While I'm on revision break, I thought I'd let you know how my wee trip went.
I travelled with three of my friends around part of Scotland and we went to Stonehaven, Aberdeen and Inverness. We had sorted ourselves an itinerary, and had originally planned to visit approximately 6-7 castles. Well, Jane left the itinerary in her room and our adventures began from there!
We got to Stonehaven station properly, and then from there we had to walk to Dunnottar Castle which was on the coast about two miles away from the town. When we were almost at the end of our hike, it started to rain. Rain while walking on a windy cliff is not a good thing and its even worse when the rain is cold and feels like it's slapping you. That only lasted a few minutes, thankfully. The castle ruins were nice and it was sunny while we walked around in there. We spent three hours there instead of our scheduled two (and that's not including the time it took to walk there). We had lunch at a cute little restaurant by the beach and then set off for Aberdeen.
Inverness, I have to say, is the most beautiful city I've seen so far. Maybe it's just because the weather was so good while we were there, but the scenery was breathtaking! One day, when I have enough money, I think I want to get myself a summer home in Inverness. We had our "lunch" on the castle grounds at half five. We sat on a bench overlooking the Rive Ness and shared our meal with a seagull. We named him "Alfredo". The Inverness castle is currently used as a courthouse and for some other government purposes, so we didn't get to see the inside. But the outside is lovely.
We spent the rest of the evening walking along the banks of the River and enjoyed the beauty of nature all around us. We ended the evening in a pub in town where there was live folk music playing.
The next day we set off for Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle on a tour bus and cruise. We got a 30 min cruise down the Loch and got off at Urquhart Castle. We walked around those ruins a while, saw a short film about its history at the visitor centre and went back to Inverness by the bus. It was beautiful. Loch Ness was so amazing, the scenery, the air, the freshness, all lovely. It made me really happy.
We had lunch at an all you can eat Chinese buffet restaurant where we stuffed ourselves and spent the rest of the afternoon in the Inverness castle museum and later sunning ourselves on the grassy slopes below the Castle itself.
Then it was time to pack up and take the train back. The trip was a great experience and I'm glad I did it. It was teh first time I'd ever been in hostels and the also the Scottish countryside is so pretty, especially in the spring. Plus the fact that the sun doesn’t set till ten is a huge bonus. So much more time to explore!
The semester is drawing to a close; this reminds me that my time in St Andrews is ending as well. And soon I shall have to return to California. This will be a bitter-sweet time, and when the time arrives I shall dwell on it more, but for now, I shall talk about what I have neglected to do so for a while.
This year, the procession took place on Saturday the 18th of April. I went to watch it with one of my friends and it was a lovely sight to see all these people dressed up in old fashioned clothes parading through the streets. There were princes and dukes, ladies and knights and monks as well. Tradition states that "Kate" is played by a bejant (first year male student) from the Kate Kennedy Club who rides in on a horse drawn carriage at the end of the procession. Among the characters was St Andrew (who lead the procession), Benjamin Franklin, who was awarded an honorary degree from the University, John Cleese, who served as rector and many many other characters who I didn't recognise.
The other thing is more personal. This past Saturday, I went hiking along the Fife Coastal Path and did the Chain walk, which consists of climbing through the rocky cliffs at the edge of the sea. I went with two guys form the scouts and guides club. It was great banter and we had a really good time. It was certainly very refreshing. A nice way to break out of the bubble and get a closer look at some Scottish coastal towns (Anstruther, Elie, Lower Largo). The scenery was splendid and of course it was good exercise.
I have actually had a large amount of work to do for my classes. I always wonder why I never learn and leave things till the last minute. I will hopefully be able to get everything done in time.
Tonight, or rather, early tomorrow morning, is the May Dip. It's a St Andrews tradition where students take a dip in the North Sea at the crack of dawn. I've heard that there are usually bonfires on the beach and loads of students. The May Dip is essential if you've stepped on the PH (initials of the martyr Patrick Hamilton set in the cobblestones on North Street), or if you've committed academic incest. Doing either of these things mean that you will fail your degree. The May Dip is the only way to redeem yourself.
I plan to stay up all night for this. I'll let you know how it goes sometime after I get back!
My Easter Break has been going well so far. I had a 4 day retreat in the North of Scotland. It was held at this Benedictine Monks' Abbey in Pluscarden and was organised by the St Andrews Catholic Society. The place is lovely with a serene and prayerful atmosphere.
The boys got to stay in the abbey and eat with the monks. Us girls had rooms in a place about a five minute walk away from the abbey, and we got to cook our own meals. There were tons of pheasants all over the place and a few of us were eager to catch and eat them ;). Daffodils were springing up all over the fields and the sides of the roads, making everything look quite pretty.
