Monday, March 30, 2009

Scotland: the land of haggis, kilts and stags

I've just discovered my new favorite country abroad.
It's the land of the savage, skirted Mel Gibson, locks, kilts, Harry Potter, whiskey and sheep (which equals cashmere). 

And world famous for haggis, a "meat" made up of sheep's lungs, heart and liver, cooked in a sheep's stomach. Stupendous.

We spent last weekend in Scotland, scoping out Edinburgh and then scanning the countryside on a tour.

Here are the top five reasons why I love Scotland:

1. Kilts. I thought these were only worn by bearded bagpipe players. Wrong. I learned kilts represent family clans and are quite expensive. Our countryside tour guide said he didn't receive his first kilt until he was 21, and that was a big deal. 

At Edinburgh Castle

There's something captivating though about watching grown men strut around town in plaid skirts with their hairy legs poking out.

2. Countryside tour. We went on a nine-hour tour led by Greg, a Scot with a lip ring and almost indiscernible accent, who told bad jokes involving "baby, mommy and daddy balloon." Don't ask.
Posing in front of Lock Lomond

Overlooking the countryside from the William Wallace monument

More pretty countryside

Greg drove us through the rambling heathers of the Scottish highlands in a dinky blue bus. Along the way, he pointed out important landmarks, like the Monty Python castle, where 700 women's bodies were found in a drained moat outside Edinburgh castle (they were supposed witches), a 16-year-old cow (pronounced "airy coo") named Hamish who has become a cultural attraction and may or may not have given someone on our tour Mad Cow Disease, and the building were his fellow tour guide lost his virginity. Highly informative.

Monty Python castle

Princes Garden, outside Edinburgh Castle, where the bodies were found

The famous 16-year-old Hamish

Kid who maybe received Mad Cow Disease from Hamish

3. Tea and scones. I have finally come around to this English tradition. Especially when you add raspberry jam. Yum. We tried some at the Elephant Cafe, where J.K. Rowling scribbled down the beginning of Harry Potter on napkins. 

We were hoping to see tons of Harry Potter paraphernalia, and instead found kid illustrations of elephants, shot down elephants, and elephant chairs. Bogus. What was I saying about scones again?

The coffee shop where J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter

4. Stag Night. We ran into two groups of "stags" or bachelor parties at the bar The Three Sisters while watching the Scotland v. Holland futbol match. The first bachelor we met was dressed in a Ken Barbie, neon pink spandex outfit, complete with pink tights and a belly shirt. Every time you said "stag" he had to do 10 pushups, which he did with tissues under his hands for cleanliness.

Posing with Bachelor No. 1

Full body shot

Just say "stag" and he'll do pushups-with tissues of course

The second group of stags were English 40-year-olds dressed as Sherlock Holmes (who by the way, was created in Edinburgh). They were more rambunctious, asking if we wanted to play a game where they could make our knockers move without touching them. Hmm...not remembering by I love stag night.

Bachelor No. 2

Jamie talking to the Sherlock Holmes clan

5. Haggis. Ok, not really. But I did try it.

My roommate about to try haggis

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