Friday, July 14, 2006

Scotland: pt. 2

Aside from eating and drinking, I did actually do other stuff in Scotland. Since I was with my parents, I had to do spend time with them, but I still got in a lot of my own stuff.
We landed in Glasgow, which I thought was a fairly elegant city, though probably because I've never really seen a European city before. I was especially entranced by all the Victorian architecture. I had a few hours to explore the city, and spent most of that time taking pictures of random buildings.
Our first destination was Fort William, a town in the highlands. The highlands were very beautiful- lots of long lochs, forests, and moors. The moors were especially haunting, and kindof reminded me of Qinghai. They stretched on for miles, just empty fields strewn with dark boulders and studded with the occassional abandoned stone cottage. The one thing I wanted to do out there was climb Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain, but in the end I was dissuaded by bad weather and my family, who were put off by warnings that it was a tough mountain to climb. In the end, I got my father and sister to climb partway up the mountain with me later that day, and as it turned out a lot of the people we saw coming down were both less fit and less well equipped than us. Not only that, but the weather and the views on the summit were unusually good that day. However, by then it was too late to climb up.
After a few days in Fort William, we went across Scotland to St. Andrews, where my sister's school is. St. Andrews is most famous for being the center of the golfing world and home to the world's oldest golf course, and being totally uninterested in golf, I kindof felt like my being there was a waste. Someone who cared about golf would've appreciated it more.
That said though, I still liked the town, and would even recommend visiting it to anyone else who's in Scotland and not into golf. It was very well preserved, and had lots of nifty alleyways and an old ruined cathedral and castle (which cost way to much to see, so, at my sister's suggestion, I just jumped the fence at night and looked around on my own). The university itself was also quite pretty, all very medieval style. Finally, there was a beach, which had some pretty weird rocks that were all parallel, like someone dragged a huge comb along them.
Since we were in St. Andrews for a week I took a few days trips to other places nearby. First I visited Stirling, which had what my guide said was Scotland's most impressive castle. It was a nice town, though I was kindof pissed when it turned out the bus schedule had changed and I had to stay in the town and extra two hours after I had seen all the sites. Finally I also went to Edinburgh, which was a really great city. Very pretty, very cosmopolitan and well presevered. It was great for wandering, especially along the road that led down from the castle, which dominated the city from a large crag of black rock. There were plenty of alleys and inner courtyards to explore, as well as a variety of architecture. I went to Edinburgh with my father, and the one building he really wanted to see was the new parliament building, which was about a mile from the castle. When we felt like we were getting close we came upon an unforgivably ugly building. "You think this is it?" I asked my dad. "They wouldn't make something this ugly," was his response. But as we came to the front of the building we found that it indeed was the parliament building.
At the end of the week was my sister's graduation ceremony. It was much better than American ceremonies, and certainly better than Wesleyan's. It was much shorter, for a start, clocking in at around an hour and a half. It also had some nifty things going for it- there was one part in Latin, and there were a lot of nifty robes and hats.

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