Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Exploring more of Aberdeen

Towards the end of the workweek both Pippa & Andy had to attend to their day jobs, which meant we took time to explore the city. We were able to meet with Andy one morning for a tour of campus, including the new library.

The new university library is modeled on an ice cube (seriously) and thus is a big square glass building that really does vaguely resemble a block of ice. Because it’s glass the interior is full of light. And because it’s seven stories high and atop a hill, one is able to get a remarkable view of Aberdeen, right down to the North Sea, from the top floor. Thus it’s definitely worth a visit, and the view really does win one over to liking the giant cube (as do the friendly staff).

From the library we went to King’s College & Chapel, which in no way resembles the Cambridge one. The chapel has quite an interesting history, which I won’t go into here, but it was neat to look around and see the mix of old carvings (including the first scotch thistle) and iconoclasm.

First thistle depictions are at the bottom

Then it was off to the Law Faculty where we got to see Andy’s office (with an enviable view of a lovely garden) and introduce Walter to the various staff members & professors who came by.

From the university we decided to walk into town, which was a somewhat ill-advised plan of mine considering I had forgotten to switch from “car” to “walk” on googlemaps when I planned out our afternoon the day before. An unplanned two-mile walk, after a morning of walking around, while still not quite recovered from giving birth, was not the best thing for me. But I survived and we managed to find downtown Aberdeen and run some errands that needed attending to. Then we managed to locate a pub so that I could satisfy my haggis craving. And then, with only 1.5hrs to spare before closing, we took off for the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

The gallery was our first experience of taking Walter to a museum/gallery and unfortunately it was a very quiet afternoon so we couldn’t blend in with the usual crowd of UK-middle-class parents & their noisy offspring. With his infant love of all things black & white he went a little insane in the Ravilious exhibition, staring intently at the engravings and then shrieking and shouting his delight to David. The room was deserted, so this wouldn’t have been an issue for us except that there was an upstairs annex which was the gallery’s library. It was one of those times where I very quickly repented for all the times I’d ever been annoyed at a hyperactive child in a gallery!

Very intent on a Ravilious engraving
Fortunately Walter’s memory is short, so by the time we left the Ravilious exhibit he forgot that there was anything interesting around and began his general “I want to nap now” fussing. By the time we’d found a gentleman to take us into the lift for the top floor Walter was slowly going to sleep and for the most part we managed the rest of the gallery without his interruptions! This was a blessing for us because the gallery has an amazing collection. One of the things I love about the UK is that the art galleries usually have a fantastic treasure or two just hanging out in an unassuming position. So along with seeing some great art by artists previously unknown to us, we also ran across several paintings by Sargent and two gigantic paintings by Waterhouse. Our best discovery, however, were the paintings by William Dyce. They are in the pre-Raphaelite style but the figures have a beautiful softness to them. We both got really excited by being able to add a new artist to our repertoire of art-we-love.

A painting by Dyce
In the evening we went back to Pippa’s for a delicious dinner of turkey stew (made by a Brit so it was full of leeks, bacon, and potato and thus very delicious). Eventually Andy arrived with his parents, who had come up to see him that evening, so we built up a peat fire, made chocolat chaud, and sat around enjoying each other’s company while we had our dessert. They had brought Walter a lovely blue & white cardigan so he managed to throw some charmingly big-eyed looks towards Andy’s parents as a thank-you.

The next day we decided to take as a day of rest, so we didn’t get up to much until dinner time when we drove to Catterline for dinner. This included a very brief stop in the now-ruined village where some of Andy’s family once lived. He was able to take us to the ruins of a stone cottage where some great-great-ancestors of his lived. It was neat to walk around the slightly-ghosty town before heading off to the inn where we were going to have dinner.

Dinner was an interesting experience, in that the food was excellent but the Walter was not! He managed to slightly behave over our starter of crab soup, but by the time our main courses arrived he was reaching meltdown state. David and I spent a lot of the meal passing a grumpy Walter between us so that we could each enjoy a bit of our meal (mushroom & asparagus wellington on a bed of couscous for me; haddock & chips for David) while trying to figure out what to do with Walter. We tried taking him outside but as we were right on the edge of the North Sea the air was too cold. Thankfully the only other diners in the restaurant came up to us and said that they weren’t bothered by him at all and that if we were taking him outside for their sake we shouldn’t bother. After that we could relax a bit and work on getting Walter comfortable enough to settle down.

Following our meal we went for a walk down to the shore. The night was freezing and I was certainly envying my baby who was snuggled up in layers of blankets and protected from the wind & cold by his pram’s rain cover. However, once we got onto the long bit of dock that went out into the sea I could see that the cold walk was worth it. Out in the country there were no city lights to interfere with our view of the moon & stars. We had the luck of a full moon and the moon-path over the ocean shone bright & clear, leading our eyes alongside the cliffs. It was so beautiful:

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