The Last Five Days.

The last five days in Scotland have been some of the best five days i’ve had all semester. Last Wednesday, J pseudo-surprised me by rolling out a suitcase from the arrivals gate at Edinburgh airport. (Pseudo, because it was meant to be a total surprise, but i’m very good at guessing and also am in the middle of exams, so certain details had to be divulged ahead of time). There was a lot of nervous tippy-toe walking around until he arrived, and even more (probably embarrassing) embracing when he did.

I couldn’t believe my blessings: he was here, with me, in my favorite place in the whole world.

Yet the excitement didn’t abate there- two of my very best friends from Mount Holyoke arrived the next day for a weekend trip full of milkshakes, late night catching-up-chats, and even a daytrip to the Trossachs for some hairy coo sightings! (Needless to say, there was a lot of hugs in the arrivals terminal of the airport this week!)

My favorite shot of the daytrip! Taken by Stirling Castle. (J should always wear a Hairy Coo hat, should he not?)

My favorite shot of the daytrip! Taken by Stirling Castle. (J should always wear a Hairy Coo hat, should he not?)

Enacting romance by the shores of Loch Katrine, the setting of Sir Walter Scott's "The Lady of the Lake."

Enacting romance by the shores of Loch Katrine, the setting of Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake.”

The view of Stirling from the Wallace Monument!

The view of Stirling from the Wallace Monument!

Called "THE Bridge" by civil engineers for its feat of genius, this rail bridge crosses the River Forth just outside Edinburgh!

Called “THE Bridge” by civil engineers for its feat of genius, this rail bridge crosses the River Forth just outside Edinburgh!

The Wallace Monument, Stirling.

The Wallace Monument, Stirling.

Our tour, which was the most excellent TheHairyCoo.com free tour, began in Stirling and made its way into the lower Highlands around a number of rather famous lochs. It was a beautiful, uncharacteristically rain-less day to spend frollicking on mountaintops and even feeding bread crumbs to the “dangerously cute” highland cows (for which the company is named!).

My favorite part was the stop off at Castle Doune, where the famous scene with the French guards takes place in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. J and i couldn’t resist clambering our way to the top to yell out our own (very poorly accented) French insults at my friends below!

Hairy Coos!

Hairy Coos!

Doune Castle - where the bulk of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed!

Doune Castle – where the bulk of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed!

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The view from the top of the castle!

The view from the top of the castle!

 

I was running on a high of can’t-believe-this-itis, especially when the tour guide of our day trip put on The Proclaimers as we drove past the lower Highlands. If a perfect day exists, that was it: Scottish mountains, excellent music, and a batch of my closest friends to sing along with.

Trying to get us all in the shot!

Trying to get us all in the shot!

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The last five days have been bliss, but now i have to face the last five days i have left in Scotland. And that, that’s just hard. The good-byes have been a mixture of late-night chats in the flat to quick, painful hugs farewell. My friends from MHC left this morning, and my dear flatmate Abby leaves tomorrow. It’s been a day of sad farewells.

J being here is enabling me to not ache so much for the Carolinas and their rivers of sweet tea, which is such a gift. I feel truly able to grieve for my last walks past the Scott Monument or cups of tea at the Elephant House.

It also means i spent half of my morning weeping over my cup of after-church tea, trying not to think too much about what life will be like without the hum of this rain-slicked, enchanted city.

And in the midst of this emotional farewell to the semester in Edinburgh, i have two exams to tackle and a life to zip fast in my suitcases. So the next five days are shaping up to be crammed – crammed with wadded-up t-shirts in my suitcases, crammed with farewell-to-Scotland activities, and a helluva lot of cramming for finals.

For days of auld lang syne.

Just outside the Writer's Museum, Edinburgh.

Just outside the Writer’s Museum, Edinburgh.

current jam: ‘come thou fount’ sufjan stevens.

best thing: having places and friends so wonderful that the time to leave them brings mourning. it’s the double-edged sword of loving something, i guess.

