Tourist Info Desk

Welcome to Fernweh, a blog concerning the (mis)adventures of one Fulbrighter during a year spent in Europe teaching English.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hello Glasgow

First of all, I'm going to take a couple of paragraphs to complain for a bit. This will get it out of my system and then, if everything goes according to plan, you won't have to hear about it ever again. If you don't want to hear about it the first time, feel free to skip down until the whinging stops.

I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat and a headache, and my excursion into Glasgow was cut short around dinnertime because I just couldn't muster up the energy to want to tour a museum, an art school, or a 20th century tenement house. (Although really, can you blame me much?) Also, my eyes and nose had begun to leak alarmingly. By the evening it was clear that I had caught the plague, which is bad for a number of reasons. The chief of these is that today, I'm flying to Belfast. This meant I was hoping for a good night's sleep, an uneventful trip to the airport, a quick-as-possible flight, and a whirlwind day of sightseeing in Belfast.

What happened was that between being too warm, coughing, having an excruciatingly squeaky bed, and my nose leaking like a faucet, I can't have gotten more than 20 minutes' real sleep, mixed in with spats of half-conscious, bizarrely lucid dreams. I was so worried about getting to the airport on time that I finally gave up trying to sleep at 6am and started the packing process.

Turns out I shouldn't have worried so much. I caught a train to the airport, got checked in, and waltzed through a nonexistant security line to find myself in a just-slightly-too-cold lounge with aching eyes, stuffed sinuses, a very tempting WH Smith, and two hours of waiting stretching out before me. I am both anxious to get on the plane and go so this whole obnoxious travel business can be over, and dreading it, because the moment we leave the runway, the pressure behind my ears will be unable to equalize and my head will explode. Also, it's a lot less fun to do a one-day whirlwind tour of the city when your nose starts dripping spontaneously and you can't hear anything not pronounced through a megaphone.

I am taking steps to combat this disease, like drinking enough water to drown a mackerel and taking some vitamin C/Zinc tablets from Boots, but although I've been carefully warned to only take one pill a day, they are so tiny and I'm accustomed to measuring my vitamin doses by the handful so I've broken that rule already. Not that it matters, since soon, between flogging microwaved sandwiches and lottery tickets, the Ryanair staff will have to scrape my brain matter off the cabin walls.

Alright, I said I'd complain for a couple of paragraphs and I've already taken four, so I'm going to stop. Hopefully this will have successfully and subliminally communicated my desperate plea for sympathy and we can all get on with our lives. Assuming my head doesn't explode.

Anyway, let me tell you about Glasgow.

The train ride from Edinburgh to Glasgow was only 50 minutes, but that made a huge difference. I felt like a weight had been lifted from me; here I had a new city, all shiny and ready for me to explore, with no preconcieved notions of grandeur burdening it. I felt vaguely apprehensive about Glasgow, actually, having some indistinct impression that it was the metropolitan, slightly skeezy cousin of cultural, funky Edinburgh. In fact, Glasgow feels, to me, a whole lot like Liverpool. That is, in both cities I had been expecting dark back alleys and seedy pubs, and found them, but also found clean, spacious pedestrian areas, nice shops, beautiful architecture, and not a whole lot to do outside of shopping and admiring the architecture.

My hostel was somewhat out of the city, so I had to take the bus from the train station. Two different people noticed my age and my enormous backpack and drew the not-unlikely conclusion that I was heading to the youth hostel, and volunteered helpful directions--which helped soothe my ruffled feathers after the surly glare the bus driver had treated me to. I located the hostel easily and found in my room a very friendly and completely jet-lagged new arrival from San Francisco to talk to. I finally made it out to find some food and wander around the city a bit but got completely sidetracked by the spectacular sunset unfolding directly before me. Unfortunately, there was no convenient open high point from which to view the light show, so I had to peer at the rays of magenta and gold between the branches of the nearby park's interfering trees.

I finally began my trek into the city, but actually didn't make it very far. It was quickly getting dark, and I had no real interest in venturing into a bar, so I bought a sandwich at Tesco and made my way back. Upon returning to the hostel, I stopped at the reception desk to ask a couple questions and ended up talking to the receptionist and manager for what must have been an hour at least. This astounded me; in trendy, cultural Edinburgh, I could hardly find someone to talk to me, and in Glasgow I couldn't get them to stop--not that I wanted them to, anyway.

The next morning, I was determined to do RFS's self-guided city walk, so I trekked out to the starting point and made it to the city viewpoints, pigeon-filled squares, and various museums with only a few detours. I took a break for tea in an apparently famous teahouse (the Willow Tea Rooms, for anyone who cares), and from there RFS was trying to direct me to tour an art school and a preserved 19th-century tenement house. As I said above, I was feeling ill already and couldn't be bothered, so I wandered around the pedestrian shopping areas, poking my head into bookstores, until I just gave up, bought some dinner, and headed back to the hostel.

The rest you know. You'll be glad to hear that my head didn't explode after all, much to my surprise, and this is because we had barely cleared the rooftops in Glasgow before we began our descent into Belfast. And to my utter shock, the Belfast City airport is actually within reasonable distance of Belfast itself. Ryanair being convenient...who would've thought?

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