Scotland 2016: Day 2

scotland2016-day2-race

A giant sign plastered onto a building nearby says “People Make Glasgow” and indeed, on a Saturday night, they do.  People here seem to go out to bars and restaurants, their cheers and shouting echoing off the cavern of buildings around them.  I haven’t seen such revelry since Osaka in 2005 after the home baseball team won the playoffs.

This morning, the Great Scottish Run was in full force for a second day.  Yesterday seemed to be about fun runs, for kids and families.  Today, thousands filled the Glasgow streets, serious runners with their specialized shoes and watches, the camera crews and outside broadcast vans televising the event.  As we opened the door to the street, thousands were stretching in sync with a giant monitor on the back of a truck.

scotland2016-day2-bird

Today we took the train to Loch Lomond.  Thanks to our Grade 11 English teacher, Mr. Dutton, and his interpretation of Sting’s Synchronicity II, I actually know that Loch means lake.  We took the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Balloch, at the far end of the rail line.  An hour later, we disembarked onto a small station platform and walked towards the tourist information center across the street.

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Apparently this weekend featured a festival in Balmaha, a village on the shores of Loch Lomond, so we took a ferry service there.  The lake is picturesque, though the surrounding forest isn’t far off from the cottage country of Ontario.  However, the rolling green hillsides, dotted with livestock of sheep and cows, are different, as are the mountains in the background, forming impressive valleys.

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The ferry boat driver remarked “welcome to my office” which certainly was much prettier than our colour photocopier and our two bean bag chairs in Mississauga.

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The festival was like the small fairs sometimes you see in Europe, with portable amusement rides that probably would be set up in a parking lot next to the Walmart in Canada.  The beautiful lake view was obscured by a giant trailered spinning contraption, loud eurodance music punctuated by an automated sample playing an attraction loop to encourage festival goers to ride “the Mexican”.

scotland2016-day2-boat

A small selection of local craft vendors set up shop in a nearby building, while a beer tent and a whisky and chocolate tasting event rounded out the festivities.  There was even a Lego building workshop and face painting bus.

In the field behind, a great Scottish tradition played out:  Drone racing.  A pair of quadcopters were raced through a course of PVC pipe hurdles, buzzing through the sky in wide arcs.  In the background, a real Robinson R22 helicopter sat in a field, presumably taking tours through the area.

I stood in queue, as they call it here, for halibut and chips.  The other options were a very British curry dish or a burger, which wasn’t doing as much business.  I was worried when the fellow behind the counter reminded his charges to season the fish, but in fact, it was really quite good, as it was run by the local inn restaurant.  I also got a dish of mac and cheese, which seems much like a winning entry on the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race, but it had nice roasted peppers and chorizo.

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We returned on the Class 318 EMU to Glasgow, where we went to the Sainsbury, a supermarket chain.  The night before, I spent almost twenty minutes looking at the various salad options at the store, including talking to the store manager.  I’d never seen such a selection of pre-made fresh food before.  In Canada, often you have extended deli selections where people pay by weight, but I’m just not used to seeing an entire aisle of daily packaged food.  He said its proximity to a train station also meant many people stopped in to get something on the way home.

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