Today we figured we'd best find out why Glaswegians think that their city is ever so much better than Edinburgh. (Glaswegians say Edinburgh with as much distaste as the people of Dog River do their arch-enemy Wullerton, except they don't spit on the ground. You have to be a Corner Gas fan to get this reference!!) So we signed ourselves up for a two and a half hour tour of the central part of the city.
We met our guide, Rachel, in the centre of George Square, under the previously mentioned statue of Sir Walter Scott, and headed out from there. Along the tour, we stopped beside several of the murals that I am hoping to see on the Street Art tour I've signed up for on Saturday, and Rachel explained that the existence of the murals coincided with the movement to make Glasgow a more tourist-friendly city. These are not just random graffiti artists tagging walls hither and yon. All of the murals are sanctioned by the City and the project has helped to rejuvenate streets and revitalize buildings and vacant spots. The first appeared in 2008 and the collection has been growing since then.
We first stopped at the beautiful church-like building that turns out to be part of the University of Strathclyde, and serves as their convocation hall. We also walked by the Provands Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow built in 1471. We figured that might warrant a second look this afternoon. Next stop was the absolutely outstanding Glasgow Cathedral, aka High Kirk of Glasgow, St. Kentigern's or St. Mungo's (patron saint of Glasgow). It is the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow. Next to it is the Necropolis, a 37 acre cemetery up on the hill behind the Cathedral. We had about 15 minutes to wander and explore, but I only had time to duck into the Cathedral. Again, another place to possibly come back to, since it isn't far from our flat.
Onward to St. Andrews on the Square, an 18th century former church, now repurposed as the Centre for Scottish Culture. It was used as a location for filming one of the Outlander episodes. From there we moved on to Glasgow Green, the oldest park in the city on the north bank of the River Clyde. It is the site of the Nelson Monument and plays host to a number of events over the course of the year, most recently an international pipe band competition, which apparently has been won by Canadian bands several times!! Also in the park is a fountain dedicated to William Collins, a leader in the Temperance Movement, with a plaque in front of it condemning the "Demon Drink"!! As well there is the Glasgow 2014 monument, marking the hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and the McLennan Arch, saved from the demolition of the Assembly Rooms in 1890 and eventually moved to the Green in 1991.
We then moved on to walk beside the River Clyde, with its beautiful bridges, one of which is a pedestrian suspension bridge. From there on to St. Andrews Cathedral, then down Buchanan Street, a lively pedestrian walkway with a wide variety of architectural styles in the buildings on either side, a result of merchants of the past trying to outdo each other. One building of note was a former subway stop which is now a Cafe Nero (as prolific here as are Starbucks at home). Our tour ended in front of the Gallery of Modern Art, a most impressive building which houses a fairly eclectic collection of modern art. In front of the gallery stands a statue of the Duke of Wellington, atop which are two traffic cones, one on the horse's head and one on the Duke's. What started out ostensibly as a drunken student prank in 1980, has morphed into an iconic symbol,of Glasgow. City Council has made numerous attempts to thwart this act of civil disobedience, but whenever one cone is removed, another immediately takes its place. They even went so far as to propose that they double the height of the plinth upon which the statue stands to deter the pranksters. This met with rousing disapproval from the Glaswegian public, who believed that the practice was not an act of vandalism, but rather of a representation of local culture. There was even a "Keep the Cone" Facebook page and a rally with over 100 000 fans worldwide signing a petition in support of the cone. Eventually the Council succumbed to public pressure and the cone remains. But not only remains, but serves to celebrate various events, such as the green cone festooned with shamrocks for St. Paddy's Day, or the rainbow one for Pride Week. There is even a local phrase coined from the cone - "keep it coney", meaning to always try and have a wee bit of a giggle and bring some sunshine into the lives of those around you.
After all that walking we were in need of some sustenance, so decided we would do a taste comparison test. Does the fare in Timmie's Glasgow measure up to that of Canada? Indeed it does! Even my fav French Vanilla coffee stood the test!
We decided to head back toward the Cathedral and check that out a little more thoroughly, as well as the Provenance Lordship house and the Necropolis. The Lordship house is small, but very interesting, in that the rooms are set up to look much as they would have in their time. The house was originally built for the chaplain of the nearby St. Nicholas Hospital. There are many pieces of furniture dating back to the early 1600s, as well as other authentic artifacts and artwork. There is one room set up with Cuthbert Simspon, a chaplain who lived in the house at the beginning of the 16th century. Behind the house is St. Nicholas' Physic garden, which contains herbs and other medicinal plants each plot dedicated to the plants that served to cure one particular ailment. There is also the Knot garden, planted to represent a Celtic knot. Above the garden plots, the Tontine Faces or Heads stare down as you stroll through this peaceful oasis.
Next stop was the Necropolis, a 37 acre cemetery adjacent to the cathedral grounds with grand views over the city of Glasgow. It is reached over the Bridge of Sighs, reminiscent of that in Venice. The Necropolis was constructed to accommodate the growing number of the population in Glasgow. It was a result of a change in the law whereby burial for profit was allowed, as opposed to being the sole responsibility of the church, whose attendees were declining in number. It was officially opened in 1833, and is said to hold some 50 000 people, but experts say it could be as many as 100 000. In the cemetery are many monuments to the famous and not-so-famous. In the centre is a very tall monument to John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
On then to explore the cathedral a little more in-depth. I had gone in briefly on our tour, but we hadn't been down into the crypts. Luckily we got in before it closed and were able to explore quite extensively. It is a stunning church, both inside and out, with a fairly ornate exterior and an interior with wonderful stained glass windows, elaborately carved woodwork and many interesting artefacts. One of these, in the crypts is the tomb of St. Mungo himself, as well as a Bible that is over 400 years old. I could have spent at least another hour in there, but the docent kindly shepherded us out the door.
Back to the flat for a little sit down time before heading out to dinner. This time we tried Amore, a two minute walk down the street, and recommended by my tour guide from the other day. It was a hopping place, with very good food!