goodness

Omnomnom

I was starving after shinkendo class last week, and popped over to the bakery across the street (Cafe Dulce I think) to see if they had anything to munch on while I walked to my car.

CHICKEN.  CURRY.  BUN.

It’s the white, fluffy kind of bun, and it’s full of chicken curry.  WTF have I been doing with my life up to this point?!  I need to learn how to make these.

Bonus:  They come in a hilarious little paper wrapper/pocket if you tell the cashier you want to eat them right now because they’re so damn good.

she's almost as excited as I am

she’s almost as excited as I am

I’m a huge fan on tonkatsu with curry, especially at Misasa in Mitsuwa on the Westside.  So good.  Santouka used to be my favorite ramen place, but I think that has shifted to places with richer broth, and less dough-y noodles (and better menma), although their chashu remains some of the best out there (if a little fatty).

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family, goodness, life, manfolk

Hawai’i: Day five

this year is the 12th.  I also spoke at the 5th.

this year is the 12th. I also spoke at the 5th.

Today was the first day of the Hawai’i International Conference, where I’ll be speaking soon, and which was my impetus for coming over here at all.  Boyfriend and I had breakfast (the rest of the eggs with tobasco and the last of the toast with honey), then drove across the island to the hotel where the conference is being held in Waikiki.  I attended a couple of talks: the first was on the sexual attitudes of university students (but turned out to be about Filipino students in the Philippines, and not pertinent to my interests), and the second was about race-based marketing (but was really just a presentation about a case study that proved the obvious: black people are more likely to pay attention to advertising aimed toward black people).  I checked out a poster session after that which was surprisingly poorly attended, but had some interesting stuff about the relationships between shapes and language with young children, and the relationship between gangs and religiosity (no correlation, even though being religious should keep one from becoming violent, right?).

/drool

/drool

Boyfriend was super hungry after that (he hung out by the hotel pool while I was busy), and found an amazing udon place called Marukame Udon not half a mile away that makes its noodles fresh (and in full view of their customers).  The line was long but moved super quickly.  You get to watch them make the noodles, then they put them in a bowl with the broth you order (hot or cold), then you get to choose whatever tempura you want and oh my fucking god they all look amazing.  I wanted them all.  Boyfriend got a cold ontama udon with one shrimp tempura, and I got curry udon with pumpkin tempura (of course).  Delicious.

boyfriend sang the theme for Jurassic Park as I drove

boyfriend sang the theme for Jurassic Park as I drove

We didn’t have time to go to the zoo like we wanted to afterward, so we headed back home and got caught in some Los Angeles-grade freeway traffic.  So brutal.  We jumped off and took streets to the 61 to get home, which took us through a really beautiful stretch of land that looked mysterious and awesome with all the mist hanging around the tops of the mountains.  We came out of a tunnel to see some deep green in low-hanging clouds.  Just gorgeous.

pictured: not a centipede

pictured: not a centipede

We took a short swim in the ocean for a bit, took a shower, dressed and were about to leave when we noticed we had a visitor on the window: a baby gecko.  I explained to Boyfriend the first time we spotted a baby gecko in the cottage that they’re good to have in the house because they eat bugs.  The second gecko we saw in the cottage, however, was a full-sized gecko, which was only a problem because the previous day, during a walk with Nancy and Bella, we came upon a dead centipede.  Centipedes are disgusting and horrifying and they fucking bite, so no thank you.  Naturally, I mistook the harmless gecko scuttling across the wall of the kitchen for a centipede and blurted out “OH SHIT!  OH SHIT!  OH SHIT!” before realizing my mistake.  Boyfriend almost had a heart attack because, as he put it, “You never freak out about anything, so when you said that I thought there must be a dead guy hanging by the ceiling in the kitchen or something.”  Sorry, Boyfriend.

Anyway, we headed over to the house to say goodbye to whomever was over there, chatted with uncle Bobby for a while (and gave Bella some love since she had been bitten on the snout by some fucking Labrador earlier today) before heading back across the island to Aiea to eat dinner at a sushi place called Kuru Kuru Sushi.  It was Boyfriend’s and my first time at a sushi place with a rotating conveyor belt, and it was so tasty.  I expect all conveyor belt sushi to be a little gross, but this one did not disappoint.  It was recommended by my cousin when Sister came out here with her new boyfriend last year.

