Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cougar Pride, Worldwide!

The Cougar flag flew proudly today all throughout Stirling!

Halie (fellow WSU student) and I met and had our picnic lunch near the ancient Stirling Abbey, and then made our way over to Stirling Bridge to start our adventure! The wind made flying the flag more difficult than we thought, but we got the hang of it eventually! (pardon the pun)

After we conquered the bridge, Amanda met us and we all trekked up to the castle! That was a little trickier due to all the tourists, wind, and the fact that they decided to start refurbishment work today! But we persevered! We had such a fun time running around the castle, and people around us were very interested and amused by our flag flying as well. When we were leaving, a couple asked us if they could take a picture of us and our flag, which we thought was pretty funny. Then they told us that their son had graduated from WSU!

Overall, what an amazing and fun filled day. The sun was shining, (it got to 79 f! YES!) our flag was flying, and we were happy :)

They say whoever holds Stirling holds Scotland. So Huskies beware: the Cougs already took the castle.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Preparing For "Lasts"

I can't believe I only have ten days left in Stirling! A semester is a weird amount of feels both really long and really short. As I begin the scary task of trying to fit this semester back into my suitcases, I've been thinking about all the things I'll miss about Stirling when I'm gone.

These next few days I'll be going through my list of "lasts". My last day trip out of Stirling, my last visit to my favorite pub Molly Malone's, my last visit to Chico's Indian Take-Away, my last morning walk behind Stirling Castle...even though I've only been here for a few months, I've become more attached than I thought I would be.

I really realized this when yesterday I took my lunch up to the castle so that I could eat sitting in the sun. The castle has been pretty empty most of the semester, but yesterday (I'm guessing because tourist season has arrived) there were tons of tour buses and cars rolling in and out. I snagged a spot on the wall to sit, and as I listened to people's conversations, I got more and more defensive of "my" town. No, that monument is not from World War I, why do you think he has a sword in his hand? No, that bridge is not the original Stirling Bridge! And oh, for the love of God, if I hear "But it wasn't like that in the movie Braveheart..." My true moment of pride came though, when a man came up to me and asked me if I lived here, to which I replied "yes", and he asked me about the battle of Stirling Bridge. I was then able to entertain him and his companions with about five minutes of history (with room for questions at the end, of course). Like father like daughter!

In an odd way, I'm happy that I'm sad, because it shows that this place has become special and that I've enjoyed my time in Stirling.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"You Don't Frighten Us English Pig Dogs!"

On Saturday Grace, Ashley, Kassandra and I made our way to a Monty Python and the Holy Grail Mecca - Doune Castle! We decided to walk, which turned out to be very picturesque, and also very long! I walked up to campus to meet them, which took about an hour, and then the walk from there to Doune Castle was about seven miles. So, needless to say, we were very pleased when we saw Doune from across the hills!

Doune Castle was used to film two scenes of the film: the French taunting scene and the swamp castle scenes. The castle's audio guide even had Monty Python options to explain which areas of the castle were used! Check out some of the clips with the castle below:

Aside from the Monty Python coolness, Doune is probably my favorite castle that I toured in Scotland. The audio guide was amazing, and made it easier to imagine how all the cold, empty stone rooms would have actually been when they were in use! I love when history seems to come alive around you!

After the castle we walked into the actual town of Doune, and Grace and I munched on some very tasty macaroons as we waited for the bus to take us back to Stirling. Once home, we made "homesick tacos" since all of us are craving Mexican food from the US!

In the words of the French knights: "Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!" :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tea And Ghosts

Halie is another WSU student, and she and I work at the Writing Center together. We never really got a chance to hang out though, until we got to Stirling! It's actually really fun, we've been meeting for lunch at least once a week and end up chatting for a few hours every time!

Yesterday, we got on the subject of ghosts. It was the perfect day for ghost stories...the rain was coming down hard and the wind was whistling through the nooks and crannies of the flat. We just sat, cradling our hot cups of tea in our hands, talking about all of the true ghost stories we've heard.

The day itself wasn't really something especially eventful, but that moment of sitting there telling ghost stories in Scotland while drinking tea was really fun, and something that I want to remember :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One Part Ferry, One Part Castle, One Part Chippy Equals Oban!

"If you were going to build your own castle, where would it be?" Asked Grace as we walked along the pebbled path.

Duart castle's imposing rocky crag loomed above us, made even more foreboding by the violent crashing of the sea's waves on the stones below.

"Somewhere like this," I responded, taking it all in. "Definitely somewhere like this."

Yesterday Grace and I made the trek up from Stirling to Oban! When we arrived at our destination, we hopped over to the ferry terminal and almost immediately made our way over to the Isle of Mull! The ferry takes about 45 minutes to cross, and the views are gorgeous! We really lucked out on weather - it only rained for about half an hour during the entire day, which is almost unheard of! We also got stuck in very little fog, so we could actually see out!

From the upper left: Oban from the ferry, Dunollie Castle, Grace and I on the ferry.

