“That one looks like the genie from Aladdin.”
Two students sit on a hill byScotland’sStirlingCastle, deciphering images in the clouds. The intense wind surging over them rejuvenates as they absorb the magnificent highlands.
From April 2nd to 9th, a group ofPerth and District Collegiate Institute students and a handful of teachers/supervisors traveled toEngland andScotland for what was dubbed the “Kilts and Castles” trip. After a cramped six hour flight across theAtlantic Ocean we were all as excited to land inLondon as 45 jet-lagged people could be.
During the initial tour ofLondonthe first thing that struck me was the “hodgepodge of architecture”, as our tour guide, Emma, called it in her delicate English accent. One can see history patched together through stone, brick and steel; modern skyscrapers abruptly juxtapose elegant Victorian and Georgian structures. It is as if someone took a quaint country town, multiplied it by a quajillion, and squished it all along theThamesRiver.
The subject of population arose while Emma taught us the history of the city.London’s impressive 7 million madePerth’s 6000 seem pretty paltry.
We soon learned that “The Tube” was the primary mode of transportation for those 7 million people. “The Tube” is the underground subway network that spiderwebs throughoutLondon. In comparison toToronto’s hectic set-up, it is surprisingly agreeable and we soon had the main lines memorized.
Wandering through the regalHamptonCourtPalacewhere numerous dignitaries lived and walked, it was hard not to be impressed. InClock Court, the towering astronomical clock made for Henry VIII shows the hour, month, day, number of days since the beginning of the year, and the phases of the moon. The detail and grandeur demonstrated from that era was astonishing. Stretching over 60 acres behind the palace are the gardens, most of which have been restored to what they looked like to the Kings andQueenswho once enjoyed them. It was a history class to beat all history classes.
We took the overnight train toEdinburgh,Scotland. In the morning when my roommate and I opened the blinds,EdinburghCastlewas perfectly centered in our window, the sunrise softly highlighting the ancient stone. It was right out of a fairytale and we couldn’t help but gasp.
I must say, the people are the strength behindScotland’s character. One such rugged Sir that we had the pleasure of meeting was our tour guide forEdinburghCastle– a certain Robbie Robertson. Fully clad in traditional Scottish regalia, he was a hardy old salt with wispy white hair and beard. “You can always count on my tours to end by12:45because of a medical condition I have,” he assured us, “You see, I have to be at the bar by1:00…”
Edinburghis split between the antiquity of OldTown(13th – 14th Century) and Georgian New Town (1800’s). During our wanderings through the city, some of us were privileged to tryScotland’s heart-attack inducing delicacy – deep-fried Mars bar. Though it looks and sounds disgusting, it is the most sinfully delectable indulgence you could possibly have the misfortune of tasting, at what we estimated was 5000 calories a bite.
At the border of the Scottish Highlands sitsStirlingCastlewhere the winds off the hills rush up and can almost lift you off the ground. It was hard to imagine so beautiful a place stained with blood from long ago battles.
Scotland’s rustic intrigue andEngland’s metropolitan romance charmed our lives for one week. We returned home culturally enriched, historically educated, and with a hint of accent still on everyone’s tongue.
Previously published May 2, 2007; The Charlatan