I thought, in all my travel-savvy wisdom, that New England had prepared me for cold weather. “Well, i have lived in Massachusetts for two years now,” i’d chortle, scoffing at well-wishers warning me to pack extra long-johns.
Woe to those who think they are smarter than the people who actually know what they are talking about.
Scotland is cold. Like, i wasn’t kidding when i said i’d seen cold weather. MA is in the negatives (farenheit) at present. But there’s something to be said for scuttling between classes in the frigidity to find solace in stuffy rooms cranking with 100-year-old-and-still-chugging heating systems. At school, i am at most half a mile from the other end of campus.
Not so when half a mile from me here is my school. Not to mention, like, the grocery store. Needless to say, i’m learning all over again how to layer – long johns included.
But none so much as when i spent a day frolicking about a snow-laden St. Andrews.
St. Andrews is a quaint village north of Edinburgh and also on the coast of the sea – the North Sea, that is. Prepped for the cold, i donned an outfit suitable for the tundra in the wee hours of last Saturday morning: thick wool socks, long johns, jeans, tank top, t-shirt, sweater, knitted scarf, Nepalese hat, StayPuff Marshmellow Woman Dipped in Chocolate Coat (TM), fleece-lined wellies, nuzzling gloves, and a pack of kleenex next to my trusty chapstick in my right pocket.
Though you practically had to roll me in the snow to get to the car, i was warm.
We arrived around 10:30 AM to what seemed to be naught but a shy seaside villa – but is a place, in fact, laden with history. Duchess Kate and Prince William met here, at Scotland’s oldest university; Chariots of Fire was filmed on the beach; golf was invented here; and, from the sprawl of castle and cathedral ruins alike i could tell this had been a center of Scottish life for a seriously long time.
Naturally, in a place filled with such rich history, we took full advantage of the academic offerings by running amok on the nearest beach and daring each other to splash about in the (COLD!) ocean. It was stunningly beautiful, the clouds dotted with pinks and turquoise and rolling over a crashing sea. Even the frigidity couldn’t stop that salty tang, the taste of the sea.
Since the weather, for Scotland, was unusually beautiful we scampered up from the seaside to explore the ruins of a medieval cathedral. Amidst the pink-and-blue sky, jutting out on a cliff overlooking a reflective sea, was the skeleton of a bygone era. There’s just enough left of the cathedral that i could envision what it had once looked like, in all its gothic splendor. Yet the remnants of the cathedral’s history were overgrown with the reality of the present: mortality. Closing in on what i could only presume was once the perimeter of the church were hundreds of tombstones, some so whitewashed we couldn’t discern a date or name.
Part of what remains in the cathedral is the above tower, looming over the sprawl of graves and remains. It’s still open for tours, so the lot of us went to work climbing its spiral staircase. This, easily, was the most terrifying part of the day: the stairs were calf-steep, and there was barely room for one person on each step. I spent the entire time clambering up with one hand on the wall for balance and the other in a death grip on the railing.
Perhaps medieval towers are not the best place to discover one is mildly claustrophobic.
We, my flatmates and i, were a cacophony of swearing whilst clambering up the stairs. It was only as we crested – at last – the top of the stairs that the swearing turned into gasps of shock and delight. The view of St Andrews spread wide beneath us was breathtaking, the little red roofs sharp contrasts with the navy foam-capped sea and slick grey cobblestone streets.
We drank in as much of the scenery as we could before deciding it was high time for lunch. Thanks to my trust Lonely Planet Scotland guidebook, we found a place revered for its amazing Fish & Chips: Tailend. I’d not had this classic British dish whilst in Scotland, so i thought it was high time to dive into some haddock with my cup of tea. The fish was perfectly battered, the chips ah-mazing, and the tea rounded off the meal beautifully.
By the time we’d all tucked in, the weather had changed from glorious to gory in typical Scottish fashion. To avoid the onslaught of hail, sleet, and snow balled into one, i went shopping across the street. There was time enough for a quick, and very damp, romp about the castle grounds before finding solace on a warm bus bound home for edinburgh. Alas, the precipitation cocktail prevented me from snapping any pictures from the castle – but i count the day a roaring success nonetheless!
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