This past weekend, we hopped a Friday flight to one of the most interesting cities in Europe: Edinburgh, Scotland. Soph and I have officially mastered the whole “wearing the same clothes for three days so that you can stuff a giant camera and some toiletries into a single backpack” thing, so it was easy packing and a quick flight out.

Edinburgh is one of those places that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of press, but almost everyone we know who’s gone there has ranked it among their top cities. It’s got a wonderful Old Town, built on a giant hill with tons of hidden streets and narrow alleys (as well as a broad thoroughfare). There’s a bustling student population, which keeps the city fresh and the art scene alive. Lastly, there’s a huge castle sitting at the top of a giant rock in the center of the city, overlooking everything. And to top it off – the castle is pretty cool-looking - so it’s an easy city to like.

The downside of visiting Edinburgh in November is that sunset falls ominously close to 4:00 p.m., which means you don’t have nearly as much time as you would like to sightsee. We walked for probably 6 hours straight, breaking only for stoplights, and sometimes not even those (but since cars come from the opposite direction, you had to be a little careful when jaywalking). We were able to manage having time for a walking tour, which I still think is one of the best ways to get to know a city - because how else would you know which cafĂ© was the one where JK Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series? Well, maybe the one with the giant “Harry Potter’s birthplace” sign, but that’s beside the point.

While I know everyone has heard of kilts and thinks they’re kind of funny, I was surprised at how many people we saw who were actually wearing them. I mean, it’s one thing to joke about it, or to be watching a movie where somebody moons their adversary by lifting up the kilt and shouting an insult; but to actually wear one on an ordinary Saturday, simply when walking around town? In November? Seriously? After a day of seeing them, though, I had to admit that they are kind of fashionable – especially if you have a rugby shirt on.

That being said, Scotland is known for more than just kilts and the Loch Ness Monster (although those two are arguably the coolest). Famous staples of culinary greatness such as Angus Beef, haggis, and Scottish brews, are also known the world over – or at least, they popped up on Google when we were researching “what is Scotland famous for”. For those of you who have never had haggis, I highly recommend it. Haggis is essentially all the throwaway parts of the sheep, such as the heart, liver, lungs, etc. These are then put into the sheep’s intestine / stomach, and then boiled for awhile. Finally, they open it up and serve it to you. Terrible as it sounds, the haggis we had was really good – much better than the “cow tongue” and “veal face” we tried in Paris! The Angus beef was probably a bit overrated, as I’m learning I still prefer Oklahoma, hormone-fed cattle – the kind where you can taste the steroids. As far as Scottish beers – well, we had quite a few misses, a couple of which bordered on undrinkable, but we did find two excellent ones which I’m sad to say I’ll probably never get to drink again.

All in all, Edinburgh was a great weekend trip, and is worth a stop if you’re traveling through Europe. Although you might want to steer clear if you have an aversion to bagpipe music, because it’s everywhere, and it sounds like the same song being played over, and over, and over…kind of like listening to a top 40 station.


I had the chance to go see the Chargers / Saints football game in London this past weekend, which was pretty cool. As some of you know, I had done a semester in London a long, long time ago, and had always wanted to go back and re-explore my old stomping grounds. That said, this was not the weekend in which to do that, as we were there for one thing and one thing only: to show the British what true football is! And also because one of my friends hooked me up with a VIP corporate package - I never get those things! Anyway – the football thing was great – but I’m not going to spend time talking about that, because this is, after all, a travel blog, not a sports blog.

So, London…one of the major cities of the world, a center of the arts, literature, finance, and late-night stabbings. London wasn’t nearly as nice as I remember it – but maybe I just didn’t notice all the commercialism ten years ago. That said, it still has its’ charms. One of the great things about this city is the pub culture – sort of a staple of the UK, I guess. We went into a pub for lunch, and it’s just a great atmosphere for eating a little food and drinking a little beer. Also, a little-known fact: pubs are baby-friendly! Sure enough, I looked down on not only one occasion, but two separate times, only to see a baby crawling on the floor beneath my table, staring up at me and smiling. Ok, I made the smiling part up – but the babies were crawling all over the place. I haven’t yet decided if that’s really cool, or if it’s really terrible.

The other thing I noticed about London was that the public transport system, while seemingly efficient and easy to navigate, was pretty much under construction at every point I needed to use it. What should have been an easy cross-town jaunt turned into a 2.5 hour combination of tubes, overgrounds, and bus rides down streets that should not have had buses driven down them. Disastrous, would be the correct word. I also got to live my lifelong dream of waking up in a foreign country, not being able to find a cab, walking to an airport to catch my flight, and still arriving at work that same morning. Gotta love being centrally located in Europe!

All transportation problems aside, though, it was a fun weekend. We did see Big Ben / Parliament, and I did say “look kids – Big Ben / Parliament”, even though there were no kids around (I had left the pub at that point). Got to eat some fish and chips, and realized there was a good reason I hadn’t had fish and chips since the last time I had been to London. But most of all, I got to see a crowd of proud British citizens stand and put their hats across their chests while Old Glory whipped in the wind and our great national anthem played. It was at this point where I couldn’t help think inspiring thoughts, such as “no taxation without representation”, and it took all my resolve not to act on the impulse that all strong-hearted Americans have in a moment such as this.

That impulse being, of course, to streak the field.

Next week: Edinburgh!