Getting Settled: Arriving, Buying, and Commuting 

Yesterday was a long day! After successfully boarding in Toronto (~3 hours), and again in St. John’s (~4 hours), I finally made it into Ireland! It was about 13°C when I landed, making my decision to don a sweater for this trip a good one.

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Predeparture snapchat pic. Bye Canada!

I then took a 3.5 hour aircoach ride to Cork City, followed by a half hour local transit ride to my accommodations for the year. The bus ride was quite scenic, painted with rolling hills, flowing streams, and spotted with cattle. Nevertheless, I was happy to finally make it to my apartment.

View from the Route!

A view from the bus route.

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Almost there! Hello Cork!

I met one of my flatmates and her friend, and we chatted for a bit (while I ate) before I left again to avail of some necessities that didn’t quite make it into the checked baggage’s weight requirement.

I first went to Penneys (which is Primark everywhere else in Europe) to look at their clothing find bedding/duvet/towels. Luckily, everything I needed to buy was on sale as part of their “home event”! I was actually quite surprised that they had such things, as I seemed to have ignored that section entirely when I was at Primark back in Edinburgh. Regardless, I got what I needed.

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The Penneys/Tesco Haul. Pictured from left to right: Duvet, Towels, shampoo/conditioner/Tesco body “soap”, duvet cover set, Tesco toothpaste, fitted sheet (there were no double sized grey fitted sheets left)

I also went to two different grocery stores (Tesco & Aldi), just to see their selections of food, as well as to buy some showering necessities. The thing I like most about Tesco especially is their selection of “essential” items that are priced extremely affordably. Yes, they might not be the brand we’re use to in Canada, but they’re much more wallet-friendly than their imported {American} counterparts. I also bought a few things so I can whip up a few meals at home the next few days, while I properly unpack my stuff and lounge around/ discover new places.

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A picture of my first grocery haul! I also bought baby Spinach, but it didn’t quite make it into the photo.

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Home-made Vegetable Purée Soup in a cup, sprinkled with a bit of dried basil!

Impressions

I think it’s too early to give a full impression of the area. Overall, I think the city is very kind to us students. I think its the courteous manner that I’ve received from the locals today – whether they were customs officers, bus drivers, fellow shoppers or cashiers. Certainly, the streets and architecture sparks a longing to re-visit Edinburgh, although I think it’ll realistically be a while from now.

I haven’t really been to any places apart from shops here, so I really don’t know much about the history, or the tourist areas in this city. The temperature was a little bit rainy, but overall not too humid. I think the sweaters I brought will come in handy, especially on long days of studying in the future.

About the flight

I flew WestJet’s econo class – the cheapest and most direct flight I could find, but you had to pay for things like baggage and food separately. I sat in a middle seat, which surprisingly, wasn’t as bad as I thought I’d be, although it was a little more difficult to sleep during the flight. Overall, I was pretty happy with the service at Westjet. The flight crew was very engaging and made the trip fun. Westjet also has this interesting way of connecting to their on-board entertainment, which requires you to have their app installed on your smartphone/tablet. Mine seemed to be malfunctioning though, as the movie I was watching (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) kept stopping and moving back to the main screen. There was no “turn on captions” function either, on the app, but I think its a pretty nice idea overall, as we finally get to control the obnoxiously loud volume that use to blare into our ears through the “front-of-seat” version. I suppose knowing that a “complimentary snack” was literally 6 corn chips or two cookies would’ve been helpful as well. Regardless, I wouldn’t actually mind flying them again, as long as I bring food and drinks with me.

About the SIM Card

I got my SIM Card at Three on St Patrick’s Street in Cork City. The store was right in front of my bus stop, so I figured, why not? I was recommended this company by some upper year students, and I think it’s a pretty good deal: a “PAYG” top-up €20 unlimited data, unlimited texting, and unlimited same-network calls, AND I get the keep the credit for use on other things. Oh, and if I leave for, say, France, I can still use 5 GB of data free of charge. I haven’t used it for very long, but one key difference I noticed that they use “4G” where we use “LTE”. Apparently, LTE is faster than 4G, but I think 4G is pretty fast anyway, so I’m find with it.

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Getting ready for Ireland

August 18th, 2017

Hi all!

I’ve done lots since my last post, but it seems a new chapter of my life has begun. For those of you that don’t know, I’ll be starting medical school in Ireland this year. Moving my life (pretty much) abroad for the next four years is an exciting, yet daunting task.

