Towns / Cities Visited: 115
Countries Visited: 20
Steps Taken Today: 13,377
Steps Taken Around the World: 3,066,710
We awoke to another cloudy day in paradise for the first slow day we’d had planned for quite some time, and as we were staying in a b&b for once, we aptly rolled out of bed, and headed down to breakfast. As could only be expected in a small farmhouse in rural Scotland, that involved a full Scottish breakfast, haggis and all, and a welcoming pot of tea, all served by the cheery little old lady who runs the place. The perfect way to start our low key day, if ever there was one. Fat and happy we gathered our things and bundled into the car. It may have been a quiet day, but we still had places to go, and as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, our destination was to be Glasgow.
As would seemingly become the norm during our stay in this gorgeous part of the world, we were met during our drive with a pelting of rain, and it certainly hadn’t slowed much by the time we parked and jumped out. Being Sunday we were able to find cheap parking, but also soon realised that our intention to visit Glasgow Cathedral first up would have to be postponed as the morning service was still in full swing. Not to be deterred, and with the rain letting up a little, we decided that given we did not wish to disturb the living, we would spend a little time amongst the dead. Thus we wandered through the ornate gates, over the Bridge of Sighs, and to our other destination for the day; Glasgow Necropolis.
Now, trust me on this one, but this place sounds a hell of a lot scarier than it actually is. In fact, this beautiful hillside cemetery looks like a most peaceful of resting places. Established in 1832, it is relatively young in the grander scheme of burial grounds in Britain, but given that we come from a country where our oldest cemeteries are from the same period, it still held plenty of Victorian era charm for our liking. Unlike many of the older cemeteries, this place is quite well laid out, all straight lines and neat placements, as oppose to the usual jumble of crumbling and toppling headstones; in short, a joy to my slightly OCD sensibilities. As you would expect, at every turn there is another touching and artistically stunning tribute, from mausoleums to ornate tombstones, and quite the smattering of angels. Despite this, what surprised me the most was the fact that there was substantially more obelisks than crosses, although in hindsight this seems to make sense given that around the time of its construction fewer and fewer people were attending church and the fact that the site houses people of multiple different faiths. It is also interesting to note that although it doesn’t seem overly cluttered with tombs, as there are only around 5000 memorials here, there are in fact 50,000 individuals laid to rest within the grounds, the other 95% simply don’t have marked graves.
With our dance with the dead complete, we decided to head into the city centre for a little while. As we meandered we were greeted with a stunning series of street art decorating some of the exteriors of the buildings; a gorgeous way to display modern urban art amidst such a historical city. Eventually we found ourselves in George Square. This central hub was initially laid out in 1781 and was named after King George III. The space is flanked by a number of gorgeous historical buildings, and is dotted with a handful of monuments to and statues of noteworthy Glaswegians, including a sombre but beautiful lion flanked cenotaph to commemorate those locals who fell in the first world war.
We, somewhat unexcitingly, spent a little time running a few errands and buying a few sundries, while also somehow managing to discover a nerdy collectibles store, which we escaped the clutches of without purchasing a single one of the literally hundreds of items we wanted.
The time had finally come, and we weaved our way back to duck into the rather intimidating gothic church we had admired from the hill of the necropolis earlier; Glasgow Cathedral. This hulking, and rather blackened, house of god allegedly sits on the site where the patron saint and founder of Glasgow, Saint Mungo, built his church. The current building however was started in the late 12th century, and is the oldest church on mainland Scotland and the oldest building in the city. The interior is everything you want from gothic architecture, which towering stone arches and an understated wooden ceiling. The walls are lined with a number of beautiful memorials, the choir includes a pair of organs, and there is plenty of stained glass to offer a soft rainbow glow, even on such a dreary day.
Like most cathedrals, the beauty of this place extends to the crypts below, which hold a number of small altars, as well as the tomb of the patron saint himself. What most certainly isn’t typical of this stone vaulted space, is the fact that we discovered within it a temporary exhibit of Lego. Yes, you read that correctly, filling the centre space was a number of glass cabinets displaying historical events and well known structures from around the world built entirely out of the famous coloured blocks.
Our day of sightseeing was now at an end, and thus we headed onwards to the Airbnb we would be calling home for the next three nights, just north of the city . Now, there are many downfalls to being a tourist on a Sunday, but there is one glaring upside to it in this country; if you have a hankering for roast, this is the place to be. Heading off to a nearby pub, we were disappointed to find they weren’t doing roast, despite it being written on the specials board and advertised on their website. A little confused, but undeterred we decided to go to plan B and head back into Glasgow to another pub we had found online. We ducked into the warm wooden interior of this classic old pub, and were soon sat down with a pint of cider, awaiting our roast dinner, with several extra Yorkshire puddings on the side, of course. As we chatted lazily, I noticed an odd glow out of the corner of my eye and turned to see that a newspaper abandoned by a careless patron had caught fire from a nearby candle. Within a second or two, we sprang into hospo mode and as I ran to the bar to ask for a towel to stifle the flames, my partner grabbed the paper and flipped it over. Before the staff could really cotton on to what was happening we were soon placing the still smouldering paper into an ice bucket they’d brought over, and it was rushed into the nearest sink for a dousing. With hearts racing a little we sat back at our table and noted that things could easily have ended much worse than the slightly singed table top they were left with. The manager seemed so shaken by the entire ordeal that she, nor any of the other employees, really seemed to register that it was us who had sorted it out. We weren’t looking for a big fuss or anything for free, but we were a little surprised that we didn’t even get a thank you. Regardless, our dinner was soon out, and the adrenaline gave way to the calm happiness of homestyle comfort food and the buzz of a second pint.
Before too long we were back, and clambering into bed. As I lay there, it was hard not to replay the fire at the pub over again in my head. It was almost amusing to recollect just how strangely unfazed we were jumping into action. I mused to myself that perhaps this lack of fear in regards to the flames is one of the weird side effects of working in a kitchen for so long. I have often been in situations in my work were things which most certainly should not be on fire, catch alight; from fat fires to flaming tea towels. Hell blow torches and wood fired equipment is pretty common, and flambéing is a classic technique. I often forget that in almost any other job seeing flames invokes an instant sense of panic; the same panic the manager’s face had been painted with. It was only in the aftermath that it sunk in the danger a small paper fire had actually presented in a place decked out almost exclusively in varnished wood. For the first time, I finally understood how people run headfirst into danger in emergencies; how people run into traffic to save a wandering child, or into a fire engulfed building to save their loved ones; the truth is that the danger just doesn’t register in the presence of adrenaline. This strange and wonderous hormone is one of nature’s most impressive creations. It is courage in its liquid form; it allows us to blur the line of physical possibility and makes us feel alive; it is the blinder of inhibition, the removalist of rational thought, and the queller of fear; but most of all, without it we would not have survived as a species.