Glasgow 2008

Saturday August 23rd 2008

Sauchiehall Street
Looking along Sauchiehall Street towards our hotel (Smith’s)

My alarm went off at 5:15am. Fortunately, we had got to bed fairly early after our Belgian adventure, so the waking was not too traumatic. We made tea and threw a few last-minute items into the suitcase and left home about 6:20.

A 73 took us to Kings Cross and at just after 6:30 I was queueing at Upper Crust for breakfast. The 7am train was packed. We had reserved seats in carriage B, the quiet carriage, where all seats were reserved.

Such was the crush, however, that it was soon filled with people without reservations looking for vacant seats. These included families with children who took up reserved seats left vacant, so we could forget about it being the quiet carriage.

An elegant terrace
We passed this elegant terrace every day

Train companies obviously over-subscribe popular routes on the principle that not everyone who has booked will turn up, resulting in overcrowding. This is perhaps something the Minister for Transport should consider in between bouts of destroying the environment by expanding airports.

After a grey start, the day has turned sunny and warm. Unfortunately, we are cooped up in a crowded train for a long journey.


Charing Cross
Charing Cross, Glasgow style

We passed the Angel of the North and I reflected strange it is that this rusty lump of metal without any claim to beauty has become invested with such iconic value.


When we reached Berwick-on-Tweed, an announcement was made asking if there was a doctor, a nurse or a first-aider on board. Uh-oh. Then we were informed that the train was being held pending the arrival of an ambulance.

Just what you don’t want on a long journey on a packed train when you can’t even stretch your legs out.


Wonky drinking fountain
Wonky drinking fountain at Charing Cross

It was a relief when we reached Edinburgh and the train practically emptied. We could now stretch out our cramped legs and even go to the toilet without pushing through standing passengers and then having to queue.

We are about half an hour late but that doesn’t worry us as it might if we were on a courier run with a deadline to meet.


We reached Glasgow at about 1pm. We found a nice red taxi cab which took us to Sauchiehall Street where our hotel is. This establishment is modest but clean. The only fault is that our room is on the third floor, reached via a steep and narrow staircase. By the time we had hauled our suitcase – and ourselves – to the top we were ready for a cup of tea and a lie-down.

Saturday crowds
Saturday crowds, central Glasgow

After a rest, we went to start our explorations and I was bowled over by the number and quality of beautiful and interesting buildings. There was something to photograph at every turn. We walked along Sauchiehall Street, which is very long, into town.

The town centre was crowded. It was almost like being in London.

It was now just after 3pm so we decided to find somehow for a late lunch. We settled on an Italian-style place called Amarone. After this we explored some more, just wandering wherever fancy led us.

Bridge over the Clyde
Footbridge over the Clyde

Then we started the walk home by an alternative route roughly parallel to Sauchiehall Street. Tigger’s inner pigeon was in fine form and brought us out onto the main road just short of the hotel.

It was now 7pm and we had had a long day (without counting the Belgian trip yesterday) so we settled down to spend the rest of the evening in the room.

On the way up to our third floor, I counted the stairs: 64, only 4 short of the famous hotel staircase on the Isle of Man!

 

Sunday, August 24th 2008

The Beresford
The Art Deco Beresford

We awoke to leaden skies. It had rained during the night and looked to be set for more of the same. Britain is the land of quick-change weather so we could only hope for the best.

Breakfast is between 7 and 9 most mornings but between 8 and 9 on Sunday so we can afford a little lie-in.

Above the washbasin in the shower and toilet cubicle there is a broken skylight patched with wood and plastic sheeting. Beside the basin, the towel rail is bent downwards. This suggests to us that the place has been burgled. When we go out we therefore take with us such valuables as we have, except for Tigger’s laptop, which she tethers to the radiator with a security cable.

Hill-top view
Hill-top view

Owing to the length of the staircase, we will switch to “Isle of Man mode”. That is to say, we will take our kit down with us to breakfast and go straight out, rather than return to the room.

After breakie, the weather progressed to sunny/cloudy, so we wandered hither and thither at will through the Sunday-quiet city, taking in the sights and enjoying the calm atmosphere. We noted several places we might return to for longer scrutiny, time permitting.

Metal bird decorations
Metal bird decorations on a street lamp

It was just very pleasant to wander thus, marvelling at the buildings which seemed to represent a catalogue of grandiose city architecture, seasoned by domestic and retail buildings.

