Sunday, 7 July 2019

Edinburgh 2019: Day 3

Today we stayed in bed extra long in the morning. I didn't have all that much planned for today anyway. When we finally left the hotel room we made our way up Calton Hill (with our legs aching from yesterday's ordeal).

The guidebook had made it seem like there was a lot to see, do and explore on top of Calton Hill but there wasn't at all much. The observatory was tiny. The monuments were cool especially the Nelson monument which can be seen from all over the city. We dubbed that "the Assassin's Creed tower" during our first day. Funny story is the story about the National monument which was to be built as a copy of Parthenon in Athens, but they ran out of money after only 12 columns and it remained that way. Locals have dubbed it "Edinburgh's disgrace" according to our guidebook.

When we had had our fill of the view from the hill we walked back down to the city. We had some time over so we walked down South Bridge looking for the Surgeons' Hall museum. It's really cool, but also really morbid and grotesque (and a bit gross). Edinburgh was prominent in the 19th century for discoveries and advances made in anatomy and pathology. This museum displays old and preserved organs and body parts, both healthy and otherwise and tells the story of how we went from not knowing a damn thing about our own anatomy pre-18th century to discoveries in the fields of anaesthesia and surgery. Most of the preserved body parts are from the 19th and early 20th century (so all of them at least 100 years old). And it's all so frickin cool! We didn't have enough time to go through it all in detail, but I definitely wish we did. No photography allowed of course.

After that we had dinner and then went to The Real Mary King's Close on the Royal Mile to catch the 6pm tour that I booked on Friday. Our guide led us below the current city to show us the streets and homes on the centuries old street buried underneath the buildings of today. He told the story of the plague in 1645 and how people lived and died in the closes (alleys) of Edinburgh. It was a bit too gimmicky, though, with a lot of it depending on technology rather than the spoken word. And they would benefit from having smaller groups. The group we were in was 21 people and it was very crowded in most areas. Smaller groups, more props and less gimmicky technology would improve the tour by a lot. The tour finished by the group listening to a pre-recorded (again: bigger impact if the guide had told the story) 17th century ghost story that supposedly took place in Mary King's Close. I really liked our guide! He filled the whole tour with a kind of fatalistic humour that made everything funny.

After the tour we decided to go back to the hotel. We took a detour through the Princes Street Gardens on the way to the tram. We bought some sweets and drinks from the nearby Tesco and had a quiet evening on the room before going to bed sort of early. Tomorrow we're going back home.

Edinburgh 2019: Day 2

This day we actually woke up at some sort of early hour so that we could have the hotel breakfast, which wasn't at all what I expected, but it was still good.

After breakfast we took the tram to Princes Street and from there walked down to the Royal Mile and went in the opposite direction from the Castle. The main attraction for today was Holyrood.

On our way there we made stops at the Scott Monument and the People's Story museum, which is a kind of unique museum in that it tells the story of the ordinary people of the city rather than the nobility or military or whathaveyou. I thought that sounded really interesting when I read about it, but I was quite disappointed in it when we got there. I love history, but when we get to the 20th century I lose interest, and this museum was 95% 20th century

After that we continued down the road and got to Holyrood Palace; the royal family's official residence when they're in Scotland. Much like the royal palace in Stockholm parts of it are shown as a museum to Mary Queen of Scots and those coming before and after her. There was no photography allowed inside the palace. The coolest parts of the palace was partly Queen Mary's bedchamber which was up a tower and you had to climb a tiny spiral staircase to get there (how did she do that with those dresses?!?!) and partly the old ruin of Holyrood Abbey on the Palace grounds.

When we were done with the Palace we had lunch at the café and then started on our trek up to Arthur's Seat. Arthur's Seat is a big hill (or a small mountain?) right next to the Palace. The top is at 250 m and the climb gets steep. After 45 minutes of burning legs, burning lungs and gasping for breath we reached the top. And it was so worth the agony of the climb! The top offered a stunning view of the city and its surroundings. We spent some time relaxing there before beginning our descent.

On our way down we took a tiny detour to a ruin we had seen on our way up, which was the remains of an ancient chapel.

We got down and made immediate use of the ice cream truck placed at the bottom of the hill and then we started on the walk back to the tram. On wobbly legs. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant on our way back and then got back to the hotel room where we showered before going out again.

