Todd's first day in Scotland

Todd's first day in Scotland:
A little bit of Glasgow and Edinburgh

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Welcome to Scotland – Gee that train looks very Harry Potterish!

It's been a busy few days in Scotland.  I first arrived late on Saturday night, after a 9 hour layover in Amsterdam's Schipol airport.  I took the train to central station and went for a walk through the touristy bits – where I also discovered both Chinatown and the Red Light District. 

2009_Amsterdam 045Dragon City Restaurant in Amsterdam.  I also discovered restaurants named Asiandam and Cafe Slutery Oost-West, and Eat Mode- Asian Fusion Kitchen.

2009_Amsterdam 052 It must be Chinatown.  The sign says China Town Supermarkt!

The Bulldog pub was toooo full, so I went to The Blarney Stone where I met an Englishman named Robin.  I drank Kilkenney and he drank Guinness.  I told him about our 1st Thursday Kilts Night where we recieve a pint of Guinness.  He told me it was his birthday, I asked the waitress to give him a free birthday beer.  Instant friends + the guy from Boston beside us.

Here are pictures from Amsterdam

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

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I flew into Glasgow late on Saturday night.  After all the locals breezed easily through customs, I was left with two people from China to fill out landing forms. (What are these?)  I was the last person through, and the service was very kind.  I changed some money, and took the bus into town where I soon found a hotel.  My plan was to check out the local nightlife.  But my shoulder and back were really hurting.  I had injured it on the weekend, then reinjured it again on Thursday.  This was part of the reason why I now was on holiday.  If I can't work… I'm going to Scotland for Homecoming.  I quickly fell asleep after taking more Motrin.

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Sunday morning.  I go to Kelvingrove Art Gallery down the street.  But
first I check into Beanscene – a local equivalent of Starbucks or
Blenz.  Inside the cafe I am greeted by a picture of Johnny Cash. 
There is a poster of Norah Jones's new album.  I am in the right place.

2009_Scotland_1 006 Todd eating Stoats porridge – a good Scottish breakfast that is having a revival.

I order up porridge and coffee.  I meet a local man who tells me about some of the local sights to see, after we discuss Johnny Cash.  He also tells me that Glasgow's Chinatown is nearby. 

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Next I meet a Chinese woman who is teaching architecture (or is it art) at the local Art Institute.  Ju-Li is from China and has lived in Scotland since 2004.  She has just married a man, who has had to go back to America, because he doesn't have a UK passport, even though his grandparents were from Scotland.  This man who's ancestors left Scotland for a better life in the USA, is trying to get back into Scotland to be with his Chinese bride.  We both laugh at the absurdity of it.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is amazing.  It's also part museum.  The Main hall on my left has lots of taxidermied animals.  There is an elephant, a giraffe, a moose, an ostrich… even a platypus and a cheetah. Suspended from the ceiling is a WW2 Spitfire fighter plane.

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It is a thing out of a Christopher Robin or Narnia Chronicles book or movie.  Upstairs I discover exhibits on Wild Bill's Wild West Show – when it came to Glasgow, as well as Robert Burns and dinosaurs. 

2009_Scotland_1 024 Supposedly the legendary Haggis is the taxidermied concoction above, set beside a culinary haggis for eating.

There is even a taxidermied haggis!  (photos to show after I return to Canada).

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2009_Scotland_1 035 The Burns exhibit features a picture of Burns as Latin American revolutionary Che Gevera– no doubt reflecting on Burns universality for freedom and equal rights.

I had really wanted to visit the Hunterian Museum, which is showing Zig Zag: The Paths of Robert Burns as part of the Homecoming Scotland events.  But it is at Glasgow University and consequently closed – forcing me to return to Glasgow on Monday.  Anyways, I spend the afternoon at the Kelvingrove, where a Doctor Who exhibit is downstairs. 

2009_Scotland_1 046 People do wear kilts and play bagpipes in Scotland!

I get lost trying to find the train station to Edinburgh.  I get distracted by the sound of bagpipes, as I find myself on Nelson Mandela Walk.  Policemen lead a parade of pipers.  About 12 bobbies (policeman) in reflective yellow jackets escort 16 pipers.  I think these are the first kilts I see in Scotland.

