Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Princess Merida at Dunnottar Castle


The second part of my Scotland adventure also happened to be the debut of a brand new cosplay for me. Merida was a costume I had bought fabric for back in 2012 but I never got around to actually completing it. So I asked my parents to bring my Elsa costume and my Anna Sackville-Bagg costume when they visited for Christmas, and I asked them to bring the large plastic bag with a sign on it that read ‘Merida’ stapled to it. I am so happy I decided to label my costume things before I left, it made it easy for my parents to find them. And, of course, I am thankful they brought it to me.

Not having a sewing machine, Merida is all hand sewn and it took me about a month to do. Luckily I worked on it right as the new school term was beginning so I didn’t have lots of studying to do…like I do now… I also spent around six hours styling the wig to Merida perfection, while marathoning the show ‘Dead Like Me’.

I had booked my train ticket to Stonehaven earlier in the week and I had no problem making the 9:10 am train. This dress was more of a summer dress, and it was cold and there was a stinging wind in Scotland so I wore trousers and sort of rolled the dress up and held it up with the belt on the coat that was over it. To make my hair seem less wig like, I wore my hat, so at least I didn’t look as strange as I did the day before. Stonehaven is almost a 3 hour train ride away from Edinburgh, so it was an all day trip and I would like to not be stared at too much.

Of course, the moment I step out of the hostel and am waiting at the crosswalk across the street from the train station, an older Scottish fellow taps me on the elbow and says he loves my hair. I can’t tell if he was joking or actually liked the bright orange, curly mess, but okay then.

The train ride was long, but nobody was sitting in the seat next to the window so I moved over to look out at the coast as we headed north. Finally in Stonehaven, I had to decide whether to walk or take a bus. Either way I had to walk to the bus stop, but it would have been fifteen minutes until the bus arrived. Why is it always a fifteen minute wait for a bus in Scotland for me?

My return train was at 2:05 pm, and I was nervous about getting back on time, so I decided to just walk. It was a 30 minute walk according to Google Maps, and I walk fast so it was no problem.

Problem. The footpath that was the quickest way to the castle was closed for construction work. So I took another way that went along the shore and I came to another entrance for the same footpath! But there were other people walking up it, so I followed them and while there were fences and construction work set up, none of it was going on, as it was Sunday, and the fences were low that everyone else just hopped over it. I did the same and continued on my way.


I walked down an empty road in the countryside, it was along the coast and I could see the ocean, but it was also farmland. It was a nice walk.

I finally made it to the castle, which was suppose to be open, but due to bad weather it was closed. This castle is on the coast of Scotland, which is in the north and the only weather happening this day was somewhat strong winds and a bit of fog. I’ve lived in San Francisco long enough to know that this is a common occurrence for coastal, northern places, so I don’t know what this ‘bad weather’ was, but regardless the castle was closed. That doesn’t mean there were any less people wandering about.

A lot of locals came out with their dogs to walk them along the beach, and a few tourists had come to see the castle, and one person came dressed as Merida to play tourist the geeky way (aka, me). I walked over to the castle entrance way first just to see all the angles, and I came all this way, I might as well get as close to the castle as I can. I then climbed back up the hill and walked over to the cliff side sticking out just in front of the castle, aka the perfect photo spot.

I managed to get to the end of the cliff right as a group of people left, so I took my hat and coat off, propped my iPad up and began the photo taking. The wind not only liked to blow my wig all over the place, but it also knocked my iPad over once, so what could have been an awesome photo wasn’t as awesome.

Then a lady seeing my iPad timer plight, took pity and asked if I wanted her to take photos for me. Such a nice lady; she even waited for other tourists to move to take the photos and we talked about how cold and windy it was. Believe me, I knew.

I finished up and was putting my coat on when a mother, father, and two little twin girls walked over. The mum asked is I was Merida and I, of course, responded ‘yes, I am’. Some unofficial Disney character meet-and-greet practice here just like when I was Elsa in Norway. I waved to the little girls and they shyly waved back before walking over to their father to look at the castle.

That is the family behind me.
I just put my coat on and had packed up when the mum and the girls approached me again and asked to take a photo with me. I was more than happy too, as they were pretty adorable in their matching outfits holding pink turtle stuffed animals.

After that adventure was over, I walked back to the train station. Halfway back down the deserted farm road, I re-rolled my dress back up and looked a little more normal than a crazy girl in heeled boots and a floor-length dress hiking through the country and down cliff sides. I could do it, and I did, but I didn’t need more stares, because foggy weather makes an orange wig appear even brighter and stick out even more, if you didn’t know.

The train ride back I pretty much slept the entire way and I walked around Edinburgh that evening, after changing of course. I even went back to Lebowski’s, which was interesting as it was rugby night so it was packed with crazy fans. I even saw a green man, though not exactly Charlie Day from ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’.

The next morning I packed and walked around town before heading back to London. This time I found a seat that wasn’t reserved and was quite comfortable.

