Passing Through Glasgow

Our time in Glasgow was very brief. Most of our last full day in Scotland was spent traveling by car, from the Isle of Skye to Glasgow. We had hoped to catch a hop on/hop off bus and tour the city, but by the time we arrived and dropped off our luggage at the hotel, the day was quickly slipping away.

We barely had time to make it to the one place we all wanted to visit…the Glasgow Cathedral with the huge, Victorian cemetery behind it, known as the Necropolis. And yet, riding in taxis instead of on the bus allowed us to have fun conversations with several different colorful residents of Scotland’s biggest city. And the rain that continually fell didn’t deter us but rather made us appreciate the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant we chose for dinner. It was the right spot. Our young waiter was attentive and we enjoyed chatting with him about Scotland and the US.

Here are additional photos from our brief, but pleasant sojourn in Glasgow.

The glistening square outside the Glasgow Cathedral. In Scotland, you just accept that it is going to rain. We dressed accordingly, in warm layers, with hoodies to cover our heads when the rain fell steadily. When the sky lightened or that rare object, the sun, broke through the clouds, we would push the hoods off our heads and shed a wrap or two.

The sacred beauty of the cathedral.

Far from morbid, the Necropolis, perched high atop a hill, has a unique beauty of its own. The lateness of the day coupled with the rain allowed us to walk among the massive monuments mostly alone. The thing that struck me about this City of the Dead is that the tombstones and memorials list the names of the deceased, and their occupations. This is a burial place of the wealthy and well known in old Glasgow. What the person did in life seemed to be as important as who they were. Even so, in the end, all their empty shells returned to the dust, death being the great equalizer among men.

We wondered if we should be concerned about this sight!

Such a variety of monuments and memorials.

What a gorgeous monument, with its black weathered door.

Outside the gates of the Necropolis is one of the few remaining blue police boxes in the UK. Fans of the long running British show, Doctor Who, will understand why a pic with the blue box was a must!

And that was all we had time for in Glasgow. Another short taxi ride to Buchanan Street, to people watch and find a place to eat, gave us another opportunity for a lively conversation. The next morning, we boarded a train, London bound.

British actor Darren Boyd says about this friendly city:

“For me, Glasgow is all about the people and the spirit of the place.”

I agree. I love Edinburgh. And if it feels like home to me, then Glasgow feels like the fun city I visit on holiday. The people are friendly here. They laugh heartily and share their stories easily. There is a lively energy in Glasgow that courses through the city, encouraging me to return, to explore and see what else I can discover.

I accept that invitation. Glasgow, I will return.

Day 220: Exploring Glasgow

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Today, after a long night of sleep, we were up early and feeling like ourselves again. Before we set out to further explore Glasgow, we had a hardy traditional breakfast. Our plates arrived laden with bacon, which looked more like ham or Canadian bacon, sausage, an egg, baked beans, tomato, flat bread and black pudding. I jumped right in by trying the black pudding first and it was excellent! The whole breakfast was and gave us the energy we required for a full day of getting to know Glasgow.

Our friendly and extremely helpful concierge, Colm, pointed us in the right direction to locate a post office (the best place to exchange currency) and gave us £1 off vouchers for the City Sightseeing Glasgow bus. For £11 we saw the entire city and learned of her rich history. There were 28 stops where we could hop off and later hop back on without paying an additional fee. We toured the city and on the second time around got off at several points of interest.

First stop was the Glasgow Cathedral, and located behind and above it, the Necropolis. The cathedral was beautiful, full of history, medieval looking. We slipped downstairs into the crypts to look around in the hushed atmosphere. There is still an active congregation that meets in the cathedral.

Back outside we climbed the hill east of the cathedral to the Necropolis. This city of the dead is a Victorian cemetery established in 1833. 50,000 people are buried here although there are only 3500 monuments. Many of these memorials are massive. Apparently Glasgow’s wealthy were laid to rest here. I’ve never seen such amazing stone statues and structures as stood in long curved rows in the Necropolis.

