June 17, 2013

Spectacular Day visiting St. Andrew–the town, the castle, the cathedral (or more accurately the remains of the castle and cathedral). The weather was perfect, low 70s with a lovely ocean breeze to keep things cool. By 7:00, Mike and I were at the bus stop for the 2 hour and 15 minute trip to St. Andrews. At 6:30 we were questioning whether it was worth getting up early and venturing forth unfortified by the Starbucks coffee that was supposed to be available. The ride into the Kingdom of Fife along the Dalgety Bay and north to the site of the oldest university in Scotland, arguably the most famous golf course in the world, and the site of another turbulent and bloody episode in Scottish history was definitely worth the time and effort.

On the way through various towns, we saw hordes of school kids (probably 14 to 18 year olds) dressed in black or navy pants or skirts and tights, white shirts, ties (just the boys) and blazers. Later we would see students walking through the streets after school and it seemed that all of them had individualized their uniforms. Ties were loosened or gone, shoes had been replaced with trainers (athletic shoes), and various jackets and sweaters had replaced blazers. The few students maintaining the original uniform stood out as unique. Ironic.

The pictures that may accompany this entry (if I can figure out how to upload them) are of the ruins of the cathedral and castle that once stood on the coast. St. Andrew’s Cathedral was a magnificent 12th century homage to the Roman Catholic Church, taking over 100 years to build and situated on a site that was a spiritual center at least by the 700s when it was the home of a monastic community. In the mid 1500s Protestant reformers, led by John Knox, attacked the cathedral and basically kicked out the Catholics. Without the power of the Catholic Church to protect the castle of the bishop, it too was abandoned. Over time both the castle and the cathedral were vandalized and stones from both were used in local construction. In its day, the cathedral was an enormous and imposing church Andean considered the center of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

The bus back to Edinburgh didn’t stop at every little town, so we made it back to our hotel an hour and 45 minutes after reluctantly leaving St. Andrews. We decided to check out the train station in preparation for our journey to Bath. Thank goodness Mike made sure our tickets were printed as the Internet voucher was a it confusing. The station at Waverly is huge;since the platforms aren’t determined until the morning of the trip, it’s lucky we don’t have to figure out tickets as well. I noticed a pasty (not pastry) stand so I get one of those for breakfast.

My addiction to English literature began over 40 years ago with Jane Austen, continued with the Brontes, Dickens, and Hardy, and culminated in my taking multiple university courses on Shakespeare (on purpose). More recently I’ve also enjoyed Irish and Scottish writers, particularly the mysteries of Tana French, Kate Atkinson, Denise Mina, and Ian Rankin. All of this reading has provided me with a certain arcane knowledge of these cultures, not all of it current. For example no one in this century uses the monetary terms quid and shilling (unless the guy at the pub was “having me on”). I was happy to learn that certain foods–pasties (meat or vegetable turnovers–think empanadas), toasties, filled rolls, and fry ups -are still popular. Haven’t tried beans on toast yet. Of course, being a fan of butter, cream, wine, and sugar, I’m also looking forward to the croissants, fromage, champagne, and macaroons of France. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I can order wine in four languages and none of them is sign language! As lovely as Edinburgh is, it’s not a Mecca for wine, beer is a better choice. Stick with the beer and just say no to the haggis.