Boyfriend has had a runny nose all day long, so we got him some Benadryl.  I sang him a song in the car that made him laugh: Gonna go get some yummy drugs for my boyfriend… Yummy yummy yum, drugs drugs drugs.

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family, goodness, life, manfolk, uncategorized

Hawai’i: Day two

Nancy is the best, super smart and fun

Nancy is the best, super smart and fun

We woke up today around 8am to the sound of a dog racing around upstairs.  Once the confusion faded, I padded upstairs to find Bella waiting for me; she barked just before I came into view, and gave me an excellent good-morning freak out.  Turns out Bobby had intentionally let her into the cottage, knowing she wouldn’t go downstairs (where the bedrooms are), and figured that would be a good way to wake us up.  Bobby is nothing if not a trouble-maker, so this surprised no one (although he did receive a gentle reprimand from Nancy, bless her heart).

Boyfriend and I went with him and Bella on a walk down to the beach.  His emphysema is slightly better, but he had to stop at the top of the driveway on our way out to catch his breath before we went on, and he kept our pace a bit slow.  It’s so nice to see him and Nancy.  I’m looking forward to seeing loads of them throughout the trip.

Once we got back from the walk, Nancy said, “We have to hurry if we want to get to the farmer’s market!”  We headed out and meandered around the stalls set up in the Lanikai Elementary School parking lot.  The very first stall we encountered had a couple dozen types of salt, which made Boyfriends eyes bug out of his head because I just got him a book called Salted so he’s kind of obsessed with salt right now.  We ended up getting two kinds: Boyfriend wants to use the red one for steak when we get back, and the spicy black one for seafood (I’m thinking salmon).  I got a Belgian waffle with pumpkin spice paste and whipped cream and cinnamon, so fucking good.  Boyfriend got a large breakfast burrito, along with Bobby and Nancy, and we all sat down next to the spot where the musicians had set up (bunch a’ hippies).

salts from Salty Wahine

salts from Salty Wahine

We headed home, and Nancy recommended Waimanalo for a beachy place to relax, and a little restaurant just down the road from the beach, called Home Sweet Waimanalo, for lunch.  The beach was, of course, beautiful.  On the way we saw four wild pigs!  They were black and hairy, and looked big enough to eat, so I pulled over with every intention of grabbing one and stashing it in the car.  Boyfriend thought they were too cute to eat (he’s probably right).  They all ran into the underbrush once we pulled over, and came back out as we left (clever bastards).

The beach wasn’t too crowded, and we had fun getting smashed by waves for a while, then laid out and dried off.  We got fish tacos and a beet salad with hibiscus mint iced tea for lunch, all delicious.  I texted Bobby and Nancy to let them know we were on our way back, and they said not to hurry since Bobby had to deliver some paperwork or some such.  So we stopped by a little Hawai’ian ice cream shop with every intention of getting the Kona coffee flavor, but I had to try their azuki bean ice cream and omfg it was amazing.  It might be some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.  Usually I get accustomed to the flavor and get a little tired of it by the end of the cone, but this one was amazing.

azuki bean ice cream, yum!

azuki bean ice cream, yum!

Then we stopped in a shop next door and I FINALLY found the type of li hing mui-covered stuff I’ve been looking for going on seven or so years now: turns out it was some kind of ginger (I don’t like ginger, I wonder if my taste has changed that much since I had it last).  I haven’t broken the bag open yet for fear that it might actually be awful, and not as good as I remember it (how could it be, though?).  Tomorrow I’ll break into it and we’ll see.

The four of us grabbed dinner at some golf club (totally overpriced, and the waitress was annoying and flirted with Bobby the whole damn time), but the conversation was good.  Boyfriend says he enjoyed watching Nancy and I hating the waitress while Bobby grinned and enjoyed the attention.

