Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Parking Space Rant

I am disgusted by the parking habits of certain drivers.  When I go out in the car and need to park in a parking lot I check to see if there are either “Parent and Child” spaces or “Parent with Pram” spaces.  If one of these spaces is available, assuming that I have one or both of my children with me, I use it. 

These spaces are usually wider than regular spaces and are sometimes nearer to the door of the store, mall, etc.  The width of the spaces is what is important to me.  When I have the children along I have to lift them out of their car seats that are in the back seat of the car.  This means that I have to open my door the whole way so that I can reach in.  Even though I have a small car, I really like the extra room in a wide space so I can open the door properly.  Then I don’t have to worry about denting the car next to me.

In the last week, I have seen at least three people use one of these spaces without children in the car.  These spaces are not regulated – they are not like disabled parking spots, there is no tag, etc. – the use of these spaces is on the honour system.  It is terrible when people are not honourable enough to respect the rules.  It is hard enough to take young children out to do errands, and it is selfish of these rule-breakers to abuse this small privilege.

For shame!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arthur Christmas

Last weekend I took our older son to a movie.  It was the longest stretch of time that I have been away from our baby, and guess what?  He survived!  This is the second movie that we have been to this year – this summer we saw the Winnie the Pooh movie and yesterday we saw Arthur Christmas.

I was originally going to take him to see the Horrid Henry movie.   That movie would have cost just under £3 for the 2 of us.  My husband got involved and talked me out of the Horrid Henry movie – apparently the reviews said it was terrible.  Instead he thought we should see Arthur Christmas - it cost £17.00 for the 2 of us.  Arthur Christmas was 3D and they even make you purchase your own glasses!   I had terrible sticker shock.

The movie started after 20 minutes of trailers.  I saw a trailer for Hugo and I think I would like to watch it.  Then Arthur Christmas started.  It was a beautiful picture – animated but realistic – and the 3D came off really well.  The story was cute but the dialogue was a bit sophisticated for my 4-year old (there were jokes about the Cold War and women not being able to read) but he liked it. 

Without giving away any part of the story, I have two complaints about the movie:  it is too long and too message-y/preachy.  The plot follows a problem that the main characters are trying to solve (what movie doesn't?).  They try and fail initially.  At the point of the first fail, my 4-year old son - who has not had much exposure to TV/movie formats - thought it was over.  I have to admit that the movie had been going on for quite a while at this point.  The characters then try and fail many more times before the story wrapped up and the movie concluded.  By the time that the movie was finished, my son had asked when it would be over a few times.  It was even a bit drawn out for me.

My other issue was the “message-y/preachy” nature of the film.  My use of “preachy” does not have any religious connotation here, what I mean is that the movie was pushing a not-very-subtle message.  It was a nice message, one I happen to agree with, but the movie showed the message through the story in a number of ways and then spelled it out in the dialogue as well.  By the end, I was just thinking, “enough already, I get it…”  My 4-year-old son even understood it.

Despite these complaints and my sticker shock, I really enjoyed the outing with my older son and I would recommend the movie to almost any audience.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Tree Switch On

On Sunday afternoon, our family went downtown to see the Christmas Tree Switch On.  We went early to wander around before the big event.  We walked past the Coke Truck again – this time there was a big crowd and it was dark out, so it seemed more exciting, but it was really just a truck with a string of lights on it.

The Christmas Tree Switch On started at 4:00 and consisted of a short carol service, which was very pretty to hear, and then a couple of speeches.  Then the lights were flicked on and the tree was glowing.

The tree is so tall, and it is real – very impressive!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Coke Truck Disappointment


The “Coke Trucks” arrival is a big event here in Aberdeen.  I have heard about the Coke Trucks from the radio, newspapers, other parents and the school.   I decided that we needed to check it out, because it seemed like it would be a fun Christmas tradition.

Today, the trucks have 2 stops scheduled in Aberdeen.  We planned to go to the afternoon stop downtown, but I ended up being near Garthdee this morning and decided to go see the trucks with the kids.  I could not have been more disappointed!

