May 31, 2009

Bagpipe Battle Royale

I've mentioned many times how the tourists swarm on the Mile and I'm sometimes afraid to leave my room during the day. I've also complained often about my buddy, the Bagpiper, who sets up shop down the street from me and toots his pipes all day, everyday. Well, what I haven't told you is that it isn't just one guy. He would probably explode if he played the pipes for that long. They switch posts every hour or so, kind of like the Changing of the Guard. They also don't just stay put, they move around to different spots on the Mile - closer to my flat. This is illegal. There is a law restricting noise on the Lawnmarket stretch of the Royal Mile, meaning no pipers can come higher up then High Street on the Mile... but that doesn't seem to stop them.  And now that it's tourist season, no one seems to care.

Well, I stepped out of the Mylne's Court Close on Sunday afternoon to go buy some groceries.  I didn't make it more than 10 feet down the Mile when I saw a crowd of people gathered.  At first, I figured it was some sort of street performance, but the sidewalk is pretty narrow in front of Deacon's Cafe, and there's car traffic allowed up there, so I took a closer look.  I saw two guys in kilts wrestling each other.  It was two bagpipers fighting over their territory.  How ridiculous?!  The funniest part was that it was a 6' scrawny 15-year-old holding back a 5' scrawny 75-year-old.  You could tell the boy wanted to stick up for himself, but didn't want to hurt the old man, so he just sort of kept him at arm's distance away, as the little old guy fought for his life.  He probably thought the youngun' was disrespecting him and taking over his spot - the spot that he had probably piped in for the past 50 years.  Of course the second thing that goes through my head is that they were on the Lawnmarket stretch and it's illegal for either of them to pipe their anyway.  The first thing that went through my head, naturally, was a Bagpipe Battle Royale!

It got me thinking, that there's probably underground bagpiper gangs, that each have their own territory in Edinburgh.  Like the Old Town gang, the New Town Gang, The Royal Mile Gang, etc.  Just like you would never drop in on a local Hawiian's wave, don't mess with a Scottish piper's turf... or should I say cobblestones?  But this gave me the great idea of having a huge Bagpiper Battle Royale.  Let them all duke it out, they can even use their pipes as weapons, and the last man standing deserves to play wherever he bloody well pleases, the Lawnmarket law be damned!

May 27, 2009

A Cow's Contemplation


Lazy rain on lonely hill
I stop myself mid-chew,
And think on subjects so profound...

Whether to moo, or not to. 

May 23, 2009

Loch Ness and Lindisfarne

On our last day in the Highlands, we drove along the banks of Loch Ness. We went out on the Loch on the Jacobite Spirit. It was my second time out on Loch Ness, but I'd never been up this high on the Loch before, so I got to see the ruins of Urquart Castle. The water was really choppy, I felt like a pirate on the high seas. No sign of Nessie, though. There was a cute sign on the boat to discourage occupants from smoking. It said: No Puffin', and had a picture of the bird with a red line through it. It was adorable, and not to mention completely accurate, since we, sadly, saw no puffins on this trip.


Urquart Castle

As we continued to travel back toward Edinburgh, we stopped at a lay-by on the highway so that my mom could see the castle that they used to film the TV series "Monarch of the Glen". Since I had seen the castle before, I stayed in the car with my dad, and watched as my mom climbed over the road barrier, through the trees and disappeared down the short but steep banks to the edge of the Loch for a better view. After sitting in the car and seeing the minutes tick past with no sign of my mother re-emerging, I turned to my dad and said: "at what point do we assume she's fallen into the Loch and venture down to retrieve her?" Just as I said this, she popped up again, thankfully. I mean, I know I'm a lifeguard, but Scottish lochs are cooooooooold.


  Adorable and health-conscious - double whammy!       

