It had been a number of years since I’d done any traveling, let alone out of the country, so I’d kind of forgotten how much easier it is to sleep in my bed with my pillow. Through the course of the trip, I relearned how important both of those items are. After a good first night’s rest in Glasgow thanks to a reasonably comfy mattress and pillows, we were up early ready for the day’s adventure. The Washburn Alumni Association had provided a fairly detailed overview of each day, however when everything is unfamiliar it’s hard to know what to expect. Monday, day two was our venture into the Highlands which nothing I’d ever seen before prepared me for and I have been to the Grand Canyon.
A little after eight, we were heading out of Glasgow during their morning commute time but as our driver pointed out the traffic coming in was much greater. It was our first real taste of heavy traffic and how unnerving it is the way they move at top speed in those tiny lanes. We crossed the River Clyde and headed northeast on road A82 which I've since discovered is probably the most well known route through the Highlands.
As heavily traveled as A82 is it is still primarily two lanes; two NARROW lanes. Along with cars and lots of tour buses it is also used by timber lorries, aka BIG trucks with BIG logs! The bus drivers call them “mirror busters” because they never slow down and are so close to the bus they break the mirrors right off. Pat (driver) told us smart bus drivers fold their mirrors in when they are on that type of road. Sitting on the side of the bus next to the oncoming traffic lane and seeing one of the lorries coming it was pretty hard not to squirm and flinch. Really. That cheap thrill was introduced then and experienced many times throughout Scotland and Ireland.
The sky was heavily overcast and unlike the day before in Glasgow it did rain off and on. The scenery is so breathtaking that the weather only shows it off in different ways. Our first stop was at Tarbet Pier on the shore of Loch Lomond, my first Loch! It was raining then, which made me happy because I love to take pictures with umbrellas. It was also a very veiled, moody look that fits with an image of Scotland. The mist was definitely obscuring the enormity of the Loch and the surrounding mountains but it was still easy to know we were not in Kansas anymore!
A fair number of switchbacks and climbing before we arrived at The Green Welly, a famous gas and shopping stop. They certainly had the gamut of snacks and drinks as well as a full range of items to catch a tourist's eye including clothes and jewelry. It was not raining there, so Wendy and I were most interested in looking around outside as there were beautiful views and the stop itself had pots of flowers and gardens everywhere. It is in the little village of Tyndrum which sits at the southern edge of Rannoch Moor. Very romantic Gothic novel sounding eh? That type of reading is no longer my cup of tea but a Links button is included below with reading I do find fascinating.
Another unique aspect of the drive was much of the narrow lanes were bordered by a "shoulder" of inches and fully mature trees whose branches brushed the bus as we passed. Even though we were sitting in comfy seats with wifi and usb plug ins, it still felt like a magical adventure through a forest.
Not far from The Green Welly our mouths would literally drop open at our surroundings and remain that way for a very long time. Wonder if I literally drooled?
Once again digging into this final section of our day in Glasgow has been so interesting and surprising to discover where we were. Definitely challenging to pin down locations for photos but worthwhile to learn so much more about the area we were in.
From Finnieston we drove back east passing by George Square again and continued farther east ending up blocks from Glasgow Cathedral, our ultimate destination. The first picture I was tracking location of was on a walkway Google earth doesn't yet have a street view of, so it got a little tricky. Amazingly I did find it in 3D view. So as we were walking toward the Cathedral I took an “artsy” shot of a streetlamp I liked and discovered it is on the west side of The Barony which began as a church but is now part of Strathclyde University.
On the opposite side of the walkway is Saint Nicholas Garden which is on the backside of Provand’s Lordship 1471 house site, the oldest house in Glasgow. The path ended at Cathedral Street which we crossed and continued past St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art and on to the Cathedral. The first view of the Cathedral was impressive, and the interior not any less so. As with many ancient sites the current structure is not the first but has been through fire, rebuilds and renovation through the years.
St. Mungo (his pet name) also as known as St. Kentigern is the patron Saint and founder of Glasgow. Anyone with a Catholic background probably knows about Mungo but I am just beginning to learn. As the photos show, the current Nave is very impressive. Wendy and I explored it some but we were piqued as our guide, Kevin, had pointed out the necropolis on the hill behind the Cathedral. He said there was a pathway leading from the church and a really good view of the city. It wasn’t raining so between curiosity and a whole lot of sitting, we found the pathway and explored. A necropolis (this one in particular) was a burial place for the Victorian elite. There is a society in Glasgow dedicated to its history, preservation, etc. And Kevin was right, great view of the city!