We chatted earlier with Nancy about the Danish TV shows she’s been watching on Netflix, and we mentioned Sherlock, the series from the BBC.  When we came back home we all settled in and watched the first episode, which they enjoyed very much.  Bella came in midway through and wanted to play, and made it halfway onto my lap before getting shut down by her folks.  I find her enthusiasm infectious.  It’s gonna be tough to train my future dog properly if all I’ll want to do is play with it and watch it be hilarious.  Bella rolled around on the ground for a while today while Boyfriend and I were on our laptops at the house, waiting to put more time on the roast in the oven.  She looked like she was having an awesome time chewing on some toy and thrashing around, then sprinting back and forth for no reason.  I wish I was a golden retriever sometimes.  This afternoon was one of those times.

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I can has goat?

Romania is a beautiful country with some amazing castles

Romania is gorgeous, and has some amazing castles

Boyfriend is coming back from working abroad tomorrow, hooray!  He went to London, then to Romania where he shot a commercial for some chips called Hoops, then back to London to spend a few days with family, and tomorrow night he’s back.  I’m so proud of him for doing well.  I mean, he’s getting flown all over the damn world to do what he loves, and getting paid BANK for it.  I’m missing him a good amount, though not as much as I have in the past.  Maybe I’m getting used to it?  I think all the Supernatural, 30 Rock and Samurai Champloo I’ve been watching on Netflix has helped.

Plus I spent a ton of time with Diminutive Friend this past weekend.  We made goat cheese from scratch and it actually turned out really well (a bit tart perhaps, but it’s a work in progress), which is a miracle because I definitely put the tannin in before the mesophilic culture (WRONG), and thought for a second that I totally wasted the liter of goat’s milk we bought at Trader Joe’s.

Carefully ladled out the cheese, placed in a strainer lined with cheese cloth, then strung  it up in the closet where Calico (Diminutive Roommate's insane cat) wouldn't try to eat it.  There it strained for six hours until it was ready to get salt sprinkled on.  Then we ate some and it was glorious.

Carefully ladled out the cheese, placed in a strainer lined with cheese cloth, then strung it up in the closet where Calico (Diminutive Roommate’s insane cat) wouldn’t try to eat it. There it strained for six hours until it was ready to get salt sprinkled on. Then we ate some and it was glorious.

I went to the Home Beer, Wine and Cheesemaking Shop to pick up tannin, mesophilic culture and cheesecloth, and had a nice chat with the woman who runs the place (Nancy Gold).  She mentioned that she’s interested in keeping bees, so I told her a bit about my experience so far.  Then we chatted about cheese, and she let slip that she wants to get a cow to keep her horse company in the little corral she has (and of course for milk to make cheese).  I told her that sounded great, and that we should keep in touch to potentially pursue getting some livestock together.

ADORABLE

ADORABLE

When I told Diminutive Friend about this conversation, she blurted out, “Let’s get a goat!”  It does sound like a cheap, less stressful alternative to keeping a cow.  I’m poking around to see if Dad would be interested in going in on this with us, since we were all fascinated by the cheesemaking book Diminutive Friend gave me for my birthday, and got into a discussion about where to buy milk.  I’m excited about tending to animals!  So awesome!

After that we met up with Teacher Friend (previously known as Teacher Roommate) to get sammiches at Mendocino Farms (Drunken Goat, plz) and went back to her place to eat and play Betrayal at House on the Hill, which we played a few times a week for months and months in the year the three of us lived together.  The minimum number of players is three, so we know this game backwards and forwards, and are really good at strategizing and fighting about the rules.

I also saw Little Iron Friend over the weekend, but we didn’t get to do as much bonding and reflection as we usually do because another kung fu friend was there.  I’m supposed to see her next weekend too, though, so maybe we’ll chat then.

Sunday morning I went to another beekeepers’ meeting in Silverlake with Dad.  It was the first meeting during which I felt I could actually answer questions accurately for all the new people, who (incredibly) made up about half the crowd.  I bought some honey from one of the beekeepers, and it’s delicious.  I met a happa family who had chickens already.  So jealous!

On an unrelated note, I had a good hard laugh at my desk when I found this today:

BYE BYE BYE

BYE BYE BYE

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goodness, humor

Sweet chocolate lies

I, like most Westerners, have been led to believe that a woman wants chocolate like a man wants sex. But I’m not nuts about chocolate; I am outside the sisterhood of the travelling truffle. After a long day at work, I don’t want Godiva and a glass of wine; I crave bread and cheese with tea, or ramen with friends.

