Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Granite City

Board a low fare BMI flight to Aberdeen, leave your cares behind and swim in the clouds. Well, almost! Sleep if you want to and when you wake up, don't be surprised if the aircraft is already hovering over The Granite City. Rub your eyes, yes it is a snow covered city that meets your eyes. True, it was sunny when you had boarded at London but remember the pilot's announcement before you dozed off? Expect a snow-clad destination. And it is early April!
                                                                                                                            Have some baked pasta, cheese cake & hot chocolate before you head towards the hotel. The sleep in the flight has rejuvenated you so you can admire with open-eyed wonder the play of nature as the bus takes you towards your halt. By now the sky is a clear blue, the sunlight glimmers on the snow and blinds you. Look out of the coach and breathe in the shimmering interplay of sun & snow. Admire the marvel of Creation and feel blessed that you got this day as a gift for some good deed unknown. Send a silent prayer heavenwards thanking the Supreme for this beautiful life.

Ibis is a posh hotel along the harbour. At an affordable rate, it offers a buffet breakfast in the package. The room is spacious and overlooks the port, an ancient church and the city beyond. A swipe card lets you into the elevator and to your room. Everything is automated to precision. The wifi has to be paid for, so go prepared.  
Traveller's tip: Check for accommodations that have breakfast included in the fare. i. You don't wake up worrying about where/what to eat. ii. You start your sight-seeing immediately after a hearty breakfast. iii. The substantial brekky sustains you throughout the day without your having to cater to a grumbling stomach. iv. You meet other travellers in the dining room, get talking to them & get to know of deals that you may not have known earlier. It was such a meeting that enabled us to travel to St. Ives at less than half the price that we were about to dole out. 
Aberdeen, the Oil Capital of Europe, is Scotland's third most populous city. Also nicknamed the Silver City with the Golden Sands, Aberdeen is a 8000 year old settlement that has preserved its heritage to a remarkable degree. Situated on the North Sea coast between the rivers Dee & Don, it is a fascinating blend of the ancient & the modern. Along with its castles, port, greenlands & museum, architecture is the prime attraction of this Grey City. With its cobbled roads and imposing buildings, Old Aberdeen wears an almost intimidating look. Leave those wedges & pumps at home if you plan to walk around the city. Go in your sport shoes instead, ladies.
Follow the TripAdvisor to plan your sightings, unless you have your own wish-list. Saves time on research. In a 6 days 5 nights Scotland trip, we had two days & one night for Abderdeen.
Day 1: Covered on foot the various attractions that suit our temperament. Take a bus if you are not much into walking. 
Duthie Park Winter Gardens. Not so much for the park- London has loads of them- but for the Winter Garden did we stroll towards the Duthie Park. The David Welch Winter Garden, in the park, houses some of the most unique collections of flora, including the award-winning cactii. If you are a nature lover, you may end up spending over three hours here, there is so much to admire and so much more to read. Gifted to the city by Elizabeth Duthie, the park, situated beside the river Dee, is a fitting tribute to her uncle & brother, as Elizabeth desired.


The Aberdeen Maritime Museum, just opposite the harbour, houses relics from the ill-fated Titanic, along with other shipping memorabilia. An extension of the 16th century Provost Ross house, the museum brings to life North Sea trade & commerce through interactive technology. Time your visit between 10am-5pm and keep at least an hour if this is of your interest. With children, keep two. There is a lot of hands on activity to keep the young, engaged.                        

The Mercat Cross, The Salvation Army quarters & the Castle Terrace are all within the same diameter, Castlegate, sans the castle. Stroll around the square and soak in the history. The Mercat Cross is a multi-purpose market area in many Scottish towns & cities which, apart from being the business hub of the locality, was also the public portal from whence proclamations were made & executions carried out. Get gooseflesh as you learn the story of the gory past & move towards the Castle Terrace which overlooks the Abedeen City.
Day 2:If you have grown up on a healthy dose of Bollywood , you may want to see the quaint Fishing Village, Footdee(pronounced Fittie), that is another pride of Aberdeen. Don't be disappointed if you do not see scantily dressed fisherwomen dancing to galyan saankli sonyachi. You are in U.K., the fishermen have houses not thatched huts, they drive their own car, not while time smoking the community hookah. About the vibrance of colours, well, this is not Goa. Enjoy the experience, anyway. And no, they don't sell fish outside their house with the aam janta haggling over the price. There is a separate market for that.

Move to the City Centre when you are done with your share of smelling something fishy. The Union Street is teeming with people.You see Edward VIIth with some company, play some notes here & there and treat yourself to some delicious cake as you roam around the Union Street. Visit the Aberdeen Art Gallery if you are an art lover. Like all art galleries of U.K. this is magnificent too.

If the scholarly in you beckons, The King's College(below left) & The Marischal College & Museum(below right) cannot be missed. King's College, situated in Old Aberdeen, is Aberdeen's first university founded by Bishop Elphinstone in 1495. The delightful part of the city is close to the City Centre & still wears its old world charm dating back to the 1500s. The Marishchal College, established in 1593 is the second largest granite structure in the world. While the college impresses with its imposing structure, its museum is a symbol of love towards an alma mater. It treasures the gifts to the University from its alumnus over hundreds of years.

There are no HoHo buses in Aberdeen but the specialised coaches do take you on a one & a half hour round of the city. The driver doubles up as your guide and amidst stopping to watch dolphins in the North Sea, admiring His Majesty's Theatre(below right), driving past the lighthouse(below centre) where the famous writer R.L.Stevenson's father worked & paying obeisance to the Almighty, one rounds up the two-day tour of Aberdeen on a prayerful note that it was mostly just cloudy and not too rainy!


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