Back to London (NOT By Choice)

Waking up this morning was definitely bitter-sweet because on one hand I was waking up in the wonderful city of Edinburgh, but on the other I would soon have to leave. When I woke up around 9:00 AM I hopped out of bed and tried to pack my stuff in the dark. I think I successfully packed everything and I did quadruple check my locker and bunk. When I had finished packing all of my stuff, I went downstairs and handed in my key before putting my stuff by the fire place and heading out with Kaylee and Ariel to breakfast.

We ended up just going directly across the street to a place called the Edinburgh Larder Cafe. The place was packed. It was a tiny establishment, but they were so busy that the owner had to keep turning people away at the door because they just did not have the space and the wait would have been too long for a breakfast place. I ordered eggs, toast, and sausage with some Scottish Breakfast Tea. It was a much needed breakfast, especially after being up so late the night before.

After breakfast we headed around the corner to Carrubbers Christian Center where we would be attending church. The speaker was standing out front, shaking hands with everyone who entered. He was actually an American and had attended Stevens Institute of Technology so we bonded over both having a connection to New Jersey. This was the second of two of their Sunday services and based on the crowd, the later service was geared towards the college students who were in the area. The sermon was very thought-provoking as we examined the first two verses of Colossians chapter one and looked at what it meant to be a saint. It added a different perspective on a word that I had heard repeated over and over again throughout Catholic religion classes in high school.

When church was over I split off from Kaylee and Ariel and headed to Mrs. McIntyre’s- the coffee place I went to the day before- to grab a chai latte before heading back to sit at the hostel. On my way back I picked up an over-sized, maroon-colored, Edinburgh sweatshirt that was on sale for twenty pounds. It was a great purchase. Back at the hostel I just sat in the main lobby area with my laptop doing some blogging, planning, and quite a bit of procrastinating until about 3:30 PM when it was time for me to head to the train station.

After the short walk to the train station I had some time to kill. I first went to the ATM to get out cash for the up-coming week, then went to Burger King because I knew I probably wouldn’t eat much the rest of the day, and because I had to use the toilets, but did not have the thirty pence that it cost. After eating my chicken tenders I checked the boards again and found out that my train would be arriving on track one. I went to the toilet and then headed down to the track.

The train ride was relatively uneventful. I blogged a little bit more and then FaceTimed into a meeting about my Mexico missions trip this summer and then spent the rest of the trip talking to Peter since we hadn’t had great wifi while I was at the hostel. I arrived into King’s Cross Station around 9:00 PM and then was back at the hotel by 9:15 PM after taking a quick bus ride. I had planned on going to sleep early, but ended up staying up until 1:15 AM feeling exhausted and defeated after the Dallas Cowboys game.


He Can Move the Mountains

This morning we had planned on walking out the door by 9:30 AM to get over to Arthur’s Seat, but that did not exactly happen the way we had originally planned. We ended up waking up around 9:30 AM and then by the time we got ready it was about 10:15 AM. We went downstairs to see what the hostel’s breakfast included, but decided to go and find a cafe instead. We went to a couple different places before finally being satisfied at a place called Brunch. I ordered pancakes with mixed berries and bacon that was delicious, especially with my Gingerbread Latte accompanying it.

When we finished breakfast we walked over to Arthur’s Seat. It was a really cool place to hike because there were so many different peaks to climb up to and so many different trails that varied in difficulty. The sites were absolutely breath-taking and it was an absolutely amazing experience and definitely what I needed after having been cooped up in the city for the last two weeks. The entirety of the hike was marked by stopping to just take in God’s creation and take hundreds of pictures to capture the moment.

My favorite moment was when we reached one of the emptier peaks. Kaylee, Ariel, and I sat down at the top on some rocks and just sat there taking it all in. We then played four or five different worship songs and just worshipped the Lord in such a beautiful place. We talked about how beautiful this area was and how crazy it was that heaven could be even beyond this. It was a calming, peaceful moment that we could escape the little stresses of life and focus on the most important person- God.

After sitting up there for probably close to thirty minutes, we hiked up to Arthur’s Seat peak that was beautiful, but a little too covered in tourists. Part of the great part of reaching the top of a mountain is the quiet-ness that comes with it. When I was in Alaska whenever we reached the top of a mountain Josh would make us just sit there in silence for a couple minutes to take it all in- these people needed that.

