Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Hogmanay! Torchlight Procession video and more...

Apparently, Edinburgh has just about the biggest New Year's celebration in the world. Who knew? I certainly didn't. But two hundred couchsurfing requests later, I figured out Edinburgh is a pretty popular tourist destination this time of year. I'd heard of Hogmanay before, but only because every restaurant in town has a big sign saying, "Book now for Hogmanay." Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

The city has been set up for partying for weeks now, but things officially kicked off last night. There was a grand torchlight procession (thanks, Fiona, for the tip on that!) that began up on the Royal Mile and stretched across the city all the way to the top of Calton Hill. It was a "River of Fire," led by several men in ancient warrior costumes, a pipe and drums band, and about thirty-thousand people walking through town -- 6,500 of whom carried flaming torches. Like, real, flaming torches, straight out of that scene from Beauty and the Beast when the villagers get ready to kill the beast:

Anyway, I took some incredibly amateur videos on my iPhone last night. Here they are, all edited together. I couldn't help set part of it to "Auld Lang Syne," played on the musical saw. It's from my Christmas Album, which is a free download, of course. Here's some of the New Year's Eve Eve fun from last night. It was a fun fireworks display, though I must say that, having grown up with Thunder Over Louisville, I have been spoiled for all other fireworks. Still, at least Edinburgh has a castle. Louisville can't compete on that front. I can't wait to see what Edinburgh has planned for tonight!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Does anyone pay for trains in Italy?

David came up with a genius plan to resolve the Italian economic crisis: make people actually purchase train and bus tickets. I don't know if you've ever been to Italy, but pretty much the only time anyone actually checked to see if we'd purchased tickets was on the High-Speed Eurostar trains. The rest of the time, as we dutifully bought and stamped our tickets, no one bothered to check.

As for the bus drivers, well, they don't even pretend to look at your ticket, and pretty much every native just hops on, takes a seat, and hops off. When we climbed aboard with tickets that had expired and tried to buy a new ticket, we even asked the driver what to do. He just shrugged and ignored us. So we joined the crowd and took a seat.

Seriously, though, they must lose millions of Euros a week, even on a 1-Euro bus fare. Then if you count the people who don't buy airport train tickets, the amount of money they're losing skyrockets. Those tickets cost us 48-Euros round trip, and we could have easily ridden for free (or maybe it's just a trick to subsidize the locals who know better, assuming the tourists pay triple). The one time (on a cross-country train, not an inter-city) we were asked for a ticket, a train official who we're pretty sure is distantly related to Mussolini told us we hadn't properly stamped it and owed 80 Euros. We refused to pay and just got on another train (where no one looked at our ticket), making the threat of a fine irrelevant.

After the way he treated us, I wished we'd never bought any tickets. That would have bought us a lot more pizza. But then again, we're just trying to help out a faltering economy, you know ... give a little.

Anyway, I think David's on to something there. If anyone from the EU is reading my blog, you might want to think about it. Then maybe give David a Nobel Prize or something, so he can stop going to school and hang out with me more.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bread, cheese, wine, repeat....

I never thought I'd say this, but here goes: I grow weary of cheese. And wine. And croissants. And pizza.

Don't pity me, as I am aware this is a quintessential #whitewhine. I'm just not sure I am gastronomically equipped do deal with this amount of lactose. My belt notches are definitely not so furnished, despite having averaged eight miles a day of walking.

We go back to Scotland on Wednesday. Leaving the warm weather and cheap wine is not particularly enticing, but I tell you I've never been more excited to eat lentil soup. Also, I love wine, but I'm pretty sure my genes prefer whisk[e]y. I never grow weary of bourbon or single malts.

In the mean time, I am doing my best to eat as much cheese and bread as possible. But today we are eager to find a Chinese restaurant. Our stomachs have forgotten what a vegetable is.

Christmas dinner in Rome:

Lunch in Venice:

Another lunch in Venice:

Breakfast in Venice:

Breakfast in Florence:

Snack in Florence:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I saw someone really famous today.

This morning I had front row seats to a big event for the first time in my life. David and I are trying to think who might be a bigger deal to see (he suggested Bono, but I think it was in jest). Who was it? The Pope! I know, I know, it's not fair that a woman who's never been to church in her life (except for weddings and that one time in high school when I went with a friend whose house I'd spent the night at, and I walked out just after they told us all Jews were going to hell, and one time in Lubbock for a perfectly pleasant Christmas Eve service that was mostly Christmas carols -- I like Christmas carols -- and zero anti-Semetic statements) gets front row at the Pope's Christmas Day blessing. Karma, maybe?

David and I didn't have anything else to do today (we agreed and adhered to the NO PRESENTS rule), so we figured we'd wander down to the Vatican this morning. Yesterday it took us two hours to get from city centre to our hotel, so we left at 8:45 am. Apparently commuting is much faster in the morning. We were in the Vatican by 9:30, had already wandered through St. Peter's Basilica again -- this time with a fully

constructed Nativity scene, complete with that creepy Baby Jesus with the golden spears coming out of his head that they kept showing on the Midnight Mass feed yesterday -- and didn't know what else to do. So we just decided to read our books in front of the barricades directly in front of the Papal Balcony of St. Peter's. A crowd slowly built up behind us.
We waited for two hours for Benedict XVI to arrive, but it was totally worth it. His sentiment and speech were both lovely, and the sense of history was huge.


I have two favorite parts: I particularly liked when groups of people would cheer (as in the Ukrainians when he spoke in Ukraine), and the Pope would be a bit surprised and give them a little shout-out of a wave.

