Last Sunday, several hours away from unexpectedly booking a one-way ticket to London, was one of those days when I was inexplicably in a Scottish mood. That usually consists of going through my drawers in search of the tartan wool scarf I purchased during my first trip to Edinburgh and listening to the Scottish Bagpipes Highland Pipes on Spotify on my way to work, thinking, “Scotland is just so great, why are bagpipes not ubiquitous?” Actually, that morning I was in the mood for American fall. After finding some imported canned pumpkin and baking pumpkin baked oatmeal, my flat smelled very much like American fall and I was thinking, “American fall is just so great, why do European countries not care about pumpkins and fall as much as we do in America?” And then, fifteen minutes later, I was in a Scottish mood. So I decided to fly out of Scotland and spend the latter part of my week venturing through the north of England and Scotland.
After Dent, I went up to Carlisle for the sole reason of briefly seeing Hadrian’s Wall. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a proper hike, but I dressed the part anyway, complete with my travel backpack (simply because I nowhere to store my luggage in Carlisle.) I hiked about twenty minutes from the city center, along the river Eden, until I was just a bridge crossing away from the wall. Except the bridge was out and the closest crossing was a twelve mile-hike away, which I didn’t have time for since I needed to catch the train to Glasgow. Foiled! (Guess who is starting fencing next week!?)
I still went to the Tullie House Museum, which discusses Roman history in the region and had artifacts from Hadrian’s Wall so it wasn’t a wasted stopover. Even better, there was a “How to Train Your Dragon” theme going on throughout the exhibit! Like London, Carlisle must have known I was coming. The lady working was very helpful and tried to figure out a city bus route that I could take to at least see the wall, which didn’t end up working out, but I appreciated her effort.
The annual Carlisle Pageant (what Americans would call a festival or carnival) was on and my visit coincided with the International Market so I spent the rest of my visit exploring that. The most puzzling thing started to happen: every single time I said something, people started looking at me as if I was speaking Icelandic instead of English. I do sometimes accidentally speak the wrong language, so I took a moment to make sure I wasn’t actually speaking Icelandic. I wasn’t, but everyone still just looked at me blankly. I stopped at a café to charge my phone and it took three workers and me actually showing them my phone charger for them to understand that I was asking if there was a wall plug. They said, “Sorry, we can’t understand your accent.” I was so amused by that, since I’ve never really had that happen before.
This accent confusion continued in Glasgow. I had been warned that Glasgow accents were hard to understand, but I usually consider myself good at understanding other accents. Most of the time, I could understand them, but there were a few times when neither one of us could understand the other, despite us both being native English-speakers speaking English! Until I reached the Edinburgh airport when I was about to fly back to Iceland, I did not encounter another American, for 60 hours in an English-speaking country! I was on a train in Glasgow, talking with the elderly woman across the seat from me. She said, “Are you really American!?” She seemed very surprised. I guess in some parts of Scotland, American sightings are rarer than Loch Ness Monster sightings. Who would have thought!?
A couple of times in both London and Glasgow people asked where I was from and I said, “Reykjavik” and they said, “Oh, you’re Icelandic? With your accent, I would have thought you were…Australian.” I have been mistaken for everything from Canadian to French to Czech, but never before Australian and then it happened twice in a couple of days! When in Dent, heard on the radio something about “pretending to be Icelandic,” and I remarked to my friend that just a day prior I too pretended to be Icelandic. Someone said, “Oh, but you speak English.” I said, “Yes, Icelanders have to learn English in schools.” Then he asked me how to say “thank you” in Icelandic, I said, “Takk fyrir.” And then he asked me to just say something else in Icelandic so I said, “Eg tala ekki islensku,” which if he understood, would mean that I am not actually Icelandic at all!
Speaking of Icelandic, I was on the bus in Reykjavik recently when a few German-speaking tourists asked me if I spoke English. I thought it was funny since I ONLY speak English (fluently at least). They asked all these follow-up questions about the culture festival that was going on and I don’t think they ever suspected that I wasn’t actually Icelandic.
