Saturday, June 07, 2014

Scotland 2014 Day 10: Off to Edinburgh

Scotland 2014 Day 10: Off to Edinburgh

Heev and I got up way earlier than planned and walked into bustling downtown Inverness to do what any reasonable person should do at 8am: eat a piping hot cornish pasty. I got a cheese and onion thing that was literally awesome. From there, it was off to a reasonably large-sized Marks and Spencers to pick up some gifts.

Chill area at the Bazpackers Hostel
Breakfast time!
Salmon parcel, anyone?
I want to eat it all.
Anything that starts with the phrase "A Dignified..." or "A Right Royal..." is hereby crowned "forever British"
Awesome shortbread
M&S had awesome tea and also some Lavender Shortbread for Mom so I picked up some nice gifts, and some more yoghurt, of course! The mall soon opened and we wandered into Boots where I finally found the 'ol-school Lynx Africa After Shave from my youth. :) Next up was the Victorian Market, a random place with lots of different small shops, kindof weird but we found a few cool things also for gifts.

"Taps Oan"
Bagpiper's supply shop
Sweet shades, bro
Then we walked into an AWESOME gift shop, which was really quite perfect. We had walked past it the night before and it really seemed awesome... and oh my, it was. I got most of the gifts I was still planning to get and things I wanted for myself, all in one shop: a cashmere scarf for Springs, the hilarious/ridiculous "kilt towel", the Scotland Flag boxers, and a packaged-up Clootie Dumpling to take home!!!! I had a hilarious and mildly inappropriate conversation with the lady in the shop, when I asked if the boxers ran a bit small because they only had a larger size. She said, "Well, I think they really hug in... but it depends who you are, I suppose! They certainly hug in on my husband!" Then she proceeded to tell me it was OK for her to mention this because they'd be married for 30 years (and I suppose that means all decorum is out the window) hahaha. So I didn't expect to be talking about her husband's fit in these Scotland flag boxers, but I guess I got the information I needed about them running a tad small. Haha.

As usual, Heev and I were seeking out more whisky shops, and we found a branch of "The Whisky Shop" where there were lots of sample sizes which Heev was really psyched about. I got a bottle of the Jura Diurach's Own. Then we went into a smaller shop and got a sampler size of a Bruichladdich Sherry special edition.

I want to "Gu" there!
Yes, I had to eat at a foreign McDonald's. The burger was called "Chicken LEGEND!"
Next stop was the first and only McDonald's of the trip. Everyone who knows me knows I love seeing how McDonald's localizes in foreign countries, and it was kindof hilarious here in Scotland. They had a "Tastes of America" menu, with lots of random stuff like "Louisiana Chicken" and other kinds of "BBQ" burgers. I got some weird one called "Chicken Legend" with tomato salsa, completely and only because of its name. (No, no... YOU'RE a LEGEND).

Back to the car and then we took off for Edinburgh, our last stop of the trip! The drive was about 2.5 hours, but went quickly (because I napped in the car). We saw some of the Cairngorns national park and it looked nice, but we were keen to just book it into Edinburgh and spend a good part of the afternoon there since we decided to skip Speyside. This area was pretty scenic, and Perthshire area looked quite nice. We arrived in Edinburgh about 2:30, filled up the car with gas, and dropped it off. Our grand total for the 10-day driving trip: 1302.4 MILES!! We unpacked all of our stuff in the parking lot of the rental car place, checked the car twice to make sure we didn't leave anything in there, and then proceeded to immediately leave with my iPhone GPS mount still stuck to the windshield. Oh well. :)

Goodbye, Ford CMax!
Into Edinburgh City Centre we went by bus and that was pretty quick and easy. We got out and saw a really crazy gothic spire which was pretty Batman-y and pretty nuts. Definitely the lair of some epic criminal mastermind! We walked up and around a few hills and then got to our youth hostel, the not-very-creatively named "Budget Backpackers", which was intensely well-organized and excellently rated online. We checked in, got keys, and dropped our stuff. We are staying in a 4-room and it's in the building across the road from the main hangout area, so hopefully that means we'll be away from any major noise.

We unpacked a bit and specifically unpacked all of our whisky into the lockers in the room... MAN that's a lot of whisky! Hopefully I can repack successfully and not have my bag be totally overweight at the airport! It's a 4-share room as I mentioned, and it looks like we do have roommates tonight at least. They appeared to be girls, given the shoes that were on the floor, so I guess generally that means it "should" be cleaner and not too loud... there were some half-empty wine bottles though strewn around.. so I guess we'll see!

Now without tons of luggage, we ventured out into the city. We wandered for a while, and got an idea of how Edinburgh new and old town are laid out. Just outside of our hostel was an art store which had a crazy print of a character called "Batboy" and "Robbie", a silly, Scottish-ified Batman and Robin! Even more absurdly hilarious was that there was one of them with their shirts off, that said "Taps Aff"!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh man!!! This is literally a week after our buddy Robin Mackenzie who we met on the ferry to Islay with his wife told us a potentially off-colour joke where the punchline was "taps aff". We thought it might be something related to taking one's shirt off, but we had no idea. Turns out... that's exactly what it was, and this hilarious art piece confirmed Robin's cheeky joke that he totally said in front of his wife. Incredible.

"Taps Aff!" - and now we know that our mate from last week told a cheeky joke
I am thoroughly in-"spired"
This building rocks
In Edinburgh, even the post is fancy
Lots of unusual Ardbeg and Laphroaigs!
I unsuccessfully tried on some funny Scottish hats and still didn't see anything that looked as good as the Ardbeg one from last week. We wandered by a tea shop called "Eteaket" (which I read as "E-ticket", not the correct pun. As Heev pointed out, it was supposed to be "Etiquette"... right.) That place seemed nice and we'll check it out tomorrow in more detail.

We checked out a whisky shop, naturally. They had some OLD stuff... a 1963 22-year Glenmorangie?! Crazy. Royal Mile Whiskies was the best shop of all the places we went into. They had tons of small samples, including a 20cl Diurach's Own... darn! I would have bought a smaller one if I knew you could do that. Oh well, I'm sure Frank can help me put it to good use when I am back in SF. :) The shop called "The Whisky Shop" wasn't nearly as good, and was more expensive and didn't have as good selection or as helpful or nice staff.

We Yelp'd a spot for dinner and found a place called "The Outsider". It said "British" on the Yelp review but it was mostly just a really nice spot with tasty local ingredients! I got a flatiron stead with great potatoes -- kindof like the ones I make! The steak was very tasty. Heev got a duck leg, and it tasted like a roast.

Dinnertime! Hot smoked salmon
Matt's dinner, complete with a HUGE onion
After a really great meal and a nice sit-down and relax, Matt googled for a good place for "real ales" (i.e. warm, flat beer... haha) and he found a recommendation on the "Camra" site for a place called Bow Bar, just around the corner from our hostel! They had some great Real Ale for Matt and also, yep, you guessed it, an excellent Whisky selection!

It was a good atmosphere there, being that it was "World Whisky Day!" I tried a couple of new things, and tweeted about our "Whisky Experience" for World Whisky Day to try to win a prize (presumably, more whisky).

It's World Whisky Day!
A wee dram!
Back to the hostel we went, and we chilled for a while in the main game room area. Heev and I played a somewhat terrible game of pool, and afterwards checked out this cool lit-up pad area, couches, and a "tree house" TV area. I had an excellent and super cheap NZ cider at the bar and chatted with tons of Australians -- all of them staff, it appeared.

Budget Backpackers has another mediocrely-named-yet-amazing hostel called "Kick Ass Backpackers" down the road. It was brand new in March but they were booked up fully for tonight so we opted to stay at Budget Backpackers instead. The new spot was pretty darn cool (or, "kick ass", as it were). They had really beautifully-done signage, great artistic design and super clear for foreign travelers. It rocked. They had a cool handout area as well with air hockey and some video games. We heard random party noise coming from somewhere and a person who worked there told us they had several "ensuite" rooms, complete with balconies! Fancy stuff for something like £12 a night!

Crazy hostel
Awesome "tree house" in the hostel
Checking out the sister hostel down the road, awesome new spot
We wandered some more in the city for fun and to explore. At some point we stopped for Fish and Chips, naturally! It came with some kind of thing called "Brown Sauce", which one would assume was a kind of gravy, but it tasted mostly like vinegar. Anyway, good times!

Ahh, late nite Fish and Chips

We headed back to the hostel and went to bed at 2-something. Soon after, our roommate #1 of 2 came in, reasonably and quietly. A little while later, roommate #2 arrived and made a hell of a commotion!! She was super loud, clearly forgot her key and was banging on the door to get her friend to open it up. (Ugh) Haha. Oh, the luck of the draw with your roommates in hostels. :) There was literally no chance I was going to get off a top-bunk and open the door for her, and her friend was on a top bunk too... after a moment roommate #1 opened the door and then went immediately back to sleep while roommate #2 continued to be a bit loud and then left, and didn't come back till we were gone the next morning. Oh well. Anyway, that was random. A good sleep anyway!

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