Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

I’m not usually a fan of Halloween, but i decided to appease some of my friends and dress up. On saturday, we went out as the teletubbies, as seen below:

Me (Dipsy), Kristina (Tinky-Winky), Ellen (La-La), Julia (Po)

But in all honesty, I really enjoyed the festivities here in Edinburgh that actually took place on October 31st.  There is this celebration every year, called the Samhain, which was believed by scholars to be the celebration of the Celtic new year.  More importantly, its a celebration of the end of summer, the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter.  There is a large parade followed by this massive burning in the city square. The parade starts at the castle and comes down the royal mile, with lots of people dressed up in lavish costume. Then the burning occurs, and then there is a large show type thing, with lots of acrobats, dancing and performing.  Here are some pictures I took of the Royal Mile at night waiting for the parade:

Me with my crazy getup (thanks aunt Lisa!)

St. Giles Cathedral, still havent gotten to see it up close yet, but its gorgeous

The view up to the castle, waiting for the parade to start

A little more about the history of the festival (source: wikipedia)

It has some elements of a festival of the dead. The Gaels believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain; because so many animals and plants were dying, it thus allowed the dead to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.

The Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks, was an attempt to copy the spirits or placate them. In Scotland the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.  Samhnag — turnips which were hollowed-out and carved with faces to make lanterns — were also used to ward off harmful spirits.

The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and has hugely influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween, a name first attested in the 16th century as a Scottish shortening of the fuller All-Hallows-Even. Samhain continues to be celebrated as a religious festival by some neopagans.

And here are some pics of the parade, along with a video of it at the end 🙂 Enjoy




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Now some might say that going to Norway for the weekend is sort of a random thing to do, considering all of the fabulous cities in Europe there are to visit, but I really wanted to see a part of scandanavia, and a £20 flight was all the convincing I needed.  However, when I booked this flight I really didnt know what to expect out of a weekend trip to Oslo.

The plane ride from Scotland was only 1:15, I expected it to be more, but this pleased me. We arrived to a fresh coat of snow on the ground, even though it wasnt much.  You could definitely tell the temperature difference as soon as you got off the plane.  Seeing as we were budget travelling and took a £20 flight, we had to take a 100 minute bus ride to the Oslo city center.  After a lot of confusion regarding trains and trams and the public bus system, we finally made it to our hostel at around 1am friday night.

I have to say the hostel was VERY nice.  much nicer than the one we stayed in Dublin. The only downside was it was somewhat out of the city, which ended up being fine, and we had to climb this obnoxiously large hill to get to it. But it had lots of nice annemities, like a free breakfast, and really cool chess

Saturday we started our tour around the city, which included walking to the Opera House, this GORGEOUS building, which you could climb all over, and had incredible views of the city…

View of the city from the top of the Opera House

After this we walked to Akershus castle, which I was really excited about, because thats the structure they feature in the Norway pavillion in EPCOT at Disney World.  Unfortunately part of the building was under renovation, so it had scaffolding around it. But it was still beautiful

After Akershus, we headed to the Oslo Palace to see the changing of the guard.  I’ll upload a video of that later, it was actually really cool.  The guards werent all stone-cold and stiff like they are in London, they actually talked to you but still kept that intimidating stature with their gigantic guns with knives on the end of them…Not to mention they were cute

We got some lunch at none other than McDonalds, solely for the fact that everything else was crazy expensive.  Simple things like a candy bar cost 4x the amount that they do here in Edinburgh.  I got just a Big Mac sandwich, no fries or anything, and it cost me, after the exchange rate about $8.  Pretty sweet right? gotta love being in one of the most expensive cities in the world…

We did some shopping, but everything was just so darn much so I didnt buy anything, and then headed back to the hostel for a nap.  We then went out for some “traditional Norwegian food” which I’m not really sure what that is still, but we went to this little pub that locals like to go to.  I ended up getting weinershnitzle, which i know isnt very Scandanavian, but it’s still something I’ve never had before. It was absolutely delicious and I will certainly have some again.  Here’s seamoose trying some

Silje, who’s Julias roomate back in Edinburgh, is from Oslo and invited us to a party at one of her friend’s flats. Silje ended up coming to Oslo for the weekend with us to visit her family, and it was kind of nice cause she was able to point us in the right direction for where to go.

After taking several modes of transportation to get to this flat, we arrived in east bumshoe norway, just to turn around and leave again like 10 minutes later.  That was quite alright, it was an adventure, and it was cool to see a typical Norwegian flat. We went back to the city centre, walked around and saw some pubs, and then headed back to our hostel. 

Sunday morning arrived quickly and we had a whole other day of sighsteeing ahead of us.  We walked around the city center some more, and took a boat tour of the Fjord. (pronounced Fey-yord, or if you’re Julia, F-jord, hehe). The boat ride was fun, it definitely gave a different perspective of the city, but it was absolutely freezing!

