a dead zombie grandma.
The wives locked up in jail.
We spent hours at the castle. We saw the war memorial (the newest building) and St. Margaret's chapel (the oldest building in Edinburgh), the jail, crown jewels, armor, cannons, and the war museum. It was well worth the 16 pounds a ticket and is a MUST see if you go to Edinburgh!

  All that walking uphill made us Bonds work up an appetite! We went to a local pub and we all had some authentic Scottish food. Scotch eggs, bangers and mash, meat pies, and of course some ales. The food was fantastic and so inexpensive compared to London!

We walked around a "wee" bit after lunch. Every building in Edinburgh is old- the city withstood World War II, so you feel like you are stepping back in time being in Edinburgh.

We stumbled across The Museum of Edinburgh, and it had everything you could imagine. Most impressive to me was the whale skull! 

 Daniel and I weren't in the mood for museuming, so we went to the pub across from it to wait for Justin and Brandee. Greyfriars Bobby was the most loyal dog in all of Scotland. Once his owner died, he guarded his grave for 14 years. The dog is an icon of Edinburgh. I loved the story!

After the museum, we went to the Scotch Tasting Experience.

It starts off with you going on a ride that explains how Scotch is made. I thought it was a little excessive- I would have much rather paid less money and have somebody explain it to me, then to take a ride. But everyone else loved it- they said it was like Disney World! Ha! 

Me, thinking this is lame and just wanting to get to the good stuff!
I love Scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch.
 After the ride, we learned all about the different regions in Scotland and the scotch that is made there. It was really quite interesting! We got to try a scotch from the Islat region (Ardbeg) and from the Highland region (GlenDronach). The Highland one was very good- a little spicy, but easy to drink. The instructor taught us to add just a splash of water to open it up, how to tell if it was a full bodied whiskey by swirling it, and smelling it to guess the region. The next Scotch was from Islay and it tasted like fire. I didn't care for it! Way too smokey. It was amazing how different the two Scotches tasted!

Once we learned about how to taste Scotch, we got to try a 25 year old, single malt Scotch. It was delicious! We drank it while admiring the largest collection of scotch in the world! Owned by a Brazilian, and not a single bottle had been opened! How sad. He had bottles over 100 years old, some worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I found it fitting, a Scotch made for teachers!

The boys loved the tasting and I am so happy to have turned Justin's opinion of Edinburgh around. I think when you imagine Scotland, you don't realize that it isn't all sheep dotted, rolling green hills and quaint villages- there are actually some large cities there, Edinburgh being one of them (although so much smaller than London). I wish we had time to rent a car and drive through the country side- next time!
Just to keep on trend with every one of our vacations involving lots of steps. Just one of the many, many flights of stairs we had to take in Edinburgh.
OH, and why this is titled Brown Warrior in Edinburgh: we found out that Brandee's maiden name, Duncan, means Brown Warrior, and we are now calling her that. So Terri, you are Momma Brown Warrior. Enjoy your new nick name!
My opinion of Edinburgh: I loved it. It felt safe, clean, and just really old. The pubs were fantastic, I really enjoyed the castle, and it was a great city to walk around in because everything is pretty close. It is probably my favorite UK city so far. Stay in the old town and go with an open mind: even though it's old, it's still a city. There are tourists, McDonalads, and GAPs there. It isn't a quaint little village. 

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