Sunday, October 31, 2010

Galavanting around Glasgow

It's Halloween weekend here in Scotland and the town is crawling with people in costumes, or what they call "fancy dress". Some friends of mine asked me along on a day trip to Glasgow, one of the larger cities here in Scotland about 1 hour to the west of Edinburgh.  I was really excited to take the train for the first time since arriving, and were able to get a group ticket to the city for only 5pounds round trip! What a deal. The Scottish train was really nice and reminded me of my days back in grad school when I backpacked through Europe. It's the little things that really excite me, like when the conductor comes around to check my ticket, or getting to view the Scottish country side from the train. The train ride was only 45 min, so before I knew it we had arrived at the Glasgow train station. 

The city was really fun to walk around because the streets were crowded with people and street performers. And the shopping was fantastic! Lots of walking streets with stores and boutiques. Knowing it only takes 45 min to get there from Edinburgh I have a feeling their will be many shopping trips in my future. 

One of our first stops was the Willow Tea Room my first official high tea experience. It was awesome!  As you can see from the picture  below the chairs had tall backs to them making the experience very "mad hatteresk". I got to try some loose leaf hibiscus tea and freshly made scones with jam and creme. Delish!!! I would recommend this tea room to anyone traveling through Glasgow. The sweat treats they have are all freshly made, and you can sit and have a traditional scottish breakfast or just enjoy a pot of tea while overlooking one of the main shopping streets before the tea room. I can't wait to go back! 
Willow Tea Room Chairs

Yes Please...

Once we had our fill of tea and scones, we headed back out to hit the stores for shopping. I really just enjoying wandering the streets and seeing the various street performers: mimes, bag pipers, and rock bands. Before I knew it we reached lunchtime and decided to hit one of our favorite places, Bella Italia. It was so nice to just sit and relax after a day on our feet. Once we were done, we decided to grab the next train back as we were exhausted. The good thing is that trains run every 15 minutes. The train arrived in Edinburgh around 5pm and at that point I knew it was time for a nap! I had to get ready for another Halloween night out! Overall, great day or weekend for that matter. Until next time, I'll see you on the internet.

Interesting sign, glad to know they are so welcoming!
Candy Shop 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday's Stroll in the Burgh

The weather has been getting colder here in the Burgh, but I have decided that it will not keep me inside, even if it's raining. Last night a group of us went to a fabulous Italian restaurant called Bella Italia where we feasted on wine, brick oven pizza, and a decadent dessert called "the godfather" over candlelight. It was so sinfully delicious that I knew this morning I needed to get up and try to work some of those calories off, and what better way than a stroll through Edinburgh. The sun was out and shining this morning which was a change of pace from the few days of pouring rain we have been experiencing. I absolutely love the fall weather here when the sun is out. I made my way through The Meadows and came across Edinburgh's farmers market.  

The market is located below the Edinburgh Castle, and there are a lot of vendors selling various items from fresh produce to soaps. I got to sample fresh dips, cheese, jams, and jellies as I made my way through the market. There was even a meat vendor selling buffalo and ostrich burgers!

Fresh Pretzel's 


I was so excited when I came across an organic mozzarella cheese vendor, and had to splurge to get some fresh cheese. A ball was only around $1.50! The sample I had was so delish and I couldn't wait to get home and make a mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich. 


Homemaid soaps

After strolling through the market, I realized I was at an entrance of a very old graveyard which bordered one of the large parks in the city. Since it's only a week away from Halloween I felt it was appropriate to meander through the site to check out some of the graves. This yard was unlike any I had seen in the past, and was really welcoming to visitors. The trees had really nice fall color and I was able to get some great shots with my camera. 

On the other side of the yard was a kids park! The architect must have been a kid at heart because the design was very interactive for parents and their kids. I really wanted to try the rope wheel in the picture below. 

Strolling along I couldn't believe it when I saw social activism at it's finest. There was protest march on Princess Street regarding high taxes, guess they have the same problems here as in the US...  
 I love strolling through this city because I every time I head out on a different path I get to experience so many things, whether it's a local farmers market, old graveyard, or protest. I guess this is why people love living in the heart of a city. Overall, great morning wandering around the city!  Until next time I'll see you on the internet. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hen Night Out

Well ladies and gentlemen I have survived my first Hen night out. You may remember from yesterday's post, Autumn in Edinburgh, that I was invited to attend one of my new colleague's Hen nights. Carla is from Ireland, and is getting married to a Scottish guy named Michael in three weeks. In order to make it a wedding they will never forget, the two are flying to New York City to tie the knot! Last night was a opportunity for her friends to come together to celebrate her being single one last time.

From what I have been told about Hens, traditionally the bride will pick a theme and the group will dress with the appropriate clothes to honor her theme. I have seen some really creative themes while pub crawling around the burgh that include: golf, cops and robbers, vickers and tarts (think Bridget Jones Diary), and lady marmalade. Over the summer Carla celebrated a Hen night out in Ireland with all of her childhood friends, and her theme was Grease! I am sorry I missed it because I am sure I could have made a pretty good Rizzo.  Some pubs in Edinburgh won't allow Hen groups in, so we decided not to go with a tacky theme and just dress Classy! 

