Friday, July 24, 2009

To Scotland! St. Andrews Day 1

DAY 6: Sunday, July 12, 2009

Well, the wedding really wrapped up our time in Hungary! We went to bed shortly after 5:00 a.m. (okay, maybe closer to 6:00) and awoke just hours later to check out of the hotel and get on our way by 9:30. Needless to say, it was a rough morning. I was thanking the heavens that I had the aforethought to switch from white wine to red after dinner the night before (white gives me a worse hangover, as I have learned by experience), but I was still cursing the amount of wine that had been consumed, regardless of color. And the lack of sleep that had been had. It was not fun. But, what can you do? I wouldn't change a thing. I had way too much fun at that wedding!

We expected travel to Scotland to be nothing short of a circus, but it went amazingly smoothly. The hotel called us a cab to the train station, where we picked up a train back to Budapest. We had already bought return tickets when we first came to Györ (with Jacob's help), so we did not have to worry about trying to express what we needed in Hungarian (or more likely, poor, broken German on my part). Our train was actually 20 minutes late arriving to the station, which I proudly understood as they announced it in German over the loudspeaker. Maybe I remember more German than I thought! I would hope so, after a year and a half of college courses.

Luckily we had allowed plenty of time, so the late train had no impact on our schedule. When we arrived back in Budapest, we had no trouble getting yet another cab (with a driver who spoke some English) to the airport. Then we checked in for our RyanAir flight, which we were really nervous about. RyanAir has VERY strict luggage guidelines. Each of our two checked bags (one suitcase and Eric's golf clubs) we were only allowed to weigh up to 15 kg (about 33 lbs). That is much less than the usual 50 lb limit! And they will not let you rearrange the weight once your bag has been weighed. Considering that when we left, the suitcase was about 40 lbs and the golf clubs right at the 33 lb limit, we had to do some creative luggage arranging, making great use of our carry-ons to avoid being charged steep overweight fees. Would you believe that we got each checked bag down to 14.9 kg?! Is that not amazing?!

Anyway, the flight took off right on time at 2:30p.m., giving us a great view of Budapest as we said farewell to Hungary.

You can see the Danube here, with Margaret Island in the middle. To the far left just below the river is that oh-so-photogenic Parliament building. I just could not resist one last picture of it!

In three short hours (well, two after the time change), we arrived in Glasgow, Scotland. I loved looking out at Scotland as our plane descended - it looked exactly as I expected. Green as far as the eye could see, covered with clouds, and scattered with sheep. Hello, bonny Scotland!

Is this not exactly how you would picture Scotland to look?

When we arrived at the airport, we of course went through customs again (yay, another stamp in my passport!) and picked up our bags (yay, they all made it again!). Then we immediately found an ATM to try to get some money. That was a struggle. We were able to get a little with my ATM card, but the ATM just did not want to take my card and wouldn't do ANYTHING with Eric's card. Luckily we were able to get enough to cover our commute to St. Andrews at least.

We grabbed some dinner then took a bus from Glasgow-Prestwick airport to Glasgow City Centre. That took about an hour. We then made it with 15 minutes to spare for our 7:10 p.m. bus from Glasgow to St. Andrews. We stopped again to try an ATM with no luck, then boarded our bus and off we went.

We arrived in St. Andrews at 9:45 p.m. We had no trouble finding our bed and breakfast, Six Murray Park, on foot. We got checked in with one of the owners, Paul, and dropped our stuff off in our room. Paul showed us how to work the electric shower (!), and gave Eric tips for trying to get on to play the Old Course the next day. Then Eric and I went out to explore a bit!

Our bed and breakfast: Six Murray Park

Our room

Of course our first stop was the Old Course, Eric's dream come true. He was so excited! We took a couple pictures on the Swilcan bridge, and in the Road Hole bunker. (I am told these are famous golf things.)

Eric on the bridge, with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club lit up behind him

In the Road Hole bunker

We were starving so we wandered around looking for something to eat, but all the pubs had stopped serving food because it was so late. We ended up just picking up a few things from the grocery store then going back to our B&B to eat and SLEEP! Another long day down!