We rested in a Starbuck’s (one of several in the city) and later in the downstairs cafe and library in the Gallery of Modern Art.

Here I was able to confirm a suspicion acquired yesterday, namely that Glasgow water has an unpleasant chemical smell. You notice it as you raise your tea cup to drink. It is possibly worsened by the fact that cafes these days rarely boil water to make tea but take it from the coffee machine which dispenses water at the sub-boiling temperature ideal for coffee.

It looks as if we will be drinking coffee rather than tea on this trip as stronger-tasting coffee suffers less from the bad water.

Old Glasgow trams
Old Glasgow trams, Museum of Transport

We now boarded the City Sightseeing tour bus. This company operates in many cities and offers an efficient and regular service. It’s good value as you can get on and off as often as you wish and the ticket is valid for two days. On arriving at the Museum of Transport, we decided go into it, mainly in the hope that we could have lunch in its cafe.

We did indeed find lunch there and at reasonable prices but we were also charmed by the museum itself which contains a wonderful array of vehicles from ships, through buses and trams, cars and lorries, to steam locomotives and gypsy caravans.

One of my favourite exhibits was a mock-up of a 1938 street with period shop-fronts, a cinema (showing a Tom & Jerry cartoon) and a station of the underground railway (first built in 1896), more familiarly known as “the Clockwork Orange”.

Glasgow alleyway
Glasgow alleyway

Walking out from there, we had drinks at a quaint Italian ice-cream parlour cum cafe which could itself easily have been part of the museum exhibition, and then we rejoined the tour bus, intending to travel back to our hotel for a rest.

However, having reached our stop, we decided to stay aboard the bus for another complete circuit. One reason was that on this bus there was a live commentary rather than the more common recorded variety which, being accessed by earphones, are no good to me because of my “dolbies”.

Back at the hotel, we made tea and rested with the intention of going out to supper later. At about 7:30, we decided to make our move. We took a leisurely stroll along Sauchiehall Street to Mister Singh’s India, a restaurant that our cab driver had recommended.

Cat in a window
Cat in a window

Mister Singh’s is an unusual sort of place. Firstly, despite it being an Indian restaurant, the waiters wear kilts. I heard that these are of a tartan specially designed for the establishment. Secondly, in addition to offering Indian and “European” dishes like most Indian restaurants, they also have what they label a “Fusion Menu”, whose dishes contain Scottish delicacies such as haggis cooked in an Indian manner. Gimmick? Imaginative idea? Hard to say.

We did what we usually do if there isn’t a vegetable thali on the menu and chose three side dishes, rice and nan. Lassi wasn’t on the menu, either, but they cheerfully made us some.

Cat in George Square
Cat in George Square

Would we go go there again? Probably, but only after trying some more traditional ones first.

By the way, Sauchiehall (pronounced “Socky Hall”) seems to derive from “Sauchiehaugh”, which itself comes from the Gaelic meaning “willow grove”. This is no doubt why the famous tea room at the town end of the Street which was designed by Charles Rennie MacIntosh is called The Willow.

Comfortably nourished by our Indian supper, we repeated our stroll in the reverse direction and returned our hotel.

Thus ended our first full day in Glasgow.

 

Monday, August 25th 2008

Today, August Bank Holiday, is our “official anniversary”. It is “official” because that is the date we chose on which to celebrate it, not being sure which day to regard as our true anniversary. If that sounds strange, it may seem less so when I eventually explain it all to you, one of these days.

August Bank holiday is not celebrated in Scotland so everything was functioning as normal today.

We awoke to rain.

At breakfast we decided to have porridge. Our waitress, an East-European, didn’t know what porridge was and became confused. She had to go and ask but we got it in the end.

Winter Gardens
The Winter Gardens

Then we went out in the rain to wait for the tour bus. When it came, we were the only passengers. We got off at the People’s Palace which is on historic Glasgow Green.

We started our visit with hot chocolate in the cafe in the magnificent Winter Gardens, a huge glasshouse filled with exotic plants and trees.

People's Palace
The People’s Palace

The Palace has exhibitions of Glasgow’s history including the poverty and exploitation of the working classes when the tenements were their normal dwellings. I found this interesting, instructive and also profoundly depressing.

There were also exhibits on the two World Wars and aspects of Glasgow life, past and present.

It would take more than a couple of hours to do the Palace justice but we had to move on. By now the rain had cleared and moving about outside was a good deal more pleasant.