Since it was Toni's birthday I took him to where I celebrated my 18th birthday. The rock pub The Black Rose. Exactly like I remembered it! This night there was an open mic night and the sound levels were high. Everybody sang along even if they didn't hold the mic, and danced and laughed and drank. It was such an amazing atmosphere that even the stuffy air made no difference. There was an older guy there who chatted animatedly with everybody and in such a severe Scottish accent that neither of us could understand most of what he was saying. I also talked with an American guy who seemed nice. It was a great evening and we stayed until they closed at 1am.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Edinburgh 2019: Day 1

This day I had planned a whole day for us in the Old Town. Arguably my favourite part of any town/city. First off we went to Edinburgh Castle where we proceeded to spend a little over 3 hours. I've previously been to the Castle but it was a lot of fun to see everything again and to watch Toni's reactions. The castle is oooooold, like 850 years old and still one of the most impressive buildings in the city. And since it's on a hill it can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city *queue a multitude of pictures of the castle from every angle*

After three hours at the castle we moved on to the next place on my list: St Giles Cathedral, which was cool but looked pretty much like cathedrals everywhere. The most unique part was the chapel of the Thistle. Photo permit cost £2 so we decided to not take any photos.

Right after that we went across the street to The Real Mary King's Close and booked a tour for Sunday. I tried to book it via their website before we left home, but it wouldn't work for some reason, and then we went to have dinner at a burger place close by, which is where I tried haggis for the first time. My burger included all the ordinary things: beef and onion rings, but also a haggis fritter. Knowing what it's made of I expected the taste and texture of fried liver. Couldn't have been more wrong. It's juicy and spicy and I really liked it ♥

After dinner we walked down Victoria Street on our way to Grassmarket and there we found a Harry Potter shop. So I had to go inside. And spend a bunch of money. We walked through Grassmarket, up the stairs of the Vennel and past the remains of the Flodden Wall and George Heriot's school, before coming up to the Greyfriar's Bobby statue and the Greyfriar's Kirkyard. After a quick look around the kirkyard we walked down Candlemaker Row and along Cowgate until we got to the South Bridge Vaults, where we grabbed a drink at Bannerman's; a rock bar.

After the drink we walked back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and then we took the tram/walked back to St Giles Cathedral to meet up for the City of the Dead walking tour. I really, really recommend this one! It started off as a history walk along Old Fisherman's Close and Cowgate before the tour brought us to Greyfriar's Kirkyard and the spooky part began. We got the story of the Mackenzie Poltergeist and the Covenant's Prison (the world's first concentration camp), and while most of the tour had been about building tension through words there was one single orchestrated jumpscare towards the end. The tour guide made a point of explaining that the café where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book overlooked the kirkyard and that she got a lot of inspiration for names from the gravestones. I found James Potter, Moody and Scrimgeour on the stones. According to the tour guide there was a gravestone with the name Thomas Riddle Esq. but although I followed her instructions to the letter I couldn't find it. I suspect it may be in the fenced-in area, and by then the light was so bad that I couldn't see what any of the stones said. (The tour may be scarier in the autumn and winter when it's actually dark during the tour).

When we walked back to the hotel I found said café and we stopped for pictures. I had tea there during my last visit 10½ years ago ^^

We finished the day with a drink in the hotel bar, before going to bed just after midnight completely exhausted.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Edinburgh 2019: Arrival day

Most of this day was spent travelling. To even get to the airport in Stockholm it takes us 1½ hours by bus and train. Everything went as smoothly as you would expect to check in and go through the security. We decided to eat before boarding the plane and found a place that looked good, but was dreadful. The burgers we got made McDonald's seem decent. Anyhow. One disappointing burger later we went to the gate and watched the rain pour down before it was time to get on the plane.

Mandatory George Carlin for every plane ride:

We landed in Edinburgh exactly on time and our bag was already rolling around on the baggage claim by the time we got there. Smooth!!!
We got on the tram from the airport to the city and Toni's head was swivelling around trying to look at everything at the same time. I was mostly just looking at the mountains, because honestly those are the only things that don't 100% exactly like home :P When the tram made the turn into Haymarket my heart made a leap I recognised every inch of that street ♥ I previously spent 3 weeks in Edinburgh in November of 2008. 10½ years and I recognised every inch. I was so happy.

We got off the tram and the hotel I had booked for us was directly across from the tram station. Perfect :) We checked in without any issues and after dumping our bags we decided to go to one of the bars in town.

The bar is called The Voyage of Buck and it's a theme bar. The theme is the voyages of a late 19th century person called Buck and every cocktail is inspired of is travels. The cocktail menu is several pages long. I ordered fancy cocktails for us both and they were probably the coolest drinks we've ever had. Mine had pearl glitter in it so it looked like some sort of shimmering potion, while Toni received edible Legos for his drink xD

Our experience of the bar was that the drinks were really cool and the whole atmosphere of the place was amazing, but the staff could've been a bit more service-minded. They made it clear when we arrived that we were to sit down and then they would come to get our drink orders. Except they seemed more interested in hanging out at the bar and talking between themselves rather than making sure their guests got what they needed/wanted. So concept was amazing - staff needs improvement.

