Dundee: 2 nights

Due to numerous different factors I found myself this year with a very finite number of holiday days left to take come December. After exploring several options I settled on my old stomping ground. Bonny Dundee! I spent 4 years in this city when I was a student at the art school. It had been my first time living in a different place and it couldn’t have been a better fit at the time for a 17 year old country bumpkin. I learnt a lot living in this city and was excited to visit again, what with the V&A finally being finished. On a recommendation from my parents I choose the Apex for my stay. Well priced and handily located with the added bonus of a spa on site, it was a good fit. I had a truly ‘treat yourself’ mini long weekend planned. Nostalgia coupled with spa, shopping and nice restaurants. Just the ticket in the run up the to Christmas. Now when people usually mention Dundee in might be in the same sentence as things like grey, or marauding seagulls or Scumdee. But despite its bad rep Dundee is on the up and up. Once a hub of industry (jam, jute and journalism) it is now rising again as a hub for the arts, design and culture.

After a deeply enjoyable spa afternoon, complete with sauna and Swedish back massage. I retired to my gigantic king size bed for a well earned nap before getting ready to head out for dinner. I had made a reservation at the Castlehill restaurant and was looking forward to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Filled my couples and Christmas parties I had a quiet table near the front of the restaurant. The waiting staff were both friendly and competent and I was certainly glad I had booked. 7 courses and 2 glasses of wine later I toddled back to the hotel happily tipsy but rather craving a packet of crisps.

Saturday morning after a stunning walk along to the new V&A I headed up memory lane. Or Perth Road to be exact. Past Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design and up to Pacamara for breakfast. Coffee and orange juice at hand I devoured a stack of pancakes spread with maple butter and topped with bacon and eggs. I would like to take a moment to say that maple butter is truly a revelation. As I made my way back into town I popped into a couple of old favourite Perth Road shops. Namely Fraser’s Fruit & Veg and east coast classic Fisher & Donaldson. With my first shopping purchases of the day becoming; a Macintosh red apple, a mini Dundee cake and paving stone biscuits. Perth Road is one of my favourite parts of Dundee, stretching from the town all the way to the botanic gardens. A buzzing artery of independent shops and art student vibes. But you will also find the traditional shops including several bakeries, a green grocers, a butchers and a fishmongers. In town I trawled through the shops, keeping my eye open for sale section gems. I sampled delicious Red Castle gin liqueur and rum and bumped into an old friend in Lush. Flagging and needing a drink, I sought out a cafe. Everywhere was either very full or very loud. Serenity was found a stones throw from the bustle of the Overgate at the Nilupul Buddhist cafe. A little oasis of calm above the Christmas shopping madness. Suitably reenergised by a cup of tea and a sit down, I ventured on to the Wellgate side of the high street and on to the retail park across from my hotel. With the day wearing on I treated myself to some late lunch snacks from Marks & Spencer’s and returned to my hotel room to make a nest of snacks.

For that evening I’d booked a table at the White Goose near the Apex and was looking forward to a window seat next to all the plants and chic lighting. The meal began well, but ended less well. My pudding was forgotten, and when it finally arrived and I was trying to enjoy it a group of men walked past the window. They were not the first to look in at this pretty little restaurant. But this group paused. The outdoor seating from the day time was still outside including the metal chairs. One of the party decided to pick up a chair and began to make a show of pretending to throw it through the window. Stopping just as the chair could have left his hands. At first I thought ,after the initial WTF moment, maybe they knew the young women sitting at the other window seat or the table of young women behind me and it’s meant to be funny. Second run up no one was laughing. I didn’t know whether to move or call out or challenge them. I was trying so hard not to flinch, not to change expression, not knowing if this would egg them on or antagonise them. The second time he came at the window the chair raised high, I couldn’t help but flinch, knowing I wouldn’t have made it out of my chair in time to do anything. The chair never left his hands but the intent was there. There was no third time and in a blink they are gone. I finished my dessert, paid my bill and told the waiting staff what had happened. Not that they could do anything, wishing I’d filmed it. Not knowing if I should have tried to confront them. It was all young women at the front of that restaurant. A busy loud restaurant where I doubt even if I’d shouted I would have been able to get a staff members attention quick enough. My evening marked now by a group of men who thought it was funny to threaten violence against tables of young women. Of course they never broke or even touched the glass but the intent was there. When I told be waitress what had happened, what somebody had threatened to do to their restaurant and diners. She looked shocked but bounced back saying something like it just Dundee isn’t it? In my head I’m thinking no, no it’s not, it’s men thinking they are entitled and untouchable. Not thinking of the effect of their actions but only their own gratification. I tried not to be upset when I got back to the hotel but I was. But I refused to let it ruin my last night in Dundee. I ran a bath, popped in the Lush bath oil I’d purchased earlier and cracked open a M&S canned cocktail and read my book.

I didn’t feel like drawing much on this weekend, so I instead decided to illustrative some good things.

The next day I headed over to St Andrews to meet an old friend and flat mate for brunch. Catching up on each other’s lives and remembering past times. My drive home was uneventful but pleasant. The late afternoon sun turned Loch Earn golden as I traveled back up the glen. Overall it was a nice weekend away filled with nostalgia for a city I had called home for 4 years but marred by the actions of others entirely out with of my control. It will just have to be one of those things that I will just have to chalk up to experience. Look to the positive and shield against the negative. Exasperating? Yes. Weekend ruined? Like hell i’m giving anybody that pleasure.