The entire event consisted of 1 truck with a paneled side displaying a Coke ad and a tiny string of lights outlining the side panel.  The lights were ineffective because it was daytime.  There was a queue set up for pictures in front of the truck and another queue where they handed out free Coke minicans.  Strange thing about the free Coke – they only handed it out open, so you would have to drink it right away.  It was 8:00 am – far to early for Coke in my opinion!  (I don’t really like Coke that much anyways).  The lines were short, the event was not that well-attended.

To create ambience, there was loud, distorted Christmas music playing and a young Coke employee was using spray snow to decorate the truck tires.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Shopping


Yesterday was a day off school.  It was also American Thanksgiving, something that I don’t think was a coincidence.  We had plans to do something outside, but they fell through, and I had to decide what to do with the kids.

I could have taken them to a kid-focused activity centre or for a walk in the park, but I wanted to go shopping.  I needed some crafty items for making Christmas decorations (I will report back on how they look later, a lot of my crafts look like a kindergarten student made them) and I needed boots.  My wellie boots have 2 holes in them, and water has been leaking into them every time I walk.  My feet get muddy and the boots make a “squelch” sound every time I step.

The boots I wanted were downtown, so we headed that way.  I drove to Bon Accord Centre and parked at the Harriet Street Parkade.  I headed straight to the “mother with pram” parking and there was one spot left.  Unfortunately it was a massive wide spot so it was a waste for my little Mini (you could literally have had 3 side-by-side Minis in the spot), but I took it anyways because it was the only one left.

The first thing my older son saw in the mall was the Disney Store.  I let him nose around in there as kind of a “pre-reward” for being good.  Boy was I hopeful that he would be good – I could already see that the stores were busy.  The Disney Store in Bon Accord is a bit sad – it is crowded both with merchandise and shoppers and is poorly laid out.  It is incredibly difficult to steer a pushchair through the store.  Also the merchandise seemed incredibly expensive, more so than the Disney store back home.

After the Disney Store we did some errands at John Lewis (which was very busy – there were 10 people in front of me in line at the cash till) and then I decided to walk to Union Street.  This was a strange decision because I didn’t actually know which way to go.  I got outside and I was completely unsure of where I was.  Sometimes when I exit a mall or a building I don’t know which way to go.  I found a map, but it confused me even more, so I eventually used the mapping app on my phone for directions.  The walk was beautiful, through festive granite streets and past lovely Christmas windows.

I found my way to Debenhams and it was a madhouse.  It looked like Boxing Day shopping in Canada.  There were people everywhere, stock strewn about and a general air of chaos.  It was very difficult to get my pushchair through the crowds.  Luckily I knew exactly where to go for my boots (I had looked up the floor online at home).  Unfortunately my size was no longer there (I ordered them online at home).  We pushed back through the crowds and walked through the ancient cobbled streets in the crisp air to the relative sanity of the crowds at John Lewis.

At this point I had to change the baby.  In the baby change room it occurred to me that the kids had been really good.  There was no complaining or whining, which is unusual for a shopping trip and I was pleased.  I decided to take them for lunch, which I consider to be very brave.  We headed to a crowded Italian cafeteria near the restrooms and grabbed a table near the Christmas decorations.  We ate a very civilized lunch and the kids watched the Christmas display.

Bon Accord Centre has a really neat Christmas display this year.  It is a series of huge Christmas ball-style ornaments hanging from the high mall ceiling.  At various intervals music starts to play and the ornaments open up revealing a slow-spinning Christmas scene inside.  There are different scenes.  We saw one with the Raymond Briggs Snowman and one with Santa.  We ate lunch near one with an ice queen.  Unfortunately, if you are on the ground floor of the mall you cannot really see the Christmas scene when the ornaments open up.

We had a great day out, but I could not believe the crowds.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vaccination Frustration

Here is a review of our last year to put this into context.    Almost a year ago, our baby was born in Canada.  When he was about 7 weeks old we moved to Dubai.  When he was about 6 months old we stayed in Canada for 1.5 months and then we moved to Scotland.  We also have a 4.5-year-old son.

Our mobile lifestyle over the last year has confused the baby’s vaccination schedule.  Before we moved to Dubai, I tried to register him for his first vaccinations, but he was 2 days short to be eligible for the 8 week vaccinations in Canada.  Almost immediately when we moved to Dubai I took the baby to get his 8 week vaccination.

