I Traveled the Land of Braveheart and Liquid Sunshine by Myself (Allyson Bills)

Dublin airport never looked so nice.  Made it there around 4:00am on Wednesday, November 14th with a lot of time to spare before my 6am flight to Scotland.  But getting to the airport was the real fun.  I walked to the bus station in Cork around midnight on Tuesday night and waited for the 12:30am bus to arrive.  I originally wanted to purchase my ticket at the bus station that night but as most European establishments, it is not open when I most need it to be.  I waited with another gentlemen from Germany going home after visiting his daughter in Cork.  The bus came and unfortunately I was unable to get on without a ticket purchased online.  For I walked across the bridge to another bus stop and waited for the 1am bus.  I knew that a round trip ticket cost €25.00.  I took out my wallet and counted exactly €25.00.  Thank goodness I come prepared for things to go wrong.  The Aircoach bus pulled up and I got on.  I asked for a return ticket and driver said “€28.00 please.”   €28.00!?!?!  What else could go wrong?  I had to run to an ATM to withdraw because I was €3.00 short.  Got some more money and came back to pay for my ticket.  Being the person I am, I started to panic that I wouldn’t make it to the airport on time since it usually takes 3 ½ hours to get the Dublin airport and it was already 1am but thankfully the airport is very quiet at 4am and I made it through security fairly quickly.

I looked up my flight waited in the correct gate area for the doors to open.  The worst part of my trip happened and I didn’t even leave Ireland.  Landing in Edinburgh at 7:30am, I was up before the sun.  I walked out of the airplane in complete darkness and all I could think was what am I going to do while the sun wakes up?  Thankfully the bus ride from the airport to the city took about 30 minutes and by the time I was in the city the sun was well shaded behind clouds with a thick mist blanketing Edinburgh city.

Edinburgh city reminded me of a fairy tale city.  Edinburgh Castle sits right up on a hill that over looks the entire city. Hill is an understatement; it is more like a cliff.  I could not believe that people walking around on the streets were not awing over how beautiful of a city they live in.  I wandered through the streets looking at the amazing architecture and the wonderful sounds of the cars driving on the cobblestone streets.

Since I was by myself, I could do anything I wanted.  I went to the castle first and had a tour through it.  I could not believe that it was still in operation and is still working has a military base for Scotland.  Everywhere I turned there were guards and men/women in uniform.  They looked a lot different to American uniforms because they have feathers on their hats that swish and sway in the wind.  When I was at the castle, apparently it was Prince Charles birthday so there was a special band playing in his honor.  It was interesting to be in Scotland but another country by very present in their military.

Walking around I noticed a sign for a free walking tour – why not?  I met with the group and made friends with some people from Switzerland, Germany, Australia and Slovenia.  That is one plus of going on a trip by yourself – you meet other people traveling just like you.  The walking tour told us about the history of the city and certain facts that are not well known.  After the tour, we went to a local pub to order some traditional Scottish food.  Haggis is a Scottish dish that is very much like an American hot dog because of what they put in it.  Haggis is the parts of the lamb that are not used.  They chop up the lamb’s lungs, liver, and heart put that into the lamb’s stomach and cook it.  It is served over mashed potatoes and turnips.  Surprisingly I ate this after knowing what was all in it.  It had the consistency of meat loaf and tasted very salty.  It was not the worst thing I have eaten but I will most likely not eat it again and if given the chance would probably not eat it again but now I can say that I have had it.

With my stomach filled I walked back to my hostel for a much needed nights sleep.  Walking back I had this sense of accomplishment for completing part of my trip successfully.  I already had the plans for the next few days and was prepared for everything and anything. Bring it on!

