Monday, December 7, 2015

Strolling Alone in London

Green park
I travel to Heathrow airport almost every month but I have only gone out to visit central London twice.  The first one was with my classmate in medschool and her sister and the second one was last November 2015 and I was all alone.  I have no problems travelling alone in airports because they have very big signage on where to go next.  It is different in the streets, you can easily get lost.  It was really exciting, in my mind I already pictured myself strolling along the streets of London once again.  Just a mere mention of the word “London” gives me a sense of joy.  One item in my bucket list already checked.  This year is also the first time where I have really ventured outside the airport to see the sites.  In the previous months I was able to see some sites in Aberdeen, Scotland.  I haven’t had much confidence last year to go outside the confines of the airport.  Namibia safari would have been nice.  When I was in Angola, I didn’t have the chance to go outside the hotel also because no one was there to accompany me.

Autumn leaves and the blue bird (did you spot it?)

I arrived in Heathrow airport terminal 4 around 12 noon.  Surprisingly, the cue for the immigration isn’t that long and the immigration officer was very fast in putting the stamp on my passport as soon as she saw my visa.  In retrospect, I realized that my travel to London was only a few days after the bombing in Paris, that’s why there were so many empty seats in the plane.  In the airplane though I had second thoughts in going to central London.  But I when went outside the arrivals area, my mind was fixed.  I immediately went to the information counter and asked the best way to go to Buckingham Palace.  The lady looked at me and said, “Don’t you want to take a rest first?”  I explained to her that I only have one afternoon to see some sites because my next connecting flight leaves tomorrow. 

Buckingham Palace

There are many ways to go to central London from the airport.  You can take the bus which is slower.  You can take a taxi which is way expensive.  The most practical way is to take the train, which they call the “tube”.  This is very convenient for tourists since you can buy a card which take you to all the zones (1-6).  Zones 1-6 have almost all the must-see sites in London.  The day travelcard costs 12 UK pounds (853 pesos) and you can use this card to all the stations for the whole day.  

Queen Victoria Memorial

The travel from the airport to Buckingham Palace was approximately one hour.  However, it doesn’t seem like one hour to me, it felt less than an hour because I was busy looking outside, I was busy observing people.  London is a multiracial city.  I think every nationality is there.  Everytime the train opens its doors the wind gushes in and I can feel the autumn/winter chill around 13 deg Celsius.   My stop was Green Park station.  13 deg C for me was very cold, I was alternately holding my bag with my right and left hand just to get the chance to put one hand inside my coat. You could not mistake me for a tourist because I was bringing my travel bag with me hahaha… I didn’t drop it in the hotel to save me some time.  

Memorial Gates

During this trip I was able to see the Green Park, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park.  Hyde park is the largest park in London.  

Wellington Arch

Green park was a great site.  It has so many huge trees with brown and yellow leaves in preparation for the winter.  There were so many tourists, so I just followed them to the palace.  There were families taking some pictures and group of friends just hanging around and some doing cardio exercise.  It’s definitely a breath of fresh air amidst all the tall buildings around.

Hyde Park

Buckingham Palace is a magnificent view.  It’s a rectangular castle with great walls.  It looks grand because we all know that it is the home of the British royalty.  I didn’t catch the changing of ‘The Guards’, it’s a colorful spectacle to watch here in Buckingham.  There is also a huge monument in front of the palace which is called the Queen Victoria Memorial.  It commemorates the death of the queen in 1901.  There were so many places to take selfies and everyone around me was doing that. After a few minutes, I proceeded and walked along the edge of Green Park to go to Hyde Park.  I was told by my friend, who works in London, that there is a Winter Wonderland there.  “Oh lovely!” (in full British accent).   At the corner of Green Park, you can find the Memorial Gates.  These gates serve to commemorate the services of men and women who volunteered to fight for the British Army during the two world wars.

I crossed two streets and passed by Wellington Arch to reach Hyde Park.  I saw a food station by the entrance gate and suddenly felt hungry, realizing that I didn’t eat lunch because I hurriedly took the tube to get there.  I bought a hotdog in a bun with onions for 4 pounds (284 pesos), so cheap if we won’t convert it to pesos. 

