When I was about twelve, I was so lucky to get a big Derwent pencil tin off Mum and Dad for Christmas. I adored these pencils soooo much but what I loved more was the scenic view that was on the front of every one of those pencil tins. That scene came to life today on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow! Running creeks with stone bridges, green lush pasture and trees – it was gorgeous. I think seeing so much ‘green’ has been an enjoyable change to the brown and dead look that is happening at home. I wish the train trip went longer than the hour it took to get there – it was all scenery that took me back to Ireland – again just so green!I have to say I have no problem in saying I am totally enjoying having TWO guilt-free showers per day – no buckets, no black cloud hanging over my head saying ‘The conditioner really only needs ONE minute Jenelle!’ – life is different in places that are drought free that is for sure.
So now on to Glasgow. Let me say – I really really wish I could love the place but… it just isn’t for me. Isn’t for me as a place to visit – to live and work well that may be a different story. I am pleased that I went, but I don’t think it will be on my ‘101 things I must do again’ list.
Leaving Queen Street station I decided to talk the long hike up to the Glasgow Cathedral which is in the Lonely Planet as one of the major places to see. I have to say it was fantastic – spooky but very much worthwhile visiting. Next door was the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I cannot stand the word infirmary and seeing big signs saying ‘infirmary’ could bring on a fainting spell for me any minute. When I see that word, I have visions of communicable diseases, long wards of people strapped to beds, electric shock treatments argh… just all my yuck hospital feelings wrapped all into that word. It also looked very much like an ‘i-word’ should look. Grey, old… I could almost smell the death around the place… so I quickly ran to the cathedral.. after taking a photo of course.
The Cathedral itself is just unbelievable – still standing from the 1500s with the blackened exterior that is so part of any buildings in Scotland. It also has in it the tomb of St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow. The cathedral actually has two layers – an upper and lower church. The upper church was just amazing and does not fall into the ‘ABC’ (Another Bloody Church) category that can happen when travelling through Europe and not appreciating what you are actually seeing. The lower part of the church was just downright spooky. It is a fully working church but this was somewhat dungeon like with little chapel areas off into each arm of the church. I quickly passed the tomb of St Mungo and headed back up to the upper layer of the church. I had a chuckle to myself when I first saw reference to St Mungo. When I was working at the City of Westminster there was one alcoholic homeless man who would always come into the office saying “You will just send me to St Mungo’s!” I never knew what he was talking about until walking one of the backstreets I saw at St Mungo’s hostel for men and it all fell into place.
Around the Cathedral itself was the graveyard and then it looks over to another graveyard that is on a hillside. I have posted a photo on my flickr of one of the graves there. I was the only one wandering around the grounds and it felt like it – just so haunting as so many of the church grounds are right throughout Edinburgh, and now Glasgow. Attached to the Cathedral is also the St Mungo’s museum and gallery – this is a museum dedicated to all religions and being free, it summoned a visit. The idea of the museum is actually really refreshing to see – artefacts from all religions and many traditions incorporated within those religions. So well worth a little peek anyway.
With this, I journeyed down into the main part of Glasgow and did some discovering of the Merchant area – there was a place that was recommended in my Lonely Planet called the Gandolfi Cafe that served Scottish fare and was somewhat of a ‘Glasgow Institution’ (well at least it wasn’t infirmary..!)
I knew it was now or never. It was time to order.. Haggis. Gandolfi is a quaint little place – it kind of reminded me of Rosati’s but on a much smaller, cosier scale (if that is possible)!
Out it came.. my sheeps liver, heart and lungs, kidneys… oats…onions… old shoe… whatever. It seemed to have everything in it – this serving was way too large for me and I was shocked at the look of it. The Haggis had been prepared by one of the best butchers in town and I took one mouthful and eeek. It was so very very rich and very heavy. I realised the only way I was going to eat any of this was to be a wimp and mix each part into with neeps and taters. (Mashed parsnips and mashed potatoes) I actually got through a fair bit of it but I felt bad when the girl came to collect the plate – it was definitely one of the strangest foods taste wise I have eaten but it is definitely hearty (he he!). I think I would’ve been able to finish it fine if it had gravy on it – or maybe a huge slathering of tomato sauce. The waitress actually explained that many places that you go to, give you a slice of the haggis (much like black pudding) although there, they give you the WHOLE haggis. So upon hearing that, I think I did quite well. Hurrah!
After that culinary adventure I walked the main streets and some of the back streets in Glasgow before it started to rain so I saw that as a sign from above that I should start heading to the station. One thing about Glasgow is that it seemed ever 2nd guy spat on the ground – so not nice. I found it to be gritty, grey and a bit too industrial for my liking but again I am glad that I took the chance to visit and see another side of Scotland.
In other news here, Manchester just got awarded as the place to have a brand new ‘Super Casino’ complex that is a first for England and will create a little Vegas atmosphere. Melbourne was actually mentioned by one of the people against this development regarding the crime and gambling problems that the Crown Casino has created. Though, throughout the process Blackpool was really depending on getting this ‘Super Casino’ to revitalise their town. This lady that was being interviewed on the BBC was hysterical with her quaint English voice “Ohhh I cannot believe it… just cannot. I mean… anywhere but MANCHESTER!!!!!!”
Also on the news here is the proposed changes to the awarding of pensions to single mothers and making them return to work earlier. There was a huge news piece on this and then they cut to Bill Gates speech here in Edinburgh – straight after a story on all the single mothers here and the lack of affordable childcare and what is Bill Gates opening statement? “It is so great to see such a strong economy here in Scotland!” hehehehe soooo good!
Anyway, I am all packed and ready for the early flight back to Heathrow and then my AA flight to JFK. I can’t believe that this time tomorrow I will be on West 46th Street, hearing the beeps and sirens of my beloved NYC. Edinburgh has been an amazing destination that I only wish more people could experience! (Also, as today has been damp here in Edinburgh that great Edinburgh smell that I posted earlier about is BACK and stronger than ever..!! I wish I could bottle it and bring it home!)