We made it back to Edinburgh that night and I welcomed the comfort of familiarity of my own bed. The next day (our last day with the rental car) we drove down into England and across the Causeway to Lindisfarne, Holy Island. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were able to explore Lindisfarne Castle, and see Bamborough castle across the North Sea, back on the mainland. I visited Bamborough back in September and remembered looking out at Holy Island. It was weird to be doing that in reverse. We also saw the ruins of Lindsifarne Priory, which was where they got the stones to build the castle. We ate lunch at The Ship, where I had the most amazing pasta dish ever! Maybe it was because I was technically in England, not Scotland - but they finally put flavors and creaminess in their pasta sauce! I wish they delivered... to the mainland... and a half hour north across the border into Scotland... My mom also introduced us to Lindisfarne Mead. It's basically sugar and honey in a glass.  It's so yummy, that you'd never think it was 14.5% alcohol! So that's two reasons to go back to Lindisfarne... honey alcohol and amazing pasta!


Lindisfarne Castle

Since it is an island, and there is no bridge connecting it to the mainland, we had to cross back over the causeway before the tide came in and the roadway disappeared under water. Otherwise we would've been trapped on the island until dinnertime when the tide went back out. People were lined up along the causeway to watch the water rise. Apparently, none of them were looking at the signs that depicted jeeps floating away in the current. We got ourselves safely to high ground as quick as we could. And by high ground, I mean back to the top of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.        


Lindisfarne Priory

May 22, 2009

I'll put my telephoto on

The day of rain. It was bound to happen - we can't just travel through Scotland without a full day of rain. Fortunately for us, the rain stopped and the sun came out around 6pm. Since the sun doesn't start to set until 10pm in May in Scotland, we still had plenty left of the day to enjoy the sunshine.


Isle of Skye

We spent the day exploring the Isle of Skye. We ended up driving around the entire perimeter of the isle, which was good because there wasn't much else to do on the island in the rain. And this way, we could all enjoy the beautiful and dramatic scenery from the comfortable, warm, and dry car.  


Driving around the coast of Skye


We did make a few stops, though. Our first stop was at the Giant Angus MacAskill Museum in Dunvegan. A real dude, born in the outer Hebrides of Scotland in 1825, made the Guiness World Book of Records for being the world's largest "true" giant that ever lived. He was 7'4" and weighed over 500lbs. They had built a model to his exact size and scale inside the museum. I'm 5'9" and finally felt short! Except when I stood next to General Tom Thumb. There was actually a picture taken of Angus and Tom standing together in the mid-1800s. Now there's a picture of Angus, Tom, and Kat taken at the beginning of the 21st century. Angus was born in Scotland and he died in Nova Scotia, so he came full circle from old Scotland to new Scotland. My mother had been to Nova Scotia and saw where he was buried. If you looked closely at the model of Angus, you could spot a teeny tiny Canadian flag pinned to his lapel.


 Angus, Tom, and Kat

Our next stop was at Dunvegan Castle. Inside you could see the ripped, torn, faded, and disintegrating fabric that was left of the Fairy Flag. There were many versions of the story that told how the flag came to be in the possession of the MacLeods and what its powers were. But the general idea was that the flag could be used to summon help in a time of desperate need, perhaps even to summon a Fairy Army. 


Dunvegan Castle

Next, we pulled over at the Kilmuir cemetary where Flora MacDonald was buried. She's famous for hiding Bonnie Prince Charlie during his last stand during the battle of Culloden. She dressed up the prince to look like an Irish Spinning Maid which granted him safe passage off the island of Benbecula to the mainland where Prince Charlie could escape.  Her twin sister Fauna MacDonald was buried on the Isle of Earth near the Castle Sand... well, I thought it was clever. 


Flora MacDonald's grave

By this time we had become experts at getting animals to pose for us. I think it helped that my mother always remembered to put her telephoto on. I know what a telephoto lens is, but I'm still not exactly sure how to put it on. But what I do know, is that it's fun to say with a ridiculous British accent. Way more fun than saying "I zoomed in".  


Highland Cattle

We stopped for lunch in the town of Portree, Skye at a pub called MacNabs. Then we drove past Knock Castle on the Sound of Sleat (which is just about the coolest name ever, and I feel obligated to write an entire story about it now) down to Armadale Castle. Armadale was castle ruins surrounded by beautiful gardens. There was a wedding going on inside. Normally it would be outside in the spectacular gardens, but it was raining. But that meant that we could explore the castle ruins without disturbing the ceremony. And we all know how much I love to explore castle ruins!  


