Thanks to everyone for their lovely Thanksgiving well wishes, I hope everyone had an equally good time (guess I'll have to bop to everyone's page to see, giggle). Below is my travelogue.
This trip to Scotland for this Thanksgiving break has been in the works since May (or was it April), when my good friend from college sent out a note saying she had gotten engaged! I was so excited, I self-invited myself to her wedding. Thankfully, being the good person she is, no offense was taken and plans were made.
This was my first trip to this part of the United Kingdom. I am not sure what I was expecting, but Edinburgh (where my friend lives and the wedding was to be), was not exactly how I pictured it. It reminded me of a sort of a smaller version of London, definitely European, but not this huge sprawling metropolis as I had thought. Dark old buildings housing department stores and pubs, next to blocks of green fields. Much colder than I realized. It seemed the only time I was truly warm was bundled in bed or under the hot shower. Heck at the wedding I kept on my big winter jacket, so cold. Plus it seems there are not a lot of Scottish people in Edinburgh. Edinburgh was just a hodge-podge of accents - all blending together for this American: lots of English, some Irish, South African/New Zealand/Australian peppered in there, one big stew. But not a lot of what we Americans traditionally think of as Scottish (with those, "wee's" and "acks" a la the one guide all Americans use to learn about Scotland, the movie Braveheart and/or Scrooge McDuck). Astonishingly enough, I noticed myself falling into a bit of an accent - I suppose if everyone around you sounds a certain way, you adjust your tone?
First day was a blur, traveled over with a super duper good friend. She paid for a ticket and flew in coach. I flew free stand-by and got business class. Gotta love the airline industry (but to be fair we flew two different carriers). Ran around the obscenely big Heathrow (does it qualify for its own postal code?) to get on a flight to Scotland. Boarding the express bus to central Edinburgh, I heard someone say, "Hey Virginia Gal." Turned around, it was my friend! How peculiar! We had left Washington DC at different times with differing connecting flights in London, figuring that we wouldn't see each other till we got into the place in Edinburgh we were staying at. Unusual, but than things have a way of working themselves out no?
After the usual questions, we rode into town and met up with the bride to be, our friend, K! It was so nice to see her, it had been three years since either of us had seen her. In a total cliché, she was glowing (of course it could also have been because the winds were whipping all over). She kept us up for five hours, so our bodies would adjust, giving us a quick overview of her city. I remember very little - my head was pounding and my ears were clogged. But we did stop into the Waterstones that one Ms.J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) drops into. Surprisingly, it seemed other Scottish authors were more prominently featured (Mcall Smith, Rankin). Strange, wonder what that is about?. Crashed at 7pm.
Second day was when my friend and I really explored the city. After waking up, embarrassingly late, noticed the snow on the ground and tried to dress appropriately, we jetted out to the Royal Scottish Museum, so we could learn a little history of the place we were in (plus I was getting more sick and didn't want to stay out to much). Fascinating stuff (seems it was a bloodless merger between Scotland and England). After that, went to the spooky Greyfriers church and than walked around the old town, bopping into shops but always keeping the castle in sight. The Edinburgh Castle sits atop a hill, over all of the city, though no royalty lives there anymore. Ended up going behind the castle, past the old king's stables, through a park and dumping out on the busy Princes street (a high street if I ever saw one). Per K's advice, took tea up on the top floor of Debenhams and got to see the lovely Christmas lights of Edinburgh. Very pretty, lights on trees and the Ferris wheel, old buildings, done in blues and golds, like something out of a fairytale. Had a delicious dinner with the our perfect hosts.
Saturday was D-day, the wedding. Spent the morning grading papers with my friend and generally taking over our host's gorgeous living room.
The wedding started at 1:30pm in Old Saint Paul's church. It is one of those typical European Churchs that one visits on any perfunctory trip to Europe. Cold, gray stone, big alter, stain-glassed windows, lots of holy pictures, statues of Jesus (pbuh) on the cross, little alters/prayer rooms on the side. But this is the first time in my life that I got to see one of these church's in use, most of the time I go in and just walk around - other non-descript tourists as my companions. It was a nice change! The service was lovely, very open and embracing, having both a man and woman officiating. I felt like I was back in college listening to my old chaplain, who would have felt right at home at this wedding, with the sermon (if that is the right word) being both humorous and philosophical. The choir sang and the congregation joined in for hymns.
I think I can safely say I was the only Muslim at the wedding, hee hee. But I didn't feel odd or out of place. As I was telling K, probably because Jesus (pbuh) is recognized in Islam, his teachings being important to the foundation of my religion, I didn't feel alien. And as usual, I firmly believe it doesn't matter what religion, praise and love to God is a good thing.
Following the ceremony (in which we, the audience, forgot to clap when the couple was pronounced man and wife, d'oh), everyone went for appetizers and drinks in the hotel. The men sat around following the Scotland vs. New Zealand All-Blacks rugby game, we women just chatted. The reception was a cozy affair, with about 50 people tops. It was in this nice warm room at a posh Edinburgh hotel. Dinner was a three course affair. Food was English (God bless'em but they don't know anything about spices). Speechs were funny and provided my friend and I with some insight into the man our friend married.
Despite my increasingly waning voice, got to talk to many of K's friends, people in her Young Adults Christian's group. Everyone was so nice. Do you ever notice that your friends friend's, could be your friends? I think if I lived in Edinburgh, I could easily be friends with these people, so warm and inviting. I joking told the head of the group, "hey I could be your first Muslim in the group." He laughed (thank God, as I risked complete embarrassment). The time just flew by. Before we knew it, my friend and I were blurry-eyed travelers waiting for the airport bus at 4am in the morning.
From what I was able to see, Edinburgh is a pretty little town, if the people are any indication, this is one of the friendliest places in all of the United Kingdom.
Hope everyone had an equally good Thanksgiving.