“Crawling” Around: Pubs, Mines, and Yachts

Howdy folks, welcome to the blog post for March 10th!  A lot of interesting, fun things happened this week, including a pub crawl and two API excursions.  It has officially been two months to the days since I arrived in Scotland.  [Wow, where has the time gone?]  Every week seems like it is going by at a mile a minute.  Hell, I only have a few more weeks of classes left!  It’s a crazy feeling, but I couldn’t be more happy with how I am spending my time abroad, and I hope you continue to enjoy my stories as much as I enjoy sharing them with you.  Without further ado then, let’s get to it.

Getting the Job Monkey off my Back

I found out the other day that I got into the internship that I applied for before I left for Scotland!  It’s through the Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) on the Basin Resilience to Extreme Events (BREE) initiative.  I’ll be working with the Institutional Network Analysis team at the University of Vermont, where I will utilize data to help combat water quality and flood hazard issues in “action arenas” around the state.  I am beyond stoked to have this opportunity to do tangible work that could affect the health of my state (plus living in Burlington for the summer is pretty nice too).  The internship starts May 29th.  Considering my flight home is the 27th, I won’t have any time to rest before I head off on another adventure.  It is kind of funny that I’ll have such a quick turnaround, but honestly, at this point I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Class Update

Gaelic:  I have submitted my essay on Gaelic poetry.  With that done, I only have two more graded assignments for the rest of the semester (excluding finals): one in-class Gaelic test (week 9) and my IPDA research paper.  Thus, I can concentrate all my efforts on the language part of the course, which, honestly, is kind of kicking my ass right now.  The difficulty has ramped up, and I am having a terrible time of memorization.  I think this is mainly due to the fact that when my professor tries to describe how the words work grammatically I have little idea what she is talking about.  Grammar rules have never been a strength of mine – I just write.  Yet, I think I’ll manage.  Slowly but surely the words are becoming clearer.

IPDA:  I got my first assignment back under the U.K. grading system: 60.  The U.S. equivalent would be a B+.  I am not happy about that.  When I submitted my essay I felt really good about my data, how I described the validity and reliability of it, and of my hypothesis.  Apparently my discussion of V&R was “very weak” and that even though my table was neat, clean, and portrayed my data how I wanted it to I “should have used a graph” instead.  This is coming from my tutor, who was the one to review my paper and was the same person to tell me to my face that using a table was fine.  Really?  That, and I thought my discussion of V&R were solid.  Guess f- … Guess not.  Perhaps I should be more upset with myself for not having a good grasp of the concepts, but that’s hard considering that I think I do understand the material well enough.  I dunno, I’m frustrated.  I refuse to accept that I’m a B+ student (B+ is 60-64%), ’cause I know I can do better.  I’ll have to though, considering I have yet to start my 3500 word research paper.  Kill me now.

Poli Thinkers:  I highly enjoyed the lectures on Simone de Beauvoir.  Really enlightening stuff, she wrote.  Especially her ideas on existentialism.  In fact, I probably will write on her for the final exam.  Speaking of which, this course will be my last final, which I will take on May 5th(!).  That means that I will have about 20 days of free time to do or go wherever I desire.  That’s pretty damn cool if I say so myself. But I gotta get there first, and crunch time for the semester is fast approaching.  What do I say to that?  Bring it on.

The Crawl

Upon deciding to have some hedonistic-fueled fun this past Saturday, my friends and I decided to purchase tickets to go on the Edinburgh Pub Crawl.  Lawson, Sarah, and Allison went on the Valentine’s Day edition of the event, and so they had a vague idea of what was in store.  Jes and I had met up with them, remember, but had not experienced the event for ourselves.  So, in lieu of a “normal” Saturday night either clubbing or hanging out at one specific pub, we decided to treat ourselves to a night of merriment and what we assumed would be a lot of drinking.

Our group met up at Jake’s Place around 8.  Not only is Jake’s one of our favorite haunts, it also happens to be where the crawl starts.  They probably could pick a better location though, as Jake’s is not particularly large, for as more people showed up for the crawl our small band became ever so compact.  In its entirety our group was made up of myself, Jes, Bridie, Chris, Sarah, Emily, Allison, two of Allison’s friends, and a New Zealander, Carolynn, whom we met at Jake’s that night.

