Jeff's Mid-Life Crisis goes Round the World (RTW)
About Me (1)
HONG KONG (2)
* ST. ANDREWS
* FROM TRAVELER TO TOURIST?
* HONG KONG
* BANGKOK TO HONG KONG
* BANGKOK TO PHUKET
* PHNOM PENH
* ANGKOR AND SIEM REAP #2
* ANGKOR AND SIEM REAP #1
* CHANGES IN LATITUDE CHANGES IN ATTITUDE
* VANG VIENE
* LUANG PRABANG #2
* LUANG PRABANG #1
April 12, 2005
I left off my Edinburgh entry after spending two lovely days in Scotland's capital. The weather had started to turn warmer (warmer in Scotland during March is a very relative term - the temperatures climbed from the low 30's into the mid 40's) and the sky was a beautiful blue. The countryside was turning green although I imagine it's always green in Scotland!
I was so close to the Home of Golf that the itch to head north to St. Andrews was overwhelming so I bought a train ticket and hopped on the morning train heading north for the one hour trip to Luechars which is about 7 miles outside St. Andrews.
St. Andrews is such a comfortable place for me, I fell in love with the town many years ago when I first read about it's history, people and the golf.
My first vist here was in July 2001 during a 2-week golf in Scotland trip I took with two good friends Greyson Prinzing and Steve Batte. We drove all around Scotland sampling golf and golf courses, as well as the haggis, ales, lagers and beers throughout the country. This trip included three days and nights in St. Andrews. It just whetted my appetite for more!
My second visit was in August 2003 with Greyson, Steve and our Canadian friend Scott McCarter. This time we stayed the entire 12 days in St. Andrews while sampling the many golf courses (and lassies) nearby.
The town of St. Andrews is about an hour north of Edinburgh in the Kingdom of Fife. It's population is about 15,000 of which approximately 6,500 are students at the University of St. Andrews. Included in that number of University students is Prince William, the first born child of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and heir to the throne of England. Other interesting facts about the univeristy is that about one-third of the students are American and of the 6,500 students, 3,600 (or 55%) are female. Too bad I'm not a little younger than I could have been more aggressive trying to pick up college girls :-)
In spite of its small size, the picturesque royal burgh of St Andrews is famed far beyond the borders of Scotland. The seat of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the game's foremost authority, St Andrews is the spiritual home to golfers everywhere and over the years the famed Old Course has played host to the world's best players at many different championships. The town boasts several fine courses, most of which are open to the public so every golfer, regardless of experience can savour the unique atmosphere of playing here.
But St. Andrews is renowned for more than the game it gave to the world and evidence of its long and at times turbulent history can be seen everywhere. It is an ancient seat of learning, being home to Scotland's first university. Founded in 1412, the elegant, ivy-clad buildings and delightful quadrangles and gardens have seen a procession of famous graduates. For centuries St Andrews was also at the centre of the religious life of the nation and its now ruined cathedral was once the largest in the country. At the adjacent church of St Regulus, you can climb the spiral staircase to the top of an 108-foot tower for magnificent views of the town and its surroundings. St Andrews Castle, perched on its promintory overlooking the sea, was the dramatic stage for several of the most notorious episodes of the Reformation.
Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and the Cross of Saint Andrew today is the Scottish flag.
Here are some pictures of the town taken from the south when I was hiking on muddy trails!
Check these out, Scotland has beautiful sand beaches! There wasn't anyone laying out on the sand when I was there this time but I hear that in the summer time there are quite a few people who try to suntan on this beach and others on the north side of town (adjacent to the Links at St. Andrews). I doubt very much that Scots tan very well as most are quite pale due to the long winters and Scotland's high latitude. The pale look is quite sexy on the girls! My kind of people (I do have Scottish blood) as I do not tan very easily at all!
For alot of reasons St. Andrews was a comfortable place for me to be at this time in my travels. Every other, town, city, village or country I visited was new and unfamiliar to me and it always took a few days to get comfortable and figure things out. This uncertainty was great fun most of the time and certainly added to the excitement and intrigue of my travels. But I know St. Andrews and know where most of things are in town and that was a great feeling being there, like coming home.
I got into town about 10 AM after taking a taxi from the train station and had the driver drop me off right next to the 18th green of the Old Course. This was on a Tuesday. I had made reservations at a cool B&B called The Hazelbank about 1/4 mile away on The Scores overlooking the North Sea. It was a beautiful, sunny day with temps in the high 40's. I took a deep breath and had a big smile on my face as I put my backpack on and walked to the hotel.
That first day I spent walking around town and reacquainting myself with St. Andrews, I also did some hiking outside of town. A great, relaxing day. I also found a set of golf clubs to hire for my trip. These golf clubs were very important and I was really happy to get a set that was very similiar to my clubs at home. I got a Titleist 983 driver with a stiff shaft, Titleist 804 irons and a Scotty Cameron putter. In the afternoon I took the clubs to the St. Andrews Practice Center to hit balls and practiced. I hit them well and began to feel really good about my game despite not playing much recently.
