Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So Long Scotland, Hello United States

Sunday August 12, 2012

Hard to believe that 12 days have flown by and we are now on the way home. Headed to the Edinburgh Airport at 3:30am to catch our flight to Paris at 6:10 we were all reminiscing about the past few days and all of the good times that we had.

Once at the airport we checked ourselves in and printed our boarding passes before going to get our bags weighed. Luckily mine was under the 50 pound weight limit! Once we figured out where our departure gate was we headed in search of breakfast and grabbed some muffins. Soon it was time to leave Scotland, and board the plane for Paris.

The flight to Paris was about two hours and not too bad at all. Once we arrived, we had to once again go through security, which was rather difficult because I don't speak any French! I made the alarm go off, so I fell victim to the popular TSA pat down. How exciting. My carry on bag also needed searched because I forgot that I had left a water bottle in it. For a few minutes I had a fear that they wouldn't let me into the country! Once the whole security conundrum was over we headed to our departure gate and went to get our passports checked.

Soon it was time to board our flight to Pittsburgh. I started to watch a movie on the plane, but soon I was out and catching up on some much needed sleep! The flight seemed a lot shorter to me than what the actual time of it was supposed to be, but maybe that is because I slept for a majority of it. Before I knew it, we were in Pittsburgh heading through customs and saying goodbye to new friends.

I soon found my parents at baggage claim and headed home, excited to see my family and full of many new exciting Scotland memories! Can't wait until the next time I can go back!

Pentland Hills Hike: Scotland Day 11

Saturday August 11, 2012: Scotland Day 11

It is hard to believe how quickly these past few days have flown by and it is even harder to believe that it is time to head home to the United States and Pennsylvania tomorrow. Due to it being our last day here, we have another free day to do what ever we would like. Dr. Thompson said he was interested in hiking the Pentland Hills and whoever wanted to accompany him was welcome. Paige, Beckie and I, along with three other travelers from the Edinboro group accompanied him.

We hopped on a bus and headed out of town and towards our hiking destination. The original plan once we got there was to take a chair lift half way up the mountain, because this area is also a ski resort. However, we came to realize that the chair lifts do not operate on Saturdays, so we got to hike up the entire mountain!

During the hike we were able to take in the beautiful views of the city of Edinburgh and also see some sheep eating on the hillsides. When we reached the summit and looked around the rolling hills around us were stunning. It looked like the scene where Julie Andrews spun around singing The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music in the movie The Sound of Music. We all had brought a little snack with and were able to eat it at the top. When we were up there taking in the views, we all forgot about how strenuous the climb actually was because the views were totally worth it.

When we headed back to the city, Paige and I headed up to the Royal Mile to do some last minute gift shopping before heading back to Pollock Halls. While on the Royal Mile we decided to stop and watch some of the different street performers that were advertising their show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Fringe is the world's largest arts festival and lasts a total of 25 days. The Fringe is a showcase for the performing arts, particularly theatre and comedy, but music and dance are also well represented.

Once we were done watching some of the street performers and gift shopping we headed back to Pollock Halls where we freshened up before joining the entire Edinboro travel group one last time for dinner before heading back to the States. We had dinner at this nice Italian restaurant, where I ordered pizza and sardines were hidden underneath my cheese. Not too pleased, but luckily the amazing dessert made up for the sardine incident.

Once dinner was over, the usual 6 of us headed to the Royal Mile to participate in a ghost tour. It was interesting to be able to travel underneath of the city and into the vaults. It is hard to imagine that people actually lived in these vaults at one point or another. The tour was fun and well worth the money, because not everyone is brave enough to travel under the city, but unfortunately we did not see any ghosts!

Once we arrived back at Pollock Halls, I finished packing up the rest of my things and showered and just hung out with the rest of the group until it was time to leave for the airport at 3:30am!

 Sheep on the way to the top of the Pentland Hills
 At the summit of the Pentland Hills
 Summit of the Pentland Hills
 City of Edinburgh and Arthur's Seat in the distance from the summit of the Pentland Hills
Falling on the way down from the hike

Glasgow: Scotland Day 10

Friday August 10, 2012: Scotland Day 10

Today we were back meeting at our usual time, 9:00am in the Reception Hall. Our trip today would take us to Glasgow.

