Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spring Fling-- Haddington, Museum of Flight WWII Day, and Dundee

Well, the thick jackets have been replaced with my pink hoodie and my snow boots are retired for a pair of flats. Spring has finally come to Scotland. At home we didn't really have spring. Cool just kind of changes to summer over the course of a weekend. The nicer weather, abundant sunshine, and longer days has made us all a bit more adventurous. The past few weeks I have made a few trips outside of the city.

The first weekend in May was World War II Day at the National Museum of Flight in cow pastures outside the city. Me and my gang got up early in order to make it there in time with the crazy bus schedule. Alas our efforts were in vain and we got to spend some time in Haddington before admitting defeat and taking a taxi to the former airfields. Haddington is a lovely town and we had lunch by a little river with the ducks swimming past. The Cathedral and town square was so pretty! It was the cutest little town bringing me to fantasize about a summer afternoon wedding in one of their old churches. Scotland is loaded with such charming little places.


The Museum of Flight was packed with activity. They had a parade with the old tanks and trucks serenaded by bag pipers complete with rein-actors. I got to have my makeup done like they did in the 1940s. We toured the museum also. We got to sit in a cockpit and look at military airplanes. I was stunned by the sheer size of the now retired concord jet which used to be able to make a trip between London and New York in three hours. We tried to throw tennis balls in a cut out of Hitler and other old time games. However, my enjoyment was most complete because of my friend, who works for the museum, dressed in a Royal Air Force uniform. We finished the day by sitting on a pile of rocks in the field awaiting the return of the bus we had original missed outside the museum. I cannot wait for the July air show at the museum!!


Last Wednesday, in order to collect more research on my topic, I made a trip out to a little town called Coupar Angus. It was a small, nice, little town like Haddington. My only way of getting there was by being picked up by car from the Dundee train station. The fields with flowers and cows were beautiful. I was returned early for my train and had several hours to kill in Dundee. Dundee is a fairly large town on the seaside. The town square had recently been redone, decorated with statues and fountains. Their excellent shopping kept me entertained for the majority of my time there. They had two full sized shopping malls (not the most common thing in the UK) a few blocks form one another. Even a two story Primart! I soaked up the sun in the grassy patch next to their cathedral. The large seagulls disturbed me a bit by their proximity to me as I ate my biscuits (cookies). There was also another church with a large steeple and gargoyles proudly perching there watching the town. I was sad to leave Dundee because in that short time I had developed quiet a fondness for it. Fortunately, I was thoroughly entertained on the return train as it passed the eastern coastline of Scotland. The lighthouses on distant islands and rocky coasts reminded me of how bonnie Scotland really is after the long winter.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Been Bad

I know I have been a terrible blogger, but I do intend to fill everyone in on my adventures around here. Still waiting on spring break pictures and a drive to write about the world....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

“History gives answers only to those who know how to ask questions.” ~Hajo Holborn

Living in Edinburgh, every step I take is drenched in history. There are few places I have or will travel this year that has not harbored thousands of years of memories. Even returning to Biloxi in August, I will find my own personal and familial past waiting for me under clear starry summer nights. Really, is history ever not surrounding us? Are we just ignorant to its presence, until attention is demanded? I think this is very true.

Anne Frank
**WIll We Remember her in a hundred years?**

Many occasions I am stupefied by the knowledge of what occurred in certain places. Even places I have never stepped foot upon. Sunday I viewed at the Edinburgh Film House (an old style theatre specializing in independent films) a documentary on the Holocaust called KZ. This piece of cinema followed tour groups through a concentration camp, which is located in Austria. The crew also interviewed residence, some even in the town when the camp was in use during World War II. On one particular scene the groups are taken into this tiny gas chamber. I do not have to expand on what happened in that tiny cement room. Just viewing it in a theatre made my pulse rate and my stomach turn. I fear if I had been in that tour group inside the actual sight I would have been subject to a panic attack. It would feel like the violence is still there trying to grab me from some nearly forgotten era.

Wallace Monument
**William Wallace monument- Stirling, Scotland**

Sights with history much later in time can be just as powerful. When I toured Edinburgh Castle on St. Andrews Day we entered the underground rooms where Prisoners of War resided. These chambers were home to many POWs from many different wars including the American Revolution. The doors contained graffiti from all of them including icons of the old Colonial flag. It’s like all those ideals, hopes, fears, and experiences swirled around me. I could imagine the sacrifice made for our country and many other principles. Over two hundred years later, they still whispered to me.

Touching History
**Touching History at Edinburgh Castle**

Okay, okay, I’m getting a wee bit romantic. Anyway, so many things should not be forgotten by history. That’s why I find it so important to study, read, and teach it. Everything is important to me in the scope of things. Even the stories of young girls sent to work on the farm in the Women’s Land Army during World War II. I giggled at the National Library this weekend when I read the account of a Land Girl who had to relieve herself behind the tree and was spotted by a farm hand who then claimed she had a “Nice little piece of rump.” All of it is important and all of it needs to be remembered in some way, shape, or form.
Besides if we don’t remember them… who is going to remember us?


