10 July 2006

the real scotland

So right now i’m at the public library in Stirling, Scotland, and typing as fast as I can to get a quick update done.

This is the home and haunt of William Wallace, aka Braveheart. We should learn much more about him in the next couple days, as we’ll be doing a bit of touring and our hostel even bears his name.

The next two days just about wrap up our rather impromtu tour of Scotland. Taking the advice of the jolly Scottish guys we met, we headed straight for the highlands. We started in St Andrews, which is the famous home of golf. Usually it’s a university town, but with all the students gone we were left with mostly middle-aged golf fanatics for company. Our hostel was pretty, but full of families and crying babies. Not exactly party central, but quaint. St Andrews is right on the ocean though, which gave us a great chance to take in some sea air.

However, our hostel full of familes and crying babies deterred us from staying another night, so we caught another bus and headed further north.

Next stop was Inverness, the capital of the highlands. There we stayed in a cozy, small place where 2 of the 4 employees were Canadians from out west who had both developed annoying fake scottish accents and furiously towel-whipped eachother on all occasions. The hostel was a great hub for meeting travellers, and they put on lots of activities for us. We went to a Ceilidh (a night of traditional song and dance) at a local pub, where Brian was definitely the most graceful dancer in our group of overweight, bearded tourists.

The town was great for live music and general scenery, but we decided to take a little day the infamous Loch Ness. Although the sand of crushed sea shells makes the lake shine gold, and the water is refreshing, this 25 mile long lake had no slimy beasts in sight. At least not for us, which was a little disappointing :(

Inverness is also home to the Ness Islands, which is a small group of bridged islands in the middle of the River Ness. It makes for a perfect place to drink a bottle of wine with the two of us and an australian (who was cool enough until he taked about putting glo-sticks in bulfrogs and throwing them into the night sky...maybe our aussie dave is not so bad compared to some of his countrymen).

After a few days we had to start heading south again, and we thought we were going to Oban, a town on the west coast, but actually got stranded in a small town called Fort William. It is nestled in the middle of Scotland's highest mountains, and wraps around a huge loch, but it was packed with other travellers. The only hostel left was called 'Chase the Wild Goose', and chase it we did. Although it was about an hours walk from town, the dismal map we were given sucked to the point that it stretched our backpack'd hike into 2+ hours in the pouring rain through fields of sheep droppings. When we arrived we were met by a strange man with the voice of Mr. Bean and the look of Peter Pettigrew from the Harry Potter films. Turns out we had found ourselves at a Christian monastery-esque place. The 10 commandments of the hostel were even written on our entrance passes. I passed a decent's night's sleep, only to be awoken by a mostly naked Italian woman changing right in front of my bunk while unzipping bags and scrunching plastic bags for at least 40 minutes at 5:30 am.

We got out of there pretty fast.

And then it was down to Stirling, Scotland at Willy Wallace hostel. Both the town and the hostel were recommended by Jennie, and we were happy with both. Although it was rainy and cold, and the streets filled up with swaggering drunks at night, it was a really cool, historical town. I'll let Brian talk about all the William Wallace stuff, but highlights for me were:
- watching highland dancers in front of stirling Castle at sunset
- Burger King ice cream for 99p
- watching Pirates of the Caribbean II and realizing almost all the pirates in it have Scottish accents ( and then hearing Scottish audience members laugh at these accents)
- Playing Kings/International Peace Treaty with an interesting cast of characters: one witty kiwi girl, two south africans who bragged about holding their drink and then did not, One long-haired American guy who hunts stone cirlces and constantly gets embararassed by his fellow americans, including another American guy who started the game, raved about the wonders of blue cheese, then passed out cold after 4 beers, one Polish guy who looked about 14, learned his english from the Cartoon Network and mocked passed-out American constantly.
- Discovering how tough Scottish Women are after seeing them tell of many, many men and yell and scream at anyone who messes with them.

It was quite a night.

So now we're back in Edinburgh, enjoying out last night in this fair country.

And Roz, I've seen 2 different tartans that claim to the Burns tartan. One is grey, black and white, and the other had blue and green in it. Which one is it?

Tomorrow we're off to Dublin to visit Kate and explore the emerald isle for 7 days. yay!


Burns said...

Have you found my clan tartan yet?

alex said...

exciting adventures! picturing brian doing a scottish jig (or maybe it's because i'm imagining him doing a michael flatley lord-of-dance-ish number in a dim and crowded scottish pub) is quite entertaining..

being lost in the rain isn't fun, and neither are annoying hostel-mates who make early-morning noise, but you need some crap things to balance out the great parts, right? :)

take care, be safe, and keep posting!

love you both!
alex xo

Burns said...

There are so many versions of my tartan, Im sure Robert Burns would be quite upset. However, I do prefer the blue one.

I picture you fighting your way through a field of sheep very bitterly and its makes me happy. Happy to know that my friend's are really going out and exploring the "real" scotland. HAHA its sad that I think a feild of sheep embodies my homeland, but oh well. Thats how I remember it (akward squinty-stare to the left).

Have you had curry on the side of everything? Also, how do you like Asda, so much better than Tesco's I think.