Scotland 2016: Day 1


Our first day in Glasgow, Scotland, had us arrive into the city early in the morning.  After transferring in Dublin, we landed and took a bus into town.  We stopped in at a cafe on Sauchiehall Street, a pedestrian lane of shops.  Outside, a man yelled “Is everybody happy now?!” out at no one in particular, as we sat down to have something to eat.  As patrons came in for their morning brews, students sitting down at the tables to review their papers and books, and the staff replenishing the shelves with new sandwiches and pastries, the man repeated “Is everybody happy now!?”.  And again, about every two minutes.  Soon, you could hear this refrain inside the store too, to which I thought he had come inside.  But in fact, it was the store staff, who had taken up repeating this call over and over, perhaps in parody or fraternity with the guy outside.


Today we walked around the streets of Glasgow, if only to get our bearings.  A Great Scottish Run, a half marathon, was starting up nearby, in the square across from the town hall.  Looking outside the window the night before, I spotted a crew dropping traffic cones on the ground, their impact reflecting off the stone walls of the buildings surrounding them.  The buildings here in the central part of the city are of another time, stone and brick, versus the steel and glass we see in Toronto.

One traffic cone sat on the head of the statue of Duke of Wellington, outside the Gallery of Modern Art.  I thought this was drunk revelers the night before who had grabbed a cone from the marathon setup and placed it up there, but apparently this is a tradition.


The runners, including kids and adults, rushed through the narrow streets, their families and friends cheering them on.  An announcer introduced an Olympian at the stands, while a TV crew broadcast the event to the rest of the country.


We walked down Buchanan Street, past tourists and shoppers looking at all the high street retailers, to St. Enoch Square, where musicians performed for amused passersby.  A man playing guitar had to contend with two kids prancing around making a Youtube video of themselves in front of his performance.  A young woman sang, solo at a microphone, looking out across the road to a Poundland dollar store.

One store, which I thought was crazy was an American candy store.  In, fact I saw two such stores within ten minutes of each other.  There is a completely opposite store in Scarborough Town Center, which sells British candies.  It’s like as if someone had the exact same idea and copied it to each location.


In the afternoon, we took the unusual Glasgow Subway, the third oldest in the world, to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the city’s West End.  The subway is small in many ways:  Only fifteen stops, arranged in a ring.  It’s also very narrow, reminiscent of the rolling stock of London.  However, the ring has two concentric circles, inner and outer, which allow travelers to pick which direction they’d like to travel.  Like the Osaka Loop Line, if you stay on, eventually you’ll end up where you started.  I wonder if they have neverending parties on the subway.


Inside are a number of exhibits which we will return to later this week: A Supermarine Spitfire hung from the ceiling of a great hall, cannons stood proud from Glasgow’s history of manufacturing, and large animals on display stalked the tourists.

The Gallery and Museum is on the banks of the River Kelvin, which we walked along through a nearby park.  I was hoping the area was related to the measure of absolute temperature and I was not disappointed.  William Thomson, Baron Kelvin, was titled after this river nearby the University of Glasgow.  A lot of students in the park wore U of G sweatshirts and hoodies, enjoying the Saturday afternoon.


One person who wasn’t enjoying the afternoon was a Chinese fellow trying to fly a drone to take pictures.  As scenic as the rolling hills and lush foliage looked, the drone would not start, its little camera twitching and the control software refusing to fly.  Oh well.

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