Ringing in 2010

I just can't get used to all the snow. I mean, it's not like I haven't seen it before, skied in it and, recently, thrown some serious snowballs. Heck, I've even made a snow angel or two in my day. But I've nevereverever lived in a place where it was supposed to snow. But since winter hit Scotland, we've seen more flurry days than I can count on both hands. It snowed twice while we were in Inverness recently and again when we went to Edinburgh and it came down in buckets last night. All the mucky ice is now camoflauged in a lovely soft, smooth layer of fresh snow... which makes my walk to work in the morning all the more exciting.


But speaking of Edinburgh, we had a really great trip to the capital city of Scotland! Mike, me and Stephen left Wednesday, Dec. 30, after a very early morning (and slightly tearful) goodbye to my mom and Louis Dean. They left our flat around 4:45am and were able to catch a flight from Aberdeen to London and then a first class flight back home to DFW. I am so glad their return trip was smooth and enjoyable, versus the nearly 50 hours they spent trying to get here!!


Anyway, the drive to Edinburgh was about 2.5 hours but we stopped off in Stirling to get a look at the National (William) Wallace Monument. It was too cold and icey to walk all the way to the top, so we only took pictures from below. I wondered why the heck it had been built in Stirling so I looked it up and turns out, his freedom campaign ended in a victorious battle at Stirling Bridge in 1297. Cool! The whole first floor of the monument is apparently dedicated to Wallace and his story, while other areas also commemorate notable figures like Sir Walter Scott, the famous author and poet, and Rabbie Burns (or Robert Burns, as we know him), the Scots most loved poet and lyricist... even referred to as the national poet of Scotland.


The poet is so revered that he has his own holiday: Burns Night, or Burns Supper. It's is an incredibly widely recognized celebration on the 25th of January and we'll be attending one with Mike's work group. From Wikipedia: "The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace. After the grace, comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, where Burns' famous Address To a Haggis is read and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the 'immortal memory,' an overview of Burns' life and work, is given; the event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne."


 So yes, I might have to force down eat a bite of haggis at this thing! Hopefully it will be no more than that. But I'm looking forward to yet another new cultural experience, who doesn't appreciate a famous poet? Good ole Rabbie Burns. I shall be sure to deliver a full report of our haggis, er, dining experience.

Back on topic, I caught a glimpse of the Stirling Castle as we continued on to Edinburgh. Not only was much of the Braveheart film captured in the legendary town of Stirling, but this castle also holds quite a bit of history in itself. Located atop a craggy set of cliffs, it was known for it's well-placed defensive position in its early years, which some have said goes back to the 12th century. But it's seen the appearance and crowning of many notable kings and queens, like the crowning of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543. The last of eight seiges of the castle occurred in 1746 and it's now a Scheduled Ancient Monument (UK talk for a really really important historical and archaelogical site protected against change). We plan to revisit Stirling in the spring or summer, probably with guests, to get the grand tour of the castle and a better look at the monument. It's just too cold for much right now!


Edinburgh will require a return trip as well. It was a fairly easy drive to reach, and even in the grip of winter you can tell the city has a lively cultural scene, great pubs and food, music and theatre, shopping and grand tourist attractions like the stately Edinburgh Castle and the Museum of Scotland. The city also lays claim to a reputable history of literary greatness: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Boswell and Sir Walter Scott have all lived and worked in Edinburgh. In fact, there's a beautiful monument near the castle that's dedicated to Sir Walter Scott. The Scott Monument is a 200 foot tall Victorian Gothic spire erected in 1844, beneath which rests a sculpture of the great poet, who was born in Edinburgh in 1771. He attended the University of Edinburgh and has also been credited with the salvation of the Scottish banknote in 1826, when the UK Parliament attempted to discontinue the production of banknotes less than £5. (That's like the US getting rid of dollar bills!!) Scott wrote a series of letters to the Edinburgh Weekly Journal under the pseudonym "Malachi Malagrowther," which elicited such a strong response that the government was forced to abandon it's crusade. Thus Scott is now pictured on the front of all banknotes issued by the Bank of Scotland (the bank we are members of here). 