Unfortunately, the vaccination schedule in Dubai is different from the schedule in Canada.  The baby had a few vaccinations that he would not have had in Canada and he was also short one.  While we were in Dubai I kept to the Dubai vaccination schedule.  I knew we were short a vaccination so when we returned to Canada for the summer I took the vaccination record to the clinic to have the baby brought up-to-date with the Canadian schedule.

At the clinic in Canada, the nurse told me that the baby had an “ineffective” vaccination because one of the booster shots that he had received in Dubai was too close in time to one of the initial vaccinations.  So he needed that needle again.  We also had our older son vaccinated in schedule for his 4.5 year old vaccination.

Here in Scotland, when the baby nurse visited us at home she reviewed the vaccination records of the children.    The vaccination schedule is more aggressive here than in Canada, so the baby once again was short a vaccination.  So I made an appointment to take him in for that vaccination.  He was a real trooper - he did not cry when he got the needle and had a good afternoon after the needle.

The baby is due for his 1 year-old vaccination in about 3 weeks.  Unfortunately, there is a required wait period after the vaccination he just got, so he will not be able to get his 1-yaer old vaccinations for a couple of months.  (The wait period is 1 month, but the clinic is closed and booked around the holidays.)

It has been very confusing to sort out these vaccination schedules.  I’m hoping that we are now in a good place and he is protected – especially since there are measles outbreaks in Europe right now.

An aside – vaccinations were different in Dubai than Canada and Scotland.  In Canada and Scotland, the parent holds the child during the vaccinations and if the baby is still nursing, the mother is encouraged to nurse the baby as soon as the vaccinations are done to help the baby calm down.  In Dubai, a nurse or nurses hold the baby during the vaccinations and once the vaccinations are finished the nurse holds the baby.  The idea is that if the mother holds the baby during the needle, the mother is associated with the pain, so the nurse will hold the baby and then the nurse will have the negative association, not the mother.  I wonder which theory is correct?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Red Mittens

When we were in Canada over the summer, one of the stores at our local mall had a clearance sale on baby mittens and toques.  I was not sure what we had in terms of winter gear at that point (we had donated a bunch of winter clothes when we moved to Dubai based on the logic that the baby would never live in a winter climate when he was the relevant size), so I bought 2 toques and 3 pairs of mittens for the baby. 

There was logic to what I bought.  The toques are different styles and sizes, so they will be worn sequentially.  I bought 3 pairs of mittens because mittens tend to get lost.  Also I had $5 on me and each item cost $1.

When I was picking out the mittens, there were a few choices.  The main distinguishing feature was that some had “idiot strings” and some did not.  (I’m sure there is some new politically correct term for “idiot strings,” but they really are “idiot strings,” so why not call it like it is?)  I don’t think the strings are a good idea for a baby, so I picked mittens without them.  I got 3 pairs – one navy, one red and one grey.

A couple of weeks back, the baby wore the navy pair to school for the first time.  When we arrived at the school he had the mittens on, but by the time we were back home he had only one mitten.  We searched for the missing mitten, but we never did find it.  I held onto the lonely mitten in case we need it in the future.  (I’m not above dressing my child in mis-matched mittens.)

This week I dressed him in the red mittens for the walk to school.  He had the mittens at school, but by the time we were back home he was short a mitten.  I noticed it when I took him out of the baby carrier, so I decided to walk back down my path a bit to look for the lost mitten.  I carried the baby with me to look and by the time we got back home he had no mittens!

What could I do?  I decided to go back out again and look for both mittens (now there were no more mittens to lose).  I did not find them.

When I walked back to the school that afternoon, I watched for the mittens and did not see them.  I told my older son about the problem and we both searched for them on the way home.  We got up onto our street and it seemed that the mittens were lost.

As we walked past our next-door neighbor’s house I looked at their shrubs and there were the mittens!  Both red mittens were lying together on a shrub!  They had been carefully placed - you could tell by how they were arranged.

What a mystery.  Did I lose each mitten in the same spot?  Did someone find one and then see the other and put them together?  Did two separate people each find one?

