Monthly Archives: April 2007

stuff I drank part 2

Wanna know why I didn’t get any in the UK?  Because I 1.) lack the requisite subtlety to flirt effectively with British men, and 2.) because British women are totally fun to hang with. 

One reason Edinburgh will always be so special to me was the lovely group of women that met me for dinner and drinks one night.  Remember when I put down myspace?  Well, I owe those guys an apology.  The arty friend who talked me into trying it “introduced” me to one of her myspace contacts who had given her some invaluable travel advice, and who happened to live in Edinburgh.  And, who offered to hang out for a while during my visit.  Much fun was had (at least by me)!

Exhibit A:  The interior of The Cumberland Bar in New Town:

inside the cumberland

Made famous in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street, we met here for a few drinks first.  Those drinks included:

1. A wee dram of Caol Ila

2. Sandy Hunter’s Ale

3. Deuchar’s IPA

Oof – on an empty stomach too. 

Exhibit B:  Outside The Cumberland (post drinks) with new friends:

outside the cumberland

Right before this photo was taken, it was decided that we needed to eat.  The ladies were very understanding of my wanting to immerse myself in their culture, so they took me to this crazy place called Monster Mash for haggis or sausages and mash.  I chickened out at the last moment and got the sausages, and have to say that I was very happy with them.  These ladies also know how to throw back a drink or nine, so they ordered a bottle of wine to go along with the spread of veggie haggis, veggie sausage, etc…  It was at this point that I began to fear for my liver.  Well, not really.  I was much too entertained by their wit and conversation.  Also, thank God for water.

Of course, we couldn’t end the evening without a nightcap.  A very silly pub was nearby…

Jekyll and Hydes is, evidently, one of those places that the youngsters visit during pub crawls.  Their schtick is all the twisted sort of sick stuff you might have seen in horror movies as well as a hidden bathroom.  I had a Glenmorangie.   Lively conversation continued for a bit, and then one of my super new comrades put me into a cab with her and dropped me off at my hotel’s street.  They really were wonderful and interesting women, and I hope that I might meet them again someday.

Don’t get me wrong though, English women were just as fun as their Edinburgh counterparts.  Next:  the Cocktail Party.



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2 nights in Edinburgh

Clearly, two nights isn’t adequate to really enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer.  Additionally, while I enjoyed travelling by myself, my visit was greatly enhanced by the “friends of friends” made via myspace.  One of the problems of travelling alone is that its really hard to take photos of yourself, and there were several occasions where I either couldn’t find a person to take a photo of me or felt like it was an imposition to make the request.  I spent several minutes cursing the lack of tourists while in the gardens of Holyrood Palace. 

Starting at the beginning, I took the 10:05 am Virgin train from Leeds to Edinburgh’s Waverly Station.  Unfortunately, the train was full so I was not able to change my left side window seat for a right side seat; once the train hits Newcastle, the route becomes more coastal and scenic, thrusting you practically upon the beach in some places.  Northern England is plenty scenic anyway, and I was treated to green rolling hillsides, flocks-upon-flocks of sheep and spring lambs, ruined buildings, quaint towns, large industrial areas, and well-kept manses.  The train slowed as it came into Edinburgh and provided a pretty dramatic introduction.

Because I was slightly hungover (the Bombshell and Beau are expert hosts and could go professional if they wanted) I grabbed a cab for the short trip – maybe half a mile – to my New Town digs – the Eyre Guest House.  I had a single room with my own bath for a bit less than $80 a night, which is pretty decent.  Here’s a photo of the entryway:

Eyre Guest House entryway

The room was small, but clean.  The bed was fine and I loved the huge window.  The bath was a bit cramped, but its nice to have your own.  People with long legs (or claustrophobia) would have needed to leave the bathroom door open if they needed to sit on the commode…

room at Eyre

Many (if not most) guest houses provide you with breakfast in Edinburgh, and Eyre was no different.  They offered a variety – I went with the eggs, bacon and toast version, but avoided the beans.  FYI – the Eyre and the Arden Lee guest houses, which are within steps of each other, are managed by the same people and both seemed lovely.  The Arden Lee may be a few dollars/pounds less.

