UK Nacho Review - The Library Bar, Edinburgh!

edinburgh-nachos

It was a glorious, sunny day in Scotland, which, if you've never been there, is about as rare as a rainy summer day in Texas, and I was out enjoying the sunshine. The day began with sampling some local beers at Summerhall, site of the former Veterinary School of Edinburgh. For any male teenagers reading this blog, as well as the easily amused (including myself), the full name of the school is the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh. The school has been moved but, thankfully, as with most old timey things here in the UK, the pub remains. The pub, of course, is named simply, The Royal Dick. Which I never got tired of saying.

After downing several beers in the sun, it was time for nourishment. After deciding that everyone at the beer festival was being a Royal Dick (getting into the spirit now, aren't you), I wandered off in search of some sustenance. One of the closest places was the student union of the University of Edinburgh, which houses the Library Bar. This is another of the timeless jokes of bars near colleges naming themselves "The Library".

CAUTION: AUSTIN, TEXAS HISTORY SIDENOTE

There's another Library Bar in Austin  so the students can say to their parents, "Can't talk to you mom and dad, I'm headed to the library" but what they really mean is "I'm headed out to this ironically named bar called the library that makes you think I'm studying but I'm really going to get blotto and make out with some dude/chick from Estonia."

stevie
stevie

Sadly enough, the Library Bar in Austin exists in the same space on 6th Street as a club called Steamboat. A few of the people you might have heard of who performed at Steamboat included Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Butthole Surfers,  Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks.

BACK TO THE NACHOS

After consulting the menu, I ascertained that nachos were, in fact, present. Not only were they present but, the menu assured me, these were the BIGGEST ORDER of nachos available in all of Edinburgh. I know that ordering nachos in the UK can be a dicey proposition (with notable exceptions) so I refrained from ordering the big bowl of nachos and opted instead for the poco (that's "little" to you gringos) size.

The big bowl came first and...just take a gander at the picture in the header above to see what they looked like. I've gotta say they were big. The problem was, however, that a bunch of the chips got mangled on their way into the bowl, resulting in a big bowl of what looked like nacho cereal. The owner was even reduced to eating the monstrosity with a fork.

The Little Nachos

nachos
nachos

My nachos arrived shortly after "The Thing" and I was relieved that it wasn't the Towering Inferno of nachos that I was afraid it was going to be, as you can see there to the right.

However there was still a problem with the nacho preparation which, if you've read any of my earlier posts you can probably see right off the bat - EVERYTHING IS STACKED ON TOP!!

There are two main problems with this nacho approach:

  • I like to sample the salsa. Because, sorry, UK, but 99.5% of the time your salsa sucks and tastes like ketchup. By immediately pouring your sub-standard salsa on the chips, you infect both the chips below the ground zero of salsa and also inflict collateral damage upon the surrounding chips.
  • This makes the chips really soggy. I like to dip the chips into the dips. So by the time I'm eating the chips underneath the dips, they're really nasty. Plus, you guys always go WAY OVERBOARD with the sour cream.
ramekin
ramekin

But I'd rather light a candle than curse your darkness. UK, this problem can be easily remedied. Let me introduce you to my friend.....the ramekin.

You're welcome. You can repay me in un-soggy nachos.

Loch Ness and the Afternoon Disco, Part II

Inside the disco. 

Inside the disco. 

Click here for the first part of this post! After my disappointment with not meeting Nessie, I hurried back to Inverness so that the entire trip wouldn't be a waste of time - I was planning to make the afternoon disco!

I had a few minutes to kill until the bus showed up, so I stopped and ate a sandwich and drank a beer that I purchased at the local Nessie shop. This turned out to be more of a chore than I thought it would be because the counterperson, who was probably about 16, wasn't sure if she could sell me the beer. She had to call her manager/mom to make sure that the purchase was kosher. Fortunately for the both of us, it was.

The bus brought me back from Drumnadrochit and dropped me off at the fancy Route 66 American Diner. It was approximately 3pm, which meant that the afternoon disco was in full swing, but I faced a dilemma because I wanted to see a bit of Inverness while there was still some daylight.