Winter Wonderland

 Hyde Park is bigger than Green Park.  I immediately looked for the direction towards the Winter Wonderland.  Before reaching the wonderland, I saw a squirrel up on a branch, first time in my life.  At first I thought it was a chipmunk, I might find my brothers (Theodore and Simon) there. Lol.  I also remembered the rabbit I saw by the street in Aberdeen.  It’s wonderful to see cute animals in the middle of the city.  There is also a huge lake, they call Serpentine, in the middle of the park which houses different kinds of fowls (ducks, geese and swans), what a sight!

A real Christmas and my bag.  :)

The Winter Wonderland is like a carnival in my place.  There was an ice skating rink which was very apt for the holidays.  A lot of food stations scattered everywhere.  I felt hungry again.  Before I went back to the train station I bought a double cheeseburger for 5.5 pounds, quite expensive but worth the size, I was not able to finish it.  I surveyed the place, Christmas feeling is really in the air.  There were lots of Christmas trees and lots of rides and attractions.  One day, I will bring my family here.  My kids would love this place.  We might even start practicing ice skating in SM Seaside for a start when I go home. 

Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park

Since it is winter time now, the sun already started to set around 4:30pm, so I decided to head back to Heathrow airport.  I reached terminal 4 around 5:30pm and was able to take the bus at 6pm to Gatwick airport.  I should have taken the train straight to Gatwick but I didn’t know about that, next time then.  I will travel to my next destination tomorrow.  

Hyde Park

It was indeed a very tiring day, from Manila to Abu Dhabi and to Heathrow then straight to Buckingham.  I thank the Lord for the safe travels and also want to thank International SOS for my job!  Dreams come true, they really do, we just have to keep the faith.  More articles and pictures to come.  For now, let me have some cold San Miguel Beer.  

Gatwick, London Airport

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Footdee, the Picturesque Little Village

Nice small gardens inside the village.

After my brief scary encounter in the Tolbooth Museum, I then went on to search the road to the beach.  This is another good thing about Aberdeen (Scotland), the shore is just a 15-20 minute walk from the city center.  For those people who want to escape the buzzing chaos of the metropolis, the ocean is just within reach.  With my heavy duffel bag, I walked, just to make the most of my time.  It was quite a long and tiring walk, I was just hoping that my destination would be worth it. 

The beach is just a 20-minute walk from the city center.

I really enjoyed the weather, it wasn’t sunny and the cool autumn temperature was just right at 12 degrees Celsius.  The beach was nice however it was gray because of the reflection of the gray clouds.  No one was swimming, the water was very cold and the waves weren’t welcoming either.  Many people were there just to have a stroll and breathe fresh air.  Some were running others were biking.

Village pavement
According to my map, Footdee is at the far end of the beach near the lighthouse.  At that point in time, I had no idea what Footdee was all about, I just trusted the receptionist in the tourist information center when she said that the 'place is picturesque'.  So I walked along the cemented path, I enjoyed the first 50 steps or so but my bag was getting really heavy and my shoulders were about to give in.   I figured the place was very far and decided not to go there.  Burger King was at the other side of the road so I went in.  I ordered me a burger and a soda, and was surprised to see that I could refill the soda anytime I want.  In the UK, there are so many Coke and Sprite flavors, quite interesting actually, but not necessarily tasty.  I chose Sprite vanilla flavor which I regretted later.  I was surprised to feel really refreshed and energetic after my meal, I didn’t realize that I was dehydrated and hungry at the start of my journey.  So, after a 20-minute rest, I then again walked towards Footdee. 

I found out that I was looking at the wrong map, Footdee was nearer than I thought.   I continued strolling southbound and finally reached the end of the road.  I saw small houses surrounded by taller apartments.   I then knew that Footdee is an old fishing village in Aberdeen during the medieval times.   What is so nice about it is that they have preserved the area and have maintained the little gardens.   It is a rectangular village with small individual houses in the middle and was surrounded by what seemed to be larger apartments at its periphery.  When I say small houses, I mean houses for little people, it made me wonder how short or slim were the previous inhabitants of this place.  The leprechauns were popularly known to have lived in Ireland, perhaps their dwarf cousins may have migrated there. 

