Because there is too much that occurred during the past few weeks and I am likely to lose motivation to finish the post if I attempt to describe it all, this will be a picture post with some descriptions. If you can't access it, let me know and I can send the pictures directly in an email or include a more detailed description of my activities. Note: I will not post pictures of anyone who has not given me express permission to post about them.
My former suitemate Chris came to visit for a few days on his way home from the SMCM study tour in Greece. Unfortunately, I had to work every day, but we still managed to have fun. Of particular interest was our trip to Craigmillar Castle and the Mercat Tour's Gallows to Graveyard ghost tour (from which this picture is taken). Chris was quite popular on the ghost tour and role-played out the stories on several occasions. Probably because he looks like Matt Damon. Also of note was that Chris and I successfully made a wonderful pasta involving shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, garlic, and pesto. This is quite the accomplishment for me. It was lovely having Chris visit and although I wish that I could have had more free time with which to show him around, I still think we managed to have a great time.
Drew arrived in Edinburgh on June 30th. I met him at the airport and was quite nervous to see him since we had been apart for a month. But the moment I saw him round the corner at International Arrivals, it was as if the time had never occurred. The thirty days didn't matter at all, because it was as if we had picked up right where we left off on May 30th in Dulles. As with Chris' visit, I had to work during the days that Drew was in Edinburgh, especially since the Consulate's Independence Celebration was occurring on July 2nd and everyone was in super-panic mode. I did manage to get off two half days though, and thoroughly enjoyed walking around town with Drew.
The theme of the Consulate's 4th of July party was 'freedom, Americana, and rock 'n' roll'. Naturally, this meant that we had to have Harley-Davidson and Jack Daniels' as sponsors. Our welcome drinks include Jack and Coke mixes, and Jack and lemonaide. Harley strategically located several awesome bikes around the foyer and main party room. Despite the fact that I have no interest in ever owning a motorcycle, I still had to get my photograph on one. To preserve my bad-ass reputation, of course.
One of the particular highlights of the event was the presentation of a limited edition lithograph (no. 4 of 100) of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath by Minister of Culture, Fiona Hyslop, to Consul Dana Linnet. The Declaration is incredibly important in Scottish history as it declared Scotland's status as a sovereign, independent state after Pope John XXII recognized Edward I of England as overlord of Scotland. Robert the Bruce and the Scottish nobles who signed the declaration were not pleased and so signed the declaration. It likely influenced the US Declaration of Independence. I had the opportunity to see the original at a ceremony earlier in the day. It was last displayed to the public in 2001 and will next be on show in 2020. For a history major such as myself, it was an emotional moment. The rest of the party went off without a hitch and afterwards Drew and his parents took me out for an absolutely amazing dinner. I can honestly say that I could not have had a better birthday. I will remember it forever. (Although I am not particularly keen to note the age. I am a 22 year old dating an 18 year old. AH!!! Cradle-robber indeed!!!!)
We left Edinburgh early the next morning for the Highlands. Drew's family is from the north of Scotland and they have gone on road trips in the past. I was honored to have been invited to accompany them on this one. We took a rental car from the airport to Fort William, and I immediately was envious of Drew's father's driving skills. I doubt that I would have been able to so easily adapt to the differences between the US and UK driving methods. Since the trip to Bettyhill, the town where Drew's family is from, was too lengthy for a straight-shot trip, we stopped in Fort William on Saturday afternoon so that Drew and I could climb Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK and is frequently used by climbers to train for Mt. Everest (despite the fact that it is roughly 22,000 ft shorter than Everest). I have wanted to climb the Ben since I first came to Scotland in 2004, but have never been in the situation where I had others who wanted to climb it with me. This time, I had my wonderful boyfriend. And so, beginning at 1:30PM on July 3, we started for the summit.
My Lonely Planet guidebook had warned me that the entire trip would take 8-10 hours, and we had told Drew's parents that we would be back at the foot of the mountain by 8PM at the latest for safety reasons, so we started with dim spirits as to the possibility of making it to the top. The trip was arduous, but not entirely unpleasant. It wasn't until the summit when the cloud cover reduced visibility to 20ft and fogged up my glasses, and when the low temperature and heavy winds made it feel as if I was being physically assaulted, that it really got miserable. We reached the summit at 4:30 and left at 4:36. Take home message: no climbing Mt. Everest for me. Nope. Not worth it.
We spent the night in Fort William and then it was northwards again on Sunday. Passing Inverness, Helsmgard, and Tain, we ended up in Tongue and then drove west to Bettyhill. With a population of 500, it made Clifton Forge seem large, which is no mean feat! The picture below was taken looking at Farr Beach.