“History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.” ~Winston Churchill

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Moment

"Once upon a time, I wanted to know what love was. Love is there if you want it to be. You just have to see that it's wrapped in beauty and hidden away between the seconds of your life. If you don't stop for a minute you just might miss it" Sean Biggerstaff's charater in the British film CASHBACK.

Something I would have missed if not paying attention....

Making new friends....


Finding a guardian angel....


Stepping into an old Inn that should be in a Robert Louis Stevenson novel...

Cool place

Something truly breathtaking....


Defended a city.....


Felt what it was like to have a snow day....

Snow Day

This place is fantastic and I truly love it so.....

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In the mood for a Cafe Latte...

My post today is dedicated to my favorite place to visit in Edinburgh or anywhere.. The coffee shop!!!! Edinburgh is a very classy and artistic city. It has turned out some of the most fantastic writers. Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ian Rankin, and everyones favorite J.K. Rowling created their tales here. There is a coffee shop for everyone in Edinburgh whether you're a hippie/student or a young professional needing a quick cup. Coffee is something I dearly love, a passion fueled by my time at the coffee shop in Biloxi. Here are my favs by category!

:::::::TOP THREE:::::

My absolute favorite is a shop across from Old College on South Bridge called Black Medicine. In order to create the atmosphere of a mountain lodge with Native American influences, this shop has wooden seats, table tops, and even it's own totem pole! The coffee and sandwiches are just as good as the atmosphere with friendly staff. As a former coffee girl, I must say I'd love to pick up a few shifts there! I always get a mocha or a latte here and if I'm particularly hungrey I will splurge for a filled bagel with tex-mex or some other unusual concotion.

black Medicine

I would approach this shop with caution. It's one of the closest to my flat, but is always overun with tourists. Why? Becuase it's a shop called The White Elephant.... known as the birthplace of Harry Potter. It's not hard to imagine why J.K. Rowling would've chosen this place to work on the adventures of the boy wizard. There is a stunning view of the castle and Greyfriars churchyard and cememtery from huge bay window at the back of the cafe. They take their elephants seriously here with huge wooden chairs carved as elephants and large flower pots with trees in the shape of elephants. It's a wonderful place when it's not crowded and the elephant shaped sugar cookies shouldn't be ignored!

White Elephant

A little nest spot for me when I have too much time between meetings on campus is the Harlequin Cafe. This little shop is on the corner of campus underneath a used book shop. (The buildings sometimes have basement entry ways, it's really cool like descending into a secret hide away). When I say little I mean one room with wrap around seating and about eight tables. Meat eaters will not find delight here. The Harlequin only has vegetarian and organic selections on their menu. Also only fair trade coffee is served here. Prices are great and the customers are always discussing the world. I always get a sandwich with mature cheddar, sun dried tomatoes, and hummus.


:::: Top Coffee Chains:::::

Okay so you can't avoid the man when you are in desperate need of coffe. I can always get a good coffee at a Costas which are scattered throughout the city at my favorite bookstore, the airport, and any where else. If you want some food with your coffee the Beanscene has some great combo deals with paninis and pizzas. The one in New Town off Princes Street is particularly classy hidden in the vesade of a Georgian mansion.

:::::: Not so great:::::::

Although I loved Starbucks in Biloxi because simply there was no where else to go for coffee, it's not such a good idea here. WIth the UK/US exchange rate it is excrutiatingly expensive for mediocre coffee. Plus that's where all the tourist stop anyway. Then there are these little booths around the city called "Police Box Coffee"... got one latte from there booth and never made that mistake again. Just not good stuff.

So that was a brief coffee shop tour of Edinburgh, however I'm always on the look out for a good cup of coffee!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mandy and Ed's Winter Break Trip--- Epsiode 2 Amsterdam

So the second leg of our journey meant taking a six hour train from Berlin to Amsterdam. Amsterdam, a city possibly more notorious then New Orleans, had something comepletely new to give us in our adventures. Ed and I arrived in the city late Saturday night and had a time finding the hostel we were staying in for one night. This place which we have affectionately nicknamed "Bob's Youth Palace" yielded the true hostel experience. We slept in a room of 16 people and it was pretty gross. For this reason Edward and I had something to eat and wandered the streets of Amsterdam for several hours without knowing where the heck we were going. We quickly found Dam Square with the royal palace and took a stroll down the Red Light District. We were so exhausted afterwards we had no qualms passing out in our bunk beds at "Bob's Youth Palace."

Amsterdam at night

The remander of our trip was spent in a nice hotel in Vondell Park, a posh residential area. Our first full day in Amsterdam we caught another Free Tour. We saw the Old Kirk (oldest church) smack in the middle of Amsterdam's red light district. We wandered about to see the Old Jewesh Quarter, buildings which once housed the illustrious Dutch East Indian Trading Company, saw an old women's prison, the Gates to the city, and past many many canal ways. Amsterdam is infested with bicycles where thousands of them park along the streets, waterways, and even in the case of the Centraal station bicycle parking garages. We ended our tour in front of the Anne Frank house. So Ed and I went there right at the end of the tour to see the tiny rooms which once held the famous girl as her family hid from the Nazis. Incredibly to be walking in something you always read about in school. Ed and I ended the day by having traditional dutch pancakes!!! (Ed had brie, spinach, and cashews, while I had cherry).