The Doulton Fountain
The Doulton Fountain

Fountain detail
Fountain detail

Outside the People’s Palace, on the Green, is the magnificent Doulton Fountain. This is the largest terra cotta fountain in the world but you are likely to forget statistics when viewing it in all its glory.

The dull day doesn’t do it justice.

We rejoined the tour bus and travelled a few stops to the neighbourhood of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Before we tackled this, however, our thoughts turned to lunch.

Otago Lane
Otago Lane

We searched along the main road without finding anything that attracted us until we happened upon an A-board on the pavement, advertising a vegetarian tea shop 50 yards up the road.

50 yards took us to Otago Lane where another sign pointed the way.

Terrace, Tchai Ovna
Terrace, Tchai Ovna

We finally arrived at Tchai-Ovna, “house of Tea”, which I have to say is quite indescribable. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

If I lived in Glasgow, I think I would come here often. It is off-beat and friendly, more like a student clubhouse than a commercial venue. It boasts 80 different sorts of tea, some unusual and unlikely to be found in any other cafe.

Interior, Tchai-Ovna
Interior, Tchai-Ovna

The food is all vegetarian and some is vegan. What we had was excellent. If you live in Glasgow and have never been there, you should go without delay.

Entrance, Tchai-Ovna
Entrance, Tchai-Ovna

I was impressed enough to leave them a SilverTiger business card and tell them they would eventually be mentioned on the blog. Finding such an unusual place is one of the highlights both of the day and of the holiday.

Lord Kelvin
Lord Kelvin

Then we walked to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The Kelvin runs nearby and is a tributary of the Clyde. Many who have never heard of the Kelvin will nevertheless have heard of Lord Kelvin, the university teacher and scientist who chose the name of the Kelvin when awarded his title.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

The Gallery is a huge and magnificent place. It is worth seeing just for the beauty of its architecture and decor alone. It contains many fine works of art from various nations and periods and movements. There are displays that teach you about art too, so that a visit can be a learning experience as well as a time of entertainment and wonder.

World War II Spitfire
World War II Spitfire

There are too many sections for me to describe each one and too many to see in one afternoon. I will just mention Scottish Wildlife, Creatures of the past and Ancient Egypt. Let’s not forget the beautifully restored Second-World-War Spitfire fighter aircraft or the massive pipe organ on which recitals are given.

Kelvingrove organ
The Kelvingrove organ

It was now 4:30 and the Gallery was slowly getting ready to close, though visitors were still arriving. It is not far from our hotel so we set out thither on foot. It was time for a rest before venturing out later for supper.

Bar Budda
Bar Budda, Sauchiehall Street

For supper, we walked townwards along Sauchiehall Street, to just past Charing Cross (yes, you Londoners, there’s also a Charing Cross in Glasgow), and a bar restaurant called Budda. Tigger had noticed that they had vegetarian haggis in the menu and fancied trying it. Moreover, there was an offer of two courses for £9.95 so we were made up, to coin a phrase.

Finally, a note on the name of this city. St Mungo is Glasgow’s patron saint and credited with founding its cathedral. He is said to have referred to the town as his “dear green place”, a phrase in Gaelic from which the modern name “Glasgow” derives.

 

Tuesday, August 26th 2008

Edinburgh Waverley station steps
Edinburgh Waverley station steps

The day has started sunny so we are going to try to use the rail rover tickets we bought in London. I say “try” because no one here seems to know what they are. We will either have to bluff our way with them or give up and try to secure a refund in London.

In the Royal Mile, Edinburgh
In the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

After breakfast we followed the now familiar path along Sauchiehall Street to town, stopping here and there for a look around. We again tried the Scotrail ticket office and this time found a clerk who knew about our tickets. He said he had “sold a few over the years” but agreed that there was no publicity given to them. There was not even a pamphlet in his office but he gave us other leaflets that cover permissible routes and marked the area of validity on a map.

Most trains for our tickets go from Queen Street station and there we caught a train to Edinburgh. By now the early sunlight had departed and the sky had clouded over. A scattering of raindrops chilled the air.

Petit Paris
Petit Paris

In Edinburgh we bought tickets on the tour bus as this has proved a good way to get basic knowledge of a city. At lunchtime we disembarked and looked for food. We chanced upon a nice little French restaurant called “Petit Paris”. It was a bit more expensive than our usual choice but the food was delicious.