So I wonder if this is what women who have intense chocolate cravings actually picture when they eat chocolate, or consider when deciding which chocolate to buy: Was this lovingly made by a handsome foreign chef who, if we ever ran into each other in a market on a sleepy Sunday morning in a small hamlet in France, would have something to talk about because I saw him on this box at Ralphs that one time? Yes. I will buy and eat this chocolate over all others because this one was made my the gorgeous, Caucasian, whisk-wielding father of our inevitably brilliant future offspring.

dashingly handsome chef says, "I love chocolate almost as much as I love you..." *wink*

dashingly handsome chef says, “I love chocolate almost as much as I love you…” *wink*

This doesn’t strike me as a reasonable thought process (especially since I think we all know that there is no way in hell every single piece of this chocolate was pain-stakingly filled with more chocolate by some high-paid chocolatier with a fucking whisk), but it’s chocolate, not rocket science.  Reason is not exactly part of the equation.

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I’m turning ingredients into food!

how could it possibly be that bright orange color? did i forget to add the unicorn shit?

I’ve never really tried to cook anything ambitious, so imagine my surprise when I made a soup from scratch the other day and it turned out crazy delicious.  It’s a butternut squash, corn and lemongrass soup, and it’s not difficult (assuming you have something that can puree soft vegetables).  Sister’s really big on healthy food right now, and she loves vegetables (apparently, who knew?), so she went nuts on this soup, which pleased me to no end.  It’s also really pretty, and super healthy.  My first soup made from scratch: Win!

After this one success, I thought to myself, “Self, you can cook anything!  Let’s make something else!”  At which point I started to fail.

Goal: make a delicious pumpkin-themed drink for my pumpkin carving Halloween party next month.  I landed on something called Pumpkin Cider. (see picture)

Actual outcome: brown, slimy, over-flavored, alcoholic muck I was reticent to pour down the drain for fear of angering it. (see picture)

I got all the ingredients together, and read the comments on the website (one person actually complained about it being too thick, but didn’t seem to follow the recipe).  I followed all the instructions, except for the one that said to add the spiced rum after the whole concoction had simmered on the stove for 20 minutes.  That batch quickly turned the consistency of snot, and was unceremoniously thrown out.  I added everything in the right order the second time, and the result was… totally overwhelmingly unpleasant.  It was a combination of things I love (pumpkin flavor, spiced rum, home made whipped cream, pumpkin pie spice, apple cider) that combined to create some kind of diarrhea-colored dream-killer.

Naturally I had boyfriend try it first.  He said something very kind and diplomatic like, “…I wasn’t expecting that flavor.  Let me try it again.”  Then he stopped trying it and said, “It doesn’t know what it wants to be.”  I could not agree more.  Epic Halloween drink fail.

win!

Then I got kinda depressed.  I really wanted this to work out.  I really want a cute little treat for my friends when they come to carve pumpkins and play spooky games!  The pouting went on for a good 24 hours, but I wasn’t about to give up because FUCK THAT.  I LOVE Halloween.  I was going to create something delicious for my friends for my favorite holiday, and they were going to love it, dammit.

So I tried again, this time with something called Liquid Pumpkin Pie.  It used a milk base and significantly less canned pumpkin, which was already a good sign that my ineptitude as a cook would not be manifested a second time in the form of some kind of brown sludge and disappointment.

To my utter surprise, it turned out fantastic. (see picture)  Boyfriend tried it, and nodded furiously with huge eyes, then asked for a mug of it to drink while playing WoW (pandas, ugh).  It even remotely resembled the recipe photo.  Success!

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goodness

Oban to Ayr

Breakfast was at 845 today: Canadian bacon, mushrooms and a poached egg with toast and tea, just like yesterday. I had about an hour to pull my things together and be out by 1015.

the man in the blue shirt and cap is the owner

My train to Glasgow wasn’t until 1, so I meandered down the hill and found a picnic table to sit and enjoy the view for the last time.  I pulled out my ukulele for he first time since JFK, tuned it up, and played just a couple of songs before some happa guy with glasses approached me and said he loved playing uke.  We started chatting and I invited him to sit down for a spell.  Turns out he has the same Lanikai ukulele back home in Atlanta (he was American), and an almost identical case (from this store on Etsy). We talked about what we liked about Oban, Edinburgh and Dublin (he loved Galway).  I asked where he’d eaten (food is an important topic while travelling), and he named a few fish and chips places, but he hadn’t been to the shack where I’d had oysters every day.  So we went and had half a dozen oysters each (his treat).  He was thoroughly impressed, of course.

