Travel

A Weekend In Glasgow

Buchanan Street again, this time with the Dona...

Buchanan Street again, this time with the Donald Dewar staue watching the shoppers. http://maps.google.com?q=55.86415633901553,-4.252760410308838(watching)&t=h See where this picture was taken. http://www.flickr.com/groups/geotagging/discuss/72157594165549916/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Glasgow isn’t a city that is new to me. In actual fact, it’s probably my first most visited city, excluding my home town of Perth, however, every time I visit there, be that one week or three, I feel as though I’m being reborn and my artistic entity awakes by streets filled with inspiration. My friend Andie and I were planning a trip and it was a tossup between Glasgow or the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, but we chose the place that I love due to the easiness that half of my family life there so we would have a warm place to stay. Since I was only in Glasgow four days beforehand, I wasn’t in the mind-set that this would be an adventure of discovering a new place, but even I found the odd beauty in the life of the city I thought I knew too well. I want to show you have my non-adventure turned into something a bit more meaningful to me.

We arrived at 3 on a Friday and already Queen Street station was mobbed; filled with business people counting down until their weekend would begin and fashionable men and woman who had already started partying. We whisked away for a Starbucks, which at Perth station you would be luckily to catch a coffee before going on a train ride as the station consists of the ticket office, a café and a WHSmith. A quick exit took us down to Buchanan Street and it is here, walking this long diagonal high street where my transformation to bliss begins. Without a doubt I believe this is the best street in the UK or even Europe. It’s so refreshing to go from quiet to busy in the space of seconds. Here, everyone always has a mission and their focus is highlighted in their features, if you’re a slow walker don’t challenge the status quo or you will end up being stamped on the ground. At the three lights which dissect the street the public act as a wave, not caring about the moving vehicles which could slice them at any moment. Why? Because the public rule here. They swarm together in packs so you will never be crossing the road on your own so the buses and cars are left waiting in limbo until you have made it safely across the red light.

A whole day could be spent entering and exiting through the variety of shops on that street, in fact, we almost spend two! Never before have I stopped and paid attention to what was actually available shopping wise in Glasgow, but that’s what was good about having a companion with me; she made me stop and see what was right in front of my eyes. We went to such shops as Diesel, which I would never be able to afford anything in, but seeing that different way of life where people can buy £80 jeans makes you feel a part of it and contrastingly feel so far away from it. Andie had to return items for a friend at the House of Fraser’s so we headed there and I don’t lie when I say you do catch your breath when you enter the building. From inside it looks like a palace with a grand staircase like the famous one in Harry Potter right in front of you where you can glide up the blue stairs like a Princess and carry on into the heaven of a department store. I have been in here before, but I can’t remember a vision of it ever looking like this. But I wasn’t complaining. Shop assistants would know our game from the moment we stepped inside and the look of awe on our faces would have proven that we’re just little girls and not people they should think of as customers. It’s one thing to re-enact having that lifestyle, but I think looking around at all the beauty made me realise that I don’t really want that life, I don’t need the fashionable shoes and Dior perfume to make me happy; I’ll always have my working class roots and I’m proud of it. It is just strange to know that people on your doorstep really do live like that.

Although, there is one lab of luxury in my eyes that I will never complain about: Cineworld. Back in Perth we have an original cinema called the Playhouse, which I love because it’s very old fashioned outside with black and white vertical lines draping down the building and they have recently introduced black tiles outside which form the titles of the films being shown. It’s very retro indeed and it stands out in our town, but if you want to experience the big screen, i.e. the gigantic screen, Glasgow’s Cineworld is the place to be. It’s made up of 6 floors with 18 screens in total, our cinema has 8 if we’re lucky, and there are hundreds of escalators beside huge giant windows which allow you to see across some of Glasgow on your way up and at night, when all the lights are flickering on, it’s a beautiful site. I feel so envious when I watch all the people buy their tickets nonchalantly, this is a normal night for them, and they don’t understand how lucky they are to have this for entertainment purposes. We went to go and watch the Life of Pi, which was stunning in its own right and transported us to the world of India.