We started our "Classy" night off with some homemade mojitos and other fun cocktails to get things going. Carla's friend Allison was out host, and her flat's was one of the most beautifully decorated flats I have ever seen (here or in the States). As you can see from the pictures, it was such a classy apartment! 

Eight of Carla's friend showed up for her big night out, along with two of my new favs here in Edinburgh; Nik and his mom Ann. Nik is my spinning instructor and works with me as an assistant warden.  He is always up for a good time out! Whenever the two of us get together, dancing somehow makes itself present.  Dinner was great, and our hostest with the mostest made a delicious spread that we scarfed down while watching the X Factor show (UK's version of American Idol). Once dinner was finished it was onto truth or dare, hen style. Carla was forced to play and she was presented with a bowl where she had to draw a truth or dare card. If she refused to answer or do what was on the card then she was required to take a shot. Needless to say once the game was finished Carla had her fare share of shots. Before we left for our night out we all had to draw rating cards that we were suppose to use to rate the eligible bachelors we saw at the pub.  I drew the card that said "No Chance" on it, which made me laugh. We had our own mini photo shoot before we left, and then took our taxis for a night out on the town.

We made our way to a piano bar called "Fingers" and it was great! Our entire group was able to stand on the stage next to the piano player for most of the night, as the place was so crowded it was hard to move. I have been to a couple piano bars back in the States, and this one did not disappoint! There were times that the pianist had the entire place singing at the top of their lungs! The mix of people was refreshing, and most people at the pub were in their late 20's/ early 30's. A nice mix from the pubs around my flat which typically have old grandpa's drinking pints or young Uni students. I loved it, and will definitely go back to there in the future! The bar didn't close until 4am, but our group had reached our limit around 3am, so it was time to hail a taxi. I ended up getting home around 3:30am, and by that time I was ready to kick my heels off and head to bed. Before falling asleep I checked the scores from ESPN college football to find out that the Hokies had a major victory over Wake and that UVA got slautered by the Tarheels! What a great way to end the night! I think today is going to be a lazy Sunday, so until next time I will see you on the internet!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn in Edinburgh

This past week has been a typical autumn week here in Edinburgh. Every day the weather continues to be unpredictable. It reminds me a lot of Blacksburg in that you could wake up and it's sunny out side but by the time you get out of your building it is raining. The leaves are starting to change colors so it really makes for a nice walk around town if the weather cooperates. Nothing too major happened this past week, however I have started a new healthy living idea thanks to another blogger. I have been starting my morning's off with a Green Monster, and I have to say I have noticed a boost in my energy levels. If you check out the link above it will give you recipe ideas, and trust me they taste delicious. I have to admit, I was a little weary when I made my first one, however, the taste was worth it. Plus, I was able to great 3 servings of fruits and veggies in the mix!
Last night I went to see the new movie Life As We Know It with a few other staff members from the school. On my way to the movies, I had the privilege to see my first full rainbow! It was spectacular, and once I get the pics from my friend I will be sure to post. Going to the movies was very exciting for me because this was my first cinema experience in Scotland,  actually anywhere outside the USA, and it totally surpassed my expectations. The theatre was so nice, and the chairs we sat in were more like recliners. I really enjoyed the movie, and would recommend it to anyone who is into sappy romantic comedies. I also got to try a new restaraunt, a chinese place that was inside the theatre. The cinemas here cater to the whole evening out. The one we went to, the Omni, had around 5-10restaurants/pubs inside the building and showed around 20 new movies. I have to admit I really enjoyed some chinese food even if I am living here in Scotland.

This morning I decided to head out for a run in the park around my corner called The Meadows. It reminds me a little of Central Park and is a great way to get out and be active in the city. I haven't been able to get out and run since I have arrived, so it was really refreshing to be around all kinds of people while running. Their are rugby teams practicing, children playing soccer, and a lot of people out with their dogs. It so beats running on a treadmill at the gym! It's funny how the pain you feel when you are go back to running after a break is a good pain, reminding you of how you wish you'd never broken up with running in the first place. But, it's never to late to get back on the wagon, and with a park like the meadows right around my corner it is a good way to get out and enjoy the city in a new way. Tonight I have the privilege of attending my first "Hen Night". In Scotland, a bachelorette weekend is reffered to as a Hen and a bachelor weekend is a Stag. One of my co-workers is getting married in 3 weeks, and has invited me along to her Hen night. I am really excited to experience this tradition here and will be sure to blog about it once I have recovered tomorrow. It's a beautiful day out today, and the sun is shining. This is rare from what I have been told, so I guess for now I am off to enjoy the sunshine. Until next time, I will see you on the internet.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Zoobilee Zoo

