Friday, 21 November 2008

wacky word list

At the bottom of the blog I have added a list of words. These are Scottish words that I have heard being used here and what they mean in North America. I'll continue to add to the list when I come across more words. It is hard enough trying to understand the accent here without them throwing in words I've never even heard before! Hopefully the list will help anyone thinking about coming over here :)
If you've been to Scotland and have any words you think should be added to the list, let me know and I'll put them up.



Today I got my first paycheck since the end of August. What a wonderful feeling! I've only been working at this job for a week so it wasn't a lot (but more than I was expecting!) but at this point, anything seems like a lot. I get paid once a month only, so this money has to last me a while, but it was very nice to see the bank account going up for a change. In honour of this momentous occasion, I thought I would tell you about my job and the road that lead me to it.

I started handing out CVs (resumes) at the end of September and it was a month before I heard anything from an employer. They say that finding a job IS your job, and although I wouldn't exactly say I made it my job I definitely went out everyday (well, almost everyday) for that month to hand out a few CVs. Applying for jobs is something I hate doing. I hate that you have about 5 seconds to make a good impression. That just terrifies me. Although handing out all those CVs did let me get a good feeling for the city, it was not fun.

I got a phone call from a store called Peacocks on October 25th and had an interview on the 27th. Peacocks is a clothing store that sells mens, womens and childrens clothes. The interview went well and I heard back on the 29th that I got the job. I was super excited because I really wanted to work at a clothing store -- in order to get a good discount, of course! I went in on the 3rd to watch some cheesy videos about how to properly lift a box (bend with your legs, not your back!) and sign some contracts and stuff. They had me read through about 50 pages of store policies and sign the back of every page to show that I read it. Not a very fun way to spend two hours, but I did get paid for it. I went in on the 4th for my first shift and basically dusted the whole time. I was the accessories and christmas gift person, so I was in that section the whole time dusting shelves and restocking. I literally wasn't supposed to go to other sections of the store. I didn't talk to any of the other workes unless I was asking them a question because we were all in our own areas. I won't go into detail about why I didn't like it, I'll just say that I wasn't happy working there. I was working 20 hrs/wk and my contract was only until Dec. 24th so even if I loved it I would have had to keep looking for work.

On Nov. 10th, only a week after I started, I got a phone call from a company I handed my CV in to a few weeks before and set up an interview for the 12th. That night, Amy told me there was an opening in the retail section of her store and her boss said that if I was still looking for work I could have the job. I was so thankful to have options and that I wouldn't have to work at Peacocks for much longer. The interview was for Geoffrey Tailor, a big kiltmaker with a shop on the Royal Mile...right beside the castle! I was really excited about working there so I went to the interview even though I had another job offer. I thought it went well, but I had to tell the woman that I had another job offer and needed to know whether I got the job or not as soon as possible. I don't think she liked that very much. I didn't get a phone call back from them and I like to think it was because she knew that another job was available to me and not because I didn't do a good job at the interview! So, I quit at Peacocks on the 12th and started at Baxters on the 15th. I haven't even been there a week and already I feel very comfortable. I work in the retail section and Amy works in the restaurant, but she can tell you about her job later if she wants. The store is in a mall near our flat and has two retail floors, one with their famous soups and other food products and the other with kitchen gadgets and dishes. My tasks vary from day to day but mostly I just stand behind the counter waiting to cash out customers. Much more relaxed than Peacocks! Everyone is really friendly and I actually get to talk to the other workers. All in all I am very happy that I was able to switch jobs. They've even agreed to give Amy and I the same days off, which will make it easier for traveling. Plus, its more hours AND more pay...but thats just an added bonus to having a relatively stress-free job for the year.

If the use of 'Amy and I' didn't give it away, this was posted by Katie.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Posting styles

So far, all of the posts have been written by me, Katie. Amy and I have very different writing styles and don't always agree on what to say or what pictures to put up. To make things easier we are going to write our own posts, probably not always about the same thing, and write our name at the bottom so you will know who wrote it. Enjoy!