I’ll be reopening this blog once again, and hopefully posting more regularly. I’ll also be trying to merge my old travel blogs as I go forward.

I’ve also been trying to wrap up everything – making this month one of many “lasts”. Whether it was to get paper work ready, resigning from work, arranging finances, hanging out with friends/family, or re-visiting childhood memories, a clock chimes, “you’re running out of time!”

I’ve pretty much toured Toronto/Markham a few times over at this point. I’m honestly grateful to have met up with so many people before leaving. They say what I’ll miss most apart from friends/family when studying abroad is home-foods: so things like bubble tea, Taiwanese fried chicken, and night markets were definitely on my list.

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Some fancy foods I’ve been eating this past month – definitely food I’ll miss! Top left to bottom right: Bubble Tea at The Alley (Unionville), Lamb Skewers at Toronto Night Market, HK Milk Tea Thai Ice Cream Roll served on HK Egg Waffle, Sushi Combo at Il Bun Ji Sushi House, Taiwanese Fried Chicken at Lohas Cafe.

Pre-departure: Baggage

On another note, I’ve realized that I’ve accumulated a lot more stuff since the last time I’ve travelled. It is now infinitely more difficult to fit everything into one 23kg suitcase. I didn’t take a photo of my checked baggage, but take a look at my tentative carry-on luggage contents!

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My Carry-on baggage (note: the instant noodles didn’t quite make it into my  carry on)

Pre-departure: Immigration Documents

I think Edinburgh immigration info was much easier to obtain. I suppose that was because I did all of the research on my own, so I needed to go over everything many times. This time though, the application organization I went through used email communication primarily. I ended up looking up on the Irish Visa information page, and came up with this summary of documents:

  1. Passport
  2. Proof of funds (at least 3000 euros)
  3. Letter of Offer + relevant emails (because the school doesn’t really send you “acceptance letter, per say)
  4. Proof of school payment (so basically a bunch of wire transfer receipts)
  5. Health/Immunization documents for school
  6. Proof of Private Insurance (I went with a local Irish Insurance… recommended by school/application organization/upper years).

With just two days till take-off, I’m pretty much packed. It’s a little bittersweet to know that I might not be back in a while, but I’m excited to get to Ireland and start school. Here’s to hoping for a safe flight!

At this point, it’s pretty obvious that I won’t be caught up in my blog posts before I get back. As it stands, I’m currently sitting at Heathrow airport, waiting for my gate to appear from the screen. By the  It seems I definitely did not need 2 hours to get through security. By the time I post this though, I’ll probably be sitting in my house in Canada, in a (hopefully) air conditioned room with all my UK stuff lying around my room; I’d also be getting ready for work the next day.

    Last night, I stayed in London for the last time in a “posh” hostel. I say that not to mean that it’s a five star hotel, but because it’s a refurbished, old, victorian house. I’d debated previously on two hostels, but ended up picking this one due to its extremely high reviews and… well… it’s extremely pretty.

hostel

One room in Gryffindor Tower please!

Although this hostel no longer provides breakfast for free, it still gives you free internet during your stay, as well as free left luggage after check-out. It also has many ornate chandeliers and bathrooms that are shockingly clean (and new, considering the old victorian house). They also kept all the older, large doors, and everything is keycard access, so I didn’t have to carry around any extra keys.

Yeah, so it turns out their left luggage is locked with a keycard... wrapped in an extremely cute stuffed animal. I think it was a donkey. Or a horse. Or... okay I have no clue. It was stuffed and cute. That's all that matters.

Yeah, so it turns out their left luggage is locked with a keycard… wrapped in an extremely cute stuffed animal. I think it was a donkey. Or a horse. Or… okay I have no clue. It was stuffed and cute. That’s all that matters.

    The hostel is sort of close to Camden Town & Primrose Hill, both of which I wished to visit before leaving here. Camden Town is home to many markets, including the Camden Lock Market and the Horse Stable Markets, which are interconnected. It seems that here is where you can find cheaper London souvenirs. Of course, you should not think that any of these products were made in London, but perhaps China, or maybe India; apparently, there is a really high Indian population, especially in these areas.

Extremely early Tuesday morning at the Horse Stable Market

Extremely early Tuesday morning at the Horse Stable Market

These benches and tables are so ornate!

These benches and tables are so ornate!

