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The quest for the perfect kilt

June 29, 2010

Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.

Kitt's blog:
Today is my last day in Edinburgh, Scotland. My last day abroad, in fact. It’s bittersweet to think that I’ll be packing up and getting on a plane tomorrow, away from Europe for the foreseeable future. On one hand, I miss my family, my pets, my very comfortable non-hotel bed and my nice warm bathtub. On the other hand, I’ve had so many wonderful experiences while I’ve been here that it’s hard to imagine that I won’t be missing out once I leave.

The day started out stressfully with a final exam, but it went uphill from there. I had lunch at the Elephant House, which is the cafe where J.K. Rowling went to work on the first drafts of the Harry Potter series. The cafe is lovely, with depictions of elephants everywhere. I drank a pot of Earl Grey that was the size of a cantaloupe. It was divine, but it was also quite a lot of tea.

After lunch, I went to meet up with my group, who were touring elsewhere in the city. I had my heart set on buying myself a kilt. I’m not from a Scottish family – Keller is a German name and all my ancestors, as far as I know, are either German or French – but one very specific memory made me desperately want one.

If you ever read the Nancy Drew books, you may remember a mystery called "The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes" (it’s No. 42, if you’re curious). Nancy goes to Scotland to solve the theft of a Drew family heirloom. There are mysterious stolen sheep and a mysterious old castle as well. The main clue, as the title implies, comes from a mysterious bagpiper. The cover of the yellow-spine version of the book featured Nancy in full Highland regalia – bright tartan kilt, knee socks, tam o’shanter cap and bagpipes. And that’s just how I want to look when I get off the plane, I thought.

But there’s more to Edinburgh than just what I did today. On our trip so far, we have visited a number of amazing locations. We hit up Holyroodhouse, one of the estates where the Royal Family stays in Scotland. Attached to the palace are the remains of an ancient abbey, and the Queen’s Gallery, which has an exhibition of Dutch landscape paintings.

We also spent a day visiting the zoo and botanical gardens. The zoo had just gotten a new baby tapir, and a whole batch of penguin chicks, so those of us who went had a lovely time cooing over the darling zoo babies. The botanical gardens had a stunning series of hothouses, for a simple £3 admission. There was also the memorial garden for the Queen Mother, who passed away in 2002. Her garden has a memorial pavilion, and a hedge maze in the pattern of interlocking E’s – the Queen Mother’s name was Elizabeth, just like her daughter the Queen.

We also made a trip to the royal yacht, Brittania. The yacht was grand and incredibly, as yachts tend to be. We saved up the time to have lunch and tea in the tea room on the yacht’s royal deck. It was delicious, and we ate off Wedgwood china. I felt like a horribly underdressed princess.

Next up were the 287 steps of the Sir Walter Scott monument. Scott, a famed author who romanticized Scottish history in novels like "Waverley" and "Rob Roy," was a hero to the Scots. His memorial reaches out over the city, and from the top deck there are stunning views of Edinburgh. With admission, you get a certificate to prove that you climbed the 287 steps.

We also visited Loch Ness – in fact, several of us went swimming in the Loch and had our toes nibbled by the infamous water creature Nessie (kidding)! Loch Ness, I should mention, never gets warmer than 4ºC – 39ºF. That’s very, very cold to swim in. We saw Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine. We went on a tour to Doune Castle, the site of the filming of possibly the best movie of all time, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." We also tramped all around Edinburgh Castle. It seems, impossible as it is, that we went everywhere. Obviously, though, that’s not the case. If we stayed for another 20 years we wouldn’t be able to see everything that Edinburgh and Scotland has to offer.

My search for a kilt lead me up and down the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is the stretch of High Street in Edinburgh that connects Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. Most of the kilts available on the Royal Mile are cheesy tourist ones. There are even kilt towels, which, when worn, look vaguely like a kilt and sporran (the little pouch in the front). I wanted something a little bit better. I ended up buying a kilt from the Lindsay clan tartan, which looks a lot like this. I also found a tam o’shanter cap in the same tartan a few shops later. So, I guess I’m ready to fly.

Kathrine (Kitt) Keller, a creative writing major, will be a senior this fall. She is studying abroad in London, Dublin and Edinburgh this summer.