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Trip to Scotland and northern England June 2014

Trip to Scotland and northern England June 2014

Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 03:36 AM
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Enjoying your trip report.
We were in Scotland in April, my son is also living in Glasgow working for the Commonwealth Games. Lots of great pubs with live music.

We also encountered the dreaded duvet (or doona as we call it). Only twice did we get a top sheet. Also the central heating in the UK was so hot!
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:22 AM
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Day 3: Glasgow

On our first morning in Glasgow, we took a walk around the city center, and visited the 12th century Glasgow Cathedral, dedicated to St. Mungo. They've just finished cleaning and repairing the exterior stonework, although some scaffolding was still in place. The stones in the interior are nearly black, probably from centuries of candle smoke. My husband, the engineer, noticed that rods had been used in places to reinforce the columns. We were told that the interior stonework couldn't be cleaned because the stone was too crumbly.

There are a number of Scottish regimental flags and memorials over the west door. One of my uncles died in the Dardenelles invasion in 1915, and I realized later (actually, it didn't occur to me to investigate) that a memorial for his regiment, and the regimental flags, are displayed there. I really regret that I didn't think of it; my family would have been interested in seeing a photo.

The Cathedral now belongs to the Scots Reformed Church, which doesn't have bishops, so technically I suppose it's no longer a cathedral. It's very carefully preserved, and has excellent informational signs. It also has some nice stained glass, including a beautiful Millennium Window. The Reformed Church no longer objects to stained glass, as it did in the time of John Knox. Most of the stained glass is Victorian.

There is a necropolis near the cathedral that looked interesting; we both like exploring old graveyards. However, it was uphill, and we had already walked a good distance, and didn't have a lot of time left before lunch.

We had a good lunch at the Café India near our hotel. Then we had an Italian pennichella (little nap) at the hotel, as we did most days of the trip.

In the afternoon, we met my husband's friend, his neighbor and elementary school companion, who gave us a tour of the city by car, showing us some of Glasgow's interesting architecture and bridges, including stadiums and other new constructions for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. He told us it was a shame we had skipped the necropolis. When we mentioned that we liked old cemeteries, he took us to a cemetery (whose name I forget) where there were old graves and modern graves. The athlete's village is destined to become permanent housing after the games. We ate dinner at Harvester, one of a chain of restaurants, in a panoramic location on the Clyde river. They have a dinner special for £9.99, which includes a main course, unlimited salad bar and soft drinks, and an ice cream sundae for dessert. It wasn't fine dining, but the food was good and the service very friendly and attentive.

It was a lovely sunny evening, and there is a great view of Glasgow and its bridges from the Springfield Quay, where the restaurant is located. After dinner, we went to the Glasgow Green, one of Glasgow's beautiful large parks, and then our friend drove us around central Glasgow a bit before leaving us at our hotel.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 08:45 AM
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Hi BVLENCI,

Loved your opening: " I've read both Samuel Johnson's "Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland" and James Boswell's "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides", and I downloaded both to my Kindle so I could read them again on the trip."

Now that's my idea of a good time. Following along through the heather ...
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 09:04 AM
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I haven't finished reading them yet, and we've been back a week now, so they're helping to prolong memories of the trip.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 09:36 AM
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Actually Glasgow Cathedral is Church of Scotland, not "Scots Reform Church".
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 02:03 PM
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Sorry, I was translating literally from their Italian language brochure.
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Old Jul 4th, 2014, 02:08 PM
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Italians tend to call all the churches in the Calvin-Knox tradition, "Chiesa Riformata"
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 07:22 AM
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Day 4 – Glasgow, continued

On Sunday morning, we went to mass at our friend's church and then sat around and chatted for a while in the rectory kitchen. We then visited George Square, which is a bit obstructed just now by a tent structure for the Commonwealth Games, so you don't get the full effect of this beautiful square.

We had lunch at a nice pub near our hotel called the Libertine. I had Thai beef noodles, and my husband had a Nicoise salad. There was no tuna on the Nicoise, which I thought was the essential ingredient, and there were no noodles on the Thai beef noodles. However, they were very good, and it's a really pleasant pub. Just check your order carefully.

In the afternoon, we went to Maryhill, my father's old neighborhood, although it seems as though it might really have been part of North Kelvinside, or maybe the neighborhood has since been redefined. My father was sure he lived in Maryhill.

