Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Edinburgh and Braemar

All four of us were ready for the weekend. It decided to take its sweet time getting here too. We arrived in England only a week ago but it seems like forever. We have had very busy days with little entertainment so Friday couldn’t come fast enough!

Friday we boarded our three hour train the bustling –yet eerie- town of Edinburgh Scotland. The city buildings are so old that from a far it almost feels as if it is abandoned. Eerie enough that ghost tours is a popular thing to do there.

The hostel we stayed at was awesome. It was almost like Urban Outfitters Hotel. Of course it wasn’t the cleanest place I’ve ever stayed but it wasn’t the filthiest either. The main room felt like an awesome coffee house/ chilled out more artsy version of commons lobby at A&M. We stayed in a mixed 16- person room, which proved to be most interesting. Laurel freaked out by the cleanliness of the place (or lack there of) got up twice during the night (slept walked) to unlock her locker with the keys she tied to the drawstring of her pants twice to get hand sanitizer. We met two guys who were on leave from California that were stationed in Germany, some Spanish travelers and some Chinese that tried to teach us dirty words in Chinese/Cantonese.
After settling in we battled the weather and struggled to walk up hills as the wind tried to tumble us in the other direction. Looking for grub we found the “Filling Station” and decided that’s exactly what we needed in so many ways. Not only did we fill up on food and drinks it was also time for an enthusiastic reminder “AHHHH! We are living in ENGLAND!” and had a girl’s night on the town. We found a pub that had live music in the heart of Edinburgh. It was fun just people watching and observing the people that live on the other side of the world. Before leaving we were introduced to the band, but then drug ourselves around 11:30 back to the hostel ready to pass out from sleep deprivation.
Around 3am the Spanish travelers came back to our hostel unfiltered and entertaining. Although all of us were awakened and annoyed by their obnoxious behavior I couldn’t help but silently laugh as they made farting noises followed immediately by girlish giggles.

By 7 am Saturday morning we were Braemar bound and about to experience the BEST thing of the trip so far (obviously, its only been one week)!! We went to the famous Royal Highland Games up in the far reaches of the highest points in Scotland, hence the Highland Games. These games have been around for 900 years and every year hundreds of Scots and their adoring fans, aka clans, gather around to watch the events and get a glance of the Queen of England. We ordered ringside seats in order to capture all of it firsthand.
Let me just paint a picture here for you.
Men in kilts- EVERYWHERE
Little boys in kilts- EVERYWHERE
People in general in kilts- EVERYWHERE
Its no wonder the Scottish have this stereotype tagged on their back. THEY ACTUALLY DO THIS.
So events included in these Braemar Games:
- the long jump
- sprinting and races
- little girls highland dancing
- The putting of the stone (kind of like shot-put)
- Throwing the hammer (what?)
- TUG OF WAR (which would have been a lot more interesting if they were pulling a rope over a slosh of mud or even a hungry pit of alligators…take your pick)
- AND, my personal favorite…The THROWING OF THE CABER! This, for those who don’t know, is equivalent to picking up a TREE weighing WHO knows as much and about one and a half stories tall, running with it, and then throwing it in hopes that it will rotate one complete turn and then land a specific way. See pictures
YES! THEY ACTUALLY DO THIS- For anyone who has seen Made of Honor with Patrick Dempsey and the highland game scene, that’s what this was! Something that you have to see to fully understand! Anyway- It was just incredible!
The band of bagpipes was also one of the most cultured thing I’ve seen and I lovedddd it!
It was FREEZING so we went into the town and picked out our plaid association in matching blankets and scarfs in order to bundle up. Each clan in Scotland has a different kind of plaid. Different color combinations and size of the patterns is designated to a specific clan. I tried to find the Murray Clan (which is my mothers side) but couldn’t so I picked out my own plaid because I liked the color combinations. So now I’m associated with the Buchanan clan!

An hour before the games were to end the Royal Party arrived. And when I say royal party, I mean THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND. Queen Elizabeth herself, in all her glory, right before us. Of course she had a grand entrance (this lady doesn’t do anything slyly) Stopping the games to roll up in her Rolls Royce sporting the British Flag, the crowd silently watched as she then walked up her ramp to her Royalty Box. Wow that was cool. Then everyone stood and sung Hail Queen Elizabeth or something like that. It was interesting. But definitely not the most shocking experience of our weekend.

After riding our bus back to Edinburgh we again stopped to pick up some food and then headed to another local pub with live music for a drink. The other girls were set on trying a Scottish Whiskey while in Scotland even though I was too tired and not really interested in having a drink. I went anyways in hopes the live music would wake me up. We ordered two different whiskeys and some coke to share. I could SMELL it before Laura and Laurel even returned to the table. It was overwhelmingly strong and could taste it without even drinking it.
We asked this man sitting behind us to take our picture and before we knew it he was taking a picture alright…AND showing us Americans what was underneath his kilt. I hope you can gather what happened when I say it was the most SHOCKING experience of our weekend!!!!!

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