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9 Days in Aberdeen
It was my first time in Scotland and it was a bit unexpected. As I was going there for work, I have not really prepared what I would do during my free time. I had the chance to extend my stay a little to the week-end before and after my week of work.
The work that was interesting to me, but probably not too much for you, so I will focus on the leisure side of this trip;)
I arrived in Aberdeen on Saturday 17th in the afternoon. After booking my bed at the hostel (the only one Aberdeen!), I walked downtown and found a cafe with WiFi access (since the hostel had none ). By late afternoon, I joined two Couchsurfers with whom I have been in contact before leaving: a Frenchman also traveling for business and a local who showed us a little bit the town. We quickly landed in a microbrewery pub (BrewDog) to enjoy a good beer. We spent the first part of the evening all 3, then in the late evening we went to her house where we have been chatting with her roommates and friends, until I fell asleep: P
For my second day, after a short night and after checking out from the youth hostel, I drove with another French guy, to The Glenlivet Whisky Distillery for a tour and tasting. After the tour, we went on the shore to the Dolphin Center, but we didn’t see any and we were not patient enough to wait longer. So we came back to Aberdeen, just in time to meet the whole Aberdeen CouchSurfing (CS) group in a bar, for one of their recurring event.
In the evening after a nap, it’s the Couchsurfing (CS) meeting in a pub in Aberdeen. As in most of CS activities, I met nice people, including French girl a bit hyperactive, but that gaves me the opportunity to plan my week a little. I did not stay very long, but enough to be invited to join them the next night on the beach.
1st day of work! I quite easily found CHC building, except that it was an old building from which they had moved some times ago … After getting lost in the area trying to find the right building, I ended up asking to Airbus Helicopter receptionist the exact direction. I arrived just in time for the kick off meeting.
After that first day of work, I joined the CS group at Aberdeen’s beach. After a while, 6 of us decided to go into the water (North Sea) for a quick “refreshing” swim. The water temperature was 9°C, so I really didn’t stay more than 5-10 min, and ran close to fire to get dry and warmer. The rest of the night was just chatting getting to know each other and making plans for the rest of the week.
Nothing! Just a day working and trying to make a local SIM card working in my mobile phone.
Wednesday during the day I received a message from a couchsurfer asking “can you do kayak?”, followed, after my positive response “Join me tonight at the bar xxx, we have to talk! “. This is how the organization of the weekend began.
I spent the evening in the bar (I forgot the name), in a neighbourhood near downtown. There was a folk concert that night: guitar, harmonica, accordion, the bar was packed. Very good vibes! The purpose of the evening was also the kayak trip. So my friend explained to me his idea: she has a colleague who embarks on a kind sport rally, 80 km by bike, followed by 55 km by kayak and finally a 12 km run. The goal is to join his colleague on the river and do 20 miles (32kms) of kayak with him. The problem is to find kayaks and a vehicle to transport them (and us)…
The appointment was set on Thursday night at 6pm at Aberdeen Kayak Club to try to lend 2 kayaks. Unfortunately, I was caught in the traffic after work, and I got there at 18:30. My friend was already showing her kayak skills, but I did not know it at that time. I waited in the area, went around a famous cathedral until 7:15 p.m.. Still seeing nobody, I went back home. Arriving at the hotel I got a message from my friend saying simply “comes to eat at home.” This is where I learned that she was already on the water when I arrived and unfortunately they could not really let us rent kayaks. We have had dinner together with 2 other Couchsurfers, including one that she was hosting, trying to find another way to rent kayaks. This is when I remembered that in Canada, MEC, an outdoor shop, rents kayaks. So I looked for an equivalent in Aberdeen, and bingo! The Tiso shop rents kayaks including the car roof rack, so we could use my rental car. We ended the evening a more relaxed, watching a French movie “Odette Toutlemonde”.
The plan for Friday night, was to go in Stonehaven which is one of the most famous castles (ruined) of the region. We had also planned to swim in a saltwater pool, heated to 29 ° C, and to enjoy a renowned “fish and chips”.
Unfortunately, I once again got stuck in the traffic. When we arrived in Stonehaven, the pool was closed. and it was too early for us French, to eat a “fish and chips” … but nobody said no to an ice cream. We then hiked to the castle, it was closed for visits of course, but we have been able to walk around. On the way back, it was time for us to eat, but unfortunately it was too late … the “fish and chips” was closed. So we had to make do with a local pub and eat a Guinness 😉
It was finally the Kayak day! Departure around 8:30 am at the store to retrieve the kayaks. Then we had between 1 and 2 hours drive to the area where we were supposed to join the two other people on the river. All was going well, until I saw a kayak moving more on my right side … we stopped shortly before it falls completely!
Arriving almost there, we looked for a place to put the kayaks in the water. Once launched, we barely waited 15 minutes before seeing the other 2 arriving on the river. The river level was quite low, so we hit a lot of rocks that were very close the surface, but on the other hand, the rapids were less ‘difficult’.
Being the least experienced of the group (at least that’s what I thought), I positioned myself at the back (when we had to be aligned) to follow the right paths. It was a good idea … but next time I’ll have to remember not to follow too closely! Because even the best fall and in the rapids everything accelerates!
About halfway we all have capsized. We have been able to grab our kayaks and paddles to reach the shore, but I personally hit some rocks with my legs and hands on the way, trying to slow down. We have been quite lucky: having no helmet, no gloves or wet suit, things could have been much worse! After that, my friend and I decided to stop the trip and as it was still early, to comfort us and warm us up, we went visiting a second whiskey distillery, Lochnagar, which was fairly close. The evening ended in Aberdeen in an Italian restaurant and a pub downtown.
It’s time to leave. I have had a great time, just a bit disappointed not to have been able to do more 🙂