A Coastal Town and Castle Ruins (Our Last Days in Scotland)

Our adventure in Scotland is winding down and I’m trying to drink in the last drops of this amazing experience. Saturday we attended my husband’s boss’s housewarming party. Food, fun and nice people despite the unpredictable Scottish weather! (Literally one minute sunny, the next minute raining!) Sunday we debated on what to do on our last weekend here, if anything, since our Sundays are usually spent napping and resting. We decided to visit a quiet coastal town called Stonehaven. My husband had actually visited before and it was recommended to us by many that we go there.  The only thing was, it was Sunday, and unlike our consumer obsessed country of America, many, many places of business are closed here on Sunday. (Even on the weekdays many places close around 5 or 6pm!)  But I’m so glad we went.  I loved the feeling of this sleepy little town.  On one side you had beautiful old structures, always with a steeple or two rising to the heavens, and on the other, a beautiful coast, surrounding by green majestic cliffs.  Breathtaking and magical.  

leading to the ocean…

running to catch her as she charges for the water!

the harbor

After that we decided to take the short drive to Dunnottar Castle, beautiful castle ruins located on a towering cliff.

our walk to the castle, just breathtaking

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A Day at Victoria and Westburn Parks in Scotland

There are several parks in the area here, two very close walking distance from our apartment, and what better place to be than at a park with a toddler?  It’s a great way for us to gt out of the apartment, even on chilly days.

Westburn park is just down the road from Victoria park

their version of a merry-go-round

Our First Weekend Sightseeing in Scotland Part II

Thanks to the brand new batteries we bought here strangely not working at all in our camera, I couldn’t post the rest of our pictures from last weekend.  I had just enough oomph to get them off of our camera and onto our computer ready for posting.  So here are the rest of our fun from Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

After our lunch and nap on Saturday we decided to head out to Drum Castle, not far from Aberdeen, the oldest castle in Scotland’s National Trust.  It was beautiful drive out there, but we were met with rain on a seemingly perfect sunny day!  We learned very quickly to always take our umbrella no matter what the weather looks like!  We couldn’t take pictures indoors and it was too rainy to walk around the estate, so we have just a couple pictures.

The drive. It is ridiculously beautiful here.

My husband took this beautiful picture.

View from the top of the castle tower.

This castle was amazing; it was handed down through the same family- unbroken ownership for over 20 generations from the early 1323 to 1975 when it was gifted to the National Trust.

Sunday afternoon we went to a nature reserve which was very peaceful and quiet.  There was a section of beach where we were not allowed to go because birds nested there.  Marlee wanted to walk herself which means we walked very slowly and didn’t get very far before turning around and going back.  Did I mention it was cold?  And then she fell in an awful pile of animal poop and had to be changed.  Thank goodness Mike told me to bring another change of clothes for her!  Still it was very beautiful there.

it was near the beach so we found the prettiest little shells

upon meeting a snail…

and back through the tunnel of trees

Next it was a very short drive to another beach where we could see the seals! (Or are they sea lions? I don’t know…) It was so breathtaking there.  The seals were on the opposite beach so we couldn’t get a real close look (at first we thought they were rocks) but as we walked closer you could begin to hear them.  It was a truly eerie sound, all of their barking and howling swirling together to create this haunting sound on a very quiet beach under the gray clouds.  

Marlee of course had fun playing on the beach and didn’t want to leave, but we had a long weekend and were ready to rest.  I think this weekend we will stay around town and do some window shopping and relax.  Despite news that we will be leaving Scotland 4 weeks early, our favorite thing to do sometimes is just to hang out, eat good food and watch a movie at home- no matter where we are!

Our First Weekend Sightseeing in Scotland Part I

We have been here one week!  I wanted to get this post up much sooner but the internet here has been either dreadfully slow or not working at all, but today it is back up and running.  Our first week was mostly spent trying to get over jet lag, but finally it seems our internal clocks are catching on to the time difference here.  We woke up Saturday to a sunny, nearly cloudless sky- quite unusual so far but very welcome!  We packed a lot into the day.  First there was the once monthly country fair, much like a farmer’s market back home.  It was wonderful!  A street packed with vendors, I couldn’t wait to see what local Scottish delights were there.  I have been eager to dive into the traditional and local flavors here and sure enough there was plenty of food to excite.  Since we are on the coast, fresh fish vendors were there as well as farm fresh dairy cheeses, meats, sausages, eggs and bacon from Aberdeenshire.  Fresh bakery items were available like bread loaves, steak pies and more.  We tried the traditional “clootie dumpling” which reminded me of a banana bread type loaf only dried fruit in it and a spicy sort of flavor like ginger cookies.  We tried and bought some monarch- a locally made mild cheese and tried “tablet” at a candy vendor which is like fudge only harder and sweeter and sort of crumbles and melts in your mouth.  So good!  There were also people selling jewelry, pottery, art, soap and children’s items.  It was a great start to our day!

We walked on and decided to stop at St. Nicholas Kirkyard, a really old and beautiful cemetery.  It was amazing.