Another query that I had in my mind was “are there still people living there”?  I saw two houses with wet laundry hanging on their backyard.  Isn’t that evidence that the place was inhabited? However, no one was around, it’s very mysterious.  But how can they live in a small house?  I saw only three tourists walking around the village, it was very quiet with only the sound of the waves and the chirping of the birds as background music.  I started to have the creepy feeling again, especially after my encounter with the witch wax mannequin in the Tolbooth Museum.  After a few minutes of walking around, I saw a lady coming out from a small house holding some tools and going inside the nearby apartment.  After some reading, I found out that you can own or rent a small house in Footdee and because it is not comfortable to live there, you also have to rent the apartment near the small house. 

Each house has a different theme. 

They have also preserved the church in the center of the village.  The small houses have small gardens which look marvelous, the flowers really put some color into the surroundings.  The small houses themselves have interesting colors in comparison to the dull gray granite color of the surrounding apartments.  I really enjoyed it there.  All the windows are decorated with figurines.  The grasses were cut, people really took care of this place.  Each house has a different theme which you can see in the pictures.  It's a good stroll when you want to pass time.  I wish I was strolling with my family, they would have loved it.  These are the little shortcomings when you travel alone, missing your family more when you see nice spots.  You want to share to them the awesome feeling during your travels but they are miles away.  That's why I write blogs, to share to my family the story behind the pictures.  

I must admit, this place is picturesque.  My long walks were worth it.  The clouds started to shower and that was my cue to head back to Union Street to catch a bus going to the airport.  I will definitely miss Aberdeen, I have been there for the second time and I haven’t even covered half of the interesting sites.  I will make sure I will visit all the castles when I return.  I just found out that it only costs 30-35 Great Britian pounds roughly 2,100-2,400 pesos to rent a car for a day.  I’m sure I will cover a lot of sites when I have wheels, that would be exciting, will just have to get used of the right hand drive.  Hopefully, I will be sent there again for another training. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Tolbooth Museum and the Scare

The lady emerged just when I clicked.
I was very lucky to have returned here in Aberdeen, Scotland.  I took another training which lasted for 1.5 days.  It’s quite funny because it took me two days to get here, 4 days round trip.  I was so excited to see another castle.  The nearest castle was 1 hour and 30 min from where I stayed and the training ended at 4pm on the first day.  The castle closes at 5pm, too bad, so I just stayed in the hotel. I was sleepy too because I was still adjusting to the time difference.  I was hoping our class would end early on the second day.  It did end at around 12nn.  I rushed to the bus station and went to the city center and went straight to the tourist information center.  

To my disdain, the receptionist advised against me going to Crathes Castle because it’s quite far and I might miss my plane if I go there, it’s quite risky she said.  My plane was scheduled to leave at 6:25pm.  My heart sank because it was my ultimate goal when I came back here.  Oh well, I decided not to push the issue and asked regarding any site to see with the available time that I have.  She said the Tolbooth Museum and the Footdee.  I was beginning to get excited again, at least I will see and learn Scottish culture before I leave.  I rushed out of the center and didn’t even bother to ask what the museum was about and what in the world was Footdee.  I learned afterwards and had one of the biggest scare in my life!  By the way, the mysterious Footdee will be written in another article.

Second floor
The Tolbooth Musuem was only a 3-minute walk from the information center.  I was greeted by a mild mannered man in his 60’s and was given a small information leaflet.  I was already told by the receptionist in the tourist information center that the admission is free.  The museum was only a portion of a large building and occupied three storeys.  The large building was known as the Tolbooth , one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings and was the seat of Aberdeen government circa 17 century.  The Tolbooth museum now is actually the Wardhouse, which was a prison to accommodate those warded to await trial and punishment and this structure was well preserved.   I thought I was going to see crown jewels or bagpipes or old kilts, instead I saw old guns, a key and handcuffs, old books which listed all the prisoners and something scary.  

