I never actually wrote about my two weeks in 2016 when I was in Dundee and had my first housesit. At the time, my body was a bit worse for wear and I didn’t really have a chance to explore the city. I’m glad to have made it back this year for a couple days to see all the changes. It’s starting to become a nifty little city.
Housesitting in Dundee
To fill in the backstory, I joined TrustedHouseSitters in 2016. My first assignment was a house on the outskirts of Dundee where a woman was leaving her two old dogs behind while she did volunteer work in London. The dogs were a bearded collie and a terrier. They were so old that she actually said she wouldn’t be surprised if they passed away while she was gone. Luckily they didn’t!
Now, usually with housesitting I look after the animals and house in exchange for a place to sleep. It’s pretty basic and I pay for all my own food, etc. However, as this was my first one, I didn’t really know what to expect. What I certainly didn’t see coming was the lady giving me her tablet with the Tesco supermarket app open and asking me to get what food I needed. I took her quite literally and ordered the essentials – basically beans, rice and pasta. She saw my order, said “no way, get what you want” and handed the tablet back to me. Chagrined, I looked over the sales section and ordered quite a few luxuries. She seemed surprised that’s all I was getting when she placed the order.
What I didn’t mention was that she had a couple crates of fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs delivered to the house every Monday. Not only that, she also had a gardener and cleaner who came to the house each week, so I literally just had to look after the dogs and give them their medicine. They were even too old to take for a walk, and I had to go on my own. As if it couldn’t get better, she paid for my SIM card for the month, put me on the insurance of her car with a full tank of gas, and then gave me a considerable tip when she returned!
Even without any of her generosity, I was happy to be dogsitting there if only for the location. Dundee and the surrounding countryside is really beautiful, and I did have a bit of time to explore around. As mentioned, I had a medical situation going on, but I had the car and a full tank of gas so I made it a point to visit Glamis Castle, St Andrews and a bit of Dundee. Yet I spent most of my time resting and didn’t see nearly as much of Dundee as I would have liked. It was over two years before I would finally get a chance to visit again.
Staying at the New Sleeperz Hotel
Dundee does have a Backpacker’s Hostel. I know the owner and wouldn’t have had a problem staying there. However, I was with a friend on my visit to Dundee and wanted a nicer place to stay. What better choice than the Sleeperz Hotel. Located literally above the train station, the hotel couldn’t be in a better location, especially since it was raining when we arrived in town. We only had a few steps to run to get to the reception.
The hotel certainly wasn’t there the last time I was in Dundee. In fact, I don’t think the modern train station wasn’t either, or at least it didn’t look like how it does now. The hotel opened in the summer of 2018, and believe me when I say it’s modern. One of the first features I noticed was in reception. There were glass panes up against the windows which turned out to be radiators. Had I not felt the warmth, I would never have even noticed them. And I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so much nicer to have a live person check you in rather than those new automated hotels where you register and get your key card from a computer.
The bedroom had several features that I really liked. There was a large office table with several outlets where I was able to spend a couple hours working, and then a separate table which we could use for meals so I didn’t have to take down my laptop. The chairs were super comfortable, but the bed was even more so. The mattress was a giant marshmallow and it was as if someone had measured the pillows perfectly for my head. The bathroom had one of those heated mirrors I’m so fond of that doesn’t fog up after a shower.
By far the best part of the room was the view. Granted, we were completely spoiled with the room we were put in. Although the “39” rooms have the best view – looking straight out at the V&A Museum, we had second best with an oblique view of the V&A, and a direct view of the RRS Discovery, the bay and the surrounding hills. Both the “39” and “40” rooms are actually really sought after by photographers, especially during fireworks displays, and we were exceedingly lucky to get the room at all with such short notice.
The room comes with a free breakfast, which is a typical hotel buffet serving all the parts of a Scottish breakfast – cereals, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cold cuts, cheeses, juices, and surprisingly good coffee. I said typical, but it was one of the better hotel buffets I’ve had in Scotland. They managed to actually get the bacon crispy and fully cook the eggs.
We also had dinner at the hotel restaurant. We both went with the hamburger…well, bacon cheeseburger for me. It wasn’t gourmet, but it certainly wasn’t bad! Even Scottish beef that’s been frozen seems to taste better than some of the gourmet burgers in America. I was also happy with the generous portion of potato and sweet potato fries on the side. Sadly the burger was too big and I didn’t have any room for dessert.
What Exactly is the V&A Dundee?
I heard about the V&A a few months ago at the Visit Scotland Expo, but I didn’t actually find out what it was. As it was raining the whole time we were in Dundee, and since the V&A was directly across the street from the Sleeperz Hotel, it was the perfect opportunity to discover what was inside.
The V&A Dundee is part of the Victoria and Albert Museums. The main V&A Museum is next to the natural history and science museums in London, just south of Hyde Park. In Dundee, the museum focuses on Scottish life and innovation. There are interactive displays particularly focusing on new technologies that have been developed around Scotland. There were a couple exhibits going on too, but they were paid to enter. The rest of the museum is free.
By far the best part of the V&A Dundee was the architecture and ambiance. On the lower floor is a huge cafe with a seating area overlooking the River Tay. Drinks are very reasonably priced and there is a large selection of cakes and nibbles. If you’re looking for something more substantial, there’s the Tatha Bar and Kitchen upstairs serving seasonal, locally-sourced dishes and drinks.
The building was designed by the same world-renowned Japanese architect who has been commissioned to design the 2020 Tokyo Olympics arena. The curving concrete walls simulate a Scottish cliff face from the rugged highlands. It’s also cool to note that the building is powered by geothermal energy, leaving a zero-carbon footprint.
The V&A is one part of a £1 billion waterfront transformation that is scheduled out for 30 years, bringing Dundee up as one of Scotland most modern cities, if not putting it at the top of the list.
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