12 September 2009--I have nothing planned for today, because I didn't expect to be here. The obvious thing
would seem to be to take the train into Aberdeen, so, after some dithering around, that's what I do. I set out late in the
morning, hit the schedule wrong, and find the trains are delayed, as well, and so do not arrive in town until mid-day. Head
up to Union Street, the main commercial drag, and start looking for a café with free wi-fi--I've brought the laptop along.
Pass by the Prince of Wales, my favorite Aberdonian pub...too early for that.
Give up and plop down for lunch in a Starbucks, where, I'm told, the wi-fi hotspot is provided by BTOpenzone. BTO's homepage
enthuses, "Why pay for wi-fi when you can get it for free with BTOpenzone?" It goes on to explain that "free" wi-fi costs £6
an hour. As the kids say, WTF? How do they expect us to digest this bald-faced lie? It takes a while to sort out that
choosing BT as your home internet provider will give you free access to their network of hotspots. Not much use to the visiting
tourist, is it? Whatever.... I've brought the laptop all this way, so I buy 45 minutes (the minimum) for £4. It feels like
handing my wallet to a mugger.
After lunch, I decide to photograph some of the splendid, but resolutely gray, architecture along Union Street. Someone recently told me that, in fair weather, Aberdeen is the Silver City, its ubiquitous granite glowing in the sun. I'm sorry, that ranks up there with free internet from BTOpenzone. It was a mistake to come here; I really don't care much for the city. No doubt it would have been different had I planned ahead--I'm sure I'd have found things of interest. As it is, it seems to me that the only way I can redeem the day is to have a pint at the Prince of Wales. I'm pleased to find the place operating in good form; the last time I was here, it seemed to be on hard times.
I'd forgotten to check the train schedule earlier, so it's pure good luck that I step into the station and directly onto the 4:01. Fate is trying to tell me something--stay out of Aberdeen. Dundee, too, while we're talking. I know I'm being unfair to these towns, but damn it, there's nothing that says I have to love all places Scottish. I'm sure there are other resources around that will tell you what wonderful places to visit these cities are. I'm afraid this isn't one of them.
I'm thinking to spend the early evening photographing Stonehaven, but the sky has clouded over, so I nap for a bit at the B&B before going down to the old harbor. I dine at the Ship Inn. The center of Stonehaven has never been the prettiest place, but the harbor is nice, and both the Ship and the Marine have impressed me with recent improvements. Stonehaven is not a place like Anstruther or Plockton, that I'd make a point of returning to year after year, but I'm more than happy to lay over here when I need to use the airport. In fact, I think I'd be happy to make a point of flying into or out of Aberdeen, just for the excuse.