Magic is Real and It Begins and Ends In Edinburgh, Scotland.
"I predict that this experience will undoubtedly change my life for the better, if I let it."
I wrote that sentence yesterday and not even 24 hours later, I can already see signs of my prophecy being fulfilled. When I woke up this morning, I could tell it was going to be a good day, but I never would have predicted how magical it actually ended up being. Magical - that is absolutely the word I would use to describe it.
After my usual morning routine, I left my hostel on a mission to see Edinburgh Castle - and that's where my story begins. Being from the United States, I don't come into contact with castles all that often, so you can imagine my excitement. Admittedly, Edinburgh's isn't the world's most traditionally "beautiful" castle by any means, but it has its charms.
The castle itself is something out of a medieval story - grey, dense and perched atop a pretty significant incline. I ventured into the Royal Chambers, the Great Hall, and even the old prisons where the war prisoners were held, many moons ago.
The military and war memorials were probably one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen - the pride that lies within Scotland for its people and its history is beautiful and intense and probably one of my favorite reasons to love this country. My entire self-guided tour gave me chills. There was this unshakable feeling in the air - an intense combination of unbelievable significance and great loss. You could just feel the history all around - a history that out-dates any that I have ever experienced before. Those are some walls that, well, if only they could talk, you know?
The most fantastic part of the visit was being within inches of Mary Queen of Scots' crown jewels. Maybe that's just the materialist girl side of me talking, but I could have stood there staring at her beautiful adornments all day. Oh how I wish that, just for one day, I could know what it feels like to be a royal.
The second part of my day brought me down the hill to the newer portion of town where I visited the Scottish National Gallery. Room after room of paintings and sculptures of immense historical significance - some large enough to cover nearly an entire wall. Now, don't get me wrong, I have seen beautiful artwork before, but something about this gallery really drew me in. The very last room I visited was especially magnificent for me. Let me preface by explaining that I know an unimpressive amount about my family's heritage. However, yesterday while wandering the city, it was brought to my attention that it is highly likely that both of my parents have lines of Scottish blood and their last names can be traced back to 2 different Scottish clans of the day. (How exciting, right?) So, today while I was marveling at the Scottish works room, I found a painting of young girl named Katherine who happened to have my last name: Hall. She was a descendent of Sir James Hall II - an important man of whom I have never heard.
Now, I understand the chances of me actually being a direct descendent of this famous Scottish family are slim, but something about that connection being so present and possible really brought this entire experience full circle for me. Here's to hoping that Katherine is my Great, Great, Great, Great Aunt (or something) and I'm actually fabulously British like I have always wished for.
The final segment of my journey brought me to the Christmas celebrations in the middle of town. All lit up for the holidays was a tree, some carnival rides, booths with food (that smelled absolutely amazing, by the way), a giant ferris wheel, an ice skating rink and other fantastic celebratory booths with music and games and all things jolly and bright. I decided that, before it was too late, I needed to get on that giant wheel. I was seated alone and just after the door closed, a voice came over the speakers explaining to me all the glorious things in my eyeline. He told me about Edinburgh's history and architecture (all in a perfect Scottish accent, of course). I was told about Edinburgh's long history with witches and wizards - even Harry Potter began here. How much more magical can you get?
The view from above was even more beautiful than I imagined. I swear I saw the entire city in the 10 minutes I was up there. If I take nothing else away from this entire experience, I will surely remember how absolutely breathtaking the aesthetics of the area are. I get lost looking out each and every window here. In Edinburgh, the beauty is so much more than just in the eye of the beholder.
After I returned to ground-level, I made on final stop before I headed back. I came upon a booth for a Romany woman who read palms and Tarot cards. Being something I have always wanted to experience, I wasn't about to let this chance slip away. I met with Amalia (I believe that's her name) for no more than 20 minutes, but she really got me thinking. She told me about the marvelous successes she saw in my future - both financially and romantically. She talked to me about my wonderful upbringing that she was sure I had had and that she knew I would pass onto my children someday. She warned me about old loves coming back into my life and messing things up for me. But most importantly, she gave me advice on the importance of loving and trusting myself more because (at least according to her) I know better than anyone around me what I need and want and what is in my best interest. She nearly brought me to tears when she told me things about myself that I didn't even know, or realize, until that very moment. She assured me that I would soon realize that I was, in fact, on the right path to be successful in all the ways I have always worried about. It may not be an exact science, but sometimes all you need is a little confidence, advice, and reassurance to set your mind at ease. She told me that I would go back home after this experience with more self-love and trust in my own judgement and that I am definitely headed in all the right directions. That's all I've ever wanted to hear; that's all anyone ever wants to hear.
Today was enough to make my entire #StudyAbroad experience worth it. I learned more than I ever have about myself, and this gorgeous place I'm so lucky to be in, than I could have ever asked for. Magic is real and it begins and ends in Edinburgh, Scotland.