Scotland didn’t leave as much of a lasting impression that London and Norway does, but I certainly loved seeing the land and all the historic buildings. I would have liked to have gone inside at least one castle, but I had to be reasonable and think about what I could afford, and what I could get to in the time that I had. I would like to go back some time and see some of the things I didn’t get to see, like Loch Ness.

That concludes my Scotland adventure. Not sure what other adventures might come up in the future, right now I don’t really have any planned, but you never know.


First, a wind outtake:

Anna Sackville-Bagg at Culross Palace

Scotland was always some place I had wanted to visit. I love the rolling green hills, the tartans, the bagpipes, and the history- it was just appealing to me. I also had two costumes that are characters from Scotland so I decided this shall be my last long trip before I return to the states.

After a quick mentor review for school that basically is summed up with ‘yes everything is fine with me at school’, I got back to my flat, grabbed my bags, and made my way to King’s Cross. Originally, there was suppose to be a bus strike on this Friday the 13th, but that was postponed and luckily I was able to take a bus. Usually this bus ride would take 15 to 30 minutes tops, it took 45 minutes to get there and I had 10 minutes to print my tickets and get to my train.

Of course, there was a queue at the ticket stands and, of course, my train was on the farthest platform. It would have been quicker to just run through the walls! Finally on the full train and I realized, I somehow didn’t book a seat reservation… so I sat for four and a half hours on this high little piece of wood, no longer that a foot, jutting out from the train wall in front of the toilet. I had planned to get my essay on chocolate done while on the train, but that was impossible to instead I just read Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is a good book, and I would highly recommend it.

Finally, and grumpy, I made it Edinburgh, then it was time to find the hostel I was staying at. That’s right my very first hostel. You may or may not know this, but I have a degree in cinema, and I took a class on horror films. Let’s just say, Haggis Hostel is the perfect horror hostel name. It is cheeky and unsuspecting based on where it is located, but if you know what haggis is made of then the name can be quite ominous.

When I finally found the doorway for it, I was immediately put off by the brightly coloured paintings of cartoon backpackers of different nationalities pointing the way up the stairs. I get it, usually the cliché thing was to backpack through Europe before going to college...or after college…either way, I wasn’t here for the campy, hippy vibe.

Surprisingly, this was a very nice and clean hostel that was pretty much right across from the train station I would be going to every day and it was pretty cheap. I shared a room with three other girls, and they were like me! Keep to yourself, and go about your day without needing each other’s life stories. The only time we talked to each other was to ask if it was okay to turn the light off at night. So no worry over having to make small talk and apologize that ‘yes I am studying pastry, sorry I didn’t bring you anything…’

That night I went to Lebowski’s Bar, and yes, that Lebowski. I was expecting an over the top bar with large photos of the Dude and bowling balls everywhere, but maybe I’ve just been to one too many themed, Hollywood restaurants. This was a traditional pub through and through; the only thing that made it about The Big Lebowski was the name and White Russian menu.
After a fantastic dinner and drink, I walked back to the hostel and prepared myself to wake up early for my first location visit.

The idea in my head was to go to Culross Palace and be there as the sun was rising. This would reduce the amount of people out and about to stare at me in my costume and the lighting would be ideal for photo purposes and the fact that Anna is a vampire. Also it was Valentine’s day so what would be more perfect than to be the most romantic vampire at sun rise on Valentine’s Day?

That didn’t happen. I woke up early, but getting ready took longer than expected. I hadn’t worn this costumes since Monday of Fanime 2013 (everyone thought I was Cersei Lannister…) so I didn’t fully recall how long it would take to get on.

Waiting at Inverkeithing...
There were two trains I had planned on getting and I missed both of those times, so I got the next available one to Inverkeithing. Where I waited at the bus stop for about an hour until finally a bus headed to the Dunfermline Bus Station came along. Then at the Dunfermline Bus Station I waited fifteen minutes, all the while having people just kind of staring at me strangely. Inverkeithing, Dunfermline, and Culross are all located in Fifie, which is more suburb Edinburgh. Where wearing this costume in Edinburgh, I would have fit in more, but not so much in Fife.

Finally, the bus to Culross comes and I head off. I get out, missing my stop by one, but it was only about a block away and I got to walk along the shoreline so I didn’t mind. The only people that were out were people walking their dogs and a lot of bicyclists, and some commented on my dress saying ‘that’s a fancy dress’.

Culross isn’t a very big town, so I was able to find the palace easily- it helps that all the building are white and the palace is bright yellow. In case you aren’t familiar, The Little Vampire, is about a little American boy that moves to Scotland and befriends a vampire and helps his family. The Culross Palace is where they filmed the end of the film where the Sackville-Bagg family are moving into their new home, aka the palace. Just so you know, ‘the palace’ isn’t an actual palace, it housed a wealthy merchant.

 There was literally no one around, so I took my coat and hat off, put the fangs in, and took some quick photos on my iPad with the timer.

I had contacted one Scottish cosplay photographer earlier in the week and she was really nice, but she was out of town that weekend and directed me to other photographers who might be of help. I ultimately decided not to contact them and just do it on my own. I wouldn’t get the best photos, but then I didn’t have to drag them through my crazy bus and train adventures. I felt this was the best choice.

