Falling for Aberdeen

So I knew it would happen all along and it finally did. My truest moment of grace and composure. I was walking along the strange streets of a new country all by myself, trying my best to look confident and knowing (versus intimidated and on the verge of being lost). I was wearing skinny jeans tucked into long black riding boots—flat footed ones, I’ll add—with a cute black trench coat tied smartly at the waist just like I’ve seen everyone else doing. Oh yeah, I totally looked like I belonged. That is until the bottom of my fantastic left riding boot made contact with the slick wet surface of a metal panel in the sidewalk. My foot went flying and I completely sprawled out into an awkward slide split, catching myself inches before smashing into the ground. I was thankful I hadn’t actually face planted so I made my best effort to regain my footing but instead slipped again and fell, wildly and arms flailing, into the wall of the cute little gift shop behind me. Great.

I was on a fairly busy street but still hoped that no one had seen me as I raised my head to look around. (We all hope for the best, right?) A totally crowded bus was at a STOP at the light right in front of me, providing a front row seat for all the amused onlookers. I ignored the bus and began walking when I saw two guys headed toward me doing their best to muffle a laugh. So I smiled and decided to be thankful that I’d come away without any bruises or torn clothing.

I met up with Terri and we enjoyed drinks and dinner on a cute little patio of a bar near her work. I had spicy Moroccan chicken with some kind of salsa-like aioli and mashed potatoes with a glass of house red wine. The “house” wine or cheap wine here is so much better than in the States. I got a bottle of red for £4 the other day, which Mike and I split over salad and pasta, and it was absolutely delicious. A 2007 cabernet sauvignon from Italy. I can only imagine how the wines must taste when you actually get into Europe.

From that bar, Terri and I went to The Grill on Union Street, which is known for its more than 400 different kinds of whisky served up properly, warm in temperature and the likes. But unfortunately they never play music and the lights are awfully bright so we walked in the front and right out the back, saving the whiskey tasting for another day. Soul has already become a favorite of ours… the bar and casino inside the old church. I know some people have mixed feelings about it, but it’s definitely one of the nicest and most fun places to be in the area. I was so excited to discover that Jack and coke or diet coke is often the drink du jour here. I suppose all along I’d assumed I’d have to drink some local whiskey instead, since Mike and I are big fans of Makers Mark and Crown. Needless to say, I overdid it a bit and dived into the Jack and diet a little too enthusiastically and paid for it all the next day. But we did have fun.

From Soul, we went to Star & Garter. Now this is the kind of place that you would totally picture when you think of a Scottish bar. Its front door opens right onto the street corner, so when you’re inside you have open views through the large glass windows that run full-length down each of the streets it’s positioned on. Not something you see very often anymore. The ceiling has ornate panels in cream and maroon with gilded three-light chandeliers. There’s empty barrels resting far above on top of the liquor cabinets and the stained mahogany wood bar is as aged and worn as some of the whiskey they serve. There’s bar stools if you want to chat with the bartender or high tops or sit-down tables if you want a more private conversation. The place is one long hall and in the very back there’s dart boards and a pool table. The floor creaks when you walk and the music blares, but you can still hear people clinking their glasses and laughing whenever you walk by. Terri and I got to know the bartender, Alex, who’s 22 and just started working at Star & Garter 2 ½ months ago. His aunt and uncle own the place, along with a few other bars around town. Perfect, we say, we’ll be back again soon!

Mike has really enjoyed his induction week. Last night we went to Soul with a bunch of the guys in from the US for a short stay and enjoyed a little gambling at the casino.

One of the group’s biggest excursions was the outdoor adventure day. Here’s the summary in Mike's words: “We drove out to Braemer and had three activities. We split up into groups and the first activity was mountain biking. There was an experienced group and a non-experienced group so I decided to join the more experienced group. I was completely dying but I managed to mountain bike cross-country over 10 kilometers! The 35 recruits that are part of the program are all fresh out of college and in great shape and I’ve been working for 4 ½ years, so pride definitely got in the way. We rode through the valleys between the mountains and it was raining and really cloudy but you could see the small mountain ranges and pretty views. And we rode out to this shooting lodge, where people in the old days used to camp out and during the day they would hunt red stag. Now it’s all part of the national reserve.

Then we ate lunch and put on full-body wetsuits and a wetsuit jacket, a lifejacket and a helmet and we went gorge walking. There’s lot of rocks and boulders in the river and they’ve found all these places in the river where you can lay down on carved-out rocks and it makes a slide. The water’s current pushes you down the slide, but the water was freezing cold and the further upriver we walked, we found more difficult chutes. Kind of like Wet N Wild rides but with rocks and a river. So when we got to the top of the river, there were a few big waterfalls where the water’s eroded all the rocks away, so we did cliff jumping into the waterfalls. It was only about 25 feet high but you had rocks all around you and you jump in and go through a shoot… it was pretty badass! There’s a bunch of different kinds of jumps, one where you jump in between cliffs and it was really narrow, like 10 or 15 feet wide and 25 feet down.

The third activity was a zipline that went across one of the gorges. It was a puzzle-type team building game where everybody had to work together, but you had to use the zipline to send everyone back and forth. The gorge was probably 30 or 40 feet down. After all that, we went and had a really nice dinner in a small country town. They served huge pieces of salmon, potatoes, carrots, vegetable soup and breaded pudding balls. It was definitely an outdoorsman adventure; we were completely exhausted but had gotten to see some really pretty parts of Scotland.”

Mike is also now the proud one-year owner of a Nissan Micra. He passed the road familiarization course with flying colors, even though he had to practice driving on the instructor’s manual, which means switching gears with your left hand. The Micra is actually quite convenient, because instead of parking it we just fold it up and put in my purse. Kidding of course, but I really wanna know why the Nissan people decided that it was big enough for four seats. The edge of the rear seats comes all the way up to the back of the front seat, leaving absolutely no room for third or fourth passengers to sit. Unless they assume the fetal position or lie sideways. And then on top of that, they actually added a “trunk” space which isn’t a trunk at all. It would have made more sense to just make it a hatchback, but I’m sure we’ll make do. We still walk just about everywhere, but now we can drive ourselves to Asda for groceries and Mike can get himself to work. I asked him if he thought I’d be able to drive here okay (you can use your international license for up to one year) and he said “yes, but first we’ll need to get in some practice in an open area.” Hopefully there won’t be any buses full of people to watch…

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