Key and Handcuffs
I had to climb a narrow spiral staircase to reach the 2nd floor, where there were no handrails but only ropes.  I was having a difficult time because I was carrying my duffel bag and it was quite large to fit into the narrow turns of the spiral.  The stairs were dimly lit and seemed endless.  The second floor contained some miniature models of the old Tolbooth and some old drums which were used in the olden times to summon town leaders for a government official gathering.  

Spiral stairs
I got a little bored with what I saw, and decided to go out.  The museum-in-charge caught up with me and told me that there are still rooms in the 3rd floor which I haven’t explored.  Might as well check everything out while I’m here.  So, I climbed another narrow and dark spiral staircase.  With my heavy bag, I again had the difficulty in climbing up.  Upon reaching the top floor, I saw a steel door with a large padlock, I was entering another old prison cell.  Imagine yourself going to a dimly lit room and when you turn to the right you see an ugly old woman, dressed in an old fashioned skirt, sitting on the floor at the far side of the room! Waaaaaaah!  My balls practically went up my throat, I could almost taste them, I thought I was seeing one of Walking Dead's characters.  That’s how scared I was.  I was stunned and I felt like all my hairs were standing up.  I was about to go down when I saw another tourist emerge from the left side of the room.  Thank God I wasn’t alone.  It took my brain cells approximately 2 seconds to process that what I was looking at was a wax mannequin.  She looked so real.  The face, the hair, the hands…creepy.  Later,  I found out that she was a witch who was waiting for her trial.  There were big witch hunts in the Medieval times and the alleged women were also kept there in the prison cell.  These women weren’t given justice, they were burned even without the freedom to defend themselves.  It just shows that people, past and present, are afraid of things they do not understand.  

The witch
I regained back my courage after a while (ahem).  I then examined the wall at the left side of the room with all the names of all the debtors imprisoned there.  Apparently, back in days, you will be imprisoned if you cannot pay your debts.  Hmmm, not really logical.  There was one more room that I didn’t see, so what the heck, might as well explore it.  This time, I know I was alone because there were no more sounds of footsteps ahead of me.  There it is again, a figure of a man with shaggy hair, depressed face and tattered clothes, squatting on the floor with chains!  I didn’t bother to see who or what he was, I just rushed to the spiral staircase, didn’t even care if I trip or fall as long as I can get out of that room.   My balls were displaced again, God knows where.  

This must be a non-peak season for the museum because there were only 6 of us who were inside the 3-storey building and I was the last one to explore the 3rd floor.  Who knows how many inmates have died there and how many souls still clinging at the area, those who were not able to move on.  

 A list of debtors.

I don’t usually get scared, I have been in hospitals with more scary stories than this museum, but there was something different about this place.

Guillotine blade
Upon reaching the ground floor, I paused, tried to relax to decrease my respiratory rate and then turned left to see the mild mannered receptionist.  I thanked him and said “this is a lovely place”.  (wink)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dunnottar Castle (Another Castle Adventure)

Dunnottar Castle, sits on top of a hill at Stonehaven, Scotland, UK.
It was Sunday and the weather was looking good.  There were only clouds and rain in the previous days but the sun was generous that day, giving away all its rays, perfect for an adventure.  As suggested by Dr. Allison, our teacher and examiner, I should go to Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, located south of Aberdeen.  I just simply told her in our earlier conversation that before I came to Scotland, I was bragging back home that I would visit castles.  I don’t have an inkling how to get to that location but I was very determined.  Luckily, there is a tourist information center in the heart of Union Street (Aberdeen’s main street) and there I got all the information I needed.

Rocky road towards the beach.
The bus station was located in Union Square and the ticket price was around 8 British Pounds (585 Philippine pesos).  It was a double-decker bus, awesome!  The country side scenery was marvelous, the sea and meadows all together forming a perfect harmony.  Tranquility at its best.  After 35 minutes, we arrived at the bus stop and it would take another 15 minute walk towards Dunnottar Castle. Fortunately, with my superb English speaking skills (wink), I was able to ask for directions and mingled with the other tourists towards the castle.  There was a group of youngsters (like myself) who were in the bus with me, so I tagged along with them.