Saint Giles Cathedral, High Tea, and the National Museum: Checking in with the Edinburgh Bucket List.

When J and i weren’t cowering under umbrellas in London or making moon-eyes at each other in Paris, we were covering plenty of ground in Edinburgh.

It is, after all, the best city in the UK (in my humble, obviously biased opinion).

I took J to my favorite tourist-y spot in Edinburgh on the first day: the Edinburgh Castle. We visited my second-favorite spot – Saint Margaret’s Chapel – and J geeked out over the weaponry in the Great Hall (there was a lot of rolling eyes on my end).

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Saint Margaret’s Chapel, oldest building in Edinburgh.

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The castle at dusk!

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He really liked the cannons.

My first-favorite thing to do at the Castle, however, has nothing to do with what’s on the inside. The parking lot that stretches in front of the portcullis offers some of the most exquisite views of Edinburgh and the surrounding mountains – and you don’t have to pay the 14 pound ticket fee to get in!

View from the Castle Terrace!

View from the Castle Terrace!

As much as i love going to the Castle (and believe me, i do love it – have a membership card and all) there were also things on my Edinburgh Bucket List that i wanted to make sure we checked off together. With a little less eye-rolling, we made our way through the 5th item on my list: the National Museum of Scotland.

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Jaws in the Animal Room.

The National Museum was the kind of place my elementary school would go on field trips. (I spotted more than a few clusters of children in uniform in the various exhibits). It encompasses everything from Victorian-era taxidermies to artifacts from the Scottish Reformation. It’s free, so for that reason alone, it’s well worth a visit. The best part of the museum, though, isn’t so much the stuffed lions, but the rooftop terrace. A friend had taken me up one Sunday afternoon for yet another exquisite view of Edinburgh and i was eager to share the view with J.

Alas, the roof terrace was closed. We’d run into a lot of closings because of the season: the Eiffel Tower top floor, the façade of Saint Paul’s, compressed museum times. Easily one of the perks of off-season travel is the discounted ticket prices and smaller queues. But you pay for it with the weather and minor inconveniences.

Our disappointment with the terrace’s closure, however, was abated by the beauty of the 6th item on my list: Saint Giles Cathedral. Situated along the Royal Mile with a tremendously distinctive spire, Saint Giles is a landmark i pass almost every single day. I knew it was meant to be gorgeous inside, but i’d saved the trip for when J visited.

St. Giles by night.

St. Giles by night.

I’m very, very glad i did. Calling the sanctuary lovely is a gross understatement, but anything else sounds forced. Sharing in the splendor with J was wonderful – he’s the only person i know who loves looking at old churches as much as me.

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Thistle Chapel

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On J’s last day in Edinburgh after moon-pie-eyes days spent in Paris and London, we went for High Tea at the Carlton. High Tea is just so quintessentially British, and more to the point High Tea is such a delicious occasion to dress up for a man as in love with his sport coat as J is. I got tick number 24 of of my list and J got to wear a tie (he’d packed it just for the occasion. There was more eye-rolling from my end).

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In posh splendor the tea was set out, and the trays stacked three-high with pastries placed precisely on our table. I tried not to slop tea all over my saucer while we talked about our now shared-love for Edinburgh. J plucked a treat off the tray and, before he’d finished sampling it, exclaimed “tastes like a really good Twinkie!”

Always a surprise, this exploring Edinburgh business.

current jam: ‘natural disaster’ zac brown band

best thing: the mediterranean sea!

Markets and More Eating (Amsterdam, Day 2!)

If the Albert Cuyp Market was a field, i was a plow.

I’ve never been surrounded by so many sumptuous and tempting things to try – from the wafels to the hot chocolate to the small bucket of olives i purchased. Plus, as a mayo-loving french-fries eater whose allergic to ketchup, i just adored the frites stand that sold paper cones stuffed with fries slathered in mayo. And the cheese, sweet Holy Mary the cheese! The displays were utterly intoxicating.

(Note the bicycle!)

