72 Hours in Scotland: The Reality

Alternate title: The Self Indulgent Nostalgia Post

I’ve talked about why I decided to do a long weekend in Scotland and my experience with WOW airline, but what does 72 hours in Scotland actually look like? Well…

Friday

10:20am: Flight lands at Edinburgh Airport; disembark.

10:30am: Stand in customs line for the first time in actual years. Remember I meant to sign up for Global Entry. About that…?

10:45am: In line for Citilink bus to city center. Line is expedited when I am launched towards the window by a quick turning tourist with a large backpack.

10:46am: Note, mid-air, that I consider myself very much not a tourist. OK with this.

11:10am: Get off the bus at Princes Street stop. Walk slowly looking around, very much like a tourist might. Regardless, I am HOME.

11:30am: Meander along Princes Street. Consider how difficult it would be to get a fascinator home if I were to buy one for the wedding. Options identified, further consideration required.

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I probably have more pictures of the Scott Monument than of anything else in Edinburgh. I am ok with that.

 

12:00pm: Stop in the Royal Mile Market in the old Tron church. I discovered this place, best described as a Victorian/vintage craft market with undertones of Steampunk, a few years ago. At that time, I tried a sample of seaweed shortbread (…would recommend for the experience, would not recommend for an actual dessert) and achieved peak nerd happiness when I bought an Outlander style wool shawl from a man dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (but with skinny jeans) who told me that my hairstyle made my look like I belonged on Game of Thrones. I am pretty sure that will always be the highlight of my life.

12:30pm: MOSQUE KITCHEN. Let’s pause here for a second. When I was in Edinburgh for school I lived at the center of a triangle filled with delicious curry options: 10 to 10 in Delhi was my go-to for palak paneer, Red Fort had the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet with the BEST chicken korma (of which I consumed my weight after my first ever half marathon), and the Mosque Kitchen, which was perfect for hearty, generous portions at student prices. I won’t say that there aren’t good curry options around me now (recommendations in the Boston area? Please?), but I will say I don’t have quite the same selection within walking distance anymore. So when I got off that plane, I craved, I needed, I could not go on without a good curry lunch. I made my way to the Mosque kitchen and almost cried from happiness when I found out I could get TWO veggie options with rice for £5. I went for the saag aloo and aubergine, found a seat by the window, pulled out my book (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell), and settled into a curry filled state of happiness.

1:00pm: Dragged myself out of my seat lest I fall asleep. Meandered up and down the Royal Mile and Cockburn Street. Cursed my impressively small personal item luggage for not allowing for shopping. Grabbed a bench in the Princes Street Gardens and pulled my book back out. Safer for my wallet that way.

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The biggest challenge to my shopping self control (shirt by Swish).

 

2:45pm: Train to Perth. I purchased my ticket far enough in advance that I was able to get a £5, nonstop ticket. My strategy was to choose a time that would most likely work, with the understanding that I could eat the cost of the ticket if my plans changed later. Fortunately, they did not and so off I went to Perth!

3:00pm: Arthur’s seat is stunning from across the firth.IMG_6404

3:20pm: The scenery probably continued to be stunning, but I would not know as I was solidly passed out.

3:55pm: Arrive in Perth! Meander (aka get slightly misplaced, but not horrifically so) on the way to the Salutation Inn. Check in, sit on bed. Continue to look longingly at bed as I drag myself back onto my feet. With only 72 hours total, I’ll sleep later. For now, I’m out to explore.

5:40pm: Make my way to the Black Watch Museum and Castle. It’s too late to go inside, but my real purpose for going is to see the Kelpies. The full-sized kelpies, designed by Andy Scott, are on my must-see dream list, but he also has smaller versions, the kelpie maquettes. I will probably just start sobbing when I finally see the full sized ones because the maquettes were breathtaking. I may or may not have taken a million pictures from every angle.IMG_6454

6:30pm: Did you know that everything in Perth closes at 6pm? I did not know that.

7:00pm: Tesco does not close at 6pm. I stocked up on snacks and went back to the hotel. I may have only had 72 hours, but I also had a wedding the next day where I’d be reunited with many of my favorite people and I wanted to be at my best. Pitch Perfect was on, and I was dead asleep by the time they sang Titanium.

