Francis Family Reunion Special

October 17, 2021

Hello again from St. Andrews! It's been almost 2 weeks since I last posted, but I think this entry will be worth your wait. Last week, I was fortunate enough to host my family, who flew all the way from Tennessee to visit on their fall break. I still had to attend classes during their visit, so we tried our best to see some cool Scottish things in the afternoons and on the weekend, and I'd say it was a successful trip. Read on for a recap of what we saw each day and plenty of pictures!

Wednesday, October 6

Mom and Stephen arrived in Glasgow on Wednesday morning, then took a 2-hour drive to St. Andrews. I met them at their accommodation for the week and we settled in. They were understandably a little tired, but I am a cruel tour guide and wanted everyone to shake off the jet lag as quickly as possible, so we set off on a little walking tour of St. Andrews. After an afternoon nap, we picked up fish and chips for dinner.

Thursday, October 7

Mom and Stephen took the opportunity to catch up on sleep while I was in class in the morning, but we headed out on our next adventure as soon as I was finished after lunch. There is a Cold-War-era nuclear bunker in the area, which we thought would interest Stephen, so we decided to make that our first excursion. According to the website, the bunker is easily accessible by bus, but this is a rather blithe overstatement. The site is about a mile and a half from the nearest bus stop, and the bus stop is not marked whatsoever. We went too far on the first bus, got on another bus going the opposite direction, and our bus driver seemed more than a little amused at the ignorant American tourists looking for the unmarked bus stop. Nevertheless, we reached the bunker after a hike down a two-lane road between some cow pastures.


"When someone disses Tennessee"

At last, we arrived at the bunker and made our way down the stairs to start exploring. Even though we went to the bunker with Stephen in mind, all of us enjoyed it and learned quite a lot. Stephen was most interested in the armory, and could tell us what everything was and how it could destroy any Soviet intruders. There were several films playing in different rooms of the bunker, so we learned about the Royal Observer Corps and how people were instructed to prepare their homes for a nuclear attack. Mom and I enjoyed seeing the chapel in the bunker; it is rather sparsely decorated, but would work in a pinch if Scotland were being blown to bits. My favorite part of the whole bunker was meeting Cleo, the resident bunker cat. She was not interested in the other visitors, but Stephen has a way with animals and quickly made friends with her. Once Stephen had his foot in the door, she let me give her some pets as well.

We decided to call a taxi to take us back to the bus stop instead of walking back to the road. After a pit stop in the nearby town of Anstruther, we went back to St. Andrews for dinner, the weekly Compline service, and bed.

Friday, October 8

Our excursion on Friday afternoon was to Dunfermline Abbey, the final resting place of Scottish royalty, including Robert the Bruce. Dunfermline is a ways away from St. Andrews, but we enjoyed the countryside scenery on our hour-long bus ride. We enjoyed exploring and taking pictures in the historic church, and the guide on duty helped us learn a lot about the history of the Abbey and the Church. After our bus ride back to St. Andrews, we met some of my friends for ice cream at Janettas to end the day.

Dunfermline Abbey Church

The final resting place of Robert the Bruce

Dunfermline Abbey churchyard

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Saturday, October 9

Saturday was the busiest day of our trip, as we went into Edinburgh for the day! After arriving in Edinburgh on the train, we started off at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland. Mom and I especially enjoyed seeing how different members of the Royal Family had decorated and used Holyrood Palace over the years, including Mary Queen of Scots, Charles II, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth. We also enjoyed viewing a special exhibition about the life of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Having tortured Stephen with an onslaught of Royal Family information, we found a restaurant that barbeques a whole pig every day and makes sandwiches out of it for lunch. The Scottish barbeque nearly filled us up, but we also stopped at a coffee shop I had seen on the internet for some dessert and hot drinks. Then, we commenced a walking tour of Edinburgh, stopping by the Walter Scott monument, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh Castle, and St. Giles' Cathedral. We would have gone inside the cathedral, but there was a wedding party leaving, so we were not allowed in. Instead, we enjoyed some people-watching and listened to the bagpipers on the Royal Mile. We ended the day with a trip to Waterstone's and a pit stop in Boot's to pick up some plasters (band-aids to you Yanks) for our foot blisters.

Mom and Stephen were troopers; they let me drag them 8 miles around Edinburgh and only complained a little bit. The final kilt count of the day: 22 plus a wedding party.

Mom and Stephen by St. Giles' Cathedral

A grey sky over the Royal Mile

Goofing off at Holyrood Palace

Sunday, October 10

After wearing ourselves out in Edinburgh, we took it easy on Sunday and stuck around St. Andrews. We managed to pull ourselves out of bed for the Sunday service in St. Salvator's Chapel, followed by the pier walk. Attendance was sadly low this week, as many classes had deadlines for assignments coming up. Nevertheless, we had a nice morning and took some family pictures on the pier. Then, we went to North Point Cafe for lunch and relaxed in our hotel for the afternoon.

After a little rest, we went back out for a walk on the Old Course and West Sands. Mom and Stephen were unimpressed by the bridge on the Old Course, which admittedly looks much better on postcards.

Monday, October 11

Monday was the last day of our trip, so we stayed in St. Andrews to take care of some souvenir shopping. Stephen went home with a new flannel, a thrift store film camera, and a stockpile of Tunnock's Teacakes, and Mom and I just enjoyed browsing in the gift shops. I did pick up something for myself, but I think I'll keep it a secret until Christmastime... For our last Scottish dinner, we decided to pick up fish and chips again.

Mom and Stephen left early the next morning, after a trip that proved how time flies when you're having fun. I'm so glad they were able to visit me in Scotland, and I'll treasure the memories we made together!

Enjoy a photo dump below, and look out for my next post. Independent Learning Week is upon us, and my friends and I will be independently learning on a trip to the Highlands!

The bridge at the Old Course