St Andrews

November 1st we took the train from Edinburgh to St Andrews. It took an hour to get there and cost about 12 pounds each, return. The train station isn't actually in St Andrews, it's in a small town called Leuchars thats a 10 minute bus ride from the city. We arrived at 10 and had all day to explore. We stopped off at Starbucks for a quick caramel macchiato before heading over to explore the castle ruins. We were very lucky with the weather that day. It was a beautiful, sunny day with blue skies, and no rain! We spent a good two hours walking around the ruins. Not a lot is left, except the lower half of the outer walls...and the ultimate loo with a view!

The castle was built in the early 1400s and was in ruin by 1689, a relatively short histroy by castle standards. Some interesting things inside the castle are the dungeon and the mines. The dungeon, called a bottle dungeon, is the best preserved of its kind in Scotland. There is only one way in, being lowered (or, more likely, thrown) down the hole, and only one way out...death. To save some time, I'll copy and paste some information about the mine and counter mine.
During the seige of the castle by the Earl of Arran in 1546 - 1547. The French / Catholic attackers dug a seige mine in an attempt to (literally) undermine the foundations of the castle. The idea was to remove a large quantity of supporting rock from under the foundation, while supporting the roof of the mine with timber. When sufficient rock had been removed, the timbers would be set on fire and thus become unable to support the weight of the wall and foundations. The defenders of St. Andrews castle were well aware of the mining attempt, and dug a counter-mine to try to intercept the attacking mine. Guided by the sound of the attackers digging, and racing for time against the attack, their counter mine was much smaller and branched off in different erroneous directions.The two mines eventually met where the ladder is in the picture below. The mine was re-discoverd in 1879 when the foundations for a house across the street from the castle were being layed.

The mine was very cramped. You almost had to crawl on your hands and knees to get to this ladder. Only Katie went down, but it was probably 3 times as big down there. It was pretty interesting.

After the castle we walked to the beach, past some of the St Anderws University buildings, as well as the house that Prince William lived in while he was a student there! The beach is right beside the Old Course (for those who don't know, that is the first ever golf course). It is the very beach that parts of the movie' Chariots of Fire' were filmed at. The tide was out so we walked along the sand and picked up some nice shells. We then walked to the old course, which isn't very big, and stood at the first hole to watch some golfers. There is an old members only club that only men are allowed in. The only day that women are allowed in the club is St. Andrews day, which is the end of November.

After lunch we walked to the cathedral. What an amazing place! The ruins were beautiful and humongous. It would have been wonderful to see what the cathedral looked like when it was first built. We bought tickets to walk up St. Rules Tower, which is a tower with 158 tiny, twisty stairs, to get a wonerful view of the whole town. The cathedral was started in 1160 and took 150 years to complete. The cathedral area is made up of a few different religios buildings. There are gravestones around the grounds, mostly dating from the 1800s. Many of the gravestones had names of at least one child that died before the age of 5.

We walked around the grounds for a while before heading back into the town to browse the shops. There was a fish and chips shop that sold deep fried chocolate bars for a pound. Katie heard about these on a TV show several years ago and had to try one. It was delicious! We had a snickers bar and the chocolate was all gooey and warm...yummy. We also stopped at the local bakery and picked up some desserts to bring back to Edinburgh for our flatemates. Again, we ran into the problem of having all the shops close at 5:30. Our train wasn't due to leave until 7:45 so we had some time to kill. We lingered over dinner and then took a taxi back to Leuchars to catch the train back to the city. It was a long day with a lot of walking but St Andrews in an amazing town with a lot of history and character. If you want to see more pictures we have a flickr account at

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Northern Scotland Road-trip

On October 6th, we left on a four day road-trip to the top of Scotland. We took a bus from Edinburgh to Inverness, which took about three hours and cost five pounds return. Can't beat that! We had that day to explore Inverness, which wasn't very exciting. When we were thinking about which city to move to, Inverness was one of our considerations. There are about 80,000 people living there, which makes it seem like a fairly decent sized town. The downtown area is rather small, with not a lot to do. There is a nice mall there (of course we had to check it out!) but since it closes at 5:30...yes, we said 5:30...we didn't have a lot of time to shop. In fact, all of the stores, besides restaurants, close between 5 and 6 (that includes Edinburgh and other cities we've been to) so we ended up reading in our hostel room for most of the night. Not a very exciting start to our trip, but at least we got a good nights sleep.