Saturday

7:00am: Up at 7am, breakfast of Shreddies, sneakers on, out for a run. I wanted to see if I could find Scone Palace which was supposedly around 2 miles away from where I was staying. I did in fact make it to the gate, but it was locked and the palace itself was set back far enough that I couldn’t see it. Which I guess was the point of the gates. This peasant was successfully kept on the road and off the grounds.

9:00am: Back to the hotel, wedding prep commence!

12:00pm: Shuttle to the wedding. Best friends, warm sunshine, amazing food, all the champagne, ceilidh, ceilidh, ceilidh. Stomach full, heart happy.

11:45pm: “Nicely done with the second verse of All Star!” I’ve been working towards this moment since 1996 and boy was it worth it.

12:00am: Shuttle sing a long on the way home. BED.

Sunday

9:30am: Breakfast with friends at the hotel buffet. Contemplate the wisdom of eating haggis first thing after a night of drinking. Contemplate all the things that could go wrong. Contemplate the origins of haggis and how someone could possible come up with something that sounds so disgusting… Contemplate getting more because haggis is freaking delicious.

10:00am: Free morning! Head to Kinnoull hill. Higher elevation is my favorite.

10:30am: Realize I am alone, did not tell anyone where I was going, have a phone that only works with wifi, and am relying on screenshots of maps I pulled from the internet. Consider how many episodes of SVU involve a body in the woods. Pick up the pace.

11:10am: At the summit! Alive! Everything is beautiful.IMG_6529

11:20am: Continue on to Kinnoull Tower. Everything continues to be beautiful.IMG_6539

11:25am: OBSESS over hawk sculpture in the woods.IMG_6561

12:15pm: Annnd back in Perth. While (or maybe because) I am possibly the poster girl for bad decisions and what not to do in terms of hiking, I cannot speak highly enough of the route description from Walk Highlands. As mentioned I had no service and no GPS but every turn, every incline, and every fork were accounted for in the description. I am great at second guessing that I am in the correct place (usually because I am not) but the description noted enough easy to spot landmarks, that every time I started to wonder if I had gotten off track, I was reassured that I was still exactly where I needed to be.

1:00pm: Post wedding drinks with my people. Crowd is understandably, and somewhat thankfully, subdued.

3:00pm: Wander the city, read by the river, meander towards the train.

5:22pm: On the train, asleep almost immediately.

6:45pm: Back in Edinburgh!

6:50pm: Find the correct door in the correct alley that supposedly leads to my hostel. Once again question my decision-making capabilities and sense of self preservation.

6:55pm: Realize that the building actually contains three hostels, on three separate floors. Realize this when I arrive at the top floor hostel and am told that my hostel is actually on the second floor. Oh. Back down I go.

6:57pm: I am in the Baxter Hostel, which I believe is fairly new and is may be the most hipster hostel I’ve ever seen. The logo is the silhouette of a campfire, but all I see is an upside-down beard. Bunks are custom made with wrought iron frames. Am shown to my room, a nine-person, all women dorm.

7:05pm: “Here’s your key. Well, your room doesn’t actually have a lock right now, but since you need a key to enter the building, you’ll be safe.” Oh. Decide not to think too extensively on that.

7:10pm: Sunset isn’t until 10 and I sure as hell am not spending more time than necessary in the hostel so byeeeeeeee. Because clearly Kinnoull Hill wasn’t enough walking for one day (approximately four miles round trip) I decided to continue seeking out higher elevation by hiking Arthur’s Seat. In my flip flops. Have we discussed my decision making skills yet?IMG_6614

As always, Arthur’s Seat was a delight. Because of where the sun was at, the peak was flooded with light. It was warm, hazy, borderline mystical. As usual the peak was crowded but everyone was a little bit lost in the light giving everyone a bubble of gauzy tranquility amidst the madness.IMG_6601

8:30pm: Back beneath the clouds and HUNGRY. Book it to my favorite noodle place, Red Box. It is nothing special, but has been my go to for quick, filling student food since 2010 and it did not disappoint.