Akershus from the Fjord

In the background, if you look closely you can see the ski-jumping stadium, which I thought was really cool

The boat tour took us across the Fjord, where all of the museums were located, and we ended up going to this outdoor heritage museum, which is a lot like Williamsburg, or Sturbridge Villiage or something.  It was cool, we got to see how they lived in the viking times and beyond, but it was so cold by the end of the day.  We grabbed a bus back to our hostel and it was time to head back to the airport.

Some things I observed about Oslo are:

 1. There are a lot of 7-11s, but no slurpees! There was litterally one on every street corner, it seemed like.  We found this highly amusing, but it ended up being to our advantage because everything else was so expensive this ended up being our cheapest option for food.

2. The city has a way different feel than Edinburgh or Dublin.  There are a lot more newer buildings which are much taller, and the architecture is very modern. But, there are still older sections of the city, and lots of cool views.

3. This is the cleanest city I’ve ever been to. Hands down. Granted I didnt go to all of it, but everything I saw was gorgeous.

4. Some day I would love to go to the northern part of Norway to see the countryside and the beautiful cliffs and all this stuff I saw in the post cards in the gift shop.  And I would love to see more of Scandanavia. The people were sooo friendly and helpful, and a good majority of them spoke very good English.

I’m not going to any other parts of Europe until Corey comes to visit me in just three weeks, when I meet him in London! I am so excited.  I think next weekend we’re going to see some abbeys around southern Scotland, and then maybe go to Glasgow (a city about 100 miles due west of here) and there is some fireworks show to see too.  We’re also going to a Scottish Premier League football game too, so exciting!

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So I had this whole post written about my first week of classes, and how ridiculously stressful this last week has been, but I decided to skip over all of that mumbo jumbo and just get to the good stuff.  So on Saturday there was another International Student Center trip to Lindisfarne, and Berwick upon Tweed. The day started out pretty poorly, we had to meet at the ISC at 8, and somehow I woke up at 7:47.  I managed to get there at 8:04, but the bus was an hour late, so it didnt even matter. It was particularly windy and cold that day, which kind of sucked, but we were happy to get on the bus.

Our first stop was Lindisfarne. This is a small island off the coast of the English/Scottish border, but *currently* it is considered a part of England. I guess which country it belongs to changes every once and a awhile.  So the population of this little island is 160, and there is no bridge to get to it.  During low tide, there is a little road that connects the island to the mainland, (and I’m using the term “road” loosely) and you can drive on and off the island.  However, if you miss this window, you could end up getting stuck there overnight.

We got there when it was low tide:

This is the outskirts of the Lindisfarne castle, one of the islands main attractions

I felt like by the time we drove to Lindisfarne, the temperature dropped by 20 degrees.  It felt like a chilly/windy fall day in Boston.  This would be a cool picture, if it werent for the silly tourists in the background…

The castle was pretty cool, it is much more like a castle than Edinburgh or St. Andrews Castles, there were actual bedrooms and living spaces and stuff, instead of a fort (Edinburgh) and ruins (St. Andrews)

This is the view of the center of town from the top of the castle:

as you can see, Lindisfarne is very rural. Those little white specks are sheep!  We got to go to a free Mead tasting, which was interesting. I dont know what I was expecting for  a taste, I didnt particularly love it, but I didnt hate it either:

After we had some good lunch and met a nice man from Wales, it was time to get back on the bus and head to Berwick Upon Tweed.  In the 30 minute bus ride, the weather managed to change from awful wind to mildly warm and sunny.  It was a nice change. Berwick Upon Tweed is one of the oldest walled cities in England, and was a very quaint town. The view from one of the hills was amazing.  The waves were crashing a lot, but it was hard to get a good picture.  The bridges to get into the town were beautiful.

This is one of my favorite pictures 🙂

It took us a LONG time to find the castle, which you can sort of see just behind this bridge on the right hand side. Its in ruins, and looks like it was very small.  We had to go on a trek through the wilderness just to find it.

After we walked around some more, some of us had to use the bathroom. We ended up finding a “public toilet” on the outskirts of town, and needless to say a lot of hilarity ensued.  Basically, it was like you were entering something on the starship enterprise.  This futuristic British woman barked commands at you the entire time, informing you of what the bathroom was doing.  It was giving instructions the entire time we were in there.  It also made a lot of noises like it was going to take you to another dimension or something, it sounded like there were a lot of hydraulics or pneumatics to open and close the doors.  Oh and I forgot to mention that it cost 50 pence. We definitely got our 50p worth of entertainment! lol. I think the entire town could hear us laughing.

I think its pretty cool that the International Student Center hosts trips every Saturday.  So far they’ve been 8 pounds, which is a pretty good deal in my opinion.  Its a great way to see the subtle beauty of Scotland/England, and each trip so far has been a lot of fun.  I’m not going on the trip this weekend, theres a lot of homework to be caught up on, and by the way, did I mention next weekend I’M GOING TO DUBLIN? We got flights for 40 pounds, RT, can’t beat that! 🙂

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My apologies for the lack of posts, its been quite the adventure over the last 5 days, and I am finally having some time to settle down and write all about it! I’ll start with my trip across the pond. I was privileged enough to fly Virgin Atlantic from Boston to London (Heathrow) and then had to make my trek through the largest airport I’ve ever seen, and then take a short connecting flight from London to Edinburgh.

