My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Our Orkney trip started with a night in Aberdeen. The ferry didn't leave until 5pm on the Thursday, but we flew up from London on the Wednesday in order to hang out with Emily's cousin Ian.

We arrived 9ish, and stood outside the airport trying to decide whether to take a cab or the bus. We wandered over to the cab stand, and this lady taxi driver says something. What it was, I have no idea. Gibberish, for all I knew. I look at Emily, wondering if this was some hardcore Scottish accent which she'd understand, but she's as dumbfounded as me. The lady grabs at my bag, and I understand she's trying to take our luggage. So taxi it was, then.

So we drive into Aberdeen in some comfort, passing a sign for the original Banff, listening to Barry White's "Let's Get it On." How's that for a sexy start?

Anyway... Aberdeen's town centre looks a bit like a bigger Banff to me. There are no skyscrapers but a lot of gothic-y looking buildings in stone with touristy storefronts (and the best-ever Primark... ever.) Little sidestreets amble off further out of town or down to the harbour (where we'd be ambling off the next day, to catch our ferry to Kirkwall in Orkney.)

The most notable aspect of Aberdeen architecture is the colour. Every building is grey sandstone. Matched with the concrete streets and cloudy skies, Aberdeen looks like a city with all the colour drained out of it, like the victim of a vampire. Now that's a strange simile to just throw in there, you may or may not be thinking. But it makes perfect sense, given the two pubs we visited.

After ditching out gear at Ian's, we headed to Union Street to hit up a pub of his choosing called Frankenstein's. This rather inexplicably themed monster pub has all sorts of movie and book related paraphernalia, as well as quotes painted on the walls and monster-themed food (we didn't eat there, but the menu was hilarious.) Why this monument to Mary Shelley's monster? Apparently, the author lived in Scotland for a couple years, before writing the book... but that's about as strong a link as I could discern. Very strange. But either way: mmm... beer.

The next day, Ian headed off to go camping somewhere, while Emily and I wandered Aberdeen before our ferry's 5pm departure. While wandering, we passed a rather lovely church -- or what I thought was a church. Upon further inspection, I noticed a sign reading "Slain's Castle." Weird. A castle that looks like a church, in the middle of a city... but no. This was not a church (not any longer, at least) and not a castle, so much as another monster pub. This one was edifying Dracula -- in a former church! -- and had all sorts of random haunted castle paraphenilia. And, cheap sandwiches. And, beer.

Is Aberdeen obsessed with monsters? Or did we by some strange coincidence stumble into the only two in the city? I have no idea.

Anyway, we also did some shopping (at the aforementioned Primark, as I'd not brought much of a sweater) and stopped in at a pharmacy. My tonsils had swelled up the night before, and were red and sore, so I thought I'd get some sort of drug. I went in and found some extra strength lozenges, but thought there might be something stronger behind the pharmacist's desk. So I asked the pharmacist if I'd be better off with the lozenges (which I place on her desk) or with one of the stronger sprays on the shelf behind her. Her response: "Why don't you just buy those?" Indeed. How helpful. So I did.

This is the sort of "customer service" one gets in Scotland. They're not really rude, they just get on with things and don't suck up. As long as you don't expect a smile or a "have a nice day" or, y'know, help, you'll be fine.

Anyway. Emily and I (sucking on a lozenge, which actually quite did the trick) did a short walking tour of the city. Because Em is Scottish and was born in Aberdeenshire (not the city itself) I kept expecting her to know something about the city. Therefore, we had a lot of exchanges which went like this:

Me: Ooh, what's that?

Em: I don't know.

After our non-guided walking tour, we found our way back to Ian's, and after taking about half an hour to figure out how to unlock his door, reclaimed our stuff and headed back to the harbour to catch our ferry. We were a bit early, so had a pint in a dockside pub, before heading to the ferry...

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