New Experiences

10 Nov

As I sit here eating some delicious Speculoos—what is Speculoos, you ask?  Well, well, wouldn’t you like to know?—I think it’s appropriate to recount my fall break trip in regard to new experiences:

Visiting Edinburgh: first leg of the week-long voyage was a few days in Edinburgh.  Kaitlin and I stayed with a fellow Chi Omega, Kat, who is in grad school at the University of Edinburgh, and we also got to see three of our other sorority sisters who are studying abroad there.  It was quite a sororitastic weekend to say the least.  Aside from the awesome people, the city was fantastic!  I loved it.  Edinburgh has such rich history, plenty to see and do, it’s beautiful, and the people are very nice.  Kat’s very lucky to live there!  We saw the sites—Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and Abbey (amazing), St Giles’ Cathedral (home of John Knox), Walter Scott Monument, National Gallery of Art, Calton Hill (giving Edinburgh the title of “Athens of the North”), etc.  We even found Adam Smith’s grave.  However, it wasn’t until after scouring through the rest of the cemetery that we realized if we had turned the other way upon entering the churchyard and followed the “Adam Smith brick road” (literally), we would have seen it right away.  All of these sites were really great but even just walking the town was a treat.  And any city quirky enough to have a tradition where you spit on a cobblestone heart on the ground for good luck is okay by me.  The city is so old and beautiful; I just loved the feeling you get being there.  Needless to say, I am a little in love with the UK—which would also explain the obsession with Tudor England.

Exploring the secrets of Edinburgh: I am proud to say that we survived a ghost tour of one of the most haunted cities in the world on Halloween night (dun dun dun).  They did a good job telling stories (I will admit I was a little spooked), and then they brought us underground to the vaults right underneath the city that are said to be extremely haunted (I will admit I held on to Kat and Kaitlin for dear life and was nervously giggly the whole time).  Example: one ghost in the vaults was said to be a little boy who grabs on and holds your hand.  Well, I couldn’t shove and hide my hands in my jacket fast enough, while Kat on the other hand bravely stuck her arm out to the side ready and waiting.  I bring shame to the Lukens name.

Being Charlie Chaplin:  For Halloween in Edinburgh, we went to a vintage store, found some hats…then found some fake mustaches…then found some bow ties, and BAM we had costumes!  I was Charlie Chaplin, Kat was Burt Reynolds, and Kaitlin was the Monopoly man.  This was the simplest and perhaps most fun Halloween costume I’ve done.  Six pounds for the whole thing, and we got to wear normal clothes.  Win.  It was only made better by cider beer and finishing the night off dancing to Scottish folk songs in a bar—so much fun.

Making a Harry Potter pilgrimage:  J.K. Rowling (the author, duh) lived in Edinburgh, and Kat brought us to the Elephant House café where she wrote the first book.  In fact, Kat was sneaky enough to get us the table that she sat at.  Looking out the window, you can see the inspiration for the books—an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle on the top of the cliff.  The café boasts being “the birthplace of Harry Potter,” and even the stalls in the bathroom are graffitied by HP fans with notes like, “I heart Ron Weasley,” and even quotes from the books.  You could feel the magic (bah-dum-chh).

Actual going into Amsterdam:  As opposed to visiting the airport—which is still lovely.  But the city was great.  The canals, the flowers, the bikes, the buildings are all so picturesque.  We visited the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank Huis, took pictures at the “I Amsterdam” sign, but I really loved just walking around the canals.  One morning, we went on a free walking tour and saw the Red Light District (so strange to see as an American), some interesting spots in the city (architecture students from the 1960s should not have been allowed to have free reign, even if it was contained in one neighborhood—shutter), and got some great tips on how not to be killed by a bicycle.  Jimmye was a great host and shared some secrets of Amsterdam with us—(Speculoos! I’m getting there, patience.)—and it was great to have an NMQ freshman year reunion.  We even had the traditional popcorn, orange juice, and movie.  AND I got to see Frank, a fellow Foley counselor from this summer.  It was so great catching up with him and SO weird to see him not only outside of camp but in another country, his country.  Now I’ll have to visit London and see Jack and Sarah!

