Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fàilte gu Alba: Glaschu!

Finally!  The last chapter of our trip to Scotland!  This one is a long one and I would have split it into two, but it's October already and the trip took place in July, so it's about time to finish the tale, eh?


Glasgow (Glaschu in Scottish Gaelic) was the perfect ending for this anniversary.  I had zero expectations about the city - I had done zero research on what there was to do, it had never figured in my mental trips, it was an absolute blank in my mind.   And I loved it!  The vibe was so incredible I can honestly say I wouldn't mind moving here for a few years!

First of all, in my opinion, the city is super interesting architecture-wise.   It's not pretty and quaint and exquisite like Edinburgh.  No way.  But it's... more urban, edgy, grubby, worldly... A casual walk around the city took us to these two beauties: The Beresford, an Art Deco jewel from 1938; and the Charing Cross Mansions, Glasgow's first and grandest red sandstone tenement from 1891with a fantastic Beaux-Arts façade.  Of course, the wonderful weather that followed us from the Highlands couldn't but accentuate how fantastic I found the city and it's buildings.

Of course, in the search for meaningful architecture we could not miss the Glasgow School of Art, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Yes, the one that was horribly damaged by that fire earlier this year. Stunning building, and my very first approach to Mackintsoh ever.    Built between 1897 and 1909, I was impressed by how far ahead of his time Mackintosh was.  And I hadn't seen his best yet!  The modern part of the school stood in amazing but balanced contrast by the old part.  I was beginning to wonder why this man had escaped my attention before...

But besides the buildings - which, again, were more interesting to me than Edinburgh's - there were other things that made me feel more at home here.  Around this area, the west end of Sauchiehall, the crowd was somewhat alternative, mixed, a tad hipster-like but in a rougher way... and we ended up for lunch at this place - MeatHammer - that had "the best burgers in Christendom", according to their sign.  I mean, I couldn't skip a place with such sense of humour, right?  And, frankly, the burgers were that good.  And they had a delicious creamy local porter called March of the Penguins (brilliant!).  And the decoration was weird but cool, with blue and gold and oriental.  All in all, I was raving about the place.  Nice start!   

We were spending just two nights in Glasgow, so we had to make the most of it.   So we headed towards the Glasgow Necropolis and the Glasgow Cathedral, for a good taste of Scottish Gothic (the cathedral) and Victorian (the cemetery) architecture.  The walk there, the climb up the necropolis, and the views from up there at sunset... wow, I mean, really? were we really having it that good? Maybe it's my lack of experience in other Celtic areas of the world, but Glasgow's traditional architecture really impressed me.  No, it didn't impress me, it "fit" me.   And the stunning sunset, for which we arrived just in time to the top of the necropolis, was the icing on the cake.  

That first day was pretty long.  We crawled back home, not before enjoying a bit more of the city - this time Merchant City - and watching endless crowds party and have fun.  It was, after all, the Commonwealth Games!  It's a shame we were so tired, because that city was in some serious partying mood!  But we still had one full day ahead.  And we made as good use of it as anybody could have!


Our second day was at least as good as the day before.  And I think t was actually even better.  We were going to see more Mackintosh than we could have imagined!  Although first we had to brave insane, absolutely insane massive crowds!  You see, every single able and not so able pair of feet in town was headed for the Commonwealth Games.  And public transport was barely coping with this unheard of influx of visitors.  We barely managed to talk our way into a subway station - the wanted us to join a crazy queue of people heading to the games - just to realize that getting down there was one thing, but squeezing into one of the sausage shaped trains was a completely different trial altogether!

Perseverance, patience and elbow skills won us a place, though.  And after leaving behind the throngs of people filling up one of the stadiums, we arrived to Bellahouston Park for a visit to the House for an Art Lover.  This house dates from 1996, but it's based on a project by Mackintosh for a German magazine in 1901.  It was a competition, and participants were asked to disregard cost and to design something for someone sophisticated, an "art lover".  So, it's not a Mackintosh original in the strictest sense of the word, but it pretty much is indeed a Mackintosh house.   

So, that being said, what a great tour of the house!  How could this man have designed stuff like this in the very beginning of the 20th century!   You won't be impressed by the pics, because you have to see his whole work to understand how advanced and visionary and crazy he was.   The colours, the concepts behind the decoration, the shapes of the furniture and fixtures... I fell completely in love with his style.   Go, now, google images related to Mackintosh or, better yet, get yourself to any place that shows at least one of his pieces.   Absolutely incredible.  

By now, as you know, I was behaving more like an opportunistic vegan than a full time one.  So I fell to the temptation of trying one more typical thing.  Not a particularly Scottish one, rather British.  But anyhow, I had heard of British scones enough to feel curious.  And I figured the House for an Art Lover was a pretty good place to try one.  So I had one of those monstruos things: the scone and ungodly quantities of clotted cream.  Interesting.  Not delicious, if you ask me.  But well, I've now tried this British/Scottish treat.  

Our "Mackintosh day" then took us to The Mackintosh House, at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.  Mackintosh's house was demolished during the expansion of the University of Glasgow, but the house and its interiors were reconstructed and reassembled.  You've never seen furniture like these.  Honestly.  The guy was genius.  I would have photographed every item in there if I had been allowed to.  Alas, with photography forbidden, all I have is the exterior.  But those chairs! those armoires!  what an eye for detail and balance and what vision and creativity!   Totally out of this world.  

Finally, we had to had lunch - where else? - at The Willow Tearooms, designed by Mackintosh and opened to the public in 1903.  The chairs, the windows, the details, the play of colours... I must consider myself pretty fortunate to have a husband that was interested in seeing all this, it would have been so easy for me to overlook this all! what a loss that would have been!   

The rest of our stay consisted of enjoying more of the city and the festive atmosphere.   Bagpipe players, more architecture, another beautiful sunset, more red sandstone tenement buildings...

...and a tour of the Pink Triangle, Glasgow's LGBTQ area!   Way, waaay more fun than in Edinburgh!   We visited an underground bar - literally, underground - with an older, bearish crowd. A lesbian bar (Katie's) that had this comedy show of which we couldn't understand a single word (imagine girls putting up a mock German accent on top of their Glaswegian accents).  And a mixed bar called Delmonicas where people were the friendliest I've ever seen at any nightclub ever anywhere.   And in honour of Scotland I made it a point of trying local Scotch at these places.  Which had to be followed by grubby and scrumptious and so-non-vegan cheese-smothered pizza.   You have no idea how much fun I had that night!  The bestest way to end our trip!


All we had time left to do was head to the airport, toast to Scotland with a Glenfiddich, and fly away, grateful for one of the nicest surprises any trip has given me.   I loved this place.  The lochs, the glens, the kyles, the bens.  And the people.  Must come back.  Slàinte mhath, Alba!

No comments: