(See, I posted this on the 9th, not 11th of July! Right...?) We went to Edinburgh, Scotland! It was a rather early morning – we had to leave by 7:30 am (not so early compared to other things, but it’s early compared to class started at 10am!) we took the Picadilly line from Hammersmith – which today was the west-most station due to railway work.
We then arrived at King’s Cross station – yes, that’s where Platform 9 ¾ is in Harry Potter. Though there was a lot of construction, and it didn’t look as bright and happy as the station does in the movie. I went with Katie, Kevin, Adam, and Alexis to find it – as we neared platforms 9 and 10, we were told by a person who worked there that it wasn’t there, but out in front. I bet he has to say that to tons of tourists! So we went outside – I’ll admit it was cool, but a bit of a letdown. There’s a cart that’s halfway into the brick wall – the “brick” is basically a poster of a brick wall…and there’s an electric box above it. But it’s nice that they have something there! So I got my obligatory picture.
This looks kinda legit...
Oh...maybe not so much. At least they have something!
It was time to get onto the train. We passed nice 1st class carriages with tables at every seat, and coffee waiting. We weren’t in 1st class. But they were alright – their sliding doors were glass and cooler than Amtrak’s! But no footrests like Amtrak. They did have electrical outlets though. I sat with Nicole for the ride up. Food was packed breakfast (wrapped croissant) and packed lunch (took another tuna!). Not the best food, but glad to have it. It was strange going through a lot of tunnels as we went north of London – the air pressure kept changing every couple minutes when we went in and out of tunnels – and our ears would pop. Though it was alright in the end I guess. Soon we started to pass hills, sheep, and even seaside on the east coast of England! I took pictures, though they really don’t show the rolling hills that well, it looks rather flat. But believe me, there were hills! In some ways, it looked a bit like America’s heartland, where there were lots of farms (no corn though) – maybe Pennsylvania because of the hills. I played a couple games of UNO with Nicole and read Bossypants by Tina Fey to pass the time – and a 20 minute nap. We passed by Newcastle, where another cohort of Fulbright summer institute kids are currently located.
Scotland! Or America?
I realized (perhaps too late and too close to Edinburgh) that we were in Scotland – the land of Hogwarts! So I could listen to Harry Potter music on my iPod. A lot of the Nicholas Hooper scores (5 & 6) really capture the essence of travelling up there. I’m pretty sure Williams’ score from 3 would fit the mood as well, but I didn’t have that on my iPod! Finally, 4.5 hours later, we arrived in Scotland!
Our tour guide, Mike (Scottish, and complete with kilt!) met us at the train station and took us to our hostel so we could drop off things. We then walked around – there was so much history that came from Edinburgh! Adam Smith, 14 story buildings centuries ago, Hume, Sir Walter Scott, and JK Rowling!
Scottish Parliament Debate Chamber - very modern!
We then got to see Parliament, which was amazing – it was very modern, built around the theme of a tree, or a branch. The old parliament dates back to the 13th century, dissolved in the 18th when they united with England, and the new parliament was established in 1999, the new building in 2003. It was very cool architecturally, because it was built with cameras and microphones built in, and not after the fact. There is wood and stone coming from and representing different areas of Scotland. There are large skylights and lots of windows for natural light – it is not your typical government building! We got to see a committee room, as well as the main debate chamber. It was beautiful, and also had a beautiful view of the hills/mountains (formed from an extinct volcano – Salisbury Crags maybe?) next to Edinburgh (which itself is built on hills), which were breathtaking! The only downside was that it was pouring that day. I understand why Harry Potter movies are always rainy and gloomy – it just poured down on us. I’m very glad I brought my umbrella, but it was still crazy, and I still got soaked!
Dinner - meat pie
Lovely Edinburgh street - the city has so many levels (literally, like streets that go above other areas), and lots of little alleyways that lead to little hidden squares and gardens and dumpsters.
Sunset over Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle - up on a hill, it looks like Hogwarts!
The "birthplace" of Harry Potter!
After Parliament, we went to have a pub dinner – I ended up having lamp and mint pie which was delicious! I think everyone enjoyed their meal! We had a nice water feature of water coming down through the ceiling too, though on the other side of the seating area from us. Afterwards, I walked around Edinburgh with Nicole, Kelsey, and Kevin, on the newer side of the valley (I believe it used to be a loch years ago, now there’s gardens and railways). It was beautiful to see buildings on the stone faces of mountains and hills – again I’ll say it, but it keeps reminding me of Hogwarts! But Scotland is an absolutely beautiful place. I love the old buildings and style of architecture that they have too. We also got to go by the cafe where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter! From the window, you can see the Edinbrugh castle...and a cemetary. That gives some perspective to the books. Apparently, some of the surnames for book characters have come from the cemetary gravemarkers. That night, the four of us played UNO in the girls’ room, along with Adam who came back. It was an INTENSE game, that lasted over an hour and we still didn’t finish, in deference to sleep. There was a bit of a mob mentality going on against the person with the least amount of cards. And sacrificing one’s own hand to find that +2 or +4 wild card out of the deck to play it against someone! Notable quotes include “It doesn’t matter what card you play, it just doesn’t matter!” and “- I’m closely monitoring the situation. –That’s what President Bush said about Afghanistan,” and the drawing of half the deck to find a blue card. It was great fun! I was in a room with Katie and Stephanie that night. It was decent – bunk beds (I was on top), and the toilet room had a shower in it with no curtain and a drain on the floor – like the train toilet Levar Burton showed on Reading Rainbow in the 90s. But nicer that what I thought we were going to get! I fell asleep very fast, for I was very much tired out!