    At the market, you’ll definitely see your “typical” souvenirs by the dozen, red telephone booths, british tea, little plates or cups printed with “LONDON” and various iconic monuments. Keychains and post cards are part of most every store. What’s different I guess is their take on some of the drugs under the new Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I guess they’re just okay with it, because it’s literally in every shop, sold along with pipes and some other things that I’m not sure about, side by side with their “beats” headphones, “apple” earphones, and their “bose” speakers. I’m 100% sure none of these electronics are real, so it’s probably not best to buy from there is you want good (or well, better, anyway) quality sound. If you’re totally just in for the brand name and think that it looks cool though, then by all means, go ahead.

    Anyway, I mostly bought little trinkets from Camden market; I didn’t really buy any keychains though, because I’ve basically got 20-30 of them just sitting in a shoebox back home. Probably best not to add to that collection. I also already have London keychains, so I don’t really need more. Maybe if they’re from a different country, though.

    There’s also the ‘typical’ market stuff: jewellery, tanks, t-shirts, jeans, toys, games, “handmade” trinkets, scarves, and bags of assorted shapes, colours, and designs. They also had many international food stalls and bars though.

    On my first visit about 2 weeks ago, I kept hearing a lady from one of the Thai food markets shouting “free sample, free sample!” As I approached, I heard a bunch of people asking to try this “free sample”. The lady’s response was always the same:

Lady: Are you hungry?

Customer: I guess. Maybe a little.

Lady: WELL THEN BUY SOMETHING!

    Let’s just say that I didn’t see anyone who got that “free sample” on her fork. It must have been sitting there all day. I really wanted to know what happened if someone said no, since everyone else said “yes”. So of course, I went up, and she said:

Lady: FREE SAMPLE! Hey you! Free sample!

Me: Okay I’ll have a free sample.

Lady: Are you hungry?

Me: No.

*lady walks away, asking the next person whether they wanted a ‘free sample’.

    I thought it was extremely amusing that she used “free sample” as a way to ask people to come buy stuff from her store, especially as they couldn’t actually get any free sample. What I thought was the most surprising was that IT ACTUALLY WORKED on someone. I actually saw a guy proceed to buy food after she asked them to.

    You definitely need to bargain at this market, although I’l admit that it’s extremely odd to bargain in English. Perhaps its the whole idea that I grew up only bargaining in Asian countries. Either way, it was still an amusing concept to grasp.

    I guess markets have always been an enjoyment of mine. You get to see a lot of different small shops, just to see how far down it can go, in terms of price. It’s actually quite varied.

    For example, I bought a picture frame. I thought it looked pretty. It was 1 pound. However, going to other shops, that exact same picture frame was easily priced at 5-6 pounds. I even saw one shop trying to sell that frame for 10 pounds. So I guess, shop around if you come here.

It's so colourful!  Incidentally, this is also the shop I bought my picture frame from.

It’s so colourful!
Incidentally, this is also the shop I bought my picture frame from.

    Anyway, the market is located near the lock, which I’ve seen both at night, and during the day. I personally think it’s prettier at night, although the amount of drunk people around the lock make it less desirable.

Camden Lock during the day

Camden Lock during the day 

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Camden at night! Okay, so perhaps I like the night view a lot from this angle too…

    I also visited Primrose Hill at night to see the London skyline. One of my friends commented that it looked a little like the Toronto skyline, which I’d have to agree with; all you can see on my camera is a tall tower like structure and a ferris wheel, which is also what you of Toronto at night.

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This is the view of London from Primrose Hill after sunset. A ‘plaque’ on the floor reads: I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill. — William Blake (1757 – 1827).

    The view of London from Primrose Hill was spectacular! I guess I really like how the skyline lights up at night. It’s also extremely peaceful up there, and a really easy walk up the hill, taking no more than 5 minutes. I think I must of just stared at that view for a good half an hour before descending the hill. Since it was nightfall, I quickly walked my way back to the hostel. I’ve actually been up here once before, during sunset. Let’s just say it would’ve been easier to take a photo then, as my DSC has an extremely small lens that doesn’t let in light very nicely. Of course, my phone isn’t that much better. It also didn’t help that my phone decided to run out of battery when I got up the hill the first time. 

Note: It turns out that it’s actually been 3-4 days since I left London. I’ve had this typed up a while, but haven’t actually had the chance to post it until now.

  After lunch, we hopped back on our tour bus to St. Andrews’ the ‘main attraction’ for the day. It was advertised in a golf, and (a running joke?) was that we’d visit the golf museum. We never actually did though. I’m not sure I actually understand the art of golf. It involves long-distance precision and hand eye coordination; two concepts that I can’t quite grasp together.