On our way down we encountered a couple of very slippery places that resulted in us falling. No one got hurt though and we continued trekking down until Ariel realized that she lost her phone. We did our best to retrace our steps, but we weren’t successful. We knew we had no option but to ask the people hiking up to keep an eye open for it and then just pray that the phone fell into the correct hands. When we reached the bottom we took the “scenic route” back to the hostel (and by that I mean we kind of got lost). I parted with Ariel and Kaylee when our hostel was in site and ended up at Miss MacIntyre’s Cafe where I got a chai latte and wrote for a while. When I was there I found out that God had come through once again and had already returned Ariel’s phone to her.

After I finished my blogging time I went back to the hostel and the three of us got ready to go out to dinner. We went to this restaurant called Yeni in Edinburgh that Kaylee and Ariel had gone to the night before and hadn’t stopped raving about since then. We split a bottle of wine and then ordered seven dishes for the table to share. I can’t tell you what I ate, but I can tell you that it was absolutely delicious.

Once we finished dinner and rolled out of the restaurant we went back to the hotel to charge our phones and I got changed before going out. We first went to a bar where they were having a 10 Year Taylor Swift Celebration. I don’t know what we were thinking because when we went inside we were greeted with bad renditions of Taylor Swift songs and hordes of fourteen year-olds acommpanied by their mothers.

We soon left and headed to another bar that was literally all old people. The third bar wasn’t great either as it was some punk bar and although the crowd was younger, it definitely wasn’t our scene. We gave up and were heading back to the hostel when we decided to try one more bar- Bb. We entered in to a casual looking bar with great live music and a relaxed environment. We stayed here for a while and then when my friends went around the corner to yet ANOTHER bar, I opted to go back to the hostel.

When I got back to the hostel I went down to the hang out area and ended up actually playing a game of chess with this guy Stephen at around 1:00 AM. After we gave-up on the chess game him and I talked to another guy named Anthony who was from Australia. Stephen went to bed, but Anthony and I ended up staying up talking until after 2:30 AM. I finally went upstairs and crawled into my bed- vowing to wakeup early the next morning to pack.

J.K. Rowling and Random Americans

This morning I did not wake-up as early as I had originally planned on, but that was okay because that probably just meant I needed the sleep and I didn’t reallllyyyy have anything planned to do for the day. I think I ended up getting up around 10:00 AM, too late for breakfast downstairs, so I decided to go find a cafe- specifically J.K. Rowling’s Cafe, The Elephant House.

She technically didn’t write the first Harry Potter book here, so it is mis-leading to call the site the “birthplace” of Harry Potter, but she did write the second, third, and majority of the fourth. I went inside and it was still relatively empty so I ordered a piece of broccoli and cheese quiche and a pot of chai tea. I then went to sit down in the back room and try to channel my inner J.K. Rowling. Although I did not come up with any amazing ideas for children’s literature, I was able to write some of my blogs, even though I did not have the focus to post anything.

I stayed there until write before 12:00 PM when I decided it was about time to go out and explore (and play Pokemon GO for the first time in too long). I ended up walking over to Calton Hill and exploring that area in the freezing cold for a pretty long time. It was so pretty. The gallery/observatory area was closed for renovation or something, but there were still a lot of different monuments to look at and explore. There was one monument that looks like an Athenian acropolis but was actually never completed. I also climbed up Nelson’s monument which is 142 steps up and back. The view from the top was absolutely beautiful, but I was slightly concerned that I was going to blow off the top. I probably ended up spending a couple hours just walking around and exploring the park before deciding I was too cold to wander around for much longer.

I wandered out of the park and over towards the Starbucks that was located on the Royal Mile. Normally I would opt for a local cafe, but I had to stop and pick up my assistant pastor a Starbucks Edinburgh mug for him to add to his collection. This Starbucks was two floors and the top floor had a large, stylish sitting area. I chose a seat by the window and then took that time to blog and talk to my family before it was time to head towards the Greyfriars Bobby statue- the starting point of my next Harry Potter adventure, a tour called The Potter Trail.

I knew I had arrived when I saw a girl wearing wizarding robes and holding a wand- then again I wouldn’t really put that past anyone in Edinburgh because the city just has such a large “wizard” vibe. Our tour guide Becky was absolutely fantastic and the tour was cheesy in the best possible way. I met a girl named Melissa on the tour too who was from California, but had been traveling around Ireland and now Scotland for the past three weeks. She was a Ravenclaw and we hit it off from the very beginning. The tour included stops such as Tom Riddle’s grave, The Elephant House, The Spoon Bistro (the location of where J.K. Rowling had actually wrote the first book), and other various sites filled with wizard facts and information. We were also given wands at the beginning of the tour in order to stop traffic so that we could cross the street.

