Days 6-10: Scotland – The Wolves of Eisenhower… & Other Plaid Things

Day 6 –

When we took the step off the train in Scotland we immediately smelled baked goods. This automatically activated an “oh boy” from Mickey who made a beeline for the cookies stand. After this we left the train station and stepped back into the medieval times. We could see the castle over looking the valley below and our feet crossed cobble stone roads. In searching for our hostel we walked through the skinny paths between buildings leading up to the top of the hill. Our hostels location was perfect as it was right next to the castle making it super easy to find our way back to it just in case we got lost. After we’d ditched our things at the hostel we decided to take the climb up Arthur’s seat! Which basically everyone we had talked to about Edinburgh said was something we absolutely had to do and man were they right. Both of us had been looking forward to this part of the trip and we decided to take the hard way up. Well I guess I should say that Mickey convinced me that’s what we should do… It was definitely difficult and technically the trail was closed because of falling rocks but that’s never stopped us before. The day was quite perfect for this hike, there were a few clouds in the sky but plenty of sunlight illuminating the surrounding countryside. The view was absolutely spectacular. There were people running all over Arthur’s seat getting a workout in and man if that was where my runs took me I’d definitely get out more. As we were climbing down(the easy way) there were cliffs on each side of us and looking up Mickey said, “I’m still waiting for the wolves of Eisenhower to track us down..” I of course laugh because Eisenhower is absolutely incorrect but it does give a funny mental image as he was looking for the wolves of Isenguard.

That night we went on another pub crawl through the Sandemans company and had a great time. Scotland’s pub crawl was quite different than London’s as it revolved quite a bit more around conversation as opposed to dancing. We went to a total of seven bars in the area, one called whistle binckies that’s famous for their catacombs in the basement, and our favorite pub in Edinburgh called Pilgrim. Pilgrim was great because of how they involved travel in the interior design. The bar itself was build using old luggage cases with a wooden top, all the seats on the walls were old airport chairs and the tables were made from trunks with glass tops. That night there was a really good guitarist there who tossed out a great vibe for the place. My least favorite was a bar called Frankensteins where at midnight they cut the music and played scenes from Frankenstein while an automated robot “Frankenstein” was lowered into the middle of the bar and was brought to “life.” Like I said it was absolutely my least favorite. We met a solid group if people once again from around the world and ended up making some sweet friends with people going for their masters at the university of Edinburgh. Sandemans should really hire Mickey and I to promote their pub crawl because throguh the trip we have recruited so many people to join up with us.

Day 7 –

Woke up this morning to go on the free tour where our guide Sebastian was giving his first ever tour. It was alright, both of us by this time were feeling quite tired and had a hard time focusing on the very cool stories we were told about the history of Edinburgh. I did enjoy the one about Deacon Brody who was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We ate at the tavern named after him and their story says that by day he was a pious, wealthy, and much respected citizen and in 1781 was elected Deacon Councilor of the city. But at night he was a gambler, a thief, dissipated and licentious. He was hanged in 1788, ironically at the gallows he himself designed. I have more to that story if you like to hear it ask me about it!

We did our touristy stuff at this point in the trip where we bought flags and patches along with other various things. We went on a hunt for Mickey to find a leather bracelet that felt like it took around 5 hours… I’m not real good at this whole keeping track of time thing though so it may have only been 45 minutes or so. But we happened upon a local band playing their hearts out with a bagpipe! They were pretty solid and rather fun so we stayed and watched for a time. At dinner that night Mickey ordered the haggis which I did try and found it to be tough but not gross. Now that we know what it is however… Why is that a meal? Without much else to do at night we thought we would hit the pub crawl again but after the first three pubs neither of us was feeling it so we ditched the crawl and went for kebabs and chips and cheese. That is seriously the best late night food ever… Gonna need to open up a kebab joint or something because its so good. We then went and hung out at the hostel where a crew of backpackers were having a sweet jam session with the guitars left at the hostel and everyone joining in singing along. After awhile of that we tried falling asleep while a thunderstorm of a snorer had a concert in the bed next to us. (Earplugs people… Required if your staying in a hostel)

Day 8 –

I messed up on our hostel booking and didn’t realize we were staying another night in Scotland so we had to check out of our hostel… Thankfully they had a few beds open so we were able to Shnag those for only £13 each. We spent an hour and a half, which is mickeys limit to sitting around, at a cafe Nero where I was content to spend the entire day. Instead of sitting around however we climbed Caltons hill which isn’t as tall at Arthur’s seat but has the attempted Parthenon on top of it otherwise known as the shame of Scotland. On the trek back we grabbed some wicked good ice cream! Then crashed at the hostel for a fabulous nap, after the nap we got dinner and went on the pub crawl again. I didn’t stay all the way through this one because all the late nights were catching up to me finally.