Portree

Back in Dornie, across the road from our B&B was the Dornie Hall Car Park, right on the waters of Loch Duich. So I had my mom take a picture of me strategically covering up parts of the sign. "Dorney Park and Wild Water Kingdom!" Of course you have to say it in that voice that they use when your log flume is pulling up to the gate at the end of the ride and they say: "Enjoy the rest of your day at Dorney Park AND Wiiiiiild Water Kingdommmmm" (and they get all low on the water park part). Can you tell that I miss PA?  

May 21, 2009

It depends on where the raisins are...

We took our breakfast in the dungeon of the castle. They had converted it into a cute little breakfast nook. Sadly, it was our last breakfast in Barcaldine Castle, and we hopped in the car and headed north. We passed by the ruins of Stalker Castle, out on it's own little island, before we hit my favorite place in the Highlands... Glencoe. It is named for the River Coe that runs through it, and is well known for the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692, when the Campbells slaughtered the MacDonalds. People in the area today hang up signs that say "No Campbells Welcome" - so when I'm up there, I don't tell people that I'm descended from the Campbell Clan. Shhhh.


Stalker Castle

The Three Sisters of Glencoe is just the most magnificent mountain range in all of Scotland. Of course, I always end up only photographing two of the sisters. But they are framed so much better in a photograph then trying to fit all three.


My mom and dad spending their 33rd Anniversary at Glencoe

Our next stop was just outside Fort William to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct used by the Jacobite Steam Engine to get to Mallaig. The rest of the world would recognize this bit of architecture as that stone bridge thingy that the Hogwarts Express chugs across to get Harry and his buddies to the undisclosed location of their wizarding school. (Of course Hogwarts is in Scotland! She did base the school off of Edinburgh Castle. Nothing that cool would be English.)  
        
A little bit further north, we arrived at the most picturesque castle in all of Scotland. I fell in love with this castle when I saw it on a postcard three years ago. Last spring, Hollywood grabbed hold of it and made it the destination wedding spot in the film Made of Honor. Eilean Donan Castle is a beautiful site, out on Loch Duich with the bens in the distant background. There's nothing too special about the inside of the castle. I just enjoyed sitting and looking at it.  

Eilean Donan Castle

We stayed in a B&B in Dornie that night. My parents could see Eilean Donan Castle from their bedroom window. Since it was my parents wedding anniversary, we went out for a snazzy dinner in the small neighboring town of Plockton. It's where the TV show Hamish MacBeth was filmed.  I'm quite aware if the fact that no one actually watches that show apart from my mother. We ate at a restaurant called the Plockton Shores, where I had the most fantastic Scottish meal ever: local black angus beef smothered in garlic butter sauce with creamy, buttery mashed potatoes and a lovely sparkling wine. Just thinking about the meal makes me want to go back there right now.  My mother had a hard time deciding what dessert to choose, she wanted to make sure there were no raisins present.  We still have no idea what's in figgy pudding...  

Plockton

May 20, 2009

Five ferries, two buses, and a puffin in a pear tree

On Day 3 of our Highland Adventure, we visited the Western Islands of Scotland (The Inner Hebrides). It consisted of a series of car rides, bus rides, and ferry rides. First, we ferried past Castle Duart in the rain on our way to the Isle of Mull. There's a saying in Scotland, that if you don't like the weather, then wait an hour. In our case, all we had to do was take a bus to the opposite side of the island where the sun was shining bright. It was so nice that even the sheep were soaking up the sun on the beach at Fionnphort (pronounced fin-a-foot).


Those are my kind of sheep!

We jumped on another ferry out to the Isle of Staffa, which is home to Fingal's Cave. On Staffa, there were volcanic rock, or basalt, formations in tall columns. The same basalt appears on The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Both places were named for the legend of the giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool). The legend said that the Irish giant, Finn, was building a causeway from Ireland to Scotland, to fight his Scottish counterpart, Benandonner. But Finn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he didn't show, Ben went in search of him. Finn's wife put a blanket over her husband and disguised him as their baby son. When Ben saw the sheer size of their "son", he fled in fear of how giant Finn must be - ripping up the causeway as he went. So all that remains now is a bit in Ireland and a bit in Scotland. Still another version of the story said that Finn asked his wife to dress him up as their son when they had Ben over for dinner. She fed her "son" actual tender beef, but fed Ben a rock cut to look like steak. When Ben had trouble biting into the rock and saw how easily the "baby" bit into the meat, that's why he ran and ripped up the bridge between the two countries. I swear that one of the BG's gave a picture book of this tale to either Brendan or Jack, because I remember reading it to them when babysitting. I think it was Bridget, possibly because Finn's wife's name was Bridget and she wrote a little note on the inside cover about it. Kara, help me out here...