Whatever happened – I’m glad to have the mittens back!  Maybe next time I will consider the idiot strings....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas TV Adverts

I love Christmas.  I love everything about it – the decorations, the music, the food, the "true" meaning, and the spirit.  I have self-discipline; I don’t put up Christmas decorations until after Halloween and the day after Halloween is also when I bring out the Christmas CDs.

I am really a sucker for Christmas-themed tear-inducing TV shows and TV commercials.  This year we don’t have TV, but we do have YouTube and I have found a few favorite Christmas commercials:

Here is my most favorite:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSLOnR1s74o

I’m sure some fans of the Smiths hate this advert, but I think it is really sweet.  I showed it to my 4-year old son and he didn’t understand it.  He just didn’t get it – it figures.


This one is cute if you are familiar with “The Snowman”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfiqrkV_ZqI


This one is heartwarming and a good tourism ad for Ireland:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWfdbYbDVzg

Cute Beatles “gifty” ad:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSB0wv5SPN0

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Road Apples


I was surprised to see something today.  We drove into school (my husband was home for drop-off this morning) and on the way back we passed a horse pasture.  In the pasture there was a man walking around with a wheelbarrow and a shovel.  He would drive up to a pile of “road apples” and then scoop them into the wheelbarrow.

I don’t know what I thought happened, but I had no idea that you had to pick up after horses!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Aberdeen's Winter Festival Christmas Lights Switch on Parade

Last night we went to Aberdeen’s Winter Festival Christmas Lights Switch on Parade.  This is the actual, proper name of the event – pretty slick!  Anyways, the event was exactly what the name described.  A parade to celebrate switching on the Christmas lights in Aberdeen.

The parade travelled down Union Street, the big shopping street here in Aberdeen.  At short intervals down the street there are banners of lights hung across the street and these remained dark until the parade.  The parade started at one end of Union Street and the banners lit up as the parade traveled beneath them.  For whatever reason, this sounded like a must-do event for our family, so we bundled up and headed out.

We arrived downtown at about 4:30 pm and the parade start time was 5:30.  We really lucked out with street parking right off Union Street.  In this regard we were especially lucky that my husband was driving because I can’t really parallel park.  We wandered around and bought a cook-at-home dinner at M&S and then headed out to Union Street where crowds were gathering.  At about 5:10 we started to stand by an empty piece of kerb, claiming it as our “spot” for the parade.

Parade crowd dynamics seem to be the same worldwide.  There are a bunch of extreme early birds with gear like coolers and lawn chairs that grab a spot hours before the parade.  We did not fall into this category (although I have done this before with my folks).  Then there are some moderate early people who arrive while there is still space on the kerb but maybe not at an optimal part of the road.  This was our family at last night’s parade.  Then there are the jerks that come as the parade is starting and stand in front of the little kids in the first 2 categories.  Last night’s parade had no shortage of people in this category.  As the parade started a huge man and his wife stood right in front of my son – and held up their children in their arms.  So, they were in the very front because they pushed their way forward at the last minute and they still felt the need to hold up their kids.  Grrrrr…..

As a crowd the rest of us responded to these rude parade viewers by creeping forward onto the road more and more.  The rude family just kept pushing to the front – and then pretending they did not know what they were doing.  They were so annoying.  My son went to the front so that he did not miss anything.

The parade itself was interesting.  It started with snow ploughs featuring Christmas-themed pictures painted on their blades.  There were a few traditional floats, a bagpiper band, a car with Santa inside and some winter-themed characters dancing down the parade route.  This was what I expected.  But there were also a few groups of people that looked like parade-viewers marching down the parade route.  Some of these groups had signs identifying who they were (for example one group was a playgroup – strange for a parade) but some were just literally a crowd of people walking down the street. 

I would rate the parade as “mediocre.”  It was fun for our kids, but it did not feature particularly good floats or marching groups.  I did really like the bagpipe group.  Maybe I just like bagpipes.