My first afternoon was spent shopping in New Town.  I hit a department store called Jenners – sort of a Nordstrom or Bloomingdales – and did some damage in their extensive toy section.  Babykins and the Nephew should be pleased with their gifts:  a Scottie plush dog with tartan scarf and hat, the British version of Matchbox cars, a book about Greyfriars Bobby, and some sticker books.  I also found some cute tin soldiers at the Holyrood gift shop for the Neph.  Of course, my dad will be receiving some St. Andrews golf items…

After a long day of shopping and hungoverness, I visited a carry-out chip shop a block from the hotel – it just so happened that the place was well-known for its fish and chips: Alba d’ Oro.  I had the haddock and chips with the brown gravy.  The gravy was by accident as the eastern European girl behind the counter was hard to understand, so it was fortunate that I liked the gravy.  (There seems to be some consternation on the part of some in Edinburgh over the influx of foreigners taking service industry positions and not being able to communicate in English – sound familiar?)  Afterwards, I crawled into bed and watched BBC television (and got caught up on Eastenders – we’re about 3 years behind here in the US).

I was up at 8 am the next day.  Those of you who know me are undoubtedly shocked to learn this.  I made it to Edinburgh Castle by 9:45 or so, which enabled me to visit it without having to fight the crowds.  It was a bit cloudy, but never rained.

Edinburgh Castle

After spending the morning at the Castle, I visited a couple shops and had lunch at a semi-posh restaurant called Howies on Victoria Street in Old Town – it is a local chain that focuses on native cuisine.  It was there that I had the best fish and chips of my life:  very lightly tempura-battered sea bass with chips and a lemon mayo.  But, I must also mention the starter: a chicken liver pate served with oat biscuits and lightly dressed greens.  They do a prix fixe lunch that I cannot recommend enough.

After lunch, I walked down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace and Abbey.  (“Rood” means cross.) I needed to work off that lunch, after all.  Holyrood Palace is where State events are held in Edinburgh, and the Queen hosts a cocktail party every year in the gardens.  The Abbey was pretty spectacular, particularly with Arthur’s Seat, “an eroded remnant of a long-extinct volcano” per Lonely Planet, behind it.  As you can imagine, this is where I started to hate the lack of friendly or copious tourists while also loving that I didn’t have any to mar the photo.

Holyrood Abbey

Next post:  Edinburgh nightlife and natives/locals.


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kneel before my photographic prowess!

Another shot of Whitby AbbeyThese photos were taken with a Kodak Advantix camera that my sister gave to me for Christmas over 4 years ago – before I went to Italy with the Alabama Slama.    Crazy.  The last time I took photos I was proud of, I was in Spain, 16 years of age, and using a DISC camera.  Remember those?

Whitby Abbey is fantastic.  It was abandoned in the 14th century.  That thought just makes my hair stand on end.  I think I can actually get away with telling my mom that I went to church on Easter…  and that I loved it!   

abbey all

 This Advantix camera is my bitch!

Bram Stoker is also responsible for putting Whitby on the map by featuring St. Mary’s Church (in addition to the town) in Dracula.  Also, Lonely Planet says that it is the best place in the UK to get fish ‘n’ chips!  It was tasty, but I have to say that the version I had for lunch in Edinburgh outmatched Whitby’s… 

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i guess this makes me feel better…

Interesting article on the history of being single  (courtesy of

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a fleeting moment of photographic glory

Whitby AbbeyDo you know why this photo, of the ruins of Whitby Abbey, is so fucking great?  Its because I’m not in the photo to ruin it. 

I had my photos developed today and the main thing that occurred to me whilst reviewing them was, “What possessed me to wear that?”  Then, I remembered that the walk up the hill to this gorgeous ruin that sits atop one of the world’s most picturesque seaside villages, was like the Bataan Death March, Episode II:  Attack of My Fat Ass.  T-shirt and ratty sweater activewear were mandatory. 

