Sunday, June 29, 2008

In London: "OLEE! OLE! OLE! OLEE! VIVA ESPAGNA!"

(June 29, 2008)


Spent the evening in London for a layover for my King's Cross area. Met a couple of fellow "north-west-ers"; actually they were from Vancouver, BC. They had been to Barcelona and filled me in on a little bit of their experience there.

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Ventured out to try and do something before the night was up. Took the Underground to Picadilly Circus. Thought of seeing a show, but most were closed on Sunday. Visiting the British Museum didn't pan--also closed. Decided to quickly down a falafel (it was alright), and then went to see trip to Barcelona. Stayed at a hostel (Ashlee House) near northern London's Audrey Tautou's new movie, Priceless. Thought I'd have a pretty mellow evening, but as I headed back to the Picadilly Station I came across throngs of people (and cops).

Spain defeated Germany in the Euro Cup Futbol final: 1 - 0. The Picadilly Circus fountain was bathed in yellow & red (colors of Spain's flag). All kinds of Spanish futbol cheers and songs filled the area. The crowd eventually moved from Picadilly Circus/square down to a statue at the corner of another building a block down the street. Here a few dozen people climbed on the statues of horses and partied some more.

I ended up spending about an hour watching the partying and chaos. I ended up missing my ride on the Tube--closed at midnight (it was ok, I didn't mind walking through London). But, tonight, Picadilly Circus was Spain for a few hours.

Train Ride With A Scottish Lassie


My trip in Scotland ended in Glasgow, and I caught a train for London so I could be on my way to Barcelona. The trip was going to be about 6hrs. As I rushed away from our ghetto hotel, I made it to the train station and hopped the train.

I figured this would be a rather ho-hum trip and I'd probably catch a few winks. As I sat down I an older woman was at my seat talking to what I assumed was her daughter. She smiled and quickly got up and sat in the seat across the isle. A few minutes later, she skipped off the train because we were fixin' to head out.

I introduced myself to my seat mate. She was in Glasgow for college, and was heading to London for the summer to hang out and hopefully find a summer job. Her name was Kaliegh. It turns out that she was from northern Scotland (just a wee bit from Inverness).

She was totally cool and funny. We got to make fun of each other's accents and I got to pick her brain about all things Scottish. I told her I was half Scottish and half Native. She'd actually been to Calgary and Banff for a trip she took where she competed in a bagpipe competition. She talked about how she didn't like English accents and how the guys sound "feminine".

Once we got to the London train station, I helped her w/ her luggage--why do women pack so much!? I took her to a spot which would be visible for her boyfriend who was on her way to pick her up.

All in all, I didn't get any sleep that train ride, and I'm glad I didn't. I'll miss Scotland.

What Are Those Scotts Saying?!

Ok, so my journey in Scotland was coming to an end. I'd been in the land of lassies, kilts, and deep-fried Mars bars for over a week, and one thing I must confess is: I love the accent.

Granted, I'm a sucker for all kind of cool accents. When I was in Boston I swear I wanted to convert and become a true Bostonian (Hey, I can do a mean Matt Damon Boston accent!) :) I've now found another accent which drives me to want to convert: the Scottish accent. Granted I was only there for a short time, but I liked what I heard. I know I can't pull off a real Scottish accent, but I can do a few phrases or words.

With Bostonians, "r's" are hijacked and removed from tons of words and then inserted in the weirdest of places. In Scotland, "t's" are the letters which are treated hijackery. Ok, here are a few examples, and I'll leave it at that:

Scottish ----- (English)
*************************************
Wu-ed I el-ya? ----- (What did I tell you?)
Pho'o ----- (photo)
Wu ----- (what)
Compu'ah ----- (computer)
Scoh-lan ----- (Scotland)
Scoh-ish ----- (Scottish)

Please excuse me for calling the translation "English". I don't want to start any wars and don't want to come off as a sell out, but it sounds more proper than calling the translation something else (i.e. American, proper, etc.).