I did notice that people take a lot of strange pictures at parades.  Why do you need to capture this event for your photo collection?   One rude woman near us took a picture of every single float/marching group.  She was so hell-bent on pushing through to get her photos that she actually knocked over our buggy.  The last vehicle in the parade was an ambulance and some people were rushing to take pictures of it! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Boiled Eggs

My older son has gotten the wrong idea about boiled eggs.  In our household, we refer to “hard-boiled” eggs as “boiled” eggs.  He somehow thinks that scrambled eggs are boiled eggs.  I have no idea where this misconception comes from, but he eats a lot of eggs (if he does not like something I have cooked he has an egg instead – so he has them often) and he, at this point, should know better.  But he is 4 years old and stubborn and refuses to acknowledge his confusion.

A couple of months ago he was home for lunch on a Friday and I asked him what kind of sandwich he would like.  He said “egg.”  I don’t make egg salad (I hate the mustardy taste of mayo) so I thought he must mean fried egg, like a Tim Horton’s egg sandwich.  That sounded yummy to me, so I set about to make each of us one.  I cracked one egg into the pan and he was horrified.  He said he wanted a “cooked” egg sandwich.  I had no idea what this meant, so I asked him a bunch of questions – “cooked how?”  “do you want it boiled?”  “shall I scramble it?”  and he got annoyed.  He kept saying “not boiled, cooked!” With a massive emphasis on the “cooked.”

I told him I was frying the egg in the pan and it would be good on a sandwich, but he got mad and said again “not boiled, cooked!”  He showed me the boiled egg rack in the fridge and said that was the kind he wanted.  Boiled egg on a sandwich was new territory for me, but it sounded OK.  I figured I would peel and slice the egg and maybe add some cheese.  Then he told me that the egg could not be cut up…..weird.  But he was so incensed that I did not want to push him further (I remember that I really did not want to make him cry because I was worried he would wake his brother).  I thought I would make the sandwich and then put the egg next to it and he could do what he liked.

This was also wrong.  He specifically told me (and helped me) to lay a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on a piece of bread.  Then he put the whole peeled boiled egg on top and then the last slice of bread.  He carried it off to the table.  The sandwich looked hysterical, but he is stubborn (where does he get that??) and insisted that it was exactly how he wanted the sandwich to be.  A cooked and not boiled egg sandwich.

I finished making a sandwich for myself out of the fried egg and sat down to eat.  He had not started his sandwich yet, so I asked him if we should maybe take it apart and slice up the egg. “No!” he insisted.  He claimed that the sandwich was exactly how he wanted it.   I asked him why he had not started eating yet and he told me that it was because he was waiting for me.  Then he picked up his ridiculous sandwich with a wobbly bread top and started trying to eat it.  The bread basically exploded and crumbled up and he ended up getting a bite of egg and crumbs of bread.

I ate my sandwich and he had only taken a few bites.  He still insisted that his sandwich was exactly what he wanted and, in fact, it was how they made it in his old daycare.  He kept struggling to eat it.  Finally I made up an excuse to leave the room for a few minutes to see if he would just take the sandwich apart.  When I got back, the top bread was completely ruined and he was eating the bottom sandwich with the egg rolling around.  He ate every bite.

Since then I have avoided the egg issue by just making whatever eggs I think are appropriate without asking him.  But today, my husband was trying to make him eggs and I was in the front room.  I heard a loud discussion/argument in the kitchen about what kind of eggs to make and my son was insisting that he wanted boiled eggs – made in the fry pan.  We did not have any boiled eggs today (I usually keep a few in the fridge) so my husband started to make scrambled eggs for my son.  My son did not want eggs called “scrambled” eggs so he told my husband “you can make them and if you don’t boil them right I just won’t eat them.”  I could not believe that he said that!  He delivered this statement as though he had a clever solution to a problem, not in the tone of a mouthy, sassy kid.

A few minutes later the scrambled eggs were cooked, and my son wolfed them down – these were the “boiled” eggs he was looking for.  We spent about 20 minutes explaining to him the different kind of eggs, but, as he had what he wanted, he did not listen at all.  I’m sure in a few weeks I will have the same conversation again with him.  Let’s hope he figures the whole thing out before he starts to order eggs for himself in restaurants.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Toddling? Never....

Well, now that the baby is taking wobbly walks, I was thinking that he might officially be "toddling" and therefore a "toddler."  The problem is that the word "toddler" does not suit our baby at all.

