Impressions of Glasgow
Finally, there are some highways (excuse me, motorways) that stink of American style; as Wikipedia so kindly tells us, the M8 motorway in Glasgow is “unique amongst UK motorways in that it directly serves (and bisects) a large urban area, whereas most other motorways bypass such conurbations.” None of this bears any resemblance to other UK cities I’ve seen, especially London.
As Astrid mentioned, Glasgow is actually fairly well known for its large towers of public housing (known as council housing here), which does bring to mind the famous “projects” in places like Chicago or Baltimore…and, like those American cities, we saw some in the process of being demolished – although I don’t know if they are replacing them with attempts at creating “communities” of “townhouses” as well.
My first impression upon arrival at Glasgow Central, after 5 hours on the train from London, was that Glaswegians were older, poorer, and heavier than Londoners. Like Astrid said, though, London is artificial – with lots of rich young beautiful people (plus us!). Glasgow is more real, then, one could argue.
If Glasgow is American in style (or, perhaps more accurately, American cities are Glaswegian in style), it does it pretty darn well. First, Glasgow Central is a fine portal, fairly simple but probably nicer (and busier) than every train station in America save Grand Central Terminal and maybe LA’s Union Station.
The pedestrianized streets that Astrid showed pictures of – Buchanan and Sauchiehall Streets – are an appealing combination of old and new, and alive with people, many of whom are actually shopping (compare this to the almost complete failure of pedestrian-only streets or pedestrian “malls” in the US). While there are primarily chain stores here, they are at least located in the city center, instead of being relegated solely to suburban malls or strips.
My colleague who is a born-and-raised Glaswegian had warned me to avoid the “dodgy” characters, and perhaps I saw a few, but he also made a list of places worth seeing in his hometown – and it was not a short list! Overall, I liked Glasgow – it is a real place, for sure, and also has the interesting mix of old and new that I find so interesting in European cities. It will be interesting to compare to Edinburgh, it’s cross-Scotland rival, when we see that briefly in August.