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Everyone minus Jes, who had yet to arrive.

To our chagrin we realized that the crawl does not in fact start at 8 p.m. like advertised.  In fact, that’s just a recommendation for when you should arrive.  The fun, as it seemed, really began around nine.  While waiting and chatting with my friends I decided to grab my first drink of the night: a pint of Foster’s (1) [I’ll put my drink count (denoted by number of shots/pints) in parentheses for reference; not only for myself, but as a tally of what you might think my mental state was like at any given point in time].  While it is basically watered down Coors, Foster’s is by far the cheapest drink at any pub, so I figured I might as well save some cash for the night ahead of me.  At that, let me describe what it is you pay for when on the crawl.  For £7 you buy a ticket which you then trade in for a bracelet.  This bracelet signifies you are with the group.  Each bar you go to has a deal with the crawl, and if you show your bracelet you will get special deals (25% off all drinks, one free shot with the purchase of another, etc.) which helps to keep the cost down on your end.  That, and it entitles you to five free shots, a bomb, and a cocktail provided by the crawl over the course of the night.

As nine came to pass, the leader of the crawl and his two helpers came to the stage to introduce themselves and state the rules.  If you have forgotten the rules they are the same as the ones from Tempting Fate:

  1. Don’t be a dick.
  2. Don’t be sick.
  3. Don’t have sex on the crawl.
  4. Don’t masturbate on the crawl.

Two extra rules were added this time, but they were improvised by our guides in order to talk shit to a few of the crawlers, so I will exclude them.

With the rules set, it was time to grab our first free drink of the evening: a Jagerbomb (2).  Below is a link to the video of the bartenders at Jake’s making the longest bomb-line that I have ever seen.  It was glorious, and a hell of a way to kick off the night.

Line of Jagerbombs

From Jake’s, our group of just over 100 people set off to, the tried and true, Three Sisters.  Along the way my friends and I led the pack and made banter with the crawl guides.  We learned that one of them was brand new (ha, she got to deal with us, the obnoxious Americans that we are), and that at the Three Sisters we would get a free shot upon leaving.

At the Three Sisters, we found ourselves surrounded.  For a Saturday night I expected nothing less from the popular joint.  However, there were numerous Stag and Hen parties which made the place’s average age jump significantly.  Oh well.  Here, we got a vodka and coke for cheap at the bar (3) and enjoyed ourselves as best as possible.  It was amusing to see the line for the men’s room continuously get longer; there must’ve been a party in one of the stalls or something.  It was also quite humorous to watch one of the stags, dressed in skimpy nurse lingerie, wave a dildo around and around.  Good for him I guess. Eventually, we had to make our way out to meet up with the crawl.  This was welcome as the music the Three Sisters was playing was, well, shit.  As we made our way out, the dildo guy tried hitting on Jes and Bridie, so I gently gave him an elbow to the sternum.  Nobody needs to deal with that crap.  I’m pretty sure he tried to throw said sex toy at me, but I had already moved away through the crowd.  At the exit we were given a free Wild Shot (4) and were told to wait for a moment as they gathered everyone to head to the next destination.

The next stop was Revolution, a fairly modern bar right across the street from the Museum of Scotland and Greyfriar’s Bobby.  This was where Jes and I had met up with the others on their last crawl, so it wasn’t that new of a location.  That was, at least, until we realized that there was a downstairs level!  Here, we were greeted with a shot that tasted like Laffy Taffy and bananas (5) and told that our wristbands would give us half-off cocktails and £2 shots.  Woohoo!  While everyone else went for the Long Island Ice Tea (I strongly considered it) Emily and I went for something called a Blue Movie, which was essentially just a blue raspberry ICEE with some sort of alcohol mixed in.  The bartender made enough for two and split it between Emily and I (6.5).  Holy crap, this drink was as delicious as it was refreshing.  That, and Revolution was playing some great music which our group had a blast dancing to.  If I had to rate all of the places we went to that evening, this would be strongly in 2nd place.  The atmosphere was fun, the drinks were good, and the music was bumpin’.  It was with a little bit of sadness then that we had to move on to the next pub.

