Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Springtime In St Andrews

Being from Southern California I am used to different seasons, I grew up with it either being Summer or Almost Summer. Any complaining about the weather (and I admit there was quite a lot) stemmed from either not having air conditioning or not owning a raincoat on the handful of days in the year that it drizzled. St Andrews has given me a new appreciation for the weather. The Scots aren't joking when they talk about four seasons in a day. I've seen it go from rain to sun to hail in less than four hours and back again. You can never be too certain that it won't rain. I now own wellies (rain boots) and a rain coat. 

However, it finally seems like we're leaving cold weather behind (fingers crossed), and headed towards Summer. The flowers are in bloom and we've been seen considerably more sunlight than I have in months. The sunrises now at 6am and doesn't set until after 8 in the evening, and the days are only getting longer. And Scotland does Spring well.

Looking across The Old Course at sunset

St Salvadors Quad in bloom

Evening on the Scores

Peeking across at the library

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Immaturity Is Showing

I may have just turned 21, but that does not mean that I have grown out of my sometimes childish sense of humor. St Andrews is full of interesting street names that you just wouldn't find anywhere in the United States. But my favorite street name is located conveniently in the middle of campus. 

Now, I know when this little alleyway was originally named, it was not intended to be reminiscent of flatulence, and that Wynd is pronounced as you would say the wind in a winding road, but I still can't help but giggle every time I take a stroll down Butts Wynd. I also like to imagine the reason the street sign is placed so far above the street is because an untold number of passerby's of the years have found the sign just as funny as me and run off with it.

Uniquely American: Root Beer

I'm a self proclaimed soft drink aficionado, so I was shocked to hear that my two Scottish flatmates had not only never tried root beer, but had never even heard of it. I immediately sought out a way to remedy the conundrum we found ourselves in. Luckily a company that ships within the UK specializes in American soda, and within the week I wash shipped a couple bottles of root beer (thanks dad!).

The test of a good root beer, of course, is how well it holds up in a root beer float. So we broke out the ice cream and crack open the root beer and my Scottish friends got their first taste of freedom, I mean, root beer floats. 

The reviews are in, and root beer got a two thumbs up!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Birthday Abroad

Yesterday I rang in my new year! The legal drinking age in Scotland as with most parts of the world is eighteen, so turning 21 doesn't come with any new privileges. But that does not mean that 21 shouldn't be celebrated!

We headed to our usual stomping grounds in the cellar at Aikman's on Friday night and at the stroke of midnight I got a chorus of "Happy Birthday to You" from half the pub. We've become quite the regulars at Aikman's and have gotten to know some of the barmen and within five minutes of being sung too, Malcolm the bartender brought down a piece of chocolate cake and candle for me. 

It started to melt so my friend Hunter had to prop up the candle
It was a wonderful birthday, although I did miss all my friends and family back home. But I certainly felt loved!

My parents had cupcakes delivered

Some of the cards I received
My flatmates took me out on Saturday night and made sure I another fun night out. Apparently I was quite quotable. Despite being in a new place, my new friends ensured I had a wonderful birthday! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring Break: Edinburgh

The last few days of the trip were spent in Edinburgh. The grand finale of the tour of Castles and Palaces stopped at Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, the Queens official residence in Edinburgh.

Despite the sun, Edinburgh was still quite cold, although every shop owner and taxi driver thanked my parents for bring the warm California weather with them. We walked the Royal Mile, had tea at a palace (alright I had tea in the cafe next to the palace), and saw plenty of tartan trousers.

An art installation in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
View from the top of Edinburgh Castle

Holyrood Palace in front of Arthur's Seat

The inside courtyard of Holyrood Palace
Our trip ended with a nice stroll around Arthur's Seat in the sunlight. It's been almost two weeks since I left Edinburgh and I haven't seen the sun since then.

Spring Break: St Andrews

The weather in London was certainly a tease for my parents, they thought the sunshine would last as we got into Scotland. It rained on the drive from the airport in Edinburgh to St Andrews, and in the next four hours it went from rain to sunshine to hail. Welcome to Scotland!

I took my parents around my small little town and made sure they got a little taste of Scotland, which included eating haggis, drinking whisky, and going to a ceilidh! I gave them a tour of the University, saw the ruins of the Cathedral and Castle, and made sure dad saw the Old Course. St Andrews was a nice, relaxing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of London.

Dad atop the pier on our pier walk

Mom was always behind the camera

Inside St Salvators

Spring Break: London

I apologize for my gap in blogging, I was out enjoying my two weeks of spring break (which I will get to in a moment) and then trying to get back into the school grind with lots of reading to do. St Andrews really does it right, two weeks of spring break. Plenty of time to go out and unwind from the term and extra days to recover from all of it. 

My spring break started last on March 15, when I took a 7am train out of Leuchars to start my trip down to London. I arrived in London in early afternoon and met up with my friend Taylor who is in her second semester abroad from UC Santa Barbara at Kings College London. She lives in the cutest little area of London, Hampstead. 

The view from Taylor's room in Hampstead
My parents also flew into London. It was their first time in the United Kingdom. They rented the coolest flat in the West End. We made sure to take in as many sights as possible and the weather in London was absolutely wonderful. We had a leisurely Sunday, as my parents were trying to adjust to the time change. But we had a nice walk seeing Buckingham Palace (the flag was up, so the Queen was in), 10 Downing Street, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye.

Outside Buckingham Palace

Mom and Dad enjoying the nice weather in Westminster 

I spy: the London Eye

Taylor play tour guide for us. She's become quite the Londoner.

The London Eye
On Monday we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum and saw a wide range of art from Japanese Samurai armor to Medieval British Art. We spent hours just trying to take it all in.

Art installation in the entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum
On Tuesday we got an earlier start on the day and were able to see St Paul's Cathedral, where Diana married Prince Charles, and the Tower of London. Unfortunately, St Paul's doesn't allow photography inside, but Dad and I clamored up some 700 steps to the top of the dome and got some pictures. Luckily, at the top of the stairs, they have a well placed defibrillator. The Cathedral is absolutely massive and beautiful, I would recommend a visit the next time you find yourself in London.

At the top of St Paul's Cathedral

The facade of St Paul's
Next, we rushed over to make it to the Tower of London before it closed. We admired the Crown Jewels and enjoyed seeing the the suits of armor that belonged to Henry VIII as he began to expand.

The Tower of London
Continuing our great tour of castles and palaces, we went to Kensington Palace on Wednesday. Unfortunately, we didn't see Harry, William, Kate or little Prince George, but we saw a very nice display of keepsakes belonging to Queen Victoria and even a fashion exhibit with dresses that belonged to Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales. We took in the sun in the gardens on our  final day in London.
Kensington Palace

The gardens outside Kensington Palace
On our last night, we went to see a West End show. It was my second time seeing Once, which I saw last summer on Broadway, but we all enjoyed it the same. It's based off a 2007 Irish film of the same name, and the music is more folk based. They even invite the audience up on stage for drinks before the show and during intermission!

The next morning we packed up and headed for Scotland!