Being the stereotypical tourist:  Mostly to do with photographs.  A thank you to Kat for forcing me to have pictures taken with me in them (dubbed “mom pictures,” as in for mom), because otherwise there would be none to speak of.  We played up the tourist card by taking jumping pictures, paying to take pictures with a bagpiper and the Mel Gibson—I mean—William Wallace, throwing up the X and horseshoe (Chi Omega hand sign), and having a photo shoot with the UK telephone booths.  (The hipster photos were more for our amusement than a tourist bout.)

Trying new foods: In Edinburgh, we tried haggis (traditional Scottish meat dish “haggis neeps and tatties”—quite delicious; I believe we had haggis every day somehow), pear cider beer (not too shabby), black pudding (aka blood sausage), fish and chips (a must), deep-fried Mars bar (thankfully not right after the fish and chips), Irn Bru (slash cough medicine that the Scots pass as pop: disgusting, but Kat and Kaitlin got a kick out of it—seriously, I think there was something in it), and roast beef and mustard potato chips (not even the weirdest of their potato chip flavors).  In Amsterdam, we were adventurous enough to mosey on into a Febo.  What is that?  Well, it’s basically a vending machine restaurant.  You put money into this wall full of little windows with food in them and then you open the little door and pull out the food you want.  Upon telling Jimmye and her roommate what we had for lunch, her roommate responded with, “you had FEBO?!?”  Apparently, it’s not as fun-adventurous as we thought.  Apparently, it’s more like gutsy/hazardous/sketchy-adventurous.  But our Amsterdam food excursion was atoned for with muesli pancakes, hagel slag (real chocolate sprinkles that they put on toast and it kind of melts into the bread), and, finally, Speculoos Pasta (!).  Speculoos is essentially the new competition in Holland for Nutella and is currently winning in my book.  It is best described as a gingerbread/cinnamon (?) cookie mashed to a pulp and made into a crunchy spread.  Put it on bread, waffles, gingerbread cookies (the Lukens family’s favorite “windmill cookies” from the airport), or you might…..just eat it plain.  Delicious.  Best recipe: Speculoos and hagel slag on a waffle at 2 am.

Well, a puff of smoke in the face was the reminder I received telling me that I was indeed back in France—shortly followed by the realization that after one week of all English, I had lost some footing in my French.  C’est triste.  It scares me to think what my French will be like after a month back in the States.

Completely random side note, have you ever been walking somewhere and realized that you’ve been walking behind the same person for a while, and then you keep on going and you’re still behind them?  Then, you start to wonder when they’ll turn off, and then you start to wonder if they’ve noticed you.  Then, when they end up going to the same obscure place you are or they finish their walk while you’re still behind them, do you ever wonder if they think you’re stalking them?  You may have just freaked that person out so much to the point that they will watch their back for the next few days, convinced someone followed them home.  Way to go.

Now it’s off to Croatia for the weekend!!

4 Responses to “New Experiences”

  1. nancy lukens November 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    Haggis is rally good??!?! Maybe if you don’t see the stomach.

    Love the photos!! Especially the mom pictures. I am sure you have learned WAY more French than you think you have. DO you ever respond in French when you are in a foreign country-Scotland or Holland? MOM

    • clukens34 November 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

      Haggis is only prepared in a stomach, and nowadays it’s prepared in a casing instead. But I’d be more worried about what’s minced in there–sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs (according to Wikipedia). yummmm Whatever’s in it or not in it, it’s delicious and I tried not to think about what it was! 🙂

  2. Nikki November 10, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    Speculoos will never be better than Nutella. Ever! Speculoos cookies are delicious but Nutella has a very special place in my heart (and after a lifetime of eating it, probably my arteries).

  3. Kat November 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    You resisted the tourist pictures at first, but you’ve been converted. Bravo! Welcome to the world of silly pictures in front of serious landmarks.

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