Balmedie

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
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Trip End Feb 02, 2011


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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wednesday we left Manchester and caught our bus to Aberdeen, I can't believe how fast the week has gone. It was a very nice bus ride. We sat on the second floor of the bus right up the front. The best seats on the bus I think. We had an almost one-hundred-and-eighty degree view from higher than most trucks over the countryside, which was very beautiful. We went pass some hills that were totally bald and perfectly rounded – they were so strange looking. Another really lovely sight was the many huge fields of daffodils visible from so far away because they were so bright.

When we arrived in Balmedie Steph’s family welcomed us into their home, set us up luxuriously in the study on a very comfy bed and fed us wonderful home cooked meals. Our first day we went to the beach which was surprisingly familiar, it doesn’t look too different to some Victorian beaches. The water comes almost right up to some sand dunes that are so vast in some places you could nearly be convinced you were in a desert. Felix and I didn’t explore the sand dunes that much on our own, we didn’t realise how much of them there really was until the next day when we went to the beach again with Steph.

Steph made us a lovely picnic and took us for a proper look at the beach. This time we got to see all the cool little things hiding among the sand dunes that we just walked past the day before because we didn’t know exactly where to look. We looked at what they call 'Pillboxes’ – little hexagon shaped concrete and brick "hardened field defences from WWII" as Wikipedia describes them.  During the war Aberdeen put these Pillboxes for miles and miles along the coast to defend the city should anyone wish to attack. They have really gone to ruin in the last few years though, many have fallen over or slipped underwater or sand. Others became a hangout for underage locals to come and drink and light fires in, resulting in some boxes having a locked door fitted.

Another place Steph showed us is a very wide and long area of sand dunes she calls “The Sahara.” Stand in these dunes and apart from being cold and grey rather then hot and sunny you almost could think you were in the Sahara. This part of the dunes was really beautiful, the shapes and patterns the sand forms is so incredible. Soft gentle slopes that suddenly drop into a steep valley and waves of sand that curve and twist up to a tuft of grass keeping a pillar of sand from the wind with it’s roots. Tragically, a horrible change is going to happen to this wonderful piece of nature. Donald Trump has bought a very large piece of it and is planning to flatten it into a private golf course with monstrous clubhouses and hotels to accompany it. No one is supposed to be able to own this land because of its proximity to the beach – but sadly, with enough money you can make a small village change it’s laws. I am so sad – no, somewhere between sad and devastated, that such a beautiful place will be ruined. It is sad to see another horrible example of the corrupting power of money, once again walking all over the human responsibility of environmental stewardship. I feel very lucky to have seen and picnicked in Steph’s Scottish Sahara.

Saturday was quite a day. Felix and I went into Aberdeen. We explored the streets, stopped in a nice café, went to the independent cinema and saw “Iron Man II” which Felix loved, but it wasn’t for me. We visited the Maritime Museum but our visit was very short as we arrived there half an hour before closing time. So that doesn’t sound like much but the day was only half done for me when we got back to Balmedie. Steph had signed me up to go to “Ladies Night” at the local pub/hotel/restaurant. Mum and Dad will understand what I mean by “Home Hotel.”

“Ladies Night”… Well…I am so far removed from all that, I am hopelessly lost in girly talk. Things like fancy expensive underwear, TV soapies, the hottest new celebrities, fashion, make up, beauty products, manicures, going to the hair dressers… it’s all over my head, most of the conversation bewildered me. So we were given a cocktail on entry and then had an hour or so to bide with drinks and a range of lingerie and adult toys on display and for sale before the main entertainment of the night, the strippers, male obviously. I was very unimpressed by the strippers. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly but I was disappointed it was nothing more then a not so young guy taking his clothes off and doing a few lap dances for a few women. Maybe it’s very nice to see lovely sculpted bodies if your single and don’t get to see many men or if your man is an unattractive fatty…

After a late night on Saturday we slept in ‘till mid-day on Sunday. In the afternoon we went into Aberdeen again and sat in a café playing cards for a few hours, this place was selling Bundaberg ginger beer – fancy that, all the way from Australia.

