A Travellerspoint blog

August 2021

Memory Lane

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View Aberdeen 2021 on IainT's travel map.

King's College Chapel, Aberdeen

King's College Chapel, Aberdeen

Last week my escape was to Aberdeen as I moved on to Version 3 of my overnight Change of Scene therapy.

I hesitated a lot about this one. I lived in the city for 7 years. One set of grandparents lived here. It has a lot of “past” for me at a time when the present is difficult and the future is… hard to predict.

I got a great deal at the Residence Inn (yes, Marriott again) at £78 for a studio, including breakfast. With all that Aberdeen blood and heritage in me (Scots will understand), how could I resist? The studio was the same as the one I had in Edinburgh two weeks ago for twice the price. It was spacious, comfortable and quiet (5th floor).

Aberdeen Marriott

Aberdeen Marriott

The hotel was not even a twinkle in an architect’s eye when I lived there, but it is across the street from Marischal College where I graduated and the Kirkgate Bar where I… well, the less said about that the better.

Kirkgate Bar, Aberdeen

Kirkgate Bar, Aberdeen

The hotel’s breakfast arrangements were different from any other place I have stayed recently. You order the night before for collection downstairs at the time you chose. Then you take it back to your room. They offered a choice between continental and cooked.

In the circumstances, it was fine. I chose their first slot at 7am, thinking it might be the quietest. Certainly their format involves a number of guests using the lift/stairs and congregating at reception all at the same time. If they are mindful of distancing etc, it is fine.

If…

For dinner I chose a Caribbean place - Tango Turtle. It is near my hotel and got 5* reviews on a well known website (which I do not trust, and will not mention here). You have to start somewhere. It worked out very well, so the good reviews make sense. Good food. Good service. A pleasant atmosphere. All the right pandemic measures.

Starter

Starter

I paid £15 for two courses, plus a soft drink.

I broke my drive north at Stonehaven to visit Dunnottar Castle for the first time. Yes, I know. One of the country’s most photographed sights. I guess every time I pass by Stonehaven I am 30 minutes into a 2 hour drive, or 30 minutes from the end of one, so stopping to look at a ruined castle is not on the agenda.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

Within Aberdeen my sightseeing involved just wandering around old haunts, and King’s College was a highlight. So much of it is preserved just as it was in the 60s and 70s as a result of its historical status. Usually it is quieter in the summer, but this year it was almost deserted.

My other tourist activity was to fulfil a decades long desire to visit Pennan, on the north Buchan coast.

Pennan

Pennan

It was one of the locations for filming Local Hero (1983). It is a beautiful wee place.

Posted by IainT 06:03 Archived in Scotland Tagged food beer scotland aberdeen Comments (0)

Change of Scene, V2

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View Dundee 2021 on IainT's travel map.

New Dundee

New Dundee

I have gone away again. I was in Dundee this time.

Old Dundee

Old Dundee

I cannot remember going there before for any reason apart from ice hockey.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

In another “first”, I took the bus. Previously I have always driven or taken the train. It was an Megabus inter city, so it was fast (outside lane most of the way) and comfortable. Quiet too. I think the last time I took an inter city bus would have been in Thailand more than 25 years ago.

Those buses are also free for people my age. In Scotland. I did have to pay £1 to book a seat.

Megabus Top Deck

Megabus Top Deck

I changed hotel brand too - Staybridge Suites this time. It is one of the Holiday Inn/Intercontinental brands. I did not get an upgrade in spite of being a member. On the other hand, it was a nice room anyway.

Staybridge Interior

Staybridge Interior

Staybridge

As was the case in Edinburgh last week, the hotel’s hygiene arrangements were excellent. Again as in Edinburgh, face mask etc compliance by staff and guests was 99% - the perfect record spoiled by one Covidiot at breakfast. The hotel was doing a buffet breakfast - which you could take back to your room (or away to work) if that was your preference - and it was well organised for safety. The same maskless Covidiot could not read the signs, obviously.

Staybridge Exterior

Staybridge Exterior

Scotland had a further relaxation of restrictions that week, which could have been seen by some as an excuse to ditch the masks and go back to kissing strangers in the street. You know, the Free Dumb Day types. I was relieved and encouraged to see good compliance continuing.

