28 March 2016

My Favorite Things in Scotland, So Far

We have been in Scotland for nearly five months now.  It actually seems like a lot longer--we have filled that time with so much activity.  I am enjoying the experience thus far with few exceptions and I absolutely love Aberdeen. Here are a few of my faaa-vorite things:

Bacon (and egg) roll

Bacon Rolls
Back bacon
First of all, the bacon here is different. What we Americans call bacon is called "streaky bacon" here.  Bacon here is usually back bacon.  It is like Canadian bacon and American bacon all in one piece.  I have learned that British bacon is best.  The Danish is okay.  I will avoid the Dutch bacon. Anyway, a bacon roll, i.e. bacon on a bread roll, is a favorite breakfast or brunch or even lunch.  A bacon and sausage roll can be quite tasty too. Sometimes I will add an egg.  Of course, part of the package is the widely available, freshly baked, "bap."  That is the roll.  I always heard that British bread is exceptional; it is true.  The butter is really good as well and certainly necessary on a bacon roll.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love movies.  While still in the US as I virtually explored Aberdeen, I searched for movie theaters.  I found Cineworld and while perusing their website, I discovered they offer an unlimited card.  Yes!  Unlimited!  We promptly signed up.  For the monthly cost of approximately one to two films, we can see as many as we want.  I think I saw eight films in January. Cineworld might be losing money on me.

Also, we have Belmont Filmhouse.  In addition to mainstream films (like Cineworld), they screen a lot of independent films and documentaries. They also screen a lot of older films (Gattaca this month) and some very old films (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Whisky Galore!).  The best all cinema!

Another nice touch is that all three cinemas (Cineworld has two locations with nearly twenty total screens; Belmont has three screens by the way) have cafes including bars.  Side note: we were able to see the Sherlock holiday special on the big screen instead of watching it at home which was very cool too.

Public Transportation
As I have shared before, we do not have a car, nor do we wish to have one.  We do not want the added expenses and it is unnecessary for several reasons.  Because of the location of our flat and our good health and fitness, we can walk many places.  If I need cargo space, I can ride my bike.  If for some reason, like weather or temperature, we choose not to walk or cycle, there are buses.  We typically depart from a stop about fifty meters down the street and return to a stop directly in front of our flat.  The cost is reasonable and we can use our phones to pay.  If we choose to travel outside of the city, outside of the city bus range, there are trains.  I love the trains!  We get to see the country pass by.  We can both nap or read or watch a movie instead of one of us driving.

I could just say: Costa Coffee.  They are my favorite, but there is a lot of good coffee here.  I have heard that the British do not do coffee well, but I disagree.  Most coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants have high quality espresso machines and generally the beans are pretty good.  I can happily drink an Americano from many of our favorite small cafes, Pret a Manger, Starbucks, So, Caffe Nero, or at any of the one-off coffee shops.  Side note: I think Starbucks is better here, but that might just be because I drink it out of a ceramic mug here instead of a paper cup.  Oh!  And, Caffe Nero does the best decaf Americano.  Additionally, I have found a fine selection of beans for making espresso at home at MacBEANS, a specialty tea and coffee shop.

21 March 2016

Aberdeen Outside: Brimmond Hill and Walker Park

On Saturday, we ventured into the nearby countryside, traveling by bus to Kingswells, a suburb of Aberdeen.  We then began our nearly two-mile walk toward Brimmond Hill, our ultimate destination.  It is the highest point within the Aberdeen City council area at 266 meters. The view from the top was impressive despite all the clouds.

A country road en route to the base of Brimmond Hill

Views of the countryside on our ascent

We saw a lot of horses in the area

Ships in the distance

The city of Aberdeen

My destination is the pin on the right
Today, I finally got my road bike out with a plan to explore the Walker Park area.  I learned while exploring today that I have seen parts of the area several times--from the train as we have arrived/departed Aberdeen.  Once I neared the park it was a pleasant ride; getting there was a bit challenging due to traffic.  The park is just an open field, based on what I saw. However, also in the area are a golf course, a light house, and Torry Point Battery--an old artillery battery that saw some action during World War II.

The harbour, en route

Torry Point Battery

There is a coastal path around the entire point that we may have to go explore in the future. Oh!  I saw a dolphin!  It was too far away to get an acceptable photo with my iPhone.  It was very cool though.  Initially, a big splash of water caught my attention.  I had just seen an informational sign for the coastal path with dolphins on it, so I continued to watch, hopeful. Ultimately, I saw the guy pop up five or six times.  So, when we return it will be a dolphin hunting trip.

17 March 2016

A Wee Visit to Central Scotland: Part 2, Falkirk and Falkland

Also on sunny day two, we ventured to Falkirk in Stirlingshire to see The Kelpies:  30-meter high steel horse-head sculptures, completed in 2013.  Magnificent!

Next, we visited the nearby Falkirk Wheel which is a rotating boat lift, completed in 2002.  It is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world.  It raises boats 24 meters from the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above.  The Wheel and its two locks perform the work previously completed by eleven locks.  Those locks had fallen into disrepair and were filled in. The Falkirk Wheel was intended to rejuvenate water traffic in central Scotland.

Here is a short clip of the Wheel in action.  Click here for a comprehensive video describing the Falkirk Wheel and showing it at work.  Click here for a sped-up version.

On our last full day in the area, we visited Falkland.  After a cuppa in the wee village, we went for a forest walk in the intermittent light rain.  It was a beautiful little walk, but I did not take my camera due to the rain; I only used my iPhone camera a little.  Then, we ended our visit with a vegetarian lunch at Pillars of Hercules, an organic farm, cafe, shop, and campground.

A quick video at the waterfall, our turn-around point.

A Wee Visit to Central Scotland: Part 1, Clackmannanshire

We recently had an opportunity to take a trip south while Pat was off work.  We spent three nights in Dunfermline with friends, taking day trips and sight-seeing.  On the day of our arrival we visited the village of Dollar in Clackmannanshire, seated at the base of the Ochil Hills.  Our actual destination was Dollar Glen, leading to Castle Campbell.  It had been a beautiful, sunny morning, but the afternoon turned cloudy.  You may also see falling snow in a few of the photos.  At least the temperature was relatively mild.

There is our goal...not the wine shop on the right,
but the castle about halfway up the hill.

Castle Campbell

The path at the base of the hill

The path quickly turned steeper

I just like all the green in this shot

Getting closer...

We are there!

From farther up the hill

Maybe next time...

The village of Dollar below

Spot the new Forth road bridge under construction in the distance

Going up to go down

Nearly back to the bottom. Notice the golf course to the right, on the hillside.

The next day we returned to Clackmannanshire, specifically Alva, to climb the so-called "Zig-Zag Path.  It was certainly a brighter day.

Alva Glen straight ahead

A farm on the lower slopes

Part of the "zig-zag"

Smuggler's Cave below

Inside Smuggler's Cave