A Whirlwind Day

Trip Start Aug 10, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Friday, August 13, 2010

I was really looking forward to this day in Glasgow.  I had been here only once before, almost 20 years ago, under quite different conditions; all I really remember was being driven around to various pubs and clubs in the crowded back seat of a stranger's car on a cold, dark, rainy night.  (Okay, you probably want a few more details: I was spending a good portion of my Christmas break from Oxford traveling around Scotland by train with a new friend from northern England; he had some friends in Glasgow who picked us up from the train and took us out for the night. Honestly, though, I have no memory whatsoever of where we slept, which doesn't (necessarily) reflect the events of that night.)

I left the hotel in London on time at 5:15 a.m., walked 5 minutes to Paddington Station, and took the Heathrow Express back to the airport.  The short flight to Glasgow was painless, except for being exhausted and surprising unable to sleep for any of the 90-minute flight.  It was a beautiful sunny morning when we landed in Glasgow, so I was eager to get out and explore the city.  I took an express bus into the center of the city, dropped my bags at the train station from which I'd be leaving in the evening, got a coffee at the wonderful Caffe Nero, and off I went.

Since it was just after 9am and the majority of the city's museums didn't open until 11am (late opening hours on Fridays), I thought a ride on a double-decker, open-top, hop-on/hop-off tour bus would be the perfect start to the day.  This would allow me to get an overview of the city in an hour or so, and then I could continue to use them throughout the day to go back to the spots I wanted to see in greater detail.  Our guide, Cameron, was great, though I happened to catch his bus several times during the day and his identical jokes got progressively less funny, especially as I found myself reciting the punch line before him.

The sights in Glasgow are really spread out, so the bus proved to be a great way to get around quickly.  I really loved the city's architecture; so many grandiose, intricately detailed stone buildings.  I was especially looking forward to seeing some of the buildings designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and they did not disappoint.  The highlights of the day were the gothic Glasgow Cathedral and its hilltop Necropolis, the famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (where I received a personalized guided tour by a friendly and knowledgeable volunteer), and (another guided tour of) the Glasgow School of Art, widely considered Mackintosh's masterpiece.

With all of my running around, I never really had time for breakfast or lunch, so I was really hungry for dinner by the time it came.  Having had two huge Indian meals the previous two nights, and knowing that there'd be plenty of traditional Scottish food in my future along the West Highland Way, I decided on Jamie's Italian, the first restaurant opened in Scotland by Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef.  (Don't worry -- that's a work-safe link.)  I had a wonderful salad of spring greens, fresh peas, lemon, and mint, crispy polenta chips, real spaghetti bolognese, wonderful lamb chop lollipops with mint sauce and roasted nuts, and a glass of a really delicious Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  Good thing I hadn't eaten all day!

After that, it was back to the train station to collect my luggage and take the train to the small town of Balloch near the southwest shore of Loch Lomond.  From there I took a taxi for a 20-minute drive to the even smaller village of Drymen, where I would em bark on the West Highland Way the next day.  I stayed at a nice B&B called Green Shadows, on the grounds of what had once been the Buchanan Castle, now a golf club and "country estate".  After a very long day, I was asleep in no time, but very excited about the adventure that would begin in the morning.
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