Pilgrim was next on the list.  As I’ve mentioned before I enjoy the openness of this pub, and even with all of the crawlers there it didn’t feel too crowded.  Here, all drinks were 25% off.  We were given another Wild Shot upon entry (7.5) and I treated myself to a Disaronno (8.5).  Our group was lucky enough to grab a table, and for the time we were there we sat and chatted about life, albeit somewhat hazily.  At the very least, it gave us a chance to get off our feet and regroup for the rest of the evening.

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Bridie, Chris, and Emily; all having a good time.
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Jes made it!

Our next stop was far and away my favorite.  I had not been to this place before, but had heard great things.  Enter Stramash, an Irish bar with a stage for live performances.  Little did I realize that there was one going on this particular night (Turns out they have live performances every night … whoulda thunk it?)!  While there were multiple acts performing, we arrived during the Mickey 9’s set.  I guess you could say that this was, officially, my first concert experience (I’m late to the game, I know).  The band killed it, and it was a hell of a good time to rock out in the mosh pit in front of the stage.  Next to us, a gentlemen of about fourty was fast asleep (i.e. fucked up and passed out) on one of the couches.  I was impressed, as we were right in front of the speakers.  Looking back, I probably should have checked to make sure this guy wasn’t dead.  But hey, at his age, I figured he could handle his drinks.  Speaking of drinks, we were given a voucher for a free whiskey (yay?) with the purchase of a shot.  I decided that for my purchased shot I would reunite with Mr. Jack Daniels (9.5).  I gotta say, the whiskey following the Jack without any chaser was not ideal to say the least (10.5).  Regardless, the music made everything all better, and when it came time to bounce I found myself not wanting to leave the euphoria I was experiencing rocking out on the dance floor.

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It was pretty easy to get up close!
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From the second tier.
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Hell. Of. A. Show.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to one of the Mickey 9’s songs:

From Stramash, we made our way to our penultimate stop: Dropkick Murphy’s.  I had been here only once before with Lawson, and I was excited to go back.  Sitting under George IV bridge, this place is quite literally a hole in the wall, and the underground vibe does much for the ambiance of the place.  There was also a live band playing here as well, and our group jammed to titles like “Wagon Wheel”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and other American tunes.  The drink special was again a free shot with the purchase of another.  For the life of me I cannot remember what it was I drank here, but I do know it was only those two drinks, so I’ll just add them to the counter (12.5).  At this point in the night, my crew and I were fairly tapped out, but we had one more stop to go.

Outside Dropkick Murphy’s, our guides gathered us for one final pep talk.  They told us how we would get one final free drink upon arrival to the next, and final, destination.  From there, we were no longer of their concern, and they would happily “get shitfaced with us”.  They congratulated our efforts to make it through the crawl, for only 30 or so of the original 100+ crawlers remained.  We were troopers.  So, with nothing left to say, we headed to our final place, the club known as Movement.

Movement was lit.  Since we arrived at roughly 1:45 in the morning we were treated to a location deep in the throws of hedonism and debauchery.  We were greeted at the door with some sort of fruity cocktail, which I downed as my last drink of the evening (13.5).  With nothing left to drink, and no exit time to be concerned with, my friends and I cut loose and got to dancing.  Movement, as the name implies, has plenty of open room to move one’s body amongst the crowd.  Our group utilized this fact to the fullest, and absolutely made sure to not leave without breaking a sweat. From Biggie Smalls to Bruno Mars we sang and danced until our legs hurt and our throats were hoarse.  But, all good things must come to an end, and we dragged ourselves outside at about 2:30.

