Glasgow is a city very different from Edinburgh. I have seen a lot more runners in the streets and parks. Yet I have not gone on a run myself. There is another international student here at the youth hostel who is also a runner and we plan on running together this evening. That way I would not be running alone in the city.
I’d recommend evening runs on the Isle of Arran so long as you are racing the setting sun and are back just as it is getting dark. However, in these cities, the mornings or during the day is more ideal to run.
As a runner, especially one who competes, I have to try my best to maintain my workout schedule as I can. In coming to Scotland I have balanced out my schoolwork and the activities we are required to attend with my runs.
I see running as a lifestyle that instills a positive outlook on life as well as creates a clear mindset while releasing stress. As a result my runs in Scotland have met bare requirement of what I need to be successful with my up coming season. I just need to take these next few days and get in at least 4-10miles until I go back home to St. Louis Missouri.
Where the old meets the new. A castle and roads and a mountain are only a few things that make up this city of Edinburgh.
Much to do here and yet I find myself missing the Isle of Arran. Maybe it is the country girl at heart that speaks out to me or just the simple fact that the chances of getting run over by a Scotsman by car are not as high, but something about that place was very rewarding.
And then there is Arthur’s Seat located in Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. I have, so far, run up it twice: once yesterday and second time today. I have not yet had a ran that lasted more then 30 minutes and as a result feel no sense of accomplishment as far as my training goes for the upcoming season of cross-country. Regardless it brings me a piece of nature that I have left behind in Isle Arran. I miss the view of the ocean from up on the hill. Miss the smell of the weeds and flowers along the roadside as well as the rushing water.
The city has its perks. There are many events going on here like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012. Many stand up comedians perform, free, at all hours of the day in dungeon like bar scene atmospheres.
Edinburgh is a tourist friendly city. Much to do in the city and during the time of year we made our way to it is even more suitable for a traveler looking for something exciting and new to do.
Photo by Linda Williams
Anyone who knows even a little bit about me inevitably knows my love for dogs—all animals, really, but mostly dogs. Throughout my time in Scotland I’ve discovered that the country shares my enthusiasm for the loyal canines.
There are dogs everywhere in Scotland. And I’m loving every minute of it.
Whenever I leave St. Louis, I like to take photos of all the cute pups I see. It soon became impossible to document every dog I came across in Scotland because of the sheer abundance of them, but I still managed a decent bunch.
On the Isle of Arran, I was charmed by how frequently I came across farmers walking through fields of sheep with a border collie close at their heels. And on the ferry over to Arran, we sat in an area with a bunch of dogs that were travelling to the isle with their families.
There are a lot more dog-friendly establishments here than in St. Louis, too. I’ve found that it is more common to see an “assistance dogs only” sign in windows prohibiting dogs than those encouraging dogs, because it pretty much goes without saying that most places are dog friendly.
Parks are full of people playing fetch with their pets. Dogs ride in the passenger seat of cars. I even passed a couple walking their dog at two in the morning. This country loves their dogs.
Going beyond just the dogs I’ve seen in real life, I’ve seen plenty of evidence of beloved dogs from the past. When we toured Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran, quite a few of the paintings on the walls were portraits of Victorian-era people with their dogs looking noble at their side. Not just one or two paintings, either. I’d say probably 25 percent of the paintings showed dogs, and there were paintings covering the walls. There were even some sketches and watercolor paintings of dogs fighting bears or other dogs. That’s totally not cool with me, but I thought it was noteworthy.
I guess this is a silly blog topic, but I’ve been thinking about all the dogs in Scotland since the beginning of this trip. I’m thinking about dogs most of the time, really.
Dog on Ferry Photo by Julia Gabbert
Patriotism is not a character trait I claim to have even on the best of days. I try to keep my nose semi-clean of politics because of the hostile rifts that usually form between people after political discussions. I don’t hate my country, but you’ll also never hear me tooting that “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”
Before leaving the States, I knew that America and its citizens have a largely negative reputation in other countries, and since arriving I’ve more often been embarrassed of being an American than proud.
My accent, obviously, has been a dead giveaway. Whenever I talk to someone, they usually ask where I’m from.
The United States, I reply.
“Well, that’s obvious…”
(I hope I’m not making Scots sounds mean. Let me clarify that this trip has been amazing. I love Scotland and all the people. I’ve experienced more playful teasing than blatant harshness. This isn’t a blog to complain about how Scotland is a big bully, just to outline the separation I’ve felt for being American in another country.)
