All good things must come to and end, and because Cara and I had once thought it was the best idea ever to try and visit four cities in 10 days, once Tuesday rolled around, we had to part with beautiful Barcelona. Although I’m not sure I would ever live in Barcelona, the city had so much character and culture – there’s no other place like it on earth. But Paris ain’t too shabby either!
After our flight and a half-hour train into the city, we left the Gare du Nord Station and had no idea where to go. Me writing the directions to the hostel down wrong didn’t help either. But we found it (after some pacing up and down the street), dropped off our stuff, and went out to see Paris! We only had a day and a half, so we were determined to be productive.
We need to talk, you say? I know I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve been so busy, with work, with ….. What’s that? I know, I know, that’s not a good excuse. You deserve better. You deserve the best. And I want to give you the best. So I’m going to make it up to you. How you ask? WITH PICS FROM EUROPE THAT’S HOW.
Last Friday, just after turning in a final paper and finishing classes, Cara and I took no heed of the implications of the name “revision” week and flew off to Europe for ten days! We had a bunch of budget airline flights, had booked a bunch of hostels, and printed out a bunch of stuff we could probably need – we had a plan. And it miraculously didn’t go wrong! I’m still crossing my fingers – something will just have to go wrong later in my life to make up for our success.
I’ve been asked several times in the past couple weeks, mostly by hopelessly lost tourists looking for directions, whether I live here. And I’m never really sure how to answer. I mean, I do live here, at least temporarily, although I’m not from here. I’m not Scottish, I didn’t grow up in Edinburgh, and I still sometimes have trouble understanding that (sexy) Scottish brogue. But in terms of giving directions, I know the city well enough now that I can usually help them out, at least a little bit.
This always gets me thinking. When people talk about study abroad, they almost always touch on “immersing yourself” in the culture (at least they do at a liberal arts haven like Pomona). And ever since I got here, I’ve worried about whether I’m “immersing” myself, however much you truly can in another English-speaking country. I may have not adopted a Scottish accent (yet) or met the Scottish love of my life, but when tourists mistake me for a local, I realize that I am no longer just a sightseer. I’ve reached that (slightly awkward) balance somewhere between local and tourist. I know my way around, I no longer have a desperate need to see all the sights, and I can get away with hiding my American-ness, at least until I open my mouth. I’ll never be able to call myself Scottish, but that doesn’t mean Edinburgh doesn’t feel like a home.
Reading this blog-of-sorts, you might be under the impression that I’m not studying abroad, that I’ve actually taken the semester off to have fun, meet new people, and see new things. And two days ago, I might have said you’re kinda right. Procrastination has been my best friend this past 6 weeks. Without any assessment or accountability for my work, it gets harder and harder to convince myself to do the work now rather than later, especially when there’s way more fun things calling your name!
Last weekend, my friend Cara and I boarded a bus for the Isle of Skye. Those outside Scotland might not know what or where the Isle of Skye is. Don’t worry, neither did I. Before I arrived in Edinburgh, all I knew was that “if you don’t go to the Isle of Skye, you’ve wasted your study abroad” (according to past Pomona-program students). Woah man, woah. That’s a little serious. I’m sure your term isn’t completely wasted….
But no. I was wrong. It is completely wasted. Skye is an island off the northwestern coast of Scotland, the northern most island of the inner Hebrides (if that means anything to you). It is one of the (dwindling) remaining areas of Scotland where at least half the population can speak Gaelic, but there are probably more sheep on the island than people. Legitimately. So many cute sheepie baas!
After two straight weeks of glorious, inexplicable, and (probably) unprecedented sun, it has indeed begun to rain. And get quite cold. The forecast for the next two weeks is just rain, rain, and more rain. But it wouldn’t be Scotland without rain and cold! In a similar vein, our trip to Linlithgow and Stirling yesterday with the Pomona group was appropriately cold and wet. Tom was unable to come with us, but we had Jim as our trusty guide. With me wrapped up in my wool scarf, woolen socks, boots, gloves, and my big coat, we set off into the wild beyond!
First stop: Linlithgow Palace, built throughout the 13th to 17th centuries as a fort and then a royal residence. Although it is now a ruin, it once “dominated the landscape,” as Jim told us. And I could see that! It’s over 5 stories high, full of room on top of room. Imagine seeing that in the 1600s.
As a culmination to their trip to Scotland, my parents and I stayed in a little town called Pitlochry in the Highlands for the weekend. I say little town, because it was about five blocks, but for the highlands that’s a BFD. Pitlochry is probably one of the larger towns in the center-ly (non-coastal) area of the highlands. So adorable!
We took a bit of a round-about way to get there on some wee roads that some might call paths (much to the chagrin of my poor driving father). First stop: the Falkirk Wheel. Apparently some sort of mechanical/civil engineering marvel, it’s basically a canal that lifts the boats 80 feet in the air instead of using 11 locks or somesuch. Pretty impressive actually! We even got to see it work and shtuff.