Our final trip in Scotland was to Glasgow, the country's biggest city, and one with, honestly, kind of a bad rap. Our Scottish family and friends told us it was industrial and a bit dangerous (depending on where we went), but to be honest, it seemed like they really hadn't spent much time there at all.
I'm happy to report that after spending two full days in the city, we have no complaints. Sure, it may not have as much aesthetic appeal as Edinburgh, but we didn't feel unsafe at any point, and there was plenty to see and do - oh and it was all free, too!
D - People really made Glasgow out to be a pretty dangerous place, but I'm glad to say that, like most places I've been to, a lot of its bad rap is all hype. Still I was relieved to have not received a Glasgow kiss (read: head-butt) while there.
We (and our many suitcases) dropped the twins off at nursery and then Caroline took us to the bus station in Dundee, where we caught a Megabus to Glasgow. Megabus is known for its £1 fares, but in our experience, those are few and far between. We weren't super impressed with the company, as we had to buy tickets for each of our suitcases (and they didn't even get seats - they had to ride in the hold!). We chose an Airbnb about 20 steps away from the bus station to keep the wrangling of our suitcases to a minimum. Once we got settled in, we picked up some lunch and walked to Kelvingrove Park to eat it.
D - I was extremely grateful for the short distance from the bus station to the Airbnb! From my experience, nothing is more frustrating and stressful than dragging suitcases around a city's public transportation system.
Walking a bit further, we reached the Kelvingrove Gallery, our first stop. We had heard that we could spend a good deal of time there, so we decided ahead of time to set a time limit because we had another stop afterwards that I really wanted to allow enough time for. So, we kept an eye on the time, and got looking around. We also (accidentally but also fortunately!) were there for the daily half-hour organ recital. It was really fantastic - for some it we kept wandering around and enjoying the art, but for some of it we just stopped and listened and enjoyed.
D - Definitely the best organ recital I've ever heard, simply because of the song selection! The organist, in addition to some classical tunes, played a great pop culture medley featuring songs from Star Wars, Harry Potter, and more! Seriously...why can't all classical concerts be this fun?
Next, we were off to the Riverside Museum, which is the current location of the Glasgow Museum of Transport. I was really excited about this museum - it sounded really neat in descriptions on the internet and in guidebooks, and also, I don't know, I always get really into museums with transportation-related stuff (cars, trains, planes, etc.), especially when it's well-presented. The museum opened in 2011, and has interactive displays including a recreated street from 1895, a subway car, a train, a bus, a double-decker streetcar, a fire engine, many cars and bikes (including the oldest surviving bicycle in the world), and much more. We had so much fun looking around and exploring, and stayed until we were kindly kicked out at closing time.
D - I wholeheartedly agree! What a great museum! I especially enjoyed the old cars, and the Chopper bicycle exhibit. I just really love old advertisements and commercials.
We've found that most things close by 5pm, so we usually finish up with our indoor sightseeing by then, and save outdoor things for after that. When we were done at the Riverside Museum headed to the University of Glasgow and walked around the main section, the part that was gorgeous and said to remind some of Hogwarts (Harry Potter reference here, but for someone who doesn't care a bit about the books or movies - me - I just appreciated it for the beautiful architecture and history). The university was founded in 1451, is the 4th oldest university in the English-speaking world, and only has a 39% acceptance rate. The weather wasn't great as we were walking around - in fact, while we were there it started pouring, but for a while it was okay.
D - As a Harry Potter fan, I loved the University of Glasgow because it did remind me so much of Hogwarts. I actually felt like I was on set for the movies or something. So cool!
We finished our day by walking (in the rain) to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Since we were there after they were closed, we couldn't go inside of the greenhouses, but we could wander around the gardens (which are open till dusk year round) and get our fill of spring flowers. A lovely way to end the day.
On Tuesday, our last day in Scotland, we began the day with breakfast at the gorgeous but disappointing Cup Tea Lounge (since when does ordering the French toast mean you only get one slice?!).
D - I managed to fake a pretty good attitude while at this place despite the severely lacking portion of French toast we were served...
Continuing on, we walked along Buchanan Street, one of Glasgow's main shopping streets, along with the neighboring Argyle and Sauchiehall Streets. We popped into House of Fraser, Princes Square Shopping Centre, and the Argyll Arcade. Of course, they were all astronomically out of our league, but we had fun looking for a few minutes - fun fact - Glasgow has been the second biggest shopping destination in the UK after London since 2008.
