Saturday, April 3, 2010

Brittany's Final Hurrah

Saturday March 20, 2010 7 days left

Despite the fact that I’m not Leaving this weekend, just leaving (temporary without the capital) I felt like Brittany’s last day was mine too.

We enjoyed a final falafel, strolled down the Royal Mile one more time, went into Parliament, again (I thought our last day was Thursday…) and I explored the visitor’s displays for the first time.

Then we headed up to Holyrood Park to climb Arthur’s Seat. The last time I was in Holyrood Park is was a GORGEOUS Friday afternoon, Ian and I skipped out early to take a walk, but unfortunately neither of us had a camera although we did have water, tissues and semi-appropriate footwear. We walked along the crags, decided to save the trek up Arthur’s Seat for another time. Today was the day.

It was a fantastic afternoon. We gradually made our way to the top (we weren’t resting, we just weren’t in a rush, obviously) spent some time frolicking on a grassy knoll and then at just about dusk made our way back to cook a fabulous final dinner and watch the always excellent Boondock Saints.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from our hike:

The Parliament from the crags
Proof it was another sunny day in Edinburgh!
Salisbury Crags
A glimpse at the middle of Holyrood Park

Stoic climbers

the tippity top!

All of Edinburgh, at our feet!

She is far more talented than I, both in jumping and hair fashions
Excellent Adventure!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


The Countdown Begins

All of a sudden it was my final week at Parliament! With traveling to St. Andrew’s and Arran it snuck up on me and all of a sudden I realized it would be a lot harder to leave than I had ever expected.

The beginning of the week was spent making lists and minorly freaking out. A paper to finish! A briefing about new media for Anne! And worst of all… PACKING!! Needless to say I have somehow managed to aquire more things during my time here!

I’m very sad to leave the Bat Cave, it has been a wonderful home for me and I couldn’t ask for better Scottish roommates.

Until I started thinking about good-byes I didn’t realize how many I would have to say! But I turned most of them into “see you soons” or “talk to you sooner,” the wonders of Facebook, emails, and a savings account!

Tuesday March 16, 2010 11 Days left

Tuesday night we hosted a belated-Burn’s Supper at the flat. Iain and Jamie whipped up terrific Haggis, neeps, and tatties despite my continuing argument that the root vegetable Iain bought and made neeps from was most definitely not a turnip!

After some extensive Wikiepedia research the results are in:

What the Scots call a “turnip” the Americans call a “rutabaga” and the Brits call it a “Swede.” That’s all that matters and that we need to know.

Another reason why Scots deserved their independence, so they can call their “turnips” turnips without snarky comments.

Here is the whole group reading the “Address to the Haggis”:

Iain even found a bottle of Robert Burns whisky from….the Isle of Arran! Consequently it was on sale as Burn’s Night was about two months ago…oops! Never a bad time to eat, drink, and be Scottish!

Wednesday March 17, 2010 ST. PATTIES! 10 Days left

Wednesday was the long anticipated St. Patricks Day and after a long day of work, I’m afraid I did not do my heritage justice. While the other went out, I fell asleep working on my paper sometime before 10:00! (I only know this because Iain came to see if I wanted to go listen to some folk music and there was no response from the depths of the Bat Cave).

Nonetheless, I feel like I still participated as I heard plenty of revelry from the streets below, despite my deep slumber. It was indeed impressive for a Wednesday night. Gotta love the Irish.

Thursday March 18, 2010 9 Days left

Thursday, the long awaited, Last Day had arrived! Of course, it was another busy Thursday. I showed off my knowledge of new media that morning, typed frantically responding to emails both professional and…less so until FMQs (First Minister Questions) began and to my great luck I managed to snag a ticket! And watch the dynamic dialogue that is the chamber every Thursday for 30 minutes. Salmond did not disappoint and a certain opposition leader’s voice was as grating as ever, even without the TV delay.

Just before FMQs ended I rushed (as fast as one rushes in heels and a pencil skirt) around to where the MSPs enter and exit the chamber to meet Anne. As we had arranged she “spoke with appropriate people” and fanagled me a photo with the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond. After watching, and even more importantly hearing him for so long, I couldn’t leave with out a photo. Yes, I am guilty of being a “celebrity whore.” But anyways here is my precious photo!

We had a final lunch with everybody at the exact same table in the canteen we always sat at…sigh…

Anne was scheduled to speak in at a debate on International Development in Malawi later that afternoon but after lunch she had us all into the office. Stewart had been talking about “going to see a man about a doug” all morning, and completely out of character I chose to ignored him:-). Instead of a lively bit of banter about how to best annoy Anne, the topic turned out to be sweet good-byes! On behalf of the whole gang Stewart and Michael gave me a lovely thistle necklace! I had actually been planning on finding one to declare my Scottish allegiance! Even better a group of true Scots (and one Ohioan) found the perfect one for me. Thank you all :-)

The Scottish theme continued as Anne gave me a lovely gift bag (decorated with all things Scottish) filled with Scottish treats, a Scottish Parliament key chain, and a friendship cup, a quaich. Even more touching were her words, however, despite threats to physically harm me I couldn’t bring myself to tears. I’m not a cute cryer for the record. I was Anne’s first intern and so incredibly lucky to be so well paired with not just my MSP but with the whole staff. I couldn’t imagine a better environment to be a fledgling intern with no clue about the dynamics of Scottish politics or water cooler talk (btw they don’t have a break room, it’s a Tea Room)

Goodbye desk...