The next morning we took a taxi to Enterprise to pick up our rental car. Amy was the driver and was a little nervous about driving on the other side of the road and car. She did very well though, and Katie only had to tell her to get to the left side of the road a few times! Once you get past a certain town, most of the roads turn into one lane. There are 'passing zones' that you have to pull into if a car is coming the other way. Although it was kind of annoying to have to pull over all the time, at least Amy didn't have to worry about staying on the right (and by right, I mean left) side of the road! We spent most of the morning driving to the very top of Scotland. Our goal was to get to a town called Durness, where we knew there was a huge cave you can go in. When we got there, we were surprised that they were even allowed to call Durness a town. There were maybe five buildings in a cluster, most of them homes, and that was it. We don't even know if there was any kind of store. There was a beautiful beach in Durness, which we walked around for a while. The tide was coming in, though, so we had to leave quickly!

About five minutes down the road was Smoo Cave. There are three different caverns that you can go into. The first two you can walk to, the third you have to take a boat to get to. There was no boat available, but if there had been we probably wouldn't have taken it. The opening to the third cavern barely looked big enough for a small boat, and while doing research of the cave we read that passengers have to lie down as the boat is going into the third cavern or they won't make it. Interesting, but kind of scary! To get to the second cavern you walked along a wooden platform that was above the water. It was very dark and we could barely see anything. There was a waterfall, so it was also very noisy. The darkness, the deafening noise and the fact that we were the only ones in the cave freaked us out a little and made us get out of there rather quickly.

After leaving the cave we drove to our hostel in Tongue. It was really nice with beautiful views overlooking a lake. Tongue was another one of those towns with nothing to do so we stayed in the hostel and played Pictionary with two of our roommates. One was from Burlington, ON and the other was from Syracuse, NY. The were backpacking together and hitchhiking their way across the top of Scotland in the opposite direction that we were headed in.
The next morning we drove to Thurso to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. We were headed to Dunnet Head, which is the most northernly point on the mainland. We bought some lunch to go and two millionaire slices (amazing desserts...bottom layer is shortbread, then a layer of caramel, then a layer of chocolate) and drove to the point. The cliffs were amazing. Think Cliffs of Doom in Princess Bride. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we could see the Orkney Islands in the distance. Once again, we were the only ones there so we had the cliffs to ourselves. It did start to rain, so we ate our lunch and dessert in the car, with the ocean and a full rainbow in front of us.

The rest of the day was mostly spent in the car, with a few stops for pictures. We did stop at a few castles but because it was late in the season, they were closed. One castle we went to was open, though...our hostel for the night! We stayed in Carbisdale Castle, which was built between 1906 and 1917, so relatively new compared with most castles. We had read about this castle quite a few years ago and always thought it would be neat to be able to sleep in a castle for a night. We were quite excited to be able to fit it into our schedule. We spent most of the evening exploring the castle and trying not to get lost. It is said to be haunted, and they even have pamphlets for you to read, but we both decided we would wait until we left the next morning before reading them. We actually wanted to sleep that night! Two of our roommates were Austrailians who had been living in Edinburgh for about 5 months, so they told us about good places to eat and things to do.

The next morning we drove back towards Inverness. Before we dropped the car off we headed over to Culloden Battlefield, the famous moor where the Jacobite army fought the English in 1746. We have to confess that the reason why we know so much about this battle and why we are interested in it is, again, because of the Outlander series. However, when you are standing in the middle of the field you can't think about anything besides the thousands of men that fought and died there. There is a brand new visitors centre with lots of information about the events leading up to, during and after the battle. There are also cases full of artifacts that have been found on the moor during the years. Unfortunately, we had to get the rental car back so we didn't have as much time to look around as we would have liked.

While we were waiting for our bus back to Edinburgh we ran into the two North American girls we met at the hostel in Tongue. We had coffee with them and ended up on the same bus back to the city. We knew they didn't have a place to stay so we offered up the couches in our flat. They ended up staying for two nights and we had a lot of fun showing them around the city.

First Trip to the Highlands

For Katie's birthday on September 26th, we decided to do a day trip to the highlands with one of the many tour groups in Edinburgh. The tour took us to a few different places including Glencoe, Fort William, Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. It gave us a nice taste of the highlands, but it made us realize that renting a car and doing our own tour is a much better option. The tour lasted 12 hours but covered a lot of miles and was mostly spent in the van, with a few short breaks for food and picture opportunities.