More than anything, though, I loved the Swiss Guard. Sure, their costumes (David tells me they are called "uniforms," but whatever) were brilliant, and their pomp undeniable. They wielded swords, spears, and spats, and marched heroically to the piazza beneath the balcony. The Italian army looked great as well (and their marching band was bigger), but the Swiss just had some sort of magic about them.

I may not be the most religious girl in the world, but I can get on board with thousands of people gathering to hear messages of peace and love in many languages -- even Esperanto (please enjoy this William Shatner film shot entirely in Esperanto). Also, I'm betting that at least 40% of the people there today weren't even Catholic. It was still a sight to behold. Much pomp and plenty of circumstance.

Anyway, check one more thing off the lifetime To Do List: See the Pope in person. Also, this kid's Flat Stanley better win some award ... Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Free Mazel Tonk!

It seems like everyone's got a Hanukkah song this year. I gotta say, it's kind of frustrating because back in 2007, when I released mine, most radio stations said, "There's no market for Hanukkah music." Hmpf. Pout. Pout. Bad timing for me. Despite the MD's snubs, I did get loads of placement on music blogs and over 5000 YouTube hits in a matter of days back then. I also got hundreds of lovely, kind emails from around the world from people who told me they'd downloaded my song. (Oddly, however, my iTunes check was for $7...)

Luckily, I don't make music for the money:) I should have done this sooner, but it's never too late. How about some free Mazel Tonk? I've got 359 remaining free downloads from Bandcamp this month, so download away. And maybe tell your friends about my music or blog?

Happy Holidays to you all. I'm leaving Venice today and heading back to Rome. Do not pity me. Cheers!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sleeping on a stranger's floor: Couchsurfing is the best.

I've slept in 5-star hotels, and I've slept in tour vans. Though I don't really care for camping, I'm not very particular when it comes to sleeping conditions, despite my advancing age. Last week I slept on a twin mattress on the floor of someone I met on the internet. That's not meant to freak my mother out, but more to show that there are still a lot of really great people in the world. Couchsurfing proves that every time.

There's only so much you can learn from a guidebook. After a few self-guided days in Rome, David and I were anxious to meet a local. Cue: Couchsurfing. It's a social website, but it's aimed at hooking up travelers with locals. Some locals don't host, but instead offer to meet up with travelers for a drink or a tour. Others offer up their guest rooms, couches, and floor spaces. Antonio is one of those rare birds who offers both a place to sleep and a personalized tour.

Once arriving in Florence, we met up with Antonio in front of the Duomo, a massive Renaissance Cathedral built of pink, green, and white marble. He greeted us with a smile, a hug, and a tri-fold map. Not only did the map say "Welcome to Florence, Brigid & David," but it was coded and marked with major landmarks and suggested sites. It was amazing.

After dropping our bags off at Antonio's flat -- amazingly located on a main street right by the Duomo -- we headed off on a walking tour of Florence, trying to catch the major sights before we lost sunlight. I can't tell you how wonderful it was not to have to decipher a guidebook or a map. We just laughed, listened, and enjoyed Antonio's wonderful company.

The best benefit of staying with a local is knowing exactly which restaurants to patronize. We enjoyed two amazing apertivos, the most delicious pasta I've ever had (Antonio ordered the three best dishes for us, and we all shared), ditto for the gelato, pizza, and chianti. I salivate at the thought.

We also heard a fun local girl-band that played Americana covers but stage bantered in Italian, went to a birthday party for one of Antonio's friends (an architect named -- I kid you not -- Leonardo. Talk about pressure, right?), and had a late-night dance party in his flat. He cooked us omelets the morning we left and even made sure we got on the right train out of town.

There is absolutely nothing like staying with a local. Sometimes my hippie-trust-everyone attitude really pays off.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Food of Italy ... budget dining.

Food is the best part of any vacation, no question. Even for a history nerd and art-lover, meal-time is my favorite part of the day. This can be problematic for the budget traveler, but we've come up with a few ways to save and still savor.

Breakfast -- It's included in your hotel. Don't miss it. Eat heartily, and you can potentially skip lunch (or snack instead), saving $$$ for a big dinner.

Lunch -- Most restaurants offer cheaper lunch prices, so you could choose to splurge here. Overeat and then you can snack (or aperitivo) for dinner.

Dinner -- Aperitivo! Why had I never heard of aperitivo? It is the greatest invention ever, perhaps even topping the printing press and birth control pills. Buy one cocktail, and you have access to a snack buffet. If you are sitting, your server will deliver chips, olives, crackers, cheeses, and other delights to your table. The food choices vary from place to place, so wander around and peek in at the buffet before settling (or ask a local for the best one!). But if you want to save money and still have a drink, the aperitivo is key. Buy a cocktail and eat a light dinner. The cheapest aperitivos are near the universities (2 euro cocktails), but they also have the worst food selection. Spend 4euros elsewhere and get a feast.

Snacks. The grocery store or market. Yesterday, we bought two bottles of wine, two huge cheese wedges (gorgonzola and something else), apples, bananas, a kilogram of clementines, crackers, chocolate wafers, and a baguette ... for less than 13 euros (less than $20). It served as lunch yesterday and again today, and we're still not half-way through. People forget about groceries when they're on vacation, but it's often the cheapest way to eat gourmet foods all day long.

Pizza is also super-cheap if you find the right shop. We had a massive pizza last night for 5euros, and yes, we ate the whole thing. The chef even stretched the dough and made the pizza from scratch in front of our eyes. Mmmmmmmm...

Share. Portions are huge, and you can't save leftovers on vacation. Order one entree and share. If you're still hungry, you can always order more. Or get gelato.

Some food photos so far. I like the colors here, very Christmasy:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah love and funny videos...

