Thursday, August 9, 2012

Go on a Glasgow Walk-About in Scotland



The great thing about Glasgow is that if there's a nuclear attack it'll look exactly the same afterwards. 
Billy Connolly 

This is a direct quote from Billy Connolly, one of my favorite Scottish actors, a truly funny man, and a native of Glasgow, Scotland.  His sentiments, which strongly insinuate that Glasgow is a bleak, ugly, grey city, were shared by many people that we talked to.  Several people, some even from Scotland, raised their eyebrows when we informed them we’d planned two days in Glasgow during our tour of Scotland.  

“Whatever for?  There’s nothing IN Glasgow!” they’d yelp at us in astonishment.

I couldn’t understand.  Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland: shouldn’t it have a million things to do and see, all with great levels of importance?  Wouldn’t it be a logical spot to visit when touring all things Scottish?  What did Billy Connelly mean: that it was ugly?

Glasgow - not an ugly city but very old school!

We worried that two days in Glasgow might be two too many.  

We arrived in the evening after a long drive from Drumnadrochit and Loch Ness.  I cheered Joey on proudly as he manoeuvred the rental car through the busy thoroughfares and narrow streets of the big city. We found our hotel relatively easily, thanks to our trusty TomTom.  Belgrave Hotel in Glasgow’s West End didn’t look like a hotel, but more like any other townhouse in a row of about six.  Had it not been for the sign above the door, I would have seriously thought we’d been scammed by the online registration.   


Joey outside our cute little hotel

Inside, however, it was cute and fitting for me, since it used to be an old charter school for girls.  I loved the crazy, twisting staircase, except for the one time when I had to haul my suitcase up to the third floor.  The lovely lady at the registration desk assisted me with that, however - she was oh-so-friendly!


The dining area in the Belgrave Hotel


Don't fall down these suckers!

The next day, Joey and I set out on foot, determined to find beauty and joy in the city of Glasgow, despite what all the naysayers had told us.  I am usually pretty good at finding fun stuff to do, no matter where I am, and was doubtful that there was “nothing” in Glasgow, as we’d been told.  

One block away from our hotel, we found something fun to do.  Easy peasy!


The Oran Mor, where "A Play, a Pie & a Pint" is held.

Part church, part pub, part theatre, this old building was hosting “A Play, a Pie & a Pint” luncheon in the basement under the pub.  It was such an unusual architectural and event combination that we just had to try it!  We had some time to kill before the play began, so we headed upstairs to the pub-inside-a-church and drank a pint of Tennants each.  Folks, this is the first time I had ever drank beer in a church, and it felt just a little naughty!  Hee hee.


Enjoying a beer - inside a church!

The doors to the basement opened, and we carried our pints downstairs into the theatre auditorium.  Skinny tables were set in rows, with napkins and placemats marking each seat.   At the back of the auditorium, yet another bar was stocked full with liquors and beers, and a buffet table stood to one side, laden with steaming hot meat pies.  Yum yum!  We handed over our tickets, received our “pint and pie”, and prepared for the play portion.  


I highly recommend this as a way to pass the afternoon!

The play was quite funny, about two divorcees who end up getting back together while honeymooning at the same hotel with their new spouses.  It was entertaining, and fittingly immoral since we were already onto our second beer in a church basement.


The basement theatre at Oran Mor

Once the show was over, leaving us feeling much more bolstered and positive about this eclectic city of Glasgow, Joey and I started on what turned out to be a very, very long and rambling walk.  We meandered through the beautiful Kelvingrove Park, where I believe the entire population of Glasgow was out for a run (and where I nearly got to take a squirrel home with me).  


The University of Glasgow peeking through the trees of Kelvingrove Park

We shambled past the gorgeous University of Glasgow, with its gleaming gold ‘Harry Potter-esque’ gates and Hogwarts’ style architecture (everything in Glasgow actually reminded me of Harry Potter... not sure why.)  


Gates of the University of Glasgow

Am I at Hogwarts??

We ducked into the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, but didn’t have time to go through the gallery (or I would have been there ALL DAY - I love museums and don’t take them lightly!)  I did buy the coolest Salvador Dali melted clock, one that actually works, as a souvenir, even though I know it is not very “Scottish”.  Sometimes those are the best souvenirs, because they’re not tacky.

Finally, we made tracks all the way downtown on a quest to see the famous Glasgow Cathedral.  We figured we’d walked about 10 - 12 kilometers away from our hotel before finally realizing the Cathedral was much too far away to reach by foot.  The downtown business sector of Glasgow looked just like any other downtown area we’d ever been to, and we simply couldn’t go any further - our feet hurt, we were tired, and we wanted to find a pub, drink a beer, and relax.  Grudgingly, we turned around and headed back the way we’d come.  So no Glasgow Cathedral, but I’m sure it is really nice!


Typical church in the downtown area of Glasgow

The walk proved to us that Glasgow is NOT a city full of “nothing”: there are beautiful tourist sites, informative and interesting museums, lush parks, and entertaining things to do.  Our hotel was in the trendy West End, where all the university kids spend their time, and the stores and restaurants reflected that diverse and chic culture. Our first night we ate delicious dim sum, and the second night we ate at a fun British-style pub. 

Other things to see and do in Glasgow, things we never had the chance to visit, include the Botanical Gardens, the Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour, the Waverly Paddle Steamer, the Glasgow Necropolis, the Science Center, and the Provands Lordship, just to list a few.  This isn’t even touching on the Glasgow night life, which we heard was super fun, but never had the chance to try out (we were powering out by this point in our trip...)

So, to all those people who doubt in Glasgow’s potential for a good time, to you I say, “Pffft!”  Glasgow is great - go see it.  Maybe Mr. Billy Connelly just didn’t get out of the house much.

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