One thing about traveling is that you meet a lot of different nationalities with different English accent.  I retained my Filipino English accent, so that they will know that I come from the Philippines.  The Croatians, Romanians, Lithuanians and other non-English speaking individuals maintain their accent while speaking English.  It makes them who they are.  That being said, we should never laugh or make fun of other Kababayans (Filipinos) who speak English in Filipino accent.  Our identity is more important.  Just what my cousin (who is a former seaman, now a law student) said, what is vital is that you get the message across.

Going back to my journey, there were vast grasslands on each side of the road.  After walking for about 7 minutes, we had to make a right turn to walk to the direction of the beach.  This time it was rocky, I was glad I wore rubber shoes.  I saw many different kinds of people there (white, brown and yellow), the atmosphere was not so cold and it was a good day to be exposed to sunlight.  The temperature was 14 degrees Celsius.  Before reaching the castle, we had to go down the hill and climb up again another hill.  There was an entrance fee, 6 British Pounds (439 Philippine Pesos) for adults.  The trek was quite an exercise, I was catching my breath upon reaching the top, inhaling the cool sea breeze.

Dunnottar Castle sits on top on a hill by the beach.  It is a ruined fortress which for sometime in the past, housed and protected the Scottish crown jewels from its enemies.  Eventually, they had to transfer the crown jewels to a safer location.  They brought down the jewels on the far side of the castle by the cliff and was hidden inside a basket full of weeds.  The enemy never took possession of the jewels.

Whig's Vault

Worth mentioning is the Whig’s vault.  This huge prison, back in 1685, contained 167 men and women who were tortured and starved because they did not recognize the king as the head of the church.  This happened during the Reformation, when the Church of England separated itself from the Catholic Church.

My friend, Johnny who lives in Torphins, west of Aberdeen, described Dunnottar Castle ruins as the holiday home of Dracula, hehehe.  I think every old castle has its share of horror stories and this castle is not an exemption.  Some visitors claimed to have seen a woman wearing a green dress roaming around looking for her lost children.  I’m just glad I reached the castle around 1 pm, at least there were still a lot of people there and there was still sun.  Who knows how many souls are staying there.  God, give them rest. The latest movie done there was Frakenstein, starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter).
Click me to read more ghost stories!

One should be careful not to go on the edge of the hill because it’s a very long way down with sturdy rocks at the bottom.

After seeing all rooms and all the corners, I then went down to the beach to take some more pictures, it was lovely.  Then I climbed again another hill to take a good view of the castle ruins.  Such magnificent view.  I thanked God for creating such wonders.  A Chinese family asked me to take their picture, and in return, they took my picture, perfect!

After I had my fill of the scenery, I decided to head back to Aberdeen.  I tried to go to the town in Stonehaven but I was all alone this time, no one to guide me.  So, I just decided to go back to the bus stop and wait.  I waited for one hour in the bus station, I was getting a little scared that the bus will not come.  I am practically in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land (waaahhhh).  My friend, Johnny, said I’ve got some balls for going their alone, hahaha.  The bus finally came and on schedule.  I was relieved.

Thank you, Chinese family.  :) 

When I reached Aberdeen, I was really hungry because of all the walking I’ve done, I immediately searched for a restaurant that serves rice.  On the far end of the street, my eye caught the sign – KFC, yum!

Waiting for the bus in the middle of nowhere.  Alone and hungry.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Long Trip Home (Namibia-Germany-Bahrain-Manila-Cebu)

19 hours and 30 minutes lay over time in 5 airports and 32 hours and 20 minutes flying time in 5 airplanes. Whoah!

The feeling you experience on the morning of the crew change day surmounts the feeling you have when you get your paycheck. I have spent 28 days in the rig and the thought of going home is exhilarating. I left the rig at around 10 am and reached Walvis Bay port, Namibia 15 minutes after. The agent then brought me to the Immigration office and then to the airport for my local flight to Windhoek. The flight was only 40 minutes long in a small airplane which I really don’t mind taking.