St. Andrews is known for golf (forefront of photo), as well as the St. Andrews Beach (background), where Chariots of Fire was filmed.

St. Andrews is known for golf (forefront of photo), as well as the St. Andrews Beach (background), where Chariots of Fire was filmed.

My favourite piece of scenery in the golf field though, was this bridge. I’m not sure why, and I’m not even sure how significant it is to the golf course… but it’s pretty :D

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St Andrews also has a multitude of historical ruins and a very nice beach.

Part of the St. Andrew's Abbey Ruins.

Me sitting in front of part of the St. Andrew’s Cathedral Ruins.

Another part of the St. Andrews Abbey ruins.

Another part of the St. Andrews Cathedral ruins.

Look at the dome shaped ruin! It looks so intricate!

Look at the dome shaped ruin! It looks so intricate! This is the Blackfriar’s Chapel.

The Blackfriar’s Chapel was once operated by Dominican friars, and has it’s roots around the 13th-15th century. It was once built to fit the needs of the University of St Andrews, although it was destroyed during the Scottish Reformation. Today, only this part stands. Sometimes, when looking at these ruins, I wonder what the original looked like. We see all these pieces, but I’m not sure I can ever completely piece together their original glory.

Look, a pretty beach!

Look, a pretty beach!

Close to the golf course is a beach, with lots of sand and rocks, and quite picturesque.

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I think the building below is part of the University of St. Andrews; most likely a chapel for the students there.

I can't remember what this was... but it's pretty (:

I can’t remember what this was… but it’s pretty (:

Anyway, after the 2.5 hours elapsed, we hopped back onto the bus home. I guess it’s harvest season now. Much of the farmland surrounding our road was covered in these:

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I’ve always been fond of fields covered with rolled up grass/hay/straw. I don’t really know why, but I figured I’d post the photo nonetheless.

Anyway, I mentioned last time that I thought a picture while on the forth road bridge was prettier than looking at just the bridge itself, and I’ve found a picture, so I thought I’d share (:

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One of the things St. Andrews is famous for is it’s University, which coincidentally is also the place where Prince William and Kate Middleton first met. I recently had the wonderful opportunity of travelling here as part of a tour with some friends visiting from Toronto. 

    The tour company we went with was Grayline Tours, which, quite honestly, seemed to do the most for the cheapest price (£27). We took a tour to St. Andrews & the Kingdom of Fife, and it made 4 main stops: The Forth Bridge, Dunfermline, Anstruther, and St. Andrews. 

    The first stop of the day was near South Queensferry; we saw the ‘Firth of Forth Bridges’ at an extremely close level.

My friends and I in front of the Forth Rail Bridge, from a port close to South Queensferry.  South Queensferry's "High Street", where we were suppose to stop, is currently hosting a festival, and is therefore closed to oncoming traffic.

My friends and I in front of the Forth Rail Bridge, from a port close to South Queensferry.
South Queensferry’s “High Street”, where we were suppose to stop, is currently hosting a festival, and is therefore closed to oncoming traffic.

    After taking a multitude of photos, we hopped back onto the tour bus and made our way to the town of Dunfermline via the Forth Road Bridge. I think this cantilever bridge looks way cooler when you’re on it, but hey, it could just be a difference in view. 

    Next, we visited Dunfermline Abbey, built by King David I of Scotland in 1702. It holds its current place as part of the Church of Scotland Parish church. At one point, the old abbey was allowed to fall in disrepair due the political climate of the time. Today, however, part of the original Dunfermline Abbey still stands, and is said to be one of the most important cultural sites in Scotland. This abbey, much like many other historical sites in Scotland and the rest of the UK are still in use today as a place of worship.

Dunfermline Abbey from the view of the Dunfermline Botanical Garden.  I think that the yellow flowers in this photo really bring out the beauty of the abbey itself.

Dunfermline Abbey from the view of the Dunfermline Botanical Garden.
I think that the yellow flowers in this photo really bring out the beauty of the abbey itself.

I think one of the things that strikes me as most interesting is the history and medieval architecture, perhaps due to Canada’s own short history. Whether its the arches, the ornate looking windows, or the detail and attention required to create such large structures, these buildings never fail to astound me.

Look at this court yard area, for example. On the bottom right you see the arches that ornate corbels (those arch things that are embedded in the wall) surrounding the equally amazing, curved windows.

Look at this court yard area, for example. On the bottom right you see the arches that ornate corbels (those arch things that are embedded in the wall) surrounding the equally amazing, curved windows.