We visited the Tenement Museum, not in Maryhill, but nearby. It's a typical tenement apartment, maintained just as its last tenant left it. She had lived there from the early 20th century to the mid-1980s and had changed nothing and threw almost nothing out. The apartment is lovingly conserved, to the point of matching the original wallpaper for necessary repairs. Even the doorbell is original. A sort of personal guide answers the door and shows you around, answering any questions you might have. It's not really a guided tour, more like a new acquaintance showing you around her home. I highly recommend this to visitors to Glasgow. This tenement was much more spacious and luxurious than the one in which my grandmother raised seven children.

My father lived on Chapel Street and later on Agnes Street. Chapel St. is no longer residential, and Agnes St. doesn't even exist. Last year, I bought an early 20th century map of Glasgow on the internet, and found Agnes St. on it. It looks to me as though Kelvinside Drive is on approximately the same route as Agnes St. Then, Oban drive would be more or less what was once Oxford Drive, and Fergus Drive would be what was once Cambridge Drive. Both of these streets were just south of Agnes Street. Fergus Drive is still lined with tenements, some of which seem to be perhaps 100 years old, so I enjoyed walking along it and imagining what the neighborhood might have been like when my father was a boy.

I heard so many stories about Glasgow that parts of it seemed familiar to me. One I remembered while walking around Maryhill is that my father and his friends at one point started an Agnes Street football team. They had a cheer, “Agnes Street will never die!” However, it has. They used to go around door to door collecting money for jerseys and the like. When someone answered the door, they recited a little ditty, composed by his sister, “We are the little football team./We're really very small./But every penny you put in/will help to buy the ball.

After our walk through Maryhill (or North Kelvinside), we went to the Botanical Gardens, a short walk from where my father lived. I remember how much my grandmother enjoyed Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania, and wondered if she had often visited the Botanical Gardens. Some of the glass houses at the Botanical Gardens were there when she lived in Glasgow. We spent over an hour in this beautiful spot, exploring some of the glass houses, but also wandering around the gardens, which were full of blooms on this sunny afternoon.

We were particularly struck by how friendly and helpful Glaswegians are. If we asked a question about a bus, people immediately offered to take us to the bus stop. Again and again, people we met on the street, or in the hotel, or in a restaurant, went out of their way to help us.

Glasgow has an excellent and easy to use bus system. You can buy your tickets on the bus. The bus schedules are all loaded into Google Maps, so you can use that to figure out how to get where you're going. It even considers how long you'd have to wait for a bus in advising you which route to take, so it's important to specify the date and time.

I also found Traveline Scotland very useful in getting around; in some ways it's even more useful, although it doesn't have the map incorporated as Google Maps does.

We had a light dinner at Wetherspoons, a burger for me and a chicken dish for my husband.

This was our last day in Glasgow. I regretted not having enough time to visit Glasgow University and the Kelvinside Art Gallery and Museum. My father used to walk through the University while delivering eggs as a boy.
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 08:23 AM
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Why can't they just give you a sheet as well as a duvet? That wouldn't be unsanitary.>>

no, but it would increase laundry bills considerably. I always ask for my bed to be made up with a sheet and blankets, or sheet and duvet if no blanket is available. it usually works, but you have to have known that there was likely to be a problem in the first place. and unless it's very cold, i turn the room radiator off when I get there, because like you, i find the central heating is usually too hot. I'm sure that you have similar tips for travellers in Italy!

enjoying your TR very much; i love reading "foreigners'" accounts of their travels in the UK. how lovely to have been able to explore your father's home town. BTW, you say that the glaswegians were friendly - could you actually understand them? Had you been studying "Taggart" in advance?
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 09:03 AM
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Annhig - the pot calling the kettle black? Judging by the reaction to the recent TV series Jamaica Inn, many people can't understand a word you lot in Cornwall are saying...!
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 09:11 AM
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Gordon - I wasn't criticising! but you must admit that Rab C and his mates can be a little difficult to understand.
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 09:55 AM
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I had no trouble. Maybe they turned down the Glaswegian a notch for foreigners. Anyway, when I was a child, we had a number of family friends who were Scots, but not Glaswegians. My father sometimes slipped into Glaswegian, especially when quoting someone he knew in Glasgow. His basic accent was more northern Irish, though.

