Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Birthday Weekend!

Wow, sorry it has been so long! The past few weeks have been great- I'll try to recap. Two weekends ago a few of us did some obligatory touristy things- we went to see the Palace of Holyrood House and then the Scottish Parliament. The Palace is where the royalty has stayed whenever they come to Scotland, dating back hundreds of years. The Queen comes and stays there ever summer. It was beautiful and we got a great tour! What made it so interesting to me was that it is still in use. There were tons of original paintings and art work, and all the original royal furniture. Last year the Pope and the Queen exchanged gifts in one of the rooms we were in- pretty cool. Some drama also went down there- murders, etc. After that we walked across the street and took a tour of the Scottish Parliament building. Very interesting! The building is very modern and actually has a lot of controversy around it because most think that it is extremely ugly. I did too, but after hearing what the architect designed it to look like it made a little more sense!

The Palace

I'll fast forward through the week to my 21st birthday!!! Friday morning my friends Megan and Michelle who are studying in London got here! It was so nice to have friends from home with me over the birthday weekend! So Friday we walked around a bit, I showed them where I have classes and then some of the popular sights in Edinburgh. We sat for almost two hours in the Elephant House cafe (where JK Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter), oh and Megan and Michelle are obsessed with Harry Potter, so they were in their glory! The cafe has an amazing view of the castle and is just a relaxing spot to have lunch and coffee. After that we did some more walking around, and ended up later in the night at a friend's apartment who was having an early Valentine's Day party.

Saturday- the big day! Can't believe I'm 21! I started off the morning by opening some wonderful presents, and then Megan, Michelle, Litta, Allison, and I went to breakfast at Elephants and Bagels- yes another Elephant place. So far its the only place in Edinburgh I've seen that has bagels- and we've all been craving them. These were not just any bagels- they were amazing! I had an everything bagel with cream cheese, pesto and tomato. Definitely will be making that in the States. Also had a delicious mocha to start the morning right. After lunch Megan, Michelle and I were adventurous and hiked up Arthur's Seat. It was so beautiful- I loved it because when we started it was cloudy and overcast, but as we made our way up it got clearer and clearer, and by the time we were at the top it was all sun and blue sky. It was so peaceful and relaxing, we loved it! Following our hike, Megan and Michelle went and did a tour of the castle, and I stayed back and skyped with my parents!

Great breakfast!

Some shots from Arthur's Seat hike

Megan and Michelle!
They got back later on and after we were all cleaned up we headed out for the night. First stop was dinner at a pub called the Greenmantle with Litta and Allison. We had a great dinner and made it classy with some nice glasses of wine! Next stop was a lounge/fancy bar called 56 North where the rest of the crew met us. Sunday was my friend Stephen's birthday, so we planned the night as a joint celebration. We were at 56 North for quite a while and had a great time! Litta Allison and I split a pitcher of a delicious drink- not sure exactly what was in it, but lots of fruit! A nice birthday cocktail! When we were done there, we went to Three Sisters. Its a huge pub that has tons of picnic benches, huge tv screens, and food outside. Inside is great- several bars, dance floors, and places to sit if you want.. great atmosphere! It was ridiculously crowded when we got there- part of the reason was that there was a rugby match between Scotland and Wales earlier and the day so tons of fans were there to celebrate. (Scotland lost..sad) We stayed for about 2 hours and danced with the occasional break outside to get some air! Final stop was to pick up a bunch of pizzas (seems to be our tradition) and headed back to Allison's flat. After we had been eating pizza for a while, everyone surprised Stephen and I with a cake each! So delicious and so nice to have everyone sing happy birthday! By that time it was about 2:30, so we finished the cake and then headed home. All in all a fabulous 21st birthday!

Long Valley in Scotland

Some Welch friends...
Our group

Sunday we slept in pretty late and then did some last minute site seeing before Megan and Michelle got on their train. One of my best weekends here yet, it was so fun. This week has some events going on, but I'll update you on those in the next post!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

24 Hours of Adventure

Besides a two hour nap, I've been awake for well over 24 hours right now. That's a first- however it was 100% worth it. Last night was one of the best experiences of my life- an English Premier League Game- Sunderland v. Chelsea.

It was a pretty last minute decision to get tickets, but after doing so it couldn't have worked out better. Six of us took a 4:00 pm train to Sunderland yesterday. It took about two hours or so to get there. Upon arriving we had some time to kill, so we wandered around and got dinner at McDonalds. Now I've heard of the passion that people over here have for "football", but it was awesome to see a sea of red and white (Sunderland's colors) everywhere. After getting a Sunderland scarf and finishing dinner, we headed to the Sunderland's stadium, The Stadium of Light.

So I knew that we had pretty good tickets and I knew that we would be right behind the goal, but when we got to our seats I really couldn't believe it was real. We were the first row directly behind the goal, probably about 10 yards from the field. It was incredible. It was the nicest field I've ever seen and to be so close to it was awesome!

The game was equally as awesome. Sunderland was definitely the underdog, but they came out and scored in the first 4 minutes. Sunderland ended up losing the game 4-2 but it was so great to see that many goals! That kind of score doesn't happen very often. The skill of the players was amazing and it was so cool to be seeing guys that I have seen on TV before.

This isn't zoomed in... that's how close we were!

The atmosphere in the stadium was so fun as well. The fans are ruthless, and they aren't ashamed to say anything, run up and down the aisles, and kick things. They also had a bunch of chants which were entertaining.

As if the night couldn't have gotten any better, after leaving the stadium and wandering for awhile we accidentally came across where the players come out after the game. There was a big crowd, but somehow I managed my way to the front. Every few minutes a different player would come out and everyone would go crazy. I got two signatures and a bunch of pictures! Most were with Chelsea players because they were getting on their bus to go home. But, one of the best parts of the night was meeting Sunderland's goal keeper Craig Gordon. One of my friends who went with us has loved Gordon since he was young, so we knew a lot about him going in. He is from Scotland, plays for the Scottish National Team, and is one of the best keepers in the league- oh and his name is Gordon and that name seems to follow me everywhere! So somehow we managed to kind of corner him off, and my friend Kevin got his signature and talked to him for a while which was awesome for him. I proceeded to take off my coat and show him my sweatshirt (Gordon soccer) and said I go to a school named Gordon! I think he got a kick out of that and asked where it was, where we were from, etc. And we also got a picture! He was so so nice, especially after losing the game!

Ashley Cole of Chelsea.. we're friends


Gordon, Litta and I!

So that was amazing- the game was just perfect. Oh, so I didn't mention that at this point it was about 10:00 and our train wasn't until 7 am. No worries, we made out just fine. We found a small pizza place and had a late night snack, then proceeded to go to several different pubs and clubs, basically until each one closed. Oh, and at one of the pubs they were playing highlights from the game and we were on TV several times! The last pub we were at closed at 4, and we knew McDonald's opened again at 5 so for the hour in between we kind of just roamed around. It was crazy and unreal but fun! We ended up at McDonald's at 5 and sat and played cards/slept until about 6:30. After that we walked back to the train station and made it smoothly back to Edinburgh. I even made it in time for class, even though I was pretty delirious.

That's the story of my 24 hours. It was an incredible experience and now its time to sleep!