Glasgow is not too far from Edinburgh, so that bus ride was not long at all. Once we got to Glasgow, our first stop was at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The building houses one of Europe's great civic art collections. The museum has been the most popular free-to-enter visitor attraction in Scotland, and the most visited museum in the United Kingdom outside of London. Inside, visitors can find an Ancient Egypt exhibit, learn about the history of Glasgow, and see many European artwork collections.

Once we were done at Kelvingrove, we headed to the Cathedral where we were able to explore for a little bit before heading into the city centre. While at the Cathedral we heard many different bagpipe bands practicing because they would be competing in the World Pipe Band Championships the following day. When we got to the city centre many of the bands were even putting on a practice show for spectators to enjoy. We watched for a little bit before heading into the main shopping area of the city.

After a few hours of shopping and watching the bagpipe bands it was soon time to head back to Edinburgh.

 Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Glasgow Cathedral

Isle of Arran: Scotland Day 9

Thursday August 9, 2012: Scotland Day 9

Today the marimba playing on my iPhone alarm woke me up at 5:30am. Early day in order to catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran, we were even gone before breakfast was served!

We boarded the ferry around 9:15am and we were able to grab breakfast on board. I had a muffin and two slices of toast. Very good and very cheap! Once we arrived on the Isle we all got back onto the coach bus, which also made its way on the ferry and headed to the Isle of Arran Distillery.

Once we got to the Distillery, many of the travelers in our group sampled the different whiskys that are available for purchase, but I didn't really have an interest in that. We did not stay at the Distillery long and we were soon on our way to the town of Brodick where we had the option to get off and explore the town or stay on the coach and head to the next town on the Isle to look for sea lions. Paige, Beckie, and myself decided to get off in Brodick and rent some bikes.

Biking around the town was fun and at times a little nerve racking! It was weird biking on the opposite side of the street with the rest of the flowing traffic so it took a few minutes until it felt comfortable to us. Biking was quite relaxing, and a nice alternative to walking all over the place. We didn't really have a set location as to where we wanted to go on our adventure so we just rode until it was time to head back and catch the ferry. We discovered a nice little wading area by the beach and skipped stones and found some crabs.

Soon it was time to get back onto the ferry and make our way back to Edinburgh. Due to another long day of traveling, we decided to stay in for the night and once again order some Papa Johns pizza and just hang out in the Pantry.

 Beach area in Brodick
 Bike I rented for our bike ride
Highlands on the Isle of Arran
Leaving the Isle of Arran on the ferry

North Berwick: Scotland Day 8

Wednesday August 8, 2012: Scotland Day 8

We had another free day today, and the usual group of us plus Dr. Thompson felt like getting out of Edinburgh for the day. Dr. Thompson told us about this nice seaside town called North Berwick, that was a 30 minute train ride away and we all decided to go there.

On the way to the train station, Dr. Thompson decided to take us the scenic route and show us many of the different streets of Edinburgh such as the Cowgate and Grassmarket districts, which was extremely interesting to see.

The town of North Berwick was beautiful and is a holiday destination for many Scots. We got off of the train and made our way down to the shore. The tide was out and many children were playing in the water and searching for crabs. Once again, I felt the need to go stand in the North Sea. The water was a bit warmer than when I was at St. Andrews but still not typical United States Beach weather.

Once were were done walking along the beach and collecting sea shells, we decided to head into town for lunch. We ended up at the North Berwick Diner. I ordered some chips because I was not too hungry, and they were extremely undercooked. Not too impressed. After lunch we made our way to the Scottish Seabird Centre, because you can take a boat out to Bass Rock which is home to thousands of seabirds. We decided to look into the telescope that you are able to see the rock from and then changed our mind about taking a boat out to the rock. Way too many birds for us!

We made our way back down to the west side of the beach and the tide was beginning to come in. We sat on the beach for a bit before we decided to take the train back to Edinburgh.