We found a seat under the clock tower near the bus stop (his bus left at noon), and chatted some more until he left.  While we waited, an old man approached us with a smile and said, “I thought I should know your names since I took a photo of you!”  He had taken a photo of the clock tower, and since we occupied its base, we ended up in the shot.  I offered him a seat next to me, and he proceeded to monologue with pride about his Panasonic digital camera (similar to mine, but nicer), how he didn’t need to add extra lenses (so cumbersome) because of the excellent optical zoom on his camera.  And so on until he abruptly stood, blurted a friendly good-bye, and walked away.

fish stew and “crusty bread”

My American buddy and I exchanged emails; he lives in Atlanta and travels a good amount, so we’ll have to keep in touch.  After he left I went back to my picnic table and had some fish stew from a stand on the bay, so delicious.  I grabbed a good seat on the train, and started reading A Walk in the Woods, a hilarious and fascinating book by Bill Bryson about walking the Appalachian Trail.  I got bit by the hiking bug during my walk around Kerrera.  I’ll have to do some hiking when I get back.

After a transfer at Glasgow I was on my way to Irvine to see Scottish friend, whom I haven’t set eyes on since the 2004 trip to Romania where we met.  She met me at the train station with a hug, and laughed when I tried to get into the driver’s side of the car.  We picked up her cat from the vet, and chatted during the rather scenic drive to her house, where she lives with three very friendly and playful cats, and her boyfriend of several years.  He had food poisoning, and couldn’t come to dinner with us (which I was happy about, actually), poor guy.  Scottish Friend took me to a restaurant called Scott’s (I think?), where I immediately ordered the haggis as a starter, and an enormous seafood platter for the main dish.  The haggis was… amazing.  So delicious.  It was put together with some mashed potatoes on top and a cream sauce over the whole thing (which is typical, apparently) in a somewhat cylindrical fashion.  I was extremely impressed.  I asked Scottish Friend if people there really eat haggis all that often, and she said eats it about twice a week.  I’ll have to find a good place here in LA for it (although it’s such a volatile dish, that should be an adventure).

OHAI I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE

We went home and looked through her photos of the Romania trip.  She remembered almost everyone’s names (I couldn’t remember hardly any).  She and her boyfriend and I stayed up and chatted about accents (apparently it’s commonly known that Scottish Friend is universally difficult to understand, since she has somehow managed to create an accent all her own), and their burning desire to visit America, bolstered by the boyfriend’s current obsession with Man v. Food, a show on the Travel Channel where some American man with inevitably high cholesterol eats ridiculous portions of enormous foods at diners and the like all over the country.  I told him I would be sure to show him all the best places too eat around Los Angeles: Korean food, sushi, pho (which they had never heard of!), burgers, pasta, sandwiches, etc.  This fanned the flames a good amount until it was time to go to bed.

I slept in their guest bed, which was the softest, warmest, fluffiest cloud-of-a-bed I had slept in during the whole trip.  I was devastated to get up at 5am to catch a flight in Prestwick to Dublin.  Scottish Friend was nice enough to wake up early and take me to the airport.  How do we get along so well after all these years?  Strange how a connection between two people can be so easy.  She is such a blast.  I can’t wait to see her again, soon I hope.

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goodness, manfolk

Oban: Day 2

This morning I ordered way too much breakfast. The B&B where I was staying had a menu with lots of delicious sounding breakfast options: sausage, fried/poached egg, bacon, tomato, mushroom, porridge, toast, tea, cereal, etc. The rule of serving size in the US is thus: the nicer the establishment, the smaller the portion. Since the B&B was so nice, I figured I should just check the box next to just about everything to ensure that I got enough to eat. Not my best idea ever.

