Monday, August 23, 2010

Highland games, some castles, and Edinburgh

The last two days have been QUITE busy and super fun! It's really impossible to capture into words and pictures the whole experience I'm having here but I can try to give you a small taste I hope.

Sunday morning we went to Crieff, Scotland which is apparently where Ewan McGregor is from, to see the Highland Games. Pictures and video are in my Picasa but there was dancing, pipe bands, some heavyweight stuff (hammer and log throwing), running and jumping contests and lots of carnival style food and shopping. It was super cool hearing all the bagpipes and seeing lots of kilts. :) After that Clif wanted to tour The Famous Grouse distillery which is the oldest one in Scotland. It was actually kind of interesting to see the process but I still think the stuff smells gross. :P Then we drove a bit through the Highlands and saw some beautiful scenery, a couple of castles and a very old church. All of these things are also in my Picasa. :)

Today I got on a bus to Edinburgh all by myself and made it there, yay me! I think the only mode of transportation I won't have used by the time this trip is over is maybe a boat. If I could figure out how to fit that in somewhere... :D In the Edinburgh bus station I was looking for a map of the city and found a flier for a free tour of Edinburgh. It sounded interesting and the last one of the day started in just under twenty minutes so I pulled out my handy iPhone and located the Starbucks it was to start in front of and headed out. It turned out to be very cool and so worth it!! He gave us so much history and really cool stories about the different buildings and things. The parts I found the most fun and random I included here.

1) Charles II's statue. So apparently he really wanted the people home in Scotland to like him and one of the ways he decided this could be helped was to have a statue of him put up. He had it made so that he wore roman clothing and was on a horse. The problem with this was that two different people made the statue of him and the statue of the horse. He had asked for his statue to be big and apparently nobody told the guy making the horse so it looks like a donkey in size, comparatively speaking. Then there was a day every year where they had a ceremony and put a crown on the head of the statue but the crown poked holes into the head of the statue and when it rained it filled up with water and made the whole thing lean. So then they had to drill a hole in the bottom of the horse to make the water drain out. I bet you can guess where some smart-aleck decided to put the hole. Anyhow the whole thing seemed to backfire on him. :)

2) Our tour guide showed us the window of a cafe and said that in that in front of that window a poor single mother wrote a book and took some of her inspiration from buildings she could see including a school for orphans. Today the woman is richer than the queen (she is J. K. Rowling). I'll just admit right now I had no idea she lived in Edinburgh at any point in time. :P But I didn't know a LOT of things.

3) Greyfriar's Bobby. A policeman in the 1800s owned him and when he died Bobby came every day to his grave in Greyfriar's Kirkyard and sat by it for 14 years until he died. They buried him just outside the cemetery (he wasn't allowed to be buried IN it) and there is a headstone for him that people leave all kinds of little doggy things at. Close by is a statue of him and a bar named after him. :) Of all the famous people buried in Greyfriar's his is said to be the most visited.

4) The Stone of Destiny. So the Scots had a special stone used in coronation of new kings and at some point the English took it to London. The Scots really wanted their stone back and it was kind of a sore point for a long time. In the 1950s there was an attempt to steal it and return it, and they did a really good job and almost got away with it before being found out and turned in. Then in the 1990s the stone was indeed returned to Scotland to be kept there until needed for a coronation.

5) I had a Dr. Pepper Zero today! I didn't even know they EXISTED. Do we have those in the States?? It wasn't a perfect DP or anything but yay me for having one!! It's been so long...

So that was today and yesterday, tons of fun and lots of things learned about Scotland! Some things I knew a little about and other things I had not a clue but all of it was super interesting. I hope to look up the free tour group in London and Paris both and highly recommend them to anyone else who should go to any of the cities they have tours in. :) So far the rest of my week is a big question mark and I have no idea what I'll be doing but I'm sure having fun making things up as I go!! :)


Aaress said...

WOW, Megan!!! Sounds amazing!!!

I've been absolutely fascinated by Scotland's history over the last few years, and I love the story behind the Stone of Scone. Have you ever read any of Michael Phillips' historical fiction books based in Scotland? WONDERFUL reads.

Megan said...

I have Aaress, I LOVED the entire Stonewycke series and hope to reread them again soon now that I've been able to actually come to Scotland. I tend to associate countries with movies or books and I have always associated Scotland with that series in my mind. Let me just say that everything is exactly as I had pictured it to be. :)