Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fa Sol La-ing in Glasgow!

We've been in Glasgow the past few days for a Shape Note singing! This was, in a way, the centerpoint of the family trip. Mother gave a 'beginner's singing school' on Friday night. 

There are actually several groups all across the UK that sing the Shape Note traditions, and, just like in the US, it's a friendly, enthusiastic community. But there were people from places like Germany, the Netherlands, North America (4 or six states and Canada), and Poland as well! 

On Saturday, there was a full-day Sacred Harp singing at Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church. 

I haven't really been to many singings in the States, so I don't have a whole lot to compare this experience to. But it was fabulous to be surrounded by so many people who were passionate about this (or at least intrigued and checking it out!). It was great to join in, even though I don't know these songs very well. 

Just as in the States, everyone sang with lots of gusto! Although there were much taller vowels on the whole, since most of the people were Scottish/British. And some delicious rolled Rs. :)

The singers were from all sorts of backgrounds, too. 

On Sunday there was a two hour guided singing from the Shenandoah Harmony, led by Liz Meitzler. Sunday's session was actually on the University of Glasgow campus. We got to see the following sights on our walk there:

Mother with Ewan Paterson, one of the coordinators of the Singing. 

In other fun news: we went to see Glasgow's answer to Shakespeare in the Park, called Bard in the Botanics. Like the name implies, it's Shakespeare in the Botanical Gardens. We saw a production of Much Ado About Nothing. It started raining during the intermission, but it wasn't so heavy that they had to cancel the show! What was fun about this production (which was set in the present day) is that Lady Beatrice became Lord Bertram! But don't worry, you actresses out there; the loss of one delicious lady's role was replaced by making Dogberrry a girl.

When it started to rain, Mamama picked up her stool and took shelter under a tree like the fairy creature she is.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How Elaine was probably the Oldest person to hike up to the Wallace Monument

Well, the family's been here for a week.
We started out in Edinburgh for several days, and then went to Stirling. We've been to: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, the National Gallery, the National Museum, Holyrood Park, Stirling Castle, Old Town Stirling, and the Wallace Monument, among many other places.

I've got to send major props to the Mamama. Scotland is hilly. You don't walk around a city and find a flat surface. Often, it manages to be mostly uphill, no matter which way you go. And there's a lot of walking here. Additionally, the castles and monuments sometimes require quite a bit of a hike to get to them. It isn't easy for anyone. Mamama, at 85, and just recovered from a fractured pelvis, has hung in with us. 
Of course, she claims that she's in no shape at all, but it's really funny to watch her speed on by those tour groups of younger retirees...

Basically, I want to be her when I grow up. But don't we all?

Edinburgh Castle

HRG and the Mamama at Edinburgh Castle

Caught in the act

At the National Gallery of Scotland

Outside Holyrood House, Edinburgh
 We returned to Stirling Castle, which was probably our favorite castle from the 2008 trip. The exhibitions at the castle had been even further improved since our last visit.

Ian at Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

View of the Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle

The hike up to the Wallace Monument was steep and tricky for anyone. Once we made it there, we climbed the 250ish steps up to the top of the Monument, stopping at various exhibitions conveniently placed every 70 steps or so. 

Ian and JGale at the top of the Wallace Monument

View from the top of the Wallace Monument

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mini Coffee Tour of Edinburgh City Centre.

Travel tip: invest in lacy knickers. Because they'll air-dry on your windowsill much, much faster than those darn cotton panties.

After researching the best coffee shops for studying via websites like Yelp and various student forums, I dedicated my afternoon to tucking in with a nice cup of tea and some homework.

Over the course of about six hours, I hit up four coffee shops.

Of course, over the past two and a half days, I think the grand total of coffee shops has come to 11. But that includes hippity-hopping in and out really fast for a flat white and a banana on the go, and two of the places were Starbuckses, so they only kind of count. I don’t remember the names of most of the coffee shops, but I remember the four I visited this afternoon!