I might like Glasgow better than Edinburgh. Glasgow has all the same offerings that make Edinburgh so incredible: the history, the stone buildings, and the distinctly Scottish culture, but with far less tourists. I visited the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and aside from that, mostly just explored the area, watched seven consecutive episodes of Reign (when in Scotland!), and got engaged to the attractive Scot working at my hotel reception (okay kidding, but he was the only Glasgow resident who actually understood my accent!)
I left Glasgow Sunday morning, taking an Uber to the bus station, a bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh, a flight in to Reykjavik, a bus to the Reykjavik bus terminal, and then a friend took me back to my flat, with a full three hours to spare before I started work for the day!
You might recall that I took a spontaneous trip to Italy in February and went on a Bus2Alps trip between Rome and Venice. When I was standing in the queue to board the plane back from Rome, Bus2Alps was hosting a first come, first served 50% discount. I was on such an adrenaline high from the trip and loved Italy so much that I spontaneously bought a couple of discount trips for April. Now April is here and I'm reporting from Rome! (Well, not for much longer because I'm about to get on a fifteen-hour night bus to Croatia). (No, I didn't know it was a fifteen hour trip when I signed up!)
I arrived in Rome about the same time as my first trip and am even staying in the same hostel. When I walked into the hostel the front desk worker immediately said, "I know you from somewhere. Where do I know you from?" From staying the in hostel almost exactly two months ago! I did some meandering today and accidentally wandered to some of the piazzas and roman ruins that I visited last time. It has all felt a bit surreal!
I was only in Rome for about a day and a half the first trip, but it feels like I was there longer. I feel like I can remember every single detail of that trip! I left the hostel today and was instantly surprised at how many more tourists there are this time of year. There are a lot more large tour groups and large clusters of tourists from all over. It also seems like there is an increase in the number of Italians here as well. The number of silly touristy souvenir stands has also increased, as has the amount of annoying hagglers trying to sell selfie sticks and roses. Interestingly, I seem to blend in more whenever there are large groups of obvious tourists in the city. The weather is lovely and warm right now and it is nice to see the city so active, but there was definitely a very different sort of vibe with its own charm when I visited in the off-season.
In November, I visited Edinburgh and the Scottish highlands with ISA, my study abroad group. I just went on a return trip to Edinburgh with two of my flat mates. Scotland was one of my favourite trips from last semester so I wondered if I would like it as much the second time. We stayed in an entirely different part of the city which gave it a new view. I love all of the cobblestone in the city!
This time, we got to travel First Class for free (thanks Emily and Emily's mom!) I think train travel is my favourite mode of transit and First Class (and the lounge at the station) was definitely fun!
I wanted to see a new side of the city so I took a half hour bus ride from the city to Portobello Beach. It was windy and rainy, but still pretty. The Beach House café had a lovely location and was a nice place to go for tea.
A highlight from the beach visit was meeting a proper Scottish cat named Otis and his pet human. His pet human said that all the dogs are afraid of him and that he just hangs out in the community garden.
In November, I heard about a pub that was a bit hidden with a bookshelf for the entrance. After some research (I kept referring to it as "the Narnia pub," but Google didn't understand what I meant), we discovered that it was a proper speakeasy, disguised as Panda and Sons Barbershop. I walked right past a couple of times without even noticing.
My flat mates had heard of another speakeasy-esque place called Bramble, which was underneath a dry cleaners and by a bunch of flats. It was downstairs and had only a small plaque to say its name. It was fun to discover a secret side to Edinburgh!
We also spent some time at the Edinburgh Zoo, which was full of adorable animals like penguins and a bear cat (which looked exactly how it sounds!)
As exciting as it is to travel to new cities, re-visiting a place with different people (or without people) at a different time a year makes for some good adventures as well! I'll check in next from Croatia!
Hi, I’m Crystal! I love to travel and am currently a graduate student in Scotland. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 27 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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