|Maren and I on Castle Hill.|
I was in a bit of a foul mood on the train but realized there was nothing I could do or change, so I just needed to get over it and focus on having a great weekend. I was so excited to meet up with Maren and meet her friends! I relaxed a bit and knew that I would just have to trust that things would go well from there on out, and they did! Once I got off the train (around 10:30pm), I realized how beautiful the city of Edinburgh was. They had all their Christmas lights out and about and had just opened their Christmas Market down by Princes Street. Everything was lit and so many people were out; it was gorgeous!
|A view of the Christmas Market on Princes Street.|
I easily found my hostel (with a little help in pointing the right direction from a nice couple) and checked in without any problems. The hostel sat at the base of Edinburgh Castle with an awesome view of it. The hostel itself was stylized after the castle and very cool. It was ranked number 1 in Scotland, and number 5 in the world! It was the nicest hostel I've stayed in yet and I felt very comfortable there. I didn't have to wait long for Maren and her friends' arrival. It was great to see her and meet her friends! We chatted a bit and then headed to bed in our Brain-themed room (my bed was "Brainless" and Maren's was "Brainiac"...I wasn't quite sure what that was insinuating!).
The next morning we headed out on a three-hour free walking tour where we saw most of the city and froze off all our fingers and toes. It was absolutely freezing, but we enjoyed it anyway. We enjoyed a lunch at a nice cafe afterward and then did some great souvenir/touristy shopping until we had dinner. Maren and her friends were excited for non-Spanish food so we tried to please everyone in our food choices. That night we decided to visit a few different pubs (so they could experience true pub culture) by partaking in a pub crawl, but immediately realized we had wasted our money because there was a pub every other building and simply could have found our own nice pubs and saved the 8 pounds. But oh well; now we can all say we've been on one.
The next morning we had a nice breakfast and headed to the castle. Because Edinburgh was celebrating St. Andrew's day (which is actually tomorrow) everything was free! It was the most perfect timing ever! I wasn't super impressed with castle, but I loved the views from the top. You could see the sea, as well as a few mountains, and this time, everything was covered in snow! It had snowed the night before and hadn't really stopped. We then checked out The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote the beginnings of Harry Potter. We didn't eat there because it was super crowded, but the atmosphere reminded Maren and I a lot of Batdorf, so that was fun! We then headed down to the Christmas Market and explored. There was so much to do from shopping the market stalls, eating lots of really yummy food, ice skating outdoors, and going on lots of different rides. We figured we had to go on the Ferris Wheel, which gave us an awesome view of the city at night. Afterward, we split the group with two of the girls heading off to do their own thing, and Maren, Lindsey and I to see Harry Potter. It was a great night and I think Maren and Lindsey were very happy to see HP in English!
|Lindsey, Maren, and I playing with wands in a graveyard; i.e. being HP nerds...|
The next morning I headed out before noon to catch my train. I became extremely worried that my train was going to be canceled due to the "adverse weather conditions". Luckily, mine was right on time and I was able to board easily. Even more luckily, I had been able to check my bank account and had learned that I never was originally charged a return ticket, so I only had to pay about an extra $30 for this ticket. Another plus, it was first-class. I had a very comfortable ride back and was able to see the countryside covered in snow the entire way, as well as view a lot of the east coast. I even watched the sun set. Everything about that return trip went so well because we were one of the only trains that wasn't delayed or canceled due to the snow. So many things to be thankful for!
|A view from the castle as the sun was setting Saturday afternoon.|
As for now, I'm upon my last full week of Harlaxton. I can't believe it, but I head home in 11 days! I'm pretty much done in all my classes, which end on Thursday, and don't have much else to do. Lots of last minute gatherings planned for this week before finals begin in Saturday morning. Hopefully Ashley and I get to visit with Matt one last time this weekend before we head out. Then we leave Harlaxton next Wednesday where we'll spend two nights in London before I fly home. I really can't believe that this much time has flown by and Christmas break is so near. I'm very aware of the fact that I've definitely entered into stage five of culture shock: readjustment, and I can't say that I like it! I'm pretty sure I'm going to have more of a culture shock returning to home than I did coming here! Be prepared!