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11 August 2009

stirling (and the end of the scottish R&R)

for the sake of me getting this out of the way, and on to other posts, i'll give a cliff's notes version of the rest of my scotland trip accompanied by lots of pix (all clickable to embiggen). after all, pic = 1k words.

still in the edinburgh area: midway through the trip, we decided we were going to see rosslyn chapel (click for some pictures since i apparently didn't take any). i'd never heard of rosslyn, but soon found out it was featured in several scenes in 'the da vinci code', and i like puzzles. we hopped my first double-decker bus ever, and i ran like a fool up to the top to sit right up front, over the driver. along the way to rosslyn, i realized there was a small hatch on the dash in front of me where i could look down directly on to the driver. i thought it was an odd idea until i found, just above me, a mirror, so he can just look up and see if the top is empty. pretty cool. the gang had to keep me in line, though, because i was having too much fun looking down at the driver and not getting caught **TOURISTS!!!** rosslyn has some pretty cool stories, there are some interesting mathematical layouts involved in it, small discrepancies in patterned carvings on the ceilings, face of "green men" carved into the walls with no real explanation. at the front of the chapel, you find "the master's pillar" and "the apprentice's pillar". the story goes something like, the master went away telling the apprentice to practice, the apprentice felt he didn't need to practice anymore and made the apprentice's pillar, and when the master arrived back to see that the apprentice's pillar was better than his own pillar, he bludgeoned the apprentice with a hammer in a fit of rage. lovely story, eh? i KNOW i took some outside pictures of rosslyn, but can't seem to find them (now that i think about it, i think they were on an SC card that corrupted). eh, you'll have to make due with my vibrant descriptions and a rental of 'the da vinci code'.... wait... WOOHOOO!!! i found some, thank the aether some other people took pix.

soon after the rosslyn trip, TheJay and TheEJ had to make their respective ways home. i'm not exactly who left when, though, since it was a virtual whirlwind of people flying in, castles, pubs, quiz nights, more pubs, pizza, people flying out, etc. i was lucky enough to have TheJulie and TheBill invite me along on their trip to stirling to visit doune castle (setting for much of monty python and the holy grail), stirling castle, and the wallace monument (after ol' braveheart, himself).

so, TheBill, TheJulie, and i decided to make our trip. they'd already booked a bed & breakfast in stirling that i wasn't able to reserve ahead of time. i made it to the train station early to grab some brunch (good ol' burger king) and get the tix. i took a cab as i figured it would be easier, and i hate being late. if i do recall, TheBill and The Julie decided to take the adventurous route of taking the city buses, not knowing that the bus they needed drops them off further away from the station than they had expected. we missed the train we wanted to take, but they run fairly regularly, so we prepared to hop the next one. when we showed the tickets to the operator, he told us we paid too much, there was no first class or such-and-such on this and we could go to the counter to get some money back. we tried, and for some reason or another that i forget, we ended up not having time to get the refund there. so, we hopped the next train, saw some pretty countryside, and soon were in stirling. it wasn't a very far walk at all to their B&B from the station, and i'd noticed there was a pub just down the road a spell that was selling haggis lasagna (YEA!). TheJulie and TheBill spoke with the owner, got their room and luckily for me, she had another room that she wasn't sure if she could rent because they'd JUST finished painting the off-suite bathroom for it. she said it would be dry by the evening and let me take the room.

after dropping off our bags, we were off we to the bus station to doune castle. we took it the area of doune castle, and we found a tourist shop that sold information about monty python's part of the history of doune castle. when we arrived, some VERY nice cars were pulling into the grass and a bagpiper was playing away. apparently, we'd come as a wedding ceremony and reception was about to go off. we were directed around the wedding ceremony, checked out all the awesome halls, and TheBill and TheJulie were nice enough to catch me up on (and re-enact) scenes that were filmed where (as i've not seen the holy grail in some time). after touring the castle for a few hours, we made our way back to the B&B for a rest, then went out for dinner at the place i'd seen earlier. the haggis lasagna was lovely. TheJulie went back to the room to read and relax a bit. TheBill and i (bad influence that i am) went to the bar attached to the restaurant we ate at. we walked in and GOOD LORD it was loud! we ordered our drinks and tried to talk, but it was no use. the speakers kept playing the same loud song over and over again. that's when i realized... most of the people at the bar this night were deaf. they were signing away, while TheBill and i were the minority in that we couldn't communicate at all. we finished our beers and set out for somewhere else that might not cause permanent hearing damage. we found a decent bar called o'neill's where we grabbed a few drinks and talked about the trip so far and what still lay ahead. before it got too late, and i got TheBill in trouble, we went back to the B&B and laid our heads down for the night. (for more doune castle pix, go here).