While I ate, I heard a loud “mow!” emanate from the kitchen, with a quick “How did you get in here?” in reply.  That conversation went back and forth as I smiled to myself, quietly enjoying the universal ridiculousness of cats, alone in the small dining room in the Highlands of Scotland.

the clouds fled

Back in my room, I grabbed my coat, purse, and camera, and started out down the hill toward the town.  The day was glorious.  No one could have asked for a more perfect balance of sunshine, offshore breeze and drifting, puffy clouds.  I passed an older man with a small dog, who said (with a fabulous accent), “Lovely mornin’ isn’t it?”  I agreed heartily, and he continued up the hill, singing softly to himself.

I walked to the dock, and wandered around until I got up the nerve to ask a local where I could find the ferry to Kerrera.  The man said, “That’s the one,” and pointed out a very small boat that was just pulling away.  I would have to wait another hour until the next one.  I meandered around town, did some window shopping for souvenirs for friends and family, bought a ticket for the Oban whiskey distillery tour, and sat in the sun until the 11am ferry arrived.

As we neared the island, the man sitting next to me on the boat pointed out a house with grass on the roof.  “Women’s work, ” he said.  His rather overweight friend looked down at him and said, “Such cheuvanism!”  The seated man joked, “The man trims the lawn, the woman trims the roof.”  I said, “That’s because the men are so fat, they’d break the roof.”  He indicated toward his friend as an example and laughed.  His largish friend gave his body a glance, and said with a straight face, “Specimen. Perfect specimen.”

next time i’ll have to walk to the castle

At Kerrera we were left to ourselves. I hiked for about an hour and a half, first to the monument (a small obelisk on a high spot on the northeastern end of the island), along a low cliff, down and then up a short steep rise to the top of the hill.  There I rested on the roof of a run down brick and mortar shack until I got my breath back, and cooled off a bit.  I couldn’t find where the seals are said to be, so I went down the other side of the hill, along a path peppered on both sides by little yellow wild flowers. I stepped off the path to step over a barbed wire fence to get back to the dock.  I waited about a half hour for the Nessie Hunter to arrive. There were only two of us on the ride back. I bet everyone else was hiking or at the cafe.

I arrived Back in town just in time to catch the beginning of a very small parade of bag pipers in traditional regalia playing the tune we all think of when we hear bag pipes in our heads. That was quite a treat.  Their outfits (costumes? uniforms?) included a kilt with a pin designating their clan, and a small knife tucked into their right socks.  My favorite member of the parade was a very old man, hunched over but still marching in time, and playing his pipes.

I went back to the seafood shack for more oysters (delicious), and a rather bland prawn sandwich.  I had spotted a striking tartan pin in the window of a jewelry shop, and headed back to see how much it was.  Blah, 88 Pounds!  I told the lady I’d have to think about it, and went to find some ice cream.  It was a beautiful summer day in Oban, and there was a little street fair of some kind at the round-about in front of the train station.  All the kids had painted faces and very tempting ice cream; I couldn’t resist.

Cappuccino gelato cooled me off some more (a boy with a Spiderman painted face stood behind me in line and was very proud when I complimented him), and I realized that a tartan pin was something I had been looking for the whole trip.  So I decided to get it (it’s the only souvenir I’ve bought for myself) and wear it on my coat when I got home.

The whiskey distillery had some of the best smelling hand soap I’ve ever used in a semi-public bathroom, but their whiskey tastes like rust and sand. And it’s pretty expensive, so I’ll just count myself lucky that I’ve dodged a costly indulgence. At least it came with a free glass, which I plan on giving to Scottish Friend when I visit her after I leave Oban.

whitefish bait is apparently small, and highly judgmental. it watched me.

Dinner was more fish and chips at the same place, seated indoors at the restaurant this time, then it was back home to relax for a couple of hours until around 830, at which point I forced myself to get my shoes and coat on, and head back out to a bar that hosts live traditional Scottish music and dancing for the whole group (I wasn’t in the mood to go out dancing without a partner, and I’m still missing Boyfriend a lot, but when am I going to be in Scotland again?). I got there a little before halfway through the show, and volunteered for the first group dance I heard mention of. It was fun; the women run around the line of men and vice versa, then the first couple facing each other joins hands and prances down the middle of the isle (picture a traditional Scottish version of Soul Train) to rest at the end, at which point the woman go running hand in hand round the men again and it all starts over with everyone clapping and smiling.  A good time to be had by all (except that I was the only American- everyone else was German or French, so I couldn’t follow conversations, it I felt surprisingly isolated in a room full of people).  I drank a Strongbow while the music and dancing continued, and immediately came to the conclusion that the Irish Uilleann pipes are better than bagpipes; sweeter to listen to, and not so ear piercingly loud.

