On Monday the rain subsided and the sun came out, something we've been lucky with in our stint here. The sun seems to be following us, no complaints there.
Jon and Willa headed up our beautiful hike up to Arthur's Seat, which boasts one of the best 360 views of Edinburgh. It was a steep hike up but well worth it for the view of the city but also the view of the clashing green and grey, beautiful grass with rock jutting out.
Notice from the picture that Willa showed us all up hiking in her piping get-up! Shortly after hiking she headed to the royal mile to do some busking, but not before showing us to another great pub, the Hanging Bat. We sampled more interesting and local brew in this sleekly setup pub, and we got to do so with the aroma of beer making in the background! They've begun to brew their own and if it's anything compared to the place's atmosphere it will not disappoint.
Katie and I wandered about the royal mile, the main strip near the castle with restaurants and tourist shops. We had the pleasure of listening in on Willa's busking shift, what a treat!
We headed back to the flat where Jon had his famous lasagna hot out of the oven. It was a welcome treat after walking around in the misty cold.
The next morning we got up and at 'em. We first headed West on a train to Glasgow and then caught a train North to Loch Lommond, which is in the southern part of the highlands. We had a splendid afternoon at the loch. We hiked around the lake and up into the wooded area around the castle at Loch Lommond. The entire area is a national park, so it was all very pristine. A lot of green sloping pastures and thick woods all surrounding the lake. And once again we lucked out with te weather, sun all around.
Late in the afternoon we caught the train back to Glasgow. We decided to pop out of the train station and see what we could of the other major city in Scotland. We soon realized that we were in the midst of a city gearing up for a big soccer game: Scotland vs. Croatia World Cup qualifier.
The streets were filled with dark blue jerseys and kilts (Scotland), and red and white checkered jerseys (Croatia). We found an overflowing pub and naturally we went in to join in on the chaos. After talking with some diehard Scots we found out that te game wasn't a sell-out. That's about all we needed to hear, we hopped in a cab and headed towards the stadium.
The area around the stadium was fairly deserted when we arrived, about 10 minutes after kick-off. We found the closest ticket booth and asked the steward if their were any tickets available. He replied, "Here, take these." I think our jaws must have dropped and I'm sure him and his buddies standing there got a good laugh out of it, but we didn't care a bit, we had just scored free tickets! We thanked them thoroughly and headed into the game.
It was a wild atmosphere. Not a full house but that didn't seem to matter. The Scottish soccer team is not traditionally stellar, as one fan put it, "We're awful, but we've got the best fans." And we think he might have been on to something. The game was full of cheers and chants and life.
The Scots wound up putting on a show for us. They beat Croatia 2-0. Scotland is ranked 63rd in the world and Croatia is 10th, quite the upset! The game was meaningless as far as World Cup qualifying goes, but it was an experience we'll never forget. At one point some Croatian fans got a bit rowdy, we'll let the picture do the talking.
We had to sneak out a few minutes early to catch our train to Edinburgh and our bus to the flat, but soaked up every second while we were there.
Wednesday was quiet but enjoyable. We spent time playing with Jon's kids, Daniel, Patrick and Sophie (5, 7, 10). We explored the area around Jon and Willa's flat and grabbed groceries to make pizza with the kids. They were great helpers and it turned out delicious!
We can't believe we have to leave this place tomorrow. We've both fallen in love in the few days we've been here. Jon and Willa have really been great hosts, showing us the city and showing us a great time. But, nevertheless, we leave Scotland tomorrow afternoon for Amsterdam, where we left most of our luggage stuffed in a locker. From there we'll catch our flight back home to the US of A on Friday morning. At this point we can't really process that, so we'll just pretend like we're packing up for the next adventure for now.
Will and Katie