Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Sightseeing: Abbey, Mountains, Castles and Garden

Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"
-Robin Williams

Levi and I had a fantastic week exploring Aberdeen city and shire. We took the train down to Arbroath in Angusshire and checked out Arbroath Abbey. Once a medival powerhouse, the remaining walls frame a cemetery and open green space. The sun was shining and it was warm enough that I actually got hot in my jacket. Spring has sprung in Scotland!

Saturday Paul took us on a scenic drive of Aberdeenshire. We visited Crathes Castle, a 16th century clan seat still standing which offers guided tours complete with ghost stories. I swore I felt something brush up against me on the stairs. Hmmmm . . .

After our tour steeped in Jacobite legend, we strolled though the well-kept garden. The blooming flowers and sunshine put me in a picture-taking mood. After the castle, we visited the ruined Church of St. Mary in Kincardine O'Neill and then went for a drive in the Cairngorms National Park. We ended the day at the ruined Glenbuchat Castle, perched on a hill with 360 degree views of the hills and the Don River.

Spring brings lots of new sightseeing possibilities and I can't wait to explore some more! This weekend we're leaving Scotland to spend a week in England. More adventures are in the making!

Song of the Day & Photos: I had so many good shots from this week that I made a slide show of them. You can see it here on youtube while drumming your fingers to the Scottish fiddle tune "You and No Other" performed by Texas group Circa Paleo.

Here are some shots of Paul, Levi and me at the castle also.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lonlely Lighthouses and Crazy Comida

Anything for the quick life, as the man said when he took the situation at the lighthouse.” (Charles Dickens)

I have a confession to make. After months of mocking the “Mexican” food in Scotland, I broke down and tried some yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day and Paul and I headed down to Aberdeen Beach. He teasingly suggested we have lunch at the Mexican restaurant, knowing I would be horrified. I surprised him by consenting. I think it was the homesickness talking and I beg forgiveness and understanding from all of you who know better than to try Mexican in Scotland. And so the true Texan crossed the line and entered into Chiquito, the local chain selling food from “south of the border.” I think they mean the Scottish-English border. Anyway, I have to say that the chicken burrito I had wasn’t too bad. It came with normal things like refried beans (though not pinto), rice, sour cream and salsa. The spicy tomato sauce was definitely British, but so is my man so British can’t be all bad. What actually horrified me was the rest of the menu. Their choices of burrito fillings included chilli, Cajun beef, and duck. Wait . . . DUCK? Who the hell puts duck in a burrito? Granted, if a Mexican was hungry and had nothing but a duck and a tortilla, it might happen, but duck does not feature in Tex-Mex cuisine. Texans feed ducks at the park, not eat them. These Chiquito people are quacked.

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling the beach and then drove up to a ruined Victorian era fort on the south side of the Harbour. The views of Aberdeen and the Aberdeen lighthouse were stunning. Lighthouses are so vital to the shipping industry here. Today they’re all electric but once upon a time a lonely little person had the job of living in that lighthouse and protecting the ships by keeping the oil burning and warning of the rocky coastline.

We also stopped by the ruined church of St. Fiddick’s with its old graveyard. A church was established here in the 13th century and the current building was abandoned in 1829. Ivy covers the walls and the remains of the church walls blend in with the surrounding gravestones. It’s in a cold and windy spot with an excellent view of the Bay of Nigg. As we drove home, I saw hundreds of purple and white tulip bulbs popping up from the grass. Aberdeen regularly win’s Britain’s “City in Bloom” contest and I’m told that spring is gorgeous here in the city. I’m looking forward to seeing the colours.

Paul just called me from Oslo on a business trip. He says the dinner menu in his room has Mexican food. The Europeans are killing me. Somebody please call the Mexican Ambassadors and tell them have a potentially dangerous situation on our hands. Ducks and the reputation of Mexican cuisine are being abused. Stop the madness!

Photos: Aberdeen seen from the bay, the Bay of Nigg and lighthouse, St. Fiddick's Church (above)

Song of the Day: Ready for the Storm by Dougie McLean, featuring another youtube slideshow of Scotland.