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Our next stop was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We spent a pleasant hour and a half wondering through the exhibits. There was much to see and learn about Scotland’s art, history and natural sciences. There were also paintings by Monet, Rembrant and Salvador Dali. They had an impressive collection of arms and armor.

On we ventured, as the day wore on, to the Willow Tea House. Mindy and I especially wanted to experience an authentic afternoon tea. What a delight! Our afternoon tea consisted of Scottish breakfast tea, 4 varieties of finger sandwiches, scones with butter and strawberry jam, two kinds of cakes and shortbread cookies. After our large breakfast we had skipped lunch. This was a welcome interlude, both for refreshment and to rest weary legs. Mindy and I agreed we could get very used to this daily practice!

From the tea house we walked to nearby shops to browse while Harry visited a gaming store. The rain that had held off gently fell. I think I’d have been disappointed if we hadn’t experienced the famous Scottish weather. Rain doesn’t affect the Scots, and it didn’t slow us down. From this street of shops we found our way back to the hotel.

What a wonderful day! We learned so much, could understand the soft Scottish brogue better and felt comfortable finding our way around the city. In fact, walking to dinner tonight, someone stopped ME and asked for directions. I knew how to direct them successfully to George Square.

Several times today, as we toured this ancient and great city, I literally pinched myself to make sure this was real. For so long I have desired to visit this country, this homeland of my heart and soul. It is very real and I am loving every second. Tomorrow we head north to Loch Ness and the Highlands. I look forward to the rugged beauty we will surely find there.

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Day 219: First Day in Scotland

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After long flights and 3 hours of sleep, during the past 2 days, I have arrived in Scotland with my cousins. The plane had a great feature, a map that could be pulled up on the screen attached to the back of the seat in front me. Mindy, Harry and I could watch our progress as the little plane on the screen flew across the Atlantic. The feature also gave updates on distance traveled and estimated time of arrival.

I tried to sleep but it was impossible. In between watching a couple of movies I’d check our progress. As the little plane symbol moved closer and closer to its destination I got more and more excited. The sun that had just set a few hours before greeted us again as we flew east. Harry opened the window shades and we caught glimpses of Ireland below us. At last Scotland came into view with her coastline and fields and plentiful bodies of water. She called to me so strongly.

We stepped out of the airport and into the crisp morning air. It was about 8:30 Glasgow time although to our weary bodies it felt like 2:30 am. The sun was shining and I fell in love immediately.

While waiting for our room to be ready at Hotel Indigo we walked around the area, marveling at the mix of new, very modern architecture and ancient stone buildings with statues and imposing facades.

Our lack of sleep began to wear on us. We gratefully entered our room, and once we learned to put the room key into the appropriate slot so that the lights worked, we gave in and slept for a short time. The Hotel Indigo is charming and perfect for our needs.

After restorative naps and showers we were back out exploring Glasgow. The people here are friendly and helpful, especially to visitors who don’t know yet what they are doing! We found a variety of shops and restaurants in our area. The Glasgow Kilt Company caught our eye and we made our first purchases there. The friendly proprietor suggested we visit The Horseshoe Pub, just around the corner, for an authentic Scottish experience and to soak up atmosphere. That’s exactly what we were looking for!

We had a great meal of fish & chips and a glass of Guinness. We chatted with more friendly locals and did, indeed, soak up charm and ambience.

It was a wonderful first day in Scotland. It’s going to be an early night for us as we catch up on sleep however tomorrow is another day to explore further out in this fascinating city.

Last night as I watched the plane on the screen, arcing over the Atlantic, I thought of Samwise Gamgee from Fellowship of the Rings. At the edge of the shire he paused, telling Frodo “If I take one more step, I’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” Watching the plane near Scotland I realized how far from home I was. And yet how near to my great adventure I was as well. Like Sam, I took that next step, at least, in my heart and mind while on that plane. And today, I stepped on Scottish soil. The adventure continues!

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