2009_Scotland_1 049 Winter Shindig in square at Glasgow.

I discover the Winter Shindig that takes up an entire square.  There is
a stage for as one of the finale events for Homecoming Year.  But
nobody local seems to know who the band is.  There is a large outdoor
ice rink, and a ferris wheel.

2009_Scotland_1 054 These guys wore the biggest ugly-est sporrans I have ever seen.  They made it themselves, and they carry all their magic tricks to promote the Glasgow Science Centre.

I meet two young men wearing kilts.  They have HUMUNGOUS sporrans which are FILLED with THINGS.  They work for the Glasgow Science Centre.  They show me some of their tricks and offer to set my hand on fire.  It was cool… and it did not hurt.  Okay… I sort of knew the secret, and they confirmed it with me.  One of them took a video – very cool… look carefully because it appears that after the flash – a pigeon flys out of above my hand. (video coming after I return to Canada).

2009_Scotland_1 053 Click for video to see a pigeon fly out of a burst of flame from my hand! Courtesy of the wild and kilted guys from the Glasgow Science Centre.

Did I say I get lost trying to get to the Train Station?  People have been so helpful.  But unfortunately I end up at the Central Station where I ask for Edinburgh, and the ticket seller hears Hellensburg.  Fortunately I don't get on that train, and go back for a refund.  Eventually I find myself on a crowded train to Edinburgh where I spy a man wearing a rugby shirt that says “Famous Grouse.”  As Famous Grouse was a whisky sponsor at our 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, I have to go ask about his like for Famous Grouse.  Surprise!  There is an empty seat beside him, which he offers me.  We have a good time talking about rugby, Famous Grouse, as I explain the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner to him, and the lady across from me.  His name is Roy Dewar, the lady is Hellen.  Roy buys me a Tennent's beer for our 50 minute train ride.

2009_Scotland_1 066 A friendly Scot buys me a Tennant's beer to celebrate my first full day in Scotland.

It's Sunday in Edinburgh.  I check into my lodging at Salisbury Centre – a holistic health centre, run by a woman whose auntie is a friend of mine in Vancouver.  For the evening, I decide to walk into town in search of Homecoming events.  I discover the free Caille (traditional dancing) event at The Hub.  The band is called Whiskey Kiss. 
2009_Scotland_1 084 Whiskey Kiss played the St. Andrew's Day Ceilidh to celebrate the Homecoming Finale – click on the picture for video.

They are led by an  accordion player.  I like the band instantly – even though he plays button accordion.  They have a comely lass playing fiddle and a braw fellow on the drums.  A fellow also plays on the penny whistle flute and bagpipes.  But the big surprise is the additional of a dj who adds in ambient sounds and scratches – very cool.  I love their versions of Van Morrison's Blue Eyed Girl and Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.  But they also lead traditional country dances that include The Canadian Bar Dance, and The Virginia Reel.

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How to start a ceilidh.  Everybody waits on the dance floor while the
ceilidh leaders gives dance instructions, then the band gets going, and
the dance leaders start the dancing off!  Too much fun!

2009_Scotland_1 083 People are dancing and really having lots of fun! – click here for video
2009_Scotland_1 085 This is a great little video of the dancing – look for the big guy in a kilt – he's not afraid of a little kilt swirl!  Also look for the Asian woman who seems to really be enjoying herself!

Another surprise, there are Asians dancing.  Most turn out to be students from university.  They are from Taiwan or China. 

2009_Scotland_1 088 Sarah is a student at University of Edinburgh!

I chat with some of the young Scots and ask then if they think that St. Andrew's Day should be a national holiday.  They agree, but say that St. Andrews' events are slow to catch on. 

2009_Scotland_1 094 Young Scots enjoy the Ceilidh, and actually wore kilts!

The patron saint of Scotland is certainly not as big as the patron
saint of Ireland – St. Patrick.  I meet a young Scots woman whose
kilted boyfriend is missing a sporan… and kilt socks.  He is actually
originally from Bulgaria… but he loves Scottish music and Scottish
women – okay… just one woman in particular.

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