9:00pm: The sun is still up and I still refuse to go back to the hostel. Wander up to the castle, check out the beginnings of the construction for the Tattoo. Turn around and see the Royal Mile glowing in the sun and calmer than I’ve ever seen it before. I love this city. Continue meandering down the Mile, across Princes Street, along George Street, back over, around, up, down…all over, covering as much ground as possible.IMG_6628

11:00pm: Back to the Baxter, blistered, sun burnt, exhausted, completely content.

Monday

7:00am: I’ve been following the Bearded Baker on Instagram and could not leave the country without one of their donuts. So I got up early and wandered down to Rodney Street. The raspberry donut was everything I could have imagined and more.

8:20am: Pass Dublin Street. One time, my grandma read a regency romance novel that took place in Edinburgh and some of the most scandalous scenes took place on Dublin Street. She now asks me about it every time I’m there, so I make sure to walk by at least once each trip and check for gasping damsels or ripped bodices, or whatever, so I can report back.

8:30am: Back to the hostel to collect my things, just enough time get some more reading in the park time before getting back on the citilink bus. Snag one of the front top deck seats and try to soak in as much Edinburgh atmosphere as possible on my way back to the airport.

10:20am: Arrive back at the airport and manage to fit some last minute Cadbury’s in my tiny bag so my family will allow me to return home, closing out an almost exact 72 hour whirlwind of a trip.IMG_6619

72 Hours in Scotland: The How

Or should I say the WOW?

No, I know I shouldn’t say that. Please stay?

 

I talked before about how this trip to Scotland was a balancing act – an attempt to go back to a place I love, while not limiting my opportunities (aka time and funds) to go to new places on my must-see list. So I turned to WOW airlines.

I’ll admit, I was not super optimistic about WOW going in. I’ve flown Ryan Air and I’ve flown Spirit and I sort of imagined that WOW flights would be equivalent…and also longer. But WOW had the best prices, so, after poring over the restrictions, limitations, and fees, I decided to book, simultaneously deciding to get to Scotland and back on only the base fare, no extras.

I have an old laptop bag that I’ve always found a little unwieldy and far bulkier than I can imagine needing, but it turns out that it is the perfect size to count as a free personal item per WOW’s restrictions (WOW: 17x13x10in; My bag: 16x13x6in). I made it my mission – my Everest! – to fit everything I could possibly need for 72 hours (including the wedding) into the bag.

In the end, I did it. I had a wedding outfit, some running clothes, and a couple of other comfortable, casual outfits, along with general essentials, in my one bag. I won’t lie – I was pretty impressed with myself, at least until I showed up in Scotland and found myself in the middle of a heat wave. It turns out I was frequently a little overdressed with not many options. I also would have preferred to have something with two straps – the single strap wore on me a little bit over the course of the weekend. But, it was definitely doable and nice to have as a tried and true option.

As for the flight itself, I think the WOW stars must have aligned because I have no complaints. I was checked in quickly, none of my four flights over the course of the weekend were delayed, and despite having opted to not select my seats, I ended up with three window seats and an aisle. I…thought I was going to have a more interesting story about this part of the trip? In actuality, on my outbound flight I fell asleep before takeoff and woke up to most beautiful clouds I’ve ever seen. The return flight had fewer clouds, but I suppose that is still acceptable. So spoiled.

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So, would I fly WOW again? Yes, but with caveats. This trip worked because I didn’t need any of the extras. For a longer trip, or a trip that required more luggage, I probably would not. When I was comparing prices before booking, WOW had the cheapest fares, but luggage fees made the difference in price less significant.

Similarly, this flight worked because I was in the no frills, budget state of mind and I was fully prepared to muscle through on limited sleep/comfort. I was lucky in my seat selection, but if I wanted to pick my seat or if I wanted in-flight entertainment, I would look elsewhere. Can I get by without an in-flight movie? Sure, but they do make some of those longer flights go faster, and I put them soundly in the quality of flight/happiness on arrival category of extras.

That said, going in with no real expectations and the student-travel mentality, WOW was a delight. The planes seemed well maintained and the service was good. I did not experience delays, cancellations, or luggage issues. The food at KEF airport (because obviously I refused to purchase anything onboard) was good. Most importantly, I was able to get where I needed to be without losing time or wasting money and for this trip that was truly everything I needed.

