Archive for the 'Scotland' Category

Freaks, Geeks, Something about a Castle and Enough Scotch for a day or two.

The Wandering Nerd August 14th, 2007

Ah, Edinburgh…either I’ve had some sort of mild stroke or the whole west side smells like cat food; like a freshly opened tin of crazy-cat-lady-20p-can-of cat food. People here say that its the distilleries, but I’ve been around distilleries before, this is cat food smell. As further proof, I present to you the fact that I have not seen a single cat since I’ve been here. They are all wherever that big bastard of a tin of Whiskas is. Quid Est Demonstratum.


Right now I’m sitting in a Haggis Bar waiting on my train. That’s right a Haggis Bar. Yes, I’ve tried Haggis, it’s actually not bad. Sort of like a sausage/hamburger oatmeal. The top bit there is the haggis:

I’ve heard tale of a castle somewhere around here, but damned if I’ve found it. I made that joke to a couple of Edinburgh - ‘Edin-burra’ - natives, apparently some people had asked them, in all seriousness, where the castle is. I suppose I can buy that if you’re looking for the Disney version of a castle, or more Germanic. This castle was clearly intended to be functional, not necessarily pretty. It truly does dominate the area, and makes for pretty easy navigation. Which is helpful, as no Scottish person has ever been able to give clear directions…ever…not a one of them. I thought it was bad in rural America, “yeah, ya’ go on town to where ol’ Davy’s barn used to be and then take a left, then about a mile before the fork in the road, take the right side, when you see Lucy’s pasture (a cow) take a right. If you make it to where the Hutchinson place burned down back in ‘34, you’ve gone too far.” Now while that’s not entirely helpful, it actually does convey meaning when placed in context, and more importantly, it involves directions. You know, helpful little things like ‘left’ and ‘right.’ Here you either get, “yeah, it’s on this little road that’s not on your map, just get to here and then look around for it,” or - and this is kinda’ my favorite - “Och, aye, you keep on going down, and then it’s over two streets, dunna’ know the name of the street lad, but ya’ canna’ a’miss it.” I’ve gotten rather accomplished at keeping the castle within marginal visual contact, simply as a survival mechanism.

Turns out theres a little festival thing going on here too. Of course, by ‘little’ I mean it has taken over the whole city. Sort of displaying my naivety here, but before I left I only vaguely realized there was something going on here. I’d never seen nor heard of anything about the festival, but it truly is a metropolitan wide affair, The Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve caught a few shows here and there, people will wander around and hand you fliers to their one man/one woman/duo/troupe shows, or there are street performers all over the damn place. Some are very clever, some involve sitting in a costume and yelling at people to give you money…I think there is a very thin line between performance and panhandling.

Though juggling three knives is impressive, doing it while standing on the shoulders of your partner is more impressive, and doing it while standing on the shoulders of your partner who is balancing atop a board that is on a cylinder, is very impressive. I shit you not, look at the pics. The one guy also jumped over a guy from the audience who was 6′8″ granted it was more of a leap frog sorta’ thing, but ballsy to attempt, if you like yours.

I also got really enamored with the Sir Walter Scott Memorial. There are a number of shots of it. It’s the big evil spire looking thing. It truly sticks out in the city as an anathema. Most things here are really some shade of granite from ivory to sandstone-ish. This thing is dark and gorgeous.

There’s also nothing quite as refreshing as getting all four bloody damn seasons within a day here. It will go from bright and sunny and warm, to freezing cold and raining within 15 minutes, then it switches to bright and sunny and raining. Then it goes go a shivering wind while the sun is beating down on you so you sweat, but you can’t take the jacket off. No wonder the Scotch was created. Which brings us cleverly to…

The Scotch Experiance, (I totally just owned that sequitor, did you see that?) is to Scotch, what Mecca is to Muslims, only without all of of that kneeling on a rug and mumbling incoherently…well…come to think of it…

I went for the big daddy of the tours, actually learned a number of interesting thing. Scotch, as it is, only matures in the cask, so a seven year old bottle of scotch purchase say 10 years ago, is still just a seven year old bottle of scotch. It’s not like wine or a port or sherry. I also discovered Laphroaig Cask Strength. It will knock you down, rifle through your pockets looking for change, and kick you solidly in the chest. Then it will pull you to your feet and you will thank it for it’s kindness, it’s that good. Cask strength merely refers to the alcohol content, i.e. regular Laphroaig is 40% by volume, cask strength is 55%. Now, technically, the extra alcohol should mellow the taste - it numbs your tastebuds more quickly. In practice it doesn’t matter. The peaty flavor is more pronounced. It’s like drinking a goodly sized campfire. Mmmm… I also found the storefront of Royal Mile Whiskies, just for you Larry. :) The guy working it was from Brooklyn, go figure.

