Man, oh man, what a week! It’s been a bit insane. Let me update y’all on what’s been happening. Warning: it’s going to be a super long post, so you might want to curl up with a cup of tea to read this one.
Friday morning, our API group embarked to the Shannon airport to fly to Edinburgh for the weekend! The trip over there was pretty uneventful, and we made it to our hotel, the Premier Inn, around 6 pm. Katie and I were roommates for the weekend, so we were excited that we didn’t have to adjust living with someone new. The room only had one giant double bed and an awkwardly small single bed, so we decided to switch off who got the double each night. We only had a few minutes to drop our stuff off before we had to meet Kevin in the lobby, but Katie and I managed to buy a little cup of Ben & Jerry’s Apple Pie flavored ice cream from our hotel vending machine… it was so good. We then left to grab a quick bite to eat before our nighttime tour of the Royal Mile, or the heart of the ancient city of Edinburgh. Here, modern met medieval, where department stores, tourist shops, restaurants, and pubs all took shelter underneath old stone facades that dated back as early as the 1300s. It was really cool to see the union of the times in the city and how Edinburgh still keeps its architectural integrity. Anyway, our tour guide was this really funny Scottish lady who took us around and told us the grisly stories behind every building which were all very interesting. After walking around the city for a few hours, most of us were famished, so we stopped at a pub where I got NACHOS. So tasty. Katie and I then headed back to the hotel to catch some z’s.
The next morning, we toured around Mary King’s Close, one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. It’s basically an area of city remnants from the 1600s underneath the City Chambers. Going through it was like a labyrinth of whitewashed rooms, one after another, with low ceilings that arched. Our tour guide was dressed in traditional 1600s garb (really reminding me of Colonial Williamsburg re-enactors) and showed us through the close, which was complete with statues of people depicting scenes from the plagues. Overall, it was really cool to see the place I’d seen on TV during ghost hunting shows (don’t hate, those shows were intense) and I admit I did try to see if I could feel any spirits around, but there was no such luck.
Our group then had a chance to look around the National Gallery which had a lot of really cool paintings and works of art. After that, we toured Edinburgh castle, a formidable fortress on a hill overlooking the entire city below. It was so old and such a beautiful building, offering great views of the city as well. We had no other scheduled tours for the rest of the day or night, so the group was left to its own devices. A bunch of us went to the Scotch Whiskey Experience, and, like the Heineken museum, we were taken through an amusement-park-esque ride that depicted the production and distillation of Scotch Whiskey. Let me tell you, it’s a complicated system at best, so I stopped really paying attention to the process and just took in the experience as a whole. They gave us a free taste of whiskey at the end of the tour, but it was a bit hard to stomach without any water or Coke to mix it with, so my throat burned a little (erm, or a lot). I took advantage of the gift shop and got some cool stuff for the folks back home (and me as well). Then a few of us walked over to the Elephant Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote the beginnings of the Harry Potter series. The absolute best part of the Cafe were the bathrooms. People had written various messages to Rowling thanking her for putting magic in their life as well as a lot Harry Potter themed graffiti (including a large “Entrance to the Ministry of Magic” above the toilet and “Entrance to the Chamber of Secrets” above the sink). If you’re a Potter fan, definitely go there, it’s so cool.
We went out to a couple of pubs later that night, which were very similar to the ones in Ireland, but Alysse and I bonded with a friendly blond bartender with dreadlocks who talked to us a lot about Scotland. Overall it was a really random, strange, but awesome night! We sipped some lovely 30-year-old whiskey in plush, red leather chairs, just living the dream. I felt kind of like an old man, but I loved it.
The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and went to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia. Mom, you would have loved it! It was huge, but very awesome to see where the Queen and royal family spent their time aboard the ship. I felt so close to royalty. Before I disembarked, I ordered a vanilla latte with brown bread and butter in the Royal Deck Tea Room. I sat next to large windows overlooking the wide river that hugged Edinburgh, sipping my coffee and feeling super classy. The ship was attached to a shopping mall (casual) so I did a bit of shopping at H&M (my clothing addiction has not slowed down since my Topshop spree) and waited to get back on the bus. Our next stop was at a little coastal town suburb where the first steel bridge was built. I snapped some nice pictures and got a late lunch/early dinner at an Italian restaurant; the food was superb. We then headed back to Galway to face the beginning of Rag week!
Okay, as a whole, Rag Week was not nearly as crazy as I’d expected it to be. Our apartment complex had implemented really stringent security measures to cut down on the partying, and downtown just had a lot more people out than usual, so the lines for the pubs and clubs were really long. People also went out every night (myself included) which is a bit of a change from the normal weeks. My Irish friends did a fair amount of daydrinking, but since I didn’t have the stamina or the money to do that, I just made it out at night. Overall, it was a very fun week! I did twist my ankle pretty badly on Monday night, but after a visit to the doctor and a bunch of aspirin, I was able to rally (although I sadly couldn’t wear heels). And I finally had great nights out at the clubs! We went to the Bentley on Monday and Karma on Wednesday and had an absolute great time dancing with my API friends. See, my purpose for going out is dancing, not just sitting around, so it finally felt like a really successful time, since most of the other times I’ve gone to clubs here I don’t end up on the dance floor that much in order to avoid aggressive boys. But with the security of a big group, it was fine.
A classy first night out for Rag Week!
I do have to say, though, I’m looking forward to a calm week where I can actually save my money. I’m planning on laying very low this weekend and getting caught up on schoolwork (don’t worry, I was still able to turn in my assignments last week). So, on that final note, Ireland still continues to be amazing, and I am falling more and more in love with the country as my time here increases. I can’t believe it’s already been nearly two months since I started my journey… the time is going by so fast! I definitely want to come back to Europe again at some point in life (and I’m seriously considering living here still) and am looking forward to the adventures that will unfold for me while I’m still here! Thanks so much for holding out and reading this ridiculously long post, but it’s been quite the eventful week. Toodles!