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I did not take any pictures en route. No one needs to see me mid-flight…

72 Hours in Scotland: The Challenge

Scotland is like home to me. I fell in love with the country during a road trip with my family when I was 13 and I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along on business trips back to Edinburgh throughout high school. I went to the University of Edinburgh for a semester abroad in college and when I realized that four months was not nearly enough time (…and I didn’t want to grow up…) I went back for my postgraduate degree. In the years since graduation I have taken advantage of every chance/offer/barely legitimate reason to go back. Christmas market? Done. New flat with a spare room? Count me in. Fun race? Just let me grab my sneakers. Free afternoon and a story that’s better in person? Wait right there, I’m on my way. The trips have always been a mix of old and new – revisiting my favorite people and places and finding new areas to explore – and I’ve loved every second.

 

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Scott Monument in the distance

 

In the past few years, however, the events have slowed, the people have moved, and I’ve started seriously considering all the other places I want to see, forcing myself to start prioritizing some of the other places on my list (looking at you, Montenegro!). But then? I got the wedding invitation.

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There was never a chance I was going to miss this wedding. My giant group of friends in one of my favorite places AND a ceilidh? Obvious yes. But I still wanted to preserve some time/funds for other places/adventures on my list for this year, and so I decided that, in the spirit of reliving the glory of my university days, I’d do this trip student budget style: Budget airline, one tiny carryon (or, “personal item” – no fees!), three nights, public transport, and one hostel. In the end, it was a whirlwind of a weekend and an amazing time. Even for such a short trip, I have a ton to say about it, so stay tuned. I’ll be breaking down my itinerary and my thoughts on specific parts of it here over the next few posts. Just extending that Scotland nostalgia a little longer…

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Pretty Perth

Oh right, I have a blog

I wrote this awhile ago, and it’s just been sitting around waiting to be published. So here we go: The long delayed recap of a couple of April 10ks.

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Going into the Scottish 10k I had a list of goals. They were less about the numbers and more about running attitude and I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.

The primary goal I settled on was to try and keep a consistent pace, and I listed a couple of different paces I would be happy with. Apparently my legs misunderstood and/or ignored the part about consistency, and instead decided that they would hit every one of the potential paces. I’m not overly concerned since all paces were sub-8 (with a couple of 7:30s thrown in! At my ego’s request I’m not going to specifically address the elevation profile of those speedier miles…) and there was a lot to deal with on course: crowds, hills, and tired legs from a pretty legitimate week of workouts leading up to the race. Also, a couple of late nights catching up with one of my best friends and roommate for the weekend, 8.

Anyway. Goal 1: Not as “achieved” as it could have been, but I’m not going to call it a fail either.

My second goal was to tackle the hills without fear or crippling self doubt.  Swearing while running was ok, as long as I kept running. I definitely felt the hills more than I did at the Half, but I’m not sure if that was because we were running clockwise, or because my legs weren’t as fresh. But, while I didn’t love them, I didn’t completely hate them either. If nothing else, bagpipers were stationed at the top of most hills, so I could hear the tops getting closer and I was greeted by kilts at the summit. If only that was the case with all hills…

Goal 2: Success

The final goal was just to run happy. To get as close to that magical NYC Half runner’s high as I could. I definitely wasn’t as happy, but I was enjoying myself as I ran. I didn’t think I was over the top happy or anything, but in every picture of me, from both 8 and from the official photographers, I have the biggest smile.

Goal 3: Success!

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Courtesy of 8

Overall, I’m happy with how the race went. I was mostly excited for it because of the Scottish theme, and NYRR did not disappoint. 8 and I got to the start with enough time to take advantage of the Scotland photo booth before working our way to the corrals. 8 wasn’t running, but graciously woke up and came with me to cheer, photograph, and hold my sweatshirt, because she is awesome. The race was a little bit frustrating in that it never really opened up, and felt crowded pretty much throughout, but so many people were dressed up and there are worse things than being crowded into a sea of tartan and kilts. As I said, my legs were tired, but not necessarily in a bad way. They were the kind of tired that happens after a good workout. Yes, it was frustrating not being able to run as fast as I know I can, but it was nice to be able to run as fast as I did.

