26 February 2012

Weekend in Edinburgh: Expectations and Reality

This weekend I spent the weekend in Edinburgh with Charlotte, her (twin) sister Freya, Sarah, Miriam, Heather, and Alix--a French student doing her dissertation her at St Andrews. Before going to Edinburgh, I had some expectations as to what our weekend out would be like. Unfortunately, these expectations didn't exactly match reality. (Yes, I am copying 500 Days of Summer here. I really like that film.)


  1. We would arrive in Edinburgh at 5:30, having left St Andrews sometime around 3:00
  2. We'd have a nice dinner
  3. Maybe do a little shopping
  4. Go out to The Hive, a cool club with interesting music--generally a trendy young people scene
  5. Walk up Arthur's Seat 
  6. Have a nice lunch
  7. Get back on the bus to St Andrews

  1. We arrived in Edinburgh sometime close to 7:00, because the bus we took went a totally different route than the bus that I'm used to taking, so it took a lot longer to get to Edinburgh
  2. After walking to Miriam's friend's flat (which was not exactly a pleasant 1.5 mile walk, because my overnight bag was quite heavy and I lost the over-the-shoulder strap, so I had to use the handles as the over-the-shoulder strap...in any case I worry that I now have some nerve damage to my left arm...), we spent forever (as usual) trying to figure out where we could get food as cheaply as possible. We ended up getting Pizza Hut delivery, using their 3 9" pizzas for £15 deal to get 9 pizzas for all over us to share. But ordering the pizza itself was a hassle. The website was totally non-cooperative, and then after we finally placed our order via telephone, the pizza guy had to make two trips to get all 9 of our pizzas to us, which I thought was kind of silly. Although to be fair, he was on a little mo-ped. But still! At this point is was sometime around 9:00! And the pizzas turned out to be horrible! Pizza Hut over here is definitely not the same. 
  3. There was no shopping, whatsoever. Everyone was broke or too cheap to do any shopping. 
  4. The Hive, it turns out, is only marginally better than The Lizard. It is still just a dark/badly lit, jam packed room with an incredibly loud and annoying bass stereo system. The only thing that was better about The Hive was the music. They had some songs that I remember listening to as a kid, like Mambo No. 5, Macarena, and That One Song from Space Jam (I don't really know its name). 
  5. Walking up Arthur's Seat, which is basically just a big hill, after walking around yesterday with my bag, and being at The Hive the night before until 2 AM was just not happening. I went back with Miriam, Alix and Sarah while Charlotte, Freya and Heather somehow felt up to the challenge. 
  6. Lunch didn't really happen either. We just got some snacks and then got on the bus back to St Andrews.
Now, as much I complain about this weekend, I did actually have a good time. I enjoy going to Edinburgh, even if it's not as glamourous as I would like. I also enjoy spending time with my friends. And it's always nice to get out of St Andrews and remember what bigger, more authentically Scottish places are like. 

That's all for now...I have to recuperate. 


16 February 2012

St Andrews Pier and Sunshine

Hello again,

It is the start of my second semester here at St Andrews and I can't believe that I am nearly finished with one year of uni (college) already! Surprisingly, the weather here has been relatively mild compared to the rest of the UK, and indeed to the rest of Europe. Hooray! In light of this, my friends and I have been spending time outside, enjoying this rarity. On Sunday, some of them even partook in the strange tradition that is the Pier Jump. Basically, you jump off the pier into the North Sea. Which is COLD. It's mental. I can't even attempt to comprehend why anyone would do this. But I went anyway to enjoy the view and wear my gown, because I don't get to wear it all that often and it was expensive. Today, we camped out on the front lawn to get some work done and eat chocolate fingers and drink lemonade/Irn-Bru. It was a good afternoon.

The photos of both the view from the pier and today's sunshine are here, on flickr.

I hope spring comes just as soon for the rest of you.


26 January 2012

Museo del Prado

Today I spent the afternoon in the world-renowned Museo del Prado, home to many famous paintings spanning many centuries and many countries. And, suffice it to say, I am exhausted. The Prado is a big museum. Not Louvre big, but still quite large. Also, it is a far better museum than the Louvre. Everybody makes a huge deal about the Louvre, when really, it is just a ridiculously large building with about a  70:30 ratio of pointless stuff to good stuff*. I liked nearly all of the paintings I saw today (I skipped most of the religious-y ones, since 1: I'm not into the whole religion thing and 2: after a while they all look the same. There are only so many ways to paint Jesus--baby, adult, and dying adult.). I particularly liked the special exhibit on right now called The Hermitage in the Prado--a collection of masterpieces from the equally renowned Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, Russia. The paintings and sculptures from the Hermitage were really great, and so varied! I was surprised to see a Monet** painting in there with the usual portraits and still-life paintings. I am now hoping to maybe go to St Petersburg sometime to see what the rest of the Hermitage has to offer!

