Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hot Blonde Cousins Abroad------- Adventure #1 In What Hopes To Be a Lifelong Series of Related Incidents

Scotland Day #1: We awoke at approximately 4am after not nearly enough sleep, something that proceeded to be a common theme for the duration of the weekend. I felt the magic of Harry Potter infiltrating all we did as we took a "Knight" bus to King's Cross at 5am and I was able to take a picture at Platform 9 and 3/4 because there was no line at that heinous hour. Getting on the train from Edinburgh, I really hoped that I might be boarding the Hogwarts Express on my way to the renowned school of magical learning. Perhaps I didn't actually receive my owl of acceptance in the mail, but the weekend was filled with enchantments all the same.

The train from London to Edinburgh is a little over 4 hours, and while we were beyond exhausted on the outset, as we got closer to our destination, excitement and anticipation took over. We were told repeatedly all weekend long that we had basically landed the jackpot when it comes to Scottish weather, so when we exited the train station, the sun was blazing and the skies were clear. Most of us already know that I have the worst sense of direction in the history of mankind, so thank GOD for my cousin. She has a great radar and a keen memory for directions so that, along with lots of free wifi and cell phone screen shots, made it possible to get around. We headed to our first b&b of the weekend, a quirky little establishment a bit further outside the center of town. Later on we realized that the buses make it very quick and easy to get around except for the fact that the schedules and timetables are not reliably posted online so we were never really sure when or if a bus would show up. Once we dropped our bags at the b&b and freshened up, we immediately jumped into our adventures. First stop? Edinburgh Castle, which you can see from almost anywhere in this historic city. It was a lovely walk inside and around the castle, and gave us time to jaunt down the Royal Mile and grab a sandwich before our scheduled whisky tasting at the Scottish Whisky Experience, just a stone's throw away. We really didn't know what to expect, and it turns out this place is rather touristy, but it's a great opportunity to taste different whiskies rather than just one kind at a distillery. Best of all? The first part of the tour is like a Disneyworld ride, where you climb into a massive whisky barrel and are carted around following a ghost of whisky past, present, and future or some such thing. I was obviously thrilled, given my penchant for all things absurd. They did a really good job of explaining the four main regions of whisky-making in Scotland, and depending on what tour you paid for, get to try one whisky during the tour, or like us, 4 more after too! They also let you keep your whisky tasting glass, a nice little souvenir to bring home.

For the evening, we had planned to hit up a tasty dinner and go in search of some traditional live music. Since we had the lucky privilege of getting on a bus going the opposite direction from our accommodations and didn't realize for approximately 20 minutes into the journey, we took the opportunity to look up restaurants about town and make a reservation in case things were full due to the holiday weekend. After primping up a bit and having mastered the bus system at long last, we made our way back into the center of town and went to a lovely restaurant for dinner. Our main goal was to find somewhere with haggis (not a difficult thing in Edinburgh) but that was nice and not too expensive. We ended up at a place called Howie's, there are more than one in town, and were ultimately very pleased with our choice.  We started with appetizers, my cousin got haggis and I got pigeon. Both were odd, to say the least. I tasted the haggis because I knew it was something you have to do in Scotland, but as exhibited by a picture below, I just couldn't get the texture to disassociate with what I knew was inside the dish. My cousin, on the other hand, finished her whole portion while I nibbled at the rest of my pigeon resting on a bed of black pudding. Happily, I had a truly lovely dish of venison as my main course and we split some delicious desserts. As we walked out of the restaurant,  we both had food coma, and were supremely disappointed when we went to a bar supposedly renowned for traditional music and felt like we were young silly blonde girls in a room of older local townies. Exiting quickly, we wandered around town for a bit, wondering if we would have to head home early and not have our crazy night out after all, but determined to have at least one drink out before calling it quits. As always, these sentiments would forebode a night of ridiculousness...

At long last (and after having another Cadbury Creme Egg Mcflurry, because come on, when in Rome!), we finally found a bar that had a bustling crowd inside. Literally within seconds of entering, we were accosted by a severely drunk guy, very harmless but also very intent on playing a game of 20 questions before we could even take off our coats or order a drink. I was able to get a word in eventually, and kindly suggest that we would really be happier continuing the conversation with a beer in our hands, so he let us go free for a minute. A friend of his, who had made a comment about speaking French once he learned I was currently living in Paris, started chatting me up a bit later. Hot Blonde Cousin and I are well aware of our charms and can certainly handle ourselves in a room full of rowdy Scotsmen, though I'm not sure I will ever be able to drink as much as they can. As the first bar was closing down for the night, the boys requested we follow them to another location, where we continued to drink and be merry. As the night waned, my Scottish lad, full of traditional Scottish "banter" on top of his hearty Scottish accent, kissed me... aaaaaaaaaw... In one day, I was able to achieve the three things I was told you should absolutely accomplish when in Scotland... Whisky, Haggis, and a Scottish kiss... Done, done, and done... 

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