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Archive for May, 2011

Well Colleen made it out to Edinburgh for me, but sadly Katie and Kellie were left behind in Ohio and while they were missed it did not stop us from having a good time.

Colleen came to visit at the worst and best time. The worst time because up until she arrived on Saturday I was stressed with work, getting my words in, and an all day event our tutors put on for my class bringing in people from all aspects of the literary world to talk with us. By the time I got to the airport on Saturday morning to meet Colleen I was beat and nervous she would want to just get to Lindsay’s flat and relax for a bit. Colleen had told me I didn’t need to meet her at the airport but just to let everyone know, if you are going to pay for a roundtrip ticket to visit me I will fork over the 6 pounds to greet you as you get off the plane. It is the very least I can do. The second I saw Colleen I forgot how tired and grumpy I was. I’m fairly certain our scene of reuniting could have played in the opening credits of “Love, Actually”
We weren’t on the Airlink, the bus to take us back to the city center, for two minutes before Colleen looked at me and said, “we should hike Arthur’s Seat today.”
That’s when I knew. This was going to be an awesome week and very busy! The first day Colleen arrived Scotland tricked her into think we have great weather with the sun out on a clear day.

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The winds were of course there but the sun made it all look so nice. The next three days were overcast, rain, and wind so  Colleen got to see the true Edinburgh. Arthur’s seat was an adventure in itself. And probably not the safest but with our “that looks dangerous. I’ll do it!” attitude we were good. The hike up takes about two hours, factor in the wind, and breaks to take pictures, and it’s an all day event, besides when you hike with me I make sure we get all the way to the top (insert sexual innuendos here). After standing a little too close to the edge and almost letting the large gusts of wind knock us off the extinct volcano we decided to sit for a bit and enjoy the weather and view.

30 seconds later, we decided to find the quickest way down Arthur’s seat to give us time to get home and get ready to go out. After watching an 80 year-old man step down a steep path to the bottom we opted to follow him. This was a mistake. That path was not safe, flashes of Colleen and I sliding off the edge and  spraining an ankle or breaking a leg flashed through my mind. As I sat down and scooted myself to the bottom of the path I couldn’t help but think that the old man must have been a retired Superman because he practically ran down the path. He didn’t even use the rock walls for support!

In the four days Colleen was here I had NEVER done so many tourist things. By ten o’clock each night we were both knackered and ready for bed. Aside from climbing Arthur’s seat we didn’t do anything I had already done. We went to the castle, this time actually going in. Don’t worry Brig we didn’t miss anything. The castle was not too impressive but glad I went.

Now, Holyrood Palace, I recommend to everyone. The palace was fantastic! Everything is so beautiful and there is so much to see. The audio tour was amazing! I don’t have words to describe how much i enjoyed this (especially in comparison to the castle). I should have taken Robin’s advice months ago.

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We also went to St. Andrews for a day with some of my friends. My friend, Lauren, went there for her undergrad and gave us the official unofficial tour. All of which was done in about three hours, giving us just enough time to grab a cheeky pint.
It was so great to have Colleen here, it was like a slice of home but it was bittersweet. Just when it became normal to have her here it was time for her to go. Saying good-bye was not easy (actually it kind of was because I was running out the door of our hotel room in Amsterdam after I accidentally overslept and was about to miss my flight but you know what I mean).
Although it is a huge bummer my parents had to postpone their trip and weren’t able to come this week, it just made Colleen’s visit more awesome. And now, if my parents can make it over later, I know exactly what fun touristy things to do with them and which ones to just leave them to do while I sneak off for a pint…

Cheers,

Jess

 

p.s. new computer and don’t know how to get the photos on this to work … so sorry

 

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Colleen and I journeyed to Amsterdam during her visit. It was the most amazing city! As I’ve been a wretched blogger I am just going to do a brief overview of the time spent in Amsterdam through a series of what we did and did not do. This will benefit any readers who’s attention span is as short as my own.

We did…go to the Keukenhof Gardens

We did not…get to see the tulips in full bloom as it was the last day of the season and most of them had been clipped however the ones that were there were gorgeous!

We did…take a lot of pictures of flowers

We did….go to the Red Light District

We did not…go to a sex show
We did…get propositioned to have sex with male and female prostitutes after going into every sex shop and eventually being recognized by the workers
We did…exercise our will power and turn them down, EVEN when they offered us safe sex. (Great selling points)
We did…watch a transaction go down between a woman in a window and a man on street, who started the conversation with “Are you good?” we had much respect for this as it is a valid question, we just figured what good prostitute wouldn’t lie?

Anne Frank Statue

We did….go to the Anne Frank House
We did not…purchase any souvenirs as it seemed odd
We did…think it was completely awesome and totally worth it. Recommend to all! Amazing!

Even the buildings don't know which way to go!

We did not…get lost. Who are we kidding? We got lost walking straight because oh yeah, none of the streets stay straight for long.
We did…figure out buying a map is no better than the free maps you can pick up anywhere.
We did not…admit to others when we were lost hence Colleen’s line of “I know where we are! Leidsplein!” she did not however, know how to get home from there.
We did…almost get run over by bikes, cars, boats, and pedestrians every five to ten minutes.
We did…go out drinking
We did not…order drinks appropriately as I discovered while talking to very nice Dutch man. Apparently no one orders pints, they all order half pints so that their drink stays cold until the last sip. I then spent the next ten minutes trying to gulp my pint down as fast as possible
We did…find a local bar
We did not…find the bar through the tourist book and out of respect for our new friends I will not say where it was because when they realized we weren’t Dutch (because we didn’t understand what they were saying) they freaked out. The conversation went like this:
Man: *says something in dutch*
Colleen and I stare at him for an awkward length of time
Me: Oh, we’re english. We don’t speak Dutch
Colleen: Oh my God, we blend in. They think we’re from here! Success!
Man: this is a dutch bar
Me and Colleen: Cool
Man: how did you find this bar?
Me: we were just walking and saw it
Man: what tourist book was it in?!
Me: it wasn’t in one.
Man: you have a tourist book though?
Me: yes but we were just walking and we found this. It wasn’t in the book.
Man: Just tell me which one.

people ignoring the sign and waiting in the queue when they don't have to be outside of the Van Gogh Museum

We did…go to the Van Gogh Museum
We did not…go to any other art museum
We did…LOVE the Van Gogh Museum

We did…learn all attractive men seem to live in Amsterdam. They are everywhere and they are gorgeous. Even better, for every 10 attractive males there is one female.
We did not…learn any dutch.
We did…say “Hallo” obnoxiously for about ten consecutive minutes every morning
We did…discover our hotel has thin walls and our neighbors seemed to be having much better morning than colleen and I. Now if only we could have figured out who they were at breakfast…

Our hotel in the museum district and right by the park. perfect!

I would like to end this blog with this final note. I LOVE AMSTERDAM. After spending a few days there I definitely fell in love with this city. Additionally, I have found myself daydreaming and fantasizing about…getting a bike. They are so cool! I want a bike so ridiculously bad now. And not just any bike, a fun, Amsterdamy bike. One with a neat lock on the back wheel with a fun color. And I want a cool basket on the front to put my stuff in, and one of those bags that drapes over the back tires to hold more of my stuff. I also want a seat cover to keep it dry when it rains and I lock it up outside. That is all. My blog on Colleen’s visit to Edinburgh will be next. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to keep my blog updated when I spend my days writing, so my apologies.

Cheers, Jess

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Courtesy of my parents and my sister I have been blessed with Starbucks e-gift cards which I can use here in Edinburgh. As I get a majority of my work done outside of my room, away from the distractions of the evil Facebook and the sidereel devil, they have equipped me with being able to go to Starbucks, get a tall skinny caramel latte and sip at it for five hours while I work. Each time the gift card runs out, I am thankful as I can now try a new, local place, and then I am sad as it limits my trips out of my flat to do work. With this Starbucks card comes certain knowledge though. While I can not vary my coffee houses I can vary the Starbucks locations. Over the past 5 months I have sipped my lattes in a number of Starbucks locations to find the one best suited for me according to my mood. I will now provide with a rundown of these Starbucks with…

My Guide to the Starbucks of Edinburgh

Starbucks in Morningside

–         A nice size Starbucks with various large windows. The music plays softly so as not to distract you from your work or conversation. A nice people-watching scenery. As it is in a predominantly residential area, it can be bombarded with baby carriers and small children, which can provide certain distractions. There are two elderly men who are regulars, whom I love. The one always sports a San Francisco hoodie , and they spend their time in quiet or ranting about this or that in politics. It tends to get overwhelmingly busy from about 10:30 to 11:30 then again at 1 and 3. There aren’t any study tables but a nice bar up against the front window you can work at while people watching.