Did I mention I had to be up at 6:30 to make it to the API meetup for St. Andrews?  Yep, here I was, in the early hours of the morning, near 14 shots deep, just finishing up dancing my ass off.  When in Scotland, right?  Don’t get me wrong, my friends were in the same boat that I was, but if I could go back, I’d do everything I did the exact same way.  I walked Jes home, and grabbed a slice of pizza from Central on my way back to HC (I ❤ U Central.  You are always open when I walk home from Jes’).  I finally got back at 3:30 in the morning, fully aware that I had to wake up in three hours.  What a freakin’ fantastic night.

Ok, the story is over. But let me set the record straight.  Did I drink 13.5 shots of alcohol over the course of the night?  Yes.  Was I drunk for most of the night?  I can’t say that I wasn’t.  Did I have full control and capability of my motor skills and mental capacity?  It might shock some, but yes.  Look, don’t get me wrong – I drank a lot.  But, I also danced a bit, walked a bunch, and had these drinks over the course of five hours.  I can handle myself.  My tolerance since arriving to Scotland has skyrocketed, and I have a better grasp on how much my body can handle than I ever have before.  I’m not stupid, and I’m more than capable of making my own decisions regarding my own body.  Reading this back, it sounds like a rant, but I think it’s just my way of saying that y’all can trust me when it comes to putting poison in my body.  So, here’s to drinking, pub crawls, late nights, and having fun with my friends.  Slànte-bhah.

Golf, Spelunking, and Seasides

Three hours after going to bed following the pub crawl my alarm chirped in my still ringing ears.  It was St. Andrews day.  To my surprise I found myself capable of getting out of bed rather easily, and without any headache.  In my morning stupor this meant one of two things:

  1. My liver is God-tier.
  2. I was still mildly intoxicated.

As I stumbled into the shower and went through my morning routine I began to realize that the second possibility was the more likely reality.  With all that I drank, the math added up; there was still alcohol in my system.  Sighing, I realized that this day could get exponentially more difficult as it went on, as I was not only running on little sleep but had a hangover on the way.  Great.  Before that happened though I downed my breakfast and made sure to drink some extra water with my protein shake.  Heading outside I was also surprised to see the others from the pub crawl up and at ’em as well.  In fact, we were the first ones out, and all of us, while admittedly exhausted, were eager for the day.

We met up at Waverley Station with Tara and the other API students.  I followed the others down to Costa to see about getting some more food, but with one look at the pastry selection my stomach began to turn.  Dammit … the hangover was coming.  Considering that the ride to St. Andrews was at least two hours long I prayed to whomever would listen that I would make it there in one piece.  Tara knew of mine, and the other’s, wary state, so she explicitly made sure to tell us “not to puke on the bus.”  For the first thirty minutes or so I thought it might have been a possibility, but when I shut my eyes and tried to drift off to sleep I found the nausea subside.  My prayers were answered!

Once at Stirling, our fellow API kin boarded the coach and we continued onward to St. Andrews.  Along the way we got to truly see some of the back roads of Scotland, as well as sheep pastures set on the side of steep, rolling hills.  I would’ve taken pictures, but trying to get some sleep was more important to me at that point in time.  Don’t worry though, I’ll have plenty more opportunities to take nature shots.  It is absolutely beautiful though, I will say that much.

A couple of hours’ coach ride later we arrived at St. Andrews.  We parked just outside of West Sands, the beach where they filmed the famous running scene from Chariots of Fire [fun fact: Eric Lidell is a Uni Edinburgh alum, and the resistance section of the gym is named after him].  From there, we made our way to the Old Course.  Supposedly, this is the oldest golf course in the world.  Since it is closed from play on Sundays we were able to wander the fairways and take pictures of the famous Swilcan bridge on 18.  I wish I brought my golf clubs (I need to pick them up when I get home at the very least).  In my mind, I could imagine the local buildings and infrastructure gone, with naught but the rough course in front of me, the North Sea in the distance, and a wooden club at my side.  Oh!  I forgot to mention, but St. Andrews is the location where golf originated.  Considering it is such a quaint little town, I found it pretty cool that it projected such a worldly influence.