One of the really cool things about the UK is its dedication to Fair Trade goods, especially coffee, tea, and chocolate. I can't tell you how many places I've been to that make a point to advertise their Fair Trade certified coffee. Which is A-okay by me.

So here’s the low-down:

Brew Lab: This was the first place I visited, and for studying purposes, definitely the best. I spent nearly three hours here, and the only reason I left was because I was personally feeling antsy and couldn’t focus anymore. I was one of many students who were crashing for hours on end, and nobody there seemed to mind. There were also a TON of electrical outlets. The food and drinks were good, too!

The Black Medicine Coffee Co.: I literally walked down to the corner and across the street from Brew Lab to get here. The Earl Grey tea was fabulous here, and the wifi was free, but I couldn’t find any outlets. Plus, it was a smaller floorplan, so I felt more intrusive staying here for a long time.

Kilimanjaro Coffee: This coffee shop was just down the street from the Black Medicine Coffee Co. I was able to get a seat by the window, which was nice, but again I couldn’t find any outlets. I didn't stay here for very long (really I think after three hours at one place, I wouldn't be able to crash anywhere else for more than 45 minutes), but I think the people here would have been cool with it if I had.

Elephant House: I ended my tour at the place which touts itself as “the birthplace of Harry Potter.” I actually got a proper dinner here. You have to wait to be seated, probably because of the popularity level. The food was good, the service was fine, and the "Relaxer" (a latte with decaf espresso) was some of the best coffee I've had, but the wifi was not free. Boo. There were electrical outlets, though. The atmosphere was also one of the best.
At the Elephant House, where JK Rowling started writing the Harry Potter books. Ooooooooh

All of these places had good service, yummy eats and drinks, and were all fairly close to each other. All had been recommended somewhere on the internet. I also felt very safe at all these places. I traded computer watching with the girl sitting near me at Brew Lab as we each had to run to the loo/order more tea, and at Elephant House I simply left my backpack at my table. Both times, my stuff was totally fine. Brew Lab was definitely my favorite, but you couldn’t really go wrong with any of them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Day at St. Andrews

[Also, happy birthday, Rembrandt!]
I'm currently in Edinburgh, where I'm going to spend a few days getting to know the city before the rest of my family joins (!!!hooray!!!), but the last few days have been a fun adventure!

After the last days on Skye, which included a barbecue, the final ceilidh (in which I had some awesome partners-- American boys, you better learn to dance fast), and that bittersweet and beautiful ferry ride back to the mainland, I went to visit my friend Katherine in St. Andrews. 

My Gaelic is still definitely beginner, but I've been bit by the bug. I hope I can make it work out to start going back to Sabhal Mor Ostaig regularly, to learn more of this language and this culture.
Gaelic 1 performs! We sang "A Ribhinn Og"
(photo credit: Karol Coleman)

The Gaelic Song class.
(photo credit: Karol Coleman)
The trip first consisted of a steam train ride from Mallaig to Fort William on the "Jacobite", run by the West Coast Railway Line, who provided the steam trains used in the Harry Potter films. 

Sneaky footage on the train! 

The Glenfinnan Viaduct. If this bridge (which our train went over about a minute after this picture was taken) looks familiar, it's probably because you saw it in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone! 
I then took regular trains and a bus and made my way to St. Andrews, where my friend Katherine is at university. I met Katherine last summer at the Guildhall course, and it was sooooo nice to see her again! 
Her flatmate, Karolina, also had three of her friends visiting from Poland: Karolina, Karolina, and Natalia.

St. Andrews isn't simply a golfing destination. It's a calm but active university town, home to one of the best universities in the UK. The ancient cathedral and the castle are beautiful remnants of a time gone by, and the beach is stunning.
 We had a great visit, munching on fish and chips, exploring the nooks and crannies of the university that only the students know about, having a bonfire on the beach, seeing the sites, and learning about the different and fun St. Andrews University traditions.