Similarly, these side wall supports and the detail used at the edges look really medieval, and well... historical.

Similarly, these side wall supports and the detail used at the edges look really medieval, and well… historical.

I also got to see the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, who designed the famous Carnegie Hall in the States. As a musician having once visited this famous hall, I felt particularly privileged to say I’ve visited Carnegie’s birth place. Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919), in fact, was a boy originally born in in the area of Dunfermline in Scotland, moving to Pennsylvania State at a relatively young age. As a child, he had been an early messenger working in the steel and iron industry. He was particularly good with his finances however, and as he grew older, ended up owning the steel/iron mills he use to work in. As such, he ended up with an enormous amount of money, and built both the famous Carnegie Hall in NY. He never forgot his home town, however, and gifted many things to it in his older years, including a public park, bath, and library; he also gifted a smaller version of Carnegie Hall, and built a castle in Dunfermline.

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum!  This is the house where Andrew Carnegie was born.

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum!
This is the house where Andrew Carnegie was born.

If the museum is to be believed, this is the exact bed Carnegie was born in/ slept in! :O

If the museum is to be believed, this is the exact bed Carnegie was born in/ slept in! :O

A spinning wheel.

A spinning wheel.

I've always had a thing for fireplaces... I'm not sure what it is, but perhaps it's the warm and the fire within that makes it so appealing.

I’ve always had a thing for fireplaces… I’m not sure what it is, but perhaps it’s the warm and the fire within that makes it so appealing.

A PRETTY WINDOW! :D  Yeah... this isn't actually on here for any cool reason. I just think it's pretty.

A PRETTY WINDOW! :D
Yeah… this isn’t actually on here for any cool reason. I just think it’s pretty.

    We then stopped for lunch in a small, traditional fishing village called Anstruther. Normally, that wouldn’t be very appealing for me, as I’m not really one for fish. However, I do like waterfronts and small towns. Anstruther is actually part of the Kingdom of Fife, and is part of East Neuk. 

Look isn't Ansthruther pretty?! Pretty cobble stones, nice large benches, and flags hanging across poles. Perfect fishing town, and an amazingly picturesque area in Fife.

Look isn’t Ansthruther pretty?! Pretty cobble stones, nice large benches, and flags hanging across poles. Perfect fishing town, and an amazingly picturesque area in Fife.

Fish and Chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar. They are also the winner of an Edinburgh Fish & Chips competition. So of course, we had to try it!  The batter was extremely light, and tasted delicious! After a while though, I think it mostly tasted extremely oily... I guess I'm not use to the amount of oil that comes with frying fish.  This is the Kid's portion... I'm not sure how kids can finish that, because I definitely couldn't finish mine.

Fish and Chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar. They are also the winner of an Edinburgh Fish & Chips competition. So of course, we had to try it!
The batter was extremely light, and tasted delicious! After a while though, I think it mostly tasted extremely oily… I guess I’m not use to the amount of oil that comes with frying fish.
This is the kid’s portion… I’m not sure how kids can finish that, because I definitely couldn’t finish mine :O 

A view from Ansthruther’s Pier!

Although it was definitely a place for tourists, it didn’t feel particularly touristy.  Arriving here felt like time slowed down, and part of me wished I could’ve stayed there for longer, and maybe hop on one of the boats or something. 

I remember that, at the beginning of the trip, I thought I’d never actually visit the inside of Edinburgh Castle, despite the fact that it’s an iconic Edinburgh attraction. I mean, it has the name Edinburgh in it! It’s expensive to enter, and I wasn’t sure how interested I’d be.

Edinburgh Castle, as viewed from Calton Hill.

Edinburgh Castle, as viewed from Calton Hill.

     But last Sunday afternoon, my friends and I ended up heading into Edinburgh Castle despite the rain that was beginning to pour. Let’s just say it was a day of my feet swimming all day. I guess I’ll just note this now… I don’t actually have any photos of Edinburgh Castle, as it seems my computer doesn’t like reading memory cards or something, since all the photos disappeared after it was plugged into my computer.

     It’s currently festival season here in Edinburgh, so everything is generally extremely packed, despite the long-lasting rain, characteristic of Scotland (and most of the UK). A slight distance beyond the right of the entry way is a line of canons. I’m not sure what it is about the large, black canons all lined up in a row that make such a nice photographic shot, but its presence makes the castle, well, simply put, more castle-esque. These canons were called the Forewall Battery. On good days, this location is suppose to allow you to see all the way around the city and beyond, to the land of Fife. That day, of course, did not quite allow you to see as far; but what I’ve come to realize is that the misty air overhanging the city is part of what gives Edinburgh its history.