Fingle's Cave

Despite the legends, there were no giants in sight. Our ferry boat dropped us on a small slab of concrete and motored away to drop anchor in the middle of the sea - leaving us to cling to the cliffside. Literally, we had to cling to the sides of Staffa and make our way cautiously around to the mouth of the cave. There was a huge traffic jam from people were trying to go both directions on such a narrow and slippery path. I took a picture of the jam... and then ate it. I don't know exactly how I fell while standing completely still, but I just went straight down. You know how in cartoons, when their legs fly up and they pause horizontally in the air and then just drop straight down like a plank. That was me. Luckily, I didn't hurt myself, or anyone else, or fall into the water... that would have been sooooooo freezing. I don't even think my parents knew that I fell. I didn't want to worry them at the time. I was so impressed that they were climbing around with me that I didn't want to say anything to discourage them. Plus, we all know that I'm clumsy. There was nothing I could have done to prevent it. My falling was inevitable. 

Traffic jam on Staffa 

Another fun fact about Staffa is that composer Felix Mendelssohn visited the isle in 1829 and wrote Die Hebriden (Hebrides Overture Opus 26, commonly known as Fingal's Cave overture).  He was inspired by the weird echoes that can be heard within the cave.

video

It wasn't enough for us to climb around the sides of the isle, we also had to climb to the top. There was a set of rusty, rickety, old stairs for us to use. They were even more fun than the "non-slip" painted basalt stepping stones around the base of Staffa. Supposedly, there is a gathering of puffins somewhere on Staffa. Sadly, we could not find the puffins. No pear trees either... but we weren't really expecting to see those.


Staffa from the top

Thankfully, our boat came back for us, and then ferried us over to the Isle of Iona. Which, with it's beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear blue/green waters, looked a hell of a lot like Rhodes, Greece! Except it was probably 30 degrees colder here in Scotland. Iona was famous for its Abbey. In the Middle Ages, St. Columba landed on Iona and built the Abbey. Just outside the Abbey was the Chapel of St. Oran and the graveyard where 48 Scottish Kings were buried (of Scottish, Irish, and Norwegian backgrounds). It is rumored that MacBeth was buried there as well. However, we have no idea where, because a while back, the Ionians decided they would bring the Kings' tombstones indoors to preserve them... but they forgot to leave post-its behind saying whose graves are whose.  Silly Ionians.  



Iona          

There were more lambs on Iona.  I wrote a song about this one:

Katharine had a little lamb,
little lamb,
little lamb,
Katharine had a little lamb,
And then security confiscated it at the border...

Then it was a ferry back to Mull, a bus ride across Mull back to Craignure, a ferry back to Oban, and a car ride back to our castle. (I just love saying "our castle"). The Campbells knew that we were out all day, exhausted form trekking around in the rain, so they lit a fire for us in the Cozy Room. It was waiting for us when we got back. The Cozy Room probably has a proper castley name like The East Wing, but I call it the Cozy Room, because it was so small, and had comfy chairs and sofas, a wonderfully warm fireplace, and a TV where my Mom and I watched When Harry Met Sally until it was time for bed. Oh Barcaldine Castle, I miss you.

The Cozy Room

May 19, 2009

It's a freakin' castle!

There's no crying in the Highlands! This was Tom Hank's original line in A League of Their Own, until they realized that the Scottish Highlands have nothing to do with baseball. While we were driving through the Highlands, we kept seeing these road signs of a blue circle with a red X through it and below that, it would say things like "For 2 miles" or "Ends". We have no idea what it meant. I decided it meant that you can't be blue for 2 miles. Therefore, there is no crying in the Highlands. Can you tell that I took a course in Logic in Undergrad?