Our itinerary for Saturday was crammed to the bone, but we surprisingly did manage to accomplish everything. First, we went to the ice skating at George Square, although we didn’t show up spontaneously; we had our tickets all booked up in advance in case it would be too packet with people on the day. We arrived about 11 and I was pretty worried because there weren’t that many people on the ice as a children’s activity had just finished. Maybe our expectations of how much Glasgow liked to party on the ice was wrong. The least I wanted was for parents to laugh at me when I tried to learn how to skate. Luckily, after receiving our tickets and packing away my bag, the rink had filled up a bit and I was already fantasising about how wondrously I would float on the ice like a skater on Dancing On Ice as I won’t require learning any skills as my feet would know what do to.  Nothing goes my way and of course and I was terrible at trying to glide, I more or less walked. I don’t know how people can put one foot on the ice and start whizzing around like its nature to them. I spent my time either having my hand clenched onto the barrier or grasped into Andie’s hand. I must admit, I did get better after half an hour and I’m sure with a bit of practise I would become better at ice skating. Let’s just say it wasn’t as simple as I had suspected. Glasgow hadn’t diminished my expectations and again it had given me a treat with around 60 of us skating away.

Finding food in Glasgow can be quite a pain. Well, that is what I thought. I don’t tend to eat out in Glasgow, or if I do it would be at DiMaggio’s at the St. Enoch Centre or at McDonalds/KFC/Pizza Hut. After having a ride on the Flying Swing we ate at a Tardis (small on the outside, bigger on the inside) takeaway shop. I was quite enthralled by the chalk board sign outside reading Pancakes and French Toast. The café had light brown wooden furniture with the red backings, which made it feel as though we were in an old Scottish film set in a rundown area. Stressing this idea was a woman beside us wanting to be sick, but the waiter wouldn’t let her puke in the toilets so she had to do it outside. The food was pretty poor, a potato scone roll was virtually one potato scone and a burned  roll, not the nicest I have ever ate so we made a quick escape and we continued our wandering tour of Glasgow.

Before we went to book our tickets for the theatre that night, we again had a look around the town. Every time I enter the Primark store in Argyle Stree it makes me want to cry because it’s a whole three stories tall. After some trying on of clothes once again Andie introduced me to a place of Glasgow, right in the centre of town, which I had never been to before: Princes Square. We saw the flashing lights of an elevator cocooned by an arched stone door sized walkway in Buchanan Street and there was no way we couldn’t explore it. A beautiful, almost crystallised, decorated gateway met our eyes with turrets bellow us filled with restaurants and expensive looking shops. It was good to finally be able to put a view to Princes Square.

Busking is another part of Glasgow entertainment which you cannot escape. Luckily for me I love to hear people singing their songs and dancing around and the town streets. Every time I see a musician play an instrument or sing a song I can’t help but smile as I admire their talents, and I also smile because of how ultra-cool I feel when I know what song they are playing. Dance acts are definitely the new craze and you can see many dance groups around the town having the box blaring whilst the kids show off their hip hop improvised dance moves. They tend to make a good crowd for themselves too which gives a more community feel, rather than people walking past and ignoring them. Bagpipes are the bane of my life though. When you hear the dreaded drone you know you are going to be hit by the screech of wheezy cats. Sometimes you are surprised when you hear the blow of air escaping from an accordion or the scrape of metal against a violin; it feels as though you have been transported to Paris or Italy, especially when strolling through Merchant City.

Because we are big kids me and Andie decided (planned in advance) to have our face painted as they were doing free face painting at George Square for the Hogmanay weekend. Sitting in the seat beside us was a girl of no more than six years old. I was worried that the lady would send us packing as we were a wee bit old for face painting, but she was fine about it (although she had to remove padding on the seat so she could reach our faces properly) and we ended up with matching designs on the side of our eyes. Buying our tickets for the The Wizard of Never Woz didn’t run too smoothly as the problem was we couldn’t find the opening to the Pavilion theatre! Situated right next to the Cineworld, I had passed the theatre so many times, but I had never taken much notices of it. Where the entrance you’d think would be, as it had the flashing red Pavilion sign on top, had the doors covered in posters so it felt as though it couldn’t have been the way in. Having a quick walk around the area, trying and failing to not look like idiots, it turnout out that it was the entrance after all and our ticket booking went smoothly thereafter.

