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Scotland! The land of kilts, bagpipes, and original James Bond and Henry Jones Sr., Sir Sean Connery. This was the part of the trip prior to leaving that I was looking forward to the most. I was craving the sight of lush, green mountains and historic castles.
I arrived in Edinburgh just shy of Noon and was thrilled at how easy it was to get to my hostel from the airport; Just a short bus ride and walk, and I was there. They even had WIFI on the city bus! I was on a roll.
Once I got off the bus into old Edinburgh I was met with one of the most beautiful, characteristic cities I've ever seen. Unlike the more-modern Glasgow, which I'd eventually visit later in the stay, Edinburgh has held on to its old-world charm. You really feel like you are in some fairy-tale town. It's a busy city and one of the two biggest in Scotland, yet still feels small and is conveniently walkable. Even my hostel, the aptly named Budget Backpackers Hostel, was located in a historic, old building.
Once I actually got to the hostel, I quickly learned that my excited American smile was not going to get me far with the hostel staff. Something to note: hostels aren't necessarily as friendly as they advertise. While they are clean and safe, that whole 'you're going to feel like you're at traveler Disneyland' vibe advertised on the websites is not exactly the reality.
Once I got in the room I was determined to be more outgoing and meet people. Living in LA, I tend to be a little more closed off with engaging in conversation with new people. Let's be honest, that whole "Where are you from?"/"Oh you're an actor"/"Let's discuss the industry the whole time" thing gets really boring after a while. I was thrilled at the idea of getting to meet people from all over the world, so naturally, the very first person I met was a 21-year-old pretty boy from LA who enters the room shirtless and proceeds to do push-ups. Sounds nice right? No. For someone who wanted to experience the world, I found myself experiencing just another day at CAZT for an audition.
I left my room at the Melrose Place of Edinburgh and wandered around to see who else was in this Scottish hostel. I soon discovered that everyone else in this hostel was traveling with someone or so it seemed. I felt like I was on the Noah's Ark of European backpacking trips. I ventured into the dining hall only to be met with silent stares by a group of people from Spain who clearly were not up for communicating outside their clique. I moonwalked out of that dining hall faster than Javier Bardem's spanish.
I left the hostel to explore more of Edinburgh, even getting some fish and chips along the way, or for the Americans out there, fish and fat french fries.
The next day was my actual birthday, and I had booked a tour of the Scottish highlands. I was so excited that even the prospect of having to arrive at the pick-up location by 8am did not bother me. Our tour guide showed up, and I don't think I've ever seen a more Scottish Scotsman in my life. He was rocking a kilt, beard, and extra dry humor. Eventually Tour Guide Tommy stopped with the Braveheart inaccuracy rants, and we were out of Edinburgh and on our way to the Highlands.
The beauty I saw that day in the Highlands was breathtaking. From Loch Ness to Glen Cloe, the scenery was incredible and the peacefulness was utterly refreshing. Glen Coe was by far my favorite portion of the tour, and I was reminded of an infamous character in the 2000s cult classic Mean Girls. I repeated out loud "You go Glen Coco" and started laughing. Tour Guide Tommy was oblivious, and if he thought Americans might be crazy, I had a feeling after that his assumptions may have been vindicated. Well, I thought it was funny.
August 4, 2017: The Battle of the Tourists. Today I saw Edinburgh Castle and apparently so did the rest of the city. I should mention that this is the most historic castle in Scotland, and I also happened to be there during their Fringe Festival, which is one of the biggest in the world. So the odds were not ever in my favor. But like Katniss, I fought my way through. It's surprising how these royalty castles are set up like small towns that overlook the city on top of a hill. This is the same with the charming, and not nearly as busy, Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle was also a popular castle of the historic royals of Scotland, and part of the fun is getting to venture through a quaint Scottish village to get there. The history of Scotland pops up when you least expect it too. After finishing at Stirling Castle on another day, it had started to rain, and I wandered into this local cafe that just happened to be the former home of the 2nd husband of Mary Queen of Scots and father of King James I, Lord Darnley.
My personal favorite was one called Tantallon Castle. I wanted to make sure to see a castle on the coast. Scotland has numerous castles and this one did not disappoint. It's located in North Berwick, which is also one of the sunniest parts of the country and to my luck, it was indeed sunny the day I went. It is located on the outskirts of the town and was home to the Douglas Clan. The castle itself is on the top of cliffs overlooking the sea with a beautiful field surrounding it. Because it isn't as well-known as Stirling or Edinburgh Castle, there were only a few other people there, and I was able to walk all throughout the castle, even to the top! It was a day I'll never forget.
I absolutely loved Scotland. It's beauty and history is truly awesome, and I would recommend this place in a heartbeat. Did I mention how good the Guinness beer is there? Seriously, just go for the beer alone.
Next up, join me on my adventure in London. Hint, there was lots of rain.
Jill Zwarensteyn is an actress, comedian, and writer who has been featured on Amazon, TruTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com