Posted by: mkl325 | May 9, 2013

Mike’s Visit (Part 1)… A day in St. Andrews

Recently one of my best friends for the past 10 years came to visit me here in St. Andrews. Mike is one of the friends I made at St. John’s College and we have been pretty close since we bonded over horrible jokes, sci-fi movies and whiskey during our freshman year. I constantly tell him that I am going to pick out a lovely bridesmaids dress for him when I get married – I’m considering pink taffeta with some puffy sleeves, I think it will bring out the highlights in his beard.

In a lot of ways we are complete and total opposites. I am a democrat, Buddhist, who is devoting my life to studying art… Mike is a Christian, republican, government employee from Texas. We rarely agree on anything political, but we have learned to have spirited discussions where we are able to hear each other, treat each other respectfully, and come to the conclusion that I am right. He is one of a few people in this world that can be completely honest with me and no matter what he says I never doubt for a second that it comes from a good place. He, unfortunately, knows all of my stories (and revels in the most embarrassing ones) and I know all of his, although he is not embarrassed by anything. I’m his bro and he’s one of the girls – considering how he was once caught watching an episode of “Gilmore Girls” I feel that this definition is extremely accurate on his side. Needless to say, after what I have deemed to be the most challenging year I have had in a long time, I was jumping out of my skin waiting for his visit.

The first day we toured around St. Andrews was focused on golf. St. Andrews was the place where golf was invented in the 1400s and it has immense importance to all golfers. I have never been one to understand sports. I was raised knowing a few things about sports, all DC teams have to win (especially the Redskins), except in Baseball where the Orioles have to win, and Notre Dame is the only college that ever matters when it comes to Football. The day that my brother banished me from being in the same room with him when the Redskins were playing had little affect on my life. To be fair I might actually be bad luck for them, when I left the country both the Redskins and Notre Dame got to the playoffs (right sport?) and lost with one game to go the week I came home for Christmas. So of course, golf is not really my thing, but the course is pretty so I agreed to go take a look.

Keep Off the Grass

Keep Off the Grass

On Sundays the public is free to walk the Old Course. There are all these signs that tell you where you can walk and where you can’t. I was thoroughly confused as nothing was roped off and I wasn’t sure were I was allowed to walk. Apparently you are allowed to walk everywhere except the green.

Seriously... IT'S ALL GREEN!

Seriously… IT’S ALL GREEN!

Does this term make sense to anyone else? It’s all green! I think this was one of those moments when Mike is embarrassed for me. However, I think that this is a trick that is being played on everyone… and I am NOT falling for it.

There is a very cool feature to the golf course, the Swilican Bridge. It was apparently built around 700 years ago for shepherds to get livestock across the stream. Now it connects the first and eighteenth fairways (don’t ask me what those are) and has become a symbol of the golf course. It is very pretty.

VICTORY!

VICTORY!

Pretty bridge...

Pretty bridge…

The Old Course is under the protection of the National Trust, so it has been preserved really well. Here is a picture of the golf course in 1891, the bridge is on the right center of the photograph.

Old Course 1891

Old Course 1891

Here it is today with a similar view as it was over 100 years ago.

Old Course Today

Old Course Today

Right off of the Old Course is West Sands beach. This beach is famous for the scene in Chariots of Fire.

Pathway to West Sands

Pathway to West Sands

Who knew that when I had to perform this song on the flute when I was 11 that I would end up living right near it’s filming location? Maybe I should watch the movie sometime…

Chariots of Fire run on the beach.

Chariots of Fire run on the beach.

One thing I love about the beaches here is that the tide comes very high up the shore, changing the landscape pretty dramatically throughout the day.  When we walked onto the beach the infamous Scottish weather changed from gorgeous sun to wind and rain.

Look at how pretty the wind makes the sand look.

Look at how pretty the wind makes the sand look.

West Sands in the rain

West Sands in the rain

"Dammit Kit! I'm cold, stop taking pictures."

“Dammit Kit! I’m cold, stop taking pictures.”

