Carole and I already spent a few days in London and a week based out of Manchester. We traveled to Stoke-on-Trent first for a poke around the china factory in Stoke, the Spode factory and some shopping. From there we headed to Glasgow where we would eventually pick up our tour. We shall start with our departure from Stoke.
We went across to the station after checking out. Our bags seem to be getting much heavier! We discovered we had to cross the tracks to the platform required though an underground subway. Stairs!! Not normally a problem except the luggage is so heavy! We asked a station conductor if there was a lift and he took us to a cargo elevator that went up to an overhead walkway, bless him! We found the right car and settled in. We were comfortable and we able to spread out on either side of a four seater with table in between us. It's an overcast, dreary day and the journey was 4.5 to Glasgow.
We got a cab to the hotel, the Jurys in Glasgow's west end. Our room overlooks a pond with dozens of white swans swimming there! I've never seen so many in one place! The room is modern, with one double bed and one single. There is a sport center in the hotel, with a pool and jacuzzi, a small bar and a restaurant. We had a burger in the bar once we got settled in, our papers and passports in the hotel safe since we'll be here until Saturday morning. Found out the handiest route into town is a nearby commuter train. The bus on the main road takes longer. Looks like the hotel is used by a lot of tour groups as we saw several buses out in the car park. It's raining hard and though we're excited to be in Scotland, It had rained a lot already and we'd been in the U.K. about 10 days. Tomorrow we plan to take a city tour of Glasgow. Thursday will probably be our day trip over to Edinburgh. Friday night is a "meet and greet" for the tour members. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our room, watching telly and sorting postcards.
We saw the blue sky for about 10 minutes when we got up. Sort of like the sunrise or sunset, a few minutes and then the show's over for the day! We walked past the hospital behind the hotel to the train station, just a small platform and ticket office. It cost £1.40 for a return ticket, pretty cheap, and goes right into Central or Queen Street Station, depending on which train comes first.
We want to find George Square and get a hop on hop off bus. But first a wander through a pedestrian shopping street, Buchanan Street. We saw a Warner brothers store and the sign out front had Bugs bunny and the Tazmanian Devil wearing kilts and playing bagpipes!!! We walked through Royal Exchange Square by the large building that was, for awhile, the Royal Exchange and now houses a modern art gallery.
We found George Square, the main center of Glasgow where the lovely municipal buildings are. There are statues in the red-tiled square, large granite buildings and a mural type billboard along one side with a tourist information center in one building. The tour buses line up opposite the square from the municipal buildings and you can buy a ticket right from the driver. It was £7 for the 24 hour ticket (in 2000) and takes two routes, one through the older part of Glasgow and then one through the newer west end. The oldest part of Glasgow is east, around St. Mungo's cathedral, St. Mungo being the monk that more or less founded Glasgow. There is the Strathclyde University in this section of the city as well as Glasgow Green where the scaffold used to stand. In the Georgian west end is Glasgow University.
We did both routes first to get the lay of the land and see what we wanted to go back to later then went to find someplace for lunch, someplace warm!
We wandered back by the Modern Art museum and found a small café in the square there and were served a nice hot drink and a bun by a very cheeky Glaswegian who brightened up the dull rainy day by making us smile. That's something I have noticed, the Glaswegians seem to be so cheerful and fun loving, amazing considering the amount of rain here! After, we walked a few blocks to the St. Enoch's shopping center, a large glass topped shopping mall. Carole dropped off her films for developing. I bought my film with the processing already included so since it was already paid for, I wasn't going to pay for it again.
Back to the tour bus stop and we decided to explore the cathedral first. It's starting to shower now and by the time we get there, it's raining and too windy for umbrellas. We walked around the area for a few pictures then into the 13th century cathedral. I really loved this cathedral - it's so grim looking on the outside with centuries of smoke seeped into it's stone exterior and it's dark on the inside (or probably that was because it was so dark outside). But it has wonderful stained glass windows and benches circling the pillars and old, old pews and a high altar with a soaring window behind it. One of the windows' design was a Celtic design in white, greens and turquoise blues. The cathedral isn't huge and cavernous like some I've seen and it isn't elaborately decorated but it's peaceful and beautiful with the front part at a bit of a lower level than the main nave and altar. The ceiling is oak and wood beamed and vaulted and exquisite!
We left there and headed for the bus stop though were only going one or two more stops away, to Glasgow Green where there is a Victorian building with a greenhouse on the back called the Winter Garden. This houses the People's Palace, a social history museum about the people of Glasgow (see review in this journal) After our visit, we decided to cross the green (in the rain) for the bus. We had to run for it but the driver saw us coming and waited. We picked up the photos at St. Enoch's and I bought more film.
Hungry now, it's past 5 and we go out into St. Enoch's square. There's a bar across the square called Times Square where we had a pint and a nice piece of breaded haddock. It restored our energy. Next stop was a post office for stamps and we wanted to buy a box to mail some stuff home to lighten our load! After that we wanted to get a little time in at the cyber "café" which is across from Central station.
We found the right platform for the train back to Hyndland but didn't fancy walking up the path to the hospital as it seemed like it might be a bit deserted so we took the other exit from the tunnel. Mistake! We walked up a long curving street lined with lovely red sandstone terraced houses but it seemed to take forever and we still had to walk quite a few blocks once we finally got back up to the main Road. It was dark by the time we got to the hotel, but we stopped in the petrol station to get some snacks and drinks and a newspaper. Carole's photos were great, excellent photos of our trip so far! Tomorrow, Edinburgh. The tour bus driver told us just to get a cheap day return ticket from Queen Street station after 9:30.