I took my photos fast as it started to drizzle a bit and then put my hat and coat back on before wandering into the gardens. They were spectacular and had a lot of higher up terraces that supplied me with spectacular views.

While waiting for the bus, which was set to arrive in fifteen minutes, an older gentleman walked over. He asked if I had gotten off at the wrong stop as he had seen me wandering around when he was out walking his dogs, I assured him I had every intention of getting off here. And he gave me a quick history of the town, as he had lived there his whole life. It was a coal-mining town and they use to get the coal from the hillsides and from the ocean. Now it was a small town with extremely expensive houses. He was a nice, older man.

Back in Edinburgh, I changed into normal clothes and went and did touristy things. You know, museums, castles, tartan buying, bag pipe listening.

And this Lonely Tourist Charlotte had a Valentine’s Day dinner date with The Piemaker.


Friday, 6 February 2015

Elsa in Bergen, Norway Part II

The next location was suppose to be atop on of the many snow covered mountains that surrounded Bergen, and to get up there, we were to take the Ulriken Cable Car. Upon seeing the entrance to the cable cars, though, we ran into a problem.

The snow on top of the building fell, creating a wall of snow in front of the door. Everyone around was highly amused; it was pretty funny.

We scrapped that plan and went to Gamlehaugen Castle. If the royal family was in town, then they would be staying at the castle and no one would be allowed to visit. Luckily, it was open and families littered the snow covered hills with various ski and sledding related activities.

Photo by Kylie Smiley

Now I told Stian that kids often came up to me as Elsa, and here he got to witness it first hand. Even with my train off and me wearing a coat, the kids knew. Once I put on the rest of the costume, though, it was over. Between shots, people kept coming up to me asking for pictures. One woman even asked me to wish her ill daughter to feel better. I had done that before as Elsa this past WonderCon, but this was the first time I did in Norwegian. I think I said everything correctly on the fourth or so take.

As we left, some kids followed us, others stared, some parents filmed me, and one woman said I had beautiful hair. To which I could only reply to in my head, "Thanks, I bought it on Amazon."

Across the street from the Science Museum was a park with arch bridges and frozen ponds. We took some photos of me on the bridge, and it was at this point my fingers began to freeze so we did this location quickly.

Walking out of the park, we looked at the Science Museum and noticed their cafe dining room had a perfect view of where we were doing our shoot. Did I mention this was a children's science museum?

Little faces were pressed against the glass waiting intently as if they were watching 'Frost' at that moment. That's when Stian voiced an evil idea of dragging me into the museum and announcing on the PA system that Elsa was there. I'm not overly fond of children, I'm more tolerant thanks to my time work for Disney, but still, they aren't my favourite.

So...we needed snow, and a mountain. That left the Floibanen Funincular. I had gone up there the day before, but was more than happy to go back up. If Frozen Cow Cafe was up there, then I would never have gone back home.

This is where people went to cross country ski (my favourite kind of skiing) or sledding, and where to get amazing views of the city. During non-snow times, there are many hiking trails in this area, but I don't want to think of that area without snow, that isn't my happy place.

We walked to the frozen lake and found the perfect spot. There were a lot of people around, but neither of us minded, so we set up in that perfect spot along the frozen lake. Oh yeah, and the sun was setting so it one of those perfect, natural light times that director John Ford loved.

After those photos, and a few photos with people milling around, we went to a secluded area of the forest with thick snow and did some shots there as well. It really was the perfect way to end the shoot and the day.

It was here we parted ways. I couldn't leave this winter wonderland quite yet. Also, I was on a mountain in Norway dressed as Elsa...I couldn't just not 'let it go'. I went to an even more secluded area and did a really, really bad cover of 'Let It Go'.

The next day was bittersweet as it was the day I had to leave my precious Norway. The morning was spent organizing my group's tea party information and getting that e-mailed to our chefs and packing. My flight wasn't until 7:00pm, so I walked around town with all my bags visiting places I enjoyed like the Old Fortress. Around 2:00, I left for the airport, where I sat reading until my flight.

My last view of Norway was the moonlit fjords as we flew over them one night before the full moon. Then I landed in London to be greeted with a delayed train and a new roommate.

Never in the five months it took to complete the costume, amongst the late nights of hand beading and Frozen re-runs, did I ever think I would wear this costume in Norway. Never. I did wear it in Disneyland when I twas half-finished and the film hadn't even been released yet, but Norway was never planned.

Even now I am still kind of in disbelief, but I was there. And there had lots of snow.

Words cannot express how grateful I am to Stian for such a fantastic experience and I often find myself just staring at some of the photos in awe and bewilderment that I wasn't just photoshopped in.

Norway was more than I expected. I was a little disappointed that I didn't find as many Norse Mythology things as I wanted, but that didn't dampen my spirits too much. I very much would love to go back.

I do have three other Elsa costumes in the works. Not to mention Loki and Sigyn costumes. Just saying.


Here is Stian's Facebook page
Here is his website.
And here is his blog recount of our photoshoot day.