The Highlands

...so I looked up that sign in the official UK Road Traffic Signs Guide Book and it means: no stopping or standing... so why don't they just put up a sign that says "No Stopping or Standing Anytime" like we do in the States? What's with the colors and shapes? Am I driving, or testing how much I've retained from pre-school?


One of those pesky signs

I am already in love with the Highlands. I think they are the most beautiful place on earth. But the best thing about the Highlands in spring... is baby sheep! The bens were polka dotted with little white lambs. They were so adorable that we stopped at least once an hour to photograph them.  


Lambs in the road

Since I was just in Spain last week and missed out on running with the bulls in Pamplona, I decided to drive with the cows in the Scottish Highlands. We saw many a lonely sheep wandering across the road, but it was hilarious when we came upon 12 or 15 cows that had somehow managed to find a break in the fence to escape out onto the middle of the street, causing a major traffic jam. The funniest part was watching them desperately search for a way back into the fields, and running alongside our car.    


Driving with the cows


We stopped for lunch at the Dewar's Whisky Distillery in Aberfeldy. Tommy Dewar was a clever man, and very quotable. We continued along the banks of Loch Tay to Killin. I've been there before, by Postbus. Then, a quick stop at The Green Wellie in Tyndrum, where I've also spent a good deal of time. Laura, Rachel, and I were camped out in the Green Wellie for three hours watching Clue on my laptop, waiting for our bus to come, while it hailed and stormed outside. It was much sunnier there this time. 


Me and my dad on Loch Tay

That afternoon we reached the west coast of Scotland to the seaside town of Oban. The weather was absolutely amazing, so we wandered around the town for a bit. The seagulls there were at least three times the size of seagulls in the states. I had a theory that Scottish seagulls gulp down radioactive IrnBru for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and don't forget at tea. But of course at tea they don't gulp - they sip. We even got to see the Parthinian perched atop the hill. What's a Parthinian, you ask? I'm still not exactly sure, but my Mom was pointing at the Colosseum when she said it, so I'm guessing it's that.     


My mom and me in Oban

Then came the biggest and best surprise of all time. We drove to our B&B, which was located well outside of Oban, practically on a remote island. As we were driving to it, I kept asking: "why are we staying so far away from the town center?" and my Mom just kept shuffling off my questions with: "there were no availabilities in Oban" and examined her map. Then, we pulled into a private driveway, and behind the trees appeared... a castle! I lost it, I just kept saying: "it's a freakin' castle!" We had the Campbell's castle all to ourselves for two nights. Well, except for the lovely couple that lived there who fed us amazing breakfasts, and provided us with wine and cheese and crackers, and lit fires for us. They were like our staff. I had my own room... in a castle! I felt like royalty. But the realtor insisted that "it's just a family home". Sure it is, if your family is a long line of Campbell Earls!  


Barcaldine Castle

That night we ate dinner at a restaurant near the water that had the New York City skyline painted on its walls and played Shania Twain's album Come On Over on a loop. (Random fact: Shania Twain was born Eilleen Regina Richards. She's also Canadian.) So, naturally, I would pair her up with a NYC-themed restaurant on the west-coast of Scotland. After dinner, we went to the Skipinnish Ceilidh House to watch some professionals do some traditional Scottish dancing. But we weren't allowed to just watch and soon we swept out of our chairs to dance along with them. "You don't watch a dance class - you dance a dance class!" (a line from Friends when "Monana" is trying to be more like the woman, Monica, who stole her credit cards).  

May 18, 2009

Make your own breakfast

My parents came back! They've been to Edinburgh before, more than once, so they knew the drill. We only spent a few days in the city doing typical Scottish things: chips and curry and deep-fried Mars Bars at the Clamshell, hot chocolate a la booze at The Elephant House (which is totally what Jo drank while writing Harry Potter there), and catching some bagpipers practicing for the Military Tattoo up at the castle.