It's Hanukkah! It may come as a surprise to some of my new Euro-friends that I am into Hanukkah. Don't worry, I don't bite. Today I send you all Festival of Light greetings from Venice. I know, you hate me. But how about a little holiday cheer? If this makes you smile, spread the love ... I give you a reprise of: the yodeling Dreidel.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Photo adventures in Rome.

You know it's a good trip when you're too busy having adventures to stop and write about adventures. But how about a few quick photos to share the fun? Interesting facts and funny stories will have to wait. For now, enjoy the view.

Rome has some amazing ruins. Some of the scultures have fallen apart, however, so you have to imagine what they would have looked like originally. Like this, perhaps:

Girl reading "The Da Vinci Code" outside the Pantheon (Rome):

The Trevi Fountain (Rome):

The Spanish Steps:

The view from John Keats's last dwelling. Keats is the only poet I ever liked in high school. Mostly I think I loved his story (but isn't it all about the story?) ... so young and dedicated and in love and then died of the consumption! Such a romantic end, generally reserved for sopranos and tenors. Keats was obviously a tenor.

Headed towards Vatican City (from Rome):

So many more photos, stories, and secrets to share... a domani!

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Day in Rome -- on a budget.

I've always been a bit of a history nerd (David would claim that is a massive understatement), but Antiquity was never my favorite. Even the ancient tombs and sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York were just okay. I mean, I thought they were neat and all, but it just didn't fascinate me the way British history did.

To me it's always been about the place, not the artifact. Seeing a mummy in the Louisville Science Center is not the same as seeing it in Egypt. And seeing Roman ruins in a New York museum doesn't even come close to seeing them in Rome.

You know I can't sit still when I'm in a new place, mostly because of the fear that I'll never get there again. Since arriving in Rome late Wednesday, we've walked at least twenty miles, and have seen unimaginable sights. My mind has been thoroughly blown.

We are budget travelers because we want to save our money for one great meal, rather than six average meals. But you have to pay entrance fees for, say, the Colosseum. Not going is just silly. Skip one meal, and see one sight. It evens out in the end. Also, we walk everywhere. Taxis just eat your money, and I've always believed great cities need to be walked in order to be appreciated. You never know what magic you'll find when you make a wrong turn.

Day One:
Breakfast in hotel room. It's a budget hotel (<€40/night), but, like most places in Europe, breakfast is included. It's delivered to the room on a school cafeteria tray, but that still equals Nutella croissants and cappuccinos in bed. We walked to the Colosseum. How crazy is that to think about? It was a crazy sight to see, and nothing could have prepared me for it. To save time, we walked a little further and first visited the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill. There was absolutely NO line there, and it's a combo-ticket to the Colosseum (€12). This meant we didn't have to wait in line at all when we finally went to the Colosseum.

We skipped the audio-tour because we're cheap and because we brought our own guidebook. I'd loaded several history and tour books on my Kindle, so I could pull interesting facts out of midair if any were required. But the Palatine Hill is loaded with unbelievable sights and believable historical markers. We consumed all.

People have lived on that hill since 1000 B.C., and there are excavations galore to demonstrate such history. I've never seen anything remotely like the ruins in this area of Ancient Rome, and I feel even more annoyed by cricks and creaks in my one-hundred-year-old home in Kentucky.

After spending an couple of hours wandering through orange groves, fountains, and ruins, we headed across the street to the Colosseum. We were able to walk directly to the security line because we already had our tickets, and we spent the next hour walking in circles and through several dimensions. Tell me again why we imploded Texas Stadium when it was less than forty years old, but the Colosseum survived centuries of neglect? Oh yeah, we lost the recipe for Roman concrete, and we don't care about building things to last.

Anyway... later that day...

Just walk around. From the Colosseum, we walked north up the Via Veneto, continuing to be in awe of architecture, memorials, famous residences, green spaces, and cobblestones. We saw the Changing of the Guard at the massive marble monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. It's less than 100 years old and ridiculously large. The Romans know how to do a monument. There's also a free museum inside, which we barely touched. Unfortunately, no one's allowed to sit on the steps, so don't think about taking a break there.

We walked on, past Mussolini's balcony, and found a trattoria serving happy hour specials where we could rest and eat. There we shared a plate of gnocchi (€6) and a 1/2 liter of wine (€6). Sharing is key here, as portions are generally too big for one anyway.

Next, David led me through some winding streets which eventually opened to the Pantheon (free). Yeah, no big deal, just a two thousand year old building in the middle of a bustling piazza. I basically stared at the ceiling with my jaw hanging down for twenty minutes trying to figure out how it hadn't fallen down. There's a HOLE in the ceiling, people! And on purpose!

After being awed, we sat down on the steps opposite the Pantheon to draw and write. I got all teary and emotional when a rowdy tourist group that turned out to be an a capella choir literally burst into song on the fountain steps. Could Rome be any more idyllic?

David took my hand and led me few more blocks away to the Trevi fountain, an enormous fountain that appears out of nowhere and, like everything in Rome, blows your mind. I haven't seen any of those movies that feature it, so I didn't know what to expect. Legend says that if you sacrifice a coin, you'll return to Rome again someday. We didn't toss in any coins, mostly because we only have one coin on us. I didn't want to throw in a coin unless David threw one in too because who wants to return to Rome without your sweetheart?

Mostly, we wandered around. I still insist it's the best way to see a city, even if it guarantees you sleep hard. We walked a further 3-4 miles later that night to go eat in a non-touristy area of town. That meal was a splurge, and it deserves a blog of its own. In due time.

Just a few photos.

My first view of the Colosseum. Just sitting there by the traffic. Insane:

Ruins in the Roman Forum:

the ceiling at the Pantheon:

View from the giant monument to Emanuele II:

Loads more photos and stories to share. But this blog is long enough.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Euro drops and it actually helps me!