I passed a bar on my way back home that was loud a packed, and seemingly the only place open past 10 in the whole town.  I was a little hungry (for food and human interaction), but walked by without going in (the ladies were very stylish, and I was in day-old clothes, jeans and sneakers), and headed up the road toward the B&B, admiring the first view I’ve had of he bay in the darkening twilight.

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Edinburgh: Day 3

some nice lady was giving these candies away to the people waiting in line to buy tickets

We had such high hopes for today, but we couldn’t make it to the Palace at Holyrood.  We spent the majority of the day at the Britannia, a yacht for the royals that’s actually considered a palace on the water.

We wandered through just a few portions of each level of the ship, but it felt enormous.  The engine room was pretty amazing (a visiting German engineer, while on a tour of the engine room, is said to have declared, “These museum pieces are very nice, but I would like to see the engine room, please.”), lots of shiny copper pipes and glass covered pressure gauges.  The whole thing is lovely, if a bit cramped, but then I’m not used to maritime accommodations.

We took a break to have lunch at the only restaurant on the ship, The Royal Tea Room.  The wait was about 20 minutes and well worth it.  We had Famous Edinburgh and Assam teas, salmon sandwiches and Mull cheddar sandwiches, mushroom and truffle oil soup with giant french fries with seasoned salt on the side, and a scone with jam and clotted cream.  Too much food but super delicious!  We jumped back on the tour bus that brought us out, and listened to an informative, occasionally silly dialog between two fantastic accents (man and a woman) regarding the points of interest we passed on the way back to Edinburgh city center.

tea time at the palace on the water

We booked it to Edinburgh Castle, which is almost a thousand years old, and has never been taken in battle.  Recently, archaeologists found evidence of settlements on that very site as far back as 900 BC.  The castle itself has been rebuilt in various places, and purposefully changed by the Victorians in the late 1800s to look more “appealing,” and fulfill their romanticized idea of what the middle ages would have looked like (not super accurate, FYI, but kinda pretty if you’re not a stickler for accuracy, which I am, so fuck you very much, Victorians).  Needless to say, I loved the castle.  It also has the best view in the city, even on a rainy day like today.  You can see the clouds rolling across distant green hills, cold and wet, lush and fertile, secret and inviting.

impregnable door!

I’ve been craving fish and chips since that delicious bunch I got in Dublin, so we poked around until we found some (we checked out The Last Drop, a pub named in reference to the drop of a body on a noose rather than a drink, but they didn’t serve fish and chips).  But the fish was so boring!  I was so disappointed.  My last real meal in Edinburgh, and it was dull.  At least I had some really excellent fish last night at The Witchery.

The bus ride home was drama-free after yesterday’s slight panic about how we’d find our stop (which is not named on the list of stops in town).  Luckily, I’m awesome, and recognized our neighborhood by a shop name that was similar to a pub we went to on the first night, and the small clock tower that houses the pizza place of all things.

We’ve been home at the B&B for a couple hours, packing and getting ready to leave tomorrow.  Boyfriend has extra room in his bag (which has wheels, unlike mine), so he’s offered to take some of my stuff home with him: gifts for friends and family, and some of my dirty clothes.  What a sweetie.

I’m really gonna miss Boyfriend, but it’ll be nice to be on my own.  I’m so used to having someone to point things out to, share experiences with, hold hands with when it’s cold.  That part is going to be hard.  But I’ll enjoy having no one to double check with when I have an impulse.  That’s always fun.  I still have to make some solid plans for Oban.  I’m thinking of doing a day trip to Iona and Mull, and going horseback riding.  We’ll see.  If I can find a beautiful spot to sit, I’ll be happy.