When we were in Edinburgh, we landed right in the heart of the Fringe Festival, a month-long, city-wide celebration of comedy, cabaret, musicals, theater, etc. In my free time, I tried to go to as many free comedy shows as possible. They were held in small bars, and the comedians often interacted with the audience. My somewhat obnoxious counterpart would always be the first to scream out “UNITED STATES!” whenever a comedian asked where the audience was from, bringing in a shower of insults.
“Of course you’re American—look how much attention you’re drawing to yourself.”
“American? Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that…”
“You live in America? Why would anyone ever want to live in America?”
“[insert some tease about healthcare]”
“[insert some tease about wars]”
“[insert some tease about overall ignorance]”
And what else could I do than shyly shrug my shoulders and hang my head in shame? I didn’t want to be “that guy” who tried to argue, when the comment clearly wasn’t an attempt at a conversation. The comedians just wanted a laugh. That laugh just so happened to be at my expense. And I get it. Believe me, I totally get it.
Through the Glasgow youth hostel, I met a group of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, one of which is American. We went out to a bar together one night, where one of the beautiful Swedish girls in the group caught the eye of a slightly inebriated native. To divert his attention from our obviously uncomfortable friend, the other American engaged the native in a random conversation. After several minutes, the conversation shifted (as it often does) to politics. Under the influence of a few too many beers, the conversation got a little out of hand. Long story short, the native started verbally attacking us for being ignorant Americans, blaming us for things that we have no control over. By the end of the night, though, the debaters were able to clink glasses and shake hands.
Glasgow and Edinburgh are both big cities with tons of tourists, so as foreigners we’ve been in good company. The America-bashing was mostly all in good fun. I never felt threatened, just slightly shamed. Maybe if I could form the Scottish accent I so badly desire, I wouldn’t have to feel so alienated when traveling.
Part of what I study at Webster is environmental sustainability, so back home I try to do all the little things to lessen my negative impact on the planet. So, naturally, I can’t help but notice some of the things that Scotland does that I’ve never seen in the United States. It’s no question that the U.S. isn’t the most sustainable place on earth (especially compared to rolling green hills Scotland), but these are just a few of the everyday things that could make American day-to-day life more environmentally friendly.
First of all, the power outlets here can be turned off when not in use. At home, I compulsively unplug my cell phone charger when I’m not using it, because I worry that having it plugged into nothing wastes energy. Here, instead of unplugging things, I can just turn off the entire outlet. Little bits at a time, I bet that can save a lot of energy.
Likewise, there is a pull-string in the bathroom that has to be switched on before you take a shower. If the string is not pulled, the water heater won’t turn on and your shower water will be cold. I always thought it was such a waste that my shower at home heats up the entire tank of water during my shower, only to go cold when the water is shut off and not used. And the tank just keeps heating up periodically so that hot water is always available.
When we were on the Isle of Arran, I noticed that there were clotheslines in every backyard, and everyone actually used them to hang-dry their laundry. I learn that dryers really aren’t that common in Scotland, because most people use clotheslines to dry their clothes. (Even though it rained the one time I tried to hang-dry my laundry, I still think this is an excellent energy saver. It gets unbearably hot in St. Louis in the summer, though the air may not be as clean—is it plausible for more people to use clotheslines in the States?)
On the Isle of Arran, and in the other non-big-cities in Scotland, small farms are a dime a dozen. There are sheep and cattle everywhere, not to mention super cute farmers accompanied by their even cuter and more picturesque border collies. This means, I hope, that there are more independent, sustainably operated farms. Regardless, more small farms means less industrially produced food, and that is my main concern. Down with industrial agriculture!
I mentioned the Arran distillery in my last blog post for their respect for wildlife, and now I will give kudos once again. On the tour of the distillery, the tour guide stressed that it is a priority not to waste materials during the production of whisky. The leftover grain goes to cattle feed or fertilizer, the water is re-used, etc. The fact that the distillery went out of their way to advertise this “waste nothing” mentality showed me that they respect sustainable efforts and it is important to them as a business.
Scotland isn’t completely the perfect earth-child place, though. Styrofoam and plastic bags are still used freely, and recycling isn’t always available. But it’s certainly a step up. Our rental car uses diesel, and we’ve gone over 500 miles on one tank! I’m breathin’ easy, y’all!
I’ve noticed lately that I attempt to repair items that I would have not hesitated in the past to throw out. As I age, I realize that old does not mean useless or obsolete. In most ways, old is just as good, if not better than new because it…we... I have withstood the test of time and weathered the storms of life and like most things old, I am still standing.
In Edinburgh, the past is not discarded in favor of newer and faster. They just incorporate the new into the old to create something quite unique with both backbone and character. The new, modern, functional, sleek style co-exist right next to the aged, classic, seasoned, hardened style of the past.
