Are you ready for a monster post? I am going to try to consolidate this...
Imperial war museum in London in the afternoon. War is the worst, in case any one was wondering. Pretty much every single artifact and exhibit there seemed to have "this is rotten stuff" written all over it. So after that depressing field trip, we (the people going to Scotland and Nice, France) walked around the city. I had a rolling suitcase and felt like a dork, but was later glad that went ahead a packed a little heavier than most people because of the rain and wind in Scotland. We sat for a while in St. James' park, then went for dinner at the Spaghetti House near Victoria Coach station...delicious! We then played cards for a while while waiting for our bus (which was leaving at 11 pm.) At the proper time, the Scotland bound group bid goodbye to the France bound, who were going by plane.
After a VERY long overnight bus ride, we (myself, Stephanie, Janae, Weston, David, Jana, and Corey) arrived in Edinburgh at around 8 ish. I slept probably only about 4 out of the 9 hours. After much map consultation, we located our Hostel, Castle Rock Hostel. It is aptly named, with a great view of the Edinburgh castle right from the front door. It was an excellent hostel, voted 5th best in the world, actually! And only 14 pounds a night! We couldn't check in until 2 pm, so we left our luggage there, and bought some breakfast there for cheap. We went on a free walking tour of the city put on by NewEurope company. It was really informative and well done...We heard some great stories about things like the Stone of Destiny and how it was stolen by the English, and then stolen back in the 50's by some Scottish Nationalist students (look that story up, it's awesome!) and famous Edinburgh characters, like Greyfriars Bobby, Deacon Brodie, William Burke and William Hare, and Half-Hanged Maggie. I recommend looking up all of those, because they are really interesting, but I don't have room to write all their stories. The weather was rather gross, cold rain and wind, and some of us needed to buy some waterproof jackets, so after the tour we went shopping. Then we had a nice evening of hanging out and playing cards.
We got up and were going to go to museums, but the weather was really nice, so instead we got on a bus to Cramond, a coastal town. We walked on the beach, picking up shells and sitting on the rocks and shuffling along. It was fantastic. Then, when the tide was low enough, we walked across on the previously submerged land bridge to Cramond Island. We bought some ice creams first though, in proper vacation fashion. The island was incredible. It was all greens and yellow lichen and red shrubs, square boulders and wind. There was a little wooded area toward the center, which we walked through. In the center of the woods was a old ruined stone house, overtaken by vines, but some of the window sills and doors and portions of walls still there. You could make out where the rooms used to be. I felt like someone right out of a book, and I plan to use that scene in a novel, if I ever write one. I took pictures, but it doesn't do it justice, and it can't capture the delight in discovering it, either. I'm sure it had been discovered many times before, since the path led up to it, but because I wasn't expecting to find it, it was just wonderful. We spent a while on the island, and then walked back across the land bridge, and back to our bus stop. We returned to Edinburgh and went to Starbucks to read and have hot drinks. We didn't read much, but did have a lively, at times almost heated debate about moral culpability. It was great fun :-)
We went to St. Giles Cathedral (not a true cathedral, since the Scottish Presbyterian church doesn't have bishops, and cathedrals are the seats of bishops) for church. It was very lovely, and again liturgical. We sang a hymn that I liked a lot, but had never heard before...I wrote the name down somewhere, but I don't remember it now. After church, we went out to the museums. We saw the National Museum of Scotland and the National Gallery as well. I was surprised, the gallery had some big names in there! There were several pieces by Monet, Cezanne, Gaugin, Renoir, Degas, Raphael, Botticelli, and even Da Vinci. We again went to Starbucks, but this time, some of our other Vines friends, Burk and Lydia, visited us from their vacation in Glasgow, so that was fun. We made spaghetti for dinner and played cards for many hours. I learned to play a new game called Kempes which is great fun.
Jana, Weston, Corey, and David went back to Oxford a day early, leaving in the morning. Janae, Stephanie and I stayed in Scotland, and took a day trip further inland to the town of Stirling, the site of William Wallace's most famous battle, and also of the huge monument to him. We climbed up the monument and could see the whole area--the river forth all shiny and snakey, the lumpy hills all mottled with greens, yellows, browns and reds, and the wind farms far off in the distance. I wanted so badly to be a giant for a while so that I could climb up the hills and sit on them. They were a bit flat on top, so they looked like the perfect sitting place. After climbing down the 267 stairs of the monument, we hiked in the woods around the monument. There were ferns every where, and just as much lichen. The grass was so wonderful. It was very short, like it had been manicured, but I don't think it was. It was almost moss-like, it was so cushy. And it was so amazingly green...man, I've never seen something so green! Again, I took pictures, but they didn't do it justice.
When we returned to Edinburgh, we went to a new coffee shop called Chocolate Soup and sat and read for an hour or two. I had a drink that tasted just like Vanilla Milk, and it made me miss home a little bit. Then, we had a dinner of fresh bread, hummus and ham at the hostel, and just sat and talked for a long time. It was so nice and relaxing! Taking hours to talk is not something we have a lot of time for in Oxford.
We got up in the morning, checked out of the hostel and were on our bus back at 11 am. There isn't much to tell about the ride back, except that it was very long again. There was some fantastic scenery on the way back though...we drove along the coast for a while, and I looked out the window once and saw a great view of some sheep on top of a super green hillock, with just the sea behind them. We arrived in London 20 minutes before our bus to Oxford left, so we just sat around a little while. We got in at about 10:30 at Oxford.
All in all, it was a GREAT vacation! And I came back with my desired souvenir: a wool scarf in my family's clan tartan! I love it!
Just quickly recapping yesterday and today, we had orientation for our tutorials, and I emailed both my tutors to set up times to meet. I am a lot less nervous than I was for them...I am actually really looking forward to it! I am a little nervous about how my papers will be received, but there is no telling until I've submitted stuff to them, so I won't worry about that until I have to actually do it. Today I just worked on reading Middlemarch some more (which I will do again after I finish updating this!), and then went to Fresher's Fair, which is the big club and organizations fair for freshman. I put my name down on a bunch of different lists, including choirs, Scottish and Irish dancing, and archery...I'm not really sure about which one I want to do! I really will only have time for one of them, so I need to choose wisely. We got lots of great coupons too, like free pizza, and half off ice cream cones. Natalie and I took advantage of the ice cream right away. I had some blueberry ice cream which was FANTASTIC! I want to go back to that place again, because they also offer Green Tea ice cream! Well, that is all for now! time to read.