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goodness, manfolk

Edinburgh: Day 2

an armrest at St. Giles Cathedral

Our first visit to Edinburgh’s city center today, and my suspicions have been confirmed: Edinburgh is gorgeous.  Because it’s a historically recognized city, there are loads of regulations that force new buildings to closely resemble old ones (which are meticulously maintained), for extra police cameras to be placed all over to keep people safe, the cobblestone streets are immaculately kept (even in the residential area I’m staying in), and so on.  The historical sites are well organized and never crowded. Navigating the city was a bit challenging at first, but it’s so small that we became familiar with it very quickly. The little alleys that shoot off from the Royal Mile (the main drag) every ten yards or so are adorable and mysterious.  There are rivers running under the occasional bridge, he areas around which are a vibrant green and have an untamed look to them.

The day went something like this: Wake up and eat store-bought croissants and honey with tea, walk to bus stop and get worried that we’ll miss our stop when the driver fails to call out each stop.  Arrive at city center, and immediately get lost. Walk a full circle before finally getting to our destination.
Our first stop was Gladstone’s Land, a 17th century house with beautiful painted ceiling beams in the bedroom.  Old houses were built up to 13 stories high!  Of course they also fell down a lot, too.

Greyfriar’s Bobby. what a sweetheart.

Next it was off to find some lunch.  We found The Hub in a guide book which we forgot back at the B&B, but found it again in our wanderings.  It’s a cafe (among other things) built within a large old church.  We got a cheese plate which did nothing to fill me up (although Boyfriend was oddly satisfied), and went off to meet up with our tour group.  A nice older lady gave us a general history of Edinburgh during our walking tour under a constant drizzle.  The rest of the group was very stern and didn’t laugh at any of her funny (and true) stories of old Edinburgh, so I made a point to keep a smile on my face and listen intently.  It was all very interesting, to tell the truth, and she did a very nice job.  At the end of the tour, she took us down under the North Bridge, a dank, moist place that would’ve been pitch black and reeking of burned fish (they burned fish oil in their portable lamps).  We got the overall impression that life back then was not something to be envied.  Gardy-loo!

We stopped in a little cafe to dry off and satisfy my growling stomach (I’ve been eating more than usual with all the walking around).  After some scrambled eggs and toast, we set off for St. Giles Cathedral, which was more ornate than I had imagined.  I didn’t know anything about it beforehand, but I didn’t expect there to be shrines and gravestones to various important and wealthy people inside.  I had forgotten how old Edinburgh really is; St. Giles Cathedral was founded in the 12th century, and has plenty of beautiful carvings and windows to show for it.  I paid three pounds to be allowed to take photos in the cathedral, and it was well worth it.

white chocolate, strawberry ice cream with a very thick whipped cream and chocolate on top

We made it to The Witchery for dinner in plenty of time, and were among the first seated of the night.  We had three course meals of butternut squash soup, salmon, beef, and ice cream and cheese for dessert.  I ordered the Atlantic blackened bream for the second course, but was told afterwards that the chef had a look at it and wasn’t satisfied, so they substituted with salmon, which might have been the best salmon I’ve ever had.

I ran into one totally impenetrable accent today (although Boyfriend professed to be able to understand every word, what a liar).  The man with the accent took our photo with a statue of the Greyfriar’s Bobby, a dog that guarded his master’s grave for fourteen years.  If possible, it was more adorable that I expected.  Anyway, it turns out this guy was telling us about the graveyard just around the corner that we should check out, and we did.  Super cool.

there were loads of these skull and crossbones all over the graveyard on very old tombstones

All the shops seem to sell the same thirty patterns of cashmere scarf/stole/blanket/skirt/kilt.  Not sure if I’ll end up getting anything at all here by the way of a souvenir, even though this part of the trip has been just fantastic.  What I really wanted was an Irish kilt pin.  They’re so lovely and simple, just a circle or a C shape with a pin going through.  But they’re all so expensive.  Maybe some other time.
After the bus and a short walk home, I realized we didn’t have enough for breakfast, so after a quick rest we were back outside to walk to the market: croissants for our tummies, batteries for my camera.
That’s all for today!  Tomorrow is Edinburgh Castle (for real this time), the Britannia yacht, and the Palace at Hollyrood.
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