Sunday, 4 October 2009

A Wonderful Week in the English Countryside…oh yeah, and Scotland!

September 7th – September 11th

Monday morning I slept in since I was still extremely jetlagged and the trip to Dublin had worn me out. I didn’t really have much to do this week since I was going to be in Lancaster with Ellen until we left for Rome on Friday. Ellen got back from class around 1PM and we went to the city center to shop for a few things including grocery shopping to keep the cost of meals down a bit. On the way into town though we passed a travel agency that was offering a round trip deal to Edinburgh for only £20 (20 pounds). I thought about it for a little while and when we got back from the grocery store I decided to book it for Wednesday since I really didn’t have anything else to do. The grocery store was an interesting experience. Just to see the prices of everything and to see what types of food were available here is why I found it so interesting. It was also really cool to be able to get a bottle of wine and not have to worry about anybody saying anything! I also learned that they are really trying to cut back on their carbon footprint and so they charge you per bag that you sack your groceries in! CRAZY!!! There were a couple of things I learned in Lancaster about Europe trying to be frugal with their resources: they have a switch on there electrical outlets to turn off the power if it isn’t in use; most of their lights are on a timed systems so that they turn off after about five or ten minutes; in some places you have to swipe a card when you get into the room to turn on the electricity in the room and it goes off after 6 hours of use (this is in like hotel rooms so that only when someone is actually staying in the room is the room using power). At first, all of these things are just annoying but after a while you get use to them and actually appreciate it.

Tuesday was just a day of lots of rest and prep work for Mountview. I looked at finding a monologue for class, learned Sonnet 71 for my voice class, started reading Much Ado, and watched Shakespeare in Love. I also researched Edinburgh a little bit and planned out my day trip for the following day.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Wednesday morning I woke up early and made my way to the train station to head to Edinburgh, Scotland. The train ride was probably one of my favorite things that I have done so far in Europe. The countryside is so beautiful with the rolling green hills, the little towns tucked between the hills, and the grazing sheep. It was just such an amazing sight that the ride alone was worth the trip! About an hour before we got into Edinburgh a guy got on the train across the aisle from me and watched What Happens in Vegas. It reminded me of when I first saw it in theatres a couple of years ago with Nicole so I texted her to see how she was doing with her shows.

When we got into the train station I worked my way to the Royal Mile by crossing over North Bridge. I walked to Edinburgh Castle first in order to see the One O’clock Canon Fire. It sort of reminded me a little of the State’s Changing of the Guards. So I made it to the castle just in time so see the canon fire off and walked around the castle a little bit. I don’t think I was really able to appreciate it that much since I really had no clue about any of the Scottish history. I did enjoy the War Museum in the castle though. It went from the early years of war to present day Iraq. It was just really cool to see how far back their history goes. After the castle I made my way to the Elephant House to have lunch. It was made famous as the place of inspiration to J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle. I knew all about this coming to Edinburgh and so I had to eat here. I got a slice of pizza and a pot of hot tea and grabbed a table in the back room that over looked the Edinburgh Castle. It had an amazing view and it was just cool to think that I was sitting in the same place where a few of the Harry Potter books had been written. After lunch I made my way down a couple of blocks in order to see a couple of different theatres in town that I had looked up the night before. The first one I saw was the Bedham Theatre, which looked like an old church. It was closed so I wasn’t able to get in and see the inside. On my way to the other theatre I was looking for, the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, I passed the Optometrist Shop and I had to take a picture of it. It reminded me of She Loves Me and Lynden singing about her Optometrist Paul, aka Chandler Duffel. Anyway, I made it to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre and snuck into the closed off section in order to get a view of the inside. It is a beautiful theatre but I didn’t stay long since I was nervous that someone was going to come kick me out.
Once I saw the theatre I walked back to the Royal Mile and headed in the opposite direction of the castle toward the Parliament Building. The walk was pretty cool just to see all the different little shops along the way. I saw several kilt shops, pubs all over the place including a pub called The World’s End (which I find very funny and only a few of you might actually get what this refers to), and just a couple of touristy shops. Finally I reached the Parliament Building…which is ugliest building I have ever seen. They were trying to go for the “artsy looking modern building” but it just turned out looking like crap! I made my way past the Parliament Building toward Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of the group of hills that form most of Holyrood Park. The hill rises above the city by 820 ft and had an incredible panoramic view of the city. I made my way to the top and spent about thirty minutes there just looking out over Edinburgh city centre and out towards the sea. After Arthur’s Seat I walked to Calton Hill, the headquarters of the Scottish Government, which is based at St. Andrew's House, on the steep southern slope of the hill. The hill also includes several iconic monuments and buildings including the National Monument, Nelson's Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument, the New Parliament House (the Royal High School), the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs' Monument, and the City Observatory. Calton Hill has a great view that is just a little closer up than the view from Arthur’s seat and the monuments there are also pretty cool to see as well. This was the only part of the day though that I got a little nervous because I took a few back streets and short cuts that were not very crowded and just made me the slightest bit nervous... but obviously everything was fine.

I left Calton Hill and headed down the street to the Prince’s Mall where I ate my sack dinner on the roof of the mall while my phone was charging. The rooftop of the mall is covered in grass so I figured a little picnic while being able to see Arthur’s Seat and the Edinburgh Castle would be nice. After dinner I walked to the see the Scott Monument and the National Gallery of Scotland. By the time I finished with the National Gallery of Scotland it was time to catch my train back to Lancaster. I am so happy that I decided to go to Scotland for just a wonderful, relaxed day!

Back in Lancaster

Thursday I did a little bit more prep work for Mountview and I started packing my things up so that I could be ready to leave for Rome on Friday. I also made arrangements to leave my extra luggage in London so that I didn’t have to take everything with me to Italy. At first, I was just going to rent a locker but realized that after September 11th they did away with them. Now you have to use this company at the airport to store your belongs at and it was going to cost me almost £80 for 5 days. I called around and finally got a hold of my student-housing place in London that I would be staying at while at Mountview. They allowed me to store it there for free so that ended up working about wonderfully!

Friday I finished packing my things up and Ellen and I headed off to London in order to catch our flight to Rome!

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