In Dundee I had a great dinner in a place called Gidi Grill. It is Afro-Carribean. Excellent food and service came with good value for money. I had a massive grilled pork chop, with jollof rice. It brought back memories of Ghana.

Gidi

Unlike my Edinburgh trip, I did a tourist thing! I went to the V&A Dundee - “Scotland’s Design Museum”. It was opened in September 2018, and I had in mind to pay it a visit after the initial cavalry charge had subsided.

VandA Terrace

VandA Terrace

Then we had a pandemic. By then the exterior had reinforced my desire to have a look for myself. Well, patience is a virtue.

VandA

Posted by IainT 14:45 Archived in Scotland Tagged buildings scotland sport transport dundee Comments (0)

Change of Scene

Part 1

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View Edinburgh 2021 on IainT's travel map.

The Castle

The Castle

Over the weekend I read something about the languishing syndrome* which can affect any of us as a consequence of the pandemic. “Change your scenery” was one suggested response. I did that in April, May and June, but stayed at home once the peak holiday season hit.

This week I changed my scenery. I only went as far as Edinburgh, and only for a night, but that is not the point. I booked a hotel - or Residence to give it its posh name (Edinburgh, after all) - which is part of the redevelopment of the old Royal Infirmary site.

I took the bus over from Fife. Pleasant. Relaxed. Free. 25 minutes.

I went for a coffee at one of my old pre-pandemic haunts. It is on The Mound, so the view and the people watching are top notch. It was empty, which I have never encountered before.

I fought my way through the touroid trickle, past the Royal Mile, Harry Potter’s “birthplace” and Greyfriars Bobby. It is a nice city with less tourists in it.

Greyfriars Churchyard

Greyfriars Churchyard

I was born 250m from my hotel. I went to school 200m from there. I can remember being in the old hospital twice - just visiting. I can even remember someone trying to smuggle me into the nurses’ hostel (she failed).

I went for dinner in a Kurdish restaurant I have been meaning to try for ages - fatoush for starter and then a mahshy kebab. It was the best thing I have eaten in a long time. It is the Erbil on Nicholson Street, just around the corner form George Square and a 5-10 minute walk from my accommodation.

Erbil

Erbil

My lodgings turned out very well - the Marriott Residence Inn. I had a studio. It was spacious and comfortable. “Studio” seems to be defined as a large relaxation area with sofa and chair, a workstation and kitchenette (fridge, microwave, dishwasher etc).

I was on the 6th floor, at the end of the corridor, and completely insulated from any guest noise. The building is in a pedestrian precinct and so traffic noise is not an issue. It is adjacent to a building site - conversion and redevelopment of another part of the former hospital - so it creates a bit of noise during the day. With the windows closed (default position in Scotland for 95% of the year) I suspect most of that noise would be gone.

Space

Space

Breakfast has to be delivered to you room (pandemic restrictions), and that limits what is available. Mine was perfectly satisfactory in the circumstances. You could select a room rate exclusive of breakfast and find your own at one of the many cafes within 5 minutes’ walk.

Room Service

Room Service

You have a big choice of eating and drinking places in the vicinity, and many more if you are willing to stretch your legs for 15-20 minutes.

The Marriott was excellent value for money. I paid £146 booking and paying the day before. It would have been £10 less had I not decided to “sleep on it” and make up my mind the next morning. The rate included breakfast and I got a small discount and an upgrade for being a Marriott member.

I think the only occasional inconvenience in the Residence was the 1 person rule for the lift (it is a good and necessary rule, obviously). It has only 1 lift, and staff have to use it too. The encouraging news is I can still manage 6 flights of stairs without dropping dead.

On the safety note, I think all the hospitality places I used in Edinburgh reminded me to check in on the test and trace app, and all had the other safety adaptations I would have expected. Very, very few unmasked idiots spoiled the party.

By contrast, one or two parts of the city centre were uncomfortably busy. I will probably sidestep Edinburgh until the holiday/festival season is over in a month or so.

Relax

Relax

I had no plans to do anything of a tourist nature in Edinburgh. I know it so well, but I could have re-visited a few places had the mood taken me. My ambition was limited to - literally - a change of scene. An escape from home. An escape from the limitations of small town life. Trying to make the most of what is possible this summer.

  • [Ed. note: Languishing encompasses distressing feelings of stagnation, monotony, and emptiness.]

Posted by IainT 12:05 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh transport Comments (0)

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