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Swilcan Bridge
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Did I even go if I didn’t get a picture on it?
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West Sands
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Hole 17

From the course, we wandered up into town by the seaside, Tara giving us a history tour along the way.  I continued to curse myself by walking on a monument dedicated to some Scottish revolutionaries who were burned alive, but at this point the amount of bad luck I have soaked up should have killed me.  A little more couldn’t hurt, right?  Once we arrived at a little courtyard, Tara gave us the lowdown on the city.  It was the simple stuff.  Golf, medieval ruins, Prince William meeting Kate Middleton, etc.  Again, for such a small town the amount of history packed into it is somewhat startling.

Our tour of the town culminated at St. Andrews’ cathedral.  A massive medieval structure, it has long since fallen into ruin.  Still, there was plenty of room to walk about, and we were given tickets to the tower that still stood in the center.  Claustrophobia reigned as we squeezed ourselves up the narrow 151 steps to the top.  The climb was worse than the Vatican stairs by a long-shot.  Not that I really felt cramped, but I think anyone would feel uneasy with such a small space to climb up such a tall and ancient structure.  At least the view was worth it.

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I see you St. Andrews.
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Woah.
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Yeah, it’s official.  I love St. Andrews.
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I think my eyes give away just how exhausted I was.

The way down was much more relaxed than the climb up, and since we still had some time to wander around the site Bridie and I decided to wander down to the pier behind the cathedral.  I gotta tell you, I was thinking “Maine” the entire time.  Maybe it was the ocean water; maybe the lobster trabs; maybe it was the familiar stench of low tide.  Whatever the reason, my mind kept drifting back to Old Orchard, Wells, the Marginal Way, and the Rachel Carson Nature Preserve.  It was a familiar feeling to say the least, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the North Sea surf roll in under the afternoon sun.

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St. Andrews Pier
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Maybe not quite lobster traps, but still a familiar sight.
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The cathedral (left), the town (center) and the castle (right).
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Big thanks to Bridie for helping me with this shot!

Our pier pitstop complete, we met back up with the others and walked over to the castle ruins.  There, Tara cut us loose, and for roughly three hours we were at our leisure to walk about the town.  Sarah, Allison, Lawson, Bridie, Emily, Ellie, and I grouped up and decided to get some lunch before going to the castle.  We found this little place claiming to have “the best fish and chips in all of Scotland”.  Needing fried food in my system (as did the others) we decided to put that claim to the test.  It took a while for them to cook all the haddock, but man it was worth the wait.  Never before have I had a better plate of fish and chips.  The haddock was perfectly white and melted in your mouth, and the batter was just crisp enough to hold it all together.  Add in some freshly fried chips, and I was a happy human being.  So, together we sat for around twenty minutes or so, munching on some of the best food I’ve had yet in Scotland and debating what pizza was better: deep dish or from the East Coast (Bridie is from Chicago; Sarah, from Boston; it got heated).  We also found time to laugh, as Allison described the time she got pneumonia from her brother telling her a joke (for real, she spit up milk that went into here lungs.  Within two hours she had severe pneumonia.  It was a serious situation at the time I’m sure, but man how we laughed about it outside the fish & chips shop).

With our stomachs full and our spirits high we backtracked to the castle to do some spelunking.  What, spelunking?  Yes, spelunking (I love saying spelunking).  You see, St. Andrews castle is quite ruined.  There is not much left to explore at the ground level other than some spots to take some pictures of the ocean.  There is, however, an old mine shaft that runs underneath the old entrance.  Not knowing what to expect Bridie, Lawson, Sarah, Allison, and myself decided to brave the tunnels and enter into the depths.

The first thing we noticed was that this was not going to be a comfortable experience.  The mine only had a clearance of about four feet, which meant I had to crouch walk through the tunnels.  It was an eerie feeling, as I felt like at any time the walls could cave in and trap us all.  This feeling was only exaggerated as we descended a ladder into the next section, the entrance of which having only about a foot and a half radius.  It was a tight fit.  But, once down to the bottom level we found a cavern with a significantly higher ceiling, so we decided to do what Americans do best in situations like this: shout, loudly.  There’s nothing like hearing your voice amplified by the echoes of a long abandoned mine shaft.  Oh, we took some pictures too.  C’mon now, you didn’t think I was that immature did ya?

