I've had a bit of trouble getting my laptop connected to wifi over the past couple of days, hence the gap between posts...but trust German efficiency, I'm now on a German train heading from Brussels to Cologne and the wifi has connected AND accessed the internet straightaway!
Glasgow is a really great city to visit! Throwaway any preconceptions you might have, it is a truly interesting place and much less touristy than Edinburgh. I only wish I'd had a little more time there, and that the weather had been a bit more pleasant.
I arrived there on Friday afternoon having travelled by train from Dundee. The train was fully of happy Scots, many dressed in bad Christmas jumpers (including the conductor) and tee shirts, some already drinking at 11am. Trying to work out where the bus stop was, I had a mild panic when Google maps wouldn't respond (poor connection!) even though I had good 4G connection. Wandered around where I thought I should be for a bit and tried again and this time it worked. It made me realise how dependent I am on the phone working. After further experience it seems to be a peculiar Google Maps black hole as it happened whenever I was in the vicinity of Glasgow Queen St station.
Once I found my bus, the 77, I had no trouble getting to the Airbnb. Once again I had downloaded an app and purchased my ticket on the train. My host, Jill, is very nice, hobbling on crutches with a damaged ankle. She makes mozzarella cheese which she sells to local businesses, cafes I guess. She delivers it each day.
The room is great. At the top of the house (two flights) it is large and bright with a stunning bathroom - better than our ensuite, even when it’s finished (which I believe it is, finally!). There is a very large world map on the ceiling.
I set off for Kelvingrove park and museum. This area of Glasgow seems more like London than Edinburgh although admittedly I didn’t spend much time in the new town. Lots of four storey terraces, like the one I’m staying in, lots of churches and other grand buildings, Kelvingrove among them. On the way there was frost still on the ground (max temp today was 3) and a frozen pond with a “danger thin ice” sign. I had a quick squizz around the gallery, mostly at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh section. From there I went on a long walk, down to the river and all the way along to the city centre. This would be fun on a bike.
Woke up Saturday morning to discover it was snowing. The snow continued for a couple of hours but then turned into rain. Once it was light the snow melted as soon as it hit the ground but there were still piles around the place, particularly on cars. I walked into the city centre to meet up with the Glasgow walking tour I'd booked which was led by Caron, a true Glaswegian, red hair and all. There were 13 in the group - three local women, three men from Edinburgh and northern England, four Germans (two couples) a couple from Russia...and me. The tour was great despite freezing weather. Today was the first time I did the two coat thang and I definitely needed it. I could also see the value in a hat today, but two hoods do the trick, particularly when it rains which it did, quite a lot.
Highlights of the tour:
There's the bird that never flew,
There's the fish that never swam,
There's the bell that never rang.
I had a number of frustrations with buses that afternoon and it took a stupidly long time to get home in the cold and dark (it was 4.45 when I started off, pitch dark already and nearly 6 when I got there, I could have walked in less time but I'd already walked nearly 15km by then) but I'll spare you the detail. Suffice to say I totally get why people don't like buses!
Yesterday (Sunday) was sunny and clear so it was a shame I had to leave already. I had time to walk to the new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue that was only unveiled recently before making my way to Central station and the train to London. All quite uncomplicated (trains are good!). Interesting watching the world go by. The first section we must have climbed a little because there was a lot of snow about, and lots of black-faced sheep. Of course it was dark by the time I got to Euston station. I walked to my hotel and shortly after headed out for a walk, only to discover it had started pouring with rain. Exploring in the dark is one thing, exploring in the dark and rain is quite another so I opted for an early dinner and early to bed.
In yesterday's post I mentioned going up to Dundee Law for a look at the view over Dundee, but nothing else of what I'd done that day.
In the late 19th and early 20th century Dundee was known for three J’s - Jute, Jam and Journalism. The jam was marmalade, invented by Janet Keillor in the 17th century as a way to use up bitter Seville oranges, and turned into an industry by her son. Journalism is represented by the publishing empire of DC Thomson who produced The Beano, The Dandy, The Sunday Post and the People’s Friend and introduced characters such as Dennis the Menace. Another character is Demon Dan from the sculpture pictured in my previous post.
I learnt about the significance of Dundee's jute industry at Verdant Works which is a former mill that has been turned into a living history museum. It was very quiet so I got a personalised tour from the “works manager” and from George, a volunteer, who looks after the machinery, some original and some scaled down models. A lot of the equipment reminded me of visiting the Castlemaine Woollen Mill as a kid, I guess the principles are the same.
Today was a big cultural/tourist day starting with a visit to the V&A Design Museum. I saw the Ocean Liner (paid) exhibition first. Comprehensive and very interesting, particularly the decorative elements. They had a deckchair from the Titanic which brought to mind the term “like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” which I think means doing something futile.
The Scottish Design gallery was full of fascinating objects, everything from fashion to medical technology. The building is stunning but bizarrely it seems smaller on the inside than expected. Not that the inside spaces are small, the entrance, cafe and shop area are very large and open, it’s just that I thought there’d be more than just the two gallery spaces. Maybe there are, just not on public display.
Discovery Point, home to, and history of, the Royal Research Ship Discovery which was built for Scott’s three year trip to the Antarctic. The ship is now permanently docked in Dundee, having spent many years on the Thames as the home to Sea Scouts among other things. Another very interesting exhibition with lots of displays, videos, and interactive elements.
