A Scottish 21st
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By Alyssa Barrett
The quad (Mary, Julia, Jenna, and I) spent the weekend in Edinburgh eating good food, admiring adorable architecture, frolicking amongst the green hills, and just basking in the chance to take in some new surroundings. As much as we’re all loving Copenhagen, it was really time to take a break from the Danes.
We flew into Edinburgh on Friday evening on a delightfully cheap, but obnoxiously cramped RyanAir flight. I’m not sure who gets paid to design those planes, but it seems criminal to utilize any amount of bright yellow in such a space. After finally escaping the assaulting interior, we took a seamless bus ride into the city center, located our Airbnb, and set out in pursuit of a hot meal. Ironically, we ended up eating Italian after determining all the quintessential Scottish pubs were full for the evening. No matter- we had delicious pizza, some much needed wine, and were as content as could be in the quaint little restaurant. Knowing we had jam-packed Saturday planned the next day, we were all in bed 11pm that night. Be proud mom.
Saturday, we woke up with the sun and went in search of breakfast. We had scheduled a tour of the highlands with an adorable tour company called “The Hairy Coo.” I’ll be the first to admit that my least favorite part of traveling is the ever-looming question, “so what are we doing next?” As organized and put-together as the four of us are, it can be exhausting trying to coordinate what everyone wants to do/see/eat at any given moment. Signing up for a day-long tour of the highlands meant we would get out of the city (I’m not the only one tired of pavement), see some of Scotland’s famed highland region, and perhaps best of all, leave all the transportation logistics in someone else’s hands. I think I speak for all of us when I say taking that tour was one of the best decisions we’ve made while abroad so far.
Donald, our tour guide, was absolutely hilarious. He had a dark, sarcastic, yet thoroughly endearing sense of humor that was only made better by his thick Scottish brogue. He was disturbingly knowledgable about the history of Scotland (he narrated almost our entire day-long journey), had a healthy hatred of Donald Trump (his lesser counterpart obviously), and told tales spanning past tour mishaps all the way to his mother’s antics (she recently bought him his own grave plot).
Donald’s fabulousness could only be matched by the numerous sights we saw, including Forth Bridge, a world heritage sight; the National Wallace Monument with great views of the surrounding villages; Doune Castle, which was used in the filming of Monty Python, Game of Thrones, and Outlander; the lochs, mountains and Glens of the Trossachs region; Loch Katrine which inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake; and of course, the ginger-hued hairy cows who inspired the tour company’s moniker.
Experience This Trip!
I could go on for hours about the misty, mossy hills that dominated my vision for the better part of 8 hours, but I’ll really try not to. To put it lightly, they were beyond stunning. We experienced rain, fog, and sunshine all in a matter of minutes at one point, and were even greeted with a rainbow over Loch Katrine as we stopped to say hello to the cows. Both the sights and Donald’s excellent commentary exceeded our expectations ten-fold, and if it weren’t for the fact that I go to school (ugh), I would have gladly stayed in the hills of Scotland forever.
That evening, we arrived back in Edinburgh by 6pm and were seated for dinner by 7:30. We had made a reservation at The Devil’s Advocate awhile back (check it out, it’s so charming), and were thankful for the chance to sit down without the stress of finding an open table somewhere. Dinner and our drinks were equally amazing, and afterwards, we stopped in to one of the numerous pubs for some live music for a few hours.
Looking back it now, our day was as jam-packed as they come. Yet, it was perfect in every way possible, and to top it all off, it was also my 21st birthday. While 21 is such a huge deal back in the states, it was definitely a bit anticlimactic in the sense that I’ve been able to legally drink since arriving to Denmark in January. On the other hand, there was nothing ordinary about spending the day in an area of the world that I had previously only dreamed of visiting. And even better, I got to share it with the three most excellent friends who make the most splendid travel buddies. To reiterate what I said on Valentine’s Day (and will probably say again and again), I am so thankful for these girls.
On Sunday, our group split up briefly. Julia and I went in search of brunch and ended up sitting outside the cutest cafe over coffee (because it was 45 degrees, which to us was delightfully balmy). Afterwards, we checked out Edinburgh Castle and shopped around the million little stores all selling infinite amounts of cashmere. I guess all those sheep are good for something… The quad later reconvened to visit the infamous Mary’s Milk Bar, a well-known gelato shop in Edinburgh. I had heard about it back in high school and have kept it bookmarked on my computer in a folder entitled “future travels” ever since. Well. Might I just say that Mary and her gelato lived up to all the hype and my mocha chip scoop in a glass of hot chocolate really hit the spot.
We spent the rest of the day browsing shops and eating a late lunch in a cozy pub. Unsurprisingly, some framed art caught my eye, and I ended up purchasing a beautiful watercolor print. Call it a birthday gift to myself. Of course, that meant I got to carry my bubble-wrapped package around for the rest of the day, but I didn’t mind one bit.
Our fun had to end sometime, and we departed for the airport a little while later. Our flight ended up being delayed, so after all was said and done, we didn’t get back home until around midnight. Not the best, considering we had 8:30 classes the next morning, but of course, completely worth it. We all absolutely adored Edinburgh. It was charming and full of character, and I left wishing I had kept with my original plan and studied abroad there (prior to choosing Copenhagen, I had my heart set on Edinburgh; it didn’t work out for logistical reasons). While Denmark and the Danes are great, Edinburgh had a magic that Copenhagen will never quite possess. It’s winding streets, colorful pub culture, looming castle, and openly cheerful residents made me so incredibly happy, and I look forward to making it back there one day.
Upon returning home, I was greeted by a giant bouquet of beautiful flowers! I had absolutely no idea who had sent such gorgeous blooms, but as I opened the card, I found they were from my roommate at SLU, Perk, who is currently studying abroad in Kenya. I have no idea how she managed to send them, since she seems to spends her days trekking around in the wild without a smidgen of cell service or wifi, but I was beyond elated and proceeded to move them into the dining room where they now sit so I can gaze at them allllll day long. S/O to Perk for managing to be the best roommate ever, even from 7,000 miles away.
I’m leaving for Rome on Saturday so stay tuned for updates that involve all sorts of gluten (pizza, pasta, etc etc) and even more gelato. I mean, when in Rome right?
Check out more of Alyssa’s posts here: https://nordictidings.wordpress.com