I will now conclude this post with some photos that I took of and around the museum:

 Adios for now,

*The ratio of pointless stuff to good stuff may be even higher than 70:30, I just chose that arbitrarily. Sorry if you have been to the Louvre and this is not your opinion. Let's all just agree to respect each others opinions, even if they are different from our own. Also, let's try and spread this message to government bodies everywhere/generally to everyone we know. That way, something might actually get done in the world.
**Monet is my favourite artist (Impressionism is generally my favourite type of art, and I just happen to like Monet's paintings the best). This explains my excitement at seeing a Monet painting in the exhibit.
Also, sorry if my comment about religious-y paintings offends you in anyway. See first asterisk comment, the bit about respecting everyone's opinions.

24 January 2012

Interesting Tid-Bit For the Day:

Apparently there is some solar flare sci-fi storm thingy or whatever, and as a result of this, the Northern Lights (fancy name Aurora Borealis) are visible farther South than usual. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the article on the BBC News Homepage showing people's pictures of the Northern Lights. These ones (the third and fourth photos in the slide show) just happens to be from (near) St Andrews...imagine that!


23 January 2012

Two of My Favourite Benches in the World...

This one, at the side of Loch Venachar, one of the many lochs in Trossachs National Park in Central Scotland:


And this one, in Parque del Buen Retiro: 

Another day spent on a park bench in the sun reading my book. I couldn't ask for anything better. 


21 January 2012

Madrid Dia Dos

Hola amigos,

Phwoo. I am tired. One of the simultaneously good and bad things about Europe is its walkability. This morning/afternoon I walked from my hostel to Madrid's equivalent of Cental Park, Parque del Buen Retiro and spent 3 or so hours there soaking up sunshine and the wonderful words of The Shadow of the Wind. I walked some more to a cafe for some coffee and lunch, and then walked down the Gran Via again, and did a little shopping. Alex, if you are reading this, please give me some ideas of what to get you! I already got Dad a Real Madrid (Madrid's football club) jersey, so that's out of the running for you... I know you usually get t-shirts or baseball hats, but I'm hoping to come up with something different. Anyways, most of my time in Madrid so far has been quite relaxed, which is a relief after the stress of exams. I don't know what my plans with Maria are for tonight, but I'm sure they will include a nice dinner and drinks. Tomorrow morning Maria plans to take me to the most amazing churro/chocolate shop in the entire world, and I cannot wait. Again, I don't know what Maria has in mind for the rest of the day tomorrow, but I'm sure it won't disappoint. I also need to coordinate with Maria when we are going to go to Museo del Prado together. There's so much to see, and luckily I have a lot of time to see it! I'll keep you all updated, but not in the same precise way that Alex does. He's cleverer than me on that front.

Hasta luego,

20 January 2012

Exams are over...time for una fiesta en Madrid!

Yesterday I finished my last exam. Today, I am in Madrid. Life is good.

Alright, if you want to be technical, I arrived in Madrid last night. But anyway...

Today I let myself sleep in, and just wander around the city, taking a few breaks to rest at cafes, drink some coffee, and read my book*. In the evening, I let Maria take me around the city some more, giving me more ideas of where to go in the daytime. Life definitely is good, and will continue to be even better.

On a side note: Maria told me that Madrid was "freezing" and that I should bring my coat. I did bring my coat, but soon found that it most certainly is not "freezing", and I hardly even need my coat. It was in the upper 50s and sunny today, and at night it's slightly less than 40. Uh huh..."freezing", Maria.

In other (technical) news: I am uploading two albums to Flickr to share with you, the Madrid photos and the photos I took when I was in Edinburgh the day before my flight back home to Seattle for Christmas. I realised that I hadn't uploaded them earlier, and figured that now is as good a time as any to get that done. Edinburgh is a beautiful city anytime of year, but at Christmas it is truly wonderful.

Edinburgh photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67703297@N03/sets/72157628959830543/
Madrid photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67703297@N03/sets/72157628960391525/

Adios for now,

*I brought 3 books with me on this trip, all originally written in Spanish. The first book The Shadow of the Wind is by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is set in Barcelona after World War II and focuses on a young man called Daniel Sempere as he finds the only copy of a rare and mysterious book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. However, Daniel soon finds that there is a man out to destroy every one of Carax's books, and resolves to find out why. It's a really great book that I read last year, I think, and want to read again because I am in Spain, and just bought the prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, and need to refresh my memory. The second book, the prequel to The Shadow of the Wind is called The Angel's Game. I don't know exactly what the plot of this prequel entails, but I liked the The Shadow of the Wind and its author so much that I don't really care that I don't know. I eagerly await what it has to offer. The third book is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is a Colombian author, so while his text was originally written in Spanish, it wasn't written in Spain Spanish...ok, whatever minor detail. I am letting that one go because I love One Hundred Years of Solitude and can't wait to read it again. I read it two years ago for English class at Annie Wright and it was one of the rare required school reading books that I actually liked. Both The Shadow of the Wind and One Hundred Years of Solitude are both rich, complex, stunning books that I highly recommend (more so The Shadow of the Wind than One Hundred Years of Solitude because One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit harder to navigate on your own on the first read).