We almost didn’t make it to Scotland due to a phone/passport malfunction that occurred the night before… but I’ll get into that on my next post.
We were originally going to spend 4 days in Scotland, but had to leave a day later whilst we ran around Central London trying to recover my friends’ ID and phone, which were lost on Valentine’s Day night… A good argument for why girls shouldn’t celebrate V-Day amongst themselves, if I do say so myself.
Regardless, the items were recovered, we switched our flights, and trekked off to Glasgow. Here are the bullet-pointed highlights for the future Scotland-traveler:
You don't actually need an ID to travel to there from England
This was ironic mostly because we postponed our trip for a day due to lack of necessary traveling items. But hey, as it turns out, the Scots really don’t care who is traveling in and out of their country (unless I missed something, of course). My friend and I had quite a struggle getting to the airport, so we were in a bit of a rush. Our flight was at 910am out of Gatwick, and we foolishly assumed that 2 hours was sufficient time.
While trundling merrily along to Gatwick Airport in our uber, we were asked by our driver what time our flight was at. “910!” we chorused, beaming at each other from the back seat, proud that we had scheduled our timing so well.
“Yeah, you’re not gonna make that.” Our driver raised his eyebrows at us, explaining about traffic conditions and blah blah blah. We fretted in the back for a hot minute before the driver put us out of our misery by offering to take us to the nearest train station, where we could get there in less than 45 minutes for less than 20 pounds.
“Whoa,” I said “That’s faster and cheaper than an uber!”
“Yeah.” He agreed, “I was wondering why you called for one.”
That’s an important thing to note… whether Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, or Luton, don’t freakin’ uber. Train or bus… trust. But also keep in mind that at Gatwick, the gate closes a full 30 minutes before boarding begins. This meant that, for us, if we didn’t scan our boarding pass prior to getting to security before 8:40am, we were absolutely not getting on that plane. Eek. We totally missed that while prepping for our journey. We got to security at 8:38am. #Boom.
Side note: This might be a European thing, because I noticed this in my London flat, as well as the hotel in Amsterdam and in Scotland, but in order to turn the electricity on in the room, you have to place your key in a slot by the door. This means that when you leave the room and obviously have to bring the key, there’s no chance of running up the electricity bill because the TV, the stove, the lights, the air conditioning, and even the charging ports will shut off automatically. Frustrating for when you have friends visiting who might enjoy electricity while you’re walking around the city without them, but ingenious in all other senses.
Glasgow is literally the nicest city in the world
Glasgow is not a place, it’s a people. Much like Asgard, if you will. To me, it really shows a lot that the weather was absolutely abominable the entire time we were there, but it was still the most glorious city I’ve been to. Not one rude person! NOT ONE. Also, gawd I love the Scottish accent.
Even when they were making fun of me, they still managed to be super nice. For example, my friend and I went to afternoon tea, but I am not a particular fan of cakes and scones. So, I ordered tea by itself, and then asked for a bowl of chantilly cream and berries for my dessert. The waiter kept looking at me, pen poised over pad. I smiled, and he blinked in confusion, “But… what cake do you want?”
After I lightly laughed and explained I did not want cake, he blinked again. “No cake? Just… cream… and fruit?” Is that not done? He chuckled, and with a slight shake of his head, wrote down my order.
When a different waiter came to bring me my order, he stared at his tray, then at the table, looked around the restaurant in confusion, and then back at his tray.
“Did someone order just, like… cream and berries?”
He blinked at me, “But… there’s no cake under it?”
I smiled, showing my molars, “Just how my mom likes it.” He picked the bowl up from his tray and lowered it, but then hesitated, the bowl hovering over the table. “It’s okay,” I assured him, “You can put it down.” He beamed at me, reassured, and implored me to enjoy my meal.
At the end of our meal at this restaurant, as well as the other 6 restaurants my friend and I went to while in Scotland, the manager came over to us to fervently enquire as to whether we sincerely enjoyed our meal, and to chat with us about life in America versus how we were finding life in the UK. From my observations, someone did this to every table in the restaurants, not just us American tourists.
In fact, the only person I encountered during my trip who rubbed me the wrong way was an older gentleman who turned to me and my friend in a bar, asked if we were American, and then proceeded to berate us for voting for Trump (which, um, no we didn’t?). Turns out he was from England, not Scotland, so… there ya go.
