I took the bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow for three pounds. I am still amazed at the use of technology here for everything. In the bus line no one had printed tickets like me, they all showed the bus driver their cell phones. They get their paid online ticket “texted” to their phones and simply show it to the driver. Arriving in the city I walked down to St. Georges Square and noticed several posters along the way for “Gourmet Glasgow” which is on right now! Another lucky break. The food festival involves the cities top 40 restaurants which have amazing set menus for 15 pounds including wine.
I spent the day touring the city on my own as I was meeting Helen (the Scotty friend from Englishtown and Madrid). I arrived at St.Georges Square at the perfect moment. The Glasgow International Piping Festival was going on which was a great treat to watch. Huge Bagpipe and drumming bands were marching around the square with many spectators taking shots of the event. After the pipers finished a Whiskey artisan moved to the center of the square and did a demo on how to make a whiskey cask. He was able to take apart and put back together his cask in less than 10 minutes (I have a lot of work to do in that regard it seems).
I made my way to GoMA (Glasgow Modern Art Gallery). I sat outside of the entrance with my hot café mocha (it was a chilly one today), three huge honey cruiller doughnuts and a cheese and onion pastie. The art gallery was fairly small but has a nice little UK collection. A highlight was the gnome sculpture made of cigarettes. The artist said she was trying to quit smoking so instead of smoking she continued to buy her cigarettes and created this sculpture to help her knock the habit. The sculpture hall had a few oddities such as a “glob wearing loafers” and a piece entitled “We Leave the Scum with No Place to Hide” (this was a toilet brush with bristles made of sharp shards of pop cans.) A film called “Gobstopper” was fun to watch for a bit. It is a succession of car journeys with children as they attempt to hold their breath for the duration of the journey through Glasgow’s Clyde Tunnel. An exhibit by Chad McCail entitled “We are not dead” was a delight. The artist creates prints that look like children’s cartoons (the people have no faces however). The scenes look typical until you look at the caption and really look at what the characters are doing. They all have social messages.
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the cinema (I couldn’t help the urge). I saw Superman Returns and My Super Ex Girlfriend. Both were typical blah summer blockbusters but it was a nice way to put up my feet and relax. I walked to the Hotel I was supposed to stay at with my Grandma and Aunty and was floored when I discovered that the hotel was completely booked and therefore I had no where to stay. I walked to the train station to meet Helen feeling very worrisome. My worry increased when I sat in front of the arrivals board and saw the huge headline on the TV screen that read “Terrorist Plot: All UK Flights Cancelled”. Seeing that I am flying out of Glasgow on Sunday this was not a nice piece of news. No hand luggage is allowed on the flights either, and the lines at the airport look ridiculously long. I am sure my flight home will be a horrible experience. Looking on the positive, I found Helen in the crowd and ran up to her to give her a smooch. We took the local train to her suburban neighborhood called Bears Den. I met her two lovely parents and we started making our evening Pimms and Lemonade. The drink is served traditionally at Wimbledon Tennis Championship so we felt the need to follow the trend. The bevy is lovely. Two thirds pimms, one third lemonade with sliced cucumber, strawberries, apples, mint, lemons and limes. For dinner we had Beef and Potatoes Braised in Guinness and finished off our tummies with home made Cheesecake. The greater part of the evening consisted of laughing, cava, watching BigBrother, cava and more cava. Helens friend Timothy came over to spend the evening with us and when I told him of my accommodation predicament he told me his dad (who is an economist and writes in the economist, how cool is that) has a flat in the Westend which no one is renting at the moment. Suddenly I had my own flat in Glasgow. Amazing how our predicaments change for the better isn’t it!
