Monday, February 27, 2012

Back In The Game

After our miserable attempt at a day out a few weeks ago, we would have been perfectly content to watch these next four months pass us by from the semi-comfort of our couch.  Fortunately, though, we were forced to get back in the game yesterday when we were invited to a birthday party in Edinburgh.

Since it costs about £30 for two return bus tickets, we decided to make a day of it.  We planned a leisurely day of galleries and charity shops in Stockbridge, a neighbourhood in New Town (versus Old Town) which we have not yet explored.  New Town, having been built in the Georgian era, has not been as appealing to us as the medieval Old Town and, consequently, we have mostly ignored it on our previous visits.  This time though, with planned itinerary and map in hand, we ventured forth.

Upon arrival, we made a quick, unplanned stop at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery to see Graham Fagen's (one of Mike's tutors) exhibition of commissioned work.  Afterwards, we wandered north, stopping at a few galleries along the way, until reaching Raeburn Place (aka charity shop heaven) where we had a lot of fun zigzagging from shop to shop.  After spending a couple hours working up an appetite, we enjoyed a late lunch at The Stockbridge Tap (pictured) before leaving to explore further afield.

After our meal we grabbed a bus out of town to the new Decathlon, a store we discovered whilst in London and one that is almost as fun as our favourite store back in Seattle, REI.  We used to go to the REI on Yale just for fun, whenever we were bored (usually on Sundays).  Sometimes we'd find an amazing deal but usually we'd just have fun picking through all their cool outdoor supplies (good times!).  While Decathlon proved diverting and worth the effort it was not quite as fun as our REI days used to be.  However, it will be fun having one just a short tube ride away when we relocate to London later this year.

We had a couple more hours to kill before we had to catch the bus to our party and, happily, Decathlon was in a business park surrounded by other diversions.  We felt like we were back in the States, shopping for our house.  We were surrounded by a B&Q (Home Depot equivalent), Curry's (like Best Buy), and Tesco (somewhat reminiscent of Super Target).  I almost expected, when we were leaving B&Q, to find ourselves back in Columbia City.  Alas, we were still in the 'burbs of Edinburgh and now running late for our party.

Although I say I have no desire to ever return to Scotland again, I would not be averse to returning to Edinburgh if the opportunity arose.  Edinburgh is a beautiful city and one I highly recommend.  It is unique and magical and one I would've enjoyed living in.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Time To Move On

Yesterday Mike discovered he had the option to graduate with his BA this year, if he wanted.  After talking with a few advisers, he’s decided to take the option.  As of June 2012, Mike will have his BA Fine Arts.

We went from expecting four years in Dundee to three and now we learn we only have a short 4+ months remaining.  Thrilled does not even begin to describe our emotions.

In early July, right before the effing Olympics, we’ll be relocating to London, with no plans to ever return to Scotland.  Though our timing could be better (seriously, the Olympics?!), we won’t be staying in Dundee any longer than necessary (our lease expires on 2 July).  

It is early days still, so we have no concrete plan yet, but we have our date in sight and I can finally exhale.  It is no secret this time has not been easy for me but, like my childhood, I’m sure I’ll forget most of it due to the gift of post traumatic stress disorder (don’t underestimate the benefits of memory repression).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Epic Fail

We spent this past weekend in Inverness thanks to our Sainsbury's vouchers.  On Saturday morning, we grabbed the 9AM train and were in Inverness by noon.  Upon arrival, we immediately dropped our bags off at our hostel, where we'd be spending Saturday night, and began exploring the area.  Inverness is super cute and, like everywhere else in Scotland that we've visited, we liked it tons more than our own town.  Dundee is a shit hole.

Ness Islands trail
We decided, because of our late start, we would stick around Inverness for the day and explore Loch Ness on Sunday.  We headed west along the River Ness to explore the Ness Islands (lovely), with the intention of walking the first part of the Great Glen Way, a 117km walking trail from Inverness to Fort William.  Unfortunately, due to our late start and stopping for a meal, we didn't quite make it as far as we'd hoped before we had to turn back.

The part of the walk we experienced wasn't terribly exciting though.  There were no amazing views or great scenery.  Apparently, 'the capital of the Highlands' is a misnomer because Inverness isn't in the Highlands.  It's pretty though but that really isn't a replacement for what we had expected.

Great Glen Way
Our first night was spent uneventfully and we awoke on Sunday morning psyched for our day at Loch Ness.  Though we had originally hoped to get to Foyers on the east coast, for their legendary falls, no buses run to Foyers on the weekend, at least not during low season, so we were heading to the west coast of Loch Ness, to Urquhart Castle, as our Plan B.  Unfortunately, when we got to the bus station to buy our tickets, we were told the schedule we were using to plan our whole day was out of date and that there were actually no public buses running to Urquhart Castle, or anywhere along Loch Ness.  There was, however, a private tour company operating an all day tour for £27 per person that we could purchase.  We were screwed.

River Ness
Inverness is cute when just passing through but trying to kill a whole weekend in that small town proved difficult.  Saturday had been fun because we didn't expect to spend any additional time there.  Stranded for another whole day, Inverness quickly loses its charm.  Any shops or restaurants that were going to open on Sunday (not many) weren't opening until noon, leaving us with a few hours to kill before we could get a drink or go shopping.  We were bored out of our minds and it wasn't even 11AM.

We rallied as best we could and decided to take the scenic train route, via Aberdeen, home.  We jumped on the 3:30pm train and were enjoying ourselves until Elgin when we lost our seats to an old man claiming to be disabled (we were sitting in the priority seats).  The train was full and we wound up in the doors for 1.5 hours, without much of a view or comfortable seats.  By the time we were back in normal seats it was dark and the 'scenic' part of our train ride had passed.

I'd been having a pretty tough week, even before this weekend's epic fail, so I was absolutely broken by the time we got home, around 7pm Sunday night.  The whole purpose of spending a weekend in Inverness was to explore Loch Ness and we left without having even seen it, or much else.
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