I had originally intended to post about the different sections of my trip after returning to Philadelphia, and to post pictures at the same time. But, here I am still in Geneva, with no camera cable on hand... I will just start writing about things and get to the pictures when I can.
Overall, my aim was to expand what would have been a trip just for a conference in Germany into something where I got to travel a bit more in Europe, to a few places I hadn't seen before, and along the way to see several friends who live here (which means, several friends that I hadn't seen in awhile because I can't easily afford to visit). The first stop was Edinburgh, which is where erindubitably
lives; she is an old school friend of Ben and of my college roommate chih
who I hadn't seen since our wedding. So I was visiting her and her really awesome partner marrog
for around four days.
At this point in the trip, I was still recovering from the stress of getting everything done before leaving, and I was anticipating the stressful things that would happen in the conference (which I'll go into more detail about when I get to that), but I was also super happy to not be in the lab, and to have a break from all that, and to be somewhere totally new, and to be with such fun people! We actually did a lot of sight-seeing in those few days: Princes Street, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Museum of Scotland, St. Giles Church, the Scottish Parliament, hiking up to Arthur's Seat, an exhibition of Antarctic exploration photos at the Queen's Gallery, Cadenhead whiskey shop with people who know more about it than I do (read: everyone), and Edinburgh Castle. Now that I read over that it looks like a lot, but it didn't feel hectic at all, on the contrary: everything was really relaxed and leisurely and I loved that. On top of which, we played Trivial Pursuit in a pub and I went to two game nights with Erin and Morag's friends, both of which were really fun. I have been going to game nights with Ben's lab recently, and now I am convinced that they should try playing the Battlestar Galactica board game; it had a steep learning curve and was a little confusing for me, but I think that might be necessary for a first-timer in the sort of strategy game that's fun even after a lot of play. Having the soundtrack on in the background was great, and actually I was talking about that later in Geneva and got someone to start watching the show who hadn't seen it before. :D And the game in which we made up our own cards was... really hilarious. I have to do that again.
Also, while I was there I had asked Erin to take some portraits of me, because she often posts such portraits on her lj and they are wonderful. She posted a few of the pictures she took here
and I think they are quite nice. Taking them was also pretty funny, even though I have such a hard time keeping a straight face. Which accounts for a lot, I think.
And the food was an adventure. I took the plunge and tried haggis at the first opportunity, and while I was mostly doing it for the experience it was much better than I had anticipated. I sort of pictured a stomach, stuffed with offal, that I would have to cut into and eat horrible bits of. But of course that would be a huge quantity of meat, so instead what you are served just ends up looking like some miscellaneous sausage-y bits. The spicing was what was really interesting though; it was a warm kind of cinnamon-y taste that I really enjoyed. It was heavy food but very tasty. I also had oatcakes, haloumi, fish and chips, great Indian food.... mmm. On top of that, I had several interesting drinks including a rhubarb ginger soda, a couple delicious alcoholic ginger beers, beer that was aged in a whiskey cask, and quite a few kinds of Scottish whiskey (to the point that I started to see what some people like about it). Food-wise, lots of new fun things!
Ok, now is where I feel slightly awkward that the people I visited are reading this. I will be honest, I was a little nervous about going to Scotland. I had seen Erin a lot, but pretty much always with Chih or Ben and rarely one-on-one. And I had never met Morag, and only knew her through livejournal pretty much. I was pretty sure I would enjoy visiting them, but wondered briefly if it would be... weird, I guess, is the word I'm looking for. In general, I take a long time to get really comfortable with people, which worked against me here. That said, I got along with both of them so well
. It was a lot of fun to spend more time one-on-one with Erin, and I really enjoyed Mo's company as well and found a lot to discuss with both of them. Which made the trip totally awesome, even more awesome than it already was, which was very. Now I just wish that they lived closer!
So when I said that Edinburgh was perfect for me, what I meant was that I found it very fulfilling culturally, socially, culinarily, even meteorologically... and it was a great thing to have in between stressful work and the stressful but very inspiring conference. I enjoyed being there immensely, and someday I will post pictures as well!