British Isles Adventure

Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 28, 2006

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The past six days were spent visiting my good friend Simon in Brighton by the sea below London and touring Edinburgh Scotland and the surrounding area. This is probably the first trip where I had no preconceived ideas of what the UK would be like and that's always a good mindset to have when traveling. London was a great city from what I saw but we didn't have long enough to experience the real vibe of the city, we were only able to do the most touristy of touristy activities. We went to the Tower of London, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Soho, London City and took a river cruise down the river Thames. In our short stay it was great to see so much history in the center of what was the great British Empire. Brighton too seemed like a fun city right on the water with lots of great shops, pubs, clubs and live music. Saturday night we even atteded the "Roots Garden" concert, a reggae night at this big club right on the beach. It wasn't my first live reggae experience but it was unlike anything else I'd ever seen. After 3 days in England we caught a short flight up to the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. Unbeknownst to me, Edinburgh is considered the Athens of northern Europe and one of the great cultural cities in the world. I knew none of this when we arrived, but I ended up falling in love with the city almost immediately. The most famous section of the city, known as the Royal Mile starts with Edinburgh Castle, an enormous fortification on the highest hill in the city, and ends with Queen Elizabeth II's royal Scottish palace. There are also several ancient cathedrals and roman influenced architecture. One of the most enchanting features of the city is the grayish black soot that covers almost all of the buildings. At first I thought it looked unpleasant but it gives real character and a sense of history to the place. Aside from exploring Edinburgh for a day and a half, we also took a full day tour of the Scottish highlands, the region where Braveheart was filmed and home to the famed Loch Ness. We just had to make it to Loch Ness for the chance to see our good friend Nessie. The scenery on the way was reminiscent of the Connemara in Ireland, but unlike Ireland, a country unable to become prosperous until very recently, Scotland has been an extraordinarily civilized country for over 1,000 years and this is evident even in the rural areas for some reason. When we arrived at Loch Ness around 230 pm the sun was already making its way down below the horizon. It's easy to forget how far north we are in the British Isles and Ireland because of the Gulf Stream, but at Loch Ness, we were about the same latitude as Oslo, and the major body of water just east of Scotland is the North Sea. That being said, Loch Ness was a disappointment in the sense that we didn't see Nessie, but much like the rest of the country, there was a certain enchantment to the place. The lake is over 25 miles long and only 1 mile wide, but in most places the lake is over 750 feet deep and in no part of the lake is there any visibility whatsoever. That means that although scientists haven't been able to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster, they can't disprove her existence either. I'm not so sure I believe the legend, but on our Loch Ness boat cruise I was half expecting to see Nessie poke her head out or at least see a mechanical replica like Jaws, that would have been a nice touch. Maybe next time. All in all the trip was quite enjoyable, but far too expensive being on the pound at 2-1 against the dollar. I'd love to go back to Scotland during the summer when they have 3-4 hours of darkness rather than 5-6 hours of daylight and fully explore the highlands and test my luck in the numerous lochs and streams with my fishing pole. I suppose I have to save some things for another time, as much as I'd like to do it all this fall. At this point I only have 3 days of class left and one more big trip planned to Italy next week. Time is flying by far too quickly and I don't want to semester to end but all good things must end eventually so the best I can do is enjoy the rest of my time to the fullest. I hope the photos do the places justice.
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