But enough of a history lesson, let's get on to the party! Our first night in Edinburgh, we ventured out to a couple sidestreets stemming off the nightlife-laden Princes Street and found row after row of inviting pubs. No matter how many of these things we've been into over here across the pond, each one always manages to come across as distinctly different from the other. Some are so baroque and opulent with gilded ceilings and elaborate beer taps that look more like art then the bearer of brew. Some are simple and plain with beer-stained counter tops and rustic wooden chairs and tables. And some are electically modern, clinging to the last of their history perhaps preserved in that prized bottle of aged whisky that sits high atop the bar.


And it's not always about the drinking, we don't consider Scotland to simply be a giant pub crawl. It's about the experience: trying new things, meeting new people, seeing new places and getting out of our comfort zone. (Though I can say with some certainty we accomplished the latter as soon as we got on the plane here!) It's about things like discovering that "turkey olives" are not olives at all, but rather a holiday dish of stuffing and bacon wrapped in turkey! At Dirty Dick's pub, we met a lovely couple from Yorkshire that shared their past New Years experiences with us and insight on their life in England. At another, we sipped our beers and watched it hail, rain, sleet and snow outside... all within 20 minutes. At the giant street party where we rang in 2010, we watched a man propose to his stunned girlfiend just before the fireworks announced it was midnight.

So for New Years Eve, we made it out of the hotel in time for a late lunch and wandered around a bit. That night, we headed out again for the big Hogmanay celebration, stopping in a small low-ceiling joint for a brewsky then hiked up next to the castle for a few pictures.



Wearing a long sleeve thermal, a fleece, a hooded vest, a ski jacket, tights, jeans, two pairs of socks and gloves, I figured it was high time to brave the elements and join the party. Once you enter, you're in.. there's no leaving and coming back, it's a one-way ticket they explained! We had fun checking out the concerts and DJs set up at different areas of Princes Street and visited the street vendors selling baked potatoes, haggis, hot dogs and beer. The beer carts had all the Carlsberg just sitting in boxes since the weather was so cold, there was no need to refridgerate! As you drank the beer, it actually got colder. Wierd.


We rang in 2010 with a spectacular fireworks show that exploded above the Edinburgh Castle on the hilltop in front of us. (New Years Eve was Mike and I's first official date, which was unplanned when I met up with him at 12:30am that night. We hung out with friends and then talked till the wee hours of the morning, and we started dating soon after!) It was really exciting to be part of such a huge crowd, they all sang together when the fireworks died down and then dispersed madly into the nearby pubs. We'd decided we'd had enough fun and COLD for one night, I already added heat packets to my shoes and my gloves long before the clock struck 12. But we'll definitely go back to see more of the city when warmer weather permits, what a great experience!

If you've made it to the end of this very long post, I thank you for your perseverance and dedication! I know I rambled on, but I do enjoy getting to share our experience abroad with whomever might be reading. We hope the snow persists over the next few weeks and that we get to do a little skiing at the Glenshee Ski Centre. What else? Mike and I will probably book tickets soon for our trip to Italy in June, a one-week dream excursion for my 25th birthday! We're also getting extremely excited about our visit back to Texas next month, we can't wait to see our friends and family and get a big heapin' helpin' of all the food we miss. We've also chosen destinations for upcoming spring months and will be working those out as well: Germany, London, Spain and Switzerland.

Have you been to those countries?
Do you have any travel recommendations?
What has been your favorite destination and why?
Post a comment and let us know!


  1. Amber I suggest you fly into Munich and while there go to Dachau which is a concentration camp. I think every American should visit it. then I would go to Berchestesgarden. there they have the salt mines which is fun and Hitlers retreat ... while up on that mountain you an see 4 countries at once on a clear day. It is gorgeous. 30 minutes from there just over the border is Salzburg Austria where the sound of Music was filmed... one of my favorit places on earth. Depending on how long you visit Germany you could also go south from Munich and see Neu Swanstein Castle, the one Disney land was made to look like, and down the winding road is the brothers grim area where all the fairy tales were written about. every 10 years they do the our door passion play of Christ also but you would have to check out details there. Have a great trip and if you decide another area, you will love it. the black forrest is great .. gosh you can't go wrong really. we livd there 7 yrs and I would go back in a heart beat. Luann

  2. thanks luann!! wow, 7 years. that's a bit longer than our one year adventure! :) someone else suggested the black forest as well, so i'll check it out. cheers!


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