Imagine a park built around an ancient cemetery. When headstones crumbled and fell over, they did not throw them out, they planted flowers around the remaining stones. Edinburgh paved new streets right around old statues and built new buildings right next to the old ones.
Princes’ Mall is quite fascinating. The new mall is built under and around the ancient city. Metal beams and glass allow visitors to look above and on each side to see plaster columns and stones from hundreds of years in the past. The Metra runs right under the castle.
Unlike the atrocity that used to be Soldier’s Field in Chicago, in Edinburgh they erect temporary structures and seating in their historic buildings and when the season ends, they restore the building to its original glory.
I was introduced to Scottish Highland Cows (“coos”) last semester when, in one of my classes, we took a field trip to a sustainable farm not too far from St. Louis. The farm had goats, chickens, a few rescued llamas, and several of the enamoring cows. It took just one look at the long bangs covering their eyes before the Highland Cows stole my heart.
When I got to Scotland, I was bursting at the seams to see a coo in real life. But along with my overly furry friends, I discovered a few other animals we don’t have back home. (Side note: I am a total nerd when it comes to local wildlife in St. Louis, and I get a real sense of accomplishment when I can accurately identify a species of bird/amphibian/mammal/whatever. So that might be a bit of a clue as to why I’m interested in this particular topic.)
The first Scottish animal I learned of, as the blog title suggests, lives in Isle of Arran infamy: the midge fly. These are stupid little bloodsuckers, like mosquitoes only the size of gnats. I didn’t notice them until walking around the High Dougarie estate. Whenever I stopped to take a photo of the landscape, I lowered my camera and found that I was surrounded by the little bugs. Not just a few, either—they travel in massive groups. Groups so massive that I could feel myself inhaling them whenever I took a breath. It was disgusting. All in all, I got bit a few times, but the midges didn’t bother me as badly as they bother other people.
Another avian animal I noticed is a pheasant. Pheasants almost look like quails, but bigger. I saw a couple pecking around a field one day and was baffled until Linda, our instructor, told me what they were. There is also a grouse. I don’t know the scientific relation between a pheasant and a grouse, but they look to be about the same size and shape, only grouses are brightly colored in some places. We saw one in the middle of the road one day, just obliviously waddling across while Linda had to slam on the brakes to avoid killing it.
Of course, there are the agricultural animals: sheep (covering almost every hillside), Highland Cows, horses, and regular cows. We got the closest to the sheep, because they were surrounding our house on the Isle of Arran. I wish we had been surrounded by coos.
In the wild, Scotland has deer and red squirrels scurrying around the forests. Red squirrels are really cute, too. They’re red in color (surprise!), but they have these funny tufts on the tops of their ears, pretty much like elves. I only saw one squirrel running across the road. I learned that the red squirrels are threatened today, partly because American grey squirrels are an invasive species in Scotland and are beating out the natives. I found it strange that Scotland doesn’t have any coyotes, bears, wolves, or any predators higher up on the food chain, but apparently the deer population was once in bad shape and is now recovering.
I get a sense that Scots, at least on the Isle of Arran, have a profound respect for wildlife and nature. For example, the distillery on the island worked construction of the building around the nesting of a pair of golden eagles. The eagles still live in the mountains surrounding the distillery today. You go, Arran whisky producers!
Now that we’re in Edinburgh, the animal sightings have dwindled. The only animals I’ve seen in the city are seagulls, which have a creepy way of sounding like a maniacal woman laughing in the dead of night—no, thank you. There are, however, lots of snails. I have a weird fondness for snails, too.
Photo by Linda Williams
Uh Oh… It looks like Chicago has been upstaged as my favorite City. Glasgow… Oh wow! An 800-year-old church, free Museums and a river that runs through a 75-acre park.
I live in San Diego so I know parks. Balboa Park has got nothing on Kelvingrove Park. Not withstanding the fact that people just go there to do nothing and have a grand ole time, the park has a duck pond, rose gardens, children’s playgrounds, a bike park, tennis courts, golf holes and miles of other wonders I did not have an opportunity to discover.
I cut across the park everyday of my stay because the park was close by the Kelvingrove Art Museum, which is probably less an art museum than a home for socialist viewpoints. I’m not mad. The exhibit on battered women and the one explaining how religious icons are divisive… they are stories that should be told. In a public museum? No complaints from me because it was free!
Kelvingrove Park was also close to The Hunterian Museum. I saw genuine dinosaur eggs for the first time. I also saw architecture from the Roman era. The museum had columns and pillars and engraved stones perfectly preserved from 300AD. I could not believe my eyes. Glasgow allowed me to see all this for free.