Rose Street mosaic
Rose Street mosaic

For the rest of the afternoon we alternated tour-bus rides and wandering on foot. This included walking the length of Rose Street, a well known street in Edinburgh. After this we went into Jenner’s department store but only for a drink in the small ground-floor cafe.

Jenner's department store
Jenner’s department store

It’s obviously not possible to form a fair picture of a city the size of Edinburgh in the course of one short day. My impression is that Glasgow carries away the prize but as the day wore on, my opinion of Edinburgh rose and I think it could bear longer and closer acquaintance.

Tigger ransacked the shops looking for DVDs about the local area and then we stopped for refreshment at Forsyth’s Tea Room.

View from Calton Hill
The view from Calton Hill

After tea, we again took the tour bus, disembarking at the stop nearest our next, and final destination, Calton Hill. The breathtaking views from here, especially under a moody evening sky, have to be seen. No photograph, let alone verbal description, can do them justice or convey their beauty.

Evening in Edinburgh
Evening in Edinburgh

Calton Hill Cemetery is the location of Scottish philosopher David Hume’s grave. I am told that when he was buried, friends held vigil for 8 days lest the Devil come to claim his atheist soul.

If the story is true, it is sad that men who respected the philosopher enough to watch over his grave were so little affected by his reasoning that they could continue in their superstitious delusions.

Edinburgh's 'Parthenon'
Edinburgh’s never finished ‘Parthenon’

We walked down the hill in gusty wind and a light drizzle. We continued to Waverley Station (so named in honour Sir Walter Scott’s novels) and boarded the 8pm train for Glasgow Queen Street.

In theory, our tickets are not valid for travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh, but we heard that people do use them thus and so far no one has objected.

Lauder's
Lauder’s

Walking up from Queen Street station, looking at menus, we came to Lauder’s pub. They were advertising vegetarian sausage and mash. Say no more!

After supper, we walked back to the hotel. The light rain became heavier until we decided to dig out our rain jackets from our backpacks. Needless to say, the rain eased off after that!

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Back in the room, we made tea and watched the DVD about Edinburgh that Tigger had bought.

Tigger loves her DVDs.

One thing I notice about people up this way is their readiness to talk to you and pass remarks that might be regarded as too “personal” in London. For example, several people have remarked on my rings. I have 7 of these, including a snarling silver tiger on each hand so I suppose they are quite noticeable.

Arthur's Seat
Arthur’s Seat, visible from many points in the city

A similar number have mentioned my hat. This is my black broad-brimmed Fedora to which I have added a red hat band to which I attach pin badges of the places we visit. Although I have a big head, the band is already nearly full and elicits interest.

I don’t mind this. In fact, it’s rather fun and nice to be noticed.

 

Wednesday, August 27th 2008

When I awoke at 6am, I could hear the rain rattling down the guttering outside our room. So I did the sensible thing and went back to sleep until the alarm went off at 7. The rain had stopped but the sky was grey with a promise of more water.

Ayr
Ayr

After breakfast we decided to have a slightly easier day and walked through the drizzle to Glasgow Central where our knowledgeable Scotrail clerk sold us SPT day-tripper tickets valid on rail, subway, most buses and some ferries throughout the Strathclyde region.

To start with, we took the 9:30 train to Ayr.

Town Hall and gardens
Town Hall and gardens

We arrived at Ayr station in the midst of a fire alert. I am so used to hearing strange noises in my “dolbies” that I took no notice and went off to the gents. When I emerged and looked for Tigger she was nowhere to be seen. As I stood looking about me (with the alarm still squealing away), a railway employee tetchily bade me leave to station. I exited to find a crowd waiting as if I were a pop star or royalty. Of course, they were not waiting for me but merely to go back into the station.

The Stables
The Stables

After exploring the town we thought to have lunch. We found a pub with a suitable menu but before I could order… the fire alarm went off! We weren’t inclined to hang around so went on our way.

We thus found The Stables Restaurant1, slightly hidden away in Queen’s Court. There was nothing specifically vegetarian on the menu but the chef rustled up some filo pastry parcels for us – commendably enterprising, we thought. The pastry parcels were delicious but we also heard mention of lentil and orange soup. So we had some as dessert!

The Citadel at Ayr
The Citadel at Ayr

After we had eaten, the chef came out of the kitchen and offered to take a photo of us both with my camera.