The first stop was to meet Hamish the highland 'coo'. Hamish has in interesting history. Back during the days of Mad Cow Disease, the government decided that the best way to deal with it was to kill all cows under the age of two. Hamish was under two, but as he was already a famous tourist attraction, the workers of the coffee shop next to his home petitioned for the government to spare Hamish. They did, as long as he never came into contact with other cows, and now 12 or so years later Hamish is still a lonely tourist attraction.

While we drove to our next destination, Glencoe, our tour guide told us about something called Make Tracks Scotland. It is a company that offers independent walking holidays throughout the highlands and other parts of Scotland. Some of the tours take 8 or 9 days, walking anywhere from 12-20 miles a day. It is a great way to see parts of Scotland that you can only see by foot. There are no wolves or other predators in Scotland, which makes walking through the highlands a relatively safe thing. On our drive we saw three people who were making the journey from Glasgow to Inverness.

Glencoe was beautiful, but has a rather bloody past. We won't go into great detail, you can look it up if you want, but the basis of the story is that in 1692 the highland chiefs were ordered to sign an oath to King William...or else. Because of bad weather, among other things, the chief of clan MacDonald of Glencoe was late in signing the oath. Captain Campbell and his men were ordered to go live with the MacDonald clan, where they were at first told to collect taxes. The Campbells lived with the families for two weeks before they recieved word from the King that they were to slaughter the clan for being late in signing the oath. In all, 38 men were killed in their homes or as they were trying to flee and 40 women and children died of exposure. It is now nicknamed the Weeping Glen.
The next major stop was Fort Augustus, home of the famous Loch Ness. It's amazing to be able to visit places you've heard about your entire life. Loch Ness is probably one of the most famous places in all of Scotland. Fort Augustus is rather small, definitaly a tourist town. Part of the bus tour was a boat ride on the famous loch. Before we got on the boat we bought fish and chips and ate them overlooking the loch. Neither of us are huge fans of fish, but this was amazing! And not just because it was covered in batter, the fish actually tasted good by itself. The chips were also amazing. The best chips we have ever had, and after trying a few fish and chip shops in Edinburgh, they are still the best chips. We can't even describe why, they were just amazing! The boat tour was about an hour long. Loch Ness is actually a HUGE loch. It is more than 700 ft deep and 23 miles long. Lots of room for Nessie to hide in. Unfortunately, we didn't have any sightings of the legendary monster.
After a few more stops for photos, we were on our way back to Edinburgh. It was a long day and at times it was difficult to stay awake on the bus but we had a great time and were happy to be able to see the mountains we have read and dreamed about for years. It was definitaly a birthday to remember!

Settling In

We are now two months and two days into our yearlong adventure. Time has flown by! We will quickly fill you in on some details of the first two months.

When we arrived in Edinburgh we went straight to our hostel, which was downtown, right beside the main shopping area called Princes St. We each had two big suitcases, a carry-on, and a purse. The bus dropped us off around the corner from our hostel and we had to practically drag our bags to the front door and up two flights of stairs. It was then that we realized we brought way too much stuff! This was our first experience with a hostel and we were a little apprehensive about it. The thought of sharing a room with 6 other females did not sound like a lot of fun, but we actually had a really good time. There were four other girls in our room who were from Italy, France and a mother and daughter from Spokane, Washington. We all got along really well and we had a good time getting to know them.

Before we left Canada we had set up an appointment to view a flat at 6:30 the day we arrived. It ended up being the flat that we chose and now happily live in. We stayed at the hostel for five days before we moved into the flat. Those first five days we acted like tourists and walked around different parts of the city, taking pictures of the amazing old buildings.

The first few days were the hardest emotionally. We were in this strange new country, on our own, with no idea what we were doing or where we were going to live. The excitement of being in Scotland was overshadowed by the huge tasks of finding a flat, handing out CVs (resumes) and opening up a bank account. On the third day here, while taking the bus back to our hostel, Katie saw a sign at The Playhouse, which is a live theatre, for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. This was one of our favourite movies as kids so we knew we had to go see a live production of it. It was amazing and incredibly funny and brought a little bit of home to Scotland.
After setting up our bank account, the next step was to start looking for a job. We started handing our CVs out on Tuesday September 23 and neither of us got a phone call for an interview until October 23. A month of looking for a job with no positive feedback is very stressful! Amy got the first phone call and was offered the job at the interview. She is waitressing at a restuarant in one of the malls. Katie got a call the next day and is working in retail. Payment for both jobs is done monthly, so we will have gone almost three months without a paycheck. We don't advise anyone trying this! Soon, though, we will be able to jet off to London, Paris or Rome for the weekend and get some more stamps on our passports.