Day 9 –

This was our last day in Edinburgh which was terrible in Mickeys eyes because he loved this city. He thought that it was so great that we didn’t have to take a bus anywhere or hop on a train, that it was just us and our feet making the trek. We both really enjoyed the overall atmosphere of Edinburgh especially the quaint feel of the royal mile. I wasn’t overly sad to see it go however. I’d have enjoyed staying longer absolutely but I enjoy the hustle of London and I like taking public transport all over the city. It makes it so much easier to see so much more in the short amount of time we were traveling. It didn’t help that we didn’t want to spend much money and both of us were already tired of the touristy type of things. So instead of dropping £20 on the castle tour I slept some more in our hostel common room and Mickey climbed Arthur’s seat again. We then had some kebabs with chips and cheese and then grabbed the bus to the airport for our flight to Spain!

Extras. So I’m currently in my hostel at Madrid! We only have two more nights on this fantastic vacation so I’m going to get right on writing the Barcelona portion of my blog so hopefully you will read that tonight as well! If not you’ll know it took me too long and I have gone on a fiesta!


Days 3-6: Catching Up – The Rest of London

Man have I not wanted to write much on this trip… But now that I’m sitting down to actually get my thoughts on this virtual paper I’m realizing how silly it was for me not to keep up. Now I have more work to do and I’ve kept all you incredible people wondering what sort of shenanigans Mickey and I have gotten into. Well sorry! Here it is, the end of our trip to London, with a follow up post of our time in Scotland.

Day 3 –

Where I left you with my second post we had been out on a pub crawl where we figured out the night bus system and were very pleased with ourselves. We happened to come into our hostel very late roughly 3:00 in the morning where both of us crashed into our separate beds and promptly couldn’t fall asleep… Rough! I pulled out my book and got some reading in until I just couldn’t stay awake any longer. Throughout the morning our various roommates got up and went about their lives slamming the door, blow drying their hair, and chatting up a storm. Needless to say Mickey and I have gotten very little uninterrupted sleep this trip but right around 3:00 pm Mickey woke me up because we couldn’t sleep the day light away.

We sure made a go of it but with our remaining few hours, we hopped on the tube and went to see the Portebello Garden market. Unfortunately we keep missing the markets themselves but the street was lined with tons of fascinating shops with general touristy trinkets and other just plain interesting things. We’d had such a good time on the first pub crawl that we figured we might as well hit it again. Let me tell you right now that central London is a completely different place on a Friday as opposed to any other night of the week. It was dang near impossible to get to the bar let alone a order a drink. In the states bartenders rely on tips to make most of their money so they are very quick about getting you your order and moving onto the next one. This is not the case in England (and Scotland) where you don’t have to tip unless the service is incredible. So there is almost zero hustle in their turnover of customers and on a Friday night in central London there are loads of them. Every bar we went to was still a good time but each were filled to the brim.

We happened to meet three people from Minneapolis at bar Soho and two of them are going to be in Barcelona when we are so, we are potentially going to meet up! We befriended the best tour guide in the business named Ed! Who worked 4 days and nights in a row and helped make each of our three pub crawls with him a blast by switching from his red work shirt at the end of his shift and continuing to show us around and get as he put it get “proper drunk.”

Day 4 –

This day we went to really the only place I felt like I had missed on my last time in London and that was the Tower of London. As a history guy I absolutely loved walking around listening to the different architecture bits and which king added which section. We walked through the Crown Jewels which Mickey thought were replicas because they had very little security around them… Until we exited the building and we saw a gigantic steel door! We had messaged our buddies Matt and Mike and found out at they were also going to be at the Tower that day as well but since they didn’t have phones we figured it would be impossible to find them in this massive castle, and of course as we are saying this, Mickey looks up and is like Matt???? So then we all hung out there taking a gander at all the cool swords and armor talking European history which Matt majored in.