Once off of the beach, the sun came back out which is when we went to the aquarium.

A very Scottish Mike...

A very Scottish Mike…taken literally 10 minutes after the beach picture.

I will say this about the St. Andrews Aquarium – it’s small but there are ADORABLE seals…

I almost jumped in there with them. Pretty sure Mike wouldn't have bailed me out of jail if I did though.

I almost jumped in there with them. Pretty sure Mike wouldn’t have bailed me out of jail if I did though.

AND you can FEED THE MEERKATS! (When my sister comes to visit this will be my birthday gift to her)

This meerkat is going to make damn sure that there is no food left in that bucket.

This meerkat is going to make damn sure that there is no food left in that bucket… I apologize to the stranger whose crotch ended up in these pictures.

From here we went to St. Andrew’s Castle ruins.

The Castle was built in the late 12th/ early 13th century and sits on a cliff that looks over the North Sea. It was used mainly to house the wealthy and important bishops. In the early/mid 15th century, James I of Scotland received part of his education here from Bishop Henry Wardlaw, the founder of St. Andrew’s University in 1410. It is believed that in 1445, James III – the great grandfather of Mary Queen of Scots, was born here.

Mike at the Castle

Mike at the Castle

Castle Ruins and the North Sea

Castle Ruins and the North Sea

In the Castle Ruins

In the Castle Ruins

Of course we used this magnificent location to take funny pictures.

Mike calls this "Death of a Kit"

Mike calls this “Death of a Kit”

This is where Mike convinced me to walk down into the mines.  I am somewhat claustrophobic so this was not something that I normally ever do but as he was visiting I gave in.

Looking back up the way I came - this picture makes me dizzy.

Looking back up the way I came – this picture makes me dizzy.

I am just over 5' tall - to give you an idea of how tight this is.

I am just over 5′ tall – to give you an idea of how tight this is.

I drew the line at going any further down once I got to a place where I could stand up…

Climbing further down into the mines - I was not going.

Climbing further down into the mines – I was not going.

At this point in the day we had about 30 minutes before the Rule Tower closed to visitors for the day. After walking around the town all day I was up for missing the tower climb but once again… I gave into Mike’s enthusiasm.

Cathedral Ruins and St. Rule's Tower

Cathedral Ruins and St. Rule’s Tower

So up we went…

The climb...

The climb…

St. Rule’s Tower was named after St. Rule (sometimes called St. Regulus) who is credited with bringing the relics of St. Andrew to Scotland from Greece. It, along with the rest of the Cathedral, was built in the 11th century, however, it the only structure that has survived.

The view was pretty spectacular.

The town of St. Andrews. I can see my apartment from here - not going to tell you where so you should just trust me.

The town of St. Andrews. I can see my apartment from here – not going to tell you where so you should just trust me.

The Pier from St. Rule's Tower

The Pier from St. Rule’s Tower

Mike above the town of St. Andrews

Mike above the town of St. Andrews

After this long day of touring around, it was time to go home and rest before heading out to dinner where I was to fulfill my part of our agreement. Mike said he would come visit me in Scotland if I tried Haggis. I know that people say you have to eat Haggis when in Scotland but I was avoiding it the best I could. I don’t have the excuse of being a vegetarian so I was stuck. The moment that Mike set foot on Scottish soil there was a ticking clock – I was going to eat something made inside a stomach. I was convinced that Mike was going to make a production out of this event – never shying away from an opportunity to embarrass me or push me out of my comfort zone. I half expected him to march me down North Street behind a plate of Haggis that he had outfitted with sparklers. However, he was nice and allowed me to order Haggis stuffed chicken, when we were alone at dinner, so that it wouldn’t be a big production. It was not nearly as bad as I had built it up to be in my mind. He did however take a picture…just to prove how much I didn’t want to do it.

With friends like these...

With friends like these…

I considered posting the picture I took of Mike asleep clutching my stuffed highland cow at the end of this day but I decided that posting it on Facebook was good enough.

I lied.

I changed my mind.

Next Time… A day in Edinburgh.

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