August 29, 2011

Last Days in Edinburgh

Well, the first part of my journey is coming to a close at last... The past few days have been wonderful, apart from a head cold and sore throat that left me feeling pretty tired and irritable for a couple days. Didn't stop me from saying so long to my new city-friend, though. In all the best ways...

1. Having haggis (again) with Mom and Dad

Ewe-licious.
I couldn't resist showing my parents The Haggis and Whiskey Shop when they arrived -- it was too delicious! And after I realized that I wasn't eating sheep's meat at all, but just their organs (heart, kidney, etc.) I somehow didn't feel as bad. (There's not an ounce of humanity or logic in that, I know.) I guess I figured so long as I was eating something pretty badass, I could live with injesting my brethren. When in Scotland... Dad ordered a really delicous prawn plate, and we finished off the meal with some mushroom/red wine pate and calimari. That last item was an all too delicious reminder that I didn't try enough seafood while here. Next time!

I think the 'rents have liked Edinburgh as much as I have. It was fun reliving my own introduction to the city. Some things were awfully familiar...

Like mother, like daughter, as they say.

2. 'Pretending Christmas' in August
Photos courtesy of Shawn.

Yesterday it was cold enough to be!! I've really gotta buy some quality sweaters when I hit London...

3. Finding Tom Riddle's house! Sort of...


There've been a lot of other HP-esque things I've noticed around Edinburgh, some of which I've actually wondered didn't inspire JKR in her composition. We saw the National Gallery (awesome -- I could've stayed in there for 2 more hours. I'm so excited the museums in London will be free as well) and the way the portraits were hung up, packed closely in a collage-y style and all in gold frames, reminded me of Sir Cadogan and co., at least the way they're featured in the movies. The two graveyards on either side of the castle are just as creepy as I imagined in The Goblet of Fire, and I've already mentioned "the Fleur" at The Elephant House. And speaking of Fleur...

4. Having Bouillabaisse

Mlle. Fleur Delacour, s'il vous plait!

Bouillabaisse, in case you don't remember from the feast scene in "Beauxbatons and Durmstrang" (or perhaps the chapter afterwards) is a delicious fish stew served in a tomato-base sauce with shellfish. Nummy.

5. Having Fudge
"We don't normally do this..." Mom says.



6. Having Cake (and eating it too...)



It was Mark's birthday on the 27th, and a couple of our roommates made a very sweet (cute-sweet and sugary-sweet) cake -- much reminiscent of Hagrid's birthday dessert after it melted a bit in the fridge. After cake we went out to Finnegan's Wake where we danced to a live band (who played "Brown Eyed Girl"!) and on the way we managed to catch the last of the Military Tattoo fanfare -- all the remaining fireworks were lit off (we all went crazy, having the best view from Prince's Street) and the pipers passed by right as we entered the Royal Mile.

7. Having a cuppa at Eteaket


I finally got some pictures of this too-cute tea shop:





8. Seeing one last show

The Animals and Children Took to the Street blended some quirky animation (projected on a 3-wall background, to great effect), character acting, and singing. I really want to take this style and bring to life something like Roald Dahl's Matilda. It would be great for a show aimed at kids. Some slow pacing at moments, but overall, a triumph in blending classic elements with modern technology. 4 stars.


*****

I've really enjoyed this funky, comfy, and oftentimes zany little city. I'll miss the yeasty smell of the streets, the quiet air of the evening, and curling up in my sweaters with tea during those icy mornings before class. It's going to be gettin' hot in hurr for a while -- I believe we're heading into 80 degree weather in France -- and my pasty Scottish skin isn't gonna know what hit it.

For now, thanks, Fringe Fest. You've made this drama nerd very happy!





 For Auld Lang Syne, as they say.

August 27, 2011

Sick in Scert-lernd.

Looks like I didn't last long in the incubation room. I've got a four star cold right now, and it's been draining me of energy and optimism for three days and counting. Unfortunately, this has aligned with a visit from my parents, and they're likely now wondering what Scotland has done to me, to make me cranky and eleven years old again. I'm so beat I took a two hour nap through the nicest part of today and even refused my parent's invitation to eat dinner out tonight. To be fair, I've had more than my share of restaurant food since they've arrived -- they have generously been celebrating by buying really awesome meals -- so it's probably high time I took a break if only to conserve calories. Honestly, though, I'm just ready to not feel like shit anymore.