Glasgow Cathedral is 800 years old and is currently a working church. There are medieval symbols everywhere and in the basement there are tombs and inscriptions that prove that the church was built in the 1200’s. Most of the stained glass has been replaced, but the building has great bones (no pun intended). It is gorgeous!
I spent most of my visit taking pictures of buildings. No people pictures for me! My eyes could not believe the beauty. I replaced the batteries in my camera three times! After a thousand pictures, I tried to tell myself that I could not possibly take a picture of every building in city, but I just couldn’t help trying. I’m a lousy photographer, but I know I could never explain just how intricate the designs are on these buildings.
I mentioned that the Museums in Glasgow are free but I have to tell you that again. I paid 11 pounds for a tour bus ticket that took me to all 9 museums and 14 other free attractions. This ticket was good from 9am to 9pm for two full days. Again, in case you missed what I said, I paid for two days of travel to 24 free attractions. I paid no entry fees at all. Since I arrived in Scotland, I paid no tax. Not on food, no restaurants tax. No tax at all. I just couldn’t understand how the government could afford to allow me to see all this wonderful stuff for free.
I did not mention that the Hunterian Museum is on the grounds of the University of Glasgow. Oh my God! What a beautiful place! The Queen’s Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh is not as grand. The campus is so beautiful I’m dreaming of a doctorate just so I can attend this exquisite school. I kept taking picture after picture and I could not stop and I did not want to leave the campus. Then it clicked (again, no pun intended.) I finally understood the thinking of Glasgow’s City Council. I know why everything is free. The council knows how beautiful their city is. Glasgow is showing off! Glasgow City Council members knows I am going to go home and tell everyone I know that they have to come to Scotland and see this incredible city. They know I’m a lousy picture taker. They know I will never be able to describe what I’ve see. But they also know I’m going to share this experience. I’m coming back and I’m bring people with me.
One of the best things about the Isle of Arran (ya know…besides the rolling green hills, the sea breeze, the constant sweater weather, the sheep on every hillside, all the other cute animals, the Scottish accents) is the sense of isolation. Back home, I’m a bit of a technology zombie. My stupid iPhone is almost always with me so I can check my stupid email or stupid Tumblr or, occasionally, stupidest Facebook.
Here, it’s a different story. I’m typing this on my instructor’s laptop that has no Internet to connect to. The payphone in the house is plugged in to nothing. And my iPhone has been turned off and stowed in my bag since I left the Chicago airport. I would like to be able to talk to my family (I get homesick easily), but I was able to send them a quick email from a borrowed iTouch and some free wifi outside of a café. They know I’m safe, so that’s all I can really ask for.
Even though I’m an admitted zombie back home, I find solace in being able to escape for a few days—whether it be in a tent in Missouri or a farmhouse in Scotland.
Before I left St. Louis, I was talking to a friend about being anxious to be overseas and away from home for two whole weeks. They told me to make the most of the experience, because it would be over before I know it and then I will be able to come back home to everything the way I’m used to it. If I spent too much time being homesick, I wouldn’t fully appreciate this amazing opportunity. I think this was excellent advice.
Last night, I sat beneath a clear sky and a full moon, listening to the ocean and the funny cries of sheep. The beauty of Scotland is unreal. And as much as I wish my family were here to experience this with me, it’s also nice to feel isolated. I feel free to see and hear things for myself, without feeling obligated to share it online.
At chapter seven of “Shut Up, Stop Whining and get a Life” I realized Larry Winget wasn’t kicking my butt nearly as much as I expected. It was only after I read, “My guess is you’re not having as much fun as you should…” that I realized he wasn’t talking to me…because I was on a plane to Scotland!
After working 28 days in a row, completing a term paper, two finals and surviving 48 hours with zero sleep, I wasn’t as giddy as I could have been, but the fact remained that I was on my way to my very first stamp in my five year old passport.
I walked out of customs in search of three women I’d never met but with whom I was to spend the next two weeks. Five hours later, we began our first adventure together, searching for a 100 year old farmhouse, located on a property that was once the summer home of the Duke and Duchess of Montrose in a rented five speed Volkswagen which had the steering wheel on the unfamiliar right side.
We turned off the ocean front road just past the estate’s boathouse, slowly winded past a flock of sheep up what seemed like a small mountain and then past a crumpling granite rock wall to our treasure. First the living room with fresh flowers on the mantel of a fireplace already prepared for the first fire. Then the kitchen with an old country stove that made us start talking about a big breakfast as soon as we laid eyes on it. We had a clear view of the ocean from every window. The best part of my adventure was not to be discovered until I climbed the stairs to locate my bedroom. Waiting for me was a big old-fashioned bathtub!