REALLY Scottish McDonalds! 

REALLY Scottish McDonalds! 

I wandered around the town a bit, which, like most towns in the UK, had a fairly compact and traffic-free centralshopping district. Inverness came to prominence as a trading town in the middle ages and was considered to be the capital city for the Central Highlands of Scotland.

Most of the town signs were in English/Gaelic, including the McDonalds! (It says "Welcome to McDonald's" if you couldn't figure it out. And no, I didn't eat there.)

I found the local museum, which was free (hooray, free museums!) and learned probably more than I'll ever need to know about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion.

Finally, having met my Scottish history quotient for the day, I felt that it was time to make my way to the real purpose of my quest - The Afternoon Disco!!

The disco! 

The disco! 

From outside, the Afternoon Disco pub looked like any other Scottish pub. 

The bar is called MacCallums and is in downtown Inverness, not too far from the train station.

Inside, however, it was a different story.

I arrived shortly before 5pm and the place was already packed. The lights were out in the pub, and the dance floor was illuminated with flashing disco lights. There was a singer belting out favorite standards on the stage, backed by a tape machine.

People were coming and leaving in waves. This was a big destination for bachelorette parties ("Hen Nights" as they say over there) and there was a contingent present all festooned in pink shirts, balloons, feather boas and penis lollipops.

I tried to take a picture of the crowd, but it doesn't really do the Afternoon Disco justice. If you look at the pic at the top of the story, you can see the clock on the wall showing that it was just a little after 5pm.

The singer was actually pretty decent, but the main problem with the Afternoon Disco was that it too a really long time to get Afternoon Disco Juice from the bar keeps.

I was tempted to hit the dance floor to wow the locals with my signature move - The Robot  but I didn't want to upset the locals and make them jealous of my dance movies, so I merely observed the disco unfold and drank my disco juice.

I didn't want to tarry too long at the Afternoon Disco, as I felt that it would spoil the magic.

I'm just happy to know that  if I'm ever in the vicinity of Inverness and need to hear some tunes, hang out with some penis lollipops and it's 3pm in the afternoon, I know exactly where to go.

Loch Ness and the Afternoon Disco - Part 1

loch-ness1

One of the first things that I wanted to do on my first visit to Scotland was to go see Loch Ness and catch a glimpse of Nessie. That was before I realized a couple of different things:

  • Scotland is really big
  • Inverness and Loch Ness are WAY at the top

How far away? I would say that Inverness is a good 3 hour drive away from Edinburgh. If you don't have a car and want to take a train, you're looking at 5 or 6 hours with all the changes.

Luckily, I was in Dundee, the City of Discovery! Inverness was a mere three hour train ride away, and it was only that long because you have to go through Perth and change there.

Other than seeing Nessie, though, what tempted me was the tales of an "Afternoon Disco" in a pub up there.

This I had to see.

I consulted the train and bus schedules. If I took the 9am train, I could get up to Inverness in time to take the 1pm bus out to Loch Ness, take in the museum, do a bit of Nessie hunting, then then make it back in time for the Afternoon Disco. My plan was set.

The train ride through the Highlands is pretty spectacular. The rails pass through mountain gorges filled with waterfalls (ie: pre-whisky) gurgling over jagged rocks, sheep grazing seemingly against gravity on the side of hills and old timey, one platform train stations that look like something out of a Spaghetti Western.

This was my kind of country.

diner1
diner1

Shortly before 1pm, the train pulled into Inverness station. This is where the last connecting trains on the British mainland all connect to run up to Wick, at the very tippy top of Scotland.

Sadly, this station was even nicer than the Dundonian one. There were a few restaurants, and a full fledged pub that would sell you beer to go. That would have to come later, however, as I had an appointment with Nessie.

I stepped out into Inverness town into a fine mist of rain. I however, was unfazed, as I'd lived in Scotland long enough to know that it would probably rain at some point on this trip. I didn't stop for any sightseeing on the way to the station, because I had a tightly knit timetable to adhere to.