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The entrance to the ruined castle.
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Into the depths I go.
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Spelunking squad
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Spelunking goon squad
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I wasn’t kidding, the crouch walk was real.

We managed to get back to the surface safe and sound, though we were sad to realize there was only one tunnel and not the “tunnels” as Tara has so prominently hyped up.  We chewed her out later for that one.  In any case, we hung around the castle for a bit longer, taking some photos before eventually deciding to go and get some post spelunking ice cream.

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I think I have a knack for this photography thing.
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It was a little cloudy, but that did nothing to diminish the view.
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Spontaneous friend shot

Tara had informed us of this “can’t miss” ice cream shop in town, so of course we had to try it out.  Upon arrival, we found the place pack, so we had to wait quite a while to get our ice cream.  Moreover, we had to immediately start walking back to the beach, ice cream in hand, as our time to wander around was quickly running out.  I had a Chocolate Honeycomb flavor mixed with a scoop of Spicy Peach and Chocolate.  It was good, not great.  I’ve definitely had better frozen treats, but it was still yummy nonetheless.  The spicy peach had to be my favorite bit, as it left my tongue tingling for a while following my gluttonous ingestion of the stuff.

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79/100

Eventually, we found our way back to the beach and golf course.  Some of us decided to stop into the British Golf Museum gift shop.  Seeing nothing I wanted, I decided to wait outside for the others.  I waited for a solid ten minutes, then looked back inside.  No one was there.  Welp, shit.  I was on my own.  Since time was quickly running out, I went to the beach on my own to get some B-roll image for the vlog I was making, and took some nice shots of the beach, including this one, which is my favorite shot of the day:

Put this on an album cover.

On a side note, let me say how I am loving Instagram and YouTube these past few months.  I highly enjoy taking and editing photos, and making vlogs is quickly growing on me.  Something about the process of creating and sharing my experiences with others has been filling me with, well, just a good feeling, and I look forward to making plenty of new content into the future!

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and I had to regroup with API to get a ride back to Edinburgh.  On the bus home I tried to get a nap in, but to not much success.  Remember, I was still running on barely any sleep and my body still hated me from the night before.  Yet, I survived.  In fact, I was able to upload all my photos, edit, and post the vlog from the day.  Talk about productivity!  All in all, it was a fun excursion.  St. Andrews is a beautiful town, and should I ever have the opportunity I’d like to return and maybe, just maybe, play a little golf on the Old Course.  At the very least maybe I can grab a fishing charter, or even simply go for a run on the beach, a la Eric Lidell.  It’s fair to say then, that St. Andrews captured me in its grasp.  It is to Edinburgh what Maine is to Vermont, which I think is quite the compliment.  Oh, what a good day.

Check out the vlog!

 

Yacht Club

I’ve never been much of a nautical scaliwag.  Boats just don’t particularly interest me.  Do I love taking a charter out onto Lake Ontario?  Yes.  Do I love Deadliest Catch?  Damn straight.  Do the ocean and I agree on much?  Nah, we keep to ourselves.  For some, the sea is the only calling in life.  For me … not so much.  Nonetheless, when presented with an opportunity to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia I figured that it would be a more fun way to spend my afternoon than writing or studying.

The Royal Yacht is located in the Port o’ Leith, which I had yet to venture out to.  This is mainly due to the fact that Leith is basically the Detroit of Scotland, so I hadn’t felt to terrible about going out there at that point.  Noah from API lost half a tooth and busted his face on cement when he first visited the area.  Speaking of Noah, he’s in freaking Istanbul right now.  He left on a Tuesday, told none of us from API, and we haven’t heard from him since.  Needless to say that was a very “Wait, WHAT?!” moment on the busride to the yacht.  Good luck amigo.