After work a bunch of us grabbed drinks in the Member’s Bar one last time.

This is pretty typical of this group. It’ll be so strange to talking to those 4 constantly everyday to nada! Maybe we’ll keep the intern thread up back in the states…

The Interns (yes we are planning our premier as a disco-pop band):

Ian- the lone male, yet he survived.

Lauren- future cider model? I think yes.

Brittany- Partner-in-crime gurrrl

Emily- classic! haha

Our group headed to Holyrood for our official farewell evening. It was great getting to go to drinks with everybody one last time.

The Ladies

An excellent final day at Parliament, except…I ended up going back in the next day! I had a “few” more emails to forward myself and thought I would get more work done on my paper there. Great in theory until somehow I didn’t save/lost everything I did that day. Oops! Everything happens for a reason, so I figure the version I have now is just that much better.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Whisky- check, Haggis- roger, Golf- affirmative

Weekend Excursions

Since coming back from recess, I’ve gotten to go on several awesome weekend excursions, between all that busy parliamentary business of course!

After returning from Paris I suddenly realized I only had a few weeks left at work and even less time to see more of Scotland! After a low-key weekend in Edinburgh, Brittany and I hit the road for St. Andrew’s. Brittany’s friend Phil met us at the train station and gave us the grand tour some of the highlights were:

The Old Course

The silly "Men Only" Club

Drinks at the Old Course Hotel

Taking a serious leap of faith at the Old Course

St. Andrew's Castle

After Saturday when we ate more than we should, and probably drank more than we should too, we hit the beach before catching the train (which turned out to be a bus, damn construction) back to Edinburgh.

The Beach

The next weekend, while the rest of the interns headed to Glasgow for what sounded like an awesome Blazing Fiddles show I took two trains and a ferry west to the Isle of Arran, a microcosm of all things Scottish from the scenery to the industry!

It was a gorgeous day as I boarded the ferry that would take me from Ardrossan to Brodrick the main port of Arran.

The hostel I was saying at was in Lochranza on the North end of the Island right near the ruins of a 13th century castle:

Saturday afternoon I walked down the road to the Isle of Arran Distillery and toured their unique whisky-making facilities, the only one on the island.

On my way to dinner I even found a swing set, right next to the shore, such a gorgeous setting. They should put swing sets at scenic places, screw benches.

Sunday morning, before the bus arrived I took a stroll around the eastern side of Lochranza. This small town, like the rest of the island was home to many happy sheep. As a result, I now have more sheep photos than any person would ever need. A small sampling:

Sunday I spent most of the day at the Machrie Moor stone circles which are a short hike inland. It wasn’t quite as nice as Saturday but the showers held off and the valley the stone circles were in was quite serene, and filled with sheep.

I named it "Lone Stone"

Peanut butter sandwich on white bread at the standing stones!

After touring the circles I started walking south where the town of Blackwaterfoot was only three miles away, I ended up taking quite the detour over to the coast and awesome Kings Caves but it was well worth it.

The Stunners

The sun gradually began to set and myself, with two other hiking accomplices caught the bus around the southern end of the island, completing our tour, then back up to Brodrick to catch the ferry and begin the trek back to Edinburgh. It was a fantastic trip and all the sights on Arran were stunning, all-in-all I enjoyed traveling at a different pace than when you visit big cities. No wonder the sheep like it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Paris is for Mothers


I have never visited (except as a student...) any place as long as we stayed in Paris, 5 nights and 6 days, it was fantastic. To get to see so much of the city, from my first taxi ride through Paris at night to my final brunch on Île Saint-Louis was incredible, especially in a place as beloved as Paris. I'm eager to go back and see more of Paris, both glamourous and less so. I am however, most certainly not interested in finding any gold rings...

Tuesday February 16, 2010

We arrived in Paris the evening before, found our flat and grabbed our first Parisian meal. The flat was lovely right on Île Saint-Louis and the heart of Paris, an amazing find through Eve! We started out Tuesday with grand plans to see all the museums until we realized that all the national museums would be closed!

My mom and I set off to see the highlights, which the others had already seen and my mother was grandly award the honor ;-) of showing her daughter Paris! After learning that unlike
Starbucks, the Parisians don't accept "latte" as short for "café latte" and getting a bite to eat we headed up the Left Bank. Crossing over a bridge whose railings were covered with "love locks" I suppose made all the stories about Paris seem to come to life.

We wandered through the Tuileries which although being quite barren in winter were still quite impressive and up the Champs-Élysées stopping for lunch at the well photographed, George IV Café. A bite of lunch, and a couple new pairs of shoes founds us at the Arc de Triomphe with a horrendous line to climb up. Very satisfied with admiring it from the ground, I let my camera take a rest and we jumped on the metro to check out the narrow winding streets of the Latin Quarter. Set fairly close to the Sorbonne one of the main streets the Rue Monge (I believe) was colorful and full of fromageries (aka stinky cheese shops), patisseries (heaven at hand), boucheries (ew.) and many cute boutiques (if possible, heaven again!).