(Note the bicycle!)

We’d decided, for our second day, to set aside the whole morning to explore the oldest street market in the Netherlands: the Albert Cuyp Market. Lining the block were some of the most eclectic stalls i’d ever beheld (including my experiences in pre-burned-down Owino Market in Kampala). There was an entire pharmacy spread wide under a tent and in the cold, more lingerie shoppes than i could count, a plethora of places to purchase scarves and the like, and a few stalls reserved for Amsterdam-themed souvenirs. Interspersed between the flower stalls (oh, the tulips!) and garter belts were the main attraction: street food.

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(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

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It was as good as it looked!

It was as good as it looked!

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Making the famous frites!

Making the famous frites!

frites!

Frites!

I love street markets – the chaos, the food, the cool vintage things you can find, the food, and the experience of feeling like a local. As much as i may love doing silly tourist-y thing (see me in a large wooden shoe, below) i always try to find at least on thing per travel destination that gives me some sense of what it would be like to live there. Naturally, we were not the only tourists strolling about the market. But tourists were in a serious minority here, amongst the clamor of Dutch-speaking voices selling flowers and toothpaste and lingerie. I’d easily say this was one of my most-favorite things we did in Amsterdam!

Having sufficiently eaten our way through the market, we made our way over the Dam Square for more sightseeing. At the sight of THE LARGEST SHOE i have ever seen, there was a lot of squealing and leaping in to take pictures. So much for trying to blend in!

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About a block or so up from Dam Square is the (in)famous Red Light District. We chortled our way through all the funny little shops and such surrounding the red-lamped alleyways, but they definitely are not the reason i’d wanted to go to the city. And the whole district is clearly geared for people visiting the city, not the residents themselves. The gift shops are certainly amusing to visit, but once i’d cracked up at enough genitalia plastered on velvet hats (et cetera) i’d had my fill. Definitely would not say this was the family-friendly place to go on a holiday to the city, but as two young women walking around in the middle of the afternoon we felt pretty safe and took the whole thing in with a sense of humor.

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This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

By then it was high time we ate, again. Utilizing a combination of my Lonely Planet guidebook and the MOST EXCELLENT TripAdvisor City Guide App, we arrived at the quirky and chic van Kerkwijk. With whitewashed, wood paneled walls and candles adorning the tables, we knew this promised to be a unique place to dine.

Turned out there’s no written menu at van Kerkwijk, so our gracious waitress just plopped right down at our table and talked us through the extensive list of their eclectic combinations. When asked what was a truly Dutch thing to try, she explained that the port-city-nature of Amsterdam meant all Dutch food was really a mash-up of European and Indonesian cuisine. We asked for an appetizer that involved bread and cheese, so she brought out a bleu cheese paté-type-thing that was incredible. For our entrées, Abby had steak with strawberry cream and goat cheese, and i had Indonesian chicken. We split a salad and (of course!) frites with glorified mayo.

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

It was an exquisite capping off to two days and three nights of fabulous dining. But, alas, the next morning we were whisked off to the airport leaving behind Amsterdam’s canals and bike lanes for a flight home to Edinburgh.

Though we’d only had an all-too-short time in Amsterdam, i was utterly entranced. It is a beautiful place (even in the cold!) and i am ever grateful for the opportunities i had to visit.

current jam: ‘day that i die’ zac brown band.

best thing: productivity. back to dale martin, for now.

of interest: i’ve added a new page at the top of the screen! it’s still a work in a progress, but have a look if you like!

JENNIFER LAWRENCE AND I WERE ALMOST ON TV AT THE SAME TIME.

FRIENDS. FRIENDS. FRIENDS. SORRY FOR SHOUTING, BUT HOLY MOTHER OF SWEET BABY HARRY JAMES POTTER IN A MOTORCYCLE IN THE SKY.

Whew, okay, deep breath. Another. Inhaaaale, exhaaaale.

JGONgfjfbaiugbnW?EJFsd*SUOENQ#$IBAS;IUWVHAbkjdsbfbd!!