So I’ll begin with my flight out of Boston. I was on a Boeing 747, which sat almost 400 passengers, with an upper deck and a full bar! Its the biggest plane I’ve ever seen. Let me just say, Virgin Atlantic is the most accommodating airline I’ve ever flown on, and my experience is great. I had a free blanket and pillow, they gave us a little bag with an eyemask, socks and a toothbrush (which I didnt realize until the end of the flight) and they served both breakfast and dinner.  Not to mention there were free booze. I didn’t feel the need to drink, but it was interesting being offered a free full bar service on a plane. The entertainment on the plane consisted of this interactive list of movies, tv shows, radio stations and games, which were all very recent.  The movie selection wasnt gigantic, but I was able to find 3 movies to snooze to during the duration of the flight.  The only drawback was that I was sitting next to the little kitchen for the beverage and meal service, so during the flight they had the lights on for the majority of the time, and it was difficult to sleep. The visibility was pretty low when we landed in London, so I couldn’t really see far. The only taste of England that I got were those red double decker busses driving near the airport!

And then the fun began.

I trekked for what felt like an eternity until we got to the main staging area for heading to either baggage claim, or other terminals for connecting flights. My plane ticket said that I was flying Virgin Atlantic from London to Edinburgh, so I looked on a map were Virgin Atlantic was (Terminal 3) and proceeded to go through terminal 3s security. By the time I got thru security, I had about 30 minutes till boarding started on my next plane. Plenty of time, I thought. I found another student from Northeastern, Jess, and we walked around terminal 3 trying to find our gate, gate number 8. Turns out there is no gate number 8, and since we were on a domestic flight, we were actually supposed to be in terminal 1.  Even though our tickets said Virgin Atlantic, they were actually Virgin Atlantic operated by BMI.

So as we were heading out from terminal 3, I spotted 3 more Northeastern students, Andy, Andy and Charles. Jess and I informed them of the misleading ticket, and we all headed out to terminal 1. 20 minutes till boarding. We took a shuttle bus to the terminal, which took about 6-8 minutes, and when we got there, we had to wait in the customs line. Again, I thought customs was done upon landing in Scotland, not in between terminals in Heathrow. After struggling to find the correct line to get in (there were at least 5), here is where we stopped to wait. And wait. And wait. There were probably 80-100 people in front of us, and the line just didnt move. As time ticked and our time to board the plane came and went, and we asked about getting expedited to the front (with no luck), I soon realized we may be in London for the day. Our plane was supposed to depart at 8:50, and by the time all 5 of us got through customs, it was 9:00. I was pretty upset. After going through customs, we had to do the biometric body scanner, then get in another queue for security. After getting through security (for the 3rd time this trip) I looked on the board and saw that our flight status was “Closing” not “Closed” not “Departed”. Here is where the running started. We ran all the way from security, through another ticket checkpoint to our gate, and I’m pretty sure it was a funny sight. 

Needless to say: we made it.

Apparently since all 6 of our bags were on the plane, they held the plane for us, for 30 minutes. I’ve never heard of anything like that happening before. I had to store my carry on in the very back of the plane, while my seat was in the front, but I didnt care. I was sweating so much by the time I got to my seat, I was giving Rocky a run for his money. Some guy was in my seat, so instead of making a fuss, I happily settled for the window seat in the row before it.

The flight to Edinburgh was very quick, helped by the short nap I took, and our landing in Scotland was beautiful. I was on the eastern side of the plane, so I did not get to see the city of Edinburgh as we landed, but I got some cool views of the beautiful country side and water.

It took quite a awhile to get our bags due to “technical difficulties” with the carousel, but we all got our bags no problem, and proceeded to the Edinburgh direct transport, designed for students studying at Edinburgh University who are arriving internationally. We waited a good hour for our shuttle bus to our rooms, but at that time, I didnt care, I was just happy to have arrived in Scotland. This being my first taste of Europe, even the little cultural differences excited me.  The ride to my dorm was beautiful, and after many struggles with my bags, I arrived at my flat.

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For those of you who’ve been following my twitter or if we’re friends on facebook, or just friends in general, then you are probably aware of my upcomming trip abroad. Next friday, I leave for Edinburgh, Scotland for a 4 month study abroad trip.  I will be studying at the University of Edinburgh, a top rated University in the UK! I am very nervous/excited about this trip, and can’t wait to share about all of it here.  My first post will probably just prior to my departure, talking about just how I went about packing for a 4 month long trip across the Atlantic.  Here are some interesting things about my trip that I know about already:

-I’m living across the street from the Scottish Parliament, near Holyrood Park

-The 4 classes I will be taking are: Fluid Mechanics, Differential Equations, German, and Scottish Studies.  Lets just say I’m most looking forward to the second two, but the first two are required towards my degree (Mechanical Engineering)

-I will be living in a 5 person flat, which is like an apartment, without a shared space.  We do have a small kitchen and a “water closet”

-I’m flying Virgin Atlantic, departing Logan airport at 7:45 pm, and will arrive in Scotland sometime the following afternoon.

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