After the Tower of London we had made plans with our new found friend Charlotte to see the “underground side of London” so we headed over to the dalston junction and shoreditch areas. Charlotte and her friend Lucy met up with us a brought us to this awesome hidden away street feast. Imagine taking about 60 of the best state fair food trucks and booths, cramming them into an area surrounded by those giant storage containers on huge ships, with some sweet alternative music being played, and bonfires crackling all around you, got that? Ok now make it wicked awesome and inexpensive and that’s what we did. I feel like I’ve gone bonkers because I didn’t take any photos… Sorry! Mickey and I had some jerk chicken that was absolutely delicious and tried out some English beer that Mickey liked and did not hit the spot for me (bitter). We then went to a place called the Passage where Lucy may have had a huge crush on the bartender so she’s known by name there because she’s there almost nightly. While the bartender had a nice head of hair I would go just for the drinks! Mickey ordered a whiskey sour which we both expected to be whiskey mixed with sour… Not the case at all. Instead what was presented to him was this foamy art in a glass that had some sort of cinnamon powder on top and believe me that may have been my favorite drink from the entire trip! This place was about really making something that would leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.

Then we moved on to a bar where Lucy’s work friends were meeting up for a going away party. The pub was called the Star of Bethal and it had that thump in the music that just about never changes and it was here that we had some of the most fun on the entire trip. We met a ton of English people and a few Australians where we discussed accents, opinions on Americans as a whole, and our opinions on their city. It was here that after displaying my antics on the dance floor I was challenged to my first dance off abroad. Mickey will back me up but I destroyed it! TJ 1 Australian guy 0. We had gone outside to cool off and a few people in our party grabbed a smoke and when we were done and I stepped back inside it was to a whole different kind of pub… One completely filled with glitter. Next thing I know I’m doused in glitter utterly confused and Mickey and Charlotte dip set back outside. Now I can’t be the only American that got glittered so I scooped up a couple handfuls and got Mickey real good for ditching me! All of the English people loved our accents and were trying to copy them and failing miserably so then they asked us to try and of course since we practice on the regular we sounded freaking incredible which made everyone laugh because we would rattle through English Scottish Australian and Irish in the same sentence.

At this point in the night I just about always am hankering for some food, and so we took off searching our hearts out for a kebab place. Lucky thing we had Charlotte because Mickey and I would be have been eternally lost. We found the kebab place and now my absolute favorite late night food has changed from Mesa pizza to kebabs with a side of chips(fries) and cheese. We then went back to charlottes for a chill session on the sweetest patio ever. We swapped stories until Charlotte finally kicked us out at about 5:30 am… What we didn’t realize was that the night busses shut down right around 6:00… So how we’d bussed back to shepherds bush each night was no longer an option. We ended up wandering around for a good hour finally finding the stop that would take us to our hostel. It was here, covered in glitter, that we watched the sun rise in the Piccadilly Circus.

Day 5 –

As we arrived when some of our roommates were waking up we once again slept the majority of the day away. We’d made plans with Matt and Mike to meet up again at the pub crawl so we went over there for an early dinner/lunch/breakfast where we had one of the better plates of nachos I’ve ever had and once again ordered… You guessed it fish and chips along with sausage and mash. It was absolutely delectable. When we were done we had some more time to kill before the crawl so we walked around the Covent Garden Market looking at all their wares as they closed up shop and then we listened to a street musician/guitarist who was absolutely fantastic. He wrote his own music and had a lovely voice and a decently large crowd sitting and listening to him play. Mickey got a (as Charlotte would say) fab cappuccino at what appears to be a very popular coffee joint in England called Cafè Nero. We then rolled over to Belushis to crawl again. I’m not going to go into this much but I did have a drink called a Wham Jam Thank You Mam made with southern comfort cherry, luxardo amaretto, cranberry juice, and RASBERRY JAM! It was absolutely delicious and if it hadn’t run me £7.50 that would have been all I’d had. But basically it was another fun night out on the town. I did however get pulled into a breakdancing battle by our tour guide Ed who wanted to see me bust a move. I’m not sure I won but loads of people from the club came and asked what a big white guy from the states is doing crushing it on the dance floor.