We stopped off at the The Lighthouse, which is Scotland's Centre for Design and Architecture, and just off of Argyle Street. We were kind of on the fence about visiting The Lighthouse, but since we had time we decided to stop in. We ended up deciding it wasn't too awesome aside from the top floor lookout, and our visit ended up being rather quick, but if you're looking for somewhere to duck in (for free!) to dodge some Scottish rain or use the bathroom, this could be a good spot in the center of town.
D - Apart from the view, and spiral staircase, nothing really stuck out at the Lighthouse to us that much. In fact, much of the building was really confusing. Is this a public gallery or office space? Is this art or something else? Are we even allowed in there? Oh, but I'd be remiss if I forgot to mention the piano on the viewing platform. Even though I am not good at piano, I always love the chance to pound out a few good chords or songs.
We walked on to Glasgow Green and The People's Palace and Winter Garden. I guess this is as good a time as any to say that most of the things we did on day 2 in Glasgow were pretty mediocre. They were all free, though (like everything - except for eating - we did in Glasgow) so I'm not really complaining. The Winter Garden took about three minutes to walk through, and although we didn't plan to explore the museum portion of the The People's Palace, I think we would have actually enjoyed it. We looked at a few of the exhibits and they were interesting, attractive, and engaging. Next time ;)
Also, we saw not one but two pandas (my favorite animal) as we were walking around! You know, as street art, but still, not an everyday occurrence.
We tried to fit our activities around taking a tour of the Glasgow City Chambers, which offers guided tours twice daily (currently at 10:30am and 2:30pm). We caught the afternoon one, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to see the inside of the old, Victorian building. Council meetings have been held in the building since 1889, and the interior features plenty of marble and granite, as well as mosaics, tapestries, and murals.
Our next stop was the Glasgow Cathedral - consecrated in 1197 and used for over 800 years, the cathedral was once a Roman Catholic Church but is now a part of the Church of Scotland. I really liked it. Because of how it's divided (roughly) in half - and I know there's some official terms for this like nave and apse and cloister and etc - it felt grand and gorgeous and holy but also intimate and special and close. We've seen our share of cathedrals and churches and the like, but I really enjoyed Glasgow's cathedral. It would be an amazing place to attend services or have a wedding - steeped in history and surrounded by beauty.
D - One part of Scotland's history that we learned about while there that really bothered me was the Scottish Reformation. There was just so much fighting and killing involved from both the Catholics and the Protestants. It seems sadly ironic that people fighting to truly follow Jesus (who said "love your enemy") could be so violent towards each other. As a result, Glasgow Cathedral is the only cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have survived the Reformation without being burned down or unroofed.
Next door to the cathedral is the Glasgow Necropolis, aka a massive cemetery. Since 1832 around 50,000 people have been buried in this Victorian cemetery built on a hill. We wandered around the paths of the cemetery for a short bit until the weather started turning.
D - The Necropolis is really cool! It has such a huge variety of grave styles, the location on the hillside is awesome, and the views from there are spectacular!
For our final stop in Glasgow - and something that wasn't really on our itinerary, but just a way to dodge some rain and stay warm - we popped into St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, which is right by the Necropolis and the cathedral, until they closed at 5pm. The museum is a place to learn about all of the world's major religions through different exhibits and art displays, and has changing and temporary exhibitions as well, like the one that was going on while we visited about angels.
In the evening we made final preparations, weighed our bags one last time, and got a bit more sleep than we were originally planning (I thought our flight was leaving at 7am rather than 9am, which we realized late the night before, allowing us to sleep in a bit later!). The next morning we lugged our five? six? (I can't even remember anymore!) bags to the bus station, missed the bus by a couple of minutes, but obviously still made our flight, and bid Scotland, and Europe, adieu.
D - Even though I sometimes complain about walking so much on our travels, one of my favorite parts about Glasgow was just walking around it. Walking is a great way to get a real feel for a city! I also really liked the Kelvingrove, the Museum of Transport, and The Lighthouse (the parts that weren't really confusing).
Glasgow might not be my favorite city I've ever visited, but it's certainly not the least. It's got a lot going for it, and I'm really thankful we were able to take a few days before we left to explore some of it. My Glasgow highlights were the Glasgow Museum of Transport, the Glasgow Cathedral, the Botanic Gardens, and the University. So, Scotland, until we meet again!