For any Ian Rankin/Rebus fans, I found - after considerable effort, see the second paragraph - The Oxford Bar and had a Deuchars IPA. When a beer advertises itself as ‘instantly quaffable,’ I’m totally there. I’m getting more and more into beers. Never thought I would but it’s a horizon expanding trip on purpose. I still can’t bring myself to try a Guinness outside of Ireland though.

and there’s nothin’ sure in this world
and there’s nothin’ pure in this world
look for something left in this world
start again
-billy idol

Twisted back, getting the hang of it, and yup, more rain.

The Wandering Nerd August 11th, 2007

Okay, sleeping on a loveseat sucks donkey ass, I think my back and shoulders are now fused. I ended up sitting out on the stoop talking to a guy from Florida, Ian, about traveling. He’s doing essentially the same thing I am, though on the other side. He’s almost 50, had the wife, kids, job and everything and is now trying it. I’m going at it from the other end. Really good guy and I ended up giving him some pointers. It’s a bit odd to be ‘old hat’ at this stuff now, but it’s kinda’ cool that I’m not a pn3wb anymore. Though waking up with a number strange creaks and pops wasn’t all that good, I’m glad to have hung out with the guy.

The weather has gone back to shite. Rained all day. Israel, Ximena, and I went around to Glasgow University, and a few museums. One of them was the Hunterian Museum. More medical/science based with a large collection of early physician instruments as well as a large Kelvin exhibit. I took some more video, just not sure how to best convert it from .avi to .flv to put it up on here. I had a little unix script that would do it, but that box is long since gone I’m sure.

*UPDATE* Video:

There’s not much to add to the photos from today, as it’s pretty straightforward. Tomorrow I head to Edinburgh, where hopefully they’ll have wi-fi so I can actually post all of this.


we all get what we deserve
my little snow white dove
rest assured
-nick cave

Piping Pakistanis, the city…OF THE DEAD, and intricate glass.

The Wandering Nerd August 10th, 2007

I’ve pretty much decided to avoid big hostels anymore. They have all of the charm of a goddamn operating room. The one I stayed with in Belfast seemed more like I was imposing on them, and the one here was really impersonal, the only redeeming aspect was that they had a bar attached. Which sounds good, but in practice they charge more than a nearby pub,and don’t let you bring any booze onto the premises. Blech. So I wasn’t too dissapointed when they told me I could only stay the one night. Though that did leave me in somewhat of a lurch as I had no backup and there is - I shit you not - a non-Scottish piping contest in Glasgow now. It’s like some sort of international championship of piping. The only main point is your team can’t be Scottish. The Pakistani team looks cool, you’ll see.

So without accommodation I headed out to a hostel I’d called yesterday that said they may have a couch for me. Israel and Ximena needed a place too, so we all tramped through the rain to this little hostel on the other side of town where they did indeed have couches for all of us in the lounge. Better than a bench in the park,eh?

We tooled around Glasgow for the rest of the day on another CityTour bus. The Necropolis and Cathedral took a lot of our time. I’m all about a City of the Dead. There is also a museum of religious life and art by the Cathedral which is very even handed and well presented, all of the good and bad associated with the major religions.

The clever amongst you may note that I am decidedly <em>not</em> on the Island of Islay - which is pronounced ‘eye-lah’…the more you know. Moving from Belfast to Glasgow is really easy, you get on a bus driven by a nice man who takes you to the ferry port. You give them your 30 quid and then, through the magic of transportation technology, you’re in Glasgow. To get to Islay one must get a bus from Glasgow, change buses in Tarbet, just to get to Kennacraig’s ferry port. Which literally is just a ferry port, there’s nothing else. So timing the bus with the ferry…the <em>one</em> ferry is pretty critical. Then it’s a two hour ferry ride to Port Askaig, on Islay. But the hostel there is in Port Ellen, which is on the other side of the island, 18km. Coming back is even more complicated as I’d be traveling on a Sunday which has completely different rules. I decided to just give it a miss,

as I’ve lucked into someplace in Edinburgh on Sunday and I dunna’ wanna’ miss the opportunity. I’ll catch it the next time around. Sorry Larry.

Hunter S. Thompson once wrote there’s nothing more depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. He’d never ran into a Hen Party. It’s like a bachelor party but for the women. I mentioned how Glasgow was way overbooked, well the place we found the couches (palatial as you’ll see in the photos), had overbooked to the point that a 13 woman hen party showed up and had not place to stay. They moved people onto the floors in various places, and even more people were showing up as the night went on. Yeah, sleeping on a love seat is gonna’ be great…really looking forward to it.

i want something good to die for
to make it beautiful to live
-queens of the stone age

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