a self-absorbed travelogue

Chapter 13: In which I celebrate my first Hogmanay

Hogmanay is what the Scots call the last day of the year but is more commonly used to describe the celebration of the New Year.  This celebration is not confined to a mere day.  The Scots, a people hearty in both body and spirit, extend their celebration to as many as four days.  I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group of stalwart travelers who had decided a Scottish New Year was just what 2011 needed.  Agreeing with their arguments, I decided to join them in London and make the journey north together.

My plane from Madrid landed in London at 9 am and the rest of the group was not to arrive until after 7pm.  This gave me a full day in a city I had still not gotten to visit properly.  I spent the rest of the day visiting Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Squares both Piccadilly and Trafalgar, Hyde Park and then spent 6 hours in the British Museum.  If it weren’t for my advanced age and aching back, I would have spent another three hours in this museum.  It was incredible.  Here are some photographic highlights of the day:

Buckingham Palace

Fragment of the beard of the Great Sphinx in the British Museum

The Rosetta Stone

The Elgin Marbles

The clock tower in which Big Ben resides

I by no means saw all of London, but I feel that I can now say that I visited the city. I was even able to have a pint or three along the way. At about 8pm I headed to Victoria Coach Station to meet up with my fellow travelers.  We boarded our overnight bus at 11pm and headed north to Edinburgh.  Though the ride was less than comfortable and the onboard bathroom was devastated by some sort of tactical nuclear event, the price of the ride was so cheap as to make the discomfort worth it.  We arrived into Edinburgh early in the morning on the 29th and immediately boarded another bus to Stirling where we would spend one night.  The ride took about an hour and we dropped our things off at our hostel and set-off to visit Stirling Castle.

It was a particularly wet day with dense fog that created an eerie quiet about the town.  The castle sits on a prominent hill giving it its legendary defensive advantages.  On the way up, we passed by a graveyard that, with the fog, was like something out of a horror film:

I regret not taking more pictures from Stirling Castle, but the fog made all the images look quite unremarkable.  The queens chambers of the castle were closed for remodeling.  It was there that the infant Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in 1543 (insert Geeky laugh/snort and requisite pushing up of the glasses).  That evening we went out for some food and spent the evening at the hostel taking rubbing elbows with fellow travelers.  The next morning we headed back to Edinburg where we had arranged an apartment in which to stay.

Our first night in Edinburgh featured the torchlight procession from Parliment Square to Calton Hill

Lit torches in Parliament Square

Me and me torch

Torches in the twilight

The procession ended at Calton Hill where a model ship was set on fire and fireworks were let off.  After the fireworks we headed back to the apartment to rest up and prepare ourselves for the next evenings New Years festivities.

The next morning we returned to Calton Hill to see it in the light of day and catch the view.

The gang taking in the view

From there we headed to Edinburgh Castle.

The gang in front of the castle.

"No one provokes me without impunity"

We had a cheap lunch at a pub and had a bit of a wonder around Edinburgh.  It is a lovely city and we all agreed we would have to return someday.  That night we made a New Years dinner and prepared to join the street party.  For reasons of decorum I will include only the following two images:

New Year's Eve dinner

The entrance to the street party. I took the picture because of the No Passouts. Unfortunately, it means no reentry. I thought it was an indication of how hardcore the Scots were about their New Years

The evening included tons of bands, fireworks and high spirits.  It was great to spend New Year’s in an English speaking country, but I found myself strangely missing Georgia.  This, I thought, was a good thing.  We spent the first day of the New Year recovering and headed out of town on the second.  On our return trip, we stopped in New Castle Upon Tyne.  It was cold and there wasn’t much to see.  I will spare you the 100’s of pictures of bridges I took.  On the fourth we arrived in London and headed back to Tbilisi.

I am well into the new year now and feel extremely behind.  My next post will catch you all up on my work and thus will hopefully motivate me to do some.

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One response

  1. Mom

    Loved seeing your face while in Scotland. Your pictures and post make me want to go there even more. Jon and Heather said you looked good on Skype the other day. Nolan enjoyed his playtime with you. Stay well as I understand you have been under the weather. Maybe we can hook up for a conversation this Saturday? Hint: it’s your momma’s birthday. Smile! Love you, Mom

    February 21, 2011 at 14:08

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