The first time I traveled extensively abroad was September 2008. I remember sitting in the Louisville airport watching the breaking news of the financial crisis. The dollar plummeted, and England was ridiculously expensive. Then, of course, the day I returned home, and it was time to change my money back into dollars, what do you think happened? The pound plummeted.

I do not have good luck with exchange rates. When I'm earning pounds, the dollar always seems to be strong. And when I'm vacationing, the dollar is weak. Back home I always seem to run into British tourists who could ostensibly buy my city with their spare change. No matter how much Americans like to think the dollar is the all-powerful and strong currency, it most definitely is not.

Today, however, I believe my luck has changed. I come to you from the Amsterdam airport, where I'm watching CNN. Today's newsflash? The Euro has dropped significantly. And according to his MBA-mind, the country won't have time to adjust for inflation until after our holiday.

I'm pretty sure that means an extra bowl of noodles a day. Also, it means that Mercury is finally out of retrograde.

Off to Italy for the holidays. Again, if anyone knows the Pope, let me know. We always prefer meeting up with a local when we travel. We'll also be in Florence and Venice, should you have a long lost relative we need to hang out with.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quasi Gift Guide 2011 Holiday Shopping.

Every year Christmas shopping freaks me out because David and I grew up with radically different holiday-styles. Also, it cost about $100 to ship one box of lightweight gifts to Texas. Next year, everyone's getting quills.

For now, however, I thought I'd just share a few of my favorite things. But please don't buy them for me because the last thing I need is another thing. There's too much moving and packing to

Calling cards
I had some adorable cards printed up from Moo. I admit it was the one and only Klout perk I've ever participated in, but it turns out I love them. They are wee and precious and simple. So now when I meet a new friend, I don't have to offer up my business card with all that musical saw nonsense. It's like I'm living in Victorian times, and I need fancy white gloves to drop off the card on a silver platter. "Brigid was here."

Ryanair Gift Vouchers
Everyone over here hates Ryanair with a passion, but I'm still in awe of any cheap airline. I don't care if it means I can't check a bag and am treated like cattle. If it means a £20 flight to Germany, then I'd sit in the toilet. For you Americans, Southwest Airlines has travel gift cards.

Carbon Offsets
If you're feeling guilty about gifting travel vouchers (or feeling guilty about flying to Rome for Christmas like we are), maybe you'd like to buy carbon offsets to assuage your guilt and improve the world. TerraPass is the website where you can do just that. Some brilliant friends surprised us with a getaway limo at our wedding, and they purchased carbon offsets to go along with it. Just take a deep breath and trust that it's actually efficacious.

A nice bottle of Scotch
Ever wanted to try that mysterious Johnnie Walker Blue that is only available at fancy hotel bars? I saw a bottle at Waitrose last week on sale for £189. I didn't buy it, but I did try to balance it on my head:

Typewriter LapTop Case
I saw these in a store on Cockburn Street last week. Adorable.

Bernie's Bourbon Book
I'm a big Bernie Lubbers fan, and now he's got a book out about bourbon, called Bourbon Whiskey. It couldn't get much more perfect than that. Bernie is a Jim Beam Whiskey Professor, which might be the best job title ever.

That's all the tips I've got for now because I've got to go pack for our holiday. If you want a real gift guide, check out Erin Keane's fun gift guide over at Salon.com. It makes me laugh. She also didn't mention that her own books might make good gifts, so I'll be the one to do that. I still have visions of Erin, Beth, and various other friends meeting up at a cafe in Paris to discuss our latest works of great American art. I'm not counting that daydream out just yet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Next adventure: Italy.

I collect freckles, interesting facts, and passport stamps. This week I hope to get some of each. On Wednesday we are headed to Rome. I know, I know, you hate us, but believe me when I say we do not for one minute take our adventures for granted.

In typical Brigid fashion, we have only a plane ticket -- no hotel and no plans. We might check in to the first hotel we see when we land, we might find a hostel, we might couchsurf, or we might stay with your long-lost friend who lives in Italy. We really don't know. After a year of wedding planning, moving abroad, and dealing with British bureaucracy, I am looking forward to meandering around an ancient city.

Anyone been to Italy before? David has, but I have not. I would love to hear your travel tips, must-see sights, must-read books, or music to soundtrack the trip. Also, if you know anyone in Italy (we'll be traveling around a bit, I imagine), we'd love to have coffee with your friend/relative. There is nothing like knowing a local. Oh yeah, if anyone knows the Pope, text me his digits. Christmas in the Vatican sounds cool. Thinking of embracing the Catholic half of me this year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

So it's a little windy in Scotland today.

It's time to build a living room fort again. The wind is roaring across our fireplace and sounds like a hairdryer stuck in the chimney. It's windy today. My fellow Edinburghians may find that an understatement.

When I was on Skye in May, @DanCanon and I went out sightseeing on one of the windiest days in the history of meteorology. Except we didn't realize anything was out of sorts. Skye is a Jurassic-looking island anyway, and the blustery weather seemed fitting for an afternoon of wandering up to deadly cliffs and taking pictures. Plus, for some reason unknown to us, we were the only tourists out and about, making the Quiraing extra special and spooky. Any native would have called us insane and called the coast guard preemptively. Hours later, as we played a totally acoustic gig in Portree because the power had gone out and "wasn't expected to return for days" (although it did return eventually that night), we figured out that 100mph winds are not actually typical in Scotland, however much they fit the story.

Today was one of those days. I was sitting in The Bailie enjoying a deep-fried veggie burger and a real Coke (like with REAL sugar, not high fructose corn syrup) with a friend, when David sends me a text: I love you. Are you safe? What? I mean, I noticed it was windy while crossing the street earlier, but it wasn't that bad. Apparently it was. Bad enough that they canceled school. He did say it seemed like the bus was going to blow over the bridge on his way back home, and he wasn't even riding a double-decker bus.