The trip there wasn’t anything special, though I didn’t realize that in order to actually get on the Yacht you have to go through a mall – up to the third floor at that.  Essentially, the tour works its way from the top of the boat down, and at the end you have to walk all the way back up to exit … great.  I was pretty ecstatic to see a Ben & Jerry’s stand in the mall though (Vermont represent!).  Having some extra time on the way out I grabbed a dish of Phish Food, ’cause what kind of Vermonter would I be if I didn’t?  I also nabbed a Krispy Kreme doughnut.  In VT we are hard pressed to find any Krispy Kremes locally, so when the opportunity comes I tend to jump on them like a dog going after a ball in a blizzard.  Anyway, we had reached out destination; so began out tour of the Britannia.

Making my way through the ship, I saw all the dressed up rooms that the Royal family once used: The Queen’s bedroom, the Duke of Edinburgh’s bedroom, the Queen’s study, the various bars of all the officers and guardsmen, and the dining room filled with gifts from around the world including a sword from Abu Dahbi, a small stone figure from Easter Island, and a shark tooth sword from the South Pacific.  Honestly, the neatest feature was a small grand piano that was bolted down in one of the family rooms.  It had been played by Princesses Diana and Victoria, as well as some other prominent figures and musicians.  Of course, I felt it necessary to add my name to the list, even if no one will remember it, so I reached over the rope line and plinked a couple of keys.  Aren’t I just a rebel?

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Sharktooth swords!
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The largest room on the yacht: the dining hall.
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I reallllllly want one of these things.
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The piano played by Princesses and Vermonters alike
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The Queen’s bedroom.
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Apparently this wooden monkey was a “hide and seek” plaything or something like that for the officers.

There was a fudge shop on board, but the tasting I had didn’t impress me.  The engine room was shiny and probably a seafarer’s dream, but I had no interest.  Listening to the audio guide wasn’t particularly enthralling either, as the commentator was about as dry of an Englishman as you could think of, and his enthusiasm over all of the artifacts and his gushing over the Royal Family was a bit much.  While we were walking through the lower decks I had a conversation with Tara about the Queen and Royal Family on the whole.  I voiced my opinion about how I don’t agree with the concept of hereditary succession; that people should earn their status, not be granted it by birth.  That, and the fact that tax dollars were originally used to build things like this Yacht and Holyrood palace just seemed like a grotesque ode to unnecessary grandeur.  Tara rebutted by mentioning how those places now bring in many more tourists, and the revenue from that money far outweighs what the places originally cost.  That, and the Royal Family on the whole is a big marketing scheme for the U.K.  Moreover, the Queen, while gifted her authority, does do a fine job, and won’t just change things on a whim.  To these comments, I had no answer.  Tara was right.  Still, the whole idea of a “Royal Family” and monarchy on the whole just bugs me.  From a political science point of view I can see how it can be an effective form of government [in times of crisis a monarch, who has the final say on any decision concerning the country, can act without hesitation], but on the whole I have a personal conviction that tells me all people are equal, and that you should have to work for what your are rewarded.  Simply, what qualifies the next in line to rule the U.K. over another British citizen of the same mental capacity and ability to reason?  To me, having “Royal Blood” is not a proper justification.

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Port o’ Leith
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I tried to ring it.  They must’ve guessed that people like myself would try to do so because the ringer(?) had been taken out.
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The wind was roaring that day.  You can tell by the wave action off the side of the yacht.

Political rant aside, there were some nice things about the Yacht.  The artifacts, while a symbol of grandeur, were interesting to look at.  The sheer scope of the ship was amusing as well, and I would assume it to be an engineers dream.  I also found it quite unique that you could rent out the dining hall for private events.  For thousands of dollars you could eat on the Royal Family’s yacht!  It’s a neat little feature, but man does it reflect some sort of elitist stature.  Honestly, the most fun thing about the yacht was that it gave me a chance to film another vlog, which I will link at the end of the story.  More and more I am enjoying filming and editing.  This week I even played around with some fancy cuts and music overlay!  Truly, it’s becoming a hobby that I quite enjoy, and paired with this blog I will be able to look back and have a written, visual, and photographic record [Facebook, Instagram] of my time abroad.  I will admit that I have to be careful not to view too much through the lense, as it does take away some of the memory from the event.  Being concerned with the shot takes away my concern for the moment in question, so it really is a tricky issue that I am trying to balance.  I think I did a pretty good job of it in Rome, but there is still room for improvement.