I just did my interview with Mark at the Movies about The Hunger Games. And who else was on the show? My new favorite band, fun. And who did they interview after me? JENNIFER FREAKING LAWRENCE. AS IN KATNISS EVERDEEN. AS IN WE WERE ON TV AT ALMOST THE SAME TIME.

And who are they interviewing right now? RALPH FIENNES. This makes the second time i have almost-met Mr. Fiennes (the first was a proper meeting and he signed my playbill and stuff!).

BUT HOLY MOCKINGJAY NERDFIGHTING WIZARD LORD OF CAPRICA, I AM NERDING OUT RIGHT NOW.

This is possibly the most discombobulated, unprofessional, totally-not-savvy-and-posh post i have written. Then again, nothing i write is posh. Chickens. Ohmygaww! Fangirlfreakout. Okay. Wow. Whew. I am together, calm, powerful, and totally sane. This was freaking amazing; thank you, Reelz TV and MarkAtTheMovies for your lovely interview and much thanks to thinking my silly videos are worth you’re time! Thanks friends for enabling me do things like this by your views and reads and time! I’d also like to thank the Academy for their unyielding support, and my two cats for their cuteness, and my parents for my brain, and my school for wifi, and….

Wheeeeeewww, inhaling. Inhaling and exhaling, not at the same time. Okay. Back to writing my paper.

The Eleven Desert Island Film Collection.

Okay, so i know if i’m in fact stranded on a desert island the chance that there would be a way to watch any sort of films would be about approximate to my chances of being elected to the Scottish Parliament this year. And were i to make a new home in Edinburgh, tottering about with piles of legislation to enact, the likelihood that i’d remain deserted on an island with plasma TVs would be, well, next to nil. Unless, of course, that desert island had parties where goodie bags were filled with 50-inch plasma screen TVs.

Inigo Montoya is not left-handed.

I digress.

The point of such questions – what five movies would you take with you on a desert island and the like – are meant to uncover one’s comfort movies, favorite-for-all-time movies, and (most important of all) employed on first dates to see if you’re future daddy/mammy material. Let’s just be real, okay?

So when i consider my Desert Island Movies, i have to be very clear: this is not an exclusive, “favorite movie” list. In fact, i find the “favorite movie” question to be (no surprise here) really hard to answer. I mean, there are the movies that make me think and stay with me in ways reflective in the every day – but aren’t necessarily movies i want to watch more than two or three times (like Children of Men or For Colored Girls). Then, there are movies that i just find comforting; movies i want to watch when i’m sick or feeling miserable, like Mary Poppins or The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney version, obviously). And how could i neglect the movies that i love for their political and social connotations – the kind of titles i like to drop at fancy academic cocktail parties to glean approving nods for my brainpower, like Iron Jawed Angels or Cry, the Beloved Country. Naturally, how could i exclude films that make me laugh? Pirate Radio and Bridesmaids have earned their places on my shelf-of-favorites.

Yet desert island movies rest in a special category: they are the movies that are, simultaneously, ones i can watch over and over again without growing tired of the plot twists and character developments. There are movies for sickness, movies that will never leave you, movies that cover the breadth and depth of your cinematic tastes and personality. It’s a well-honed list; one subject to change, but unlikely to.

Thus, with no further ado, i give you:

The Eleven Films Lizzie Would Take to the Dharma Initiative Desert Island

(And, yeah, i know. Eleven. I’m bad at cutting things out! SORRY GEEZ).

#1. The Princess Bride: I feel as though this goes without saying. If ever there were one singular film that i think everyone who has an abounding love for a good story should see, it would be this one; there’s a dashing hero, a bewildered princess, conniving villains, revenge, and sweepingly fantastic comedic lines worthy of being quoted and re-quoted for generations. As you wish!