Me and my parents grabbing a bite at the Clamshell on The Mile

For some reason it was close to impossible to rent a car in Edinburgh. We've had problems every time.  This time around, Hertz made my parents taxi all the way out to the airport to pick up our rental car. When Erlend, the owner of the B&B where they loved to stay in Edinburgh, heard about this nonsense, he couldn't help but poke fun at the situation. He insisted that since my parents were already running errands all over the city that were part of the services they were paying for, that they should just go ahead and make their own breakfast too.


Driving through the Highlands

My Dad dominated the back roads and single-track roads. This was not his first time behind the wheel (on the right-hand side of a car). He drove like a pro. Our first stop was in Kirriemuir, the birthplace of J. M. Barrie. Everything in the town was named after something Barrie wrote, or one of his characters. My favorite was the Hook's Hotel. They even had a replica of the Peter Pan statue that's in Hyde Park in London.


My dad and I checking out the Peter Pan statue

We actually got to go inside the wee cottage where Jamie grew up with his nine brothers and sisters. There was only room enough for two beds... I'm still trying to figure out where they all slept. Upstairs. there was a bolster for kids to lie across on their bellies.  It was positioned in front of a screen that showed moving pictures of London, complete with a fan that blew your hair back so that you felt as if you were flying over London with Peter. Of course I did it. Unfortunately there was no documented proof because there were no photos allowed inside his house. You'll just have to imagine me squirming on the bolster, swimming my arms and legs through the air as if I were flying. Outside, there was a separate wash house that Barrie used as his own little playhouse where he staged his own plays. He'd charge his friends buttons and sweets for admission. Again, it was so tiny, I have no idea how you could act out a play inside. Barrie must have been a very small child.   


Barrie's childhood home

After lunch at the Thrumb's Hotel in Kirriemuir, we got back in the car and headed north. We passed by Glammis Castle. My parents had already visited and seen inside, so we just drove around for me to see the exterior. The castle's main attraction, the ghost of the Grey Lady, is no longer there anyway. It followed my parents back from Europe three years ago and now resides in our attic in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. My brothers were not pleased...


Glammis Castle

My mother found a ruined church that housed stones with Pictish carvings for us to stop at along our journey. There was a cute little corral with two beautiful horses right next to the ruins. One of them came over to say hello. He was super friendly and kept nuzzling me. The horse was also really sad when we left. He stood at the gate resting his chin on the top rung watching us drive away with his sad horsey eyes.  


My new horse friend

What was next on our itinerary... the world's tallest and longest hedge. See, you'd think I was joking, but in fact I am quite serious. First planted in 1745, the Meikleour Beech Hedge is 580 yards long and, on average, is 100 feet tall. It is located about 10 miles north of Perth on the A93. It basically just looks like a long line of giant trees, but when you stop to think that they are just shrubs - well shrubs on steroids, it kinda blows your mind.


The world's largest hedge

Through the Cairngorm National Park, past its ski resorts, we arrived at Balmoral Castle in just enough time to see inside. It's one of the royal family's favorite summer spots, when they aren't hanging out at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.  


Balmoral Castle

That night we stayed in Aboyne at a Bed & Breakfast called Tigh Na Geald. My parents had stayed here before, and we were welcomed back by the owner Julia with many hugs and smiles. I had a beautiful room all to myself where I was able to get a little bit of writing done. We finished off our first day with a fabulous meal at the Boat Inn in Aboyne. 

My 13th Sense

My parents were here visiting. They were staying at a B&B just down the road from me on Castle Terrace. It's only a short walk back to my flat. But at the end of the night, after our dinner and a visit at their room, my mother was concerned that I was walking back home alone.
 
Kat: "Don't worry, If anyone tries to mess with me, I'll kick their ass."
Mom: "Yeah, that's if you see them coming. What if they sneak up on you from behind?"
Kat: "I have 7 senses you don't even know about."
Mom: "Right, like your sense of irony... sense of humor... sense of propriety..."

There was much laughter.


Annnnnnnnnnd SCENE.  