Now, the Scottish accent isn't only different because of the "t-situation". There are also lots of r-rolling, elongation of vowels, hijacking of other letters, etc., but it's hard to write down the sounds of some of these features. I'll make an attempt below:

Wu-ah yu trrryin' tu-dooo? ----- (What are you trying to do?)

So, yeah, there you have it. A few of my thoughts on the Scottish accent. I love it. I'd like to get it down. Looks like I'll need to come back to Scotland to get it down!

Oh before signing off.....The "Other Language" in Glasgow

I have to say a little something just about the "Scottish Accent" in Glasgow. I swear, when I was in Glasgow I truly felt I was in another country--mainly because I didn't know what people were saying most of the time. There were times when people talked to me, and I would have to take a double-take, shake my head, look a little clueless (an easy feat for me), and then say "Whu?"

Glasgow is a blue-collar, rough and industrial city. They speak really fast and the accent is wicked strong. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but it was just hard to understand. Below is a video clip I took while waiting outside of a takeaway one night. Not sure what everyone was doing here. The bars just let out, and I think most of the people here were waiting for cabs. I defy you to understand what these people are saying! **if you figure it out, comment it below!**

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In Glasgow

(June 27 - 29, 2008)


Ok, well Glasgow wasn't very photographable. I' m sure it's because I am totally ignorant about the city and didn't know all of the good places to go. From what I saw it was a bit ugly on first impression, but in its rawness it has a character all its own. In its gruffness it shines in its own way.

Well, the city is a wee bit dirtier than other cities we'd been to in Scotland. We happened to have a hotel in a "rough" part of town: the Gorbles neighborhood. On our way through empty industrial buildings, we made our way to our Travel Lodge (as we crossed a parking lot to the hotel, a football-sized dead rat was passed---it clearly saw better days). The barred windows of the hotel didn't bode well either.

We didn't care though. We were off to see Radiohead later in the day (see posting here). After Radiohead we checked out what Gorbles had to offer---sort of as a last resort since all other restaurants were closed. We chose an Indian take-away, Coriander Kitchen. It turned out to be a good choice. We ordered a chicken tikka pizza, and it was the bomb.

The next day we slept in big time--definitely had to catch up on sleep. Walked around Central Glasgow a bit for the afternoon. It was a very chill day with the rain falling on and off. Had hopes of finding a tatoo parlor, but unfortunately, the whole town was closing up at around 5-6pm. Ended up crossing back over the River Clyde & going back to the hotel for a bit of a rest. We decided to stay on our side of the river and explore Gorbles again.

The locals were out, and it was "fairly happening" in this rough little neighborhood. We crawled a few pubs. Some were ok, some were stinky, and some were scary. We played it safe. Hung out at one little pub, and there was a "hen party" going on, so Jeremy and I had to fork over a pound for a cheek kiss to the new bride. Karaoke was going on at half of the bars here! So, we sat in a corner, sipped a few brews, played blackjack, and eavesdropped on all the cool heavy-Scottish accents.

A trio of Scottish lassies started dancing on the pool table near us, and one of them asked me for a dance. I played it shy and safe---I wasn´t sure if the guy she was chatting with earlier was her boyfriend or husband. She asked me something, but I had NO idea what she said (Scottish accents can be tough to translate, but it seems Glasgow accents are the hardest to decipher!). I just smiled and said, "yeah!"

Went down to Coriander again and ordered another pizza as well as a kebab---it was a monster! While Ari & Jeremy were getting the food, I waited outside on the street. All the bars were letting out, so there was a crowd right where we were: some were getting food, others were waiting for taxis, and others were just hanging out. I had a good time people watching and just listening to the accents more---I so want to master the Scottish accent! ;)

This was a good ending to our Glasgow stay.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Radiohead Glasgow

(June 27, 2008)



Walked from our Travelodge in Glasgow's "hood" down to Glasgow Green: where Radiohead would be performing. The walk down was amid on and off again showers---it was looking like we'd be having a wet night.