This past weekend Edinburgh was not the most ideal place in terms of weather. The upcoming winter months scare me a bit as I really love being out in the sun and still want to enjoy my time here. It was overcast and a bit colder than it has been since I've arrived, so I decided it was time to go and do something cheesy and not let the weather keep me inside. Sunday I made my way to the Edinburgh Zoo via the public bus system. I really love riding the bus here because they are double deckers and you get a great tour of the city for only £1.20. I arrived at the zoo with a friend of mine after a 30 minutes bus ride, and we were really looking forward to seeing all of the animals, especially the penguins. The zoo has one of the largest penguin exhibits and each day they have a parade where penguins come out and into the street for a parade around the zoo. This March of the Penguins was so great and the highlight of the day! What is really funny is that the zoo keeper makes an announcement before the parade begins stating that the penguins volunteer for the parade. The zoo keeper opens the gates and the penguins who are interested in leaving come out on their own to march around. You can see the video below of the parade. The zoo overall was really nice and well designed, with lots of exhibits including chimps, rhinos, and lovely landscaping throughout the park. I would definitely recommend to a family visiting the city, or for a fun day out.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Highlands Highlights

Time keeps flying by, and before I knew it October was here. This week I had the opportunity to travel with a tour company for work to the Highlands of Scotland. So, I began my adventure with my colleague Kristin around 8:30am, where we took a public bus down into the far end of the city, only to find out we had arrived at the wrong location. We were suppose to meet our group at 9:15am, and with the clock reading 9:05am I had to hail a taxi and we were whisked away in true "amazing race fashion". The last time I felt this was during my summer trip to Greece, where I was running with my backpack to catch a bus and barley made it with 1 minute to spare. (Shout out to Catherine back in the States). Luckily the taxi driver was amazing and got us to the tour group with 5 minutes left to our time of departure! So we boarded our 16 passenger mini bus and ventured out of the city to the Scottish country side.

I love bus tours, especially when your guide is an old Scottish man who is at least 65+ years old and wears a scottish cap. Eddie, our guide, was so energetic and throughout our day filled our drives in between sites with interesting Scottish history facts, music, and an occasional joke. 

The day started off at Doune Castle. The morning weather was ideal, blue skies with a crisp fall breeze that reminded me of Blacksburg, VA on a fall football game day. We had great views of this castle which dated back to the late 14th century and a lovely winding creek added to the charm of the area. From there we ventured to many other Scottish towns and Kilchurn Castle, enjoying the picturesque countryside from the comforts of our mini bus. To be honest, the day was perfect, or as perfect as one can hope for! A lunchtime shower added to the day which provoked a rainbow to peak out from behind the clouds. A few times I had to think to myself, "Do I really live here?" This concept of living in Scotland hasn't really set in, especially when my breath is taken away by everyday beauty of the countryside that surrounds me. 
One of my favorite parts of the trip were getting to see scottish highland cows. They are so cute, and honestly make me want to have a farm where I can keep one as a pet. The baby calves are the cutest because of their blonde hair, and I can't wait to see them again on my next trip out of the city!
Another highlight of the trip was getting to see Loch Lomond. Now for those of you who have never been to Scotland, lakes are called lochs, and loch Lamond is one of the most beautiful lochs I have seen. The Scotts loved it so much they wrote a famous song dedicated to the loch, and I recommend this area to anyone visiting Scotland! 

So now for a change of pace:

When I started this blog I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to document my travels, and to start writing. Since I have been here, I have noticed that I have been thinking on a much larger scale about life in general. Maybe it's because I have a lot more free time to focus on me, instead of running around trying to catch up with all of the wonderful people I had in my previous life. And that's how it's feels sometimes, like I had this whole other life on the other side of the world, and I just picked up and left.

So with that said, I have decided I am going to write about life lessons I am learning while I am here.  Lets face it, this transition was not just to experience a different job or culture, but to test myself to see if I am truly the person I want to be. I had a great life back in Virginia; a good job, wonderful friends, a supportive family, but something felt like it was missing. I think that's why I did this. I mean moving 3500 miles away from what is normal to a place where you've never been and don't know a soul can be categorized as a little crazy. But I pride myself in being a little crazy now and then. For once in a very long time I feel a bit bewildered, in a good way. I think facing life in your late 20's can be a challenge when you doing it on your own. Yes, we all have friends and family that support us, but to be single and independent is rare these days. I think that too many of us fall into a comfort zone that we are afraid to get out of. And then before you know it, years have gone by and you are wondering, is this where I am suppose to be. And to be honest, I ask myself that question every day. And I don't know the answer, but I know one thing, that I am trying to find out and to gain a sense of understanding of how this little thing called life works. A good friend of mine once said that to let go is one of the best things you can do, and that people will come in and out of your life and you have to learn to enjoy the times you have with them and live in the present. I think that living in the present is going to be a goal of mine while I am here. Too often I find myself reminiscing about college life, fun times back in Richmond, or looking ahead to a new trip or for my next beau. I want to really enjoy the ride and not think about what's next for a while. Being here in a new fresh environment is helping me to start enjoying the present. So enough of that little tangent, I think that's something to sleep on for the night. Live in the present, something that sounds so simple yet how many of us truly do this day to day! Until next time I'll see you on the internet.