Wednesday, June 15

Glasgow | 01: a day in the West End

I don't believe it was really Glasgow, where I went at the beginning of this month. Not the Glasgow I've heard about, anyway, the Glasgow of perpetual rain and cold summers, of drug dens and ugly streets and 'remind your clock back twenty-five years'.

No, where I went was lush with June green and blue sky. The temperature was the perfect kind of hot, and pavements shone pale and wide with sunburned walkers clutching iced coffees. I was reminded of New York in April, when temperatures at the day's girth would reach the mid twenties, and then fall back to misty cool at night. I feel I've cheated slightly by visiting Glasgow in this hot, sunny, almost unreal state. I need to return to watch the tenement stones withstand spitting rain and howling wind, I need to witness the sensation of escaping into coffee shops from the grey cold. As it is, Glasgow now holds a special, holy place in my mind, a little oasis of perfect summer.

The morning after the Springsteen show at Hampden Park, after a necessary lie-in followed by coffee and eggs, we walked through the city to Glasgow's West End. We passed traffic, shabby buildings and bustle, and the motorway. Then our route became very uncity-ish. Kelvingrove Park was all full green leaf and at least three different kinds of blossom. After a quick dive into the Kelvingrove art museum (the day just too good to be inside looking at stuffed animals) we followed the river Kelvin as it winds its way around the side of the University of Glasgow. The path creeps under tall bridges, skirts waterside pubs and flattens out next to the terracotta terraces of the West End. Sometimes it runs right alongside the water; there was a shopping trolley skeleton rusting artistically in the middle of the river, while nearby a mother duck and her chicks were sunbathing on a rock.

Eventually the path takes you to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens: a smaller, free version of London's pricey Kew Gardens. I took a quick nap outside Kibble Palace, an amazing 19th century curved glasshouse that looks somehow antiquated and futuristic at the same time. There's another glasshouse too, where ferns press their faces up against the panes. It was too hot to go inside.  
The gardens themselves are pretty nice; lots of sweeping paths, herb gardens and bushes heady with flower. Apparently there are two disused, derelict railway stations concealed in the greenery, which were closed at the start of WWII. The building of one was subsequently used as a nightclub, until it burned down after a Battle of the Bands contest in 1970.

Byres Road runs down south-west from the gardens. I felt like Byres Road was a secret that got out about two years ago and feels very slightly stale now. It's still a great place though: lots of coffee shops and charity shops, restaurants, music venues, the occasional record store (sadly I was too full of Springsteen to pay much attention to other music). Hidden down side streets were little pop up cafes and vintage stores, people clustered together in small shafts of sunlight. Byres Road reminded me of Park Street in Bristol: a slightly awkward mix of high street and independent, that just about rubbed along ok. 

Too tired to walk home, we caught the subway (it really DOES feel like a toy!) to the city centre and sat by the Clyde eating crisps in the last of the day's sun. 

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