Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

In Edinburgh we stepped up from our hostel accommodations and stayed at a beautiful B&B.  It is run by a French family (believe it or not) and they were absolutely lovely–even made home-cooked breakfast in the mornings!  

We spent a lot of time just wandering the hilly cobblestone streets.  Every store we passed was so quaint and picture perfect.  The cold weather also made it perfect to pack into any of the old pubs and grab a drink.  One awesome memory was when we saw the end of a wedding procession with a bagpipe in the front!  I have always been a fan of the bagpipes and have dreamt of a wedding where they are played…seriously!

But the main attraction of the stay in Edinburgh was Hogmanay/New Year celebrations.  We had tickets for the Street Party on New Years Eve but other than that we hadn’t planned on any other activities.  So when we left our tour of the castle one afternoon we saw so many people holding giant wax sticks.  We knew there was a torch lighting ceremony but hadn’t been aware of where or when. So after asking around we found the station to buy a torch and decided to kick off Hogmanay with the other 5,000 people carrying torches through the Royal Mile and up onto Calton hill.  Ended up being my favorite thing we did in Edinburgh!

We all gathered with our sticks in the street around 6:30 and gradually everyone shared the fire with those around them.  This was cool in itself; watching the street slowly light up with flames!  By the time we finished the walk and reached the top of the Hill th torches were low and you threw them out into designated cans.  Then there was an amazing fireworks display literally right above our heads!  Organized to be perfectly in sync with music being played, it was an amazing display.

The next day we began New Years partying early in order to catch midnight in Australia (I did mention I was with all Aussie’s for this holiday).  Spent the afternoon singing classic Aussie tunes and ringing in the new year.  At night we went to the street party where we counted down the seconds until 2011 with 80,000 people!  It was one of the biggest crowds they have had.

New Years can sometimes be a let down.  I really can’t remember when I had a super time ringing in the new year because there is always a let down of some sorts.  But I can honestly say that spending New Years the Scottish way was the best decision ever! I would do it again every year if I could. 

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Glasgow adventures

Glasgow was the first stop on the Scottish tour.  I got to stay in my first hostel and must say I enjoyed it!  Megan, Grace, Amy and I did our own little walking tour the first day (got to see this beautiful old church to the left) and then the second day decided to do a real bus tour of the Highlands!  We used Rabbies tour and it was a really nice time! Our tour guide played some cool Scottish music (traditional bagpipes and some more modern artists too) and had a nice balance between talking about history, explaining what we were seeing and letting us sleep/explore ourselves.

We began the tour on a rainy and dark (mornings are dark in Scotland and the sun sets at 4:30!) morning but as we drove out of Glasgow and into the Highlands–toward Loch Ness–the rain cleared and we had a nice day.  The Highlands are what I would consider “Scotland” from pictures and movies…rolling hills, high mountains, the “Lochs” (or lakes). It was all very beautiful snow-covered but I still want to go back in the summer to see everything in green.  We stopped for lunch in Fort Augustus (picture to the left) which is right on Loch Ness.  Didn’t see the Loch Ness Monster but I did pretend to be his friend…

We missed out on a boat ride across the Loch but I wasn’t too bothered by it.  We did stop at some frozen waterfalls, a little town with whiskey tasting and we got to explore castle ruins too.  All in all it was a great idea to do the Rabbies Tour and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Scotland.

We managed to find some good places to eat and drink in Glasgow.  With the help of Megan’s friend who lives in Scotland we traveled to the “West-end” one night.  I loved this night because the area consisted of one little cobblestone road lined with many different bars and restaurants.  One bar was covered from floor to ceiling with cassette tapes–neat way to use these ancient apparatuses.  Even more unique was the last bar we went to.  We waited in a long line because it is open later than the other bars so everyone goes there at the night’s end.  The thing is, the bar is in a church!  I know, I felt like it was sacrilegious or something but ventured in anyway.  Besides subtle hints of a pulpit and things of that nature, you barely knew it was a church.  Funniest thing was that the line was really really long all night so it looked like everyone was waiting to go into church at 2am! Now that would be something to talk about!!

Once we made our way home it was late, freezing cold and raining.  But we had to wait in a “cab line” (never missed NY style hailing of a cab more).  Ended up waiting for hours in the freezing, wet cold.  And bonus: the next night we waited in the freezing weather again because there was a fire alarm at the hostel.  Only for the fire alarm we had no coats!
We were ready to leave cold Glasgow by that time and were off to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city!