Still, though. We just walked home from the Bailie, and it just felt like a super-windy day. David seems to think my weather radar is screwed up from the last few bizarro weather incidents we've seen in Louisville, and he's probably right. After the past couple years of multiple flash floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms and ice-storms that left me without electricity for 10 days easy, and enough blizzards to last a lifetime, a windy day is kind of meaningless for me. But then, I'm not riding across a bridge on a double-decker bus. I'm staying in with popcorn and a book tonight, safe in my living room fort.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nonsense and Daydreaming about next week.

I'm swamped with some freelance writing/editing gigs this week, and I'm not in a jolly mood to write about adventures or whatnot. This whole ex-part thing is grand for the most part, but I'm starting to get fed up with nonsense battles where logic doesn't exist. Thankfully, we are going on a trip next week. We don't have any set plans, other than round-trip plane tickets to Rome.

Must think about that ...

Here's what we did Sunday night. Built a fort in the living room. Oh the excitement!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

To bring the show or not to bring the show?

I'm actually playing music tonight -- my own music. Shocking, right? It's not a full-on Brigid show, but I'm singing 4-songs at Acoustic Edinburgh, a monthly showcase of local and touring talent in one of those lovely quiet rooms. Four songs is easy for some performers, but I'm a bit more high maintenance. I have this deep-seated belief that you should always bring the show. A Brigid Kaelin show, however, features at least piano, guitar, accordion, and musical saw. Bringing all that out for a 4-song set is both obnoxious for the sound engineers and for my back, especially in a city where I don't own a car. Also, the saw trick is only about 90 seconds, so do I really waste a whole song on a party trick?

I always have this trouble. Maybe I should play the sensitive songwriter tonight and just bring a guitar, explain my songs, and ask people to listen closely for double-entendres and slant rhymes. Or I could be entertaining and hope they catch the art too.

Truthfully, it's the keyboard I don't like lugging, except that the keyboard is my first (and best) instrument and the most useful for a solo show. I should have been a fiddle player. Or brought my band over here.

Anyway, maybe I'll see you tonight and you can see what I ended up hauling to the show? Acoustic Edinburgh is the First Tuesday of every month at The Third Door 45-47 Lothian St, EH1 1HB Edinburgh. The show starts at 7:30, but I'm not sure what time I'm playing (I'm not last). Not very helpful is it? Don't worry, the rest of the acts are great too ... Acoustic Edinburgh is discerning (thanks for having me!).

It's free entry. That's Scottish for No Cover.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Whisk[e]y Blog and a show in Edinburgh this week.

I know this blog is a bit of a mutt, and that's okay. For a while now, I've been sitting on www.bourbongirl.com trying to figure out what to do with it. Well, that's not entirely true. I've know what I wanted to do with it ... write about whisky. But I was sort of tortured about launching an entirely separate blog for that. Still, many of my readers are whisky-enthusiasts who couldn't care less about my other antics. If you're at all interested in whiskies or whiskeys (or perhaps in the difference between?), then visit: www.BourbonGirl.com. I'm sure it'll have some antics as well, but today's blog over there is about a lonely night with a glass of Island whisky.

This week in MUSIC Edinburgh: I'm playing at Acoustic Edinburgh tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. It's free entry and starts at 7:30. I'm only playing a four-song set, but that just means I'll get to hang out the rest of the night. It's at the basement at Medina, near the University, and features three other artists. Last month I played there with Adam Holmes & the Embers (playing accordion in his band on Wednesday at the Voodoo Rooms), and it was a really great quiet environment to just listen to music. Love the Scottish crowds.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend in Edinburgh: Mead, Whisky, and Wine.

I love being a tourist, whether in my hometown, my adopted home, or actually on holiday. The past several days I spent running around Edinburgh entertaining houseguests, new friends, old friends, and myself. Here are some of the highlights, all of which included a taste of something alcoholic. If that's not your thing, just look at the pretty pictures and move on. This week will be full of water and vegetables, but, for now, sin:

The Edinburgh Christmas Market:
The locals try to convince you that winter is unbearable in Scotland. I'm still convinced it's nothing like an NYC or Kentucky winter. And who cares about the cold when you're riding a Ferris Wheel, sipping mulled mead, eating German noodles, and staring at the most awesome castle in Scotland, while you spin just yards from a massive monument to Sir Walter Scott?

Mulled Mead from the Edinburgh Christmas Market. Note that it comes in an actual mug, which you then return in exchange for your deposit. No waste, and a much cuter experience.

The Underground Vaults History Tour
I am a sucker for a ghost tour, but this time David and I went for the Underground History tour. We'd bought a Groupon and managed to remember to use it (success!). It was a cool tour exploring the Vaults under the South Bridge, where all kinds of mischief and mayhem once occurred. Today it's used for tours and a witch's coven. You know, no big deal. This tour also concluded with a [included in your tour price] dram of average whisky and delicious shortbread.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
More about this on another blog I've been working on (for months now, sorry -- will announce soon enough), but it's just about my favorite Secret Society in the world. It's not actually secret, in that I can tell you what's going on and anyone can join. But I like to pretend it's like the Freemasons. I'm betting some of its members are Freemasons. Anyway, I popped in twice this week -- only once for a dram, but it was a deliciously spicy Islay. There was also a delicious chocolate mousse involved. They've also got day-passes available if you are only in town for a short while and want to sample some yummy single malts.