The Perfect Quote

The book series that got us interested in Scotland is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. We brought the series with us to Scotland, of course, and while Katie was re-reading the first book she came across this quote that fits our situation perfectly.

"...and as I sat in the silence of the chapel, I seemed to see you as a shipwrecked traveler. And it seems to me that is a good parallel to your present situation, is it not? Imagine such a soul, madame, suddenly cast away in a strange land, bereft of friends and familiarity, without resources save what the new land can provide. Such a happening is disaster, truly, and yet may be the opening for great opportunity and blessings. What if the new land shall be rich? New friends may be made, and a new life begun." Outlander, pg. 820

It's so perfect we don't even think it needs an explanation.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Our Dream

Since we came to Edinburgh many people have asked us why we chose to move to Scotland. You'd think after all this time we would have perfected our answer, but it is still difficult for us to think exactly what it was that got us interested in all things Scottish. We know that most of it comes from reading a book series that is mainly set in Scotland, but our love for kilts, castles and bagpipes goes further back than that. Scotland has been a part of our mom's family for a long time. Our grandpa has visited different parts of Scotland many times and we imagine hearing his stories added to the excitement we felt about the country. When we were younger we always said that when we had enough money the first place we would go to would be Scotland. Living here for a year really is a dream come true!
We'll give you a little history about us and the year leading up to our departure.
We are the two youngest daughters in a family of four girls. Our two oldest sisters are married and have two daughters each (lots of girls!). We were both still living at home and decided it was time for a change. The thought of moving out of our parents house and into an apartment in the next town, finding minimum wage jobs and basically having the same life just with a lot more to pay for, didn't sound very exciting to us. We both knew that if we wanted to do something crazy and different, now was the time. This was around December 2007. At first we thought about moving out east to Halifax. We have a good friend there and Katie even flew out there for a weekend to check things out. After doing some research, though, we decided that going west to Calgary would be a better option as there are endless amounts of jobs there. This was around February 2008 and our goal was to be in Calgary by May or June, as Katie was not going to miss the Calgary Stampede in July! However, one day while Katie was at work, Amy started doing some research about moving to Scotland. As soon as Katie got home Amy told her that they were moving to Scotland instead of Calgary. It turns out it is a lot easier than you might think. The biggest hurdle is figuring out which visa to apply for and being approved for it. So, from February we started saving our pennies.

Fast forward to August 2008. Not a lot could be done until we applied for our visa. We didn't apply for it until we had enough money saved up, which was the middle of August and we left September 10th, so those couple of weeks were quite stressful! We went into Toronto on a Wednesday to hand in our application and by Tuesday we found out we were approved. What a feeling! For months we had been planning, praying and hoping that we would be approved and our dream would come true. It was great to know that everything we had planned for was going to happen. Next we had to buy our plane tickets, order British pounds from the bank, deal with OHIP and buy health insurance to please our mother. :) At the beginning of September we started to pack and say our goodbyes. Our tickets were booked with a great flight straight to Edinburgh from Hamilton. The weekend before we left we went to Waterloo to spend some time with sister #2, S, and some friends. That Sunday we drove home and had a big family dinner with all our aunts and uncles that live in the area and said goodbye to them for the year.

Wednesday was the day we left and a day of tearful goodbyes. Our flight left at 10 pm, arriving in Edinburgh at 10 am their time. Our parents and sister #1, L, drove us to the airport. After a few hugs from each of them and a prayer for our safety from our dad we were off on the adventure of a lifetime.


Before we left Canada, many people asked us if we were going to blog our travels, to which we replied 'no'. We have travel journals that we have been writing in since we got here to help us remember when and where things happened and a couple hundred pictures so far. We thought the journal would keep the memories alive until we got back to Canada and were able to put the pictures and stories together in SEVERAL scrapbooks. However, after reading a few different blogs we decided that it would be a good idea to put the stories and pictures together now! So, we hope you enjoy reading about our adventures in Scotland and Europe. Cheers!