I was happy to give them a SilverTiger card and tell them that they would eventually be featured on the blog. So thanks again, the team at The Stables!

The plan was to take bus number 360 to Ballantrae but there was a mix-up at the bus station, owing to the fact that in that area the 360 appears as 60 (why?) so we let our bus go, not knowing it was ours.

Maybole
Maybole

Instead we took another bus to Maybole and changed there to one for Girvan. Girvan is a sweet little port, very quiet – at least while we were there – and very picturesque.

Over coffee in The Harbour Bar we decided to put off Ballantrae for another time, despite having been recommended a nice tearoom there by our friends at The Stables, and to head back up the coast.

Girvan harbour
Girvan harbour

Fortunately, the day-tripper ticket allows us unlimited use of buses and trains so we can go where the fancy of the moment takes us, subject to services being available.

In the end we caught the number 60 bus (which might also have been a 360 – who can tell?) which took us back to Ayr. There we boarded the train back to Glasgow. The little stations we passed through were almost like living museums, many with original woodwork and decorated window glass.

Sea view from Girvan
Sea view from Girvan

I also noticed that the platforms were swept and clean with no sign of discarded bottles and cans and other refuse.

We arrived again at Glasgow Central and started back towards the hotel. Because we had a day-tripper card, we could have taken the bus at no extra cost but we couldn’t work out which bus or buses went our way so we ended up walking as usual.

Distant sunlight
Distant sunlight

Our plan was to eat at Mother India which is only a few yards from our hotel. At Charing Cross a young man attached himself to us, asking if we were looking for somewhere to eat. I said firmly that we knew where we were going, thinking that would be the end of it.

I was wrong. Our uninvited companion kept suggesting places, all the while insisting “Ah’m only bein’ friendly.” I again said we knew where we were going to which he asked where that was. “It’s a secret,” I told him.

Girvan beach
Girvan beach

At this point, he at last began to suspect that his company might not be entirely welcome. “Am Ah bein’ intrusive?” he enquired, obviously hoping for a reply in the negative. “I don’t know: are you?” was my rejoinder.

Our companion now fell back as though wounded by my rudeness. We walked on, free of the nuisance at last, but hearing his continued protests that he was “only bein’ friendly”.

We reached Mother India without any further native assistance. We had been looking forward to this but I am sorry to say that the experience was marred by abominably slow service.

Girvan street
Girvan street

I accept that the restaurant was busy but an establishment at that level should surely have kitchens able to cope with the number of tables they cater for. After an initial wait, Tigger’s starter arrived. I thought mine would follow within a couple of minutes. It didn’t. In fact, Tigger had finished hers by the time mine arrived and I had had to enlist the help of a waitress in order to get it.

I wish I had timed the delay that followed. You never think to do this and then wish that you had. I would estimate that at least 45 minutes passed before the main course arrived.

Gull with cone
This juvenile gull is determined to swallow an ice cream cone whole

We had chosen a paneer dish that came served in baking foil. The cheese was firmly stuck to the foil to the point where this tore instead of releasing the cheese. We were both nervous that we might accidentally ingest some foil with the food.

Rather than enjoy the meal we were relieved to escape and walk the few yards to our hotel.

Will we go to Mother India again? I cannot imagine what circumstances might induce us to do so. The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough and it was a pity that what should have been the final sparkle instead turned out to be a damp squip.


1The Stables Restaurant, Queen’s Court, Sandgate, Ayr, KA7 1BD, Scotland, Tel: 0292283704.

 

Thursday, August 28th 2008

Another grey, wet morning greets us. Let’s hope the showers pass away as they have on other days. As it was raining, we took the bus to town. Our destination was Glasgow Central station to take the 9:47 to Lanark.

The Lower Level, Glasgow Station
The Lower Level, Glasgow Station

We sat for a while on the station waiting for our train to show on the departure board. When it did not, we went to enquire and discovered that this train departed from the so-called Lower Level, a Dantesque region similar to a metro station, beneath the main station.

On these trains, we called the door-release signal “the electronic kitty” because it sounds like a kitten mewing into a microphone, “mewng… mewng… mewng…”

New Lanark, first glimpse
New Lanark, first glimpse

At Lanark we took the 135 bus to New Lanark Heritage Site. When we thought we were there we rang the bell but the driver waved his arm. “Sit doon!” he shouted. So we sat doon. The bus reached a street of houses and we prepared to disembark. “Sit doon!” commanded the driver. We obeyed and sat doon.

