STRONG SCOTCH AND SPARKLING LOCHS

Right before finals week, Alex and I took a quick trip up to Edinburgh, Scotland! We took the night bus, nothing like the one Harry Potter uses, and got there on Friday morning. A company called Sandemans offers free tours in multiple European cities, and they are surprisingly extensive and inexpensive. The tour was an opportunity for us to take note of places we wanted to visit more extensively later on. And it was a great way to learn about the city of Edinburgh from someone who knew what they were talking about. Alex and I stayed at Royal Mile Backpackers hostel, a great location in the city center.

After a few hours in Edinburgh, we went to a good-will type store to buy sweaters and hats. We didn't pack well and were too optimistic of the possible weather. The city itself is just so cool. The architecture is alluring and the murkiness of the weather compliments the gothic looking city. But the damp, darkness didn't bug me. We sought after a few of J.K. Rowlings favorite places, including The Elephant House, a charming cafe where she wrote some of the books and now has bathroom stalls covered in handwritten quotes and messages from Harry Potter lovers. We walked through the graveyard that J.K. Rowling explored, finding and using the name of the gravestone belonging to 'Tom Riddle'. And we hit the National Museum of Scotland, which is the home of the first cloned mammal, Miss Dolly the sheep. If you're ever in Edinburgh walking the Royal Mile, remember to rub the massive toe of philosopher David Hume, which is supposedly a way to have Hume's wisdom rub off on you.

One afternoon we climbed King Arthur's Seat, a massive hill in Holyrood Park, showcasing a beautiful view of the city in its gothic entirety. Afterward, we ate Haggis. Its not bad, and I only had the vegetarian version, but I think its a one-time thing. I learned how to drink Scotch at the Scotch Whisky Experience. We were the only young girls there and I feel as if I've gained 60 years. 

Our last day, we took a trip with Timberbush Tours up through the Highlands to see other parts of Scotland, all the way to Loch Ness. Our tour guide, Patrick wore a kilt and played the Scottish National Anthem whenever he ran out of things to talk about. We took a gorgeous, scenic route winding through the mountains, visiting the Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, Loch Linnhie, and Inverness. I would love to pay another, longer visit to Edinburgh, especially during the Fringe Festival!