A short walk a little further on and Mike wanted to show me Marischal College.  The architecture was stunning and impressive.

There we are!  We walked back to the busy Union Street because we needed to stop by the store.  Mike noticed one of the streets was closed and many people just standing or sitting around.  We asked a lady and she said the Armed Forces Day Parade was about the come through.  We decided to stop and wait- how exciting!  And there was a lady passing out paper Scottish flags.  Hearing the bag pipes was thrilling and memorable!

After that we went to the store and back to the apartment for lunch and a nap.  More to come… our outing to Drum Castle, a nature reserve and to the beach to see seals!

 

Finding My Way Around “The Granite City”

Sunday- our first day out and about! There we are right in front of our apartment called Skene House

I love this picture but it doesn’t do the scene justice. This is when we were walking down Union Street right in the city and all down that street hanging from one building to the next were colorful banners! They were from the Diamond Jubilee celebration- the Queen’s 60th anniversary of being Queen!

We stopped by Central Library and got a temporary library card. They have a great children’s section with toys and story times plus a great media center with DVD’s. We thought the DVD’s we brought would work in their DVD players but they don’t!

Monday was my hubby’s birthday (I came just in time!) so we went out to a little pizza place, which actually had the best pizza I think I’ve ever had! (Yes, I caught Marlee with a weird look on her face!)

Here we are in Union Terrace Gardens with His Majesty’s Theater in the background.

These are some of the first places Mike took me to see when I arrived here in Aberdeen, also known as “the granite city” because all of the buildings are made out of granite.  He was quickly trying to get me acquainted with the streets since  he knew I would be walking around by myself.  This is quite a task since I routinely manage to get lost even at home in a city I have lived in since I was in the third grade!  Nevertheless, on Tuesday I wanted to go out and do some shopping and Union Street was only a ten minute walk or so.  We walked down and found an adorable toy shop with a wonderful lady who gave us a list of fun things to do in Aberdeen with children.  Then we made it down to one of the malls (the malls close at 6pm everyday by the way- I can’t figure out why!), we got a snack, stopped by the co-operative food store for some groceries and started back.  It was a beautiful sunny day, although chilly and I was feeling really good about my journey so far.  I kept telling myself, almost pinching myself, “You’re in Scotland, you’re walking around Scotland!”  But in predictable Brittany fashion I started back for the apartment and couldn’t remember how to get there!  I walked down one street where I thought I would soon see the street I was supposed to turn down, but I didn’t see it.  I kept walking but nothing looked familiar.  I made careful note as I walked to the mall of the many unique shops on the way so I would remember my way back.  I didn’t see anything I had seen before.  Oh dear.  I ended up asking several nice people where Esselmont Ave was, some seemed confident, others didn’t, but their directions weren’t getting me where I wanted to be.  Finally one woman and a very nice man (who I asked directions from before and didn’t know actually came back over to where I was to let me know he had gotten directions) led me to the street I needed to go down.  I turned the corner and it was like the skies parted- everything was familiar again!  What I had forgotten (which Mike DID tell me about) was that I was looking for a street that had two different names.  (Kind of how Hwy 6 and 1960 are the same road). Ugh.  Well, we made it back and what an adventure for my first day out!

It is beautiful here.  Many of the buildings are very old.  Cobblestone and pebbly streets are everywhere.  Beautiful church steeples rise up towards the gray sky.  Trees line narrow roads and where it’s green, it’s really green.  It’s just how you’d imagine Scotland to be- beautiful old stone walls with moss and plants peeking out and sheep dotting country fields.  Many of the apartment and house doors are brightly colored- blue, red, hot pink, light purple, creating color against otherwise monotonous gray granite buildings.  And I still have so much to see!

What I have noticed is that they are very conscientious here.  They are big on saving energy- lights may not come on until you walk through and trigger the sensor.  Also recycling is a greater effort here.  What I really like is that on the foods you buy at the store and in the restaurants, if the food is vegetarian or vegan it will clearly say so.  It will say “V- suitable for vegetarians (or vegans)”  How nice!

So now we are trying to decide what to see this weekend, perhaps a castle or the beach.  There is an international market going on so I think we will see that on Saturday.  For now I am hoping we will soon get past this jet lag!

Hello Scotland!

Well, dear readers, we finally made it to Scotland!  What a journey it has been so far!  9 hour plane ride with a toddler (no sleep for me, 2 hours for her); 4 hour layover in London where I could not contact my husband so we made it through by ourselves, and a short one hour plane ride to Aberdeen, one which we both slept!  After 15 hours we were ragged from traveling but it was well worth it to see the look on my husband’s face when we stepped through the doors.  A month is a long time to be away from your husband.  It is so good to be here.  What an escape from our 100 degree Texas heat- it is chilly here! And often cloudy (and drizzly) so far.  My body is still trying to recover from the travels, so I will keep this short, although we have seen much these short couple of days I have been here- I will, of course, fill you in later.  But for now I will tell you that it is beautiful here, the country side and the city, and we are excited to be settling in for the next couple of months.  

 

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