The McManus, a combined museum and art gallery, mainly focusing on Dundee and Scotland. I enjoyed the story of the two women journalists who were sent on a world tour by the publisher DC Thomson to report on the life of women around the world. The exhibition of portraits was also very good and I learnt that well-known companies such as Timex (watches) and NCR (cash registers and ATMs) had significant operations in Dundee..
Finally, Dundee Contemporary Arts which I visited mainly because it was open after 5pm and thus was a good way of filling in time before it was late enough for dinner! My accommodation here in Dundee is great but it’s just a bit out of the way (and uphill) to want to come home in the afternoon, knowing that I would have to go back to town for dinner and there doesn’t appear to be anywhere to eat nearby.
It's going to be extra cold tonight and tomorrow morning. So far the temperature has mostly been around 6C which is fine when I'm rugged up in my coat, scarf and thermals although my nose is usually cold. It's already down to 2C and expected to go to 1C overnight. Tomorrow's top for Glasgow, where I head late morning, is only 3C! I might have to add in the second coat I think.
As I viewed Dundee from Dundee Law yesterday it struck me just how much technology enables travel today, and how very different this trip is, even from five years ago and certainly from Don and my first trip to Europe over 20 years ago. I had just video chatted with Don via Facebook messenger - who could have imagined being able to do that with such ease, and in the outdoors, even ten years ago.
Some other examples:
I went on an Edinburgh castle tour with Jen, an entertaining geek-girl type. Good way to see things, I think you can just end up wandering about not really understanding anything without someone telling you and the sorts of stories she had are much more entertaining than the standard audio guide. In the small group was a woman from Japan, a guy from Portugal and a young woman from Italy called Chiara. I particularly loved seeing the little dog cemetery which is in one of the photos below.
I visited the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith. This was an interesting and well-organised experience. It's called a yacht but really it's a mini cruise ship. Fun to see in real life some of what has been on display in The Crown TV show. Decent coffee in the tea room - yay!
On the bus on my way to The Bailie Bar it was getting dark so it was odd to see lollipop people manning school crossings but then I realised it was only 3.40pm after all. The Bailie Bar was very busy for the time of day. I had a cider but didn’t approach the staff to tell of my namesake. They seemed too busy and I felt awkward...and I’d decided I really didn’t need a mug to cart around for the rest of the trip, even though it would be nice to have. From the bus on the way I saw Anderson’s bar but was too slow to grab a picture.
In the evening I had dinner with a teacher friend who I first met online but had met in real life last year at a conference. Always lovely to spend time with locals although he is originally from Glasgow and his wife, Caroline, from Newcastle. They spent many years living on the Isle of Islay where there are 9 whisky distilleries and not much else!
I'm going to stop there for now - it's time to get out and about for my only full day in Dundee.
It may be cold (2-5C today) but it has been sunny and still, so, perfectly pleasant really. Much better than 39 in Melbourne anyway.
It's day 2, my first full day in Scotland. I arrived in Edinburgh at around 12.30pm yesterday, the first notable thing was the length of the shadows of the ground crew at the airport. We don't have shadows that long until at least 3 or 4pm in winter. But any daylight was a fine thing after the 18+ hour night I had, from 9pm Saturday in Melbourne to around 6.30am Sunday Doha time. Mind you, the nights are about 16 hours here in Edinburgh.
I found my way by tram and bus to the Airbnb where my room is large and has a couch, desk and coffee table as well as a double bed. Sara, the host is very helpful and friendly, and I will be nice to the cat!
Eleven hours sleep is a marvellous thing!
This morning I set out at about 8.30 to have breakfast before joining a free 2.5 hour walking tour. The tour took in the Royal Mile, castle area, Grassmarket and Greyfriars churchyard and Dave was a most entertaining guide. Some interesting facts: Edinburgh’s population triples during the festival, this year’s festival included 55000 events (that organisers knew about).
The weather is amazingly good apparently, particularly compared to recently I’ve been told. It was a beautiful sunny day today although the sun is so low in the sky all day that there are lots of shadows and even if you can stand in the sun there is no warmth to it. We stopped for coffee at a social enterprise cafe. I nearly spat my coffee out when I saw a message from Don on my phone. I'd sent him a short recording of Dave speaking and he replied "Get him to say eleven" (which if you don't find amusing, you will after watching this:)
After the tour I headed to Arthur’s Seat. It’s a reasonably challenging walk, mostly because of the slipperiness of the surface. Even though it was sunny there was still a lot of frost on the ground. I didn’t make it quite to the top because it was a scramble over slippery rocks with no actual defined path - I was worried that I’d make a bad choice and end up hurting myself or getting stuck which isn’t a good look on your own. I went down a different way on the other side of the hill and it was probably harder going down than up. I did one relatively graceful slip onto my backside with no more damage than a bit of mud on my jeans, but it was slow, and hard work on the knees.
I finished off the day with a visit to Edinburgh’s National museum where I saw some interesting exhibits about the history of the textile industry, and Dolly the first cloned sheep, amongst other things. Here's a selection of photos from the day.
And this is a panorama from very nearly the top of Arthur's Seat. It's a bit wobbly because I wasn't feeling very sure-footed.
Stats of the day:
Men in kilts: 3
Men in kilts not engaged in tourism or busking: 1
My step count: 23,357 = 18.15km
What's happening here?
I'm off on an adventure to Europe, on my own for 12 days and the remaining 3 weeks with my 17 year old daughter. This is where I'm going to share my adventures.
On the map
See a bird's eye view of the trip on Tourbuilder
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