Christmas Wine Tasting at Vino Wines.
There are loads of wine shops in Edinburgh, but this one is both near our house and has yummy tastings. I still feel like an interloper at events like this. Then I realize that David and I are a young couple in our early 30s, thus we don't look like outsiders at all. The man leading this tasting was super knowledgeable and really easy to talk to. He was also enthusiastic and not-at-all condescending. I loved it. This particular wine-tasting also featured the Devil Herself: the CHEESEMONGER. She fed us Scottish camembert and something that was made out of the same bacteria that is found on sweaty feet. And was delicious.

In between all that adventure, I did manage to work a bit. But that doesn't make for a fun blog, now does it?

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Angry Nirds (or "Studying")

It's exam week for the MBA Class at the University of Edinburgh. This week I had a houseguest, so she and I tried to get out of David's way while he studied. It turns out that our guest was able to help him study quite a bit. Here she is teaching him about present market value of something called "the Mighty Feather" (I just don't understand business speak):


P.S. Only kidding! I'm pretty sure he studied for real. But no thanks to me, I'm sure.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deep thoughts on that Gaslighting article.

The first social media post I saw this morning was from my wonderful husabnd, David, who shared this article from the Huffington Post. It's pretty much all I can think about this morning, so I'm going to suggest you go read it now.

Shortly after reading it, I ran into a friend at the coffeeshop who is a Film Studies Professor. In yet another bizarre coincidence, she actually recently showed "Gaslighting" to her class. We then spent the morning discussing the article and its implications. ("Implications" is a word you use when talking to PhD's. I'm pretty sure every dissertation is required to begin with "The Implications of...")

Have you read the article yet? Click here and read it, please, and come back. Thanks.

I have many thoughts on this, none of which are organized enough to put into an essay. I see so many of my friends near and far. I see myself and am ashamed. I see both men and women who do this sort of thing, and I hope I am not one of them.

I just said to David last night, "You are so sensitive," but I did not mean it in the condescending sense. It didn't come from any argument or debate. I said it after I'd been homesick and was missing my puppies and my parents and my friends, and David just hugged me and said he was really sorry I was feeling like that. He didn't call me weak or silly or tell me to get over myself. So when I said, "You are so sensitive," I meant that I'm amazed how he is always so in tune to my feelings and kind and has this unbelievable ability to think before he speaks and then say the right thing. How does he do that?

Anyway, I love that I first heard about this article from my husband, who would never treat me like Ingrid Bergman's husband in the film (again, one says "film" not "movie" when speaking with a PhD.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Peter Searcy's new album (& goodbye earx-tacy.)

I got an email from one of my favorite people, Peter Searcy, letting me know that his new EP, Fire Escape Promise, is finally up on iTunes. His Bandcamp page, which previously only had one song available, seems to be updated as well, which is great if you prefer higher-quality audio files to MP3s. Now if I could only get him to book some shows in the UK...

A few months ago, I would be urging you to buy this album from earx-tacy, but, alas(insert exclamation comma here), it is no more. Sad, but we knew this was coming. I gave away all my earx-tacy gift cards before I left town -- with a heavy, but psychic, heart. Perhaps you Louisville folks could shop Underground Sounds or Better Days?

Thanks to Meredith for going to the clearance sale and sending this photo to me:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Paris or Barcelona? We went with...

A few weeks ago, I posed the question: Paris or Barcelona? A shocking number of people voted for Barcelona, with several anti-French comments abound. I must admit I wondered if the anti-French comments were from people who had actually been to France.

I know Paris gets a bad reputation when it comes to many Americans, but I've never found it to be any snobbier than any other big city. I mean, the guys at Pick a Bagel in NYC actually yell at you or move on to the next person exasperatedly if you haven't decided between sesame or everything. In Paris, they just smirk and roll their eyes -- a bit more sophisticated and condescending, but also more civilized.

Still, what is it about Barcelona that made it the winner 50:1? And why did I pose the question to begin with? Well, David is required to do a semester abroad from April to June, and those were the two best options for his MBA. We ended up going with Paris, so I hope I don't disappoint the majority here. It was a better school for his degree, has far more vegetarian food (I've heard horror stories from veggies in Barcelona), and, ultimately, we both just loved the idea of spending three months in Paris. Maybe we're just still too in love to pass up that kind of adventure.

I assure you, though, we'll be making a trek down to Barcelona. You have all made a very strong case.
P.S. Besides, I've never been to Paris with David. And I love Tyra dearly, but that picture of us underneath the Eiffel Tower isn't quite as romantic as I'd hoped.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A peek into the Edinburgh Christmas Market.

Apparently, Edinburgh is the place to be when it comes to Christmas and Hogmanay. Hogmanay, for you folks back home, is the fancy Scots word for 'last day of the year.' I've researched the etymology of the word and have determined that you won't care. Assume it means: PARTY!

Something must be good about it because we've received over one hundred couchsurfing requests for Christmas/Hogmanay in the past two weeks, which makes me wonder why we were planning to travel during that time.

I stumbled upon the Edinburgh Christmas down on Princes Street by accident last week, and, though I'm working on a more extensive blog about it, I thought you might enjoy a few pictures. It's absolutely adorable and great fun. We had only about twenty minutes to explore before I had to be at the Voodoo Rooms for a soundcheck, but that was enough to catch the Christmas spirit. Of course, my friend Adam says the Christmas Market here is only fun if you're in love, and I am unable to dispute his argument.

Enjoy the photos. Oooooh, I also spied an Ice Skating Rink underneath the castle. Who could resist?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweden: Part Two. Vikings and Rock Concerts. (More My Morning Jacket)

There's a school of thought that says Americans, by nature, are pushy, competitive, and ADD, because of genetics. The type of people who fled their native countries seeking new lives and adventure would pass down those same explorer/mad-scientist genes to present-day folks. I thought a similar theory might hold true for the Swedes who did not become marauders, and instead remained in their beautiful country. That only seems to be the case for non-concert going people.

