From September 8th to September 11th, our professors took us on a trip to Scotland for vacation, more specifically, Edinburgh(Eh-din-bruh). Our train ride there was chaotic. About an hour into the trip, we found out that the train ahead of us malfunctioned and caused a traffic jam, which slowed us down about an hour. Following that, around the York area, we faced congestion with the trains and that slowed us down about 40 minutes. Because we were late for about 100 minutes, the train gave us a refund on our tickets and gave us free Wi-Fi for the remainder of the trip. The ride there was nice because I got to listen to The 1975 as we traveled along the English East Coast. There was a lot of grassland and sheep on the way. Once we’ve arrived there, We walked up a tower of steps onto the Royal Mile (Edinburgh’s main street) to our hostel.
We were exhausted from the 7-hour train ride, but we dropped off our bags at the hostel and went on our walking tour around the city. Edinburgh is the farthest north I’ve ever been. The weather that day was about 60 degrees but had light rain and 20mph winds, which made it even more frigid to the point where I wore three layers(That’s saying something for a Californian). Our tour guide was so energetic and exciting. His name is Fraser and he first took us on the “Harry Potter Experience.” He first showed us the cafes that JK Rowling supposedly wrote Harry Potter in. he then took us to the Greyfriars Graveyard to show us the names that influenced her characters in the book. He also showed us the school that inspired Hogwarts. We saw statues of David Hume, a renowned atheist of his day, and Adam Smith, the father of economics. Later that night, we had time for ourselves to explore the city. It was my goal to try haggis for the first time in this city. Haggis is sheep’s organs stuffed in a sheep stomach by the way. We were warned by our professors that haggis has an “interesting taste.” Two of my other friends tagged along with me as we searched for a place that sold haggis. There are two kinds of haggis sold around the city: small package sized ones and smorgasbord platter size ones. We found a small, Scottish bar that sold authentic haggis on a platter and tried it. We ordered classic nachos just in case the haggis turned out bad. When the plate arrived, it looked marvelous. It was a six-inch-high, cylindrical three layered cake with potatoes on the bottom, squash in the middle, and ground lamb on top. It was appropriate named the Robert Burns haggis because he wrote a poem called “An ode to haggis.” The taste of haggis is heavenly. It had this sweet, whiskey sauce that complimented the garlicky, flavor of the haggis. The portion size was big, but satisfying when split between three people.
Friday, we left the hostel around 10am to visit the legendary Edinburgh castle. The castle sits atop a cliff that overlooks the city. The weather that day was frigid. We spent a lot of time peering over the castle walls to enjoy the views of the city. The city itself is beautiful because you can see the contrast of old town and new town. After looking at the city, we saw the Scottish Crown Jewels. We learned that the castle was never taken by force, but was taken by siege. (Surrounding the castle and starving the people inside.) My roommate and I then walked around the prison areas where they’ve kept prisoners of war. These areas had prison doors on display that showcased markings made by POWs. It was heartbreaking to see how dehumanized these prisoners have become. In Scottish tradition, there is a cannon that fires blanks every day at one o’clock to signal nearby ships the time. It was about one o’clock that day and we gathered near the castle walls to witness the firing of the cannon. Even though I knew when it was going to fire, the thunderous noise still made my heart race.
A bunch of us that day went around Prince’s Street Park and explored that area. It was a huge park that spanned from the North Bridge to the Castle. We were drawn by the monument of the great Walter Scott. It is the biggest memorial devoted to a writer in the world. The memorial itself looked like a gothic Eiffel Tower. Next to it was a giant, Ferris wheel that was just as tall as the monument. The park itself had beautiful flower beds, an outdoor theatre, and a majestic, golden fountain. We then ate at this small café in the park that played American blues/jazz music. It had a Louisiana feel to it. Our entire group then went to the movies later that day to watch Ben-Hur. I personally thought that the movie was great despite the negative reviews it got. I came into the theatre without any expectations and to my surprise, felt emotionally touched at the end of it.
Saturday, we woke up around 5:30am to get ready for our hike to Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano that has a flat ridge. About 12 of us were ready to go, but half of us got impatient and left early. We arrived and took the main path towards the seat. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the top of the seat. The view was astounding. We could see the city for miles. We were dissatisfied. “Is this it?” we asked each other. We then embarked on the hills behind us. Took us about 45 minutes to reach the top. Once we did, we actually met the second half of our group that took the hard route around. We took some awesome pictures atop the hill. As we went down, we saw the ruins of an old chapel. Joseph and I decided to climb atop the chapel despite the strong winds that were blowing against us. We then split up and I took a nap until about noon.
After that, my roommate and I visited the writers’ museum. It was rather small. It only had two exhibits devoted to Robert Burns and Walter Scott, both of whom are deemed Scotland’s greatest writers. We spent about fifteen minutes looking at the lives of both writers and went to the Edinburgh National Museum because my roommate had a presentation coming up. We found out that the National Library was not a public library but held historical documents instead. An old man saw that were lost and told us that the public library is across the street. His name is John and he was a buff, old Scotsman who has traveled all over the world. He walked us to the Edinburgh Central Library and parted ways. While my buddy was looking for sources to site for his presentation, I sat in the main area reading a book called Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh. I’m a big fan of the Youtube channel called Numberphile and recognized the author. After our trip to both libraries, we found a local takeaway shop to satisfy our cravings. My roommate ordered a lamb donner falafel, which was pretty much a Mediterranean burrito. It had a mix of lettuce and peppers along with lamb and falafel encased in a thick tortilla wrap. and I had a lamb shawarma, which was like what he had except without the falafel. We had a nice chat with the cook. We found out that he was Algerian and he told us that you either had to join the military or the police in order to make money and he didn’t like either occupation. He then moved to Scotland and opened up a small shop in order to pursue his passion for cooking.
We then went to the National Museum of Scotland. There, we actually ran into five other students in our group. One of them decided to stick with us for the rest of the day and we first explored the animal exhibit. The exhibit had on display a giant T-rex skeleton, a giant sloth skeleton, a stuffed polar bear and other stuffed animals. By stuffed, I mean that the animals had the accurate fur, hair, teeth, etc. on the model. All the animals were stuffed except for the skeletons and the creatures that live in water. After our trip to the museum, we decided to come back to the hostel for some hot chocolate.
Our trip to Edinburgh was amazing! The city seemed small, but there was always something going on in the city.This is one of the cities that I could see myself living in the future. If I were to settle down from traveling, Edinburgh would be the place to live because the cost of living there is bearable, the sights are magnificent, and the people are awesome!