Starbucks on Meadow Walk

Meadow Walk Starbucks


–         The Starbucks is basically all windows. Having all windows is awesome to see the sunshine and the people walking around, however the people-watching is limited to Meadow Walk or a brick wall. The music is also nice and soft in the main café area, but quite loud where the couches are (especially in the morning). I tend to bring my own headphones to try to zone it out but sometimes I can still hear the music of the café playing. The outlets for your computer are limited so recommend bringing mainly book/writing work when going to this location. It is also quite small, so you must get there early as well as being careful miss the afternoon rush of teeny-boppers from the school on Lauriston. If you come in the middle of it, leave and come back twenty minutes later. The annoyance and hassle are not worth it. The employees either don’t care or don’t notice if you bring in you own food which is a huge plus! They also do not have porridge to purchase or honey at this location. The sunshine makes up for most of the faults as well as it’s proximity to where I live.

Starbucks on Lauriston

–         Is really big but has few windows, which was awesome in the winter time when you just wanted to cozy up, but now with the sun shining not as much fun. It has comfy couches and chairs throughout instead of in just one area. There are a plethora of outlets and even study desks for students to utilize. Awesome! They provide a wider selection of food including porridge and honey. The music plays quite loud here ALL the time and has the down-fall of being bombarded by secondary school kids as well. Again best to just leave and come back during these swarms if you have not already purchased your stuff and found a seat. It’s proximity to where I live is also a huge benefit.

Starbucks on Lothian

–         This airs on the smaller side and is quite dark inside although has large windows throughout. It has a nice work cubby by the back window which is awesome. The view is nothing special and not the best location for people-watching. The music playing is never distracting and does not get attacked midday by the school kids. It also does not have porridge and some of the special cookies at the till the others provide although it does a have a wider variety of beverages in their cooler thing.

Starbucks on Princes Street

The view of the Castle through the great windows at Princes

–         My favorite Starbucks. It’s is a bit out of the way but definitely worth the hike. The door can be passed up as it is by construction and you must walk up the stairs but not hard to find. It has the best view ever! It overlooks Princes Street with a gorgeous view of the castle. The front has four massive bay windows to admire the beauty of Edinburgh by. The Starbucks is quite large and spacious. Various comfy chair and couch options set up throughout. Including study desks as ell and a small nook for those wanting a bit more seclusion. The music is played at the appropriate volume and there are outlets everywhere. It can get very busy but never out of hand as it does at Morningside and Meadow Walk. More tourists here than the other places (obviously) which can be annoying if you catch bits of their conversation but I find it quite amusing. You need the code to get into the bathroom but as long as you’ve bought something that shouldn’t be a problem. While I always buy something, I’ve found due to its size it would be quite easy to sneak without purchasing anything without them noticing.

Starbucks at George and Hanover

–         The downstairs is super small. Quiet music with various elderly visitors. The upstairs is more spacious but still on the smaller side. A nice place to sneak into during the day but not worth the extra walk/trip over. Again you need a code for the bathroom. I have yet to see a swarm of kids come in but the downstairs can get quite crowded with the queue which seems daunting but once you have your beverage if you go upstairs it is far less crowded. Most people are grabbing their drinks on the go.

Starbucks at Waterstones on Princes

–         I have only visited on one occasion. Offers the same benefit of the view of Princes Street and the castle at the windows although not as large as the ones at the actual Starbucks on princes. It is spread out but on the smaller side. It does offer two levels, giving it the appearance it is bigger than it actually is. No music which I find can be nice at times. Being surrounded by all the books is quite fun although its next to the Children’s section, not sure if this gets too noisy at times or not as I have only been there on one occasion. A completely different people watching area than all the other Starbucks provide and it’s fun to check out what people are reading and ordering to drink as almost everyone there has a book in hand. Would not recommend to go to for getting work done as there are no large tables available but reading I guess would be nice.