Monday Steph and Owain took us to Stonehaven to see Dunnottar Castle as they had the day off (May Day bank holiday). This castle, sitting out in the sea on a column of rock connected to the mainland only by a thin ridge of land, has been of great significance in Scotland’s history. It was first the site of a Christian church during the Fourth Century AD, later becoming a fort with wooden buildings. William Wallace (aka Mel Gibson in ‘Braveheart’) burned a garrison of English soldiers in the Church here in 1296. During the Fourteenth Century the buildings began being replaced by stone buildings built with a ‘pudding stone’ construction with beautiful rounded stones. During the Cromwellian wars the Castle was used to store the Crown jewels and Sceptre of Scotland and survived eight months of siege and heavy cannon fire of which the damage is still clearly evident today. There is much more gruesome history to this place, too much to mention here, but it was incredible and beautiful to walk through what is left of the buildings, to feel the history of this place. The grounds still have a perfect lawn, typically bright green and lush – for those of you who know ‘Asterix in Britain’ it made me think of ‘…another two-thousand years and this will be a perfect spot of turf!..’. Even though it rained on us for much of the day we were bouncing with excitement to be in a castle again, it was very different to the other grand castles we have seen.

Afterwards we returned to the harbour of Stonehaven. It was exactly as I imagined a Scottish coastal village to be, with grey skies making the sea slightly green and the hills around greener. The cold wind, rain and our hungry tummies was all the encouragement we needed to stop in a small pub overlooking the rows of sailing and fishing boats. We had been craving fish and chips so I really enjoyed a delicious lunch including a nice beer, chips and haddock fish soup called ‘skink soup’ which is finely chopped potatoes, small chunks of smoked haddock and double cream – it is simple but even thinking about it now makes my stomach do back-flips and my mouth water.

So, Felix has written these last two paragraphs about the castle and lunch, maybe the change of style gave itself away…This sentence was his too... (and was heavily edited by Floss (and then Felix(and then Floss again))).

 In the evening after dinner, Steph, Owain, Ann – Steph’s mum, and I played a board game, I don’t remember what it was called but you had to get rid of all your number pieces by making combinations on the table. We have played a few board games together this week and I have really enjoyed it. Steph’s family really get into board games so it was great fun to play with them, it wasn’t the half-hearted effort most people over the age of ten put into games – and they have an amazingly large and varied collection.

It is our last day in Balmedie today and we have now done three things from the Scottish leg of our treasure hunt. We took a bus for an hour and a half inland to Huntly to visit the famous Deans Shortbread factory. We could smell the buttery sweet smell from ages before we got to the factory and I’m glad we went despite the expensive bus ticket out there.

After leaving the factory we wandered through the town of Huntly eating shortbread and drinking milk (from a very funny little one pint carton) when we came across a whisky shop. Yes, one shop, quite a large one too, dedicated just to whiskey (and certainly not the last we have spotted in Scotland). The man in the shop was very helpful. He gave us a massive long explanation with pictures and examples and of course samples from all the whiskey regions and their different characteristics. We came out of the shop with three different little sample bottles, with the promise each was a good whiskey, different and representative of the region it was from. Well, no matter how good it was supposed to be as far as I am concerned it was horrible. Since the massive schnapps invasion on me in Germany and Austria I’ve become quite used to spirits, but the taste of whiskey is still just too horrible. Not to worry though, Felix doesn’t mind it at all.

The third treasure hunt item for today was eating Haggis. Ann cooked us up a traditional Scottish meal of Haggis, potatoes and turnips (mixed with carrot for those not too keen on turnip). Haggis wasn’t the gruesome heap of stinking offal I (and I guess many others) imagined – a jelly eyeball floating in grey broth. It was really quite nice; the one we ate was made up of minced heart, liver and lunges mixed with oatmeal – quite the typical Haggis, much like a meatloaf. It comes in a sheep stomach, but you don’t eat that, it’s just for packaging and cooking – normally the haggis is boiled in the sheep’s stomach for a very long time. Sometimes they don’t even come in a sheep stomach anymore, just plastic. Eating a heart felt a little sacrilegious – of what religion I’m not sure, just a little wrong, and eating lung? I imagined I was eating a vacuum cleaner filter bag. I’m glad I only found out what was in it after I’d finished. No, the taste was honestly good; I won’t be hurrying back for seconds though. Again, Felix thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Comments

Laure-Marie on

well...you shouldn't be too far from Paris now... can't wait to see you!
love

Maria on

Ok, new tactic: I'm going to write a comment on your blog BEFORE I look at the photos. Yes, I could tell it was Felix writing by the reference to a good bit of turf - very funny to read on to find out it really was you writing that, Flexi! Lovely that Steph's family plays boardgames like that - a family after my own heart! By the way, it makes me think how incredibly lucky you seem to have been so far with all the hospitable, fabulous and totally varied friends you've been crashing with all over the shop. Lucky things you are! Very funny that Flexi just seems to lap up every bit of food/drink experience with gusto. And I agree about lungs - never could fully stomach the idea in the Philippines - I thought more of old couch foam (you know, so old it stinks and crumbles) than vacuum cleaner bags.

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