27 February 2009

It's Hard Not to Wander Away

So, I haven't been update the past few days because Karen and Veronica came up from Oxford this weekend to visit. Karen goes to St. Mary's, was at Oxford with me last semester, and is going to be my roommate when I return to St. Mary's. Veronica is at Oxford this semester and I met her when I visited at the end of January. They took the night bus up from the Big Ox and arrived at 7:50 in the morning which, for those of you who have never experienced it, is an absolutely ungodly hour. Yes, I used to wake up at 4:50 for crew practice each morning. However, those days are two semesters in the past and, quite frankly, I am not as young as I once used to be. Getting up (especially after only three to four hours of sleep a night) is hard! Anyways, I walked up to St. Andrew's square, past Princes Street, and met them at the bus station. They regaled me with stories of having to huddle for warmth in a bathroom at 1am and turned me off the idea of taking the night bus when I return to Oxford.

Anyways, we made the 1.5 mile trek back to my flat, where they took a nap before we headed out again. I think the distance between my flat and everywhere came as a bit of a shock to them. In Oxford, everything is quite centrally located. In Edinburgh...not so much. It is 10 minutes from my flat to George Square (the campus). This is not a bad walk by any stretch of the imagination; indeed, I like walking, but it does take a bit of getting used to, especially after Oxford. Afterward, I led them on a roundabout route to Edinburgh Castle (read: I got lost trying to impress them with my ability to take different routes through the meadows) and ended up coming up round back. Still, it is a perspective that one misses out on if they come up the Royal Mile.
We had lunch at the Redcoat Cafe and then toured around the Castle. The audio guides were expensive, so I ended up giving them the informal tour. Whether or not they actually learned anything is debatable, but at least the stories I told sounded good. We managed to see almost everything in the castle and then took a stroll down the Royal Mile. I posed with a statue of Adam Smith whose 'Wealth of Nations' I have read on several occasions, and we watched a traditional Scottish wedding being held at St. Giles Kirk. On the way back to my flat, we wandered into Greyfriar's Kirkyard, established in the latter half of the 16th century, and famous for having the grave of Greyfriar's Bobby and the Mackenzie Poltergeist. The graves and funerary monuments are much different from anything we have in the States, and so it was quite interesting to wander around the graveyard.

The three of us decided to make a group dinner back at the flat. The end product was pasta, but positively gourmet compared to what I am used to cooking for myself. I usually just make some noodles and open a can of sauce. If I am feeling a bit fancy, I'll cut up some peppers and mushrooms to throw in the mix. However, this meal consisted of all of the above plus spices! (Don't laugh; it is a luxury in the diet of Rebecca Kaisler.) We also had cider, bread, and mozarella. Delicious. I doubt that such quality food will pass by me anytime soon. It is one thing to make up a special meal when you have visitors, but is it really necessary when cooking for yourself? No.

We had decided earlier on in the day to take a ghost tour of Edinburgh, and so we headed back up to the Royal Mile to catch the 'Underground Vaults' tour. My father and I took a similar one through Mercat Tours when we were in Edinburgh in 2005. This one was through a different company, but still quite entertaining. I could have sworn I felt something in one of the vaults, but certainly won't go so far as to claim that it was a ghost. We returned to the flat feeling quite exhilerated and got ready to hit the town. Along with Kelly, who lives in one of the flats downstairs, we went to Whistlebinkies, a dive bar off South Bridge, and then to Opium, a rock club on Cowgate. It was quite the night.

Despite going to bed at 3am, we still managed to get up at a semi-normal time (10) on Saturday. We had lunch at The Elephant House, which is where JK Rowling wrote part of Harry Potter. I was actually quite surprised by the quality and price of the food. I'll have to return when I am feeling flush. After that, it was down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, stopping inside Scottish Parliament first. I was a bit nervous about taking them to Holyrood Palace as I had played it up quite a bit on the walk down. I liked it considerably more than the castle the last time I was in Edinburgh and was hoping that it would live up to my memories. Luckily, it did, and both Karen and Veronica liked it as well. From there we went to the Whisky Heritage Centre at the very top of the Royal Mile. The award-winning tour was closed for renovation, but we did get to learn how to tell the difference between different types of whisky, got a free tastings, and a nosing glass. This was great in itself, but I feel the whole experience was made better by the fact that the store below had over 50 display cases of whisky! I was in heaven! Unfortunately, my cheap side got the better of me and I didn't buy anything.

Dinner consisted of sandwiches from Sainsbury's. Afterward, we met a few of Veronica's friends from Elmhurst who were also in Edinburgh at Doctor's, a pub up the street. Then it was down to Grassmarket to the Black Bull before back up to South Bridge to hit The Tron. We hadn't been there very long before someone pulled the fire alarm and everyone had to leave. It was only midnght, but we decided to head back to my flat so that I could work on my Retrospect article and get a good night's sleep.

Sunday was Karen and Veronica's last day in Edinburgh, so I decided to take them to my favourite place: Arthur's Seat. Due to time constraints, we skipped walking along the Salisbury crags and instead just began the ascent to Arthur's Seat. I've walked this path many times, so it wasn't that difficult for me, but I could tell that both of the Oxfordians were wondering what in the hell could be so great that such a climb would be worth it. Luckily, I think I proved that I was right when we reached the top as the view was excellent. It helped that the summit and the paths were incredibly dry, surprisingly so considering it had rained the night before. It was marvelous.

The walk proved to be exhausting for Karen and Veronica, and so they took a nap while I continued to catch up on work. We were supposed to go shopping on Princes Street, but decided against it so that they could sleep some more. At 6, they finally woke up, and we went to dinner at Frankenstein's on George IV Bridge. (Frankenstein's is where we have our Retrospect meetings and is, incidentally, a Frankenstein-themed pub in an old church.) It was so wonderful to have food that I hadn't cooked or wasn't a generic brand from the grocery store. I doubt that I will have such food again at least until spring break, so the memories will have to suffice until then. Karen and Veronica treated me, too, which only made it all the better.

By the time we got back to the flat, it was time for them to pack and begin the walk back to the bus station so that they could return to Oxford. Saying goodbye was quite bittersweet, since I know that I will see them again in less than three weeks. Still, it is always hard to watch your friends leave.

Overall, it was a good weekend. Now I am just working on the three papers and two presentations that I have left before I can head down south.

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