DAY 7: Monday, July 13, 2009

Eric's original plan for Monday was to wake up super early (like, 4:00 a.m.) and go wait in line for the starter to show up at the Old Course to see if he could get an early tee time to play that morning. However, Paul (our B&B guy) had told him he would not have to be that early, so Eric went out there around 6:30 a.m. Unfortunately, he could not get on right away and was instructed to go back at 9:30 to see if any afternoon times opened up. So, at 7:00 I was awakened to the sound of Eric knocking on our bedroom door, trying to get back in!

He went back to sleep for an hour while I got ready for the day, then we had breakfast together. He had pancakes and bacon and I had a traditional Scottish breakfast (more on that tomorrow). It was a great way to start the day!

Eric's pancakes and bacon. He loved the Scottish bacon, which is really more like just a piece of ham.

After breakfast Eric went back down to the Old Course to see about getting on in the afternoon, while I called Bank of America because we were still unable to take out any money at the ATMs. Turns out they flagged my card for suspicious activity (despite me calling them to let them know about our travel plans before we left) and CANCELLED my card. That's why it wasn't working. As for Eric's, they said his was never set up for overseas use (again, despite me calling them about it before we left) so that's why HIS wasn't working. Although I later realized that does not make sense because we used his in Hungary to get our forints, so I don't know. Regardless, my card was down for the count.

Eric got back by 10:00 and I was finished being annoyed with Trey of Bank of America by that point (who also commented on our Chipotle habits after looking at my bank statement - HELLO, UNPROFESSIONAL). Eric had good news - he could play at 12:20p.m.! Hooray! So, we decided to make the most of our couple of free hours. We first went to the tourist center to pick up maps (very helpful), then spent some time in the British Golf Museum, where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about golf. We liked looking at the old clubs and balls - funny!

The Golf Museum

Us with a statue of Tom Morris, who is a big name in St. Andrews/golf history, apparently.

Crazy old golf clubs!

Old golf balls

The Belt given to the winner of the very first Open Championship

Casts of the hand grips of famous golfers

We had to cut our time in the golf museum a little bit short because Eric had to pick up his clubs from the B&B and get out to PLAY THE OLD COURSE! I stopped to make dinner reservations then met him at the Old Course putting green, where he was getting himself all ready to go.

See that sign? That says "Practice putting for Old Course players only," and that's Eric practicing there! How fancy!
Eric in front of the Royal and Ancient, waiting to tee off

Before he knew it, it was just about time to tee off! He did his stretching and then the big moment was upon him. Apparently the first tee on St. Andrews is supposed to be one of the most anxiety-inducing holes in golf, because you're teeing off on this incredible historic golf course, and you're right in front of the clubhouse where spectators gather to watch (that's me!). So much pressure! But, not only did Eric pull it off, he actually parred both the first and second holes, despite his nerves and the fact that he never gets to practice his golf skills. Living in New York, he really only gets to play once or twice a year when we go home to Florida. So I would say he did a pretty great job!

Eric finding the fairway off the first tee!

On the 2nd tee

He loved the course and said the weather was great. Apparently that is part of what makes St. Andrews so unique. Eric tells me that because the weather can vary so greatly, you could play the course every day for a week and hit a different club off the tee every day (I am told this is basically unheard of). Eric experienced wind from a couple different directions and three holes of a downpour. But, even with the crazy weather PLUS the whole overwhelmed-by-the-awesome-course factor, he was still able to break 90 (I don't know much about golf, but I have learned enough to know that is good)!

Sitting in "hell bunker" - it's 14'6" deep!

Teeing off on the Road Hole - you have to hit the ball OVER that little building that says "Old Course Hotel!"