The last slew of shows included some of the best and some of the worst. Here's the verdict on the newest batch:

The One Hour Plays was an improv-style group of very talented performers, directors, and technicians. These guys wrote, directed, acted, and costumed a completely original 10 minute play (with audience input on all fronts) in one hour's preparation time. It was really fun to behold our "action movie soap opera" of Jamon, mi amor! about Juan the drugsbaron and his love for Evita, the anti-sandwich revolutionary. 4 stars, only lacking in the last cause it didn't really give me any mind-altering perceptions of art/theatre.

Wonderous Fliting. About a man who may or may not encounter a miracle in the form of a "flitting" house crashing through his apartment. This show started off with a bang (quite literally), but ended in a messy heap of tragic mistakes on the writers part. TERRIBLE. 2 stars for potential.

The Rape of Lucrece was a one-man show. This would have been stellar on the basis that the man simply learned all those lines, but he also acted it quite well. Still, an hour and 15 minutes of Shakespearean dialogue with decent physicality but mediocre characterization did prove a little wearing. I completely applaud him, but probably wouldn't need to see anything like it again. 3.5 stars.

Ovid's Metamorphoses was STELLAR. I wish I had more energy, cause I would break down every little bit of this show -- all of the fantastic costume design, the puppetry, the fabulous acting, the Le Coq influence, the amazing 100-things-you-can-do-with-six-unadorned-stage-flats, and the fabulous original music -- but I'm a bit pressed for time (and energy, as mentioned.) All I can say is if you're reading this and you're in Scotland GO SEE IT. It's like Mission Drift's pretty awesome younger sister. 5 stars.

Entitled was a trip, man. Nothing strange happened, really, but the best way I can explain what did happen is quoting the director's aim to "turn theatre inside out." Basically what we watched was the tech process of a show, both before and after the production. The entire piece is people screwing in platforms, putting up flats, testing lights, choreographing, and delivering on-the-spot monologues about the banal behind-the-scenes day-to-day of the theatrical world (the bit you don't see come to stage). When it comes to the point where you feel like a show could happen -- when all the stage and lights and sound is set -- the whole thing pauses for all of five seconds, just a flash in the midst of a 1h 45min production, and then we work backwards until the stage is bare again. It was kind of like going to see one of those modern exhibitions where the artist rolls around in paint across butcher paper while holding a dead rabbit or something: you're not really quite sure what's going on or why, at times it feels completely pretentious, but in the end it somehow leaves you with a sense of purified reality. 4 stars.

My last show is tomorrow, and the day after that it's off to London before touring le continent (Belgium and France!) with my parents. I couldn't be more excited, but it's going to be really hard to say goodbye to my friends until, well, next year. This has been such a truly marvelous experience, and I can't wait for our final hoorah tonight, in birthday celebration.

Sick or not sick.




August 23, 2011

Golden Lochs

SO, I fell a bit behind this weekend due to the Loch Ness bus adventure, but now here I am with more photos that you'll care to see documenting the whole adventure! So let's dive right in...

First let it be reiterated here and known forever more that I do NOT like bus tours. Well, I take that back -- I love car rides and those're almost the same thing. I enjoy riding in vehicles with wheels for extended periods of time providing there's music (or a good friend with interesting conversation), adequate space, enough oxygen, and few stops. Only the first of that list was true in this case, and while the trip itself was awesome, I wish I didn't have to experience the majority of it crammed in the backmost corner, praying the tour guide would be quiet for a bit.

Okay, that's all the bitching I'll do. Here's the good stuff:

One very important even happened on this trip that I must preface with a bit of background in order to ensure the excitement is delivered fully. See, there's this ice cream bar...

No, nobody understands the ?! thing.

I first heard tell of these little babies from the previous group of Edinburgh travelers -- those who came last year after their stint in Pontlevoy. I didn't really get the big deal; I mean, it's an ice cream bar -- they're all pretty much the same, right? But enough people went crazy about them when the originals hit the states that I decided I'd have to see what all the fuss was about once I got over here.