Absolutely take a Rabbies Tour, doesn't really matter to where
Since I first arrived in the UK, I have been vehemently against tours. They feel so awkwardly touristy, like only for people who own selfie sticks and wear large globs of sunscreen on their noses. But, as a late birthday present for me, my friend purchased tickets to a 12-hour Rabbies tour of the Scottish Highlands that included a Jacobite Cruise Tour of Loch Ness. Well, if I may say so, my misassumption was thoroughly corrected, and I will now be doing such tours in every new country I visit.
For this tour, our guide, an adorable Scottish fella named James, was so informative and funny. He permeated his cultural and historical speeches with silly little jokes (who is the Scottish sheep’s favorite US president? O-baaaaaah-ma), and knew the answers to every question I could thing of to ask. Here are some quick tidbits I found particularly interesting:
A) Did you know there’s no law of trespass in Scotland? The theory is that people cannot own the land; the land belongs to God. Therefore, as long as you are not disrupting/destroying/or doing any sort of bad thing on the land, you can pretty much trek anywhere you wish, even so-called private property.
B) That is also why Scottish rulers were never called Mary, Queen of Scotland, like how Elizabeth was Queen of England. In Scotland, you are not ruler of the land, you are ruler of the people. Hence, the title was Mary, Queen of Scots.
C) Technically, many people in Scotland are Christians, but the country still considers itself pagan and celebrates many of the pagan traditions. It’s interesting to note that in Scotland, in order to be considered a city, you have to have a cathedral. Thus, there are actually only 7 cities in all of Scotland.
D) World War Zed (not World War Zee… this is Scotland, not America, ya dunce!) was filmed in Glasgow because it was too expensive to film it in Philadelphia, where the beginning takes place. Philly was actually modeled after Glasgow, so there weren’t that many alterations that had to be made, plus Scotland gives wonderful production tax incentives. Fun fact: 36 minutes into the movie, James, our tour guide, chases Brad Pritt in full zombie attire.
E) A couple of years ago there were quite a few serious bus/large vehicle accidents in Scotland due to overtired drivers making mistakes on the road. So electronic monitoring devices were installed into all large vehicles, whether buses or transports, to monitor the number of hours driven per day. The regulatory authority for these devices has authority even over the police, and if a driver drives over the regulation, an automatic notification is sent to the authority, and the driver is immediately arrested. Fascinating, huh? Here’s the bus workers handbook detailing the restrictions and regulations.
F) Sorry guys, Nessie ain’t real. Yes, that’s just my opinion, but I’m thoroughly convinced.
I am now a strong proponent of tours because it demonstrates particular cultural intricacies, directs you to places of interest, provides an opportunity to see more than you would have on your own, and comes with a knowledgeable and authentic tour guide to answer questions. Be sure to Yelp/Trip Advisor any tour you’re considering… just to make sure you’re going to get the best experience possible!
Haggis, Tatties & Neeps...
Do you know what this is? It looks super good, yeah? Well, it tastes super good. Granted, this picture is just a version of it, because if you order haggis, tatties and neeps at any restaurant, it’s probably going to look different at each place. I, for one, was determined to have it at every restaurant it was offered because, well, they eat it in Harry Potter a lot. #Unashamed
Here’s the thing. Tatties are basically Scottish mashed potatoes. Fine. Neeps are basically Scottish squash. Also fine. Haggis, on the other hand, is basically animal pluck. Do you know what pluck is? It’s a minced combination of heart, liver and lungs. Brb while I die.
You should have seen my face after the waiter had explained this to me and I was resolutely trying to force myself to still order it. Luckily, in theory, while it’s grotesque to think about, in reality, when you’re eating it, it’s more like om nom nom nom.
Side note – in general, I got thrown off by a lot of the Scottish cuisine, to be honest. While at Ubiquitous Chip ordering a traditional Scottish breakfast, I enquired as to what was in the black pudding (black beans, perhaps?), only to be told it was pig’s blood. Haha… what? Unconcerned with my reaction, pen poised over his pad, the waiter drawled in his adorable Scottish accent “And would you be wanting that with the lorne sausage, love?”
Wait, wait, wait, wait. Although I was thoroughly determined to live/eat/drink as authentically as possible while in Scotland, I draw the line at animal vampirism. So, I was just, like, aw man… I actually don’t eat pork.
I’ll get into specific Scottish restaurants in a separate post, ’cause they were absolutely fantastic and warrant such attention.
Overall 10/10 to return