To me, "toddling and toddler" connote: a hesitation; a lack of confidence; a fear; and an immaturity.  The only one of these characteristics that our baby has is immaturity.  He has no fear and is completely confident.  He is a small Hercules, a real Bam-Bam.  The word "toddler" simply does not fit.

I have decided that he is growing into a "little buddy."  Our older son used to be my "little buddy," but he is quite quickly becoming more independent and therefore a "little dude."

So, I have my "little buddy" - the non-toddling baby son and my "little dude" - my precocious 4-year old son.  How lucky am I!  They are good boys and I am proud of them.  Their personalities fit well together - where my older son is cautious, my younger son is fearless; where my older son can be gentle, my younger son is perpetually rough; and where my older son listens well, it appears that my younger son is not interested in my verbal warnings....but it does remain to be seen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good-Bye!


Well, our guests left this morning.  We had a great time visiting, but it is always sad when people leave and we will miss them terribly.  It’s funny, no matter how much you do during a visit and no matter how long a visit is, during the last few days it seems rushed – like you have not had enough time.

Our guests did pick a good time to leave – the weather is turning to winter.  Last night we had a loud rain and wind storm and today it is chilly.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Duthie Park and Winter Garden


Our guests are leaving tomorrow so we had a relaxing day today.

This morning we drove to Duthie Park and took a stroll around the park and visited the winter garden.  We parked on Riverside Drive and then my older son played on the large slides built into the hillside.  I think these slides are really cool – but they are “slow” when you try to slide down them.

Then we walked around the big field past the obelisk, gazebo and pond restoration project.  Next we went to the Winter Garden and wandered through the plants.  I dressed the kids up in matching outfits and we took a bunch of cute pictures.

We had a snack at the playground near the Winter Garden and then walked back to our car. 

We drove home the long way (OK, it was so long it is not really a way home) down South Deeside Drive.  On South Deeside we stopped at Ardoe House Hotel and looked at the castle-like building and the amazing view.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One-Day Road Trip through the North East

Yesterday we went on a 1-day road trip.  We started in Aberdeen and drove to Balmedie Beach up the A90.  It was a chilly and windy day so we parked at the beach and walked up to the sand to take a look at the bluffs.  They are amazing – picturesque sand dunes covered by bits of long grass.

Then we drove up the smaller A975 along the coast to Cruden Bay.  In Cruden Bay we drove down to the bay/harbor area where we saw the tiny multicoloured houses, the large bay area and the castle up on the hill.

We drove on to Peterhead and ate lunch on a bluff overlooking the caravan park.  We continued through Fraserburgh and stopped to admire the view near the lighthouse museum, then drove on to Banff.  In Banff, we parked and walked along the high street and low street and then stopped for coffee and a delicious treat at the Coffee Pot, a local coffee shop.  The restaurant was clean and bright, but it was like stepping back in time to the 1950s, as was much of Banff.

Banff is a pretty little town, but in the offseason (as it is now) it is pretty empty. 

We drove home with a quick diversion to see Fyvie Castle, which remains my favorite.

The driving portion of this trip took about 3 hours and was well worth it.  The views and countryside were incredible and quite different than we saw on our previous car trips. 


Monday, November 14, 2011

Sick Day


Today the baby was sick, so he and I stayed home while our guests went out and toured around.  Our day was pretty dull, so I will provide a brief description of what our guests did.

They dropped my older son off at school and then caught the bus into the centre of Aberdeen.  (!!! Those of you who know our guests personally will be shocked that they utilized public transit – but it seems to have been a positive experience).

They walked around in downtown Aberdeen and the King’s College area and they also walked to and along the Beach.

It sounded like they had a lot of fun – even on the bus!  Maybe that was because the bus was double-decker…

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Walking

On Friday night (November 11) our baby (at about 11 months old) took his first steps.  We are so proud!

He is taking tentative 3 and 4 step walks between pieces of furniture and people.


Inverness


This past weekend we went away to Inverness.  Inverness is about 3 hours away from Aberdeen via car.  It is slightly north of Aberdeen and to the west.