Glasgow Green is along the River Clyde, with a bellowing smokestack in the background across the river. The grass wasn't muddy, but it was definitely saturated. The umbrellas, and £3 (pound) ponchos were out in full effect. We took care of business first and went to the souvenir stand and bought our symbols of participation: T-Shirts. £80 later (that's about $160 dollars!! for 4 shirts! Bloody hell!) we garbed ourselves up in our new shirts (Ari & I doubled-up on Radiohead shirts since were were buying extra ones for Tee & Paula; Jeremy wore just his own).

We then staked out a patch of waterlogged real estate as close to the stage as we could get with out bumping into too many people's paper pints. Here we chilled to machine-like electronic music for about an hour before the first band took the stage: Bat For Lashes. This band was interesting. Drummer was in tights and had wings. The three women of the band looked like pixies. The violinists/flutist/saw-twanger looked like a Snow White elf. The lead singer had red dots painted on her face, played the key board, and percussion. The guitarist sang back up, and also played percussion. They were a good opening band.





Radiohead took the stage in the gloaming with a constant mist downpour. This is when the crowd became more raucous, but it wasn't too bad. As the band finished their first song, the rain was a downpour (we've have several throughout the show). Thom Yorke (Radiohead frontman)commented on the rain, and exclaimed, "You all need to move down south!" To which, most of the hearty Scottish grumbled! :) They then broke into another crowd-rousing song.


Next to us was a true Radiohead-er, who reminded me of the little girls who wet their pants when the Beatles hit the stage back in the day. He was jumping up and down, screaming, dancing, and splashing his wet air into Ari's face. Compared to him, everyone around us was pretty tame. "Why aren't ya bloody jumpin' people?!" he proclaimed.


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As the show, progressed Radiohead continued playing songs from their current album (In Rainbows) as well as many oldies and other favorites. Additionally, as we went from song to song, the beer got to many of fans. This is when I think we had our first taste of what Scottish "hooligans" are like. These big bruisers, and a drunken funk, plowed through people and whirled around like tornadoes, and I'm sure they didn't know where they were going. That's part of it though.


All in all, it was a great show with the band giving the Glasgow-ites a solid 2-hr show.



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Here's the Playlist for the night:

Main
01 - 15 Step
02 - Airbag
03 - There There
04 - All I Need
05 - Nude
06 - Arpeggi/Weird Fishes
07 - The Gloaming
08 - The National Anthem with Hunting Bears outro
09 - Faust Arp
10 - No Surprises
11 - Jigsaw Falling Into Place
12 - Reckoner
13 - Just
14 - Bangers and Mash
15 - Everything In Its Right Place
16 - Fake Plastic Trees
17 - Bodysnatchers

Encore 1
18 - Videotape
19 - Paranoid Android
20 - Myxomatosis
21 - Optimistic
22 - Karma Police

Encore 2
23 - Like Spinning Plates
24 - 2 + 2 = 5
25 - Idioteque

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Last Day In Inverness

(June 26, 2008)


Our last day in Inverness was pretty chill. Jeremy´s family were heading to Belfast for a wedding. Before they left Mike took us for one more distillery tour. We went to Benromach. This was a decent tour, but we didn´t get to really check out anything "behind the scenes". The tour guide had the nicest accent (I swear I´ll get that accent down!), and she was pretty cute, too :)

Other than the tour guide, I´d say the other nice thing about this tour was the sampling. This was another whisky which I liked as well. They also had a creamy liquor which was too good for our own good---I´m kicking myself for not getting a bottle!
The rest of the afternoon was spent seeing Jeremy´s family off and hanging with them before they head out. Also took care of some laundry!

Around evening time we strolled down into Inverness (my last real time). We went for some Indian food, and it was pretty decent. **Indian and Kebab restaurants are like fast food for the UK--they´re all over the place over here--lucky blokes!**

After, we headed to some pubs. We went to The Foundry for a brew and then over to Hootenany´s in hopes of getting a good seat and listening to some good Scottish music. We nabbed a nice table, ordered a few rounds and played cards until the band hit the stage.