Shortly afterwards, the bus followed the winding road into New Lanark. At last we were allowed to get up and leave the bus! Fortunately the weather had improved. It was now mainly dry and occasionally sunny but still with the odd drop of rain.

Mill engine, New Lanark
Mill engine, New Lanark

New Lanark, now a World Heritage Site, is a site containing an 18th century cotton mill, now largely restored, accommodations for the workers, together with a school for the children and a shop. The millbecame famous when it was taken in charge by the industrial and social reformer Robert Owen who showed that it was possible to treat workers humanely and pay them fair wages and still run a successful business.

A view from the roof
A view from the roof

After visiting the museum and enjoying the view from the roof, we had lunch though there wasn’t much of a choice for vegetarians. As we emerged from the old village store to 135 drew up with our friend “Sit doon” at the wheel.

Lanark
Lanark

We returned to Lanark and had a brief look around before going to the station. We arrived in time for the 15:35 but this was cancelled owing to a fault on the train. We had to wait a further half-hour. This was rendered slightly uncomfortable by a smell like that of an open sewer that afflicted the station area.

Hamilton
Hamilton

The train came but we decided to break our journey at Hamilton, not because we had any business there but just to see it. We had a small stroke of luck there. We went into Belles Coffee Shop and ordered hot chocolate. The lady in the kitchen mistook the order and brought us each a slice of chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce. We got our hot chocolate to drink but also the chocolate cake, free of charge, of course!

Evening in Glasgow
Evening in Glasgow

On our return to Glasgow, we left the train at Argyle Street, thinking it might be closer the hotel than Central. It turned out that there is not much difference, so we sat in St George’s Square for a while. The rain had gone and it was a pleasant sunny evening. The Gallery of Modern Art was still open so we took the lift to the top and worked our way down.

Glasgow sparrow
Glasgow sparrow

I am a sceptic where modern art is concerned. Much of it appears self-indulgent and trivial to me. Some of the better works are where the artist has forgotten to do “art” and settled for having fun instead.

The Gallery building itself is beautiful, where the “art works” haven’t been allowed to obscure the beauty.

GoMA ceiling
GoMA ceiling

When we entered the large ground floor gallery, we were warned not to trip over the works on the floor. The need for this warning derives from the magnificent ceiling and decor of the room. People become so absorbed admiring and photographing it that they fail to notice the clutter on the floor and stumble over it.

Tigger had so liked the vegetarian haggis at Budda that I proposed going there for supper again tonight. The music was rather loud but the service was a lot quicker than last night at Mother India so the experience was altogether better.

Glasgow nightfall
Night falls over Sauchiehall Street

We walked back to the hotel along Sauchiehall Street. The rain had gone and there was sunlight in the west. There were still enough clouds to turn the light silvery, lending a charming gloss to the city landscape.

We had enjoyed another full and wide-ranging day and it was good to return to the hotel to make tea and watch a DVD.

 

Friday, August 29th 2008

Hotel roof view
Our hotel roof view

Living in the roof as we are, I awake each morning to the rattle of water and until I open the curtains I don’t know whether this is the main water tank filling as people take their showers or the rain running down the guttering outside. This morning I was sure it was raining but when I looked, the roof was dry. It is a grey day, though, not matching the promise of last night’s red sunset.

North Berwick Law
The Law (hill) dominates the town

After breakfast we caught the 18 bus into town and took a train for Edinburgh. Here we changed for North Berwick, not to be confused with Berwick on Tweed. There is a seabird sanctuary there that we thought would be worth a visit.

Arriving at North Berwick after midday, we decided to have lunch before proceeding. The Tiger Coast Indian restaurant was to hand, and the name seemed propitious, so there we went and had a very enjoyable meal.

North Berwick rocks
North Berwick rocks

Now, at last, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day, the best of the holiday so far. This was doubly fortunate because North Berwick is a beautiful place, especially on a day of sun and blue sky.

Bass Rock bird Sanctuary
Bass Rock bird Sanctuary

There are sandy beaches, rocks and islands; there are yachts, speedboats and fishing vessels; and there are seabirds. This is one of major places for seabirds, both native and migratory and this why there is a Seabird Centre here and we had come to see it.

North Berwick
North Berwick

The town is very pleasant and there are some unusual shops. One in particular attracted our attention. It is called the Howdah Tea & Coffee Co. We went in on the off-chance that they might sell Russian Caravan tea. They do, and I bought some.