     On the left a little ways in stands a set of stairs, called the Lang stairs, which serves as a direct route to the top of Castle Rock. Beyond, a wide cobbled walkway preceded us. We chose to follow it.

     Okay, well, the tour guide walked that way, and we followed.

     At the crosspoint of the walkway, A victorian signpost directed us to a multitude of different places. Directly to our right was small cafe. In the direction of 9 and 10 o’clock* are two museums, the Royal Scots Museum and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum. The National War Museum is found at about 12 o’clock. One particularly interesting display was the Scottish “Crown Jewels”. In it lay the Royal Crown, Sceptre, and a stone. These relics were once hidden away during the reign of Cromwell, after he destroyed the English Crown Jewels; today it stands in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle.

    What I found startling was the presence of the stone. This inexplicably ‘normal’ looking sandstone stands in stark contrast to some of the most exquisite symbols of royalty. I mean, I understand the Crown and Sceptre, as these were used in coronation ceremonies. But the stone? It looked like a large capstone, but that was about it. Apparently, the stone is actually a holy relic called the Stone of Scone, or the Stone of Destiny. Many legends as to its origins, which traces it back to biblical, Irish, and Scottish origins. Over history, it was fought over by the Scottish and English for many years, and is said to have played an important role for enthroning Scottish monarchs. Eventually, I guess the English won, for it was stolen away to Westminister Abbey in London for some 700 years, where it was used for coronations in England. it wasn’t until recently that this capstone has been restored to Scotland and installed in Edinburgh Castle.

   The crown jewels and sceptres have not been used in coronation since Charles II. As parliamentary ruling rose, these symbols were placed in the parliament to signify the Sovereign’s presence and consent. When Scotland became part of the United Kingdom, the crown jewels were wrapped in linen and placed inside an oak chest, hidden away in Edinburgh Castle. It wasn’t until 1818 that the castle was opened, and the crown jewels were found inside. Subsequently, they were displayed in the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle in 1819. They were then hidden again during the second world war in separate locations, and then revealed once again after the war. At one time, they were also transported to St. Giles and formally presented to the Queen in 1953, before it returned once again to Edinburgh Castle.

    I also had the opportunity to visit the prisoners of war exhibition. I’m going to have to guess that they were extremely crammed; apparently they survived by creating artisan crafts, which were then exchanged for survival goods, including cheese, wine, and pen/paper for writing back home.

    Another interesting part was the Dog Cemetery. It seems that during the war, these dogs were with the soldiers in battle, and therefore became very close. After the war, these dogs continued as pets of the soldiers, and when they died, were given an honorary burial place in the dog cemetery, found near an edge of Edinburgh Castle. 

    Today Edinburgh Castle is one of the biggest attractions of Edinburgh; during festival season, the Royal Military Tattoo is played in the castle, with a grand fireworks display at the end of the day. Although we didn’t get to see either of these (they’re night events with separate entry fees), I’m glad to say that I’ve actually been to Edinburgh Castle now.

Extremely far shot & blurry shot of Edinburgh Castle at night.  We were trying to see if we'd see the fireworks. We didn't end up being able to see it though.

Extremely far shot & blurry shot of Edinburgh Castle at night.
We were trying to see if we’d see the fireworks. We didn’t end up being able to see it though.

    Before we left Edinburgh, we had a sample of Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties. I always thought they’d serve it more as three separate portions in one dish, instead of a stacked “pie”. Anyway, here’s a photo!

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. At a store on the Royal Mile.

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. At a store on the Royal Mile.

 

*locations are total estimates. I don’t have that great a memory, haha.

   Every year is filled with new memories, adventures, and changes. Growth is inevitable. So I guess it comes as to no surprise that time away from school, exams, and constant pressure has led to a period of reflection. This post isn’t really anything entirely travel-esque, just something I’ve been pondering for a little while now. 

   During my time here, I’ve visited a few churches for their worship and services, and I’ve participated in some of their events. One in particular is Carrubbers, which recently hosted a globe café for international students. As part of their outreach, they hosted various themed nights, including Scottish dance (Keildh, pronounced “kay-lee”) and culture nights, British night, International night, and talent nights, to name a few. 

Jenga blocks can be used for more than just Jenga. Also, the name of the cafe that was held is Globe Cafe.

