I am slightly behind on my blogging so this post is actually about the trip to St. Andrews I took on Thursday. The ISS (International Summer School) program does day-trips to cities around Stirling every Thursday which are free (well included in the cost of studying) to all the students. While these trips aren’t mandatory, who wouldn’t go along for a free trip!? Anyway, this past Thursday the group traveled to St. Andrews which is right by the North Sea. Let me tell you all about it!
We started the day early and had to meet the coach outside at 7:45 am. I had made oatmeal but unfortunately did not get to eat it because my flatmates were ready to go. I am a breakfast person and seriously have issues when I don’t have something in my stomach but I didn’t want to be late and risk missing the bus so I had to postpone satisfying my stomach. Luckily, one of my friends, Laura, had some trail mix she kindly offered me to hold me over. Despite the lack of breakfast, the weather looked promising and warm so before running out the door I decided to swap my umbrella for a hat (I was only taking a small shoulder bag and couldn’t fit both). The bus ride was only about an hour and a half long which I spent chatting with Laura and dozing off.
As soon as we got off the bus I knew the hat had been a wise decision. I wore a light sweater and a scarf because the forecast was nice but I hadn’t thought about the wind coming in from the water which made St. Andrews significantly chillier than Stirling. I decided to join the walking tour which was optional but proved to help warm me up by walking around. We had a cute little woman named June as our guide and she enthusiastically showed us around. After walking around town and seeing the college, castle, and cathedral, we ended up in the center of town where all the shops were and let loose to explore on our own.
The group of people I went with were all hungry (me especially- remember the oatmeal failure) and having heard of the best fish and chips place in town we headed to the Tailend to try it out. Unfortunately it was only about 10:30 at this time and the restaurant was not open yet. Obviously we had an issue because I needed something to eat! We went to the next place on our list which was Fisher and Donaldson to try one of their fudge donuts. This pastry was not what I expected but it was one of the best sweets I have eaten! It was a custard filled donut with a fudge icing on top. This might not sound like anything spectacular and I am not usually a big custard donut fan but this filling was not like American custard! It was less sweet (which is what I usually don’t like about the ones from home anyway) but thicker, creamier, and richer! Definitely satisfying and made up for the earlier disappointment of missing breakfast.
After this was checked off our to-do list, we shopped around at some local stores until the Tailend opened. Then we went there for a traditional fish and chips meal which was very tasty as well (but not as good as that donut). After a leisurely lunch we headed back to the cathedral to buy tickets to go up into the tower and to get into the castle. St. Rule’s Tower stands with in the grounds of the Cathedral and you can go up into it to get an amazing view of the city. The stairway is a tiny spiral all the way up to the top that makes you feel the need to keep going up them without a break. At first this didn’t seem like a big task and I was chatting with Laura on the way up but by about halfway there I realized I was panting from the effort of keeping a steady pace and talking consistently! I laughed at myself and told her we needed to take a quick breather before we continued. We finally made it to the top and the view was magnificent! We could see everything and the breeze was much appreciated after the workout from the climb. After looking around and taking pictures we headed back down the stairs (a much easier task).
Next, we made our way to the castle which isn’t actually a whole castle but the remains of what once was one. Before the ruins we walked through a little museum that had a summary of the eventful history which June did a good job of discussing on our tour earlier in the morning. Outside was a wide open space with the walls of the castle but going to the edge you could look out and see the water which the castle was built right next to. It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen so far. I can’t even explain how cool it was to walk around in it and the feeling of the breeze or the smell the sea air. After exploring the open area we got to go into the underground tunnels that were dug during one of the attempts to take control of the castle (it is a lot to explain so if you are interested google it and read about it because it is pretty interesting). This was a very cool experience! It was unbelievable that people where able to chisel away rock without the tools and machines we have today. It looked like backbreaking work.
After we all made it out of the cramped tunnels, we headed back closer to the meeting point. We stopped at a fair trade bazaar that was being held in a church in town selling a variety of very interesting things. There were handmade clothes, hand-bound journals, bags, incense, jewelry, and other trinkets. We left there after a quick look to make it back in time to walk the beach before we had to load back on the bus.
By this time the day had warmed up and I was very glad I hadn’t brought a heavier coat that I would have had to carry around (something I had been regretting earlier in the day). We walked down the rockier part of the beach and got to climb onto a few large rocks to take some cool pictures. Shortly after that it was time to head back to the coach to travel back to campus. Although I was exhausted from this trip, I made a quick run into town with Laura for some groceries then went back to my room and relaxed. Oh yeah, and I finally got to eat my oatmeal (which I had put in the refrigerator); to my surprise, it was so good I didn’t even have to heat it up!