The drive to Inverness was lovely.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and we drove through Cairngorm National Park.  This is the local “mountain” and “skiing” area.  Although it is nothing like the high-drama mountains of Alberta, it is a picturesque area with rolling mountains (but no craggy snow-covered peaks).

We drove past the local skiing area and as it is off-season, it was empty and without snow.  All of the ski runs look like they are straight down.  Could be some scary skiing!

We drove into Inverness through patchy farmland dotted with ancient buildings.  We had to drive in 2 cars and I piloted the Mini – it seemed to fit in perfectly with the landscape.  We passed bunch of old stone churches that were repurposed into other uses – two notable ones were a church that was being used as a garage (mechanic’s garage) and a church being used as a farm outbuilding.

Once we were in Inverness we easily found our hotel.  It is on Ness Walk, a perfectly located piece of the riverfront.  We could not check in because it was too early so we ate our picnic lunch and then drove on to Loch Ness.  We first stopped at the Loch Ness visitor’s centre – a massive disappointment.

I expected to see an “interpretative centre” where you walk in and learn about the area through exhibits.  It was a paid-admission attraction (which we did not go in to) and it boasted fancy a/v equipment.  The outside (besides the gorgeous stone building that housed the exhibit) looked like it would have been super-cool and advanced in the 1980’s.  There was a black light and neon hallway near the conveniences and other ‘80s loveliness.  Overall the effect was tacky and did not appeal to our party so we opted to look at the real lake instead of spending our time in an exhibit.

We drove on to see Urquhart Castle.  This ruined castle sits on a cliff above Loch Ness and is a magnificent landmark.  We did not tour the castle, but instead appreciated it from a lookout point.

Then we drove back into town and checked into our hotel.  The hotel clerk had an issue with my reservation.  I am still irritated about the issue and I will explain it here.  You can be the judge – am I being unfair?  Remember, I am the customer.

I initially waked into the hotel with one of our guests and the baby (this was earlier in the day – around lunch time, when the room was not ready).  The lady looked into her book and thought we were a different reservation.  When I peeked into her book I saw that she had reserved only one room for our group instead of the 2 that I had requested.  No problem – she had simply switched us with another group and had booked 2 rooms for them.  She was, however, surprised that there were children along.  I told her that we had the baby, who would sleep with us and a toddler who sleeps in a tent-bed that we would bring in.  She asked if we needed a cot and I confirmed we did not.  She was annoyed that I had not told her about these 2 extra people in my inquiry.  I did not have my email in front of me, so I told her I was not sure what I had said.

When we came back later, she was ready for me.  She had reviewed her emails and took issue with what I had written in my inquiry.  I had done the same, because I thought she might (and because I’m that type of person).  She said that my email was misleading because I had not told her about the kids.  

Here was the issue:  Her hotel has an Internet form that did not allow me to enter the children separately from adults.  So for the question of “how many people?”  I entered 4 – the number of people we needed beds for.  (Other hotels ask how many adults and children and then you classify what type of accommodation you need for kids, hers did not).  Then in the body of my inquiry email I requested both 1 family room and 1 double room or, if she could not accommodate that, I requested 2 double rooms.

I feel that she was sufficiently notified that we were a family from my request for a family room.  If she needed more information, she was welcome to ask, but she did not.  She said that I filled in the form wrong.  She then proceeded to lecture me about it the whole time that we were shown our rooms.   She said that she does things differently when she knows it’s a family.  Strangely enough (there were vacancies in the hotel) she switched our room when she found out about the kids to give us extra space – but the new room had a window that was dangerous for kids!  And she said, “see, that’s the kind of thing that I need to know about when there are kids as guests.”  All I could think was “huh??? Then why did you switch our room?   We would have been fine in the room we reserved.”

Anyways, another hotel employee (I think her husband) was there when I checked out and he also raised the “confusion” in conversation.  He started by apologizing for the confusion but then told me that I was misinformed about how hotels work.  It was almost as though he expected me to apologize back (he clearly does not know me!).  This annoyed me – first – I am a customer and I am paying for your service - why not be nice to me so I come back?  Obviously she (the initial staff member) thinks she is right and I think I’m right – why remind me of something negative about the hotel just as I leave? Second – I know how hotels work – I have booked and stayed in a lot of hotels without this issue arising – I was offended by the assumption that I am thick when it comes to hotel booking.  I have plenty of experience and a very positive track record.

