This has been one of the best weekends ever! One where the words ‘lifetime experience’ and ‘wanted to do that for a long time’ came into play. I’ll start with Saturday.
We decided to go for lunch then a drive and a walk in Deeside. We headed to our old faithful, Castleton Farm Shop, a place that we frequent far too frequently, where we dined on Ingram’s Traditional Scottish Meats Pork and Apple burgers. Then it was time for a beautiful drive through the mountains and forests of south Aberdeenshire until we got to the town of Banchory and our destination, the Scolty Tower walk. The walk itself is quite short, only about 45 minutes, but it’s up steep hills with rocky steps, which makes for a breathless and warming first half of the walk.
We made it to the top without any issues but a lot of sweat, and then proceeded to climb the many stairs to the top of Scolty Tower. Why not?
I’m not a heights person at all, I can’t go cliff jumping, bungee jumping, and would never entertain the idea of sky diving. I thought climbing up the stairs of this tower would be fine, until I realised that the stairs we steel stairs fixed to the inside wall of the tower rather than stone stairs. This lead to some paralysing panic towards the top when the staircase kept shaking! I made it to the top though, but still held on for dear life
|I make scared look pretty|
Views of much of eastern Scotland’s geographical delights, as pointed out by my husband in this photo:
|Mount Keen is that way….|
After puttering around in Banchory, we made our way over some rivers, through the woods and a big hills back to our house, where I made a hearty helping of Chicken Tarragon.
|Veg prep done|
|Creamy, warm, delicious – perfect for a winter stew|
It was an early Saturday night for us because we had a big Sunday planned. The one where words like ‘Once in a lifetime’ and ‘wanted to do that for a while now’ are uttered, (okay, thought). We were getting up early to catch the 10:30 am train down to Edinburgh so we could watch the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team take on Scotland at Murrayfield. Once. In. A. Lifetime. Opportunity. Possibly…. The last time the All Blacks were in Scotland was two years ago at this time, and the last time I watched them play was in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final against France. Which they won. Naturally. You see, I’m a bit of an All Blacks fan and have been so since I travelled to New Zealand ten years ago. Upon my return to Canada, I would watch many New Zealand rugby union club matches, as well as national tests. Evey time there is a game televised here, I’m glued to the television. The All Blacks are a phenomenal rugby team, and are a thrill to watch. It also helps that they’re gorgeous as well.
After arriving into Edinburgh Haymarket Station on a standing-room-only train, we headed along Corstophine Road, amidst the drumming bands, souvenir tables, and Scotland fans, straight to Murrayfield. Upon walking through the turnstiles, we were met with this site:
|Food, pipe bands and rugby!|
We grabbed some drinks and some eats, gobbled them up then headed for our seats. I was a bit disappointed when booking them online, as they were practically the last row of the stadium and some of the only ones left along the sides of the pitch (rather than the ends). So we snapped a few photos from the bottom of our section before trekking up the many stairs to the top.
Little did we know that when we sat down, we would see much of Edinburgh’s skyline, inlcuding Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat! Needless to say, disappointment turned to satisfaction.
It was then game time, and an excited crowd welcomed their home team to the pitch:
|Fire bursts for Scotland!|
Then New Zealand walked onto the pitch. Cue the singing both teams’ national anthems: God Defend New Zealand, which is sung in both English and Maori; and then Flower of Scotland, which has become Scottish rugby’s unofficial national anthem, as there actually is no Scottish national anthem. The All Blacks haka, an intimidatory chant and dance done before All Blacks matches, concluded the opening to the match, and I’ve captured it all on video!
That was my first time hearing Flower of Scotland and it truly was electric! Especially when the music stops and everyone continues to sing. You can kind of hear a woman’s voice behind us, she was fantastic and so patriotic!
My only gripe about this part of the game was that the fan’s cheers drowned out the haka, so I’ve included a YouTube clip of a New Zealand television feature on the All Blacks performing it for a Maori King. It also gives a bit more insight into the haka and a glimpse into the Maori culture. I strongly suggest you click on the link and have a read about the history of the haka and where it comes from. Perhaps you can understand why I find it so interesting and the All Blacks so amazing? Sidenote: when I was in New Zealand, I saw a guy with facial tattoos, not quite like the guys in the video though.
Pat and I predicted the game would be a blow out, with the All Blacks easily rolling over Scotland and not even allowing them a try. And with a 28-0 record over Scotland, it was natural to have this inclination. The first half totally defied our predictions, and saw Scotland edge past the All Blacks in the first ten minutes of the game, and later on come close again. All this time, the crowd wen wild and were so loud! Come the second half though, Scotland seemed tired and New Zealand ran away with the game, quieting the fans. Altogether though, a fantastic game and definitelty one to cross of the old bucket list.
Once the game was over, we made our way through an ocean of fans, down the streets of Edinburgh to Haymarket, where a restaurant, that we’ve wanted to go to for ages, lies. Perhaps you remember Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word quest for the best restaurant in Britain? Well it won best Chinese restaurant, possibly for its amazing dumplings, and after watching that show, we knew we had to try Chop Chop in Edinburgh. We almost weren’t able to go, though, as when we showed up, all their tables were booked and they couldn’t even offer us takeout! After haggling over cook times and train times, we were able to get a table on the promise we would be out in 45 minutes. Plenty of time!
|Relieved to get my Chop Chop experience|
We quickly placed our order and then had time to finally relax after an eventful afternoon. Aside from Gordon Ramsay fame, we wanted to go to Chop Chop because it served authentic, proper Chinese food, which is quite hard to find here, and because of that, I usually avoid it at all costs. It’s only when I go home to Canada that I get my Chinese food fix. Until yesterday that is.
First to arrive were the dumplings! Pat had pork and chive, and I had pork and coriander dumplings. They didn’t come with any dipping sauce, but instead you made your own with bottles of soya sauce and malt vinegar at your table, along with freshly chopped garlic and chillies, which you add at your discretion. Your sauce can be as spicy or garlicky as you like!
Those dumplings were to die for!!!!!!!!!!!!! We both said we should’ve ordered a plate of eight instead of four. Next time.
The next dish to arrive was Stir-fried spicy tofu. And yes, it was spicy, but spice aside, reminded me of something my mom made when I was little. Very comforting and very delicious.
Last but not least, was a big bowl of Vegetable noodle soup, made with Chop Chop’s own noodles and a delicious, warming vegetable broth. The perfect dish for a cold day, or if you’re with cold.
We quickly had to slurp up our noodles in order to catch our standing-room-only-again train home. I’m so happy we finally made it to Chop Chop, it was definitely worth the wait! Not only was the food amazing, but the service was so good! They were attentive and informed, and they ended up letting us have our table for longer than 45 minutes, to which we gave them a generous tip, (unheard of here in Scotland).
After a quick stop at Starbucks to replenish my vanilla syrup stores, it was time to head home on the train, then by car to our bed, lights out before 10 pm. We’re hardcore, we know.
What an amazing Sunday and a fantastic weekend.
First run in almost two weeks tomorrow night, wish me luck!