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Published: June 12th 2018
After the lovely long weeks in France when we had time to do whatever we wanted and there was always the space to respond to the weather or how we felt, these weeks in Scotland will be different. Like our earlier trips to Europe we will be spending only three nights or so in each place and travelling on to the next destination. So what to do in the historic city of Glasgow in a couple of days?
For starters, we were exhausted! Our epic train trip took its toll on these senior travellers, so we were slow starters. Our plan was to do the open bus tour of the city on the first day, as we know that is an easy way to get our measure of a city without having to work out how to get around. We had done our homework and knew the route was close by, but when we checked on line, discovered that the buses were not running for most of the day because of a city fun run! So we decided to use an Uber and go to the major art gallery, but found that all the surrounding roads were closed for the
race... Glad to know the Glaswegians are staying fit!
We were probably saved from ourselves and were forced to have a gentle day closer to home. After a couple of scrappy food days, our meals that day were a real highlight. There is every kind of food within the block where we are staying and we discovered that according to TripAdvisor the number 1 Asian restaurant out of 171 in Glasgow was 100 metres away! My craving for Chinese food was about to be satisfied - we had a great meal, with my steamed dumplings being outstanding!
Our end of town feels a little down at heel after the beauty of Provence - litter in the lanes, broken pavements and abandoned buildings amongst the more solid architecture. We now know it is the theatre and arts end of the city, and that most interesting things were closed on a Sunday - the hazards of travel. So on a low news day, our evening stroll in the long twilight of thin sun took us on a search in the local pedestrian mall for light food that appealed. We saw a Danish craft shop, a kilt making shop, a falafel
kiosk with a queue on the street, and could hear the karaoke. What we found in the end was the best hamburger I have ever tasted, from a franchise called Smashburger. Fresh, organic, tasty - it hit the spot with an old fashioned milkshake! We felt like teenagers on a night out.
The proud city of Glasgow is the biggest in Scotland with about 600,000 people. Sitting on the River Clyde, it has a long history of trade and ship building. Known as a centre of culture, it has the national opera and ballet in town, it has also been voted the world's friendliest city! We did do the open bus tour in the end and enjoyed it immensely, not least listening to the wonderful Scottish accent of the commentary! At times it is no easier to understand than French. Whenever we do the red bus tours, we have tried to sit on the top in the open, whatever the weather, to enjoy the view from higher up than is possible at ground level. Who cares about being windswept? It is exhilarating being in the open and on this trip we had to dodge a few tree branches.
The circuit lasts over an hour and Glasgow is impressive, especially with its Art Deco architecture, many monuments, the huge Cathedral precinct, the famous shopping streets, universities, museums and stunning conference and entertainment centres. Then comes the contrast in the old tenement areas, now mainly used as student digs. I learnt that the phrase 'scot free' comes from Scotland's unique court system which has Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven - which means not enough evidence, so he goes scot free! You learn something every day.
Stop 16 of the 21 bus stops was the Kelvin Grove Gallery, so that was where we spent the rest of the day out. What a stunning place! The building itself is absolutely beautiful, and has been used to the full with its 22 galleries. I reckon Peter actually saw most of them! The other feature of Scottish galleries is that they are free, which is such a boost to the arts. It felt so welcoming and we didn’t have to put all our bags in lockers, but just walked in and enjoyed it.
We knew that there was a special exhibition featuring John Rennie MacIntosh, one of the so called Glasgow
Conference and entertainment centres
The one on the right lights up at night and is known as the spaceship. The other is very like the Opera House!
Boys, a school of art at the end of the 19th century - about the same time that Van Gogh was painting in Arles and St Remy. He was a painter, an architect and designer and we enjoyed his work, although none of his paintings of Provence were there. His wife was also a wonderful artist and they did some great work together. The gallery has a great collection, including some valuable Impressionists and Post Impressionists. We saw Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Gauguin, Pissarro, Sisley, Constable, Turner, Picasso and many others, beautifully curated with great information and educational activities.
We were looking forward to seeing Salvador Dali's famous Christ of Saint John of the Cross - the incredible crucifixion painting with the unusual perspective from above - and worked our way towards it, only to find it was out on loan! Hope someone else is enjoying it...
For me, a real highlight was an organ recital at lunchtime in the grand hall. The majestic sounds of the pipe organ in that grand hall were spine tingling, and there were screens showing his foot pedal work on one and the three keyboards on the other. We had classical, Ave
Maria, Skye Boat Song and climaxed with Jerusalem, which the Brits always sing along to. It was thrilling soul food and one of those unplanned high points of travel.
We finished the bus tour and that was enough for us - just a small taste of Glasgow. The night ended with more Chinese food, this time consumed in our picnic ware, sitting on the bed! It was then that we saw the Scottish weather report on TV: storms, rain and gale force winds coming to the Hebrides - our next stop. We have a boat trip booked to Mull and Iona - oh dear! Those who know me know my phobic relationship with boats. Stay tuned for the next challenging episode, which will include switching back to driving on the left. We are hanging on to the theory of plasticity of the brain!
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