The Streets of Glasgow
These are just a few of the many pictures we took this past weekend in Glasgow. They’re mostly street scenes, where we tried to capture the general feeling of the city. It’s kind of hard to describe Glasgow, because it is the third largest city in the UK (and the most populous city in Scotland), but I don’t think it has that quintessential “Scotch-ness” about it. (Maybe that’s because Scotland is so totally identified with the Highlands.)
Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street are the two big pedestrian areas in the city. I really enjoyed the feeling here, even though I was disappointed to see the same brand-name stores as in London. Do we really need yet another Monsoon, HMV, or Next? I understand globalization, but the more I travel the globe, the more I realize that it’s the unique parts of every city that I really enjoy.
We enjoyed the city, and I think it makes sense to spend a day or two here before heading off into the country, but I don’t think you need to spend an entire vacation here (anything more than a long weekend would be too much). Our first impressions were that it was a bit grimy, and that the people are a bit older and grittier than London (which makes sense; London’s populace is artificial in many ways).
Many of the buildings are covered with the same stone, kind of like Bath stone, but it’s not as pretty or as clean. And it’s not consistent enough to really make an impact. There is a lot of Georgian architecture, although there are a fair number of high-rise buildings (most seemed to be Council Housing).
We’ve struggled with finding a decent burger in the UK, but Alex did have one in a pub on Sunday that he said was reasonably decent. That’s pretty high praise these days! Some people claim that the taste difference is due to grass-fed beef instead of corn-fed beef, but I think it’s because everyone here overcooks the meat. I know that BSE (mad cow) is scary, but I’m tired of eating hockey pucks! We’ve pretty much stopped eating red meat, which is probably not a bad thing anyway.
The one thing about Glasgow that I found surprising, and a little sad, was how little the River Clyde is incorporated into the city centre. We almost went three whole days with only a rare glimpse of the river, until we walked over to sit on the banks right before catching the train home. It’s a lovely little river, and even though there is a bike path alongside, it didn’t seem to get much traffic.
There are parts of Glasgow that appear to be on the up-and-up, including the new harbour areas where the new Transport Museum is being built. There are supposed to be new developments going up along the river, and while we saw one or two new buildings, it didn’t compare to London, or even Bristol, for redeveloped waterfront.
One thing that really bothered me about the city, and the area in general, was the dependence on the auto. So many cars! So many parking lots! We even saw a number of American-style parking garages (unheard of in London). While all the cars tend to be small, like this Mini (which is painted adorably like a NYC taxi), there are still far too many of them. The infrastructure of roads and motor ways really infringes on the space and atmosphere. Perhaps I’ve spent too long now being car-free, but I really can’t imagine going back to “life on the road”.
Glasgow had a number of great town squares, though, which adds a lot to the pedestrian atmosphere. There was even one street closed off for some kind of music festival. This picture is from in front of the municipal building, which was lit up in a really lovely way at night. We came by at about 10 pm, and you can see that it still wasn’t completely dark yet! It’s too bad there was that van in front, or it might have turned out to be a lovely picture.