If you've taken the time to peruse back through 9 months of my posts, or have been following all along (good on you!), you'll know that I've moved to Edinburgh to pursue a master's degree in architectural conservation. This past week, my younger sister and father made the journey from Minnesota to Edinburgh. As tour guide extraordinaire, I showed them all the cultural wonders of the city and kept them from stepping in last night's sick that decorates the sidewalks. In truth, the theatrical nature of Edinburgh's architecture and the natural scenery of the Highlands made my job quite easy. The 'Hairy Coos' (highland cows) and baby lambs were also cute enough to make the groughest man crumble.
Arriving at 9:30 am last Monday morning, my family was exhausted but exhilarated as one is upon first arriving in a foreign city. I lead them on a trek criss-crossing the city, up two of the three dormant volcanic hills, fed them bangers & mash, then hustled them on to see the infamous cloned sheep 'Dolly' complete with dingle-berries to create a fully realistic effect I guess. Jet-lag called for an early night, and then next morning, we set out on a group tour of the Highlands and the Isle of Skye.
Fraser, our bus driver and tour guide, had a great Glasgow accent and enough stories of Scottish triumph and death to fill three days of travel. Upon setting out, he informed us that everything originated in Scotland and somehow made logical and believable claims to support this. For instance, the phrase 'armed to the teeth' developed around the lawless city based along the River Teith in Scotland. At some point, the skirmishes got out of hand and weapons were banned from the city, thus people were 'armed to the Teith' where upon they were forced to leave them at the gates of the bridge crossing the river into the city. It might be true. We were all happy enough to accept Fraser's stories with a grain of salt until he claimed ice hockey was a manipulation of Scotland's oldest organized sport, hurling. This sent a 19 year old Canadian guy up in arms of course. The most memorable story was Fraser's retelling of the true story of Braveheart. The nickname Braveheart actually refers to Robert the Bruce who eventually gained Scotland's freedom from England starting with a small army of rowdy highlanders. Upon his death bed, he asked his friend in life and battle to cut out his heart and take it with him to the battlefields of the Crusades. Legend goes, as his friend was facing certain death, he threw the box containing Robert the Bruce's heart at the Moors and charged ahead. I find it a bit disgusting (imagine the heat!), but the Moors were apparently impressed, as they financed the journey to lay Robert the Bruce's heart to rest at the Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders, a fitting place that had seen many Scottish v English territorial battles over the centuries. So the name Braveheart has nothing to do with William Wallace, though he played an earlier, yet important role in Scotland's fight for independence.
I couldn't let my family leave without tasting one of Scotland's finer delicacies, haggis. Basically, take all the nice cuts of lamb and throw them away. Gather the bits, bobs and organs that are left, mash them up with some oats and seasonings, stuff them in a sausage casing, then serve it up with neeps & tatties (parsnips and potatoes) and you have yourself a fine meal. Hearty meals like this, and frequent cappuccinos, fueled our expeditions to castles and up mountains in the best 'atmospheric' weather Scotland had to offer. After a day of flood-inducing rains and gale force winds in the highlands, we were treated to a few sunny and near hot days. Taking advantage of the weather, we ate lunch al fresco in the Princes Street Gardens beneath the towering Edinburgh Castle. It was a perfect afternoon and all of Edinburgh was enjoying the return of the sun. Couples were lounging in love, a young man plucked a guitar and a seagull poo'd on my head. What is there to do but laugh in a situation like that. So we headed home for a much needed shower before the evening's Scottish ceilidh dancing festivities. The following day was even warmer and perfect for lounging on the grass as a spectator at the annual and highly anticipated Melrose 7's rugby tournament. We didn't see Nessie in Loch Ness, but over the week, we had fun and enjoyed each other's company. There are many wonderful places on this earth, but I've found they are best when enjoyed with loved ones. I'm grateful to have the family I have- the father who's opinion on restaurants is whatever makes us happy, and the sister with an equally morbid and odd sense of humour.
Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics