First Day in Aberdeen, Scotland: My First Time in Europe



Countryside, century-old granite buildings, beach and rivers, bagpipers. Aberdeen is just a portion of Scotland but is big enough to experience the beauty of the northern part of United Kingdom.

It’s been six years since my work-related trip to Aberdeen, Scotland. It was a solo six day trip (flights included) and a great experience that I am very grateful for.




    Fresh Memories


    Every time the month of May would approach each year, the memories from this trip would just naturally come back to me, and each time, I would plan to write them down in details on this blog.

    I tried many times but I couldn’t due to lack of time and maybe motivation. But finally, here is the first part. I thought I could write everything in one post but, as mentioned, this post alone got too long.


    Work, Travel, Shoot to Aberdeen, Scotland Itinerary


    Day 1: Travel from Khobar to Aberdeen (which included stops at Bahrain, Qatar, and The Netherlands).


    Day 2: Travel and Arrival.


    Day 3: Work. Stroll in the streets on the urban side.


    Day 4: Work. Walk and dinner at the Esplanade.


    Day 5: Work. Tour with the Kevin around Aberdeen.

    - King’s College
    - Footdee Historic Fishing Village
    - Mouth of River Dee
    - Castlehill
    - Marischal College
    - Kirkyard
    - Belmont Theater

    Day 6: Travel Back to Saudi Arabia



    Day 1 and 2: Travel to the North

    In less than twenty-four hours, I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, The Netherlands, and finally, Scotland. Crazy flight itinerary and I liked it. I may be the only one in our company who likes long and multiple layovers.

    It was my first time to try the limousine service in KSA, too. The limo service transported me from Al Khobar, through the King Fahd Causeway, to the Bahrain International Airport.

    We had a one hour stop in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, then flew to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It was my first time to set foot in Europe (and maybe last?).

    See also: https://elriz.com/tagged/the-netherlands


    Land travel through the King Fahd Causeway (that connects Saudi Arabia to Bahrain) and layovers at Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and Amsterdam.


    The flight to Aberdeen wasn’t that long. We flew over the North Sea which for the most part was covered with clouds, until the view below changed when we reached Scotland. We reached Aberdeen!


    Sea of clouds over the North Sea.



    The North Sea (flight from Amsterdam to Aberdeen)


    First glimpse of Aberdeen, Scotland.

    Right from the plane, you will have an overview of Aberdeen. The countrysides, the industrial areas, the city center, and some of the residential areas. You will also get to see the River Dee winding towards the sea.







    A view of the open green fields from the plane. I was very much excited to be on the road.



    First View of the Countryside

    The Aberdeen Airport isn’t too big and, in fact, not fancy at all.


    My first photos outside the airport.

    I took a taxi from the airport to get to the hotel (I called the guy from the company I was going to visit, sort of hoping, but not expecting, to get a lift).

    The instance the taxi was out of the airport premises, I took out my camera and started taking photos. The driver noticed my almost non-stop taking of photos and I told him it was my first time to be in Aberdeen.

    He suggested that he take me to the more scenic routes, and even slowed down (at the part where there was a small forest of pines) so I could take some nice shots. (Or maybe so the fare would cost more, hehe, just kidding.)

    The view of the greenery was rather surreal.













    It was bliss. Especially after seeing nothing but the barren desert for months!


    Britannia Hotel Aberdeen


    I checked in at Britannia Hotel in Bucksburn, a suburb about 15 minutes from the city center. The hotel is halfway between the city and the company I was going to visit which is in Blackburn.

    Britannia Hotel, Aberdeen, with the River Don close by which I unfortunately didn't get to see.

    Although I’d be passing by this area if I chose to stay in the city, I wanted to be able to wander around a hotel that had less people. My Egyptian colleague who traveled on his own stayed in Holiday Inn in the city center centre which is always busy, although near to shopping centers. I preferred the rustic side.









    I lowered my expectations of the room as it wasn’t that expensive compared to the ones around, but I thought it was okay and I got a room with a nice view. (There were times there were horses grazing on that green area.)





    After resting for a bit, I went outside to look around check for a place to eat as I was famished.







    Challenges with Language and Food

    I was told by the hotel receptionist that there's a 'bar' just outside the hotel. What I understood is that it's part of the hotel but the entry was outside.

    Two of my biggest challenges in Aberdeen started at the bar: language and food.

    Language

    For some reason, my conversation with the staff at the airport was okay. Probably because the convo was brief and I was just asked about my reason for being there, and being trained to speak with non-locals, the staff probably adjusted her accent for me.

    Back at the pub, I could hardly understand the lady. Scottish English was almost gibberish for me! I actually had a slight language trouble with the hotel receptionist earlier but the one in the bar was a struggle hahaha! I could sense her frustration in trying to make me understand her.

    The person I was going to meet, Kevin, is actually from England and I could understand him just fine (he visited KSA prior to this trip). I later learned that he, too, had some difficulty understanding some of his Scottish colleagues. Maybe he just said that to make me feel okay, hehe.


    Food

    Anyway, I managed to order foods! It was around 1:30 PM local time and it seemed like it was not the time people usually go there. Haha, it’s a bar! I had the place to myself. I was eating alone.

    I got a ham and cheese sandwich, chips, and IRNBRU. More of a snack than lunch.











    I had no idea at all whether to eat the chips literally together with the ham and cheese! The lady probably was laughing at me for this! Hahaha!

    For my entire stay in Aberdeen, I never had any rice. I even had to eat chocolates for dinner and endure sparkling water that I mistakenly bought from a convenient store!

    A Walk Outside the Hotel

    I slept for a few hours after eating and it was actually night time when I got out of the hotel. Or was it?

    Two things I found interesting that night: dandelions and the sun.

    Dandelions


    As far as I know, it was my first time to see actual dandelions. I was so fascinated that I really took my chances to photograph them. Imagine, I was kneeling by the sidewalk, taking photos of what is practically a weed.






    I actually took some of the dandelion seeds and I still have them!


    Sunset

    And the sunset there is quite late! The sun was still up at around 9:30 PM!

    For a tropical person, it was bewildering to see the sun still up that late. I was so used to seeing the sun that close to the horizon and setting within minutes. Aberdeen is way up on the northern hemisphere and it was May, therefore the days are longer.







    I strolled around the hotel and took some more photos.







    I went back to the hotel after lingering a bit longer. I think it only started to get dark at around 10:30 PM.

    You will be surprised how much details you can remember just by looking at photographs. Even the littlest ones that you thought you've forgotten.

    Conclusion

    This was my first time to travel by myself and also my first time (and probably last?) in Europe. It's a whole new world. It's alienating to come from Saudi Arabia and see Scotland which is full of life. It's not even comparable to my home country since the flora and the climate are completely different.

    The first day was about getting settled and taking in the new surroundings and I knew there would be a lot more to see in the coming days.

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    Travel Period: May 2014
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