Saturday, July 21, 2007

GlasGow Go Go!

Alright… here we go. We left bright and early for Glasgow – as in downstairs ready to walk to a tube at 6 AM. We took the hour-long underground from Russell Station to Heathrow, and got off the train with many hours to spare before our flight boarded. We made it through check-in and baggage with no problems, then spent some quality sleepy time chatting and eating at the gate. Our flight took off a little late, but no matter - it takes about fifty minutes to pop over to Glasgow. We ate a complete omelet breakfast and saw some lovely cloud formations. We landed, collected our baggage, and took taxis to the Merchant Lodge in downtown Glasgow, but had only a moment there – we left the bags and began our first day’s tour, starting at the “Light House,” a city center of sorts that houses shops and galleries and The Doocot, a charming restaurant on the top floor. Viv Redhead scheduled a controversial semi-mandatory lunch here, which most of us ate, and fortunately it was very, very good. After The Doocot, we walked a little distance to the Glasgow School of Art: the weather was lovely – much nicer than we had expected and certainly much nicer than London. Also, Glasgow is hilly, almost San Franciscan in some parts, so it was a bit hot and we were all warmly dressed... We arrived at the School of Art and Cassie and I spent some time talking about the outside before the whole group was ushered in for a guided tour. The tour was thorough if perfunctory, and it was great to see all the Charles Rennie Mackintosh things we’d read about in three dimensions. We finished with the school tour and talked about the building a bit before walking back downtown for a tea break. A few of us hurried to a working reconstruction of the Willow Tea Rooms (Mackintosh designed the original), and had scones and clotted cream and jam and milk- it was great. After tea, we walked to the great and weird church built by Alexander “The Greek” Thompson. The church is a weird mix of columns and Egyptian symbolism and no Christianity. Very nice. We were led around by a student who apparently lives there as pseudo caretaker – he knew a lot about the church (his dad was at one time the minister) and the sad state it was in, and it was amusing and melancholy to imagine him running about alone on a rainy night, placing the buckets we saw in the gallery. We then finally returned to the hotel, everyone exhausted, for a quick half-hour turn around before going to dinner at Zinc. For some reason, the Paul Mellon Centre had seen fit to treat us to a very nice Glasgow dinner, and none of us were complaining: goat cheese, rocket, and caramelized onion appetizer, “chicken supreme” entrée, and brownie sundae for desert. Mmm. Then the PMC treated us to two types of single malt whisky (one glass of each for each group of seven/eight students), one very peat mossy and smoky, the other pressed under granite. I preferred the granite. All in all it was fun and great, eating and drinking with the whole group and Sandy and Gillon, our PMC chaperone. We made it back to the hotel for some well-earned sleeping. But then got up again, bright and early, to walk to a large medieval cathedral with the remains of St. Mungo in the crypt. Neato. We then walked to a much newer Coia-designed church, with interesting panes of colored glass through wooden cutouts instead of stained glass windows… also neato. The plan had initially been to walk through the city’s Necropolis with all its tombstones and monuments, but a gate was locked – nevermind! We scaled a “wee wall” and made it in for a quick walk through, before returning to the hotel to catch a bus to Culzean Castle. An hour and a half of driving through green fields of sheep and horses before we saw the sea, and then we saw Culzean. Oh. To live in this place. Acres of gardens and fountains and land, the castle itself full of circular rooms with panoramic views of the ocean oh. An utterly beautiful estate that made me wish I was born into it a hundred years ago. We had ice cream from the Arran Islands (a treat from the PMC), then boarded the buses again for the drive back. Arriving back home, we straggled to dinner, then met at Scotia, the oldest pub in Glasgow, before proceeding to a different and swankier piano bar somewhere else. A late-ish evening after a full day and we were knackered. The third day in Glasgow started even earlier – we were up and breakfasted and packed and checked out, with lunches procured, by 8:45. We took a bus out to the Hill House, a stunning private home designed from carpet to parapet by C.R. Mackintosh. It was pretty incredible, with brilliant and memorable little details everywhere. We had biscuits and coffee in their café, and talked about the house, and then got back on the bus to drive back to Glasgow – we stopped at a church designed by Mackintosh (paganesque carvings everywhere!) and then visited the Hunterian Gallery, which had a replica of the house Mackintosh shared with his brilliant artist wife, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh. Then we moved on to Glasgow’s Museum with more Mackintosh artifacts and a disturbing arctic exhibit, and finally to the bus, and to the airport, and to the terminal. We once again had plenty of time, and shopped and ate and played cards until boarding. Another nice meal on the plane, and small bottles of wine, and Joy, a charming airline stewardess, and we were back in London, collecting bags and tubing home, tired and happy.

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