The Afternoon Disco and Nessie awaited. I did tarry long enough to snap a picture of the American diner sign right next to Inverness bus station. Apparently to judge from the American presence of retail establishments in the UK, we're really good at eating and cleaning other people's clothes.

The bus to Loch Ness drops you off at a town called Drumnadrochit, which also happens to be where the Loch Ness Center(re) & Exhibition  is located, which, conincidentally is exactly where I wanted to be. The short, 20 minute bus ride drove along the western edge of the fabled Loch. After leaving the Inverness suburbs, I finally caught a glimpse of my destination through the trees.

First impressions of Loch Ness:

  • Not as big as I thought it was going to be
  • Looks cold
  • No Nessie
ness-sign1
ness-sign1

Undaunted, however, I determined to see my adventure through to the end. I took a quick look around the village. As you can see by the sign on the right, when you get up here into the Highlands and the West Coast of Scotland, you start seeing signs in Gaelic.

Which is pretty helpful if you speak Gaelic and you're tying to find Beauly or Inverness, but what if you only speak Gaelic and you're trying ot find the Loch Ness Center(re) & Exhibition?!! How are these people going to find it?!!

Unless there's some ulterior motive to keep Gaelic speakers from visiting Nessie....maybe Nessie only speaks Gaelic and they've come to warn her....

nessie-dolls
nessie-dolls

The Loch Ness Center(re) & Exhibition is located in the old Drumnadrochit Hotel, which is where one of the first Nessie sightings was reported. The museum if nothing but thorough. The story doesn't just start with Nessie. Oh no. This museum starts about a million years ago, describing how Loch Ness was first formed. Once all the boring rocks are out of the way, we're into the meat of the exhibit - the hunt for Nessie! The museum lays out all the most famous sightings and describes the history of the hunt for Nessie. There was a film about all the different searches that have been conducted for Nessie over the years.

Despite the picture of Nessie on the front of the building, the museum does a pretty good job of walking the line between the pro and anti Nessie sides of the debate.

But the most frightening exhibit in the whole Center(re) is the terrifying "Gift Shop" where they have a number of Nessie babies stuffed and on display! I could hardly contain my disgust. I quickly made a beeline out of the gift shop and headed for the Loch itself. I was determined not just to talk to Nessie, but to warn her about the dangers awaiting her babies.

ness4
ness4

I passed through the town of Drumnadrochit and headed for the Loch,which was somewhere just beyond the green hills. I paused only long enough to snap a picture of this "Nessie Crossing" sign on the road just outside of the village.

I was getting close!

A hiking path appeared after the village and pointed the way to the Loch. I checked the time and figured I'd be able to have a few words with Nessie before I was due at the afternoon disco.

However, I froze in my tracks when I saw the obstacle that was before me and the Loch.

A graveyard.

ness5
ness5

Why were all these graves out here in the middle of nowhere? Nessie's victims perhaps? The secret burial ground of lost Gaelic speakers trying to find their way to the Nessie Center(re)?

Or was it the final resting places of those foolhardy enough to try and warn Nessie about the fate that might be awaiting her children in the Loch Ness Center(re) Exhibition gift shop!

I sat on a nearby rock (don't worry, it wasn't a grave) to ponder my situation. And it was here, too, that my journey met it's metaphorical end. Here, at this windswept graveyard in the middle of the Highlands,  I finally gave up my foolhardy quest to go speak to Nessie.

Not because I was scared, my dear readers, but because I saw a nearby trail sign and realized that the shore of Loch Ness was actually OVER TWO MILES AWAY.

That means that the "Loch Ness Center(re) & Exhibition" is ACTUALLY NOT NEXT TO LOCH NESS.

Not that I minded hiking two miles, but, after all, I did have an afternoon disco to get to.  Slowly I turned away from the trail leading to the Loch and made my way back to the bus stop.

Sadly, in life there are choices we'll always have to make.

