People Make Glasgow

This slogan is plastered on one of the tall buildings in the centre of town, and it greeted us as we travelled from the airport to the hotel (in the very quick and efficient airport bus).

We flew from London City and got to our hotel just under four hours after leaving home. Our check-in ‘ambassador’ was very friendly and she made a few suggestions of things to do and see whilst we were in Glasgow. We dropped our bags in the room, and went to the bar where we got two 15 year-old Dalwhinnies.

This morning, when Andy went to speak to the ‘ambassador’ on duty (our complimentary in-room mini iPad charger was broken), he got more friendliness and tips! And she kindly offered to book our table for dinner.

We had a leisurely day ahead of us, with plenty of walking… so it made sense to start with a full vegetarian breakfast at Café Gandolfi, where the food is seasonal and locally sourced.

After that, we enjoyed watching a couple of running races from the Great Scottish Run Super Saturday – children and families. A prelude to the main event tomorrow – the Great Scottish Run.

Just outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) was the statue of the Duke of Wellington we wanted to see.  Today, he was wearing not one but two traffic cone hats – a tradition that goes back decades. In 2013, the council apparently tried to raise the height of the plinth to discourage this practice but campaigns put stop to this proposal.

We did pop into GoMA. There weren’t a lot of works on show but the exhibition on homelessness was thought-provoking and Gallery 2 had works from Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andy Goldsworthy, David Hockney, David Shrigley and Andy Warhol. The gallery is housed in a neoclassical building built in 1778 for William Cunninghame of Lainshaw – a wealthy Glasgow Lord who made his fortune through tobacco and the slave trade.

After a refuelling coffee break, we headed to the Lighthouse. This is not an actual lighthouse but Glasgow’s national centre for design and architecture. We had exactly three minutes to take in the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh before racing up the staircase to the top of tower. The sky was clear (apparently this is a rarity in Glasgow) and this afforded us great views over rooftops and high rises. We spotted Parkhead in the distance (Celtic were at home today and we’d briefly considered going to the game).

We wandered for a while, taking in the mishmash of architectural styles – the old Georgian buildings (always so imposing), the art deco ones and the eyesore 60’s monstrosities.

Glasgow Central deserved a few minutes of our time. The station has kept many of its original features and isn’t spoilt by advertising. Andy was thrilled to see a train in plum and spilt milk, a recreation of British Railway’s original livery.

On our way to the Tenement House, we stumbled across a gallery which is currently exhibiting works from Ron Lawson. We came across his works in Edinburgh a few weeks ago. He is currently Scotland’s most successful landscape painter. His style is contemporary and all his own.

The Tenement House museum is now in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland. First we read about the tenements and how when most were demolished, people felt a loss of community spirit. This was like stepping back into history. The flat belonged to Miss Agnes Toward and she lived in it ‘from 1911 until 1965, and preserved her furniture and possessions with love and care. She held on to all sorts of things that most people would have thrown away, and this extensive personal archive is a valuable time capsule for visitors today‘ (source).

Our tired legs were begging for a rest. Time for tea, and there’s only one place to go for tea in Glasgow and that’s Tchai Ovna in Otago Lane. The place comes with two resident cats (the one sitting next to me was very keen on cucumber!) and hundreds of teas from all around the world. We both had pots of chai – mine was Bombay Lemongrass Tchai and Andy’s was Tchai Hel (Persian). Otago Lane is also home to a record shop and Voltaire and Rousseau – the most crazy bookshop ever. Books are piled up, three rows deep and at the top of the shop is a fairly eccentric man.

On the way back to the hotel, we popped into the Thistle Gallery. A silk screen print caught my eye… and as today was the preview, we were offered glasses of wine. Four members of a family were exhibiting together (what a talented family!) and we chatted to a few of them.

The area around the gallery – West End – is mostly residential, with huge houses mostly split into flats now. This is where you find trendy restaurants, delis and cafés.

Dinner was at the tiny Babu Bombay Street Kitchen, just a few minutes from our hotel. We had potato patties, pau vada, egg dipped roti with dhal, Punjabi channa masala, tamarind carrot and a ‘100 clove garlic and red chilli chutney’. Delicious!

And there was only one way to follow that – a visit to The Pot Still where they have over 300 malt whiskies. What followed was a fascinating conversation with (the now legendary) Frank Murphy. We each told him the type of whisky we like, and he picked five choices for each of us, talked us through them and then made us sniff them. Our choices were excellent.

Mr Murphy was one of many people we talked to today. Everyone’s chatty and incredibly patient with us (and yes, we can only ask them to repeat what they’ve said a few times).

We were lucky with the weather today – nippy at times but sunny, and we managed to be indoors whenever the showers struck. Tomorrow’s something else altogether!