May 16, 2009

The rain in Spain falls mainly on Las Ramblas

Kaitlin, Annie, and I arrived in Barcelona Thursday evening. After checking into our hostel, we were starving, and went for dinner on Las Ramblas, the main street of Barcelona. It was such a lovely evening that I suggested we sit outside. In the middle of the street there's a wide promenade lined with tables and chairs for each restaurant. The waiter warned us that it was going to rain. I should have listened. About half way through our meal, the skies opened up and dumped rain down on us. Even though we were sitting under an umbrella, the rain was still blowing in and soaking us to the bone. My dinner plate became a swimming pool. The one upside to sitting on the sidewalk, was that we got to see Bono's doppelganger, sitting at the table behind us.


Spanish Bono

Rain on Las Ramblas

My dinner plate - now a pool of rain water

We made a run for it, across the street, and finished our dinner inside the restaurant. Our drenched evening just goes to show that the Professor had it all wrong... the plains have nothing to do with it.  
        
After getting soaked, I wasn't really in the mood to go out. But a bottle of red wine in our hostel room dried me off and changed my mind. We went down to the bar in our hostel, shared a couple litres of beer, met some new friends, and then all went out on the town. Luckily the rain had stopped for the evening - nothing but dry skies for the rest of the night.  


Friends share (me and Annie)

Our first stop was for mojitos at a nearby bar. Kaitlin lost an earring somewhere in the streets of Barcelona on our way to the next bar, an Absinthe Bar, to light a few sugar cubes on fire. There was a sign that said "No Singing" in Spanish, and I'm pretty sure that as soon as we saw that sign we started to sing something. Then we did Captain Planet/Power Rangers moves with our hostel room keys, which looked like wrist watches. Our third stop was a dance club, but we didn't all make it inside. Kaitlin miraculously found her earring on the walk back. Michael wanted a piggy back ride, and even though I said "NO", he jumped on anyway and we both fell straight down in the middle of the street. I woke up the next morning with giant purple bruises on both knee caps. It was also the second time that two people had sex in my hostel room and I slept through it. Again, not complaining.     


Hostel Friends at the Mojito Bar

Friday morning we were all hurting from our escapades the night before. But I forced my bruised knees out of bed to go be a tourist, since we only had one full day in Barcelona. We saw the Plaza Real (square), Palau de la Generalitat (seat of the Catalan government), La Seu Cathedral, and stopped for a lunch of Paella and Sangria by the sea.  


Plaza Real

Annie and me at the docks

Kaitlin and Annie enjoying their Paella


After lunch we spent some time on the beach (Platja de Sant Sebastia)

Annie soaking in the Spanish sun

Then went hunting for all of Gaudi's beautiful, yet bizarre architectural designs.
Here is what we found:
    
Palau de la Musica Catalana

Casa Batlo, Gaudi's House of Bones (Casa dels Ossos) 
or House of the Dragon (Casa del Drac)

Being monsters in front of the monster house

The never-ending construction of Sagrada Familia

We finished off our day at Park Guell. There was a giant hill that we had to climb in order to get to the park. You know it's a bad hill when there are outdoor escalators periodically along the way. When we finally got to the top we collapsed on the famous tiled benches and enjoyed the view of the city and the water.  


The hill


5 or 6 escalators


Relaxing on Gaudi's tiled benches

Park Guell

Beneath the benches was a whole other whimsical world.

At one point, I crouched down to take a picture of Annie and Kaitlin, but this group of guys wandered into the frame.  We waited for them to move along, but they just stayed there. We got passive-aggressively annoyed at them and started to laugh. They took so long to move, that my bruised knees started to hurt and I fell over. We laughed at the situation, and only afterwards realized that the one guy didn't have a leg. Then we felt like terrible people - that poor guy must have thought we were insensitive people laughing at him. Ugh, karma. 
        
We stopped in a few touristy shops on our way home, and in one of them, Kaitlin rounded the corner to walk down the isle and nearly had a heart attack. There was a cat curled up on the shelf. It was adorable. We also saw some sarcastic graffiti, which I thought was hilarious. Then it was round two of Barcelona nightlife. I took it much easier this time, since I had to fly home in the morning. And by "home" I mean back to Edinburgh. And by "morning" I mean that I had to check out of the hostel in the morning but didn't really leave for the airport until 3:00pm. I just sat in the sun by the docks at Port Vell all morning and afternoon. It made for some fantastic people watching.  


An actual cat nap


Port Vell