I guess I can count myself lucky enough that I was forced to choose between the afternoon disco and Nessie.

At the time, I just hoped that I made the right choice.

Keep reading in Part II!

Killin' Time - Part 1

(Author's note: there's probably going to be a lot of puns on the fact that the name of the town I eventually visited during this drive was "Killin". Be forewarned.) This whole trip was pretty much a spur of the moment idea. I'd heard the area around Loch Tay was pretty beautiful, so I figured I'd check it out. It was about a two or three hour drive out there, so I figured I'd head out to Loch Tay and, if I couldn't find anyplace else, make it back to Fundee in time to get a beer at the casino (which is a bit of a -joke - there's ALWAYS time to get a beer at the casino, since they're open 24 hours).

Whisky galore!!

Whisky galore!!

I hopped into the trusty Fritzmobile and made my way out to the open road. The first dilemma you face when leaving Dundee, other than asking why you were in Dundee in the first place, is whether to take the Perth road or not to get to the A9,which is the main highway that runs through the Highlands and up to Inverness. The Dunkeld way is nicer, but the roads aren't as good as going through Perth.

This time, I decided to pursue the Dunkeld option because I wanted to stop and have a beer at the "Best Beer Garden in Scotland" (as determined by yours truly). I'm not going to elaborate on the garden since that will be given a post all of its own.

Falls of Dochart. 

Falls of Dochart. 

After the Dunkeld stop, the drive was just a few short miles down the A9 to the Aberfeldy turn off. At this point, the A9 is really wide and has two lanes on each side (a "dual carriageway" as they say over there) and was a pleasure to drive. I took the Aberfeldy exit and continued along a winding road next to the silv'ry Tay.

I stopped when I saw the falls in the picture. Little did I know HOW MANY falls I was going to be seeing over the course of the next twenty four hours.

The Birks of Aberfeldy. 

The Birks of Aberfeldy. 

The falls look beautiful, don't they? Makes you want to grab a cold one and sit right in the middle of a refreshing stream of water straight down from the Highlands, doesn't it? Go right ahead and jump in! And then you'll be dead from pneumonia in about 5 minutes. That water is COOOOOLD. That's the problem with Scotland - so many beautiful lochs, streams and waterfalls, but YOU CAN'T GO IN because you'll freeze your nuts off. Alas.  I stopped for a quick bite to eat in Aberfeldy, home of the famous Birks of Aberfeldy, as immortalized by Scotland's second greatest poet, Robert Burns (Here's the greatest, in case you couldn't figure it out).

As you can see, I took a picture of another waterfall. I was still excited by seeing gentle mountain streams. How naive I was.

Now, here I have to make a confession, because I didn't actually get to the famous spot where Robert Burns sat and wrote "The Birks of Aberfeldy." Come on - it was like a mile hike away! Not that I minded walking a mile, but I didn't want to lose any more daylight by killin' time going to see a bunch of trees!

The other ongoing feature of this trip, other than the waterfalls, was castles. Immediately after I left Aberfeldy, I saw a sign for a castle and pulled over for a photo op.

Car and castle. 

Car and castle. 

There was a wedding about to take place at the castle, so it was closed. But, just to make sure, I went up and knocked on the comically large doorknobs.

But that's another thing about Scotland, you'll just be driving around and run into a 500 year old castle.

But the biggest surprise was waiting for me just around the bend.

For you see, I was about to discover something that many had heard about but few had experienced, yes, my friends, I stumbled upon a town so lifeless, so boring, and just downright unexciting that it was given the name, "Dull."

The opportunity was too good to pass up, so I steered off the road and went to experience everything that Dull had to offer.

Which, in fact, wasn't that much. I don't know if I ever even drove through Dull, since there wasn't a sign for the village proper.

Which way to boredom? 

Which way to boredom? 

So, if I drove through Dull, it was a pretty forgettable collection of farmhouses.

In other words, pretty dull.

(The Guardian ran a story about Dull just a few weeks after I was here. I think I might have to sue.)

The trip to Killin will continue with the next post!