I had two good reasons to be grateful to local architect Alexander Marshall MacKenzie during my visit to Aberdeen.
The first was for providing relief to my sore feet, caused as a result of loitering in the numerous stores and shopping centres that have opened since I moved away from the city some years ago.
The second was for providing a haven where I could escape the lively throngs of shoppers for a few minutes and grab a quick cup of coffee.
Mackenzie designed Aberdeen’s splendid art gallery on Schoolhill. It opened in 1885 and attracts more than 20,000 visitors a year.
It’s a building I love, not just because it’s free to look around and has a magnificent centre court that immediately envelopes visitors with a sense of stillness, but because it’s home to a wonderful array of artwork and creations.
These range from 18th-century portraits and powerful 20th-century works by artists such as Francis Bacon and Monet to cutting-edge installations that may have you scratching your head in wonder.
I was there when the exhibition Van Gogh to Vettriano was staged. It let visitors see a host of hidden gems owned privately but generously displayed for a few weeks.
It was riveting stuff which is why my “few minutes” visit stretched until it was more than two hours before I emerged, blinking in the afternoon sunshine, from this sparkling city-centre oasis of tranquility.
Union Square, the elegant shopping centre which opened in 2009, is also a place that’s difficult to drag yourself away from.
For those arriving by train or bus, it’s a wonderful entrance to the city, and much nicer than the old meeting and departure points that always seemed windswept.
Along with a 10-screen cinema and great selection of shops – the latest being vintage-inspired brand Cath Kidston – it has 24 restaurants and cafes open from 11am-11pm daily.
You can eat your way around the world here, but I’d advise allowing plenty of time at peak times as you may find queues forming at your favourite eatery.
A short hop from Union Square sits The Green, where there’s clear evidence that in Aberdeen nothing stays the same for long.
When I was a young, this area, one of the oldest parts of the city, was home to a bustling street market where you could buy everything from second-hand clothes to locally-grown tatties.
It’s adjacent to where Aberdeen’s first enclosed shopping mall, Archibald Simpson’s New Market of 1842, was built, having since been replaced by another indoor market where there are always bargains to be had.
The pretty, cobbled Green is now home to specialist shops, pubs and smart eateries – a far cry from when religious and mercantile activity underpinned the area.
Carmelite and Trinitarian religious orders established friaries close by which is where my hotel, The Carmelite, on Stirling Street, takes its name.
It’s at the heart of an area referred to as the Merchant Quarter which even has its own dedicated whisky walk.
With 12 bars all within two minutes’ walk of each other, that should perhaps be the whisky meander.
The Carmelite, which has been beautifully refurbished, offers a quirky take on traditional hotel rooms, with some of the suites and bedrooms resembling a Hollywood film set.
The Cabanel, for example, looks like a rock star’s pad with a huge round bed in an alcove and an elegant bath where you’d expect the bed to be, while the Japanese suite is classy and elegant.
For those who just want to use the hotel as a base to explore Aberdeen, there are standard rooms, but even these are smart, with all the mod-cons you’d expect in a hotel of this standard.
And if you’re stuck for something to read at bedtime, ask a member of staff to pop up with a leather-bound volume of the People’s Journal from the year you were born.
Their offices were based here in the old days and the adverts make for fascinating reading.
Fans of art should also swing by the hotel library which has an interesting art display featuring around 30 paintings of chairs created by Glasgow artist Tom Brown.
This part of the city is ideal for those who enjoy shopping as it’s just minutes’ walk away from Union Street, which has nearly a mile of shops, restaurants and bars to visit – two miles if you count both sides of the street.
The Mall, Bon Accord, Academy and St Nicholas centres are also close by, while those in search of culture have at least three museums within easy reach: The Maritime Museum on Shiprow, Provost Skene’s House on Guestrow and the Tolbooth Museum on Castle Street, which is open from the end of June until September.
Aberdeen has always had a reputation for being a lively city and there’s certainly no shortage of night-time attractions to enjoy for those who haven’t already been tempted to splash all their cash in this compact, shoppers’ and holidaymakers’ paradise.
The Carmelite Hotel, Stirling Street, Aberdeen, has rooms priced from £45 for a single standard room (Friday to Sunday night). Contact 01224 589101 or visit www.carmelitehotels.com
Aberdeen Art Gallery, on Schoolhill, is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm and from 2-5pm on Sundays. Admission is free. Contact 01224 523700.
Union Square has three car parks offering 1,700 spaces, accessible from Market Street, Palmerston Road and College Street. Contact 01224 254300.