In the morning we checked www.5pm.co.uk the city restaurant booking specials site. The UK loves the restaurant special. We booked a place for the evening called Cafe Andaluz a Spanish restaurant. We walked through Bears Den (the wealthiest area of Scotland) and stopped at a cafe for espressos and took our time browsing through the lovely real estate pages. The highlight of the morning is when we stopped at the local Registry Office steps, planted ourselves over the scattered confetti and professed our undying love to one another as we had a fake wedding procession. Now that we were a married, in love, couple…things were warm and fuzzy all day as we took the bus to the Westend and walked to the Kalvingrove Museum (huge famous museum and gallery which just opened after two years of renovations). Everything you can imagine can be found here; oil paintings, sculptures, dinosaurs, stuffed elephants and an exhibit on the evolution of the washing machine! We walked to the beautiful 600 year old Glasgow University (where I would love to study at some point, another dream). My favorite stop was Ashton Lane. The cutest little restaurant and bar street full of trendy spots. We stopped at a chippy on the way and I had the traditional deep fried Mars bar with soft serve ice cream and raspberry sauce! So good, sinful, calorie counting but thrilling. We found a great restaurant for lunch called The Wee Curry Shop. The restaurant was very nice with leather seats and beautiful red blue tartans hung in the windows as drapes. This was by far the highest quality Curry I have ever had. Helen tells me that Glasgow is Scotland’s “Curry Capital”. At lunch they have “Indian Tapas” small little portions. We had rice, garlic roti, spiced onions, chicken korma and samosas. Walking back to the bus station we stopped at a neat pub that has a really neat lunch deal called “A play, a pie and a pint.” For the one hour lunch period, the working man/woman can drop by have a mutten pie, beer and watch a comedy play, brilliant idea. We stopped at a neat little stationary store just outside the bus que and I bought two hilarious Scottish joke cards that I can’t wait to hang in my room. I phoned the Grandma in her hotel room and was pleased to find out that they were able to get me a room on the Sunday evening before we fly home.
Our farewell dinner was an excellent evening at the Spanish tapas bar restaurant Cafe Andaluz. The decor of the place is brilliant, in the basement of an apartment block, full of big medieval chairs, iron chandeliers and cushion filled benches. The menu has over 50 tapas to choose from and with our special deal we each got to choose three and included a free dessert. We first ordered a jug of sangria and then ordered two helpings of patatas bravas (fried potatoes mixed in spicey tomato sauce). Followed by Pollo Rebozado con Miel (chicken fillet in crisp batter coated with Spanish honey and grainy mustard). Roasted veg, hot tomato meatballs and chorizo cooked in spicy gravy, magnificent.
Helen and I spent the evening talking rubbish. Laughing until our stomachs split. Inventing new phrases such as “we are like two coins that bend to a different feather.” I tried to stuff a few morsels of my free Spanish honey and ginger cheesecake, with not much success. I walked Helen back to the Central Train station and then made my way to the bus station as I needed to head back to Edinburgh to pick up my luggage. The long 90 minute bus ride through the rain was all I needed at that point.
The following morning I left at 11am and slowly creeped down the street with the 27 odd kgs of “stuff” that nearly broke my back. I got to the bus station just as the bus was leaving for Edinburgh so hopped on and collapsed in my seat. The Glasgow bus station is an excellent spot to people watch. The craziest most eccentric people on earth all under one roof. I had phoned Timothy’s father (Helens best friends dad had offered to let me stay at one of his empty flats for a night as I was homeless) and was waiting 20 minutes for them to arrive from the Westend. The traffic coming into the city was insane. The International Piping final was today and the Northern Irish would take home the gold (we found this out as the hotel my grandma and aunt were staying in housed all of them). I noted down the 3 wackos I saw at the bus station:
A family of three. An older mother, a 20 something year old brother and a 10 year old son (short fat and horrible). The short little fat one slapped his brother on the head, stole food from his mom and screamed and carried on like one of those brats from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The best part of the dialog was…
Old Brother “He slapped me fuckin head!”
Mother “You fuckin ejit, dont swear around a developing mind.”
Little Boy “Shite I want more candy.”
The second marvel was the paranoid man who evidently was OCD and obsessed with germs. I was sitting beside a long line of public outdoor toilets. This guy was trying to open the door without touching anything (which is apparently impossible). He finally got a lady to help him and once inside, three seconds later, everyone could hear him SCREAM at the top of his lungs. Perhaps he doesn’t like small spaces either…haha. The third was a morbidly obese woman who looked psychotic, smoked a cigarette for two seconds beside me, snorted and made dog noises and then waddled into the other direction. Timothy showed up and ushered me into his dad’s car. They drove me to their empty flat which is located in the Westend in the nicest neighborhood, about a one minute walk from the University of Glasgow (where his dad is a grad prof for economics). They showed me all around the huge flat in which I would be spending my sleep that evening. They did a quick tour of the city (it was a mad house of crazy busy) and dropped me off at the hotel where my aunty and grandma were staying.