It was at the Abbey where I and the Brit’s Beau encountered the oddest ducks.  Seriously, cute little white ducks.  A pair of them ambled up while we considered the ruin and politely waited at our feet for about 30 seconds before waddling off.  No angry or beggerish quacking – even the damn ducks are well-behaved in Yorkshire.  The Brit’s Beau captured it somewhere along the lines of, “Well, hello there.  Don’t mind us.  Feel free to drop some crumbs if you must.  Or don’t.  No really, we’re just leaving.”   As you might imagine, I often felt like a total savage and am sure that my behavior or words shocked/irked somebody over there.  I just can’t take me anywhere anymore…

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stuff i drank, part 1

Because I 1) don’t have a good digital camera and 2) can’t find the damn thing anyway, the posting of photos from my trip to the UK will be delayed.  Unfortunately, I’ve also been very under the weather since Wednesday – am hoping the antibiotics take effect soon.

However, I can go ahead and list the many different beers that were consumed or tasted during my trip.  To this end, the Brits did a solid job in broadening my palate.

At the same time, the finest beverage did not contain beer.  It was a delicious concoction of bison grass vodka, from Poland, and applejuice.  Nice, cloudy applejuice.  It is so sweet and refreshing that you don’t have any idea how hammered you’re getting until you are, definitively, hammered!  Nectar of the gods, that stuff!  When I’m feeling better I’ve got to find that vodka.

The Brits also introduced me to a couple cognacish drinks, to include a very lovely aperitif called Pineau des Charentes.  I could live off that stuff.  The other drink was a cognac champagne coctail with a cube of sugar.  Amazing stuff.  Like I’ve said previously, these folks know how to drink!

But a trip to Great Britain is incomplete without making a sort of study of the beers.  To my surprise, they weren’t all served warm, or even room temp.  To my greater surprise, the Brits also like some of their beers served cold.  So nice to have stereotypes shattered, isn’t it? 

Since I don’t recall much about the day I arrived (jetlag combined with a walk I’ll liken to the Bataan Death March – fully the fault of my lovely hosts who just didn’t know how very out of shape I was), let’s start with York on April 6th…

York, by the way, was incredibly lovely, like most of Yorkshire.  Just beautiful. 

We started at The Blue Bell – a tiny pub, described by Lonely Planet England as having decor dating from 1798.  I started with a half of Timothy Taylor Landlord (bitters), which was strong in flavor.  I tried the Bombshell’s Adnan’s bitters which was lighter and more enjoyable.  However, the highlight was the Silver King – a great blonde lager brewed by Ossett in West Yorkshire.  The Bombshell’s Beau described it as, “floral” and “hoppy”.  I think The Bunny might like it considering his current (and unfathomable) thing for Hoegaarden.  Silver King is way better.  I also had a Cascade at the Blue Bell, which could be described as being a bit maltier than the Silver King.

The second pub was a bonafide local called the Ackhorne.  It was more spacious than the Blue Bell and the Beau’s favorite.  I could see why.  I had a Rooster Yankee (made in Knaresborough) and the Bomb had a Battleaxe.  The Rooster was a bit lighter in color.  I’d describe the flavor but can’t recall anything except the Branson pickle and cheese flavored “mini cheddars” (crackers) we had there.  Strange combo but compelling if you’re drinking many beers.

The York trip was finalized with a stop at a pub called Maltings where I had a Black Sheep Bitters.  My notes say that it had a short finish.  I’m fairly certain I was pretty tipsy at this point.  The truly shocking thing is that I was still standing after so much drinking and sight-seeing.  

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the anglophile returns

ava-easter-laughing-4-08-07.jpg Goodness!  Is my vacation really over?  Is it really 4:26 am for me?  Why and how the hell am I still awake?  Do I really have 150 messages awaiting me on my blackberry and should I be concerned that there aren’t more?

The trip was excellent.  So much so that I sat down in my hotel room last night and cried at the knowledge that I’d have to go to work on Monday.   

Off to bed now.  Several posts to come.

 (The photo of the niece was taken on Easter.  I helped pick out that frock as well.  Auntie Allez has excellent taste!)

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