I apologize now for the length of this post

I will begin by telling you the intended plan to get from France to Scotland–then I will let you in on what actually happened.  OK, so I was planning to go to Scotland with my friend Megan and her two friends who live in London (I was the odd man out not coming from “the land down under”).  To get to the UK from France the Eurostar (train) is the way to go.  It runs from Paris to London.  The three girls were already in London, having spent Christmas together, so my job was to meet them in London where we would all take a flight into Glasgow.  I booked tickets: TGV from Dijon to Paris, Eurostar from Paris to London, airplane from London to Glasgow.  I would also be taking the metro in Paris because the Eurostar leaves from Gare de Nord and I arrive at the Gare de Lyon.  I would also have to master the London public transportation system: from train station numéro 1 I would take the underground/the tube to another train station where I would take a train to the airport.  My connections were all a little close but I believed I could make it work, pas de problème

So here we go:

Wake up around 6am to leave Chevannes at 7am and make my 8am train out of Dijon.  Feeling pretty confident with myself since I already knew what to expect at the station.  I punch my ticket and find my seat–smooth sailing. Get off in Paris and find my way to metro where I buy two tickets (you can use them up to a year so I figured this would be a good idea for my trip back home in a week).  I even was able to help an Italian couple who didn’t speak French–being semi-bilingual is cool.  I picked a platform and looked for my destination…wrong platform.  Not a big mistake though and I quickly changed to the one adjacent.  Get out at Paris Gare de Nord and at this point I am really enjoying my day of solo travels.  I stand with the masses of people and stare up at the huge departure board (so cool cause the numbers flip instead of being digital. Love hearing this sound when times change).

Then “le bétise” happens.  My platform is listed as 1ere étage/first floor.  I am a bit thrown off because I am used to a numbered platform not a floor.  I also dont see how trains could be on multiple floors.  I look around and assume I am on the first floor (ps-assuming things really does make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”).  So I wait…maybe the platform number will come later? Closer to departure?  But as some of you might have figured out, this doesn’t happen.  With 10 minutes until my train is scheduled to leave I get the feeling this is not right.  I ask the couple in front of me if we were on the first floor.  Nope!  (Should have known, first floor for the French is not the same as home because they say ground floor, then first floor.)  So the first floor was upstairs.  I run up the stairs and that is where I find out I have missed the train.  Silly me didn’t put two and two together that when you take the Eurostar/when you leave the country you can’t just hop on the train.  There are customs, check-in, passports, etc.  Tried to beg my way onto the train knowing in the back of my head that if I didn’t get on that train I would also miss my flight; wasn’t happening.

Luckily I could get on the next train for no fee but I was stressed and frustrated that I had been there on time and STILL managed to miss the train.  Spent the entire trip trying to call the airline–failed attempts.

So I get into London finally and get onto the tube (metro).  Just my luck, it decides to break down two stops before mine.  Had to get off, wait 10 minutes for another and then try again. I didn’t have 10 minutes to spare, that’s for sure!

Another frustration when youre in a hurry: waiting in lines.  All ticket kiosks were broken at the train station so I had to wait in a line 100 people long.  At this point I gave up on making the flight.

Get to the airport and get onto another flight but I have to pay half of what it would be today.  This came out to be about the same I paid for the original flight.  Whatever, I need to get to Scotland so I get in the line to check-in and this is where I get completely jinxed.  After hearing my story, the man helping check people in said four horrible words: “can’t get any worse”

Well it did! Delayed flights led to a nice long wait….

Finally made it there at around 11pm and hoped in bed so that I could be ready for some amazing (and less stressful) adventures to come…

2011

Just like every year that passes by, I always am in shock that the “new” year has begun! Like seriously, its January? How did that happen?

I wish everyone out there a very very happy year with much love and adventures 🙂

Speaking of adventures, I just got back from a week en Ecosse (Scotland) where I rang in 2011.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my computer for the week so I couldn’t post.  This won’t happen again because writing about experiences a week after they have happened is not as awesome as the moment of–but we cant go back in time now. So I’ll do my best to get my head back to Scotland as I return to work in France: meaning I’ll recap and divulge the details of my Scottish excursion in the next few posts…enjoy!