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glasgow: first impressions

Glasgow, train station

Some people questioned my decision to stay four nights in Glasgow & only two in Edinburgh. Everyone assured I’d be happier spending more time in Edinburgh. But after reading a bit about the former industrial scene in Glasgow & the city’s revival in recent years, I knew I’d want as much time as possible to explore. Glasgow certainly did not disappoint. And just like Bogotá earlier this year, I couldn’t understand why the largest city in Scotland receives so little tourism.

The day Darío & I left for Glasgow, a descending wave of Arctic air created “chaos” (the BBC’s term) at airports all around England. Fortunately it did not affect our journey since we traveled by train. And what a ride it was… gorgeous English countryside dotted with remnants of a time when industry ruled, all covered with snow. Cold temps (-5 to-10°C) made it difficult to stay outside for long, but it also added a lot of character to the trip.

Glasgow, Christmas shopping

During most of the day, lots people were out & about. A number of beggars populated main avenues, but Christmas shopping & the overwhelming commercial focus of the city center made me wonder where evidence of the tough economic times would be found. On both sides of the River Clyde, it seemed that huge real estate development was trying to take off; refurbished buildings, abandoned warehouses, old office space, whatever you wanted seemed to be available:

Abandoned building, River Clyde, south bank

With such a large population, the amount of available space downtown seemed surprising. After the rise of industry in the 1800s, Glasgow’s population grew rapidly & did not stop increasing until after the Second World War. In fact, Glasgow was the second largest city in the UK after London in the 1930s… a title now claimed by Birmingham. Now there are just under 1.8 million in the greater Glasgow urban area:

Glasgow population chart
Greater Glasgow urban area map

Navigation around the city was easy & most locals seemed to take double-decker buses for longer commutes. We took the subway to get over to the West End… wonderful experience. As one of the oldest underground public transit systems in the world, the latest refit was obviously from the 1970s. Another fun feature was the shape of the trains & their small size… I  could barely stand straight up in the middle of a car & I’m only a bit above 6 feet tall:

Glasgow, subway
Glasgow, subway

There was a bit of language difficulty though. I adore the Scottish accent… has to be one of the best dialects of English I’ve heard. But they didn’t always understand my American accent. Perfectly ok. What struck me most about the Scottish was their friendliness & openness. Much more charming than most of their southern neighbors. And Glaswegians —well, the guys at least— have a very nice sense of style. The gals really need to leave those stiletto heels in the closet 😉

We didn’t spend lots of cash on meals out, but one remarkable lunch was super tasty fish & chips at The Chippy (doon the lane). Of all the pubs we visited, the best was The Long Way Home in the West End with a lovely hip & unpretentious atmosphere.

Glasgow, The Chippy, fish & chips

Next up: Glasgow architecture!

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