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Tonight´s band was Schiehallion. It was a duo for the most part: guitarist/singer and a boy on accordian. However, out of the blue another kid would walk in (with kilt on, of course) and play the pipes. This band was GREAT! We ended up staying for most of their set--had to leave early because we had to get up in a few hours for our Glasgow train. I wanted to buy a cd, but the singer said they don´t sell on Thursdays---not sure what that means. But he gave me a card. I can really get into Scottish music.



After Hootenany´s, we walked back up the hill. It was fter 11pm, and it was still fairly light out. I snapped a few pics along the River Ness, and then we rushed home and got ready for our trip in the morning.






Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Edinburgh & The Infamous Fried Mars Bar!!

(June 24, 2008)


Scotland. Land of the beautiful Highlands, birthplace of fly fishing & golf, home to some of the best whisky in the world, filled with many wonderful people, music, and tradition. With all this and more, what do you think I did when I made it to the fabled city of Edinburgh????
Started a quest for a deep-fried-Mars-bar, thank you!!!

It actually wasn´t too hard to find the joint. We asked a few locals, and they generally flashed a Scottish smirk back at us. Anyway, with their directions, a map, and a mission, we trudged through the rain (Ari, Jeremy, and I) to our goal. The place: Piccante´s. It´s a fish and chip place, but if you look in their window, they advertise the infamous: DEEP FRIED MARS BAR.


So, we each ordered one, and Ari opted for hers a la mode. They were steaming hot--so Ari had the right idea. It was a sugar-ultra-high!!! The consistency was fairly rigid due to the deep-fry, but the Mars bar was definitely mushy & melted inside. Tasted like a donut & a chocolate bar. You could clearly determine that what you were eating was BAD for you! Jeremy said he ended up getting a head ache, and his teeth started hurting--his teeth!!




Anyway, this was something we had to do while in Edinburgh. Our quest was complete!

Monday, June 23, 2008

On To Forres

(June 23, 2008)
This morning we planned on taking the 10:45am trip from Inverness to Forres (wanted to tour a couple whisky distilleries and check out the town of Forres). Unfortunately, we missed the train! We left the house at 10:10am, walked down the hill, and then ran for the last half. As I approached the train station, I could see a train pulling out (d´oh?). I picked up our tickets, and then found out it was our train which left! Grrrrr! Ari and Jeremy arrived and I broke the news to them. We sulked a bit, and then I found out we could take other trains within the same day. So we opted for the next one. That gave us over an hour to hang out in Inverness.

We decided to go to a French joint I spotted the night before on a walk. It´s called Delices De Bretagne. We had crepes here (I had a latte---I know, very yuppy!). We then walked a little along High St. (in Scottish towns, their "Main St.´s" are called High St. I guess back in the day, they were the streets which tended to have most of the vendors, and the sewage could easily flow down from them since they were "high"). We then made it (on time) for our 12:19pm train.

The train ride was quick (15-20min) to Forres. We got off and walked to the Benromach distillery which was fairly close to the train station. This was a small distillery (2 people ran the visitor centre and 2 people ran the whole distillery(!)). This turned out to be a good thing, because we ended up getting a really good and personalized tour by our Scottish guide, Dave. He was great with answering questions and throwing in a joke or two about the whisky biz. A notable item about Benromach is that Prince Charles helped christen the place by reserving one of the first barrels corked back in 1998 (there´s a picture of him signing his name on the barrel). It´s now been 10 years, so he is due to open it, or he can wait as long as he wants--Dave and crew are awaiting his wishes. We then had a sampling, and I ended up getting a bottle.

It´s amazing. I live in the wine country of south central Washington and I´ve never done a wine tour. It seems like the "whisky tour" business is similar. It was pretty fun. I´ll have to give the wine tours a try back home!

