Glasgow 2017 – Day 1

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 Smile

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.

Corner building

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.

Terrace house

This building jumped out at us with its unique qualities and turns out to be famous.

The Hatrack Building The Hatrack Building
The Hatrack Building

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.

Street scene

Corneer building

House with gable

Glasgow Central Station
Glasgow Central Station

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.)

The River Kelvin
The River Kelvin

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, Entrance
Tchai-Ovna, Entrance

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.

The Tower of Kelvinground Art Gallery and Museum
The Tower of Kelvinground Art Gallery and Museum

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.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Six from here and there

Monday, June 5th 2017

Crystal Palace Station
Crystal Palace Station

We started with an Overground train ride to Crystal Palace. This station originally opened in 1854 and, as the name suggests, its purpose was to carry people to and from the Crystal Palace which had been relocated here from Hyde Park where it had accommodated the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Abandoned platform
Abandoned platform

Since then its fortunes have fluctuated, sometimes on the rise, sometimes on the decline. (The destruction of the eponymous palace by fire in 1936 did not help, of course.) One of its platforms is currently unused and wild plants are beginning to invade it.

Art by Ketones6000
Art by Ketones6000

Returning north, we stopped off in Spitalfields to check on the street art. We found this large mural by Ketones6000 and

Art by Candie Bandita
Art by Candie Bandita

an even larger one by Candie Bandita and She She Gabor. It is a slightly unconvincing portrait of Jeremy Corbyn with a couple of supporting slogans. (Click both of these images to see larger versions.)

Silhouettes at the Barbican
Silhouettes at the Barbican

We went from there to the Barbican and

Barbican Cafe
Barbican Cafe

enjoyed a cup of tea at the Barbican Cafe!

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Southend snaps

Saturday, June 3rd 2017

We went on a gentle visit to Southend-on-Sea today. I say gentle, because we have been out and about a lot lately and did not feel like rushing about but just taking an easy stroll. If you want to locate Southern on the map, click here.

The name Southend is said to come from the fact that what was to become a town and a seaside resort grew up around the southern end of the village of Prittlewell where fishermen had their huts. From the end of the 18th century, Southend grew in size and prestige, a process that was further encouraged by the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century. Today it is a popular destination for day trips from London or longer stays.

Southend Victoria Station
Southend Victoria Station

We arrived at the younger of Southend’s two railway stations. This one was opened in 1889 as Southend-on-Sea and acquired its current name, Southend Victoria, in 1949, perhaps to emphasise it links with London. Its elder relative, Southend Central, preceded it by 33 years.

Southend Central Museum
Southend Central Museum

The Central Museum and Planetarium is quite near the station and we paid it a visit. The planetarium is open only at certain times but the rest of the museum can be explored daily.

First floor corridor
First floor corridor

The building is Edwardian, dating from 1905, when it opened as a public library, with funding provided by Andrew Carnegie. The library moved to new quarters in 1974 and the Grade II listed building reopened in 1981 as a museum of Southend history and life. Here are just a couple of items from the collection.

Reynolds House Fireplace
Reynolds House Fireplace, 15th century

How did you keep warm indoors in the 15th century? Well, you built a nice warm fire, of course, but a fine brick fireplace like this one was an innovatory design. Reynolds House, from which this fireplace comes stood in Prittlewell, then a flourishing market town. The house was demolished in 1906 but the fireplace was recuperated and rebuilt by the Victoria and Albert Museum and transferred here in 1974.

Model of a Thames Barge
Model of a Thames Barge
F.J. Lambert

This beautifully executed model represents the sailing barge Eva Annie, built at Milton Creek, Sittingbourne (Kent) in 1878. Such craft were flat bottomed and able to sail in the shallow water of estuaries and creeks. Popularly called ‘stackies’, they carried mainly hay and straw from Kent farms to London as food and bedding for the capital’s horses.

Le Revenir (The Return)
Le Revenir (The Return)
René Julien

In an open area opposite the station stands a lively sculpture by Belgian sculptor René Julien. It is called Le Revenir or, in English, The Return. It shows a young woman who has thrown herself into an embrace with a man. Her depiction shows vigorous movement and excitement. The man, on the other hand, is either less enthusiastic or has been caught by surprise at the exuberance of her welcome and has managed only to raise one hand to her back. Bizarrely, between his feet a couple of birds are mating. I don’t know when it was sculpted but believe that it was installed here in 2011.

Panorama of the seafront
Panorama of the seafront

If you follow the High Street, as we did next, you come to Pier Hill from which a steep descent, by steps or by lift, takes you down to the seafront. From this vantage point I took several shots of the view and combined them into a panorama. (Click to see a larger version – and click that to see a still larger one!)

The Park Inn Palace Hotel
The Park Inn Palace Hotel

The view from here is dominated by a massive white building that now bears the rather schizophrenic name Park Inn Palace Hotel. It was built in 1901 and then called the Metropole. Later, it was renamed the Palace Hotel, though I don’t know exactly when. During the First World War it was requisitioned for use as a military hospital and there are accounts of convalescing servicemen crowding the terraces and being thrown sweets, cigarettes and money by members of the public. It is now owned by a hotel chain called Park Inn, hence the double-barrelled name. For some reason, it makes me think of a transatlantic liner. It comes within an ace of being a blot on the landscape but I would be interested to see what the view is like from the top floor.

The Borough Hotel
The Borough Hotel

Southend is a town that unashamedly devotes itself to providing pleasure and entertainment for visitors. It has been doing this for a long time and very successfully too. Consequently, there are plenty of pubs in Southend and on a sunny day like today, they do a roaring trade. I picked this one at random for no special reason other than that I liked the look of it. Its existence is recorded from 1902, though whether it was a new build or replaced an earlier pub on the site, I do not know.

Foreign visitors to the UK are often puzzled by the fact that many of our pubs include the word ‘hotel’ in their names despite the fact that they do not offer accommodation. If it’s any consolation, it puzzles me too. I speculate that it is a hang-over  from the days of the stage coach when inns combined the role of pub, restaurant, hotel and stables, so that ‘hotel’ became a posh or up-market synonym for pub. That’s just my guess and research on the topic continues!

Southend - the beach
Southend – the beach

One must not forget that along with the more organized and commercial amenities, Southend also has a beach. Quite a nice sandy one, actually. Here one can spend a more leisurely time, sitting or lying in the sun and watching the sea (well, actually, it’s the estuary rather than the sea proper, but who’s counting?), the gulls and perhaps the people. We did this ourselves and enjoyed the relative calm before gathering ourselves up once more and returning to the station to rattle our way back to London.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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