#2. V for Vendetta: When asked for a favorite film of all-time, this ties with The Princess Bride, despite the enormous and obvious genre and stylistic gap between the two. I will say, though, both films are abrim with brilliant one-liners (my favorite from this film: “Because behind this mask there is more than a man; there is an idea. And ideas are bulletproof!”). I first discovered this film at Governor’s School (2008) and have since been filled with an inexplicable zeal that the whole of the world will never be right until we all sit down and watch this film, after which we engage in a radical conversation about violence in our societies. Also, the references to Twelfth Night peppering the dialogue is enough to make my Bard heart swoon with delight.

#3. Sense and Sensibility: The Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet/Alan Rickman version from 1995, naturally. To satiate my hapless romantic sensibilities with the beautiful and dashing words of Jane Austen. Also, to look at Alan Rickman. Yeah, that too.

#4. The Sound of Music: On a rainy day in the third grade, my teacher decided to keep us inside during recess,  putting on a movie to keep us entertained in the absence of dirt-eating and monkey-bars-playing merriment. It was love at first sight; within a week, my hair was bobbed and the soundtrack at home in my CD-player, where is was spun no less than twelve hours a day. I sought out hills to spin in circles on the top of and wrote fan letters to Julie Andrews like it was my job. Nothing could ever come between me and this film; it taught me to love to sing, comforts me when i’m down, and such true love lasts a lifetime.

#5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s: For the mean reds. Also, to prance around pining to be as classic as Audrey Hepburn. And the kiss with the cat in the rain. Those are the best kind.

#6. Stardust: Pirates in a dirigible boat, Neil Gaiman-written adventures, and a good-old-fashioned adventurous love story. It’s simple escapism with a dash of whimsy added in for good measure!

#7. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Okay, choosing just ONE from the trilogy was nigh-on impossible, but i could not pass up the most epic Eowyn moment of all time in the battle for Gondor (even if it meant losing some of my favorite Merry-Pippin sequences). And, you know, that heartbreaking song Billy Boyd wrote for when Faramir is leading the charge on Osgiliath. Makes me cry every time. While i may not profess my love for Lord of the Rings quite as much online (perhaps because it is a little older (but i imagine once The Hobbit comes out, this will change)) i can, quite literally, quote the entirety of The Fellowship of the Ring verbatim along to the film. I had “one ring to rule them all” that i never took off my finger for about three years in a row, and stashed in the back of my closet are two of my favorite full-length posters of Legolas. No judging. He was hot stuff  when i was thirteen.

#8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II: I feel like this needs no explanation; i saw it in Africa, sobbing like a baby the whole way through. Harry is forever for me.

#9. Moulin Rouge!: In the vein of epic romances comes in this film, overflowing with beautiful appropriated music and the lavish, brilliant direction of Baz Luhrman. I love everything about this film; its weirdness, the quirky cult following it has acquired over the last ten years, and its bohemian praise of truth, beauty, freedom, and love.

#10. Into the Wild: It seems in cinema, as in literature, i am endless looking for my Alaska. Few movies moved me the way this artistic interpretation of Chris McCandless’ journey did – and, as a grown-up-Haulden-Caulfield, i need to keep what’s not phony nearby.

#11. Up: Unquestionably my favorite Pixar film in every element – the dog, the curmudgeonly old man, and, most of all, the redefinition of adventure. I’ve never made it through this film without sobbing like a baby (perhaps to the unnerving of all around me…alas. I swear i don’t cry at any other film except the ones mentioned here).

And there you have it! The desert island collection, or whatever. It seems, as i reflect on the eleven films chosen, i have an affinity for terribly sad or moving epic adventure stories with love being the central lesson. Call me a sap. Or in the wrong universe/time period.

Comment Question: What are YOUR desert island films? Or at least one or two of them! (Rules for the giveaway are here if you need a refresher!)

Yesterday’s Winner: Kate Farley, for following the blog! Congrats, Kate!

current jam: “my favourite things” from the sound of music (obviously).

best thing in my life right now: i’ve just been cast in the 25th annual putnam county spelling bee as “vice principal panch” at mount holyoke!