The natives we met during our day-trip throughout Stockholm were perfectly charming and helpful. They were tall, beautiful, and willing to give directions or answer questions, always in perfect English, despite the only Swedish I knew was from the Muppet Show. I've never had a better concierge (he was local), and this nice woman we stood by on the ferry was over-the-top helpful.

I'm pretty sure that there were pirate descendants at the My Morning Jacket show last Saturday in Stockholm, however. I've been to plenty of rock shows, but never have I encountered such a crowded (congrats on the sell-out, guys!) room full of pillagers. The show was pure magic -- I should begin there -- but I, as you may recall from the MMJ show in Glasgow, I am a wee lass. The crowd there was at least a foot taller than I am, and I have never been pushed and shoved like that (except that time in college when I was involved in some sort of protest and the NYPD got violent).

We were even all the way back by the sound board, and tall men would shove me aside, then procede to stand directly in front of me. David was a good protector, but he was about five seconds from a fight when one rude person shoved me aside, stepped on my feet, then, when I protested, responded, "It's a concert!" Thankfully, David's never hit anybody in his life, so I wasn't actually worried about a brawl. But this giant then stood RIGHT in front of me swinging his arms wildly, elbowing me in the boob, until he was able to shove some other folks out of the way and get closer.
I took this photo holding the camera above my head:
David took this photo holding the camera above his head:
Note that he had to hold the camera above his head to see the band, and he's not a slight man.

One thing about being short, though, is that you're used to not being able to see at concerts. I didn't get to see any MMJ hair flying around, but the sound was amazing (Concert tip: always stand by the soundboard.)

Despite all that, the concert was great fun and My Morning Jacket was brilliant as always. I managed to keep a smile on my face even while being abused because, at the end of the night, I knew I got to go backstage and see them. A hug from hometown friends is better than seeing them on-stage any day.

Really, though, I hope this comes across more as a funny story than as a complaint. It was a lovely evening, but I was reminded of pillaging and marauding of yore. If there's anything to get rambunctious about, however, I suppose that guy is right. A good rock concert is a good time.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another surprise package! Defeating Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Getting post is always fantastic, but it's especially exciting when you are at university or abroad (or both, in the case of David). This week we received what might possibly be the best gift ever.


A S.A.D. light! I'm always seasonally affected, but this fall has been particularly bad. That the sun set (officially) at 3:49 pm (and it's dark much earlier in the flat because of the tall buildings and narrow streets) is not helping. By 5:00 pm, I'm ready to skip dinner and go straight to bed. Skipping a meal, folks. You know it's bad.

It's bright as daylight in our living room though.

All I can think of Walt from Northern Exposure, who in Season Five got addicted to his prescription S.A.D. light visor. I can't find a video from this episode, so if anyone knows of one, please let me know. The gift box also included a bar of Hershey's chocolate, which we are eating now. I feel pretty cheerful already. But I do think it's almost bedtime ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cabaret show .. and some more music videos.

The Cabaret show at the Voodoo Rooms was great fun. I keep wishing Love Jones would get their butts over here (supposedly they've been working on a gig there for years), so I can play there again. Although, actually it appears that I'm playing accordion at Voodoo Rooms for Adam Holmes tonight, so maybe I don't need those silly Love Jones boys anyway (Barry, that's a challenge. Make it happen.)

It wasn't exactly a Brigid Kaelin show, in that I sang mostly covers. David said I was like a cross between my regular ol' stage persona and Jessica Rabbit. Not sure if that means I was more animated or more sultry. But I loved singing the old standards -- Patti Page, Nina Simone, and even some Andrews Sisters (complete with trio and dance steps). I also somehow talked the guys in the band into learning one of my tunes. I always wanted a horn section. Voila! "Watch Out!" with the full band:



Thanks to those of you who were at the show ... it really meant a lot to see you there:)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Edinburgh Cake Ladies.

People keep trying to introduce me to Americans. It's not that I have anything against them; I mean, some of my best friends are Americans. But it would be a shame to live in Scotland for a year and come home without any Scottish friends. The sad thing is that I've lost some of my extrovert-ism over the past year. Many of you are probably laughing, but truthfully, my tendencies are to hole up in a corner and not talk to anyone. My stage career has allowed me to cheat the shyness, but it's become harder as I've been performing less.

Last night I took deep breaths (and half a xanax) and went out -- by myself -- to meet up with a group of Edinburgh women. A few of them I followed on Twitter, but we hadn't had much interaction there yet. They call themselves the Edinburgh Cake Ladies, a moniker that bore such resemblance to my LetThemTweetCake friends (@Tweetcakelou) back in Louisville that I felt obligated to attend.

Like everything else, it's one of those events that I'm really glad I went to, despite my bizarre nervousness in the beginning. I peered through the window of Bon Papillon, a charming art gallery/tea shop in New Town, and saw about twenty-five women laughing and eating cake. Not too intimidating, right? And at least I've got the American angle. That's always something to talk about.

They were perfectly lovely people, and the conversation at the table I joined alternated between Twitter and cake. Oh, and of the KitchenAid Mixer of course, which at least one woman was amazed I had. Except that I don't actually have it here, of course, so maybe they thought I was lying.

Several women had iPads showing all the different cakes from their previous meetings. I'm going to have to step up my decorating skills if I want to compete. But then, something tells me it's not a competition, and that the lumpy-but-delicious birthday cake I made for David last week might be accepted just as graciously as the rolled cream ginger cake iced to perfection.

If you are interested in the Edinburgh Cake Ladies (or want to join up), look at my blog roll to the right of this post and click on their blog.

But enough talk about cake. I've got a show tonight!