My husband understood very little, but he's not very conversant with English in any circumstances. To him a Philadelphia accent is just as incomprehensible as a Scots accent. Most Italians who've studied English have learned to read the language, to speak it (to a lesser extent) but can't understand it, because their teachers have all been Italians who spoke English in the Italian fashion. They're like Chaucer's prioress, of whom he said, "Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly, after the scole of Stratford-atte-Bowe".
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 09:58 AM
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My father used to recite for us, "Scots wha' hae wi' Wallace bled", all the verses; also three or four verses of "Auld Lang Syne", and even "There's a wee wifie waitin' in a wee butt 'n' ben...".
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 12:14 PM
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after your father's tuition, it's hardly surprising that you had little trouble with the Glaswegian, bvl!

i know what you mean about italians struggling with colloquial english - our italian teacher has been here for over 10 years and studied english at Naples university, but she still doesn't get it all. and my teachers at various language schools have indeed resembled Chaucer's prioress. But then, my understanding of italian dialects is sketchy to say the least!
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Old Jul 6th, 2014, 02:05 PM
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The Tenement House is well worth a visit for anyone with at least a passing interest in Glasgow's social history. It gives the lie to the idea that all tenements were synonymous with squalid living conditions - some were actually quite comfortable by the standards of the day.

I'm not surprised you found Glaswegians to be friendly and genuine people, as the local people have had this reputation for years. It surprises many people to learn that Glasgow was once the second wealthiest city in the British empire, and there are a huge range of museums and grand sandstone buildings that bear witness to this.
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 08:15 AM
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Day 5, part 1. Glasgow to Tarbet

I'm breaking this day up, because it covers a lot of ground, literally and figuratively.

This is the day we left Glasgow, destination Oban for two nights. I had originally planned to spend one night in Oban and the next night in Glencoe, but at the last minute I changed the plan, and I'm glad I did, even though I had to forfeit 25% of my one night's stay in Glencoe.

On Monday, we picked up our rental car from Arnold Clark. We took a train to Paisley, and they sent a van there to meet us. The van was off on another run when we arrived, so we had to wait about half an hour. We spent part of it in a pub near the bus stop. To Italians, it's very strange to see people intent on getting drunk so early in the morning. Two of them were well on the way. Where we live, there are a few people (very few) who drink a lot, even in the morning, but they try to conceal it by going from bar to bar, consuming one glass of wine at each place.

We had ordered a car with an automatic transmission, on the assumption that shifting with the left hand would be the biggest problem with driving on the left. We did the same thing when we rented a car in Ireland. My husband did all the driving on that trip, and he thought it helped. I rented the car in Scotland in my name, since now my husband is over 70 and that incurs an additional charge. He was listed as a second driver, at no additional cost, but I ended up doing all the driving anyway. I think it worked better that way. In Ireland, I often had to translate road signs to Italian for him, with an inevitable delay and some contentious exchanges. I really had no problems with the car, and thought I might have managed the standard transmission with no trouble as well.

Arnold Clark upgraded us to a larger car, which was definitely no favor. We had very little luggage, so a small car would have been fine, and the roads in Scotland are rather narrow. My husband was constantly telling me I was too far to the left, but I also thought I was too far to the right. (A recent trip report by Janisj describes a similar situation, but my navigator was more amenable than hers.)

I managed to convey to my husband that he was permitted to say, in a low voice, “più a destra...” (more to the right) but nothing else. He tried his best to stick to this rule. I kept looking at both my left and right mirrors to gauge what a reasonable distance from the white lines on either side would be. I would make a note of what part of the "nose" of the car should intersect the white line on the right from my vantage point as I drove, but I always had to recalibrate if I ended up on a narrower road.

Objectively, the roads where we live in Italy are even more narrow and curvier than the roads we saw in Scotland (except on Mull), and many of them have no lines at all. It's funny how your own narrow curvy roads seem perfectly normal.

At the rental car office, a little misunderstanding caused us to lose about an hour's time on our trip. We had ordered a GPS unit for the car, and asked the agent to explain to us how it worked. She didn't seem very sure herself how it worked, and started making attempts to program it.

I had decided that having lunch somewhere on Loch Lomond would be nice. My father talked often about Loch Lomond. The obvious place would have been Luss, but I had noticed that almost all the tour buses heading to the highlands stopped there. I looked for other small towns along the western shore and hit on Tarbet, a small town near the northern end of Loch Lomond, with a little park right on the loch. The Arnold Clark agent asked me what our first stop was, and used that in her attempts to program the device. When she returned it to us, she showed us how it was done and told us our first stop was already programmed.

