I'm here in Edinburgh and it is beautiful and totally surreal that I actually am here in another country. So here is the big blog about getting here and what I've uncovered about Scottish life so far. It took me two planes, a car ride, and a taxi, a trip to New York and a stop in London to get here, so be warned, this blog will be a doozy.
First of all, I must say HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVA!!!! Eva turned 24 on Thursday and it was her idea for my to fly that day out from JFK so we could spend a day in NYC checking out raw restaurants. We got to have lunch at Caravan of Dreams which I'd been to once before. They have a mix of vegan middle eastern food and then a selection of raw dishes, appetizers, drinks, etc. The above pic is of her eating our live nachos which had this amazing salsa (to live for!), guacamole and sour cream to go with it. We also got the live hummus platter which I had before. I remember being in love with it the first time I had it, but now, no hummus really can compare to Michelle's recipe at Arnold's Way.
Here's Miguel and the hummus.
And the happy couple:-)
A huge thanks goes to the ever awesome Miguel for driving us to NYC and making his way through the crazy traffic and parking and then navigating the horrendous rush hour traffic on the way to the airport. In other exciting news for that day, I finally saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time (go figure on the day I leave the country) and we found a vegan bakery in Soho that excited to us to no end, until we tried to the fare and realized our vegan cooking is way better.
So onto my flight! First I flew overnight to London landing in Heathrow for a few hours. This was my very first time flying and I of course picked my first flying experience to be one extremely long flight! My flight was delayed because of a technical problem (this news did not bode well with me) and then once I was on the plane it took around another two hours before we took off. I had been pretty nervous about take off, having built it up in my mind for years as something terrifying, but after sitting in the plane and not moving for two hours I could not wait to take off! And truthfully, it was nothing. I barely felt it at all. So that was comforting. I had a really nice window seat which was cool and I got to see all of the lights lighting up NY from up above. On the downside, I got to see all of NY from above which just reminded me of how high up I was and that if we fall, nothing is going to catch this plane. But anyway...
I was able to order a vegan meal on the flight but by the time they served it, my stomach was super queasy. I had rationalized the height thing in my mind and I thought I was surprisingly calm despite how afraid I used to be of flying, but my stomach unfortunately refused to be rational and so I ended up taking one bite of my dinner and not finishing the rest, although I did have enough sense to stow away the vegan cookie for when my stomach was on better behavior.
There was so much turbulence around dinner time as well that I had a hard time bringing my water cup to my mouth. Drinking water was one of my main activities on the flight, it helped my queasiness and then listening to techno dance music on my ipod also helped. Some of the songs kind of matched the beat of the turbulence we were hitting, and so instead of it feeling like of scary, it felt like I was in a video game which to me, was way more cool than being on a plane.
I probably slept for about an hour, but after that it was really tough to fall back asleep. One thing I have to say about flying that I love: the flight attendants! They are so nice and perfectly poised and accomodating. They're like their own brand of humans, or like aliens (which they could be because they spend so much time up in the air). I could never be a flight attendant for the sole reason that I never quite get my hair to look too neat. But they were awesome.
When we started to land, even though it felt a bit like falling, I was loving it. I could not wait to be back on the ground again!!! Heathrow was so intricate to get around but it was cool. After I went to check in for my next flight I went through customs without even realizing it! I thought I wouldn't hit customs till I got to Scotland but I guess it made sense since I was out of my country. I had put together all these documents from Arcadia proving I am a real student, I won't disrupt the peace in Scotland and I promise that at some point I will leave! I don't know why, but I imagined customs being something more like an interrogation inside a small and dimly lit room. In reality it was passing by a customs officer and having her ask a few questions. It was nothing. My imagination is far too active. It's a good thing I'm a writer.
So I navigated through Heathrow a bit waiting to take off again for Scotland and I was starving. So I checked out a couple of cool sounding places only to find that they weren't quite so vegan friendly...and embarassingly enough ended up having my meal at Starbucks. On the plus side though, they had green Nakeds and fruit muesli cereal that I had with soy milk, so I was sustained.
Onto my flight to Edinburgh I was sitting next to a woman who looked and talked exactly like this woman I could not figure out if it was really her or not. I didn't want to just ask, because in case I was wrong I thought I might lool like the most idiotic American on the planet. But no one else seemed to notice her so I had two theories about this on my flight 1) JK Rowling is so common to Edinburgh that no one really cares anymore and 2)No one is noticing her because its not really her at all. In the end I decided that JK was probably flying on a much snazzier flight than this one, so it probably wasn't her, but then again...
