Northward bound! At long last I was headed for Scotland. Paul, Alfie and I waited at the bus stop for quite some time. It was Monday of the bank holiday weekend, so busses were on a Sunday service schedule. Of course, there were two people at the bus stop that Paul knew, so he commended me into their care once we got on the vehicle. I had a conversation with one of them most of the way into the city center. It was about politics. I nodded a lot. Still unsure of much of what was said (another pretty strong Brummie speaker). We arrived at the train station downtown.
The train from Birmingham had hardly anyone on it. But as we headed north, we picked up more people. Some got on and off again. I sat by myself much of the time, then for a stint next to a young guy with his two little boys traveling to York for the day and later next to an elderly Englishman on his way to Aberdeen who referred to Scotland as “a foreign country”. The train rolled through green countryside and into and out of fairly large cities, most of whose names I’ve heard but know little or nothing about: Chesterfield, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle. These were all gritty, industrial looking towns and gave me a view into what is referred to as “the industrial north”. Only Durham, with its hills and stately old stone buildings, looked like a place I’d want to spend any time. And perhaps York.
Slowly, the landscape stretched out so there was open space between cities. We had to get almost to the Scottish border before that happened. And the landscape began to change. Instead of dense, dense green grass only, I began to see stands of other kinds of vegetation here and there: stands of trees, patches of gorse, heather, and tall grasses (tan and red instead of the previously monochromatic green) and occasional outcropping a of rock. Before I knew it, we were in Edinborough. Edinburough! Wow! I was in Edinburough! But I couldn’t really see it or get to it or get to interact with it. I felt this internal spluttering of “But, but, but… It’s right there!!! Can’t I get over there? Can’t I see some of it? I mean it’s Edinborough, Scotland for God’s sake! You don’t get this close to it and then just travel by it.” But that’s exactly what I did.
In just half an hour, I was in Glasgow. I came up out of the station in the early afternoon to find the city jammed with people (I was in the busiest part of downtown), sunny and bright, and fairly straightforward to negotiate. A person on Ravelry had recommended a well located, mid priced hotel to me and I set off to find it. Have I told you about the hills in Glasgow? Well, think hills like San Fransisco’s. Tough going up, fun going down. It was all uphill to my hotel. Whew! Then when I arrived, there were three flights of stairs to my room. “Why yes, I’d be happy to accept your offer of help with my bags!” The good thing about being nearly fifty is that almost without exception, I’m happy to have someone else do the heavy lifting.
My room was plain and simple but also clean and very comfortable. After living in a construction zone for the past few days, I was delighted. I kicked off my shoes, tried out the bed, plugged in my phone for a little recharge and took a 15 minute power rest. (Not nap because those of you who know me know that my power naps are more like three hours.) Then I picked up my backpack, hopped down the stairs, and headed out the door to see Glasgow.
Wow. What a beautiful city. Now it’s true, I was there during unusually fine weather. However, for someone who lives in the American west, where most of the cities were built after World War 2 and based on the scale and needs of the automobile, a city like Glasow is a joy to explore. First of all, you can traverse much of it on foot, at least the central area. Second, there is a range of structures from very, very old to brandspanking new. Fantastic. People are everywhere. Yes, some are visiting. But most are going about their everyday lives. Glasgow strikes me as completely unselfconscious. It’s not thinking “Am I glamorous enough? Will I attract enough visitors? Am I looking super hip and cool? Would businesses like me? Do I offer enough amenities to my people?” Glasgow communicates “Hey! Here’s what I’m doing. Hang out for a coffee and a blether (a chat)”. Glasgow is busy moving people about, getting things done, cooking food, meeting friends, carrying groceries, watching a game at the pub, changing, growing, delivering, attending and not trying to be or do anything other than what it is.
I walked down to Sauchiehall Street, a great pedestrian walkway in the middle of downtown and walked up and down the hills of the city. Around one side street, I happened upon the Glasgow School of Art. It’s something I planned to go looking for the next day. As I’d heard, there was a fire recently and the entire building is under repair. It’s one of the most well known of Charles Rennie MacIntosh’s designs. For those of you who aren’t architecture geeks, MacIntosh was a well known artist, architect and designer from Glasgow who worked in the early part of the 20th century and was instrumental in the development of what we refer to as Art Nouveau. You might think of MacIntosh and Glasgow in the way we think of Frank Lloyd Wright and Oak Park (or Chicago). His work is famous round the world. It never occurred to me that I would ever see his work in real life. Even when I knew I was coming to Scotland, the correlation did not occur in my brain. Only when the specific location of Glasgow come up suddenly did I think of him.
So there I was, blithely walking about in the city, turned a corner and there was the Glasgow School of Art! In scaffolding, unfortunately.
So, wow. Beautiful. I kept walking and eventually ended up in a nice little cafe for some food. Wandered some more. Then I realized it was 9:00 pm on a Monday night and what was I still doing wandering about?!?! Scotland is so much farther north than Santa Fe that it’s light until almost 11 pm. Even on a Monday night, there were still plenty of folks out and about. But I did reach the point of being walked out. I headed back to the hotel, hiked my three flights of stairs and hit the sack.
The next moRning I was up early. The hotel offered breakfast but their coffee was crap, so I headed back to Sauchiehall (sorry – pronounce that like “sock ee hall”) for some real coffee. Then I walked down some hills to King George Square, which most folks consider the center of Glasgow. I had purchased a ticket online the night before for one of the city sightseeing buses. Theses were two story, bright red buses that circle all around the city offering a guided tour. You can get on and off them at any stop. The top level is also partially open air (so you know where I was going to sit). The funny thing was that when I arrived, I had the email verification of my purchased ticket but no printed receipt. So the tour people sent me over to the Museum of Contemporary Art where there was a library at which I could print it out. Two things resulted from this little snafu: I got to poke about in the MCA and I now have a Glasgow library card. Because you couldn’t use a printer without signing up for time on one of their public computers. And of course, you couldn’t use a computer unless you had a library card. I am now the only resident of Santa Fe with a library card from Glasgow. We actually checked.
Also, I found it humorous that the Glasgow Museum of Contemporary Art is housed in this building:
Then, with my (goodness, finally!) printed ticket in hand, I headed back to King George square and got on one one of those red buses.
The red bus was probably the best thing I’ve done on this trip since that oh-my-God-there-are-sheep-in-those-rolling-grass-fields first day’s walk in the Cotswolds. There are so many pictures though, I’m going to start a new post so your computer, phone, or iPad doesn’t explode from having to download so many.