Night Watch

Christmas Eve did not hinder our adventure what so ever. We went to the Rembrahnt house where the famous artisit lived and created his masterpieces. Edward was accosted my a house cat in a restuarant in Amsterdam's China town. The Torture museum, VERY disappointing and I would never recommend it. We made our way through the Van Gogh museum also before things closed down. The following day, Christmas, was really uneventful. We explored the park area which neighbored our hotel. It was a lovely time out, and we almost saw a bicycle colision. By some miracle we did find a restuarant to have Christmas dinner that evening... it was a seafood restuarant and I saw the lobster I was going to eat walking in the front door!!!

Ed and the Park

Our final day in Amsterdam we walked through the famous floating flower market. Thousands of tulips and so many beautiful orchids.. I wish I could've taken one back to Edinburgh with me. A very impressing museum we toured was the Dutch Resistance Museum which explains the various ways the Dutch people rebelled against Nazi occupation during WWII. We tried "Fritz" or french fries and I was adventurous enough to try them with this sweet peanut sauce. It was sweet!!! My highlight of this city was wandering the streets with Edward. We walked along the canals for hours just chatting and watching the beautiful city turn to twilight. That night we went to a cafe near our hotel where all the locals hung out carrying on their conversations.


Amsterdam is a fantastically cultural city. There is so much more than legal prostitution and weed. It houses some of the most famous collections of art in the world, is a place where people did not take occuaption lying down, and a beautiful city which retains it's maritime feel even into the twenty-first century.

the clock

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mandy and Ed's Winter Break Trip--- Epsiode 1 Berlin

The first stop on my trip with Edward was the capital of Germany in Berlin. Because of both World Wars, Berlin is not the traditional European city with streets of ancient buildings. Actually the city is very modern and the older buildings still have bullet holes repaired from the wars. Christmas was definetly in the air in Germany. Christmas markets and gigantic trees were all around the city and the air smelled of the booths cooking the fair foods.

Ed and I museum Island

In order to become better aquanted with the city, Ed and I went on something called a "free tour" operated by a particular company. In order for the tour to be free the guides work for tips and they are great! Within a four hour walk we walked through most of the popular sights in Berlin. Brandonberg Gate, the Memorial for the Murdered Jew of Europe, the Berlin Wall, Check Point Charlie, and other great things we revisited. The most powerful thing we saw is Orenplatz (a platz is a square). This platz was where on May 10th 1933 a group of Nazi affiliated students stormed Humbolt's University library and torched thousands of books which did not correspond with Nazi ideals.. this even was a serious indicator of the persecutions which would take place. How powerful it is to stand there years later. Other sights we returned to later and that night we experienced some great shopping! (This one shop we went to.... think Best Buy times 4 more floors.)

Memorial to books

Day two we were more focused on our mission to see more of Berlin. We started the day with visiting the Riechstag (The German Parliament) and after sitting in line for awhile we visited the top dome structure recently built. We had an excellent views of the city, and you can see into the government chambers. The museum under the Memorial was very touching full of oral histories. We also road the fastest elevator in Europe which was built by Edward's elevator company Tyssen-Krupp. Outside the tall building was another Christmas market, there is a fair ride which is pretty muich a long hill of snow. As part of the ride we took inner-tubes up and road them down. It was a ton of fun!!! That evening we road the S-bahn all the way to the last stop to a little town called Spandau. The authentic feel of the market and all the German voices really couldn't be denied. There we tried the mulled wine with amaretto, but retired to the hostel early like grandparents.

In the Reichstag

On the third day we the most touching sight we viewed was the Memorial Church for the Kaiser. This church is only half there, left in rememberance of the bombings which happened during World War II. Thursday evenings in Berlin the state funded museums are free to visit. We started by paying for the German History Museum which had so much! We saw everything from roman mosaics, knights swords, Napoleons clothing, and WWII Nazi propoganda. Took hours to view. We saw the Egyptian exhibit on papyrus and statues. Then we made our way to teh Pergamon Museum. This museum is particularly impressive because it contains entire buildings!! We saw the Gates of Babylon and whole alters to Roman Gods and many mystical statues from the Middle East.

Us with statues

We found a place off the beaten path by our last full day. We rode the S-bahn to the end again and went to a village called Potsdam. This town contains all the Royal Palaces of the German families. That day it was incredibly cold and I would go as far to say that I've never been so cold in my entire life! We visit the summer palace of Frederick the Great known as Schloss Sanssouci which we had to put on some funny slippers to go across the marble and wooden floors. The lawns were perfect with a fountain of swimming ducks and swans and perfect hedges stepped up the hill. The streams surrounding it were frozen and we got to visit another nice church. There were snow flurries and the trees were completely white and absolutely lovely. That evening we had a nice meal at a restuarant which served tuna and this beer called alger which is a dark brew mixed with sprite.. yummy!


Berlin was actually a city more off the beaten path than expected. Plus with the time we went we saw it in it's full Christmas cheer. It has just wetted my appetite to see the rest of Germany!