There’s not really much else to say about this event.  I could go more in depth on some of the scenes, but I think the pictures speak for themselves.  While not a very productive journey per say, it was a welcome change of pace, and I did learn a few things, both about the Royal Family, and what I think about yachts.  I walked away with some nice pictures, good footage, and an understanding that I want to be important enough for people from around the world to gift me shark tooth swords and Easter Island heads.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

My favorite photo I took all day

Check the vlog out!

Arabian Revelations

I have made an extra effort to try and move through Seven Pillars of Wisdom at a quicker pace.  Not that I’ve started to skim; it’s just that I have plenty more to read and get to now that I’ve invested in some other books like The Silmarillion, The Fall of Arthur, and The Sun also Rises.  Thus, while Lawrence is still teaching me much, I am excited to get to my next work.  This week, the passages I decided to pull involve Lawrence reflecting upon his unexpected position, and his general belief that his success was caused more by luck than any formal military leadership training:

“Clayton a few days later told me to return to Arabia and Feisal.  This being much against my grain I urged my complete unfitness for the job: said I hated responsibility – obviously the position of a conscientious adviser would be responsible – and that in all my life objects had been gladder to me than persons, and ideas than objects.  So the duty of succeeding with men, of disposing them to any purpose, would be doubly hard on me.  They were not my medium: I was not practised in that technique.  I was unlike a soldier: hated soldiering.  Of course, I had read the usual books (too many books), Clausewitz and Jomini, Mahan and Foch, had played at Napoleon’s campaigns, worked in Hannibal’s tactics, and the wars of Belisarius, like any other man at Oxford; but I had never thought myself into the mind of a real commander compelled to fight a campaign of his own.

Last of all I reminded Clayton, relevantly, that the Sirdar had telegraphed to London for certain regular officers competent to direct the Arab war.  The reply was that they might be months arriving, and meanwhile Feisal must be linked to us, and his needs promptly notified to Egypt.  So I had to go; leaving the others to the Arab Bulletin I had founded, the maps I wished to draw, and the file of the war-changes of the Turkish Army, all fascinating activities in which my training helped me; to take up a role for which I felt no inclination.  As our revolt succeeded, onlookers have praised its leadership: but behind the scenes lay all the vices of amateur control, experimental councils, divisions, whimsicality.”  (pg. 117)

Parting Thoughts

It felt good to really get going again this week.  Between the two API events, getting essays submitted, realizing I have a job, and getting my taxes done (hell f’n yeah!) it turned out to be a very productive week.  But, I think it is just a precursor to some of the fun that lies ahead, for since my finals are done on the 5th I have ample time to go on another major adventure other than the one I am planning for April break.  As I think more about it, I kind of want to go somewhere to which people would say: “You went WHERE while in Scotland?!”.  There are to dominating ideas on the matter, and if I can I might just do both.  Either way, I am damn excited.  Excited enough to where I should probably tone it back and focus on my studies more, which I find increasingly hard to do so.  I won’t lie: I don’t much care about courses or coursework anymore.  Yes I still go to all my lectures and tutorials and yes I still will get all my work done and put in ample study time; it’s just getting harder and harder to do so when so many fun and exciting things are on the horizon.  In Layman’s terms: the travel bug has bit me … bigtime.  After it’s all said and done I truly don’t know if I will ever want to or can sit still.  I have to see more of this world.  I need to experience it for myself.  There’s too much out there, and if I were confined to a desk all day I would probably fall into a severe depression.  The Earth is a beautiful place, and I’ll be damned if I don’t make my mark on it while it makes its mark on me.

So that’s it for this week.  As always, thank you for stopping by.  Your support means an awful lot.  I don’t quite know what is on deck for the next post, but I’m sure I’ll find something to talk about.  Actually, yeah, I know I will.  Until then though, remember:

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

See you next week.  Skål!

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