– I have visited both of the Starbucks on the Royal Mile but only for take-way so I didn’t feel I could write anything about these ones although I am sure they are quite touristy and will only get worse as the Festival approaches

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Alcohol. Yes. Fire. Yes. Nudity. Why not?

The Beltane Fire Festival was this past Saturday and in true Edinburgh hippy fashion it was celebrated at the top of Calton Hill with all the (fake) pagan fun. It is a Celtic fertility festival. The ritual is about the celebration of fertility of land and the animals practiced. Now it is basically an excuse for the hippies of Edinburgh, mainly students, to go up a hill, drink alcohol, play with fire, and get naked.

Enjoying the festivities

Rosie mentioned it in passing to Lauren and I and ten minutes later a plan and an evening was in the works. After reading the risk on the ticket – involves fire performance, uninhibited behavior, and semi-nudity; attendance at your own risk – my excitement only grew. Following the rules of the festival (no glass, drums, loud instruments, dogs or combustibles) we set off with Kiki, Colm, and a few extras to the hill.

The line to get up to the hill

The line to get into the festival was massive, with a prediction of 12,000 attendants. When we finally got there we did a wee once over of the set-up then found a nice spot to watch the sunset over Edinburgh while enjoying our beer. An hour later we were begging for the festivities to begin as we had not dressed entirely appropriate for a night out in the cold. All we could hope for was for them to starting lighting the fires.

When it did finally begin we forgot all about the cold as we made our way to see the torches. It was insane, 12,000 people all followed these specs of light like bugs to a zapper. The opening ceremonies consisted of lighting fire under the Athenian acropolis (intended to be a replica of the Parthenon but 200 years later still isn’t finished) followed by the Beltane performers scantily dressed and painted in reds and oranges to make their way to different areas of the hill with lit torches. When I say torches I mean legit torches, not how the English refer to flashlights as torches. As we came early we had a great spot for a majority of the show as we watched the performers dance around for an awkward amount of time without fire, then a nice amount of time with fire, and then began to take off some articles of clothing. Then they took off a little bit more. Lots of boobs and butt-cheeks. At one point they seemed to have created an orgy. Which for everyone, at least everyone not involved in the orgy, seemed quite uncomfortable.

No worries, after the orgy scene they went right into what everyone was waiting for – playing with fire! The second the fire tricks of juggling and twirling began so did the “oohs” and “aahs.”I know this was directed at the fire and not the nudity because many of the comments for the nudity such as “gross” or “show us more” stopped, along with some obnoxious American males sitting behind us.

Playing with fire...hopefully they are careful not to burn any of their exposed bits

Any thoughts of joining the nudity in any way shape or form were dashed by the frigid cold air, although attendants don’t normally get naked, it is mostly reserved for the performers. Dodged a bullet there. (I hear St. Andrew’s festivities are more broad to include everyone and more cold as they run into the water naked).

Any hopes of finding people we knew or them finding us were dashed when we realized how packed the hill was. After trips to the bathrooms we found ourselves still having trouble finding the people we left at our spot. Some of us, not mentioning name but rhymes with sholm and shessica, found the lines to the toilets too long. Too weak of a bladder to hold it we took to the hill! Right by the city observatory standing opposite of where all the fire fun was going on was a path. It split in two going in different directions around the observatory. Colm left me with the choice of where to go. I chose to go right. I chose wrong. We were instantly confronted with the back-ends of five men peeing. Clearly I had picked the boy’s bathroom side of the observatory. We quickly back tracked and went left where I found a nice bush while Colm ran interference for me. Once we managed to find our group again, we were up and running to follow the torches.

ohhhh pretty! (followed by "oh no is my hair burning again?")

The fire procession then moved from spot to spot ending with a giant bonfire that sent flakes of fire into the night sky. Another awesome sight which amusement lasted about ten seconds until we all realized we were standing down wind from the fire and our hair was burning.

Did I mention they sold mini torches to the drunks?

The night was a success. Fun, friends, and fire – I couldn’t ask for more. Oh, except a little nudity of course.

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