Voodoo Rooms on West Register Street
doors at 8:30, show at 9:00 (£8 at the door)
The Saturnalia Cabaret Show
(i'm just the singer)

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, to all you immigrants in America. That's pretty much all of you (except 1/8th of Tyra).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stockholm on a Budget.

The second we stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, David said, "Breathe that. Isn't that the best air you've ever inhaled?" He was absolutely right. It was cool, crisp, and pure. Granted, we were about 100km outside of Stockhom at the Skavsta airport, surrounded by uninhabited land and fir trees, but it turns out that unpolluted air is everywhere in Sweden. I felt my allergies vanish with every breath.

What does one do with 36 hours in Stockholm? We knew we were heading to the My Morning Jacket show the night of David's birthday, so that left us with only Saturday day to spend exploring. I'd read most of a guidebook on the flight over, as well as Easy Peasy Swedish, which turned out to be not that easy after all. A Kindle is one of my favorite travel tools, at it allows you to carry around several guidebooks and maps in one slim device. Plus you don't look like a tourist.

As with any good city, Stockholm is best explored on foot. Rather than hit every museum, we opted to wander around and take in the architecture and scenery. I find that a more comfortable way to get the vibe of a city. Plus, you stumble upon charming little Christmas markets that like this one:

We walked from City Centre across one of many footbridges into the Old Town (Gamla Stan). Stockholm is an archipelago, and much like Paris is centered around the Ile de Cite, the medieval town of Stockholm is on a wee island. We walked through over a bridge and under an archway in the Parliament Building and were immediately greeted by street vendors and hundreds of shops along narrow stone paths. Many of the shops are obviously catering to tourists, but they are in extremely well-preserved buildings that are hundreds of years old, all painted in bright pastels.

After getting Swedish Krona from the ATM (Sweden is in the EU, but not in the Eurozone, much like the UK), I made my first impulse purchase from a street vendor: a small cup of mulled red wine, the perfect breakfast food on a cool autumn day.It was sweet and spicy and it cost 30krona (£3.00 or $5.00). We'd heard Sweden was the most expensive country in the world (though an unscientific google investigation ranks it at the 12th-most), so it wasn't an extreme shock. Still, it made us realize that 1000 krona we'd budgeted for our holiday wouldn't go very far if Princess Brigid kept buying sweet treats.

David and I both love food, especially on vacations. It breaks your day into four distinct parts -- three meals, plus a snack or tea or beer -- and gives you a reason to sit still and soak up the atmosphere. I'd read about Chokladkoppen (which I referred to as "chopped salad" although I think it actually means "chocolate" something) in a book, so we headed there first, walking along the main medieval street. Though there would be the occasional car, the streets in Old Town are mostly pedestrian. They are just too small for regular traffic, and there are too many people darting around to make a car viable.


Once we found Chokladkoppen we realized we could neither 1) understand the Swedish menu and 2) see any prices. Rather than be risky, we opted for a Swedish waffle from a nearby Christmas Market. Mulled wine and waffles seemed like a better birthday breakfast (and much cheaper) than restaurant food. So a duo of charming Swedish women made us one chocolate waffle and one blueberry waffle -- both with whipped cream, of course -- for 80Krona (£8.00 or $13). At that point we realized we'd spent about $20 on a tiny cup of of wine and two small waffles. Yipes.

We looked up and realized the Market was in the square surrounding the Nobel Museum. Alfred Nobel is known for two things -- inventing dynamite and leaving, in his will, instructions for the Nobel Prizes. There was a Marie Curie exhibit (the only woman to win two Nobels) going on, but we were too budget-conscious to go inside. Besides, there was another museum we were more keen to see, and that one required taking a ferry to another island.

After walking through a few adorable side streets, we found the dock just in time to catch the ferry over to the Vasa Museum. The guidebooks say to save this for a few days into your time in Stockholm, but I'd recommend it as a Day One must-see. It's the best-preserved ship of its time, and it was completely underwater from the time it sank in 1628 to its recovery in 1961. It's almost completely intact (95% original) with intricate wood carvings all over it and looks like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. It's also so big, they had to build the museum in an old shipyard around the Vasa, draining the water after the fourth wall was completed. The museum also houses skeletons, clothes, and other artifacts found with the ship -- a ship that sunk only twenty minutes after its first journey.

From there we wandered around the streets, heading back to our hotel on foot. We stopped to read menus, laugh at things like "fillet of reindeer" and "elk meatballs," and catch our breaths at the prices -- $10 Carlsbergs and $20 glasses of below-average wine.

We headed back to the hotel for cocktails because those prices were a little out of our range. Thanks to guidebooks and the warnings of friends, we'd thought to buy a bottle of gin at the duty-free shop. We picked up a $5.00 litre of tonic and mixed our own afternoon cocktails before heading back out for dinner.

Because we are vegetarians, and not quite up for elk or reindeer, we opted for Italian for dinner. For half a second I felt guilty, but then remembered that the restaurant was owned by real Italians. Also, it's is my favorite food, and I rarely get to eat proper Italian meals. We ate in the Old Town at a restaurant called Cafe Michaelango. We had an appetizer of various bruschettas, followed by a risotti and a tortellini dish that we shared, skipping dessert because we were full and skipping drinks because we were broke. Two mains and an appetizer came in at 530krona (£50 pounds or $77), but were absolutely delicious.

We spent the rest of the evening at the My Morning Jacket concert at the Munchen Brewery -- but more on that in another blog. For now, enjoy a photo of small, medium, and large anchors at the Vasa Museum.

Oversharing, overasking, and Benyaro music.

This house-renovation thing has been all-emcompassing, and boredom has set in. I've been using miter saws, measuring baseboards, estimat...