we woke bright an early in the morning for breakfast. that's when i noticed some of the deaf people who were at the bar were staying at our B&B as well. we had our breakfast, paid the nice lady, and were on our way to wallace monument. we'd gotten there just as they were opening. there was supposed to be a shuttle to the top of the hill, but for some reason, that didn't work out. we saw a shuttle, and a man driving it, but not really shutting anyone. we hiked to the top of the hill, and i was again regretting ever having gotten fat. we eventually made it to the top of the hill on what turned out to be ANOTHER fantastically sunny day (most people would not mind this, but i went for rain and gloom... it's my thing). the air was a bit brisk but would warm up soon enough. we paid or way, left our bags at the front desk, and with that, made our way up the 246 stairs, through the several floors, and finally on to the roof. one of the first levels had a cool mannequin, of sorts, dressed as william wallace with a projector showing on his face (picture in the wallace monument link). since the room is kinda dark, with a bit of imagination, it looked like william wallace was actually telling the story of his life. there was a project screen next to him that showed skits fleshing out the story. we carried on to the other floors where we found some cool stained glass (one of my favorites is below), replicas of "the wallace sword" (though i think the hilt is believed to be the original), busts of the important people of the time, and more. the walk up got a bit tedious because it is a very tight spiral staircase, and you go around in circles several times between floors. a person could get vertigo. walking down was far easier, though you had to time it so as not to pass people on the stairs, but rather, at the gallery floors. on the roof, there's an amazing gothic peak like i've never seen before. we all took pix of each other and ourselves and the landscape. toward then end of our roof stay, we were startled when the speakers blared that there would be a presentation downstairs at 12:15 by "a man from william wallace's army". we made our way down and listened to the actor portraying the army character. he was quite good, giving small anecdotes in the first person and engaging the audience with his weapon and how to stories might related to the audience. at one point he was telling a story about how the future queen was killed before she could arrive in the country to rule "because women aren't fit for that sort of thing", and he called TheJulie out when she may have looked upset over that statement. it was funny. after his performance, we spoke with him for a bit but had to cut it short as we were on our way over to stirling castle. (for more wallace monument pics, go here).

coming up to stirling castle, you first notice an amazing open lawn, peppered with statues of famous kings and warriors as well as tourists and locals lounging in the uncommonly good weather. we'd arrived just as a tour was going out, so we joined in to get a little more history about the place than what we'd just get from reading the placards. i couldn't tell you what we learned now, but, back in the day, there were queens and kings and births, and there were buildings being built and parties being thrown. the art was pretty amazing. most of it was replicas, and they even had a professional weaver there recreating full size copies of some really awesome christian tapestries. you could see wallace monument from the castle. strangely enough, some of the garrison were pointed directly at it. i really liked the layout of stirling castle. there were long rustic walls built on the edge of the hill that you could walk clear to the edge, at one point, it looked like you'd walk right off the hill. the guard towers were actually quite tiny, and we had to duck to go in and out of them. i'm not exactly sure why i was so fascinated by this castle more than the others. maybe it was the weather, the green grass, the numerous walking paths among the immense guard walls, but i found it to be a really impressive sight. (for more stirling castle pix, go here).

after the castle, we made our way back to the train station where we went back to stirling proper. i got off at the haymarket station near my hotel, and TheBill and TheJulie went back to their place. we'd made plans to meet up for dinner later, so until then, i went the the haymarket, a bar across from my hotel, for a few cocktails. it was quiz night, the EASIEST quiz night i'd ever come across, but by the time it had started, i had to make my way back to the hotel for a quick shower and down to dinner. dinner was good, nothing really memorable. we parted ways, as i had to catch my flight in the morning.

it was good catching up with friends i haven't seen in a long time. sharing vacations rocks. if you haven't noticed, i'm NOT in spain as my R&R countdown says i should be right now. one of my buddies that i was supposed to meet is off working in malaysia for a bit, and i'm stuck with no one here to cover for me, so i'll take it at the end of the job. now need to find somewhere to meet someone. i've gotten an invite to japan, but i'm not sure if it's going to fit into my schedule. any other offers? more pix and movies below. now on to finishing the R&R before, the oktoberfest posts... i only have about a month to finish them before it's been a year. A YEAR ALREADY!!!


TheJulie and TheBill "taunting" per the scene in monty python and the holy grail

roof of the main hall

TheBill and me standing guard per the scene in monty python and the holy grail

massive fireplace (one of many)

doune castle as we approached

TheJulie and TheBill doing the horse scene from monty python and the holy grail

also, here are links to the bagpiper playing outside the castle and playing in the wedding hall.


approaching wallace monument from way-the-hell-down at the bottom of the hill

the view from the top of wallace monument

what do you see in the bottom frame of this stained glass, keep in mind this is a religious piece? see something in the small pic? once you see it, click on it and zoom to enlarge. i hope you see it, because i REALLY thought that was cool.


the aforementioned lawn leading up to stirling castle

stirling castle from the back being remodeled

the ceiling of the great after being remodeled, even using authentic wooden pegs instead of nails

TheBill pondering what i dubbed "the vertigo stairs"

the vertigo stairs... you fall over that right hand side, and it's a LOOOOOOOONG way down


saving the best for last...

hey LADIES!!!! look what i can do!

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Blogger themom said...

I'm so glad you all had a great time in Scotland. It is all so lovely.

What am I looking for in the stained glass window? the archer? I be dumb!


9:08 AM, August 12, 2009  
Blogger adhyapaka said...

Dammit, I wish I would've gotten to go to Stirling, too. Now just one more reason I'm going to have to go back to Scotland again.

7:17 PM, August 19, 2009  

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