Spent the weekend in Scotland and it was beautiful! It seems like Scottish culture is a hybrid of the Irish and British cultures. I saw a lot of plaid, a bagpiper, and a few kilts. I like their accents, the pronounce “if” as “ef” and the “d” in “Wednesday”. We saw Edinburgh Castle, the National Gallery (where I saw a number of Degas, Monet, and Van Gough paintings), St Giles Cathedral, the Writers’ Museum (focusing on Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson – author of Treasure Island), Museum of Scotland – focusing on Scotland’s history, the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse (where Mary Queen of Scots lived and the official estate of the Queen in Scotland, as well as Scottish Parliament. Scottish Parliament was very interesting. It was built in 1998 by Enric Miralles, a Spanish architect. It is a very modern building that is created to look like it comes out of the earth. It uses a lot of organic shapes as well as woods and stones native to Scotland. I really like the committee rooms because each one is unique. One had the table in an egg-shape rather than a traditional circle or rectangle. It was slightly sunken in the ground and had a grass roof, so there were great views of the landscape. Each of the MSPs has an office with a “contemplative space”, which is a uniquely shaped window seat for the MSP to reflect on the big decisions they make. The Debating Chamber has seating in a semi-circle. There is an upper area with seats for the public to come and watch the debates. British Parliament is situated so that the Presiding Officer is two sword-lengths away from the MSPs because of the verbal duels that takes place in the space. Scottish Parliament’s seats are situated farther than two sword-lengths to emphasize a less confrontational approach. It seems like Scottish Parliament is very focused on involvement from the people and encouraging young people to visit and learn, as they are the future of the country. Another interesting fact is that the Queensberry House, home of the second Duke of Queensberry has been refurbished and built into the parliament. It is an interesting combination of the old and new, traditional and modern. One night we went to a pub called Jekyll and Hyde. It had curio cabinets and a the bathroom had a secret door built into a bookshelf. The cocktails were named after the seven deadly sins (I had gluttony which had lemonade and something else delicious in it). The shooters were named after the virtues. They also had shots that were in vials. Apparently they tasted like candy. It was a very cool atmosphere. It was a very busy trip. Four friends and I went straight to Pizza Hut right after the four-hour train ride. In the UK, Pizza Hut is classy. It’s a sit down place with a hostess, menus, silverware and delicious desserts. There was about a fifteen minute wait and the place was crowded, so we waited outside. A man outside the restaurant saw that we had luggage and struck up a conversation with us about studying abroad and traveling. It sounded like he had studied abroad and loved traveling, especially in Rome. When our table was ready, we went inside and had pizza, drinks, and dessert. When we went to pay the bill, the waitress told us our tab had been taken care of (we then realized why she had kept asking if we wanted anything else). When we asked who had paid, the waitress said the buyer wanted to remain anonymous, so we wrote a note thanking them. As it turns out, the guy who we met outside was in the corner of the restaurant with his family and had paid for our dinner. When we realized this, we thanked him profusely. It was such a nice treat and really made my day. When I have enough money, I intend to pay it forward. Just when I thought people in Scotland seemed more friendly, a Brit proved me wrong.

Originally 2/24/08