Walvis Bay, Namibia

Once in Windhoek airport, I immediately went to my boarding gate.  The lay over is 7 hours and 30 minutes, quite a long one. Much to my surprise, I discovered that the airport lounge - Oshoto Lounge, is not that expensive, the fee was only 800 pesos/30 USD. There was food, wifi connection and no time limit plus unlimited alcohol drinks! So, I stayed there, had some time to write my medical blog and had a chat with my loved ones. I was able to taste the local popular draft beer!  RH (red horse) is better.

After the satisfying long lay over, I boarded my 10-hour flight via Air Namibia. The aircraft is quite new and I was lucky enough to have all the three seats for myself. There were nice movies on the monitor but the movie selection of Emirates airlines is still the best. The food served was delicious. The sleep-wake-sleep cycle then began and lasted for 10 hours. Back and neck pain surfaced after a couple of hours but it didn’t bother me because I am going home.

At long last, we landed in Frankfurt, Germany where the temperature was 2 deg Celsius. Thank God, the aircraft parked near the terminal so we went straight inside. The last time I was in Frankfurt, we had to take a bus from the plane to the terminal, so I was exposed to the cold temperature, creating smoke when I breathe. Just like a child, I would keep on blowing air to see the water vapor from my mouth, a rare site if you’re from the tropical areas like the Philippines.

Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt airport is very huge and classy but for me Dubai International Airport is still the best. Surprisingly, there were many discounted perfumes there, the cheapest prices I have ever seen. Unlike in Namibia airport, I was able to see familiar restaurants like Starbucks and Burger King. The duty-free was also nice and as usual, many kinds of chocolates with discounted prices. I was laughing at the price of the 500 ml mineral water – 1 Euro which is equivalent to 48 pesos. Designer clothes, shoes and other stuff are also present and good to look at during window shopping.

My lay over in Germany was only 5 hours, so I was not able to sleep. The last time I was there I stayed for 14 hours! There are hotels outside but I need a visa to get out, so, I just stayed inside. The lounge is very expensive and with time limit. I just spent my time reading and roaming around. The situation got worse when I found out that the internet was not working! Urghhh! Gladly, I was able to find a shower room and paid 6 USD (255 pesos) to refresh myself.

Next stop is Bahrain, the flight was only 5 hours, not so bad. Plus, I also had the 3 seats for myself, yehey! This time the airline was Gulf Air. Airplane food was good, same style with Emirates, South African Airways and Air Namibia. Movie choices were as limited as Air Namibia, but hey I can’t complain. The leg space is quite roomy than Air Namibia, so that is an added comfort. I was kinda stressed because the lay over in Bahrain is only one hour and 30 minutes. When I arrived in the airport, I immediately ran to my boarding gate. Luckily, all my flights were on time.


While waiting for my Manila flight (2nd to the last stop), I was able to check out the Bahrain Duty Free section. There was a very nice car on display and I was taking pictures (which I usually do). After a couple of minutes, I was approached by a sales attendant and was told not to take pictures, I just said okay. This is the first airport I’ve been to where picture-taking is prohibited. (Shoulder shrug with lower lip pout).

The flight to Manila was full packed with ‘Kabayans’! It was so refreshing to hear the familiar Tagalog language. I also heard my native Bisaya/Cebuano language, made me feel closer to home even though I still have 8 ½ hours to go. 

I felt almost every hour of the entire flight because I had a slightly stressful situation. My seatmate was suffering from severe back pain to the point that we were almost going to have an emergency landing. Apparently, she had the symptoms for a month with no consultation done and no medications taken. I had to tell the cabin crew that I am a doctor and I asked them what pain medicines they have on board. The patient was practically moaning loudly because of the pain. To cut the story short, we did not have an emergency landing, the pain eventually subsided but recurred after several minutes, she was able to tolerate it but every now and then she would moan. I was frustrated because there is very little we can do in the air.

At last we landed in Manila and everyone’s face lit up, especially those who have been working overseas for more than three years. As for me, I still had one more flight to take, huhuhuhu. I can do this! From terminal 1, I then took the transfer bus to terminal 2. I’m thankful with our Manila logistics for providing me with my Cebu ticket. I changed my flight to an earlier schedule and was happy to find out that there is no rebooking fee. Manila lay over was only 4 hours, not bad, I had my lunch at Jolibee! Manila to Cebu flight was approximately one hour and the excitement was pounding in my chest.

