Monday, November 21, 2011

death, disease, & destruction: edinburgh.

In case you haven't figured it out by now,
1. I went to Edinburgh this weekend.
2. All of my favourite parts of history center around three themes: death, disease, & destruction.

Let's start with getting to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, Lynda and I did not decide on the same flight, so she flew at the asscrack of dawn and I waited until twilight to fly. She had the whole day to herself while I struggled with the extortionists Ryanair. For those who have not flown in Europe, Ryanair is the worst airline in existence. They say they have the cheapest fares in Europe. That part they actually have right. It usually costs around 30 Euros to fly somewhere on Ryanair. How cheap! However, their fees are around 40 Euros, then they charge you if you check in late (40 Euros), if you need your ticket reprinted (40 Euros), if you need to check a bag (40 Euros)... You get the picture. They're the worst. So, having checked in late on the way to Edinburgh, I had to pay an additional 40 Euros to get on my flight. Ok, kind of pissed. Whatever. I'm going to Edinburgh! How exciting! My flight landed at 11:30pm and I got to the hostel around 12:15am. Food, then sleep. Good night!

The next morning, Lynda and I took our time getting up and getting ready for the day. The only thing on our list was Edinburgh Castle. We headed up there around noon and toured around the Castle. It is the best castle I've been in. It's still used and people still live there. Every day, they fire the One O'Clock Gun, a callback to when sailors would be setting out to sea. It would tell them it was one o'clock and they would set their watches to it. They still fire it today and you can hear it in many different parts of Edinburgh. Luckily, they shot the gun while we were at the castle and boy, was it loud. The rest of the Castle was beautiful. Inside are the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (only returned to Scotland in 1996 as a gesture to hopefully gain votes for the Conservative Party-- who still lost to Tony Blair).

We left the castle and went shopping! Lots of shops selling the same things at different prices. I bought a lot of stuff, including 4 different mugs. I'm kind of ridiculous. We finished shopping and went back to the hostel to eat dinner and watch some Firefly. Pretty chill day. Sunday we continued shopping, both of us purchasing kilts from a man named John who was hilarious. Lots and lots of shopping.

Sunday was our creepy day. We were scheduled for two tours: The City of the Dead's Underground Tour and Sandemans' Ghost Tour. When I signed us up for the City of the Dead tour at 1:30pm, I thought nothing bad would happen. After standing at the wrong tour for a few minutes, we managed to find the tour we were supposed to go on. Our tour guide Dave, who looked vaguely like Spike from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', took us to the underground vaults of Edinburgh. They originally built the vaults as potential storage for the shops and things around Edinburgh. They kept expanding them, but people stopped using them for storage. Eventually, during a population upsurge, people began living in the dark, dank vaults. The vaults are pitch black; you can't see your hand in front of your face. There is no daylight, no ventilation, no toilets. It was a miserable existence down there. In the medium vaults, they slept around 25 men down there. When the Edinburgh fire broke out, people thought they would be safe in the vaults. Turns out, the little ventilation down there actually brought the smoke in. People died of smoke inhalation-- if they were lucky. Those who didn't die from inhalation died from the heat; the structure of the vaults essentially turned the space into a large oven. They were literally baked, with the temperature reaching around 800°.

The experience was intense, particularly when Dave brought us to the next room. It used to be a tavern where criminals and dodgy individuals went. People died down there. Someone was gutted. It is said that a Level 4 Poltergeist lives down there. People will go down into the vaults and come out with scratches on them. They'll feel nauseous, but if they move to the side, it'll be gone. There are cold spots. Many people pass out when they are in that room, but once they get out of the vaults, they're fine as they were going in. It's just not a good room to be in. I'm not a firm believer in poltergeists and demons, but I definitely believe in ghosts and spirits remaining on the earth. Naturally, I was super interested. Lynda, however, was freaking out beside me. We held onto each other because she was shaking like a leaf. While we were in that vault, one man in our group felt nauseous. He stepped to the side and was fine. He was the only one with a problem at first. I felt a little light-headed, so I took a step out, believing I might just be in a cold spot. Then the light-headedness wasn't going away. I raised my hand like Dave said if we felt like we were going to pass out, so I did. I really felt like I was going to pass out. He grabbed onto me, keeping me upright, then gave the rest of the group these instructions: "I'm going to take her out, everyone stay here." Dave hauled me out of the vaults, Lynda and another man following behind. I fought to keep consciousness, spacing out occasionally but never losing consciousness. I did lose feeling to my legs, forcing Dave to haul me a little higher and a little faster. It was so dark and I was losing the fight. Had I not seen the glow of daylight in the cracks of a door, I may have lost consciousness completely.

