We took the train into Glasgow today, a very easy 15 minute ride from Craigendmuir Caravan and Camping Park (€21.60), stopping in the center of the city at Queen Street right next to George Square. From there, we started another great Rick Steves self-guided walk, enjoying this very manageable town. But first, a funny story. Last night I walked into the Women's bathroom but couldn't find the light switch. I jumped up and down and waved my arms around trying to set off the light sensor that so many of these places have. Nothing. It was quite dark inside because the windows were tiny and it was very gloomy outside. I went ahead and brushed my teeth and was just getting ready to floss in the dark when a woman came in. I said "Hi!" and she jumped and let out a scream. Can't blame her. We both apologized for the scare and I asked her if she knew how to turn on the lights. She told me she had tried everything the night before but couldn't figure it out. She got ready for her shower, taking her things into the tiny shower area. I heard her moving around and then she came out holding something in her hand and asked me if I had left my bathrobe behind. I told her no just as she realized that she was holding her own sweater. That's how dark it was. We laughed until we thought we would burst. Finally, I wished her well in her dark shower and left. This morning the lights were on. I asked the woman who stepped out of the shower how she did it. She pointed to a small, square box. No switch, completely smooth. I did notice a very worn area where you are supposed to press. Worked like a charm tonight.
Back to our day in town--here are a few things we saw along the way:
The Lighthouse, designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, houses the Scotland Center for Architecture and Design.
School kids in reflective vests--what a good idea! Note the ubiquitous "To Let" sign. They are unfortunately all over town.
Glasgow Museum of Modern Art
Our timing was perfect for our scheduled 11 am tour of the Glasgow School of Art where Rick's tour ended. This building was begun in 1887 and completed in 1889 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who won the competition for the design at age 27. He loved the hands-on ideology of the Arts and Crafts movement, but was also a practical Scot. The brackets outside the multi-paned windows were a new invention during the time of the Industrial Revolution: they reinforce the big, fragile glass windows, allowing natural light to pour into the school. The brackets are designed as roses that gradually open up into full blooms as they make their way across the building.
Inside, he used all the most recent technologies which also merged clean Modernist lines, Asian influences and Art Nouveau flourishes. I really love his designs--our tour ended in a room with a selection of his furniture pieces. My favorite was a bookshelf that resembled a kimono.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh at age 27.
Mackintosh in his later years. I was sure this was Frank Lloyd Wright when I first saw it. Same style of dress and only a year apart in age. I wonder if they knew about each other--their styles were similar.
Mackintosh made his living from design commissions, including multiple tearooms for businesswoman Kate Cranston. The Willow Tea Rooms are the most intact and that's where we went for lunch.
Next on our agenda was the Tenement House, another National Trust property. Due to the 10 year hospitalization of a woman who never returned to her home, it was found just as she left it and the Scottish Trust bought the property and preserved it.
This small 4 room flat originally housed a family with 10 children. Both the kitchen and the parlor had a bed inside a closet. Five of the children would sleep in one bed. The kitchen was quite fascinating, especially the "butcher's bowl" that would be taken to the butcher where he would put meat in it, then you would carry it to the baker who would top it with pastry. Once home, you could pop it in the oven; take-out food from way back when. The bathroom still had her toothbrush and soaps and a large sea sponge in the very deep bathtub.
We grabbed a bus to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was very much like our Smithsonian museum and it was free. In fact, it reminded me of the movie with Ben Stiller and Robin Williams, Night at the Museum.
We were in awe at the number of stuffed animals and I'm not talking about the small, furry acrylic kind. It also had a WWII-era Spitfire fighter plane suspended from the ceiling and an enormous organ. Unfortunately, we missed the recital that took place earlier in the day. Chuck and I split up for an hour and 15 minutes and were able to cover almost the entire museum. I really enjoyed the Mackintosh and Glasgow School wing as well as some interesting technologies such as the Third Age Simulation Suit, used to help young car designers understand the needs of their older customers. It was designed to make them feel the tightness in their joints and the difficulties of movement. The goggles were blurred to simulate poor vision.
We grabbed another bus back to Queen Street then walked around looking for a place to sit down, relax and get something to eat. We found just the place and Chuck had a "real Scottish beef" burger. We ended our last day in Scotland with a Gaelic Coffee--coffee, whisky and cream. Yum!
We found Glasgow to be a pleasant surprise. It wasn't as bleak and grimy as we expected and it lacked the crowds and touristy feeling of Edinburgh. It's easy to navigate and compact enough that we were able to accomplish a lot in a single day. We're glad we stopped by.
Their art is for the artist and thinker...from their hands we have poems. ~ Talwin Morris, 1897