Our feet weary, burdened by shopping bags Mom and I returned to the flat and collapsed! With nourishment, sleep, and watching some fascinating Olympic sports such as the Biathlon, we would recover.

Wednesday February 16, 2010

Wednesday we all took a tour of Montmarte with a friend of a friend, Richard who gave us an extraordinary in-depth tour of an area we might've skimmed over. Montmarte was for a long time, where many artists had their studios, now it retains much of its cultural past as well as being home to some of the most up-scale housing around.

Right nearby is the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur which is a Catholic basilica built out of travertine, essentially a self-cleaning stone which is why it stays so white! Mom actually remembered attending mass there when it was still said in Latin.

After our tour we explore Marais, an area on the Right Bank pretty close to our flat. With lovely shops, and a free museum we were throughly entertained for the rest of the day.

Thursday February 17, 2010

Thursday we finally made it to some of Paris' most note-worthy sights. First mother-dearest and I hit up Notre-Dame and enjoyed it inside and out happily standing on the ground as the line to the top, like so many other lines, even on this random weekday in February was horrendous. That's committment people.

After Notre-Dame we walked up to the Lourve, made a plan to see exactly what we wanted to see and set about being lost for several hours. Despite being lost amongst all the corridors and misdirected due to construction we learned about the history of the Lourve itself (what a palace it would've been!) saw the Code of Hammurabi (a prime example of "an eye for a
n eye"), the restored Naploeon III Apartments, the statue garden, Aphrodite, Winged Victory, and of course the Mona Lisa behind her crowds and bullet proof glass.

Someday I'll go back and see the whole thing like my mom did, just me and a gigantic guidebook and a lot of free time. Then I'll magically become artistic! or not.

After the Lourve we wandered up to the Halles District which I read about in the ever handy Lonely Planet and we wandered the main streets, had a bite, and found the perfect french onion soup place to come back to, Au Pied de Cochon meaning "Pig's Foot." Little did we know the wonder that is Au Pied de Cochon.

Friday February 18, 2010

The fierce foursome set out Friday morning for Versailles, we would've gotten there quite promptly had we manage to take the right train and had any of our tickets worked, oh well. We still made it on a gorgeous day with clear blue skies that made the ornate gates seem to shine even more.

On the front of the palace you can clearly see where the restoration has stopped, a drastic change from golden details contrasting black and white roofing to an overwhelming drab gray.
Inside however, the wonders never end. And to think these are unfurnished rooms! Elaborate paintings, statues, and so many details. It completely explains "The Sun King." I loved hearing about how people, those royal ones at least, conducted their daily lives in such a setting with so much pomp and ritual. It would drive me crazy, except maybe for the clothing, but then again corsets, ew.

We took the trolley around part of the grounds and visited the other 2 palaces on the estate. The whole atomsphere, the immenseness of the land, no one person needs all that, well at least as long as that person is not me ;-)

After a wonderful day being wowed by French royalty long dead we had our taste buds wowed by a former French colony, Vietnam. We hunted down a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restuarant at the recommendation of, the one and only LP, and were hardly disappointed. The food was so fresh and delicious, a wonderful contrast to the heavier French cuisine we'd been enjoying.

Saturday February 19, 2010

Saturday was my last full day in Paris and it was absolutely perfect! Spent most of the day shopping on the Left Bank (and making it much harder to pack might I add) then after resting for a bit in the afternoon, Mom and I bundled up to take on Paris, and even more importantly the Eiffel Tower at night!

The lines for once weren't too terrible and soon we were zooming up on level then to the next. While standing in line we somehow became surrounded by couples, far too many which had no issue with PDA, fabulous.

Finally we reached the tippity top fled from the lip-lockers, and WHOOSH almost got blown away on the South side of the tower! Scooting around to the other side we were better protected and could actually take in everything that lay below us.

It was a beautiful night out and I couldn't have picked a better way to see the Eiffel Tower and all that lay beneath it. The canals were beautiful too, just wait until I get my own canal boat...complete with flower beds.

After our chilly tour we got a little lost, found our way as always and took the Metro back to Au Pied de Cochon, the 24 hour brasserie in Les Halles. We order 2 glasses of Pommery, 2 French Onion soups, 1 glorious pastry/ice cream/molten chocolate dessert and had ourselves a fine feast at about midnight! Time meant little to the patrons of this well-known establishment and everyone was lively, the tables busy, and the waiters even busier. It even seemed natural when the pile of coats next to me rolled over to reveal a sleeping child! He'd been out for a while, and his sleeping situation hardly seemed to keep him up.

Arriving back at the flat at nearly 1:00 was the fabulous end to a wonderful last day in Paris! I had seen so many things both touristy and less so, I had a much better sense of Paris and was already working on what to see when I go back!

Thank you my fellow traveling companions for a wonderful adventure!

Au revoir