After the tour I ended up walking back towards the hostels with Melissa. She was staying in the hostel across the street that I had accidentally walked into the night before. When we got back to the point we would have to separate, she asked if I had any plans for the evening. I said I didn’t because I generally avoided being out at night by myself and we then agreed to go and get dinner in about an hour, enough time to try to warm-up a little bit.

In my hostel I met four girls who were moving in for the weekend. They were all actually studying in London and this was their free weekend as well. The two girls, Kaylee and Ariel, I clicked more with and we discussed possibly doing something together later or at least all using the showers at the same time to avoid the guys who also had access to the shower.

We went to The Bent Spoon since we are both such big Harry Potter fans and we ended up staying there for almost two hours just talking and getting to know each other. I ordered sweet potato and squash soup with a side of bread and some cider. After dinner we headed to one of the pubs on the Royal Mile and continued talking over a beer. The thing I like about strangers is that you can have all these conversations about your life with them and it’s easy to open up because then you’ll probably never see them again. We exchanged FaceBooks and she told me if I’m ever in the San Diego area I should definitely come and visit. We also said we would try to meet up before we both left on Sunday.

When I got back to the hostel I talked more with the two girls more and I found out that they were planning on doing the same hike I was tomorrow. We decided to all go together and leave around 9:30 AM. We talked and got to know each other a bit more and I found out that they were both Christians, which was comforting. Since they were also in London (but leaving on Wednesday), we decided to all go and see The Phantom of the Opera together on Wednesday night.

After showering and hanging out for a little bit I settled in for another good-night’s sleep.


A Train Into the Sunset

This morning I woke up on time yet again because I knew I needed to finish packing and making sure I had everything for my trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. I finished checking over everything relatively quickly so I decided to actually go down to the lobby for breakfast- shocking, I know. Although it looked intimidating at first, it really was quick and easy. They sat you at a table and then you could enjoy the buffet style food. I opted for eggs, bacon, and some fruit to go with my breakfast tea. Afterwards I went upstairs quickly and did some other little things to tidy up since I knew I would be leaving directly following class.

For class today we once again traveled to the Barbican (in a really complicated, non-efficient way) to meet with Libby Rice, Archivist and Philip Stuart, Discographer for the London Symphony Orchestra. The London Symphony Orchestra has a very impressive resume including my clear favorite, Harry Potter. They have also done work on Star Wars and many other prominent movies since their beginning.

Around 12:00 PM I started getting antsy about getting to the train station. My train was set to leave at 1:30 PM and it was a twenty minute trip back to the hotel and then another fifteen to the train station. I just had to pick up my backpack, but I had been conditioned by my dad to be early to everything- ESPECIALLY when it involved traveling. At 12:08 PM we were just finishing up, but I excused myself so I would have time.

I then jogged about a half mile to the tube station and ended up saving about five minutes on the total journey time. I wanted to arrive at the train station forty-five minutes early (12:45 PM) and ended up entering the station right at 12:48 PM. I got a sandwich and a bottle of water from Starbucks and then waited for them to post what track my train would be coming in at.

Once it was posted I headed onto the train and found my seat for the five hour journey. The five hours honestly flew by. I’m not even sure I could tell you what I did to amuse myself for five hours but it was some combination of writing, procrastinating, and just looking out the window at the BEAUTIFUL sunsets.

When I arrived in Edinburgh I found my way to what I thought was my hostel, but actually turned out to be the hostel I had originally booked before I switched the dates I went to Edinburgh. They were incredibly friendly though and directly me towards where I would ACTUALLY be staying which was literally right across the street.

I went into the hostel, dropped my stuff off, and then went directly out to go and try to buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I found a grocery store in the mall so I got what I needed and then took the long way back so I could go across a bridge and look at the city lights. When I got back to the hostel I went downstairs and sat with my laptop for a bit. I met a guy named Stephen who talked to me about Edinburgh and how great the city was. He was nice, but a bit too nice so after I little while I was like, “Oh, sorry, I’m going to call my boyfriend now.”

I actually ended up talking to Zack for a little while before actually talking to Peter. Once I hung up I went upstairs and decided to take a shower and then go to bed. The shower’s were apparently co-ed, which was a little off-putting, but generally not too too bad. Afterwards I went back into the room and quickly passed out.

I already thoroughly enjoyed Edinburgh and looked forward to seeing what tomorrow would bring.