Day 6 –

Basically today was rather relaxed on the London side of things. Mickey and I woke up early to check out of our hostel and then packed up our belongings to catch our train to Edinburgh, Scotland at 9:30. The train ride was pretty cool and it was a nice way to catch a bit of the London countryside. Five hours later we were stepping out onto the soil of Scotland. In my next post I’ll tell you about our entire time there and what made it Mickey’s absolute favorite place on our trip and why I mildly disagree with him.

Day 1 London – Exhaustion Mixed with Jet Lag… Bad Combo

Sleeping on the plane, when you travel, from what I can tell is probably one of the best things you can do. The time will fly (pun not intended but appreciated) and you’ll land at least a bit more rested than when you started. The problem for my travel companion Mickey and I rests in our lack of rest. 8 hours of fly time from Minneapolis to Paris is a long time but as both of us exceed 6′ in height and aren’t twigs there was very little room for us to be comfortable. Layover in Paris was uneventful although we had to trek through security again and Mickey accidentally brought a full nalgene through and was forced to rummage through the garbage to find confiscated water bottles that he could pour it out in.

We met a lovely young lass from England on the hop over to London who basically planned our time in London for us. Took us awhile to find our hostel, not because it was that difficult to find, but more so because we could barely think straight. After being awake for over 24 hours neither of us were in any sort of mind to understand what was going on around us. Unfortunately we had forgotten that check in wasn’t until 2:00 so we had over 2 1/2 hours to kill. After getting extremely simple directions we immediately had no idea where we were going… But 1 block from the hostel was much to far to walk back to ask for directions again so we just kept on truckin. I’d go into some more detail about this adventure but… Being half awake Mickey and I can’t really remember details. At check in we then immediately went upstairs and laid down in our short, hard beds, in a blisteringly hot room and passed out feeling like kings.

Upon awakening we took off again, this time by the tube, making our way up to Camden Town. Camden was described to us as being very alternative with lots of live music and good ol’ fashioned pubs. We walked up and down the street taking in all the cool artwork on the buildings, the crazy outfits worn by basically everyone, and a crew of roughly 100 rollerblading fiends! Obviously we stopped at a pub called Bucks Head and ordered fish and chips and while there found Mickeys new favorite drink called Ferrari Jack. (Jack, amaretto, and coke) There we just took in the scenery still to tired to join in the craziness. Then afterwords on our trip back we stopped into The Worlds End “probably the biggest pub in the world” for a pint!

All in all a very interesting first day to an excellent adventure!

The End of the Road… Peeling like a Champ

I have 10 minutes until I board the flight away from this beautiful sandy wonderland. Thankfully I will be back here on Tuesday for the National Intramural Sports and Recreation conference in Tampa Bay. It will be great to be home even if it is for a short weekend in order to get a few things done and finish up shedding a peeling layer of skin.

The week has been filled with dry walling, beaching, and Wal-Marting. I was mildly disappointed to hear that we would spend the entire week on dry wall because it was something that I had done before and I felt like I had the general gist of how to accomplish that aspect of construction… how wrong I was! While I did know how to dry wall it was not a breeze at all. The mild screw ups and mis-measurements that were abundant made the work move very slowly. What took us an entire week of work would have taken, according to Rob our site manager, a professional crew close to a single day of relaxed work. Towards the end we really started to pick up on what we were doing however and John could probably have screwed in an entire sheet of drywall faster than three of us put together. When we walked into the house at the beginning of the week there were two pieces of drywall up and when the garage door finally slid shut every surface of wall was completely covered.

Wednesday night we were asked to come to a local to church for dinner and because we as a group never turn down free food they received a quick acceptance. We had a delicious meal of ham, scalloped potatoes, corn, and cake with a very gracious group of church goers. After the meal we were asked to speak to the youth group about our experience with Habitat. I felt bad for the youth group director though because he had no idea we were coming and youth group didn’t start for another hour. We chatted a little bit with him and then decided that it would be better for us to take off and said our thanks to our hosts.

On our last night in Florida we spent the last evening Venice Beach playing a really fun game of volleyball. After the rental place closed down a few people went to the shops, the majority laid down on their towels to read or take a quick nap in the sun, and I personally went down to the waves to appreciate the great power of the sea. It was a great time of reflection on the trip that our group has gone through. I sat down on the sand and chilled truly enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean.

The call has been made to board. Got questions about the trip? Leave them in the comments section below.