Jenga blocks can be used for more than just Jenga. Also, the name of the cafe that was held is Globe Cafe.

Some food served during Scottish culture night.  Irn-Bru (the orange coloured pop) is a fizzy drink, that in my opinion, tastes a little like Dr. Pepper. The top right is a "teacake", which looks and tastes a lot like a viva puff. The bottom right is a caramel wafer. It tastes very sweet.

Some food served during Scottish culture night.
Irn-Bru (the orange coloured pop) is a fizzy drink, that in my opinion, tastes a little like Dr. Pepper. The top right is a “teacake”, which looks and tastes a lot like a viva puff. The bottom right is a caramel wafer. It tastes very sweet.

Some more food, and various other activity nights.  The photo on the left is a lunch made for us after the International Service Sunday; The middle-top photo is from chocolate fondue night, the middle-bottom photo is from British culture night (we were building something with pasta and marshmallows); The photo on the right is of Keildh, although not from Globe cafe. I was sick that day and didn't quite make it there.

Some more food, and various other activity nights.
The photo on the left is a mango chicken and rice lunch made for us after the International Service Sunday; The middle-top photo is from chocolate fondue night, the middle-bottom photo is from British culture night (we were building something with pasta and marshmallows); The photo on the right is of Keildh, although not from Globe cafe. I was sick that day and didn’t quite make it there.

Here’s a link from when I went up during talent night: Mulan’s Reflection. I really debated putting it up, considering I literally chose the song while up there, without practice, or any other sort of thing. I already had it recorded though, so I figured, why not?