The retreat was very helpful. I knew that I had been missing something crucial for a while and as I had suspected it turned out that I was missing God. The retreat helped me reconnect with Him and helped me to figure out what was important in my life. We went to prayers when the monks had them. We didn't have to go to each and every one during the day, but we went to most, especially to Mass and Compline. On the last day, I made it a point to get up at half four in the morning to go to Vigils and Lauds which starts at a quarter to 5 and goes on till a quarter past 6. I got a bit fidgety in the middle, but I don't regret going. Prayer is always good. :)
After that, I spent a few days in Aberdeen. The weather was quite lovely the whole time I was there and Aberdeen is a nice place as well. The beach is pretty and I saw the ships in the harbour which looked quite impressive.
I had a long train journey back to London from Aberdeen on which a woman who sat next to me reprimanded me for being anti-social with my laptop. I tried to explain that I really only had my laptop open to keep me from getting bored and people in today's world generally don't speak to each other on trains and planes. But she got me and the guy sitting across to shut out laptops and engage in conversation. The guy turned out to be a young physics professor. Interesting. I'd like to know what your opinion is on the issue. Should people talk to each other more on public transport? Is technology making us more antisocial? Let me know in the comments.
I spent the past week in Nottingham.
I had the most amazing time with her. We went to see the Nottingham Castle last Thursday. It's a lovely place; we walked around it taking pictures with my (semi-broken) digital camera. We also took a tour of the caves. This was fun as the tour guide told us stories of what the caves were used for and how they came in handy during the English Civil War. They were quite pretty. We also saw the statue of Robin Hood (the statue doesn't make him out to be as handsome as the films and cartoons do).
We walked around Nottingham City on the next day, and did a bit of shopping. I finally got myself a pair of skinny jeans and some nice boots to go with it!
We went into Beeston which is right next to my friend's halls of residence. It used to be a place where they kept bees. Hence the name. There were some cool shops over there as well.
On Sunday evening, it started to snow and when we woke up on Monday everything was white! It was so pretty to see so much snow. It kept snowing all throughout Monday as well. There was enough snow for people to make plenty of snowmen all around the University Campus. That evening we went sledging on the slopes on campus and we had a snowball fight with three random guys who dared to challenge us. I'd like to say we "won", but really, I don't even know how that would be determined.
While we were sledging a bit later on, one of the girls twisted her ankle and she had to be taken to A&E (Accident and Emergency) at the hospital. It took us quite a while to get there, but she was glad when they told her it wasn't broken after they X-rayed it.
I, sadly, didn't get to build a snowman because of that. We vowed to get up early the next day and build one. We were up at seven the next morning, but when we went outside to build our snowman, we saw that all the snow had turned to ice. Which went crunch, crunch underneath our feet as we walked in it. It was such a surprise because it still looked like snow form afar, but instead of being soft and fluffy, it was hard and crunchy.
I attended a few of my friend's lectures at Nottingham Uni. She studies psychology, so most of them were quite interesting.
We went out partying on one of the nights and that was fun as well.
I got back to St Andrews this afternoon. My train from Nottingham left at 7:23 in the morning and it was snowing again when we woke up at five. The taxi had a bit of trouble getting to the train station, but in the end it got there on time and I was able to catch my train.
The train moved along quite slowly, because of the snow on the tracks, I suppose. It was a little late getting to my connecting station and I realised I had missed the connection. I was about to try and figure out were the Information desk was when I hear another guy ask some people about the next train to Doncaster, which was where I had to be as well. So I went with him to Information, and they told us to just take the next train that goes there and it shouldn't be a problem because of the weather. We did that. At Doncaster, I saw him again and it turned out that we had to catch the same next train as well. This train was delayed by 20 minutes, so we stood on the cold snowy platform and ended up waiting for ages. They kept pushing the time the train was expected at, back by a few minutes every so often.
Tired of waiting, we both got something to eat and decided to take the next train going in the direction we needed to go. Which is what we did. We got the train, and managed to get to his station, where the train terminated. He helped me to find the correct platform to catch the next train to Edinburgh and helped me with my bags, which I had one too many of. We enjoyed talking about the snowy weather and attempting to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper while we were on the train.
I don't suppose I'll see him again, but he was nice.
At Edinburgh, I got out and did a little window shopping and then caught the next train to Leuchars. I reached St Andrews in the late afternoon and was so happy to be back in my room. I had missed it a lot.
I'm on the train back up to St Andrews as I write this. I left from King's Cross in London, I guess you could say I'm on the Hogwarts express (I promise one of these days I'll get a picture of me by Platform nine and three quarters).
After a seven hour journey on Saturday, including a bus and three trains. I made to London in one piece. I have to say hearing some of the stories of other people being stuck in airports etc. I am glad I only had to make it to London. I am also glad that my home university is only two hours away from home for me, meaning that I would be able to go home on any weekend if I wanted to. I have to say, I had a bit of a glitch, since I ended up locking my debit card by being a ditz and forgetting my pin one too many times in a row. I'll have to sort that out when I get back.
Ok, so, I know this is long overdue, but I've been busy/tired/without internet access for the past few days. This is going to be a long entry, so, here goes.
I'm writing now. This might not be up to my usual standard because I am still a bit jet lagged. I slept for 12 hours last night, but I'm still tired and sleepy right now.