Landing in Scotland all I could think was Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous. I even got a back that says so. One really cool thing about Edinburgh is they just got rid of plastic bags, so you really absoloutely must have a reusable shopping bag with you before you go out. I'm known at the local Whole Foods as the girl who never takes a bag, so me and Edinburgh are getting along environmentally just swell.
But back to my arrival, I changed my money at the airport and in hind sight I should have changed a lot more because Ive already gone through it. I took a taxi ride to the University and I loved my cab driver even though he knew immediately that I was from the States (are our accents that distinct?). He kept pointing things out to me like a mini tour guide and everytime he said to look out for something I'd go "Oh My!" or "Wow!" or "That's amazing!" so I think he was really amused by me. So on my ride I learned about a street called The Royal Mile because there is a castle on one end and a palace at the other (yeah Im living with castles). Ok, I mean there is Arcadia Castle, Grey Towers.
But these are a lot cooler! (Tons of pictures to come, I promise!)
He also pointed out to me the pub The Last Drop named so because it stands in the place of the last hanging in Scotland. Once at my destination I had my first experience dealing with pounds and let's just say I know exactly how Arthur Weasley feels when it comes to muggle money. But my taxi driver was super nice about it and assured me that I'd get used to it.
So once I checked into my room, I passed out for many hours. I don't know what time I thought it was or it felt like, but I was definitely very confused especially since I'd basically lost five hours of my life by switching time zones (thankfully I'll retrieve those hours on the way home) and I'd pulled an all nighter. When I woke up, it was after 8pm, and here was the first really cool and different thing I learned about Scotland. It doesn't get dark until after 10PM. How cool is that?!? It's also confusing, since I think my body thought it was midday and outside it looked like midday.
After unpacking a bit, hunger finally kicked in and everything was closed so I wandered off campus in search of food. Though it wasn't really dark yet, I didn't want to stay out too late so I told myself I'd eat at the first restaurant I saw which was, don't you know, Chinese. I've been trying to get away from Chinese food for years. My mom tends to buy Chinese food over food from the supermarket and all I can say is I'm sick of it and could live without for the rest of my life (and I plan to do so once I'm fully raw). But even in Scotland the Chinese food followed me. So I went in. The girl at the counter was super nice and had the chefs do a special eggless rice for me which I was very thankful for. I went back to my room to eat, watch a bit of North and South on my laptop before the battery died out and went to sleep. Probably not the most exciting day ever, but it was good enough for me:-)
And of course for all of you curious about my accomodations, here are some pictures of my room and the view from the window.
Day Two in Scotland: OMG did my back hurt when I got up this morning after sitting for too many hours on planes and carrying around really heavy luggage. OW!!! I took a really hot shower which seemed to help, but I didnt want to wash my hair yet because I did not yet acquire a hair dryer with the appropriate UK plug and voltage. I was also feeling a little bit stressed that my US-UK plug converter wasn't meant for laptop plus that needed grounding. So I set out again in search of a store called Home Base which would supposedly carry the solution to my electrical problems, it didn't. I wandered around some more thinking desperately about how much I needed an ethernet cord, a converter and a hairdryer. I decided to randomly turn down a street and low and behold, I found Nicholson Street! This is the street with the cafe that JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books in. And right there at the corner was a laptop store and a beauty supply. I went in and got exactly what I needed. I couldn't believe it. It just reinforces the whole idea behind the Law of Attraction, that whatever you think about, you bring about.
So here is something I learned while shopping. They don't ask you in cafes if its for here or to go. It's either for sit in, or take away. And some of their credit cards come with a chip which they kept asking me about. I don't have a chip apparently.
After wandering a bit and picking up some needed items, it started to rain, so I purchased an umbrella and headed back to my room. I got this umbrella that springs into life which is cool, but its not so easy to close with one hand, or two hands for that matter. So I had my first really embarassing moment in the elevator. I admitted to the guy in there that I couldn't work my umbrella right and he said "yeah umbrellas are one of those things you'll have to get used to while you're here." Yep. I'm going to interpret that to mean it rains a lot and not that I appeared incapable of umbrella use.
So the Scottish rain is coming down and all I can think about is that scene in Braveheart when Mel Gibson whisks his love away for their first date despite the "good Scottish rain." By the way so much of this place looks just like the movie! Well anyway here's to hoping that the rain stops or my very own braveheart shows up in it to whisk me away and impress me with his savvy umbrella skills:-)