It’s not enough time. A week would be needed to even begin to do justice to this, “the most perfect Victorian city in the World” as Sir John Betjeman described Glasgow. But it’s all we’ve got and the clock is ticking…
Any Brit who was born before 1970 is likely to remember the advertising slogan ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ which heralded the rebirth of the city in 1983. It was a master stroke of marketing worthy of Don Draper and it won the International Film and Television of New York Award no less than four times between ’83 and ’87. But more importantly, it changed the city’s self perception and gave it a pride that had been swept away on a tide of post-industrial depression and decline.
Since then, accolades have been stacking up on this coolest of city’s CV – European City of Culture 1990, UK City of Architecture and Design 1999 – and with them the investment to continue to clean up its magnificent Victorian architecture, which is the first thing that strikes me as I step out of Glasgow Central. That and the smell of chips.
It’s 6pm and time’s a-wasting so we head to the Glasgow Thistle Hotel to check in and dump the bags, then it’s straight back out to explore the immediate vicinity. There are a couple of near misses as, gawping up at the tall, elegant and ornate façades of the buildings that line every street, I’m an obstacle to the commuters making their way home from work.
Past the magnificent, Rennie Mackintosh designed Glasgow School of Art and onto the famous Sauchiehall Street where we stop to admire the Willow Tea Rooms with their statue of the very dour-looking Donald Dewer outside and its Mackintosh collection inside.
As we wander, I’m struck by the buzz that fills the streets. A mix of nationalities, ages and cultures are strolling or sitting outside bars enjoying an early evening drink in the newly-arrived summer weather. In keeping with its heritage, this is a city where the people each have their own style, from the Goths who congregate around the entrance to Glasgow Central and the neo-hippies with their bohos and dreads, to the trendy 30-somethings and the occasional kilt wearer.
Eight o’clock draws near and it’s time to sample some of the city’s hospitality. Heading down Buchanan Street we cut a left through the arches into Royal Exchange Square and the Gallery of Modern Art where the statue of the Duke of Wellington is disappointingly no longer sporting its traffic cone crown, the cone is now more under his arm than on his head.
The al fresco tables of The Social are already full so we head inside to one of its comfy leather seated booths and order long, cool lagers which slip down so easily that we follow them with a second. It’s a great people-watching spot with a crossover of after-office and early evening drinkers and diners.
An hour passes all too quickly and it’s time to eat. The choice of venues is overwhelming and we’re on the point of giving up and heading to the chippy for a fish supper when we stumble across Opium and enjoy a fabulous Oriental fusion meal. Then it’s back out onto the streets where the night air now has a cool edge to it and the city buzz has lulled a little. We head to the West End where the lyrics of The Killers draw us down the steps into the Brunswick Cellars.
It’s a small, dark cellar with candles wedged into Jack Daniels bottles, a fish tank on the wall and a cocktail menu that includes a shot called ‘a quick fuck’. The clientele are predominantly student types and the music is 70s rock classics from the Who, Hendrix and The Doors. Looking around makes me feel old. I’d forgotten how ageist Britain’s social life is but no-one’s looking at me like I should be at home in front of the TV and anyway, I know all the words to all the songs.
As midnight comes and goes, it’s time to head back to The Thistle and a nightcap in their Cabin Bar before hitting the sheets, only to be rudely awoken at 4am by daybreak streaming through the gap in the curtains we’d left to admire the city’s night skyline from our bed. Damn Scotland’s virtually 24 hour summer daylight. We’re away on the 9am bus from Buchanan Street, watching the city fly past the window and vowing to return for longer. It’s true what they say you know – Glasgow is miles better.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+