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May 21, 2008

The Rough Guide tae Glasgow

Filed under: Voyages - Travels — Lib @ 4:50 pm
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As I stayed in Glasgow for two years, from September 2005 to June 2007, it would be nice to share a few travel tips – in case you want to go and discover the Friendly City. Believe me, it is much nicer than you might think it is. Lively, surprising, full of life, pulsing… A good destination for a quick getaway.

Getting there

Two airports, two railway stations and one bus station… quite easy to get to Glasgow. From Europe, you might want to check Ryanair’s flights. Not the best airline there is out there, but a top low-cost one. I once flew from Glasgow to London, return, for 2p. All taxes included. French people, you fly from Beauvais – shitty airport to get into / out of, by the way – into Prestwick, where a railway takes you right into Glasgow Central, the centre of the city. All for under 3 quid of you’re a Ryanair customer – keep your boarding card with you on the train. Good to know: there’s no ticket booth at the train station, so you’ll have to pay on the train. If you’re really lucky, you’ll:

– see all 4 seasons during one train trip (40 minutes). I once saw sunshine, rain and snow on one train trip back to Glasgow.

– share a ride with Celtic fans coming back from a footie game in Kilmarnock. The time it happened to me, they’d won – not that surprisingly. Booze, singing and banter, quite a sight. I got into a nice chat with one of them. And I didn’t pay the fare as we didn’t see the receiver. Gotta love it!!

Gettin’ yer bearings

There are several hostels in town. The closest to the station, and biggest, is Euro Hostel, on the Clyde banks, at the bottom of Renfrew Street. The one I stayed in when I first arrived was in the West End, in Hillhead Street. It was as all youth hostels should be: noisy, messy and cosmopolitan. In a nice area. about 60 quid a week. Self-catering, with a shared kitchen. Not stylish or classy, but you only go to hostels to sleep, right? Don’t forget your earplugs, don’t be too picky, and you’ll be fine.

Where tae gae? What tae dae?

This is not meant to be exhaustive – so I’m going to be very partial here!!

The city centre: bustling, busy, noisy, all that it should be! Shopping paradise – but what do you expect, it’s the UK we’re talking about!! After London, Glasgow is the first city as far as shopping’s concerned. And it’s very healthy shopping, as the streets are quite hilly!

If you want to do things right, you’ve got to do the big three: Argyle Street, Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street. At the end of it, you’ll be tired and your wallet will be empty. If you want to do things my way, you’ll go to:

– Borders Bookstore. My headquarters. With a Starbucks inside, where you can take books to read without buying them. A paradise for skint bookworms like me.

– Lush, in front of Borders. The best cosmetic shop ever. There’s another one in Sauchiehall Street, if you really can’t get enough of it.

– if you’re in the money (and if you’re a girl), Coast does the most gorgeous evening dresses. Ideal if you’ve got a wedding to go to.

– Buchanan Galleries. If you like shopping centres. Don’t miss Millies Cookies, ground floor: best cookies ever – well, after Ben’s Cookies (Oxford and London), that is!

– Papyrus, if you need to buy funky wee mindings. They do Edward Monkton stuff (mugs, cards, keyrings, coasters…), they’re hilarious.

– James Weaver Pringles, or whatever the name is, for hardcore tourists. All Scottish gifts here.

– Primark. The temple of cheap clothes. They’ll be a massive queue at the tills, mind you.

– FOPP: the same, but for books, CDs and DVDs. Much soulful than Virgin or HMV.

– Marks & Spencer, of course. For bureau de change and British atmosphere. Get shortbreads for your friends. Free toilets too…

Etc… anyway, wherever you go, don’t forget to flash your student card, if relevant, you’ll get interesting discounts!!

But shopping is not all there is to life… Culture matters too!

– the GoMA, right behing Borders. A museum of modern art, and a library. And free clean toilets, too, always good to know.

– the Lighthouse, near Glasgow Central, a museum dedicated to Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Beautiful view of the city roofs from the top. Really worth it.

– a bit outside the city centre, on Castle Street, you’ve got St Mungo’s Cathedral.

– the Tron Theatre, near High Street: I once saw there a great production of The Tempest. And while we’re at it, the Citizens Theatre, in the Gorbals, is great too. Both quite cheap. I love them. If you’re more of a musicals fan, I’d advise you to check the King’s Theatre programs. Good stuff there – I saw My Fair Lady, Cats, Guys And Dolls, Chicago…

With all that, you’ll need a place to grab a bite, won’t you? Starbucks, Costa Coffee or Caffè Nero at each corner, if you feel like coffee. For a meal: Café Gandolfi in Merchant City (where you get all the designer shops) does excellent traditional Scottish food. And then, there’s food from all around the world. On Royal Exchange Square, Di Maggio’s does great pizzas. Tapas at La Tasca. And pubs and bars all over the place… I’d recommend Adrian’s Bar, really nice bar to chill out – you can even take drinks outside, weather permitting. And Waxy O’Connor’s. It’s like Hogwarts in there. Or Peter Pan’s tree house. Be careful, you might get lost!

The West End: the studenty bit. Less mainstream, funkier than the city centre. The hub of this area is Byres Road, where you can find shops, restaurants and food. Don’t miss the small alleys off Byres Roas, they have great second-hand shops and restaurants. There’s also an indie cinema, the Grosvenor. A bit like the GFT, on Rose Street in the city centre.

The main attraction, though, is the University. This old Gothic building is typical of British universities. The view from it is lovely, and the cloisters are really worth it – nice photoshoots there! You can get your Glasgow Uni hoodie from the gift shop. And just outside the Uni, there is the Charles Rennie Mackintosh museum – another one.

And if it’s a sunny day, grab a sandwich in M&S Simply Food, and go eat it in the Botanic Gardens. Lovely greenhouses and flowers.

Ootside Glesga

What’s great about Glasgow is that it is easy to get out of the city. A few of my favourite days out:

Loch Lomond: get the bus or the train to Balloch – careful, the roads mights be packed on a sunny day – and go to the shores of Loch Lomond. It’s just outside the city, and it’s like leaving a world to go into another. Luss is the best site to go.

Arran: ask a ticket to Brodick at Glasgow Central, and get the train to Ardrossan, then the ferry to Brodick. A beautiful island where they have a lot of flowers, soaps, and sheep. A gorgeous day out.

Edinburgh: train from Queen Street or bus from Buchanan Bus station (cheap deals on Citylink). But Edinburgh deserves its own posts. That’ll come later…


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