But as soon as we were outside, I was fine. The only oddness was that my ears needed to pop. Lynda and I stayed outside whereas the man and Dave returned to the group waiting around a single candle in the vault. As the group exited the building and saw me sitting on the ground, they gave me looks saying they thought I was an actor for the tour. Yet, the guy who was feeling nauseous (we think also the guy who helped me out of the vaults) knew. He knew I wasn't faking it. He gave me a nod of acknowledgement and went along his way. Lynda and I went with Dave back to the gift shop, talking about what could possibly be happening down there. I'm a skeptic, but I do believe ghosts exist; they just need to be shown in the proper environment. Dave told us his theory that he thinks it has to do with the pressure and atmosphere down in the vaults. Given that my ears still felt like they needed to pop, it made sense. I like busting stuff like that because I don't think poltergeists are that bad or even exist. (Mediums and psychics said it existed. Uh huh.)

After bidding Dave ado, we went back to the hostel to deposit our things, take a nap, and relax. After the traumatic experience in the vaults, my body needed a break. Watched a few episodes of 'Archer' and slept. When we woke up, we went for dinner at The Elephant House Cafe.

Now, The Elephant House Cafe held something in our hearts that only Harry Potter fans will appreciate. Why? It's the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'. From the windows, she could see two buildings that are thought to have inspired her: George Heriot's School and Edinburgh Castle. The cafe also has phenomenal food and drink, including a cocoa-Bailey's concoction called Fleur's Fantasy. We had dinner there and it was the best lasagna I've ever had. (Sorry, Mom.) In the bathroom, people have written notes to J.K. Rowling, thanking her for the series. Don't know if she's ever seen the writing, but she's so loved in Edinburgh.

Our second tour of the day, Sandemans Ghost Tour, was not nearly as traumatic as the earlier tour. Our tour guide Mark took us around New Town, showing us a supposedly haunted bridge as well as sights of witch burnings. He told us about the Earl of Drumlanrig, locked up in the Queensbury House attic because he was insane, breaking free and consuming the 12 year old servant boy who was instructed to look after him. It was gruesome, only escalated when we asked Mark how old the Earl was: 10. A 10 year old attacking and eating a 12 year old boy. Crazy. All of this told to us in a graveyard at 10pm. Perfect. We were also told about people being buried alive as well as a man who thought he was a vampire. This man killed his friend, ate his brain, drained his blood, and continued to believe he was a vampire and belonged with this girl they were fighting over. Turns out, the girl was fictional and the guy eventually killed himself over her. When did this happen? 2004. Crazy people never stop in Edinburgh, apparently. The tour ended with complimentary drinks in The Bank Bar.

We got up on Monday, checked out of our hostel, and went on a 3.5 hour tour of Edinburgh. A little backwards in planning, I know. Whatever. It was cool to see all this cool stuff regardless. We had seen some of it just trolling around Edinburgh, some on the Ghost Tour, some on the City of the Dead tour. Still fun. Went to Greyfriars Graveyard, Princes Street Gardens, Grassmarket Square, St Giles Cathedral, and more! At many of these locations, our tour guide James would elaborate on other information about Edinburgh and other parts of history. We definitely enjoyed the tour and James was a fantastic Edinburgh tour guide, considering he's from Portugal.

A tad more shopping was to be had, so we hit up a couple more shops. Considering we couldn't fit much else in our bags, we called it a day and got our stuff to head to the airport. Unfortunately, we got a later bus to the airport than expected and this caused a cataclysmic series of events.

