Last week, I planned two visits with my British-American cousins Jack and Lulu. Jack currently lives in London, and Lulu attends NewCastle University in Newcastle upon Thyne in Northern England, so I squeezed in visits with both of them as the countdown of my semester abroad continues ticking.
My first visit was with Jack, who took the train up from London to spend a weekend in Edinburgh with me. I had fun hanging out with him for the weekend, and I enjoyed visiting some Edinburgh historic sites and tourist attractions that I had not yet been to during this semester. I also really enjoyed learning about different British traditions; for example, Jack encouraged me to try more British foods in my last three weeks in Edinburgh, and he told me about traditional foods like Yorkshire pudding, desserts like Banoffee pie, and British chains like Pizza Express. When Jack arrived (after a prolonged train journey of seven hours from London), we went to dinner at Pizza Express. I have past two Pizza Express restaurants in Edinburgh several times, and I had been wanting to go, so this was a great first meal of the weekend.
For dessert at Pizza Express, I tried my first Banoffee pie. I really liked Banoffee pie, and I want to try to make it over Christmas break for my family back in New Jersey! That night, Jack and I went out with some of my friends in the Edinburgh University Basketball Club, and we both danced and had a great time with my friends!
On Saturday, Jack and I went to The Scotch Whisky Experience, which includes a barrel ride through a replicated distillery, a video about the traditions and flavors of whisky from different areas of Scotland, and a taste of whisky! This museum also exhibits the world’s largest collection of Scottish whiskies–a collection that the Brazilian connoisseur Claive Vidiz built over 35 years. This collection of more than 3384 Scottish whiskies holds the Guinness World Record and has been on display at The Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh since the spring of 2009. During our tour, Jack and I both tried a Single Malt Scotch Whisky made in the Lowlands, and I enjoyed the supposedly ‘grassy’ taste that characterizes Lowland whisky!
Jack and I walked all around Edinburgh; we went to the weekly Edinburgh Farmer’s Market, to the Christmas Markets on Princes Street, to the numerous stores on Princes Street and George Street, and along the Royal Mile. We also learned about the history of Scottish currency and the Bank of Scotland at the Museum on the Mound, which used to be the National Bank of Scotland and has a remarkable location on the edge of Old Town that provides beautiful views across the bridge to New Town. On Saturday, I tried more traditional British foods as I enjoyed a steak and ale pie for dinner and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. On Sunday, I continued my weekend sampling of British foods with more suggestions by Jack. For lunch, we shared haggis, neeps and tatties and fish and chips, and I tried a shandy. [A shandy in the UK is beer mixed with carbonated lemonade. I thought it was very good!]
On Monday morning, Jack and I toured Edinburgh Castle. I had not been all the way up to the castle yet this semester, so I was excited to tour the castle and to see all of Edinburgh east of the castle! I loved the views of Old Town, New Town, and Arthur’s Seat from the Castle.
Jack and I spent about two hours inside the castle, and we didn’t even see everything! We saw various museum exhibits, St. Margaret’s Chapel (which was built by King David I in 1130 Ad), and the Great Hall (which was the location of chief ceremony and state assembly). After we toured the castle, Jack and I walked to Princes Street to enjoy a sausage and beer from one of the German Christmas market booths.
I had a nice weekend with Jack in Edinburgh. We had fun walking around the city, eating British foods, and touring Edinburgh sites. Before this visit, Jack had been to Edinburgh a few times for the Fringe Festival, which is a world-famous music and theatre festival that takes places each summer, but with this visit, Jack realized how nice Edinburgh is at a completely different time of year.
On the Thursday following Jack’s visit to Edinburgh, I took a train to Newcastle upon Thyne to visit Jack’s sister, my cousin Lulu. Lulu, who just started her fresher’s year at Newcastle Uni, is eight months younger than me and is thus, one of my closest girl cousins (despite the fact that the Atlantic Ocean separates us most of the time)! Lulu and I talked throughout this semester about visiting each other in our cities, but we hadn’t secured a plan until last week; I’m so glad we did because I loved visiting Lulu, hearing about her first semester at uni, and going out for a night in Newcastle with her.
On Thursday, Lulu and I walked around a Christmas market in Newcastle, and then meet some of her girlfriends to go ice skating.
The cold Newcastle weather, the Christmas market, and ice skating were perfect for a December afternoon! Lulu’s friends who came ice skating with us were super nice, and I could tell Lulu was very fun and comfortable at the uni.
After ice skating, Lulu and I went to Wagamama for dinner; Wagamama is another British chain restaurant that I had been wanting to go to, and Lulu and I had a delicious dinner there. We shared vegetable gyoza dumplings, and I had a noodle dish with chicken, prawns, and vegetables for my dinner. I enjoying chatting with Lulu about her architecture course at Newcastle and about her involvement on the rowing team at Newcastle. Both she and I started rowing in college and were excited to talk about it together!!
Later that night, Lulu and I went out to a club called Trap that was having a special dub step music night. We went with many of her friends from her dorm and from her rowing team. I had a really fun time dancing with Lulu and her friends and experiencing the Newcastle nightlife; its a great city to go out in!
On Friday morning, I said goodbye to Lulu and to Newcastle, and took a train back to Scotland! I enjoyed every minute of my visit with Lulu, and I wish we went to school closer so we could hang out more often. We have a lot in common (being tall, loving to dance, and rowing, just to name a few), and Lulu’s friends told me that the two of us look and act very similar. Hopefully Lulu will study abroad in America!
My two visits with Jack and Lulu were lots of fun, and I’m glad I got to see both of them while I was studying this semester in Edinburgh. I will be continuing to visit with family next week, when I go to Dublin! I am excited to meet my dad’s second cousins and to stay with them for three days. I’m also very excited to see Dublin for the first time!!