When we got back to Edinburgh, we decided to have dinner at Garfunkel's on the Royal Mile. Food was overpriced and service was terrible. Other than the food, the free day was well spent!

 Beach at North Berwick
 Bass Rock - Home to thousands of Seabirds
Tide coming in at North Berwick

Glen Coe and Oban: Scotland Day 7

Tuesday August 7, 2012: Scotland Day 7

Today has been a day that I have been looking forward to since the itinerary for the trip was announced. I have always wanted to go to Glen Coe because the pictures that I have seen of it make it look almost magical, and I wanted to see it for myself.

We departed the Reception Hall at 8:30am. The bus ride was long, but it was nice to listen to the usual songs on my iPod and see the rugged mountains of The Higlands and some 'hairy coos' out the window.

When we finally arrived in Glen Coe, we did not have as much time as I would have liked, but we still made the most of the time that we had there. We went on a short hike to see if we could get some decent photographs of The Highlands and then decided to make our way back to the small town where there was a loch that we spent some time at just taking in the amazing scenery before it was time to get back onto the bus and head to our next destination of the day.

We were soon on our way to Oban - Scotland's Seafood Capital! Paige, Jake, and I obviously decided that since we were in the seafood capital, we must find a great place for lunch. We decided on The Oban Bay Fish Restaurant where I had an incredibly British and delicious meal of fish n' chips and a cup of tea. After lunch we decided to walk around the town and go into a few gift shops. I purchased a lovely wool sweater that will keep me very warm in the cold Edinboro winters. Before we knew it, it was was time to get back on the bus and head back to Edinburgh.

Because we had spent a long day on the buses, we all decided that we wanted to have a relaxing night so we ordered a pizza from Papa Johns and just hung out in the pantry of our building for the rest of the night.

 Glen Coe
 Rolling Scottish Highlands
 Town of Oban
Fish n' Chips!

Hike Up Arthur's Seat - Round 2: Scotland Day 6

Monday August 6, 2012: Scotland Day 6

Today we had our first free day of the trip, so we decided to sleep in for a bit. We made it to breakfast just in time before the doors closed for the day. A few of us decided to hike up Arthur's Seat again, because a number of people missed out on the first day, and because the views were so stunning, I had no problem doing it again! Paige and I met Jake, Beckie, Katelynn, and Karissa in the Reception Hall and waited for a quick rain spell to finish up before we decided to make the trek up the mountain.

The climb was a little more treacherous due to the rain, but we all made it to the top safely. Since we were in no hurry to do anything the rest of the day we sat up at the top and just took in the different views of the city. While up at the top, we decided to plan out what we wanted to do the rest of the day.

We made our way back down the mountain and stopped at Pollock Halls to pick up Kate before heading for lunch at the Malt Shovel which was near Princes Street. I decided to splurge a little bit and order a steak. It was a little pricey but well worth it. Soon after lunch, us girls decided to head down to Princes Street, which is known for its many shopping stores to look at the latest British fashion trends. We made our way into a store called Primark, which has many selections at great prices. It was fun in the store because the music playing over the speakers was all British artists including Adele, One Direction, Jessie J and many others. Although these artists are popular in the United States, it was nice to hear some recent song debuts from them that have yet to become popular and well known in the US.

After we had enough shopping, we decided it was time to head back to Pollock Halls to rest up before dinner. We thought taking a bus would be an easy and quick solution. Boy, were we wrong! We stopped at the bus stop that was on the wrong side of the street, so instead of taking us to where we were staying, the bus began to take us out of the city of Edinburgh. We soon realized the mistake and remedied the situation by getting off at the next stop and crossing the street so we would be headed in the right direction. Once we were on the correct bus, it began to rain, which surprisingly has only been the only rainy day we have had on the trip so far.

Because it was still raining by the time we got back to Pollock Halls, we decided to do dinner somewhere close, so of course we chose The Abby and Dr's Thompson and Grant joined us!

 Top of Arthur's Seat
 Top of Arthur's Seat
Edinburgh Castle from the top of Arthur's Seat