In front of St. Andrews Cathedral
L to R: Karolina, Natalia, me, Karolina, Katherine

On the beach! 

Pier walk
The Cathedral

Katherine, myself, Karolina

The initials of Patrick Henry, placed here to commemorate the martyr. Supposedly, if you step on the stones you'll fail all your exams, so during the academic term St. Andrews students will walk around or jump over it! 

Cool trivia: St. Andrews doesn't have an apostrophe in its name because the name of the town predates the apostrophe, which came into use in the 16th century.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tha mo cheann na bhrochan! (My head is in its porridge!)

Feasgar math!
Tha beagan Gaidhlig agam!
'S e la breagha a th'ann an-diugh ann sa Eile an Sgitheanach (an t-Eilean a'cheo).
Is mise Talaidh.
Chan eil mi a Alba, ach 's toil leam Alba! 'S e Ameireaganach a th'annam. Tha mi a Arkansas, ach tha mi a ' fuireach ann am Indiana.
Tha mi aon aig fhichead bliadhna a dh'aois. 'S e oileanach a th'annam. Tha mi ag obair annan oifis annan oilthigh.
Tha aon piuthar agam. 'S e Ian an t-ainm a th'oirre. Tha i ban.
Diluain, tha m a'dol a Dun Eideann.
Tha mi deiseil.

Good afternoon!
I have a little Gaelic!
It is nice today on the Isle of Skye (The Misty Island).
My name is Talley. I am not from Scotland, but I like Scotland! I am American. I am from Arkansas, but I'm living in Indiana.
I am twenty-one years old. I am a student at a university. I work in an office in a university.
I have a sister. Her name is Ian. She is blonde[fair].
Monday, I am going to Edinburgh.
I am done.

That was my very rough attempt at some Gaelic. Oh, note that I left out all the accent markings, too... This course is great! I'm not that good at Gaelic, but I've only been studying it for four days now, and I enjoy it anyway. :) I mean, how can you not when this is your daily view:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Advice from the Queen of Awkward: How to be less awkward in nifty artisan shops

I think we've all probably been there:

That neato little shop where you get to meet and talk to the owner, who also happens to be the artist selling his or her work. You've had a great conversation, you've genuinely spent five minutes or so inspecting the pottery, wool sweaters, photography, or whatever else is on display. And then that horrible moment when you have to leave. You flash a slightly sheepish grin at the shop owner, mumble out an even more sheepish, "Great work... thanks," and duck out.
If you're lucky, sometimes you can manage your exit under cover of some other customers who have come in. 
But often this is not the case. 

It's not that you don't greatly admire (or at least appreciate) the artwork (or boutique goods) for sale; it's simply that the goods for sale fall into one or more of the following categories:
1) they're too expensive
2) you can't fit anything else in your suitcase
3) it's just really not your thing after all
4) you remember your family member or best friend can do equally good work. That you get to enjoy for free.

Now, you should never, ever feel pressured to buy something from somebody out of guilt. Still, you want to be polite.

The past few days, I've been in situations (aka small Scottish villages) where one of the few ways to occupy my time was to go browse in the shops. I figured out an easy way to save face. Probably many of you all know about it already, but I thought I'd share anyway.

DUH. It's to ask for a business card. 

I don't know why this never dawned on me before, but it's allowed me to express my interest in the artist's work without having to actually buy anything. 
It's better than simply asking, "do you have a website?" 
In the cases where I used it, I was actually interested in the work for sale. It just happened to fall into both categories 1 and 2 from above. But even if I hadn't been interested in maybe eventually someday ordering something from these sellers, it still was a more polite way out than simply leaving the shop. 

Also, below are pictures from my walks around the Clan Donald grounds today! I spent about 4 or 5 hours meandering about, visiting the Museum of the Isles (which is on the property), and even visiting a few shops (one of which I employed the business card trick).

This castle was actually built in the 19th century (I think), but is already a ruin.

I found this view while out running last year. This year, I found it again, just coming from the other direction!