Just a forewarning that this is going to be a long post, as so much happens every single day, and it has been 12 days since I left (we'll see how far I can get tonight). It's really quite amazing what we've done so far. There will also be plenty of photos, but I'm creating a shutterfly account where all the pictures will be posted (there are also a sprinkling on facebook, but that's mainly to tag people)
Where better to start than from the beginning.
The flight out was fairly tumultuous. My flight from Chicago was delayed almost two hours, so I missed my connecting bus from Heathrow to Gatwick airport and therefore had the flight re-routed through Heathrow (which makes the most sense anyway...). Then I took the most round-about way of getting the train out to Balloch. When all is said and done, I only arrived about an hour late, but it was a special time. I've never had a problem with flying, so it really threw me, but it was a good learning experience.
Nevertheless, it was such a thrill to arrive at the Woodvale bed and Breakfast - which I highly recommend to anyone looking to stay in the Balloch area of Scotland - and see Katie's lovely face. The B&B was a small, four-room establishment, decorated -in an honesty non-kitschy way - with thistles. We had a two-bedder with sloping ceilings. It was very peaceful and lovely house.
Katie in her corner.
That night we ate dinner at a local restaurant where I tried haggis for the first time!
Photo courtesy Katie Cowan.
I wasn't sure what I thought at first: it has a very specific texture, but ultimately I decided that I like it. We also began this night the tradition of eating as much different sticky toffee pudding as possible.
The following day began with a full Scottish breakfast. The B&B owner, Allie, was just a DOLL. Katie found it wonderfully charming that the Scots actually say "wee" and "lass." It was a great start to the morning, followed by a lovely walk along Loch Lomond and around Balloch castle. I had never before heard the song Loch Lomond, so Katie played it for me.
The Castle - not open for tours but the trails lead right up to and around it. The grounds are obviously gorgeous to walk through
Some lovely flowers and other colors around the Castle
Now, for those of wondering "why Balloch?" I will explain. Katie's family is from the area and she wanted to spend a few days before the program started going around and seeing the land of her ancestors. She asked if anyone would be interested in joining her and I jumped at the opportunity.
Following our walk we parted ways: Katie going up to her family's home/area and me going down to Glasgow - about a 40 minute train ride - to see my friend, Alex, from Pepperdine.
Alex is an actor who has been living in the UK since he came to London/Edinburgh with Pepperdine in 2008. He just decided he would stay and work and he did. The only way Alex can stay after the coming December, however, is by getting married so we'll see what happens...
Alex and I had lunch and saw a show in the converted cathedral, Oran Mor.
Downstairs is a bar and theatre space
Upstairs is covered with murals painted by a local artist. I think the intention was to open a gallery up here, but it hasn't quite happened yet. Nevertheless, the murals are beautiful.
From the Oran Mor, Alex gave a me a great tour of Glasgow in our brief time together. He showed my the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow University, the Kelvingrove Art Museum which had some fantastic costume pieces including period suit coats made from tartan! and we went on a hunt for the missing arm of a statue painted in one of the murals in the Cathedral.
William Hunter: Collector, Midwife, Superstar. Seriously, folks. This made my day.
View of Glasgow from the University. Just before I fell and split my knee open, bleeding all over the city before finding a band-aid.
18th and 19th century Tartan suit coats!
The tumultuous story of the Warrior's Arm, featured in the mural upstairs at Oran Mor
The statue in mural and actual form
Back in Balloch I had fish and chips with some questionable sauces. However, our meal was remedied by the sticky ginger toffee pudding and banoffee pie from a local pub. We came to the realization that we probably shouldn't eat toffee pudding every night, but for now we were on pre-vacation vacation.
The following morning we left Balloch for London! One the train I typed up my first blog post for IU's blog, I to U. Read it here.
Pretty views from the train to London.
Well, I was hoping to get further than that, but alas, it is 1:30 am and I have to be up to tour the Tower of London tomorrow morning!