There’s WHAT in Haggis?!
February 8-10th: To Edinburgh we go!
One of the things I was really interested in seeing here was the world of British sports. I’d say the most popular is football (our soccer) but right up there with it is RUGBY. I really wanted to watch it, so a friend of mine invited a few of us to a game and was nice enough to explain it to us (and answer all my dumb questions). Think of it like American football. Now subtract the pads, helmets, and pretty much every other kind of protective gear – there’s rugby. Needless to say, I enjoy watching it but spend most of the time flinching.
What’s great about rugby, though, is that it’s pretty easy to follow once you’ve gotten the basics down. Basically, the goal of each team is to pass the ball down the field past a specific line to score a try (close to what we’d think of as a touchdown). Watching it can be a bit of a struggle because it can get a bit brutal. Picture a small circle of young boys given a ball. Tell them there is a prize for whoever gets it and watch them tackle, grab, and pull each other to the ground to get hold of it. That’s a pretty close comparison to rugby…okay, well at least in my head.
It really is a great game though – especially since (unlike American football which stops every 30 seconds), it’s pretty fast and has limited time-outs. Meaning a 120 minute game is finished in 120 minutes. And when you’re sitting outside in the freezing cold, this makes all the difference.
So, when our friend invited us to watch a game in Scotland, I was immediately in. We hopped on a train Friday morning and headed north for Edinburgh – just about a 6-hour train ride from Canterbury. This was my first train ride from Canterbury, and it was so nice. I could be left on a train all day and be perfectly happy – it’s so nice to just relax and have someone else drive. The view is the best part – lots of rolling hills, landscape, and sheep (of course).
DAY 1: We arrived in Edinburgh at about 6pm on Friday, February 8th, and heard a bagpipe playing as soon as we walked out of the train station. Sure enough, a gentleman wearing a traditional Scottish outfit (you know, plaid kilt, white knee socks, the usual) was just playing it in the street. Casual. That was just too perfect – one of those instances where something is EXACTLY like how you pictured it. When I first began looking into study abroad programs, several people recommended Scotland, but I never really considered it. I realize now why so many people love it. It’s a really unique place in that it has historical buildings to see (like the Edinburgh castle where the royal family used to live), but they are all pretty close together so you don’t have to waste time getting from place to place. Right next to the monuments are city shops, pubs, the usual. It’s a perfect balance because Edinburgh is big enough to have plenty to do, but doesn’t really have the hustly-bustly vibe of most big cities. We did some touristy site seeing and picture taking per usual and then called it an early night. We were lucky enough to stay with some friends and it was so nice to be in a house again!
Every year, the UK/Europe host a huge rugby tournament called the Six Nations. Basically, instead of getting “knocked out” like how our Super Bowl works, teams play a number of games and the one that wins the most by the end of it takes home the glory.
The game itself was really fun – basically like a sporting event in the States, but one thing that I especially loved was that multiple times during the game, the entire crowd broke out in Scotland’s national anthem. It was just really neat – something you don’t see at sporting events in the States. Also, random but there’s no such thing as vendors there – aka no one walking up and down in the stands selling cotton candy/popcorn/etc. It’s a tiny thing but I thought that was funny.
I won’t get into any sports mumbo-jumbo (mostly because I don’t know any haha), but after a really close game, Scotland ended up winning and everyone was FREAKING OUT with excitement – we found out later that Scotland hadn’t played that well in about 10 years (haha). Instead of going home after the game, the crowd moved to pubs nearby, and we (when in Scotland…) had to follow. Something that I’ve noticed is that they like to sing in pubs a lot in the UK – Scotland was no different.
After stopping at our hosts’ house to change and warm up a bit, we hit the city to continue the celebration with the Scots at a local pub/bar/dance extravaganza called The Three Broomsticks. It was so huge! What really made Scotland so great was the people – everyone we met there had a very friendly, easygoing demeanor. It happened multiple times that a Scot would come up to us, have a dance, and it was like we were great friends. I loved it.
DAY 3: The next day we headed home – but not before doing a little shopping. My absolute favorite place in the UK is this store called Primark. Basically, just picture the style and prices of Forever 21. Add bright lights and four floors and you’ve got Primark. Heaven.
That’s all for our trip to Scotland, but I can say that I would recommend it to anyone coming to the UK. It’s a nice 2-3 day trip to take, and it’s really underrated. I had such a good time there, but it was nice to come back to Canterbury – it’s weird to now refer to Canterbury as “home”.
*Fun Fact about Scotland: Burns’s Night on January 25th of every year is a day of celebration for the life of Scottish poet, Robert Burns. To celebrate, a traditional Scottish meal of haggis is eaten. It basically looks like ground beef, but instead is a mix of sheep heart, lung, liver, with some onions and other things thrown in. It’s wrapped up in an intestine so I’m not going to put a picture of it. I wanted to try it, but didn’t have a chance to…darn. But now you’ve lost your appetite, you can add that to the list of questions you’ll get right if you’re ever on Jeopardy. You’re welcome.