When we had finished our drinks we decided that we wanted something to eat and managed to find a KFC that was open late. We went there and then brought the food back to the hotel room and had an extra dinner there before going to bed.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Dealing with backlog: Tomb Raider

I first tried to play this game in 2013, but I was too much of a noob back then and I kept getting stuck on the QTEs because I just couldn't time them properly. This year I decided to try again. Hopefully something had happened to my skill in the past 6 years. I watched Toni play it back in the day so I wasn't new to the story.

The first thing that struck me was how old it suddenly looked. I played it on High and I remembered it as this beautifully gorgeous game, and now it looked old. Funny how time does that.

I went for 100% completion and got it. The story was still really cool and I loved the environments in the different areas of the island. While I remembered the big strokes of the story I had forgotten the details so things like Roth's death and Whitman's betrayal still came as major surprises to me.

Apart from being a really cool-looking game, what really drew me to this game was the Japanese influenced mythology of the story. That really got me and I enjoyed every piece of Japanese-y thing the game threw at me.

This game paces its action perfectly, but when there's action it's ACTION! So much of it omg. The QTEs are never boring and a lot of the time I sat wincing at every new injury Lara sustained, especially when you missed a beat during the QTEs and had to watch Lara die in the most gruesome ways. 10/10 would miss again.

The challenges were nice and mostly easy and just gave me all the more reason to keep running around in all the stunning areas.

This game is an amazing reboot and I'm really looking forward to playing the two sequels now.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Game completed: Vampyr

I was very curious about this game when it was first released, but I mostly am whenever something with vampires shows up.

The game starts off with an exteremely generic story, but the story is so open-ended that you can decide it for yourself. I started off wanting to try my best to be a good guy, but the more I got to know the citizens the more I felt like "You all suck. You're horrible people." So I decided to let my good-guy vampire doctor become the villain and just slaughter everybody. I love that you can become the villain and not being stuck being the good guy like most games do. The turning point came after I was forced to kill my sister.

The game's strong point is definitely its NPCs. Talking to them, finding out their backstories and helping them with their needs/requests is the backbone of the game. The romance that popped up midway felt forced and I was quite happy when she broke it off after discovering that my vamp doc no longer was the innocent little newborn vamp that she'd have to protect and nurture.

The lore in this game is quite deep and I really enjoyed discovering the bits and pieces of it scattered throughout the game.

The only bad thing I can think of is the combat that felt a bit clunky, but imho it wasn't game-breakingly clunky. It was a bit odd, but not odder than you could get used to it.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this game and I could definitely see myself playing through it again at a later point as a 100% good guy who doesn't kill anybody.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Final Fantasy XIV

I've been curious about this game for quite some time and I finally decided to download the trial and play that. The game was incredibly cute, but I wasn't sure about the fighting (it seemed clunky) or the fact that there's sometimes voice acting but not always and the PC is always mute. It was so jarring to me.

But after getting to around lvl 15 I decided that I liked the game enough to actually buy it. The base game story is looooooooooong. Exceptionally long and it doesn't go by any faster with the constant distractions in the shape of dungeons, side quests and omg-you-can-be-every-class-on-the-same-toon-imma-do-everything!

Because the base game story is so goddamn long it also takes forever to actually get things happening. Most of the time it's just running all over the continent to fetch stuff or talk to different people. It's not until the attack on the HQ that things actually start to happen, and by then your character has passed level 40 (the end of the base game comes around level 50). From being some of the most boring content, the main story picked up towards the end and became totally epic!

Earlier on, when it became time to choose which Grand Company you wanted to belong to I chose the pirates and moved my home point from Gridania to Limsa Lominsa. Mainly because Merlwyb is totally badass and she's the main reason my little archer girl is going to be a machinist so I can run around and shoot guns too!

Funnily enough, none of the Scions really grew on me during the game although those were the characters with which you spend the most time. Most of them seemed a little bit too high and mighty. I wanted to like Minfilia and Alphinaud but they were just way up there with their attitudes. Yda is probably the only one I actually came to like the most. Smart but aloof.

My favourite regions to explore became La Noscea quite early on. I've never been much of a fan of desert areas in any game so Thanalan was mostly out. Gridania was very cute, but seemed a bit generic. La Noscea was absolutely stunning and no other regions had me stopping every few seconds to get screenshots. Except maybe Mor Dhona, but it's so small.

Despite all its faults FFXIV grew on me, and although I'm still not entirely comfortable with the fighting mechanics the game has grown on me enough that I'm really looking forward to continue on playing Heavensward and Stormblood and later on Shadowbringers.

Stay tuned~~♥