I hung out with my grandma for a bit as my aunt was at GoMA checking out the modern art works. When she returned we took a taxi to The Willow Tea Room. The tea house is famous, busy and a bit loud. The fame stems from the interior designer, one famous, Charles Rennie Mackintosh of the Art Nouveau movement. I had traditional afternoon tea as I was starving. Wee sandwiches, earl grey loose leaf, scones with preserves and clotted cream and finished off with an apple crumble toffee pie! We dropped granny back in her bed for a rest and the aunt and Andrew headed for a walk to find a local restaurant to venture out to tonight. We found a nice place called Que which had just opened two weeks ago. Before heading back to the room we decided to grab a drink and were so glad a local suggested “the Corinthian”. The bar is ranked one of the top 100 bars and restaurants to visit in Europe. Walking into the bar your mouth drops. The interior is a 1700th century palace made court house made drinking establishment. The building is an excellent example of Glasgow’s happening old/new fun. Every relic of a building in Glasgow is used for modern purposes. Most of the cathedrals in the city are actually restaurants, bars and theaters now (this proved to be tricky as my grandma wanted to go to church on Sunday and we couldn’t actually find a church in the city). We felt ever so regal in this happening little spot. I got a Pimms and Lemonade and the aunty got a pink Cosmo. We headed back to the hotel and slowly walked grandma down the one block down hill to the restaurant. The dinner was perfect: a bottle of pinot grigio between the three of us. I had tagliatelle with roasted red peppers and veal. Aunty had an amazing fresh herb and pine nut risotto and grandma got her much loved cannelloni. The “walk” back to the hotel was funny. We had to sit grandma down on her rocky and push her up hill, funny scene that was. Returning to the hotel the lobby smelled of beer and was full of kilts and crazy bag pipers. I dropped them off in the room and then headed to the tube station to make my way to Hillhead stop and found my apartment thank God. Walked around the flat all alone and then fell asleep as I heard the bars and pubs down the street booming.
I woke up at 8am cold as ever. I had forgotten to ask how to turn the heat on at night and I was quivering. I decided to find a warm spot to spend the next few hours before I headed to the hotel. I walked down to the main street which was dead as dead can be on a Sunday morning and found one cafe open so bought a mochachino and orange carrot cake and read Jackie Collins for two hours. I read a bit of the newspaper and was pleased to come across the Fringe Fest news. Stephen K Amos has been the hit comedian of the last three years. I recognized his ads instantly as I saw him at the Comedy Shop in London with my cousin and her friends back in June. He is hilarious. On the tube back to the main city center I saw an ad that read “Choose from over 50 of Europe’s finest designer bathrooms.” Only in Europe do you pay for toilets, but only in Europe do you get DESIGNER bathrooms, brilliant. I picked up my Aunt and we spent the day in the Westend. I showed her around where I had spent the last two days and we went to the University and Kalvingrove Museum. My favorite two pieces are Dali’s famous Hanging Crucifixion and “Embassy Lodge” by Anthony Green. The gallery has been closed for renovations for some time. We bumped into an avid fan of the gallery. She talked about it as if it were a shrine to the world. She was standing at the balcony that overlooks the organ across the central lobby. She told us that she was so excited about the live organ symphony that would be taking place in 30 minutes. She told us the organist as if we would know him off hand (like Bono or Jesus or something). We walked back to the Westend shopping area and popped in the “Heart of Buchanan Kitchen” where I bought Aunty a Mango Lassee and I got a Snickers Shake with a Smoked ham, Gruyere and caramelized onion panini. We headed back to the hotel to check up on the granny and I checked into my hotel room. We walked down to the hotel restaurant where I had a Caesar salad, green Thai curry and a pint of Stella. A king size bedded suite. The biggest splurge of my trip, a finale of sorts. I walked around naked and slept in between an excellent assortment of luxury bedding the thrill of a private room, a backpackers marvel. As I lay in my bed staring at Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” video I caught a pit in my throat. This was my last sleep in Europe. C A N A D A tomorrow…gulp.