Saturday, June 24th 2017
Glasgow is one of our favourite cities and we like to return there from time to time. It is a beautiful city and its delights never pall. It sits on the River Clyde and was once perhaps the greatest builder of ships in the world. Ship-building declined in the second half of the 20th century but Glasgow has managed to reinvent itself as a vibrant and culture-oriented city. While it is very much a Scottish city, it has its own character – personality, rather – which makes it quite unique. Though Edinburgh attracts attention as the capital of Scotland, we prefer Glasgow by far.
If you wish to locate Glasgow on the map, this Google Map will get you started.
The train journey from London to Glasgow takes five-and-a-half hours and so we made an early start, catching the 7:43 train from Euston to Glasgow Central. Spending that many hours in the cramped conditions provided by Virgin Trains is not the pleasantest way to start a trip but we gritted our teeth and got on with it.
Usually, we stay in an hotel but on this trip Tigger has booked us an apartment, a whole flat to ourselves in quite a nice part of Glasgow. Unlike the hotel, where you simply go to the reception and check in, for the apartment we had to call the management and arrange for someone to meet us, show us the place and hand over the keys. There was some confusion over this and we first went to the wrong address but eventually sorted ourselves out and reached our temporary home which is in St Vincent Street.
The apartment has large rooms with relatively little furniture but it has all the essentials so it will suit us perfectly. There is a standard metal key for the door of the apartment but the street door is opened by means of a numeric keypad. If you forget the 4-digit code, you can’t get in! We both carefully noted it on our mobile phones
Having taken care of business, so to speak, we made tea and had a little rest. Then we went out again. Where were we going? Tigger had a glint in her eye but wouldn’t say until I guessed where we were heading. We took some photos along the way, of course. I haven’t captioned some of them because I haven’t researched them.
Glasgow has a lot of fine buildings in many different styles, Classical, Gothic Revival, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and so on. The first time I visited the city, I was overwhelmed and spun this way and that taking photos. We called this ‘the Glasgow Effect’, and still use that phrase to describe our feelings on encountering an environment with an unusually high concentration of beautiful buildings.
This building jumped out at us with its unique qualities and turns out to be famous.
Designed by James Salmon (1874-1924) and built 1899-1902, it is prized for its highly decorative Art Nouveau façade and glasswork. It goes by the intriguing name of the Hatrack Building though how it acquired this name I have yet to discover.
Glasgow Central Station is huge as befits the size of the city, Glasgow being Scotland’s largest, and the UK’s third largest, city. We see it today as it emerged from rebuilding in 1901-5.
Tigger now scouted out the bus stop for the next stage of our journey. At this point, I still did not know where we were going though I had perhaps just to beginnings of an inkling…
We had bought Plus Bus supplements to our rail tickets which should give us a day’s unrestricted travel on all Glasgow buses, irrespective of which company runs any particular bus. However, the first two bus drivers, through ignorance, refused to accept them. We returned to the station ticket office but they confirmed that the tickets were valid and should be accepted on all buses. We tried again and to our relief, the third bus driver accepted them. (Glasgow bus companies obviously need to give their drivers tutorials on ticket types.)
We left the bus near Kelvingrove Park which is crossed by a river called the Kelvin. The park also contains the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, a wonderful institution that we have visited more than once (see, for example, Glasgow 2012 – Day 3). The name of course honours William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824-1907), more often known simply as Lord Kelvin, the distinguished Scottish mathematician, engineer and physicist.
By now, my inkling had become a certainty and I knew where we were heading: to Tchai-Ovna, the famous tea house and vegetarian restaurant. Tigger knows how much I like the place with its amazing range of teas (its tea menu runs over several pages.)
Tchai-Ovna is situated in Otago Lane which runs off Otago Street. When you first turn off into the lane it seems an unlikely venue for a tea house and restaurant and when you reach the understated entrance this feels more like the door to a private house than to a public venue. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, more like a students’ common room than a cafe. Today it was quite crowded, mainly with young people (there is in fact a students’ accommodation block nearby), but we found seats at a table. You have to go to the kitchen door to place your order which is then brought to you where you are sitting.
When the time came to leave, we went to the bus stop wondering whether we would again have trouble with our Plus Bus tickets. Happily, they were accepted without demur on the first bus to arrive…
Back at the apartment we sat and watched TV, something we never do at home. (We dispensed with our last TV set years ago.) We watched Casino Royale. As there were no subtitles, I couldn’t follow the dialogue. Not that it mattered as I am not a fan of Bond films. Without dialogue they are even more like overblown Tom & Jerry cartons but more sadistic and less humorous. Wet dreams for immature males, I suppose.
In London we had temperatures in the high 20s and 30s C. Here, today’s maximum was about 16. A big difference. In bed, it was pleasant to curl up under the duvet instead of lying on top of it in the breeze from the electric fan.
As we went to the bus stop from Tchai-Ovna, we could see the tower of Kelvinground Art Gallery and Museum, picturesquely framed by the trees of Kelvingrove Park.