I found the reddish round carved building in the necropolis quite intriguing; figured it was a mausoleum but it was not marked. My sleuthing uncovered it is the unmarked crypt of Major Archibald Douglas Monteath. Reading the list of people buried throughout is quite a “who’s who” of Glasgow and Scotland.
That concluded our tour around Glasgow and it was time to return to the hotel. CIE calls the tour “A Taste of Scotland and Ireland” and it definitely gave a taste that whet my appetite for more!
Pretty busy area around the Cathedral so heading back we hit some traffic and were stopped near an apartment building. I started noticing a woman coming to a window, looking up and down the street and then retreating back out of sight. I loved the story I was making up in my head about what/who/why she was looking. Even had my sister watching, who alerted me when the woman returned the third time and I snapped a shot. I like to think it was something wonderful and romantic!
Deciding to take a much closer look at what happened that day has put me in awe. We were walking around where Glascow began in the 6th century! Unknowingly, I took a photo of a window in a house that's been there since the late 1400s. Wow. Really can't comprehend any of it but I sure am thankful. Even more so since I just got my dna results a few days ago and learned I have Scottish ancestry (with a variety of other British and Irish) specifically from Glasgow.
On a more practical note, all the resources I have been digging up prompted me to rethink the website design. I love sharing discoveries and wanted to make it simple to access the links. To that end, there is now a links page which will have a clickable photo from each tour day which will bring up a page with an alphabetical list of resources.
This March 1st blog wraps up our first day of the tour. Day 2, which I’m calling “Highlands, Lochs and Locks,” coming soon!
Continuing the driving tour of Glasgow on our first day, as mentioned before, we headed out from the hotel going east to the George Square area and generally driving around the area before going south towards the River Clyde on a route I wouldn't be able to begin to tell you as we made our way to the Finnieston area and our first stop. When I began this project I had no idea the name of the building where we stopped. It was an old building and kind of looked like it could be a school. Our bus was in fact parked on the west side of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It has been fascinating delving into it.
Another little research project that came up was to see if I could find the location of a photograph I took when we were driving back east. I was sure our guide mentioned it as a historical building but didn't catch the information so I'm sharing what I found in the video following which began by tracking it down on Google Earth!
Links button below. The new links page has lots of fun places to "explore" more. If you're like me it's going to start you thinking even more seriously about how you can revisit/visit Scotland!
My life has included residences in nine states with a half a dozen in cities and towns in Kansas, my birthplace. Until 4 months ago I had no first hand experience of the world beyond but seen enough House Hunters International to know life outside the United States can be very different. Wendy (sister) and I were both curious to see how it would play out.
It would seem the hotel industry has tried to do their best in accommodating Americans. The differences we experienced in our various rooms were more about basic facility design not luxury or comfort no matter the age of the establishment. For example, bathrooms were a frequent topic of conversation between the two of us and fellow travelers. They were all nice and lots bigger than most I’d seen in the HHI episodes but those were also long term rentals or purchases. There were just differences we simply found curious.
For instance, there was never an exhaust fan in any of the bathrooms where we stayed. So taking a shower meant the room became a steam bath that took quite a while to dehumidify as the hairdryer was always in the bedroom. And then there are the other times (particularly when sharing) those fans are very helpful.
Sometimes there was a shower only but when there was a shower bathtub combo the big difference was the bathtub. Every one we encountered had quite a high side making it necessary to hang on to something to get a leg up and over the side. Then the tub didn't always drop back down but rather had an elevated base. It felt like standing on a stage once in (something I personally have always wanted to do while showering. Dream realized!). I kept saying Pat Boone needs to take his walk in tubs there because I think they would be a hit!
Of course before getting into the tub we learned to figure out how the water controls worked. No sets of how to turn on the shower etc. were alike from hotel to hotel. Every single time one of us would have to figure out how to make it work. These are not complaints mind you, just points of interest and things that made us laugh (still). It did get to be a joke between Wendy and I as to figuring out the shower operation.
Before I ever had to deal with the shower/tub or lack of exhaust fan the lack of a tank on the back of the toilet caught my attention. No tank just a flat wall and then a few feet above the bowl a square metal plate on the wall that had either two circles or squares as shown in the photo. It didn't take me long to figure out it was how to flush as it was the only option close. However, it did take me more than a day to realize why there were two options. Once realization dawned, I regarded it as completely genius and I still do. Don't understand why we're not using that technology here in the states.