We got to the desk to check in, remembering how upset the flight attendants were when we showed up for our London flight without going there first. Whatever. Well, the desk attendant decided to give us grief about being 3 minutes late for our boarding time. Bitch, the plane has not left yet. Then, Lynda's ticket was printed double-sided, so she needed to reprint her return ticket. However, this is Ryanair, so it would have cost her 40 Pounds to get her ticket reprinted, essentially making her miss the flight anyway. At this point, I went on to the flight, feeling like an awful friend for leaving her behind. I sprint to the gate, my dormant asthma coming back in full force. I get to the gate, get my ticket scanned, and start down the ramp. Since you're not done scrolling, you know this is not where the story ends. The guy stopped me, saying that I needed to check one of my bags because I exceeded the one bag limit. I had gotten on the Dublin-> Edinburgh flight with two bags, but oh no. That's not what the Edinburgh people do. They are strict about the policies. I was livid at this point, profanity littering my language like a group of insolent high schoolers. So I have to pay 40 Pounds to check my backpack. I give them my credit card, but when she rings the desk, she couldn't make a credit card payment because someone was canceling their flight. (Lynda, presumably.) So she asks for cash. I don't have cash, I tell her, because I was trying to get rid of my pounds before getting back to Ireland. I'm then instructed to go to a different gate to get cash. Seriously?! I'm standing at the gate, just let me on with my backpack. What kind of deal is this? I had apparently talked back enough and been upset enough that the attendant at the gate nearly told the plane to leave without me. Oh god. Waterworks started as my natural defense. I was scared I was going to miss the flight because they were making me get cash. She let me get the cash and get back, but when someone else asked me how I was, I responded with upset and angry. They all knew I didn't give a shit. I wanted them to know how unfair their policies were. I have never been on an airline that honestly does not care about their passengers. Ryanair doesn't look at their passengers as people; they're just cash cows, waiting to be milked.

Needless to say, I safely landed in Dublin, boarded the bus to the train, and got on my train. I'm still on the train, still an hour away from Cork. For those who are wondering, Lynda managed to get a flight home, paying 243 Pounds for a last-minute flight on Aer Lingus from Edinburgh->Cork. It sucks, but she stated in her Facebook status that Ryanair will feel her dad's wrath. I fucking hope so.

On a lighter note, I'm headed back to Cork and Mark's meeting me at the train station, maybe with pizza. Either way, I am ready to just sit with him and watch an episode of 'Psych' or 'Dexter'. I just want to get my mind off all the Ryanair ridiculousness and remember how awesome Edinburgh was. My next trip isn't until December 9th, but it's the biggest. It's a week-long trip through Eastern Europe: Budapest, Prague, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Munich. I'm going with Gabby, which will be awesome. We're both super excited because it's such a different trip than what many of our friends have done while in Europe. We've got our first fun planning session on Friday when we'll be picking all the fun things we want to do in all these different places. I'll definitely be blogging throughout the time I'm gone because that is just too long to have to remember everything that happens. We're traveling primarily by plane/train, so that will be great blogging time.

Other than that, Lynda and I are also hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner with some of our Irish friends! We are making a whole bunch of traditional American Thanksgiving dishes and invited many of our friends over. I'm super excited, mostly because it'll be my first Thanksgiving with only friends. Most of my Thanksgivings were spent with family, and though I love them dearly, it wasn't always my scene. Now, I'm responsible for the cooking bit and it's with friends. It's gonna be fun.

I also have a bunch of essays I need to start on and get done before my giant trip with Gabby. It'll be interesting because I haven't been going to one of my classes. (As Rick Perry would say, "Oops!") The other two shouldn't be so difficult, but I'm still not looking forward to them. Ah, well.

Everything else has been going really well. Been spending a lot of time with Mark, Gabby & Kathryn, and Kaitlin. Still love the WARPS kids. Definitely going to invest in some of the games I've been playing so I have them back in the States in my own apartment.

I know this is more of an Los Angeles blog thing, but I've also been applying to jobs back home and contacting various people about things. I haven't heard back from many of them, but those who I have heard back from have been incredibly helpful. I've got one exciting contact and I'm waiting to hear back from them. Hopefully it'll result in some sort of assistantship or job or something. We'll see! If you want to read more about my adventures regarding Los Angeles, check out my other blog it's spanish for "angels". Yay for shameless plugs!

Well, I will keep you all updated on Thanksgiving and other adventures in Cork. Until then, have a great day/night!

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