Despite my happy running, by the time I rounded the last turn, I was definitely ready to be done. I still managed to muster up a little bit of leftover energy to sprint to the finish, cheered along by 8. I grabbed a French Toast bagel, found a sunny spot to watch the raffle and dancing at the finish festival for a little bit, and then made my way back to 8’s apartment. After brunch and a nap, I was awake and ready to get out and enjoy New York in a non-running sense, so I think I can put a check next to run/life balance for the weekend as well. Good times.

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And I would walk 500 miles…

Obviously, this recap is delayed. When I first wrote it, I included more about my actual time, 48:46 and how all these ‘fast for me’ paces added up to a new PR. But then, I found out that this exists, and I couldn’t pass it up. A literary 10k? YES.

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I have a love/hate relationship with James Joyce.

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Dublin, 2007

As part of my Literature degree, I had to a take a ‘major figure’ class, a semester long in-depth look at a single author. I didn’t really know much about James Joyce, so I thought he’d be a good choice. I don’t know if it was the professor, who I didn’t love, or the fact that I spent college seemingly on a quest to be an English Major who didn’t actually read, but I came away liking James Joyce in theory, but not necessarily in practice.

Theory, as it turns out, can carry me for at least 6.2 miles. I crossed the finish line happy enough to want to pick up Finnegan’s Wake and dive right in. Powerful stuff, this running.

I can’t speak highly enough of this ‘ramble’. It started in 1984 when the race director likened running a race to slogging through Joyce. Today, actors line the course and read excerpts from Joyce’s works – a different book/story for each mile, finishing with The Dead. The course is pretty, if hilly in spots, but there were spectators all along the course, plenty of water, and supportive volunteers. The actors were great, popping up every time I needed a boost. The organizers had extra numbers printed due to a last minute surge in registrations and we reached course capacity, but I never felt crowded or like resources were spread thin.

The race started with a Boston tribute, and then the Masters runners were off. Three minutes later the rest of us made our way to the start. The weather was gorgeous – sunny, but not overly hot, and the course rolled through the town center and along pretty, very New England, tree lined streets. There were only two hills I’d consider big and they came close enough together, that they barely counted as separate.

I hadn’t planned to run this race. I found out about it three days before, and I didn’t do anything resembling taper or planning for it. I registered the day before the race. I decided not to race race, but to use it as a quick, fun run. But then I started running and despite having run hard throughout the week, I felt good, I felt fast, and I felt like I wanted to see what I could do, so I resurrected the goals from the Scotland Race and set off on round 2. My first mile came in a little too fast at around a 7:15, but it was also on a slight downhill. My pace evened out with the terrain, and I ended up settling into 7:30s. In the end, my average pace was 7:32.

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I slowed down a little bit on the bigger hills, but not a lot. I had the advantage of going into the course blind. I had no idea how many hills there were or when they occurred, so I just pretended that each hill was the last one and I did a good job of taking them one at a time without psyching myself out. The gorgeous weather/scenery and literary excerpts definitely helped!

As for running happy, I definitely had that covered. It’s odd. I don’t have any strong feelings towards 10k as a distance, and I always (ya know, all three times) feel like I’m slogging along, and yet I look the happiest in pictures from my 10ks. This race was no exception. I look ridiculously happy in every picture and I crossed the finish line with a giant smile on my face.

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I also crossed the finish line with a brand new PR: 46:47. That may have had something to do with the smile.

At the finish, they were handing out pasta, snacks, and Harpoon beer. I grabbed some food and found a nice sunny spot to sit in, basking in the sun and the good PR vibes.

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It’s been a good year for PRs. I know at some point I’ll stop PR-ing in every race I run, but I’m ok with that. Right now I’m loving the fact that every PR I have is from an Irish/Irish themed race: St. Pat’s 5k, James Joyce 10k, NYC Half on St. Patrick’s Day, and the Dublin Marathon.

I’ve decided this means that I should just move to Ireland if I want to keep getting faster. Oh the sacrifices I’m willing to make…