Anyway to put it delicately, the smaller circle or square is to flush #1 and the bigger square or circle is for #2. Talk about a brilliant way to conserve water. I will be couth and skip the other things I liked about the design of their toilets.
Something also featured in the bathroom of every lodging was a flip top waste can or bin as they are called there. It was shiny metal and the kind that had a little “pedal” to step on to raise the lid. Occasionally there would be a second one in the room. So the thing that made them a huge source of complaint among our fellow travelers (we later learned) was they were so small and light that when you stepped on the pedal it raised the lid but also tipped the whole thing forward. It too got to be a big point of humor and wonder as to who convinced every hotel to have them!
So back to differences and toilets (sorry but when you are on a bus for many hours this becomes a big deal) a number of public facilities in both Scotland and Ireland (and I'm guessing many other places outside the US) are pay to enter. Again curious, there were never change machines. Our driver did his best to alert us of when there would be pay toilets where we were stopping and what would be needed because you had to have exact change. Scotland currently uses Pounds and Ireland is Euros. Let’s just say there were a couple of times we had to borrow change.
On our second day touring and making restroom stops we encountered a sign none of us had ever seen before. On the inside of the stall door was a sign that couldn’t be missed once you were in and turned around. It was a drawing of a person squatting with their feet on the toilet seat. It had a big round circle and a line drawn through it; the symbol for "NO, don't do this." We ladies thought it was a joke and laughed a lot, conjecturing what? Later back on the bus someone mentioned it and we learned from our guide in some cultures that is how they would use the toilet. In Scotland, it's a "no." Personally I'm still trying to figure out how one would accomplish that position!
I’ll share more about the new things I encountered and learned as the journey continues, but enough of potty talk!
* the photo example of the flush buttons was taken in a public restroom in Christ Church Cathedral. I actually took a shot of the whole room because it was the nicest, most private public restroom I'd encountered!
What a week it has been since I wrote my last blog. Living in the Kansas City area, which by the way includes both Missouri and Kansas, has meant being in high celebration mode with the Chiefs Super Bowl victory. Normally I'm not that interested or involved in professional sports but this team, their skills, attitude-everything about them certainly caught my attention. Now I am back to my regularly scheduled programming which is the Scotland and Ireland tour.
Hadn't realized how groggy I was on that first day until I went to identify the places in the photos I took. I remembered bits and pieces of what our guide, Kevin, had said but it's definitely been a journey of research for me. I'm not sad about that as it's been really fun; very much reliving it. We actually flew into Edinburgh but went straight from the airport to Glasgow where we stayed the first night. Our rooms wouldn't be ready until mid afternoon but there was a stop at the hotel to drop off our bags, eat lunch and "rest." Then back on the bus to begin our tour.
There was heavy cloud cover that day, so my sense of direction was really skewed. Now I know, from the hotel we drove east to go more into the heart of Glasgow and drive around George Square. From there our veteran CIE International driver, Pat, (Irish actually) and our encyclopedic Scottish guide, Kevin, took us on numerous streets continuously sharing fascinating information about what we were seeing. We made our way south and then turned west which was when we passed The Clutha Bar with its very recognizable mural. Kevin shared it was the site of a disastrous helicopter crash in 2013. He mentioned it was a regular hangout for many of Glasgow’s entertainers and that comedian/actor Billy Connolly had been one of the first people to the scene. He has also been involved in seeing it rebuilt.
The Clutha sits on the north side of the River Clyde which we crossed back and forth over on the way to the area called Finnieston. We stopped outside of one of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum buildings. High on the hill above us we could see the distinctive architecture of University of Glasgow. Stretching out opposite the building are Kelvingrove lawn bowls (big sport in Scotland) and a tennis centre.
We were not long at this stop so no opportunity to investigate the nearby park or even go into the museum (which has 22 galleries so definitely not the time needed). Still an enjoyable stop as the Locharbriggs red sandstone and Spanish Baroque style was outstanding in itself.
It seems a "discovery" in reliving this day has been how much I would love to go back and have more time in Glasgow! With all the links I have included anyone who wants to take the time to investigate further, and that will include me, should be busy until the next blog! Also the beginning of the Gallery for Day 1 is now up.