Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Greetings from Aberdeen Scotland! Justin and I are having a good time, he likes his class and I am enjoying just being someplace new. The weather is cold, but not too different from home, it gets dark early, about 3:30 the sun starts to go down and sunrise is at about 7:30 in the morning. It hasn’t snowed since we’ve been here, but there is still some snow on the ground. It’s easy to get around, everybody walks everywhere and a taxi is easy to come by when you need one. There are people here from all over the UK and it feels like the world congregates here, something that we aren’t used to being from America.
The trip getting here was a bit of a fiasco, it felt like our own version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I was waiting for Steve Martin to pop out at any time. He never did. Getting from Seattle to Newark was easy, a good flight, as was the jaunt from Newark to London/Heathrow. That’s where things took a bit of a turn. I will remind you that our flight from SeaTac left at 10:30 PM on Friday night. We arrived at Heathrow at approximately 10:00 PM Saturday night, London time. We had planned to just stay in the airport since we had a long overnight layover, and were shown to a specific area for people to stay at night; apparently it is not uncommon for people to just sleep in the airport, they even had lounge style chairs to sleep in, all of which were occupied by the time we arrived. So, we found some benches to lay on, typical airport seats, nothing fancy, but a place to sleep none the less. That was when we realized that everything in the airport was closed, not because nothing was open, mind you, but because of the incessant beeping of an alarm at the Pacific Sunwear store. Beep. Beep. Beep. Apparently, when an alarm goes off at a store in the airport, nobody really cares. So, since the beeping was driving us bonkers, we wandered up to another part of the airport to find a quieter area to rest, and vending machines to get something in our stomachs. With no vending machines in the airport, we decided to just get some sleep and wait for something to open in eight hours. Trying to forget about the fact that they don’t heat the airport at night, we tried to shiver ourselves to sleep. As we were dozing off to a happier place that would get us through to the next morning, we were interrupted to be told that there was only one place that we could stay, which was the area that we had just left for better digs.
Maybe they don’t want another Revolution on their hands, no wandering to better lands and all that, so we did as we were asked, not really understanding what difference it makes where we sleep in the airport, but it apparently matters to them so we moved. Unable to sleep due to the never ending beeping, we sat there, droopy eyed, hungry and cold. I was waiting for exhaustion to kick in so I could just sleep, and it was coming quickly, so I blew up my neck pillow (best five dollars I ever spent!) and prepared to get some rest when Justin noticed that our flight to Aberdeen had been cancelled. Beep. Beep. Beep. There is nobody working at any ticket counters in the airport, which made it impossible to talk to anybody about what we were going to do. Justin tried to call the airlines, and had no luck, since we are American and have no idea how to even call anybody in the UK; their phone numbers are a bit cryptic to us at this particular point. Beep. Beep. Beep. Justin asked a guy that works there how to call and he was kind enough to let us use his cell phone after he dialed the number for us. We were told that the flight was cancelled due to weather and we have to talk to somebody at the ticket counter, and no, they don’t know when anybody will be there, maybe between 4AM and 6AM. At this point, we are wondering what weather they are cancelling the flight for, since when we had checked the weather prior to our trip there was no inclement weather, only cold, but no snow or rain. We watched the one television they had in the airport, which was on soccer so it did us no good to watch their football. Beep. Beep. Beep. There was no internet in the airport, so we finally broke down and paid for the internet at a bank of computers trying to figure out what was going on and how we could fix it. We had to get to Aberdeen by the next morning, so Justin could make his class. Otherwise it was pointless. For those of you who know my husband, you know how much paying to use a computer killed a little piece of him; for those who don’t, he will give you a penny and expect change, not a bad thing, it’s just the way he is. Beep. Beep. Beep.
We search for other flights and find that our airline, British Midlands (bmi) is the only airline not flying to Aberdeen. How can this be due to weather if everybody else is flying there? The only weather we could find was that it was cold. Really cold. Not cold enough to have to cancel flights, but colder than it normally gets here in the UK, which surprised me a little considering how far north they are, but I don’t know much about their weather systems, so I try not to judge the situation. As we are looking for answers and not finding many, other than it was cold and not snowing, Justin had let some expletives slip in his frustration. Beep. Beep. Beep. A few minutes later, a gentleman walks up to us and says that he heard somebody say “mother f-er” and was excited to meet a fellow American. He had just flown into Heathrow from the Ukraine, where he was forced to sit in what was for all intents and purposes a loading dock for three hours in the cold while waiting for his flight that left after he was supposed to arrive. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Having found a friend, we proceeded to wonder about how a flight could be cancelled due to cold and only cold. Don’t they have de-icer? Don’t they prepare for these things? The answer is no. No, they don’t. Beep. Beep. Beep. Apparently cold cripples the UK, because they aren’t used to it and they don’t deal with it that much. As Americans, we wondered how a little thing like cold could possibly stand in the way at a major international airport, screwing up flights across the globe because it was cold. Haven’t they heard of Chicago? Beep. Beep. Beep. If Chicago can find ways to work around it year after year, it should be easy to deal with it once every few years, or less. Where is the food for all of the people that stay here for hours at a time at night? And, why don’t they do anything about the beeping? Are they trying to drive us crazy? It was working. Our frustration meter was pegged.
With our half hour of internet up, we wandered to the benches and finally fell asleep for about half an hour, until something woke us up. Beep. Beep. Beep. We tried to get as much rest as possible which wasn’t much. Beep. Beep. Beep. At about 5AM we sat in line at the ticket counter, waiting for somebody to show up. The stores were all starting to open, but no ticket agents. Finally, at 5:30 they opened and we were told that yes, it was just too cold to fly to Aberdeen. We had to ask why and we were told that it was just cold. Of course, the other airlines were still flying, but they were all full, so there was no chance of getting on one of those flights. We could, however, get on a flight to Edinburgh and find a way from there; the train was a good option. It was closer than London and if worse came to worse, we could find somebody to drive us there; it was a better option than losing the money Justin had already paid for the school and the hotel, all of which was non-refundable.
With a flight to Edinburgh and freshly brushed teeth we were happy. And wait, what was that? The beeping finally stopped! The store was open and the beeping was gone! We got some breakfast and went to the gate for our flight. This area of the airport had vending machines, go figure.
Our flight was called and we all made our way to the gate and were led downstairs into a cavernous space and led outside and onto a bus. We drove around the airport for about five minutes and came to a plane that wasn’t parked at the terminal. There was a little snow on the ground so it couldn’t pull up; and I do mean a little snow, I would have shoveled it myself if it would have helped. We made the hour long flight and landed in Edinburgh. I come out of the bathroom and Justin tells me that our bags were lost. Apparently anybody flying from Newark didn’t have bags, which is normal according to the students that were returning to their classes. He stays to fill out the paperwork and I go to the baggage carousel just in case. All kinds of bags come and go; pretty red ones, beat up black ones. What is this? Is that my suitcase? Yes! Yes it is! Two bags behind it is Justin’s, and I just about did a jig. I grab our bags and meet up with Justin who pumped his fist in happiness. He surprised the woman at the baggage counter by telling her our bags made it. Applause everywhere, streamers fill my hair…well, not really, but in my head there was a parade.
We caught a cab to the train station, which had a Starbucks just outside, so it was awesome for so many reasons. We bought tickets and were told that the train was going to Dundee, and then we had to take a bus to Aberdeen because something was wrong with the track. No problem, as long as we get there. We hit Starbucks and made our train. It was a beautiful ride, everything was white with snow. We crossed a bridge across Firth of Forth, and I am pretty sure that it was being held up by a combination of the rust and scaffolding; but a gorgeous ride none the less. We made it to Dundee and hopped on a bus. We drove for about an hour stopping in Stonehaven, a little town that reminded me of fantasy land at Disneyland. After dropping a few passengers off there, we proceeded to Aberdeen.
We disembarked there and made our way down to the train station from the street, which would have been easier if there were any signs at all. We waited for a cab for about half an hour, not too bad, but considering it was a train station, I’m not sure why it was so lacking in taxis. Starving and cold, we made our way to the hotel, half expecting them to tell us that we didn’t have a room after everything we had to do to get there.
After desperately needed showers, we headed out to dinner and a drink. We found our way to McGinty’s, a little pub/restaurant down the street. Justin tried to order a Hefeweizen and was looked at as if he had asked the waitress for her first born, which I find a little odd since they are so close to Germany, but maybe Hefeweizen is an American concoction. (I don’t know much about beer and their origins.) We had a Tenent's (beer) and a burger before heading back to the room and getting some much needed rest.
It was a rough ride but we got here on time, in one piece and still married! I will post more later; you’ll love what I found at the grocery store!


  1. I love it! :) I have been in the beeping hell too! Mexico! Keep me posted, as you know from our many nights looking at travel mags at Barnes and Noble prior to Michael you know how desperatly jealous I am right now! Can't wait to see pics when you get home! Have fun, visit a castle or two for me k? Love you stay safe and have SO MUCH FUN! :)

  2. What a crazy adventure. Hopefully coming home will be smooth...if you come back home :)

    The buildings there are beautiful.