Our next journey was out for a tour of the Dallas Dhu distillery--the oldest distillery in Scotland (although it´s not operating, it´s strictly runs as a museum). We then headed into the town of Forres before heading out for the 2-mile walk to Dallas Dhu. Stopped at the bakery and Ari had something yummy and sweet; Jeremy and I had mince pies. Downtown Forres looks old and cool. There was definitely a central area with a large steeple building. We hung out in the center, and ate our rations while watching a street-acting crew. We then headed to Dallas Dhu.

The "hike" took us through old Forres, the ´burbs, and then in the Scottish countryside/farmlands. It was a nice walk, and the weather was PERFECT! Along the way we came across a horse who was interested in us and we fed him some grass. We then made it to Dallas Dhu. I had thought this was going to be another running distillery, but this was basically a real old school distillery which was then converted to a distillery museum. Oh well. We toured the place with audio thingies and checked out how they made whisky years ago. It was interesting and gave us more of a history. There was a tasting, but the whisky they offered was fairly nasty--yup, guess I´m now officially a whisky snob! ;)

After Dallas Dhu, we decided to walk back into Forres via a different route. At Dallas Dhu we noticed a walking trail (vs. the one-lane road we took out there). This was was an awesome choice. We walked in the Scottish countryside, and the weather was awesome. It was a good workout and way to see the country.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On To Lochness & Culloden Battlefield

(June 22, 2008)


Today we got up early and set out for the Lochness---just a short drive out of Inverness..... yeah...so a little on Scottish names. Loch is used for lakes, so Lochness is the Lake Ness. Inver means the "mouth of". So Inverness is the mouth of Ness. Ness is the river in between Lochness and the city of Inverness. We drove to the remnants of Urquhart Castle. this is actually the ruin of a casltle which was blown up a few centuries ago.

We hung out for a while, and many pictures were taken. We had a really nice day with lots of sun--this was one of the rare nice-weather days I had in Inverness!

After the Castle we had lunch in a small town on the way home back to Inverness. I had a Gammon Steak--which is actually a big thing of bacon; I drank it with an Irn Bru soda.

We then decided to not go to one of Andrew´s cricket matches and instead head to the site of the

Culloden battlefield. This place had a modern, and really cool Interpretive Center. Sad to find it was a place where the Scotts (Jacobites) were creamed by the "government" (aka the Brits).

Oh, at the gift shop, I was surprised to see a "Scottish salsa" cd! The album is called Salsa Celtica--may have to download it when i get back to the states.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Long Day (a little more): Night On The Town In Inverness

(June 20, 2008)


Ended up pulling into Inverness around noon. Ari, Jeremy, and Johnny (Jeremy's younger step-brother) were there for the pick up. I tripped out on Johnny's bumper sticker: In N Out Burgers! "Ooo, I want a double-double meal!!", I proclaimed!

Drove up to Jeremy's family's house--it is on Balnafettack Road--I love these Gaelic/Scottish words! Anyway, I hung out and met people for a bit (Jeremy's Dad [Mike], and step mom [Ruth]), but I quickly hit the hay. I managed to catch up on a little bit of sleep. We then had some BBQ when I awoke--this is totally an American extravagance---apparently BBQ-ing is a rare an honored occasion up here in northern Scotland! After that we all went for a "pub crawl" down in the city centre of Inverness. We were joined by family friend, Andrew.

The first pub we went to was Hootenanny. This place was fairly packed, but we managed to get a table. I sampled a local microbrew and a whisky suggested by Andrew (Isle of Jura). It was decent--although I am obviously not an expert.

There was a trio playing Scottish music (who were apparently paid by rounds of pints!). After two rounds we walked/"crawled" down the street to the next pub, The Foundry. This was a bit of a "stylish" joint w/ American DJ music in the background. There were some Scottish girls dressed in Disney outfits--I saw a Minnie, Cinderella, and a Snow White. Not sure what the deal was. The Euro Cup was on TV, so we watched a bit (Croatia and Turkey were in the midst of a shoot-out. Turkey won). After this place we ended up going to a Czech pub. I was about pub-ed out at this point. There was a LOUD punk band playing here...that about ended the night for us.