Inverness, a town with small streets, local musicians and very a tiny museum.  This is where I stayed for two days so that I could witness Loch Ness and perhaps get a glance at Nessie.  I got off the bus and breathed a sigh of relief.  I made it to my second destination with zero problems; I was feeling pretty good at 2pm in the afternoon after traveling since 9:30am.  I found my hostel immediately after I got off the bus because it was about 200 feet away from the bus station with a wonderfully sign all lit up.  In my room I met a girl from Australia who I spent my entire time in Inverness with and a man from France looking for work.   The girl from Australia (Lee) is also by herself traveling around.  She is also here looking for work but unfortunately she had her passport stolen in New York, USA and so she is waiting for her Visa before she can officially start looking.  We walked around the streets of Inverness, saw the castle and had a simple dinner just learning about each other and sharing stories about our travels.  It was nice having a companion, someone who I could talk to and trust a little bit.

Looking for Nessie was exhausting but definitely worth my energy.  Unfortunately she was not in the mood to make an appearance when I was looking but I learned a lot about her home in Loch Ness.  Apparently there is enough water in Loch Ness to cover every person on the earth over 3 times.  It is the second largest loch in Scotland but holds the most water – it is really deep, 755 feet at the deepest point.  When I looked at the water, it was just black and very rough.  It was windy when I saw it but usually it is calm and the water is extremely still.   The Loch Ness Expedition was all about how people were looking for the Loch Ness Monster and many pictures that surfaced that were false and unreal.  It was very interesting hearing about what some people did to make others believe that they saw the monster.  But there are over 1,000 eyewitness accounts for seeing the Loch Ness Monster.  Crazy how such a abstract idea could possibly be proven true because of so many people’s sightings. Not really sure if I believe but it was neat to pretend for a while.

Back in Inverness I made dinner, noodles and pesto, had a cup of tea and went out for some traditional Scottish music.  Lee and I found a pub where the music sounded fun.  We even asked the musicians to play a ceilidh and they did! Lee and I started to dance and a couple locals taught us the dance.  It was embarrassing but what can I say, I’m foreign, I am only in Scotland once and I will most likely not see these people ever again so again – why not?

Back on the bus again after 2 wonderful days in Inverness, now headed to Glasgow for the last leg of my journey.

Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I took over 300 in Scotland.  But even 300,000 words are not enough to describe the beauty, peacefulness, curves and twists I have seen in on my bus ride from Inverness to Glasgow.  Out each side I saw mountains with snow-kissed tops and grass-covered valleys.  The way each mountain bended into the flow and turn of the rivers flowing down its side was so incredibly beautiful.  I looked out the windows the entire time and I am sure my mouth was opened in awe from the beginning.   After coming around a bend to relieve yet another scene that should be the background picture on my desktop, something about the rain changed.  It was not falling the way it was before.  It was more like drifting to the ground. It was snowing!  If only for a brief moment, I saw snow.  And I must admit that I got a little teary eyed.  A smile grew on my face and I was glad that I stepped onto the plane in Dublin, glad I struggled with the bus to get to the airport, thrilled that I made this plan to come to this magnificent place.

Glasgow was much like Edinburgh but on a smaller scale.  I went directly for the cathedral because I knew that the cemetery was where the best view of the city could be seen.  The cathedral was unbelievable.  I have been in many churches and cathedrals in my travels and I have not been in one quite like this.  The top was shaped like a boat hull symbolizing the travels that the church community must take together.  There was even a basement with many stain glass windows and tombs.  When I had seen my fair taste of everything that was worth seeing, I headed for the exit.  Walking down some of the stairs, I noticed a girl that looked very familiar.  I was about to approach her when I noticed someone else that I knew.  “Jane??” Low and behold it was a girl from UCC all the way in Glasgow!  I was so excited to see her and she was also going to be on my flight back to Dublin the next morning.

We walked about Glasgow for the rest of the evening and then headed to that airport.  We had to spend the night in the airport because transportation to the airport stops at 11pmSaturday night and does not start up until 9am on Sunday.  Well our flight was at 7am so of course we had to stay in the airport all night.  We stayed up playing card games, chatting, half sleeping and walking around the airport that was about the size of my high school gym.  But all in all I was happy to have people there to spend time with.
Back in Cork Sunday evening and feeling very proud of myself for achieving this challenge that before I came would never have thought I would even think about doing.

I traveled the land of Braveheart and liquid sunshine all by myself.

Allyson Bills is studying abroad at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland.

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