I haven’t really sang in a long time, so let me know what you think of it if you do click the link. I’d be eternally grateful (:

~~~~~~

   In all honesty, my thoughts on going were mixed. I wanted to go just to learn a little about the culture of Scotland while I’m here. However, I’ve had many struggles with the church in the past eight or so years, and I guess when part of me got lost along the way; I just wasn’t sure about the whole church scene anymore.

   I’ve struggled with my faith, and I’m still trying to figure things out. I know the fundamentals of faith, and the basic premises. I understand why people choose to believe in a faith, and to an extent, even live out their faith.

   Unfortunately, there are still many things I can’t grasp; whether that is a reflection of how I understand the social interactions of my friends and family, my literal understanding of terms, or, the absence of black-and-white duality in our world today, I can’t say.

   In Canada, the time I spend with Christian people is confusing. Everyone says they love God, that they follow them, and are close with them. They say all these great things that make sense about Christianity… and then something changes. Maybe in my mind they’re just extremely fake. Pushy about Christianity, but, in my mind, not living out the faith fully. After a while, I kept seeing mistakes, things that people often point out is ‘wrong’ in me. I couldn’t or rather — didn’t — understand how something could be ‘wrong’ in me, and ‘perfectly human’ in themselves. I don’t like living out two lives. I prefer my life to be black and white. I want ‘wrong’ to be ‘wrong’ all of the time, and ‘right’ to be well, right, correct, and the opposite of wrong, all of the time. 

   I’m human. I make mistakes. So does everyone else. I get that, I truly do. But when everything has two sides, life has a habit of making you doubt yourself and everything around you.

   Lost things have a way of returning back to you, whether or not you want it to. Throughout these few weeks, I’ve begun to see things from a global perspective again. I’ve learned that living in a Christian community, in my opinion means to follow Jesus above all else, and to follow the fundamentals of faith. Knowing that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, and that our acceptance of the faith is by grace alone, and not by works. Faith isn’t about doing the right things, being with the right people, or being perfect. It’s about believing something that I may not fully understand, ever. It’s definitely not about always being right; if it were, I wouldn’t be here. I’m the walking definition of being wrong. It isn’t about sprouting theological details. Sure, those are amazing to learn, and perhaps even helpful in some instances, but at the end of the day, not what encompasses my faith.

Before its astounding transformation into a garden, Princes Street Garden was once a loch steeped in controversial history.

    At its conception, Princes Street Gardens was dubbed the Nor Loch, and situated, as its name suggests, on the North side, under the shadow to Edinburgh Castle. This loch was man-made and used as a medieval defence system, much like a moat. Essentially, it prevented people from getting into Edinburgh from the North side, although it was not without its caveats.

   For one, it prevented much expansion into the North, which severely limited the city’s growth. However, that was not the only issue, as bridges could be built to allow access between the two sides of the loch, where necessary. In fact, that was exactly what happened when “New Town” was built. These bridges are today’s George VI bridge, North, and South Bridges.

one of the various bridges between old (right) and new (left) towns.

one of the various bridges between old (right) and new (left) towns.

 

   No, the biggest problem was the smell emanating from the loch itself. Unfortunately, Edinburgh, like many other cities during that time, operated on an open sewage, where the waste was, quite unfortunately, simply dumped into the Nor loch. This smell in fact once meant that locals would call Edinburgh the “smelly city” (in Gaelic anyway, but I don’t remember the exact name).

   Anyway, the “New town” that was built was meant for many of the higher officials and those with wealth, as they wished to live away from the beggars, the common folk, and most importantly, the open sewage. In fact, “New Town” was said to be much more sophisticated, as it operated under the newer “grid” system layouts of roadways and building locations.

   Much of the city’s operating aspects, including the city chambers and the markets, were still found within the city. As these wealthy and higher officials did not like crossing the bridge, especially with the smelly loch underneath their feet weekly, or even daily, the loch was drained.

   At the bottom, however, were not simply debris and assorted crap, but quite a few scattered, but still relatively intact, female “bodies” (probably skeletons, at this point).

   It seems that this loch also played a pivotal role in the witch trials. At the time, anyone with reddish hair, blue eyes, and a female was said to be a witch, and had to endure countless trials; being beaten, held in rooms without food and water, kept away from families, questioned daily, and anything else imaginable.

   Apparently, the last trial involved the loch, whereby the witches were placed into the loch. As much as this might be disgusting given what we already know about the loch, the idea was that if they floated, it would be because they were witches, and had done some magic to keep them afloat. What people seem to have forgotten was the female dress wear of the century, which involved incredibly large and air-filled dresses, with metal contraptions to hold their shape.

   So whether due to the dresses or the excessive amount of crap already within the loch, most “witches” at the time floated. Which, I guess, would’ve been good for the ladies at this time, if it weren’t for their final fate. Since they were “proven” to be witches — by their ability to float in a loch of crap — they must be hung (and/or burned… I haven’t read up on my witch trial history).

   Unfortunately, those who sunk ended up dead, although they were posthumously declared “not-a-witch”. History marks that most of these “not-witches” were pulled out of the loch after this fact; however, the draining of the loch found this not to be the case.

   After the loch was drained, they redesigned the area into a garden and park; now it is a place where people retreat to find some peace and quite in the city; where picnics and fun memories are had, a place of greenery, monuments, and floral clocks, and a venue for various festival activities. 

Picture of a monument with Edinburgh Castle in the background, taken at Princes Street Garden, right after the rainfall.

Picture of a monument with Edinburgh Castle in the background, taken at Princes Street Garden, right after the rainfall.

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The fabled floral clock is finally up and running! It looks amazing! :D

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A rose in Princes Street Gardens

A rose in Princes Street Gardens

The inscription reads:  THE CALL 1914 A Tribute.  Women of Scottish Blood and Sympathies  Un the United States of  AMERICA to  SCOTLAND A people that jeoparded their lives untio the death in the High Places of the Field  JUDEGES V 18

The inscription reads:
THE CALL
1914
A Tribute.
Women of Scottish Blood and Sympathies
Un the United States of
AMERICA
to
SCOTLAND
A people that jeoparded their lives untio the death in the High Places of the Field
JUDEGES V 18

Part of the monument erected to commemorate those who died in the war and the Royal Scottish Regiment.

Part of the monument erected to commemorate those who died in the war and the Royal Scottish Regiment.

I just thought this was cute.

I just thought this was cute.

I think these may be real poppies?

I think these may be real poppies?

While I'm here, everyone constantly asks me where I'm from, and then tell me my English is very good. Well, that's because I was both born and raised in Canada, which is part of the Commonwealth.

While I’m here, everyone constantly asks me where I’m from, and then tell me my English is very good. Well, that’s because I was both born and raised in Canada, which is part of the Commonwealth. Also, Canada is an English speaking country.

Anyway, that's why I thought it would be adequate to add two snapshots of the Beijing Line Dance Troupee, here for the Edinburgh Jazz/Blues Festival.

Anyway, that’s why I thought it would be adequate to add two snapshots of the Beijing Line Dance Troupee (sp?), here for the Edinburgh Jazz/Blues Festival.

This group was also on stage for the Edinburgh Jazz/Blues Festival. They were also on BBC One (British TV Channel).

This group was also on stage for the Edinburgh Jazz/Blues Festival. They were also on BBC One (British TV Channel).