Glasgow Scotland has as long a history as Edinburgh, but no one would mistake Glasgow for Edinburgh. It would be like mistaking Boston for Pittsburgh. The city has been playing ‘cultural catchup’ for three hundred years, with the tobacco and sugar barons of the 17th and 18th centuries putting their money where their status was and the same thread continuing with heavy metal industries in the 19th and early 20th centuries. One thing that sets Glasgow apart as a city is the strong connections between its economic life and its feeling about itself as a place. Although there is still a strong picture of those ‘with’ and those ‘without’ in the 19th and early 20th centuries, those who had a lot of ‘with’ were trying very hard to do something about and for those without, for example:
Kelvingrove Park, built in 1852, which covers 85 acres of lovely gardens, statuary and bridges, a classic Victorian pleasure garden, open to all. Kelvingrove Park The DH and I walked through the park to get to the part of town with the Cathedral in it and it’s a lovely walk.
Another institution is the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, established by the Earl of Rosebery in 1898. (Truth in advertising: My grandfather, Hugh McDiarmid, worked for this gentleman as a forester when he was a young man, before he went down to England) Although established as a social center in the East End of Glasgow for working people, since the 1940s, it’s been a museum and greenhouse complex with an emphasis on the history and social history of the working classes in Glasgow. When we went through, I was finally able to catch a glimpse of just what the conditions were where my mom delivered her babies – a bit cleaned up, but rugged nonetheless. The Green Park and complex are stunning. And again – free (yes, everyone asks for a donation but you can put in whatever you like…). People’s Palace
One of the things that you realize when you go to Scotland is that there is no one who likes a joke better than a Scot. When we finally found the location of the hospital where my mom had taken her midwifery training and then worked, what we found was this – that they’d retained the entrance into the building. Very medieval, in that Victorian style, but evocative, nonetheless. However, when we entered the memorial park which replaced the building itself, we found this:
A 30-foot stainless steel diaper pin as a memorial sculpture in remembrance of all the mothers and babies. Usually, you get these Madonna-esque ‘mother and child’ things. In this park?
A giant ‘nappy’ pin.
One part of the city where you truly get your tourism ‘bang for the buck’ is the Cathedral Square, where you will find not only the Cathedral, but also an Evangelical Church, the oldest dwelling in the entire city, a haunted hotel with a three story bar and this – the Necropolis – Glasgow’s answer to the Pere Lachaise Cemetary of Paris and opened in 1833. Gorgeous, in that creepy Victorian totally over the top way, the cemetary has statuary and memorials designed by such famous artists as Charles Rennie Macintosh and houses over 50,000 burial sites. The cemetary is still being used today but is in frankly a state of disrepair, which makes visiting it a bit difficult in terms of climbing the stairs and dealing with the rather mucky surfaces. However, if you are looking for the largest collection of Victorian iconographic burial symbols and statuary, this is your place. You will not find another spot with as many weeping and depressed angels, droopy little chubby puttie, or people covering their eyes in any other spot on earth.
Oh yes, and another freebee as well.
So, how does Glasgow rank in Aunt Toby’s travel guide?
Well, first of all, any place where all the major museums have banded together and are free is aces in my book. One of the things that makes traveling to historic sites so annoying is the tendency for everyone to slap a 7 pounds 50 p as an entrance fee onto everything and this can get mighty expensive after a while. Also, another thing I really love about the city is that I’m a big 18th and 19th century architecture fan and Glasgow has this in abundance. The only thing they do not do well is actually label the buildings; I’d love to find a guide so that we could take a walk and find out who designed and built the buildings and who they were done for. Third, the directional signage and mapping in the downtown area is superb – the place is filled with big 3′x4′ placards with the map of the area you are in, including the ‘you are here’ tag (which I love), and circles showing you what is available to you from where you are within a 5, 10 and 15 minute walk. Very clever.
Best pub food we found (and again, we were not there long enough to sample a bunch of these but what we got at this place was very good): Sloans. This place should actually not be very good because it looks like a touristy place and is supposedly the oldest pub in the city but the DH had a terrific Sea bass cassoulet and I had great fish and chips. Also – when you get to the UK, try the pear ciders (sometimes referred to as ‘perry’). A particularly good one comes from Sweden.
Glasgow is a very international place, so getting any sort of food is easy, including, unfortunately, American chain fast food. Do yourself a favor – you didn’t travel 3,000 miles to eat KFC. Find a tapas bar instead.