When the ferry docked at Mull, it was just a hop skip and a jump to Duart castle! Inside, we toured the castle, and upon declaring how awesome it would be to be a lady of the castle, we heard a story that made us reconsider:

In about 1520, Lachlan Cattanach's wife Catherine, the sister of the Chief of Clan Campbell, failed to produce an heir. So, naturally, he stranded her on a rock now appropriately known as Lady's Rock, so that when the tide came up it would drown her. When Catherine was nowhere to be found the following morning, Lachlan went into mourning, and informed her brother of her death. Shortly after, Lachlan was invited to a feast with her brother in order to mourn her passing. Imagine his surprise and horror when he arrived and was greeted by none other than Catherine. She had been saved by passing fishermen who had heard her screaming from the rock.  Nobody mentioned the incident, and amazingly, he was allowed to leave the feast unharmed. Catherine's brothers certainly did not forget what he had done though, and one of her brother's stabbed Lachlan in Edinburgh three years later. I have to say, if my future husband leaves me on a rock to drown, either Karl or Anna had better avenge me too!

After we finished our tour of the castle interior, Grace and I went outside to look around the grounds. I'm really glad we did, because the location of the castle is really more impressive than the castle itself. From below, we were surrounded by the whole experience. The castle sat in the background as the smell of the seawater filled the air, the waves crashed around us, and the strong wind pulled at our clothes. It was a breathtaking moment.

Once back in Oban, we explored some of the cute little shops, and of course, stopped for some George Street fish and chips. This time there was no feeding of the seagulls; it was all for us! Delicious! You really can't say you've had fish and chips until you try it from Scotland.

So, with full and happy bellies, we got on the train back to Stirling! We were amazed at how seamless the traveling was yesterday. We hardly waited at all for any of the trains, ferries or buses, and all of the traveling time was pretty enjoyable and went by really fast! Before we knew it we home in bed, exhausted from an awesome day in Oban and the Isle of Mull.

Friday, May 4, 2012

There's More To Dundee Than Marmalade (But The Marmalade Is Pretty Tasty Too)

Feta stuffed olives...plum mead...pistachio and cinnamon baklava...these are just a few of the amazing things Halie and I tried on our food crawl through Dundee! We had such a fun day!

There was a market being put on in Dundee, so we decided to go check it out. We both originally thought our priority would be looking for things like jewelry, but that all changed once we saw (or more accurately smelled) the food vendors! So we stopped, reevaluated our situation, and decided to do a food crawl instead!

Our first stop was at a Greek/Turkish stand. The man there was selling every type of olive you can imagine. He insisted that we try almost everything before buying it, so we basically had a meal before spending a penny! The only one I didn't like was stuffed with sardines, but when he realized that I didn't like it he fed me really tasty roasted cashews! Totally worth the momentary discomfort! After our taste test, our final choices were olives stuffed (separately) with feta, chillies, some tasty red stuff we didn't recognize, and garlic. We also got some chillies stuffed with feta, grilled eggplant, and rice rolled in wine leaves. It was all so delicious!! Little did we know though, the real treat was yet to come! Halie and I are now converts to Baklava! We tried traditional baklava, almond and ginger tarts, a nutty one rolled in something resembling pieces of shredded wheat cereal, and our favorite - pistachio and cinnamon baklava. They were so beyond delicious, and literally melted in your mouth. Luckily they were small and we were able to split them between us and get a taste of everything!

We needed to wash down our baklava with something, so our next stop was at the mead stand. I was a little incredulous, since I'm not a huge fan of most alcohols, but mead is delicious!! The men working the stand thought Halie and I were very entertaining, and made us try every type of mead and wine they had. And they had a lot. Honey mead, elderberry mead, king's mead, mulled wine, apple wine, raspberry wine, plum wine, something called goblin's fire (the only one I didn't enjoy)...that was about all the ones that I remember. Everything got a little bit fuzzy after we tried one that was 80 proof. We were only allowed to take a drop on our finger, and it seriously numbed your mouth! I informed them (by this time feeling very comfortable with my new friends) that they should use that product to numb dental patients in the future for a much more enjoyable experience. Needless to say, 30 minutes later Halie and I giggled our way to the ATM so that we could take some spirits home with us. I chose the traditional mead, which basically tastes like alcoholic honey, and the apple wine, which is essentially an apple pie in a glass. Yum!

Feeling like we should probably eat something more absorbent than olives, we tried some Spanish Paella. Another success! We enjoyed spicy meatballs served over flavorful rice, chillies and tomatoes. We're not exactly sure how to say "Holy cow woman, you sure know how to kick all other rice's butt" in Spanish, but I'm fairly certain that our euphoric facial expressions did a pretty good translation job for us.

We were feeling like we only had room for one more stop, and of course, we couldn't leave Dundee without eating some marmalade. There wasn't a scone stand (for shame) but there was a crepe tent, and they offered one filled with tangy, chunky marmalade which did just the trick. The perfect end to a delicious tour of the market!

Our whole experience lasted about four hours, and we enjoyed every bite of it. I am supposed to be opening my mind to cultural experiences, and I believe I learned some valuable study abroad lessons today:

-Baklava is on par with Molly Mallone's sticky toffee pudding. For those of you who have had the pleasure of Molly's pudding, you know what a loaded statement that is.

-Mead tastes like a gift from God, but is as sneaky as the Devil (most of it 15%).

-Americans don't know how to cook rice. Full stop.

-Dundee's marmalade is famous for a reason!

So here's to you!