I arrived in Cebu on a sunny and hot afternoon. I was practically sweating inside my sweat shirt. Now, I know im almost home. All the waiting, neck and back pains are all worth it. Can’t wait to hug my kids and my wife, can’t wait to see them smile not only because of the chocolates that I brought but because I am home. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would say “There is no place like home”.

Ayala, Cebu, Philippines

Exploring Aberdeen’s Granite Architecture

A short introduction.  Aberdeen is located in the east coast of Scotland.  It was previously a small fishing village but the discovery of oil led to its development.  I was lucky enough to have stayed in the area for a week because of an offshore medic course I had to take.  The average temperature was 10-12 degrees Celsius which was too cold for a Filipino like me. However, the place was very nice, trees seen along the street with well-maintained lawns of the surrounding buildings.  There were so many birds in Dyce (the town where I stayed), most of them are seagulls and twice I saw a rabbit in the street.  Awesome sight!  I walk daily to the training center, around 20-25 minutes, most of the time it was cold, so I have to keep my hands inside my coat pocket.   I can’t complain, I’m enjoying the sights and the fresh air.  The training wasn’t that easy because I am usually familiar with American medical guidelines, now, I am learning the UK guidelines.  During my free time, I explored the city center.

Aberdeen is also called the Granite City.  All buildings in its city center are made up of granite which they dug up in the middle of the city itself.  When the sun shines on these buildings, the granite reflects the light, making the building sort of ‘sparkle’.   That is why it is also called the ‘Silver City’.  The atmosphere looks depressing because of the gray color plus the gray clouds and the gray street, it should’ve been also called the Gray City.  However, the overall appearance looks very classy and sophisticated, the prices of the commodities are also very sophisticated

On my last day in Aberdeen, I made it a point to capture the beauty of the granite buildings and the castle-ish granite architectures.  I am always fascinated with castles, so here is my chance!  The city center is 30 minutes bus ride away from where I stayed.  The fare is 3.50 UK pounds round trip (around P245, hehehe expensive). 

St. Mary's Cathedral

I started my day with a mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  There were so many vacant seats, then I remembered, UK is mainly Anglican.  The mass was very solemn and everything is the same, from the prayers to the people’s responses.  Exactly the same, no alterations whatsoever.  What I was missing is the choir though.  As you can see, the church is made up of granite.  The locals said that granite is a very sturdy material, it can stand on extreme weather conditions.  It stays cool during the summer and stay warm during the winter. 

After the mass, I explored Union Street, this is the city’s main street.  I took lots and lots of pictures.

I saw another castle-ish type buiding, at first, I thought it was a church.  On close examination, it was really a pub/bar/restaurant.  Cool!

Church-style pub.
Marischal College is a magnificent piece.  It was used as a university but now it is where the government offices are located.  It is very lofty and the design is very intricate.

Marischal College

Look at the streets, how they are made is amazing. 

I was very happy because I found a department store/grocery which sells items for only 1 pound each.  I immediately ran to the chocolate section and bought me some Toblerone and Cadbury.  I was all smiles because I know if I buy them in duty free it would be very expensive. 

A fact worth mentioning, I have only eaten rice twice during my stay in Aberdeen.  I was able to find a KFC store though and ordered me some rice (purely Filipino at heart).

Seagulls conquer the city, you can see a lot of bird poop on the streets.  They just fly around and walk on the streets like there are no people around.  I had to get under the shade of a bus station because I’m afraid to have my hair wet with bird stool. 

Anglican Church

People were very friendly and the tourist information center was very helpful.  I was able to get a bus to Stonehaven (30 min south of Aberdeen) and saw the famous ruined castle of Dunottar.  It was really an adventure because I was all alone and that would be in another blog. 

I haven’t explored all.  My Scottish friend Johnny said I also need to see the music hall, His Majesty’s theater, museum and the central library.  Well, if I get lucky again, I will surely explore the arts side of Aberdeen. 

As what my Scottish instructor would always say, "See you again tomorrow, chaps."