United Kingdom & Republic of Ireland [2005]

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day 6 [] August 7, 2005 [] Glasgow, Stirling, Bridge of Allan, Scotland

6:30 am wake-up call

Got to Queen Station and found out that the first train was at 9:40. Then 30 minutes before we found out that there were engineering problems so we would need to catch a bus to Falkirk High. (Suspense is building. . . will we make it to the Highland Games in time?) On the bus we meet Mark, his relative is the chieftain of the Bridge of Allan Highland Games. This chieftain dresses like William Wallace apparently. When we got to Stirling, we waited with Mark for a Sightseeing Tour Bus which would take us to Bridge of Allan.

We got to the games at about 11:45. We really didn't know what to expect. As we walked up to the field there were groups of bagpipe bands practicing in people's front lawns. There were lots of kilted men and women and bagpipes. One of the most interesting parts of their wardrobe were the fluffy knee socks.

We ate onion hamburgers and found seats near the heavyweight competition area in the front row. The games area was the size of a track field. It was all grass. The "track" ring was for running and biking races. Directly passed the heavyweight area was the pipe band ring area. the dancers' stage was just to the right of where we were sitting.

Behind that was the wrestling ring (some men wrestled in kilts, with shorts underneath). Then sprints were down the middle. If a bike crashed it could have hit us, we were very close. There were dancer girls changing to the right of us so Jon chose to avert his eyes, but the man next to us did not.

The heavyweight competitors must wear "the kilt." First we saw Putting the Shot. Then Throwing the Weight for distance. When it got to throwing the Hammer, the hammer broke 3 times. This is a stick with a heavy ball attached. The man has a spike on the front of his shoe which he digs in the ground. Then he holds the handle of the hammer and swings it around his head 3-4 times before letting it go. Lisa got a piece of grass in her mouth, she didn't know how long it was in there. Jon got a Guinness, he said it was better than the other he had. Two friendly men from Austria sat next to us. When Lisa said we were from California one said, "Ah, Little Austria." At first lisa didn't get it until she realized Arnold the governator was from Austria. The friendly men liked beer and dancer and runner women.

While Jon walked to take some pictures, he saw something by accident (so he swears on Wallace's sword) that he could not, for all the gold in Scotland, take a photo of. You know what they say about kilts and under-garments . . .he saw first hand.

The world champion of throwing the weight over the bar tried to beat his record, but he didn't. The caber toss (throwing the big log) was exciting.

The finale was all the bagpipe bands doing a march past the chieftain until they were all in the center of the track. Then they all played 2 songs.

We discovered the bus that Mark said would come, would not come. We trekked to normal bus stop were we met a few older people from the U.S. in the same situation. We took a city bus back to Stirling. We waited at the train station where a worker informed us a train to Glasgow wouldn't come for over 2 and a half hours. He also told another woman that her train was not coming which made her very upset because she was going to miss her connecting train. She left to find a taxi to get to the station where he said she could catch the train she needed. Thankfully for us, our train came when the sign said it would. We only had to wait 35 minutes. we wondered if the lady went through all that trouble for nothing. We got to Glasgow and went to Mao Restaurant and Bar which was recommended in our tour book and it was voted one of Glasgow's Best Restaurants. Lisa ordered a dish that she didn't realize was as hot as it was. After accidentally flinging her chicken Kebab thing on her jacket as it fell to the floor in an attempt to maneuver her chopsticks, she made a valiant attempt to finish her meal drinking lots of water in the process. She was definitely hydrated by the end of the meal.

On the way back to their hotel they saw a cool looking mosque. Glasgow is an interesting old city that feels unsafe but prides itself on being "Scotland with Style." The insides of buildings and restaurants did have a very modern decor.

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