Deb and Stu in Europe Part I

Last week my parents (also known as Deb and Stu) came to visit me in Scotland. I had been feeling a bit homesick so seeing them was much needed! They spent a few days in Edinburgh (fell in love, as everyone does) and then took the train up to St Andrews to spend a few days here. St Andrews is not a very big place, three main streets, but despite its small size everyone seems to throughly enjoy their time here.

We walked the Cathedral ruins, where my mom lingered far too long as she has a morbid obsession with graveyards, ate at good restaurants and toured the campus. It’s always fun when people visit as you’re able to be a tourist again. Even though I’ve only been here about six months, I’ve already begun to take my surroundings for granted. Holy shit this place is old! And absolutely charming. I live in a fairy tale village.

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I’m Getting Political (read at your own discretion)

In the past I’ve been quite, shall we say, loose with declaring my political beliefs. In doing so over the years, I offended a lot of people. After the election of 2008 and being rather fed up with politics, I’ve tried to curb my political rants (some may disagree as I still post quite a bit about politics. But believe me, I want to post more!). Two issues I just cannot stay quiet on are gay rights and women’s rights. The later of which I’m posting about today.

I’m fed up with men in my country dominating the debate on women’s health issues. “Where are the women?” Rep. Carolyn Maloney a Democrat from New York recently queried. That is a good question, where are they?  Continue reading

Hej Sverige!

One of the best things about living in the UK is your proximity to mainland Europe. Even better than that is the cheap flights you can find to most major cities, especially out of London. I didn’t travel out of Scotland my first term because I wanted to explore Scotland and  focus on my courses (although socializing tended to get in the way). However this term I have a lot of travel plans. The first of which was a trip to Sweden.

The view from the plane, landing outside of Stockholm

Sweden had never been on my list of ‘places to see’, but an invitation to visit a friend who was from Stockholm (along with a £33  return flight) changed that. My thoughts on Sweden before I visited were:

1) IKEA

2) Beautiful, tall, blonde people

3) Cold and snow

4) Vikings

5) Swedish fish (and I’m talking about the candy)

6) ABBA

That was, more or less, the extent of what I knew of Sweden (sadly). I discovered Sweden was so much more, as you do when you travel. Yet my pre-conceived notions weren’t too far off.

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Home for the Holidays

I am a terrible blogger, but I am very good at making excuses. Such as: I was home in California for over a month. I was busy with final papers. I barely had access to internet. The sunshine and 85 (29) degree weather impeded my ability to be a productive individual (most weather impedes me actually). I will stop the excuses there, though I could go on. In essence, I am lazy and when you have to write oodles for school it is often hard to find the energy to write for pleasure. HOWEVER, mark my words, I will be better this year. I have put it on my list of things to be better at in the new year (along with cooking, photography and whistling).

Proof of weather

  

                   Proof of real Mexican food                                                   

Proof of chocolate malted crunch….ALL distractions

 

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a to zed: What I miss in California/What I love in Scotland

           Home / Scotland

Browsing Anthropologie on my lunch / Autumn!

My Bike / Bagpipes

My Closet in SF filled with all my Clothes! / Hamish the Cat

My Dad, Deb (Mom) and Dog Sam / Discovering  Scotland!

Earning money & Elliot / Edinburgh

Old Friends, Family / New Friends who become Family

Going for drinks on Sunday Funday / Gaining new perspectives of the world

Hiking around the Bay area/ Highland Cows, magical creatures

In and Out / Interesting & Intelligent conversations

Julian apple pies / Jetting around Europe

My Kitchen filled with proper cooking tools / Men in Kilts.

The California Laid back Lifestyle /  Layering my clothes for winter

Mexican food, specifically breakfast burritos / Mornings, because I wake up whenever I want

Nob Hill, my favorite neighborhood in SF / NHS, FREE national heath care, what a novelty!

Point Reyes Oysters/ Old Houses, Old Churches, Old Cobblestone Streets

Parks -Dolores, Washington Square… / Pimms! My new favorite cocktail.

Drag Queens! / Her Majesty THE Queen!