After a rush to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum with a quick mission in the rain down Byres Road to collect tickets for the Iron Bru Carnival, we headed home for a chippy and then back out again for the pantomime. We found ourselves walking up the dreaded Buchanan Street (after walking up and down a street 7 or 8 times it does become pretty annoying) and we took our seats. Our view from the stage was pretty good and it seemed like every seat probably had an equally substantial viewing. The seats are tightly close together so it feels as though you are sitting on your neighbours lap, but that is quite a good think in increasing this community spirit. I thought the show was fantastic and a real crowd pleaser. They made the show trendy by incorporating music of 2012 and the acting and special effects were both over exaggerated yet believable. Most importantly, they gave the show a national twist, meaning that they were speaking in Glasgow tongue and shouting reference after reference of things you would only understand if you were Scotland born, making the audience laugh their heads off. Once again I felt as though I was a part of this bigger picture and it made me feel special and lucky to have the chance to experience something like that which you might not be privilege to experience in another country.

If you had to choose one city which you would choose is the poorest in Scotland you would probably decide on Glasgow. It’s true that there are many deprived areas in the city, however, there are also many rich folk and so, like anywhere, there is a mixture of the two extremes, but what makes Glasgow different is the communication between these mixed diversities. It doesn’t matter where you come from and how much money you have lining your pockets, everyone in Glasgow is up more a good talk, and my, how they sure like to talk! When Andie and I went to the Iron Blue Carnival at the SECC on Sunday, our final day in Glasgow, we were both feeling pretty sick after only three rides.  So we decided to play a few fairground games, guiltily this is what I love most about carnivals, you can stuff your rides; all I want to do is play the claw game! During the ring tossing game, something that should have been impossible happened: one of my rings hooked around a mobile phone and a pink watch. You could see in their eyes that the two stall assistants were twitchy. One of the men asked me which item I preferred, I chose the mobile as I could sell it on Ebay for some cash. When he picked up the case, it turned out the box was empty so he had to go and speak to his supervisor; I wasn’t too bothered as I was too giddy that I had one something. I became anxious as they were spending a long time talking. Eventually they came over and told us that the ring had snapped so I would be given five free shots and if I fail to win anything I could pick an item from around the front. The tickets didn’t interest me at all as I had already gained free entry and had dozens of tickets left, and carrying a bottle of sweets around with me that I felt too sick to eat and I didn’t have a bag to carry them in didn’t seem much fun either. Despite this I took my Love Heart sweets and left.

Well, not quite. It turned out that people had watched me win and were not afraid to tell me what they thought the stall was up to. One tall man with a red jumper on matching his growing pink face told me that he had watched me chuck over the hoop fair and square and that the guys were crapping themselves because it was fix and they have no mobile to give. The supervisor had only said that the ring was broken but it was a pack of lies. Another woman came and told us that we should complain as she had also seen me throw the hoop. This is what I love about Glasgow; people are willing to talk to you, even if they don’t know you. It’s like a customary to be a true Glaswegian. They always tell their story in powerful passionate voices which you can’t help trusting in and falling for their manipulation. Also, their friendliness is contagious; you can’t help become powerful and passionate yourself as you listen to them. This is what made me feel more sad about not winning, it felt like the whole of Glasgow was against this one scamming stall and I had to stand up and be the William Wallace to this army of brave Scots. I had to find the courage from within me by the aid of my ancestors ghosts to tell them what I had to say about their scheming stalls. I had to complain. I didn’t complain.

That what Glasgow has the power to do to you; you become another manipulated chump taken in by the bright lights, but hidden under that aura of awe your still you. I’m still the quiet introvert who couldn’t complain to a company in case they complain about me. On a lighter note I was able to give 10 free tokens to the encouraging lady, so at least I was able to give a bit back to the city I love.

If there is one place which will always be able to offer you more and the people will continuously surprise you, then it will be Glasgow. I’ve been brought up in the rural life. It’s not exactly country roads, but it is still a quite small town where you can easily get bored. So venturing to a place like Glasgow makes me feel more alive, and I’ve learned that maybe it is a good thing that I don’t live there permanently; the adventurous feeling of Glasgow will always strike me every time I reach Queen Street Station.

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