Now, I did not walk with Eric the whole time he was golfing (his caddie took a lot of the pictures I've posted). Instead, I had a lovely little afternoon to myself. I walked on the beach for a long time, then sat on a bench by the Martyr's Monument (which honors the men who were executed for their Protestant beliefs during the Reformation), looking out over the water and writing in my journal (I think this was the last day of the trip that I did any journaling!). Then I did some wandering through town and window shopping. I returned to our B&B for a bit when a wee rain shower came through (do I sound Scottish or what?), then finally went back to the Old Course to meet Eric on the 18th hole.

See? I got my beach vacation after all!

The Martyr's Monument

I was a little early to meet Eric, but did not have to wait too long before I could see him coming my way. He was excited because he just parred the Road Hole, and I got to watch him play the 18th hole. I never saw him play golf before! I thought he did a great job. Go, Eric!

Back on the bridge, but this time crossing it WHILE PLAYING THE OLD COURSE!

Strategizing with his caddie to the 18th hole

After Eric's unforgettable round of golf on the Old Course, we decided to continue the golf-oriented day with some putting on the Himalayas putting greens. I even participated! I did pretty well, actually. But not as well as Eric, who got a hole in one! He was on a golf roll.

Ooh, this one looks good...

Hole in one!

Now there are pictures of ME golfing in front of the Royal and Ancient, too!

After some fun putting. OH! This picture reminds me - see Eric's blue and orange Titleist hat? That hat got him a "Go Gators" from a man as we were walking around town. Forget the Gator Nation, we're talking Gator WORLD now!

We finished putting just in time to go back to the B&B and get ready for dinner. We had decided to splurge on dinner and try out The Seafood Restaurant, which is supposedly one of (if not THE) best seafood restaurants in Scotland. It's also in a beautiful location, sticking out right over the beach. I said we could call it my birthday dinner, so off we went.

The Seafood Restaurant (and me)

Oh my goodness. This dinner was AMAZING. Definitely worth every penny! Get ready for some food talk and pictures, because this was the most fantastic meal I have ever had, I think, so I want to be able to relive every single bite of it. I actually miss this meal. I want more!

We started with an amuse-bouche, and I don't even remember what they said it was. Some kind of ravioli topped with some stuff, I think. But, YUM. My mouth was definitely amused. Then they brought out a sampler of breads - again, YUM. Our favorite was the sun-ripened tomato bread.

The amuse-bouche

Bread plate

Next up was our appetizers. Eric had lemon and coriander Pitterween crab with a sweetcorn purée and tomato fondue. I had smoked haddock rarebit with creamed leeks and pancetta and a wholegrain mustard dressing. (Yes, I wrote all this down.)

Eric's crab

My haddock

For the main course, Eric had sea trout with Dauphinoise potatoes, mussels, leeks and celariac ragout. I had a grilled fillet of cod with potatoes and a bunch of other deliciousness that unfortunately I did not get written down.

Eric's trout

My cod

Next up was our pre-dessert course, which was citrus biscotti and mango sorbet. Mmm. Also, served with a tiny spoon. My husband is a fan of small spoons (although this one was a little small for his taste).

Our pre-dessert

Eric with the tiny spoon

Finally, we had our dessert. Eric had warm chocolate fondant with toasted marshmallow and pistachio ice cream. I had vanilla cheesecake with strawberry jelly and strawberry ice cream. Oh, so good. Plus, Eric let me take a little bit of his gooey chocolate for my strawberry!

Eric's ice cream, marshmallow and chocolate dessert

My cheesecake and strawberry ice cream

Top all that off with a bottle of wine, and you have one beautiful evening. We really had a great time.

At dinner

After dinner we walked back to - where else? - the Old Course and were able to get a picture of the two of us on the bridge (which I posted here), then we stopped back at our B&B to change clothes before heading out to the castle and cathedral ruins. We were going to be exploring them the next day, but wanted to get an evening look at them, too. It was really beautiful.

Castle ruins against the evening sky

After that, it was bed time! We had another busy day to look forward to!

Up next: Our second day in St. Andrews, and all the historical stuff!

1 comment:

Molly said...

Wow, good job, Eric! And that is hilarious about the Chipotle bank guy - although I'm sure only in retrospect :-) That food looks amazing, I love how it was all presented!