Rachel & Sloan living in Berkeley-Oakland / The Rain (I’m not over it yet)

Happy Hour Sushi with my girlfriends / The East and West Sand beaches of St Andrews

Trader Joes / Top Shop, best jeans ever

Unbelievably good restaurants and bars / University life

Vienne, my kitty I miss so much! / Veuve Clicquot, it’s so much cheaper here

California Wine, it is the best / Whiskey, Scotch Whiskey and more Whiskey

My Xanax prescription ;)/ Ending texts with xx

Frozen Yogurt / Yule logs at Christmas

Zoning out while driving down the Cali coast / Hearing Britains say Zed instead of

Edinburgh, I Think I Love You

Edinburgh is quickly winning over my affection and becoming a city I might just carry on a love affair with. (London and San Francisco are the others). Monday I went back to Edinburgh for the day. I’d been a couple times before but each time had only been for a few hours and I hadn’t been able to explore too much of the city on my own. This time I took the train early in the morning so I could enjoy a full day out and about. I must say, traveling by train might be one of my favorite things to do. There is something so very romantic about it. Perhaps that’s simply because I’m an American and we don’t have affordable or time efficient rail travel. Or perhaps it is because traveling by train through countryside that is as breathtaking and enchanting as Britain, really is very romantic.

The train platform at Leuchars on a foggy fall morning

Edinburgh is one of the few large cities in the UK that wasn’t hit during the German Blitzkrieg in World War II. Unlike London, which saw so many of its medieval and gothic architecture destroyed or damaged, Edinburgh remains in glorious condition. This makes Edinburgh feel very, very old.

It happened to be a sunny, crisp fall day which made it perfect for strolling along the cobblestone streets of the Royal Mile, Princes and George Street. Because the city is on a number of hills, it winds and weaves and small narrow stairways lead to various parts of the city. Some have little shops and pubs off of them offering views of the Princes Street Gardens. All of these stairways make me think I’m about to enter Diagon Alley.

Princes Street Gardens

Being the huge Harry Potter nerd I am, I had to explore the cemetery JK Rowling used for inspiration whilst writing the first books. There is a Thomas Riddle and Minerva McGonagall buried there. Sadly I was not able to find them, but since I’m terribly morbid I still loved wondering about the place.

The rest of the afternoon was spent poking about the National Museum and National Gallery of Scotland. Both of have excellent collections, though the Gallery was much smaller than I anticipated. It did have one of my favorite John Singer Sergeant portraits, which thrilled me. The National Museum on the other hand has recently been remodeled and it is quite wonderful. Filled with decorative arts, historical artifacts and natural history items, there is something to please everyone.

Main Hall in the National Museum

The end of the day gave way to one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. From the top of Calton Hill there are 360 degree views of just about all of Edinburgh. The fog had began rolling in and the light reflected off the clouds and onto the spires, clock towers and domes made the city look absolutely majestic. Even as darkness descended, the temperature dropped and a low fog settled into the the cracks and crevices of the city, I thought, “Edinburgh, I think I love you.”

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Life of Graduate Student

Oy, I haven’t been very good about updates. The past few weeks I had my first two essays due and I found myself spending most of my time in the lovely post graduate Art History study rooms (I say that with sincerity, they are quite nice and have views of the sea). Before I arrived in St Andrews I was so eager to be a student again. Three years of work in the ‘real world’ and all I longed for was the smell of old books in the library, piecing together bits of history like an historical detective, and enjoying the general intellectual atmosphere that abounds in academia. I had completely romanticized the entire academic experience and forgotten the downside…the late nights, the stress of writing a paper – staring endlessly at a blank screen, and never being able to feel like you have finished anything until the term is complete.

All of those feelings abruptly came back to me a few weeks ago. I suppose one of the nice things about being a ‘mature’ student is, I am much more on top of things then I was as an undergrad. I’m not procrastinating until the last minute – writing papers until the wee hours of the morning. I am finding there is no way I could. The amount of research and study I have to do is beginning to exceed undergrad studies, as would be expected in a masters program. So on top of things I must be!

Luckily, I am finding my courses interesting. One of my classes is on the British Arts and Crafts Movement. I’ve been able to take a different spin on the course and have focused on the influence of the British Arts and Crafts Movement in America, specifically California. There are so many stunning examples of Arts and Crafts architecture in California and being the anglophile I am it’s been great fun bridging the gap between the two places. It always amazes me that even when you begin to become very specific in a study of work, there is still immense amounts of information. I’ve spent hours reading about chairs!

Gamble House in Pasedena, California – One of my favorite Arts and Crafts Homes

My other course is on the photographic collection of St Andrews. Photography has never been of particular interest to me (as a course of study) but this course allowed more hands on work in an archive and I thought it would be beneficial for my CV. I’m finding it interesting, but for some reason or another finding it more difficult to fully immerse myself the way I have with my other course. This realization has made the photography course slightly more difficult to be fully engaged in, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.

Well, I suppose that’s one of the more boring posts I’ve written. My apologies, but it’s just about all I’ve been up to as of late. I’m in the midst of Reading Week (a break we get mid semester to catch up on work) and since I was lucky enough to turn in my essays before the week, I’ve had a little break and thus have been able to have a few fun outings, of which I will post about later. For now, its back to the academic grind; which is far more enjoyable than the regular grind!