Jousting! and great weekend (2005-07-11 - 8:18 a.m.)

What an amazing weekend. I don't know if Scotland has ever seen weather this nice, and the fact that it coincided with a weekend (rather than a Wednesday, which is the usual luck) makes it all the more happy. Friday night I had a picnic in the park with Brad (eating strawberries and watching the swans and half-naked Scotsmen - the Aussies are always amazing how at the first sign of sunlight the Scots all "get their kit off".)

Saturday, after a stint using the library computers, I headed to the beach with Jen and Kelly. I wouldn't have minded going out to North Berwick, which is gorgeous, but as we were short on time we tried Portobello instead. I find it odd that Edinburgh has a beach, though I don't know why. Doesn't seem to fit somehow, although I don't see why not as it's right on the Forth.

I actually didn't see much of the beach, as we just plopped down on the sand on one of the quieter bits and stayed there. The Islanders are used to beaches, since none of them lives farther than a 20-minute drive from one. To me, on the other hand, they're still very exotic and make me feel like I'm on holiday. The closest I ever had was Crimson Lake, which isn't exactly the same thing!

It was so nice just lying about in the sand. I didn't even get burnt, as I'd invested in a bottle of SPF 60. Somehow despite that my skin is permanently pink, but I am trying to minimize skin damage.

That evening was pretty crazy, as I had two parties to go to. I sort of alternated them, in fact. The first was a good-bye party for American Emily, who is gone as of today. We had a potluck at the Islanders' flat, during which I ate far too much delicious food. Then Shannon and I ran off to "T in the Flat", a party at Ailbhe and Margaret's flat to welcome their new flatmates. It was such a hot night that their frozen cocktails were more than welcome, and there were lots of new people to talk to so I had a good time. I found out that besides having the Forest Holidays job before me (and very kindly helping me get the job), Margaret was also the temp before me at the law firm I used to work at! How bizarre is that?! I seem to be just following behind her, taking her old jobs. However, at the moment she's working at Aus Travel and I have no designs on being a travel agent (I couldn't deal with the pressure to sell and "meet quota"), so I think her jobs are safe after this.

Emily's party had by then adjourned to the Last Drop, so I met up with them there. But it was SO hot and was getting late, so we moved on to Dropkick Murphy's. Which was exactly as I left it two months ago (I guess I'm not a local anymore), except that they seem to have done something about the ventilation because I could actually breathe this time!

Up early the next morning to catch the train to Linlithgow, where Historic Scotland was putting on a Jousting Spectacular. The Canadians and Aussies were all at the station, but most of the Canadians missed the train. I jumped ship and went with the Aussies, as it was Brad I was originally meeting!

I don't know what I was expecting, but Linlithgow Palace certainly exceeded all expectations. (A million times better than Dunfermline last weekend!) In fact, I think it has surpassed Stirling to become my new favorite castle. It is HUGE and most of it is still intact. It's a warren of passages leading to rooms leading to other rooms, and spiral staircases around every corner leading to some other undiscovered room. That's what I call a proper castle (or palace, in this case, as a King used to live there). I decided on the spot to come back some Sunday when it isn't full of screaming kids toting swords, and explore it properly. (Because, of course, I get in free!)

Not only is the building amazing, it's situated in a big green space with a beautiful loch out back. It's built around a central courtyard with a medieval fountain in it, covered with carvings of gargoyles and angels. The next nice weekend when I don't have something planned, I will take a picnic and head for Linlithgow. I can explore the palace and have a picnic by the loch and it will be lovely.

Anyway, besides being taken with the Palace - jousting! It was so cool. They had a jousting arena set up complete with a box for the Lord. First we watched an archery display, including longbows and two types of crossbow. The jousting itself was basically my fantasy as a child. There were four knights on horseback, and the horses were wearing full garb (coloured blanket things in the knights' colours and coloured masks over their heads), as were the knights. They did some tilting at the quintain to begin with. This is a wooden man with a shield on one side and a weighted bag at the other. You have to hit the shield with your lance and the knight swings around so you have to duck the weighted bag, or risk getting knocked off your horse! It's a sort of test of dexterity.

Then they did some tests of aim where they had to catch rings of varying sizes on their lances as they cantered by. All very entertaining, but of course the best were the actual jousts. I think if I'd have seen this at age twelve I would have fainted from excitement. This is what we dreamed of as kids, as we ran around hitting each other with home-made swords and wishing for a horse.

Of course it was set up like WWF wrestling, which is to say that you knew poor old Sir Derek was always going to lose, and Sir Jasper was a shoo-in. (But I was cheering for Sir Stephen, the hairy one). There were lots of bits where someone got knocked down by the other guy's lance, and leaped off his horse and grabbed a sword so then there was a sword-fight. There was a commentator as well, who was very funny in a Monty Python vein. (About a very large man: "Here comes Sir William, or as we call him, Sir Cumference.")

Anyway, as you may be able to tell I hugely enjoyed all of this. I was cheering for my favorite and booing Sir Jasper and it was all very entertaining. There was also a little play going on in the Palace called the "Duelling Earls", which I saw twice because it was good. It was about two earls during the time of Mary Queen of Scots, and of course they were dressed in medieval garb and were shouting insults at each other. They used three different types of swords - all real - and I got to touch all of them. Very cool, I was quite impressed.

And through all this, the weather was amazing. We were sitting on a green hill by a blue loch watching all this cool stuff going on with the sun shining down. Could not have been much better.

Today started out badly, as the sun's out (and I'm stuck inside) and our booking system was down, always a nightmare. But it's back up and I'm just waiting for lunch so I can get out and enjoy it!

backwards ~ onwards

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Missed anything?
moved! - 2008-05-12
Sunday = time to ramble on - 2008-05-11
apparently I'm doing monthly updates these days. Sorry. - 2008-05-04
watershed - 2008-04-06
end of trip - 2008-03-31

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