Climbing and Surviving [Scotland]

Internship, Personal Life, Travel

It’s 11:11, make a wish! Well, I know at this time you are in bed (or at least should be), but I wanted to share my Scottish experience from the past weekend.

Before making a travel up north, last week was my first week at my internship at M2M. I’ve been working on clients like Estee Lauder companies, Historic Royal Palaces and Momentum Pictures. My coworkers are quite nice, and I enjoy the sarcastic nature of Londoners. Work for me begins at 9:30 and lasts until 5:30. I usually take my lunch break at 13:00, or 1:00 p.m., as most do. For those of you who struggle in the afternoon, try to extend the morning by taking a later lunch, which makes the home stretch not as long and drawn out. Most what I’ve been doing so far is making screengrabs of advertisements that have been placed online to prove to the client that the campaign is live. For a few days I also created URL links for parts of a website, advertisement links and images. This week so far, I’ve been working on a social media review of Estee Lauder competitors. – Friday class last week was about race and immigration in Britain. The lecturer was quite outspoken about America’s past of slavery, putting it in company of Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa. He praised Britain for banning slavery before it could start, and he suggested that America is still “race conscious.” I wanted to ask how western Europeans, including British, were excluded from the conversation in regard to settling in America and wiping out the Native American population (oh well). The afternoon trip was to the Museum of London, which included the chronological advancement of the city. Here are some snapshots of the museum.
I spent early Saturday taking a bit to sleep in, and then walked around the Chelsea neighborhood for a while. In my first celebrity sighting since the queen, I saw Jesse Metcalfe, known most as the young gardener on Desperate Housewives and his role in John Tucker Must Die. After that, my friend Chelsie and I packed up and headed to Liverpool Station, where we’d catch a train to Stansted Airport north of the city. On the way to the airport, it was really our first view of abundant grass, and we saw sheep, horses and cattle on our way. Once arriving to the airport, we boarded a plane and headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. Why Edinburgh? Well, from the beginning I thought a trip up north would provide a better understanding of Great Britain than just London.

Once arriving north of Edinburgh, the weather was dark, rainy and quite chilly as expected. A busride took us into the city at about 9:30 p.m., where we saw Edinburgh Castle and the skyline in a mist, creating a mystical feel for the city. We headed up to the main street after briefly looking around to begin a search for a hostel to stay. Let’s just say that Edinburgh’s streets were not laid out like America’s gridpaper. One street diverges into four, then comes a roundabout that creates even more confusion. After finding our way around, we found a decent hostel, but come to find out, it was film festival weekend, one of the most busiest weekends for the city. We spent the next half hour calling about 12 places, all of which were booked. It finally set in that we would be homeless in Scotland. Neither of us really panicked, so we went out for a few drinks, first at Grassmarket then to Picardy Street. The places then closed, and we were hungry, so we found the only place open at 4 a.m., a quite busy place. I ordered a standard hamburger and fries to get me by. The eatery closed. What now? Well, my friend Chelsie had gone outside while I was using the toilet, and she started making conversation. I came out, met a couple of Scottish guys with her, and within 15 minutes, we had a place to stay. My analytical nature immediately questioned the situation, but the aura and nature of the guys seemed inviting and welcoming. We arrived at the apartment of Umberto, a Scottish-Italian 23-year-old who works at his dad’s Sicilian bakery and pastry shop. His apartment was quite nice, and much to my surprise, he had a massive wall banner of a Native American chief. He said he thought it looked cool, so he bought it and placed it in his dining area. We spent a while chatting, then he gave us blankets (and even his comforter off of his own bed) to sleep with…

Awaking in the afternoon, I opened my eyes and wondered where I was at and how I got there. Don’t worry, I completely remember all that happened, it just seemed unreal that we would find a place. On the kitchen table, two water bottles sat atop a note that said he had to go to work and that we were welcome to anything. Had this guy just left his apartment free to two strangers he had only talked to for an hour or so? Yes. And that’s when I started to get an understanding of Scots. Chelsie and I had a list of things we wanted to do, so we set out on a touristy quest. We walked to Edinburgh Castle, which overlooks the city and then to a large kilt factory. From there, we split up for some alone time. I walked down the Royal Mile toward the Palace of Holyroodhouse and enjoyed street bagpipes and shops. I later made it to Parliament, a futuristic building next to the Palace. Arthur’s seat, a dormant volcano, is located near both buildings.

Later that evening, we met back up with Umberto and went out for some delicious pizza. He said that we were his first American friends, and he was impressed with our vocabulary, poise, politeness and demeanor. We asked why he opened up his place to us so easily, and he said he could just tell we were nice people. He certainly has something great coming for him for doing this great deed! We spent hours chatting about our experiences and thoughts about the United States and his comparison to Scotland. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve met someone as genuine and friendly as him. We later went out to a club for some drinks.

The final day, Chelsie and I had planned to get up and climb Arthur’s Seat, the dormant volcano. Little did we know, this landmark has a 360-degree lengthy path, but we made it to the top. It was one of the most breathtaking, rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Along the path you can see the whole city of Edinburgh, luscious golf courses, the shoreline and the ocean. While at the top, I took several photos and took a moment just to think and relax.
The way back down was obviously much easier. Hunger set in and it was time to eat… haggis! I wasn’t sure how much of this I had preferred to eat, but I tried it. My coworkers said I must try them when I was in Scotland because they are a traditional Scottish food. I had a small haggi sandwich. Want to know what they’re made of? Definition: a dish containing sheeps heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours. Wow. Family, I can honestly say that it was similar to a Mutt&Jeff burger from Falls City. The texture was mushy, but it was not bad. – We waited around for Umberto to meet us for a more ‘normal’ meal, and we ate Mexican burritos for lunch. He wanted to show us his family’s pastry shop, so we went to meet his family. The shop makes and decorates cakes, pastries, sandwiches and coffee. They gave us a box of pastries to take with us, another generous offer from the Scots. Earlier in the day we had missed a scheduled Scotch Whisky Experience, so we went back to see if we could get in. Luckily we got there just in time, and we saw how scotch whisky is made and how different regions of Scotland provide different flavors. A test-tasting session with a free glass was given, and we got to see the largest private scotch collection in the world.

It was then time to leave. Umberto, being who he is, traveled with us back to the airport and hugged goodbye. We exchanged emails and Facebooks, and he might come visit us while we are still here in London. The whole experience in Scotland was phenomenal, going from nearly homeless to gaining a lifelong friend, seeing castles and climbing a volcano, and seeing small-town folk at their best. I traveled back the way I came, and then continued back at the internship again the following morning.


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3 thoughts on “Climbing and Surviving [Scotland]

  1. Loved reading this update. Can’t wait to hear more about this and other experiences when you return. My family heritage is from Scotland, so it’s definitely on my bucket list to get there at least once in my lifetime. I loved reading how adventurous you were. Almost sounds like something that would happen to me with ending up meeting a complete stranger and becoming lifelong friends! Great pictures too!

  2. Scotland looks beautiful! Isn’t it fun exploring other countries? WOW! I’m glad you have learned to travel around over there without a guide and have had such exciting experiences. Out on the streets late at night trying to find a place to stay was a little scary for me to read about and staying with a complete stranger, but what memories you will have! Keep exploring!

  3. michael fee! have you never seen ‘hostel’?! you never, NEVER go home with a friendly foreign stranger! that’s how you end up disemboweled and/or exsanguinated! however, it sounds like you found the exception to the rule. had that been me, i wouldn’t have slept all night. rather, i’d have been lying awake waiting for someone to put a bag over my head and carry me away, but i’m glad it all worked out for you (i.e., you’re still alive!).

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