Pictures: Day Fifteen

Today, we took off on a tour bus with the “Rabbie’s” Tour Company and a super fun tour guide named Steve! A little about Steve: he is really good at sound effects (like cannons booming), and narrates stories with different character’s voices. After almost leaving dad behind in the cafe bathroom, we took off for the Villages of Fife, including Anstruther, as well as St. Andrew’s and Falkland. The first stop Steve took us to was overlooking three bridges, which were important for their architecture, since one was the model for the Eiffel Tower’s architecture. These bridges replaced a bridge that tragically collapsed, killing a bus of people, and the architect (named Bouch) was to blame. This is where we get the phrase “a botched job,” according to Steve. Next, we stopped at Anstruther, a little fishing village where we walked by the ocean, drank a coffee, and touched the North Sea. Then, on to St. Andrew’s, the golfer’s dream! We spent three hours here, jaunting about the course, buying lots of merchandise, and taking pictures on the small, famous bridge. I was excited about seeing ducklings in the little creek that runs through the course. I’ve never golfed, but I appreciate how hard it would be in those absolutely windy conditions.

On the bus, we met fellow Clemson Tigers, the Streeter family – it’s small and orange world after all! They were taking a family vacation as well, and I feel like I met a celebrity since the father was one of the coaches on the football team. They were a super nice family (of course they were, they’re a Clemson Family!) and we took a Tiger Rag pic to commemorate the event.

We ate lunch in town and experience a landmark event in our culinary lives: sticky toffee pudding. Oh. My. None shall be as good as that first taste of sticky toffee pudding.

For those of you who aren’t golfers, or for those of you that had a full English tea while watching the Royal Wedding, there is something else compelling about St. Andrews: the love story of William and Kate! They met at the university and the rest is history. I could imagine them walking the streets with Kate’s perfect hair being tousled by the wind. We also saw the cathedral, which held a fascinating and dynamic cemetery with the framing of the old structure. Not without some panic about the tour bus leaving us, we made it back to our vehicle and Steve to make our way to Falkland. This place is famous for both its Royal Palace as well as being the filming location for the Outlander series adaptation (a book series many people have told me to read, and now feel like I must!). Mary Queen of Scots stayed at the palace at one point, and the place is still in use by some royal family. After touring, we stopped in a dual coffee cafe/pub for a pint and a cappuccino (for our different cravings). There was a man playing the acoustic guitar in the pub, which added to the lovely low stone ceiling and general Scottish atmosphere. We made our way back to Edinburgh, and had dinner at the Whiski Rooms, which turned out to be one of our best meals (even though they were out of Steak!! A crisis for our family).

Pictures: Day Fourteen

Today, we hopped back on our red bus and toured the Edinburgh Castle. It was rainy (but of course!) and very crowded, but also a fascinating tour. We got the sweet audio headsets to guide us along, and saw giant cannons and a Dog Cemetery. When we got to the crown jewels, we found out that they had taken the actual Crown that morning to be used in a ceremony. Later on, we saw the police car bring it back. Just missed it! We were also able to see the changing of the guards and the one o’clock cannon boom. Back in the day, the cannon signaled the time for the workers down at the docks; why one o’clock you ask? One o’clock is cheaper to signal than twelve o’clock, since there is only one shot fired. Smart one, Scotland!

After our castle tour, we shopped on the “Royal Mile,” and Carson found a photo op with an owl. Classic. Mom and I bought scarves with fun tartan prints. We had lunch at the Beehive Inn, a fun pub with a lively atmosphere, and had more fish and chips as well as some sort of meat pie thing. On my bucket list to visit next was the Elephant Room coffee café where JK Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books; it was packed, and we had no cash to buy anything, but hey, we saw it and could imagine her creative inspiration happening with a pen and paper and coffee in hand! Plus, the graffiti in the bathroom was super inspiring and all Harry Potter themed. Then we split, the boys going to hike the mountainous park right outside the city, and the girls going back to the hotel for Afternoon Tea. Because scones and clotted cream had to be consumed! Jake, Carson, and I attempted our “Hotel HIIT Workout” in the room, which was a challenge because we had three twin beds in a very small space. Burpees aren’t easy to do with 2 feet of carpeted floor. We made it work though, which was good because of the shortbread cookies. That night, we roamed around for some food that wasn’t fish and chips or in a super crowded pub, and found an American Style place where dad got Fajitas. It was actually very good!

Pictures: Day Thirteen

On day thirteen, we took a shuttle to the Zurich Airport to catch a plane to Edinburgh, Scotland! We landed, met our driver, and arrived at our hotel: “The Old Waverly Inn.” This hotel immediately became one of our favorites, even though there were stairs right away that we had to lug our suitcases up (it counted as exercise, amirite?). It had a great view of the Scott Monument right out the window (big pointy thing in the pics) and was right in the heart of Edinburgh. The Waverly had these BOMB Scottish Shortbread cookies that came in the room. (We almost stole a whole bunch when we saw them sitting in the hall; don’t worry, we have some restraint. We also smuggled all the extras they gave us in our backpacks, so they gave us extras every day. Muahaha.) There were scenic stairs that wound all the way up the hotel, and our rooms had a view of the charming department store across the street, “Jenners.” Soon after arriving, we ran to find some food, and of course got caught in rain without raincoats. Are we tourists, or what? But we ended up at an amazing restaurant on one of the main streets called “All Bar One” which I would go back to in a heartbeat. When we asked our waitress about the spontaneous rain showers, she said, “I don’t mind it – I’m not made of sugar, I won’t melt.”

We headed back to our hotel to catch our “hop on hop off” bus right across the street. Fabulous double decker fun! We spent the rest of the day on the bus, really just seeing the city. And what a city! When JK Rowling has graced the streets and cafes, you know it’s going to be magical. We circled around the city in the bus, driving by all sorts of little pubs, beautiful architecture, interesting structures, and fun people (including lots of KILTS and bagpipes!!! We saw so many! Dreams do come true.) We saw barber shops and hamburger places, historic pubs and literary tours. The entire city seems centered around the Edinburgh Castle, which sits on a raised volcanic cliff, and has a stadium sort of thing built by it, the kind that looks like  it holds the Quidditch World Cup. The city itself is on different levels, so you go up and down in the streets, and sometimes you go under a bridge. We stopped by a statue of a dog outside Greyfriar’s Bobby, and the story is that this dog visited his owner’s grave for 14 years. Tearjerker! It seems a lot of the pubs have stories behind them.

We learned by listening to our plug-in bus tour earbuds that there is a New Town and Old Town in Edinburgh, and we were staying near Old Town I believe. We found the skyline is truly amazing at night. Also, it stays light SO LATE and gets light SO EARLY, so our concept of time is really off. Good morning? Good evening? At this point, who knows! We ended up eating dinner at a pub, where we had some heavenly fish and chips. (PS, chips = fries and crisps = chips! Confused? So are we). We closed our blinds tightly and got some rest.