Now, I knew that, apart from Tarbet, there are several towns with similar names, such as Tarbert, but it never occurred to me that the agent might have heard Tarbert when I said Tarbet, especially since I mentioned it was on Loch Lomond. But that's just what happened. After half an hour of driving through built-up areas, with heavy traffic, I realized that something was very wrong. We should have arrived at Loch Lomond by then. Tarbet wasn't on the rudimentary map the rental car agent had given us, and neither were the towns we were driving through, so the map was of no help.

(Note for next time: buy a good road map before leaving home; I had intended to do that, but I didn't find one at our nearest bookshop, and it would have taken too long by then to order one online.)

I stopped to ask someone if we were on the road to Tarbet; the first person I asked also assumed I meant Tarbert, but by the directions he gave (including a ferry), I knew he wasn't talking about Tarbet on Loch Lomond. When I corrected him, he said he didn't know anything about Tarbet (a very small town). I then asked a woman on the sidewalk, and she put me straight. We had gone wrong about ten minutes after leaving the rental agency. We had to drive back another half hour to get to the right road north.

Later investigation led me to believe that Tarbert would have been a very nice destination as well, but that's a whole different trip.

I was for some reason unable to get the Tom Tom unit to recognize Tarbet, so I programmed "Luss", which is a bit south of Tarbet, on the same road. I just turned off the Tom Tom when we got to Luss. I realized the next day that the “r” in Tarbet was too close to the radio button that indicated “Done”, so I had been accidentally hitting “Done” every time after typing “Ta”. After a while we got used to programming the Tom Tom and managed to avoid hitting the “Done” button prematurely.

When we got to Tarbet, it was a bit late for lunch, because of our hour's delay, and the half-hour wait for the van. I had thought of eating at the hotel in Tarbet, but we decided instead to have a quick bite at the Tarbet Tea Room. We were the only people there at that hour, but the family that run the tea room fed us and entertained us, and even tried to answer my burning question about the difference between a lake and a loch. (I had read that Monteith Lake was the only lake in Scotland, and wondered what all these other big bodies of inland water were.) The son of the cook had to resort to the internet to find the answer, and it was a bit disappointing: it's just a matter of terminology, he told us.

The park in Tarbet was very inviting, so we sat there for a while watching the loch, the ducks upon the loch, and the little tour boats departing from the pier. A small group of German tourists drove up, boarded a boat and took off, but other tourists were few. There were a lot of local people in the park enjoying the sunshine. From this park, there's a beautiful view of Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond. Apparently, those who wish to climb Ben Lomond can start by taking a ferry from Tarbet to the other side of the loch. We don't do much climbing any more.

I can highly recommend Tarbet as a nice little unpretentious town on Loch Lomond, with beautiful panoramic views, and a good place to get a boat tour without crowds of other potential passengers.
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 08:56 AM
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What a lovely report bvlenci

>>A recent trip report by Janisj describes a similar situation, but my navigator was more amenable than hers<< - Can I borrow your DH for the next trip (I don't understand Italian so I wouldn't even know he was criticizing my driving)

>>I kept looking at both my left and right mirrors to gauge what a reasonable distance from the white lines on either side would be. I would make a note of what part of the "nose" of the car should intersect the white line on the right from my vantage point as I drove, but I always had to recalibrate if I ended up on a narrower road. <<

That is what the non-drivers don't seem to realize -- that one is using the mirrors to constantly recalibrate - that it is a continual process. I take it your DH didn't grab your arm and try to re-direct the car . . .

Don't you hate it when a rental agency 'helps' w/ an upgrade - when I want a small car, I want a small car.

Tarbert would have been lovely - but it would have been a loooooong way for lunch.
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 10:03 AM
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Over my dead body, Janis! My husband travels only with me!
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Old Jul 8th, 2014, 11:56 AM
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Now, I knew that, apart from Tarbet, there are several towns with similar names, such as Tarbert, but it never occurred to me that the agent might have heard Tarbert when I said Tarbet, especially since I mentioned it was on Loch Lomond.>>

oh dear - perhaps the tomtom didn't speak Scots!

we had a similar situation in Germany - our tomtom decided to take us to Naumburg, when we wanted to go to ...Naumburg. i had no idea that there were two of them until I realised that it was showing a 4 hour drive when according to the people we were going to see, it should be closer to two. Only a consultation with the map put us right.

sounds like a lovely trip.
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Old Jul 9th, 2014, 12:05 AM
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It was really a wonderful trip, one of the best we've ever taken.
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