I stopped at the Dunvegan hotel and bar for a drink in the evening. The Dunvegan is a well known bar, restaurant and small B&B situated 112 yards from the 18th green at the Old Course. My friends and I have had many pints in this pub and I have always enjoyed it. It is a golf-related place (duh!) with many, many pictures of professional golfers, many of them taken with the owners, Jack and Sheena. Jack is a Texan and Sheena is a Scottish Lass. They are great people, fun to hang out with and very, very friendly. I asked Sheena that evening if they had rooms vacant and they did so after 2 nights at the Hazelbank I moved a couple of blocks over to the Dunvegan.
March in St. Andrews is not a very busy time for tourists as the weather is a bit iffy. Tourists and golfers are missing out though. The hotels have vacancies, the room rates are lower and there is availability of tee times on the great golf courses. I ended up staying 9 nights at the Dunvegan, drank many pints in the bar and ate some fine meals prepared by their chef. Not to mention the great, hardy and filling breakfasts every morning!!
One of the great things about the Dunvegan is their "Power Showers". Showers in Scotland are not known for their water pressure. I was reading something about Scottish showers one time and I recall it going something like this:
American: (talking to a Scotsman) "The shower I took this morning felt like I was being peed on"
Anyway, the "Power Showers" at the Dunvegan are great and feel awesome after a round of golf in the cold. These showers were probably Jack's idea (being from Texas) and are a big hit with their clientele, many of which are repeat customers. I will be a repeat customer there someday, for sure!
One last thing about the Dunvegan, I was just hanging out there with no definite plans on when to leave when Sheena told me that she had pre-booked all their rooms and I would need to move out of my room. No big deal for me but I knew I would miss this place. Instead she offered me the use of their Auchterlonie Suite which is a 3 bedroom flat across the street (on top of Auchterlonies Golf Shop). This suite is generally rented out to 6-8 golfers and is plush!! The rooms are big, the TV is big (another thing you rarely see in Scotland) and the bathrooms are huge. It normally rents out for 390 pounds (about $750) per night and is a bargain if you have 6 or more staying there. I stayed there for 2 nights and I was in luxury, a great way to finish off my Scotland adventures.
The golf, I almost forgot... one of the main reasons I came here was to golf. I played a total of 7 rounds, 3 at the Jubilee, 2 on the New Course and 2 on the Old Course. Each round I just showed up at the starters booth and was teeing it up with a 2 ball or 3 ball within 15 minutes - this is why golfer need to come to St. Andrews in March!!! It is certainly not this way in the summer but a single always has a better chance of getting on than multiple golfers (even in the summer).
I played some of the best golf of my life and enjoyed the golfing experience as much or more than any of my many, many of my life's golf adventures. The enjoyment was due to the fact that I played really good and consistent golf, I was very relaxed the whole time, I was experiencing extremes of weather and I was in St. Andrews. There will probably never be a confluence of events quite like this in my life again.
My scores were 76, 77, 81, 81, 86, 89 and 95. Quite a spread but the spread was mostly due to the weather. The wind blew everyday and it ranged from a 10 MPH breeze to a 45 MPH gale. Playing in a constant 40 MPH wind is hard, especially on a links course but it was challenging and FUN. The temperatures ranged from the low 30's to the low 50's. I played in a ski hat most of the time and that kept my ears and the top of my head warm.
My playing partners were Scots, Welshmen, a few Americans and some Englishmen. Everyone liked to bet a few pounds on the match and I mostly beat them and collected a few pints at the end of each round. Golf is a great way to meet and talk to people.
Back to the town:
There are many, many old buildings made of local rock and stone all over St. Andrews. Very similiar to Edinburgh and many of the towns throughout Scotland. This is one of the reasons why I love this country so much. The architecture and the design of the churches, stores, homes and castles is really cool.
A "Wynd" in Scotland is a small street or alley. I have always meant to take a picture of this sign while in St. Andrews. This Wynd is just off one of the main roads in town near the University of St. Andrews.
I needed a haircut while I was here and didn't know where to go. My hair is short so all I needed was someone with clippers to give me the once over. I saw this sign outside a barbershop and decided to take advantage of the offer as a shot of whisky is always a good thing on a cold afternoon. Also, this sign and offer made me think about marketing and how businesses differentiate themselves when they sell very similiar goods and services. They can compete on price, on service and/or on value-added services (kinda like the casino business, huh??). I'm a sick boy, even in Scotland I can't get the casino business out of my mind...
Here's a picture of a car I saw parked on the road, cars and trucks are smaller than in the the U.S. due to narrower roads and smaller parking spaces, among other considerations. These small ones crack me up though, I've never driven in one but it must be scary to drive in one!
Alas, I decided to leave Scotland and head south to London for a few more days of sightseeing. Leaving St. Andrews was tough and I could have spent much more time there but I guess it's in my blood to keep moving while I'm on the road - whether that's a good or bad thing I have yet to determine.
I will never forget this leg of the journey. For so many reasons (beyond the golf) this stop was one of the most memorable and I will always cherish the 11 days I spent in St. Andrews and look forward to visiting this place many more times in the future.
Posted by Jeff on April 12, 2005 05:48 PM
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