So, with the help of my classmate Bobbin, I hit up every convenience store we passed, looking in the freezer box for the fated dessert which everyone assured me had been widely available the previous summer. The first time I made the mistake of asking for "Magnums -- you know, the big gold ones," which I'm sure from the look on his face immediately called these to mind.

Woops.

Unfortunately, when I went back to this store my third or fourth time, having been assured they'd restock next week, the man informed me they were no longer available and no further orders would be made.

I lost faith and only continued my search on when passing the occasional ice cream truck, giving a halfhearted glance at the array of other admittedly delicious-looking Magnum bar options, feeling like Charlie Bucket with his meager hope for the last golden ticket.

And then it happened.

After the stuffy bus ride, I was feeling pretty exhausted and just wanted to find a place to eat lunch. Julia, Bobbin, and I finished our food on a patch of grass near our bus stop in -- oh jeez, I don't even know where we were... perhaps Aviemore? -- then decided to stop into Tesco for some rest-of-journey nibbles. As Julia and I were meandering the store, Bobbin suddenly came racing around from three aisles over, stopped dead in her tracks and said "Guys, look what I found!!" And from behind her back she pulled a three-bar box of the one and only Magnum Golds -- the last one in the store.


It sort of felt like finding the holy grail. We paid our three pounds worth and rushed out of the store, a mess of "I can't believe l;ajglkehwa;gehwla!" and "I thought we'd never alwangleahj gjewy!" Back at the bus we unwrapped our prizes and fell into golden heaven. And I've never enjoyed dessert more in my entire life.


Mission accomplished.



After our "Magnum Opus" (ahaha) and another hour on the bus, we finally arrived at Loch Ness. This was the closest I came to the legendary Nessy...

 ...who very rudely tried to end my dreams of travel writing...

Some good gift shop finds.

A few of the more zealous (insane? can I say insane?) members of our group decided a swim was in order.


The look on Joey's face here should tell you how great that water felt...

They were all quite proud of themselves. The rest of us had fun taking pictures.

Our next stop was this cool castle, though we only admired it from afar:


And then we arrived at our sweet Bed and Breakfast! We split into three places -- Victoria and I got stuck with the boys. They came late to breakfast in the morning and got quite the scolding from our McGonagall-esque hostess, Sheila. They're not kidding about these Brits valuing promptness!


On our search for a place to eat, we ran into this:


It was this random public farm place... There was everything from goats to cows to rabbits to red deer. Good thing none of us were too hungry, cause these guys were pretty darn cute (just kidding, Hannah ;) )



I almost couldn't handle this rooster. He was GINORMOUS and had the funniest walk I've ever seen in my life. He would sort of stomp across the yard with his enormous feathered feet, and he was free-roaming, so he'd just kinda creep up on you when you weren't paying attention. 






I'd seen so many on the drive over, you'd think I'd be sick of them, but my family sort of has this thing about sheep -- at least, my parents do. Apparently it was unintentional, but they actually managed to give me a name that translates to "ewe," so the obsession has been passed on. Anyway, when I went to call upon my brethren, instead of being welcomed with hearty Baas and bleats, I met this:


And this was the one who afforded me the most acknowledgement! I named her Brownie, and I actually got to feed her a bit, cause she'd escaped her pen in search of fern. Mostly though, she was having none of me.


Unicorn sheep!?
 Turns out my namesakes are rather aloof little buggers. Sort of keep to themselves and like to eat a lot. Quiet, really, and deceptively snuggly...
Wait a second, that sounds like someone I know...  ;)


The next day it was bright and early back to the bus. We visited several places on our way back to Edinburgh, but the one I liked best was Glencoe.




Do these landscapes look familiar to anyone?

Lemme give you a hint:













Got it yet?









Try this:




Yep! Much of Prisoner of Azkaban was filmed here, as well as a lot of the Hogwarts Express scenes and the bits with the flying car in Secrets. Needless to say I was excited.

It also reminded me a bit of Lord of the Rings:



So of course I lined up everyone to reenact it:


I was completely drained by the time we arrived back in the city, and ready to never board another bus again. All things considered, though, it was worth the less-than-perfect transportation for the more-than-perfect series of adventures.

Especially that Magnum Gold bar.