The owner, Pat Beales, is not just a shopkeeper but a true enthusiast who delights in stocking a vast range of teas and coffees, some rare, which are in demand with a knowledgeable clientele.

North Berwick harbour
North Berwick harbour

He entertained us by showing and explaining some of his interesting wares, including the famous – and very expensive – “Civet Coffee”, so called because it has been “processed” through the digestive tract of that animal. I was truly delighted to have discovered this oasis.

Mr Beales gave me his business card and I was happy to give him a SilverTiger card in exchange. As he is willing to send goods by post, I expect to take advantage of this service in due course.

Street lamp
Street lamp

We now decided to move on. Tigger had a yen to visit “the other side” (of the Forth). Accordingly, we took the shuttle from North Berwick back to Edinburgh and there boarded the 18:50 Glenrothes train. We would go just four stops to North Queensferry. Tigger set up her camera in video mode and clamped it to a table so as to film the crossing of the Forth. The view was indeed worth seeing especially in the evening sunlight.

View of the Forth
View of the Forth

At North Queensferry, we disembarked, crossed the bridge to the other platfrom and awaited the train back to Edinburgh, getting another view of the Forth on the way.

At Edinburgh we found a train for Glasgow Queen Street and, probably for the last time this trip, walked to Charing Cross. We had dinner there in a restaurant called Indian Gallery. The food was quite good and there were no untoward delays in the service.

George Square
George Square at night

All that remained was to walk the rest of the way to our hotel, there make tea and watch one of the DVDs Tigger bought during today’s outing.

All in all, it was a good day out, with the weather cooperating for once. It was not as active as some of our outings but we enjoyed it and that, after all, is what counts.

Tomorrow we return to London and if we are sorry that the holiday is over, we also look forward to getting home and reacquainting ourselves with the pleasures of our usual life.

 

Saturday, August 30th 2008

Smith's Hotel
Smith’s Hotel

I awoke to the usual sound of running water but it was the tank in the roof. The day, though grey, is so far dry.

The plan is to leave the suitcase at the hotel and fetch it later. We can then spend the morning exploring Glasgow for the last time this trip.

Now we must finish packing, toboggan the suitcase down the steep 64-step staircase, have breakfast, pay the bill and negotiate leaving the suitcase until this afternoon. One train is at 13:50.


Willow Tea Room
Willow Tea Room

After breakfast, with a lighter wallet, we set out once more for the town centre. The highlight of this short expedition was a visit to the famous Willow Tearoom, designed by Charles Rennie MacIntosh as a place where ladies could go on their own to rest, chat and (said in a low whisper) go to the toilet at a time when there were no public facilities for ladies.

When it was opened, the tearoom must have seemed the very height of modern fashion – even avant garde. Today it is a charming vestige of a past era and of an artistic revolution that still has its devotees today.

Originally, the tearoom occupied the ground floor and first floor, which stretches half the length of the premises like a balcony or mezzanine. Today, only this upper floor serves as a tearoom, the ground level being given over to a jewellery shop.

We returned to the hotel by bus to collect the suitcase. Not that this was easy. The bus map is badly designed and hard to make sense of. A local, seeing us studying the map, gallantly volunteered help but was as confused as we were by the document.

Tigger finally managed to make sense of the bus network, complicated by an extensive one-way system and we were able to recuperate our luggage and return to town.

Having a little time to spare, we had lunch in a tapas bar called Cafe Andaluz.

After lunch we dragged the wheelie suitcase to the relatively nearby Queen Street station and boarded the free bus that shuttles passengers between stations.

Glasgow Central station was very busy but our train’s platform was announced in good time and as we had reserved seats we had no difficulty boarding and finding a seat.

The week has gone well and despite the uncertain weather we have travlled widely and seen a lot. My previous visits to Scotland had been walking holidays in the Highlands, so this part of the country and the urban environment were largely new to me. We have seen a lot but much still remains to be seen so there is still plenty of scope for future visits.

For now, all we can do is sit patiently as the train hurries southwards towards London and home.

Epilogue

I am writing this in the Raj Mahal, within sight of home. The train was packed but that is behind us. We call out the numbers of the familiar buses as they go past on the main road. Its familiar din thrums in our ears. We are happy to be back in our city jungle, rounding off the holiday with an Indian dinner.

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