That all being said – I really liked the hotel other than the attitude issues.  It was decorated in a historical manner and was cute and clean.  The breakfast was good (although we had an issue with our order that is not of consequence but was another annoyance) and the location of the hotel was pretty amazing.

Anyways – back to the weekend.  We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Inverness.  We saw the grand castle and walked around the downtown area before having dinner.  Then it was off to bed for our little family while our travelling companions spent an evening out.

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast and then checked out of the hotel (discussed above), and then drove to look at the locks and canal in Inverness.  Then we started for home.  We took a detour to attempt to see Glenlivet Distillery but it was closed for the season.  We stopped for a sarnie (sandwich) lunch at Tescos and then picked up M & S Dine in for 2 for £10 for supper.  The Sunday weather was grey and chilly – a nice day to drive home to a warm house.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hazlehead Park and Costco


Today was another day of smirr.  We started our day with a relaxing morning and a walk around Hazlehead Park.  Hazlehead Park is a very large municipal park in Aberdeen and it has many outdoor activities including: a maze; a golf course; a petting zoo; football fields; a tea room and trails.  We walked around the football fields, through some trails and then wandered in the rose gardens.  The rose gardens are very formal and even though the roses are all gone (because it is autumn) they gardens are beautiful.

After this we drove to my husband’s work and he gave us a tour.  Then we went to Costco to take advantage of our guests’ Costco card to stock up on essentials.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scotrail Ride to Inverurie


We went on a fun outing today.  This morning we drove to Union Station (and I parked in the rail parkade – I backed into a spot!) and caught the 10:00 a.m. train to Inverurie, which is about a 20-minute train ride from Aberdeen.  The train had one stop – Dyce – and after the Dyce stops it was a quick jaunt through picturesque countryside.  And I do mean “picturesque” – there were: rolling farm fields dotted with cows and sheep; stone farm houses; and a winding river.

The cost of the Scotrail train was £20.70 for 3 adult return tickets, to be used during off-peak hours.  Kids are free until age 5.  I thought the tickets were not cheap, but it could have been worse.

In Inverurie, the train station was near the middle of town.  We disembarked from the train, walked to the town square and wandered around.  The town square has a war memorial featuring a Scotsman in a kilt in the middle.  Around the memorial there are small, tidy flowers planted.  All around the square and on the adjacent streets are cute little shops – touristy shops and the like.  The town, as all towns I have seen in Scotland, seemed to have an inordinate number of chemists.  Perhaps this is due to an ageing population?

Our group found the charity shops the most interesting – in the Red Cross Shop I bought an end table – it is made in Italy and has a floral wood inlay.  (Anyone who knows me personally will not be surprised at this purchase – it is exactly my taste.)  The shop agreed to keep the table while we continued to wander around.

After more wandering we went to the Ashvale for a fish and chips lunch and it was quite satisfying.  Our guests love fish and chips and this is the first time we have eaten it on this trip.  We did not have the best-behaved baby in the restaurant, but c’est la vie…

After lunch we wandered more, picked up the table and some fairy cakes and then caught the train back to Aberdeen.  I was pleased with myself when I easily drove the truck forward out of the parking spot!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Torry and the Coast Road


This morning after we dropped my older son off at school, my guests and I (and the baby) drove to the small town of Cove Bay.  Starting from Cove Bay we drove along the Coast Road to Torry.  We drove past Doonies Farm, the lighthouse and the Nigg Golf Course and enjoyed the views of the sea.

Once we were in Torry we found (free) parking and then walked around to get a flavor for this historic industrial/fishing area.  There are many warehouses dealing with fish processing and storage as well as residences and shops and churches – lots of churches, some still active places of worship and some converted to other purposes, such as a coffee shop/play centre.

We bough some fish (block haddock and kippers) from a fresh fish merchant and then drove down the Esplanade to the Beach.  Once again, we admired the sea views.

We went home for a quick lunch and to visit with my husband who had just returned from a business trip.  It was quickly time to pick up my older son from school.