Glasgow Hop On, Hop Off

Yesterday was a very uninteresting day. We hung around in our hotel room at Lyon Airport until check out at 1pm, then we found a seat in the terminal and sat around for a couple of hours waiting for our flight gate to be listed. Eventually we flew out of Lyon at 5.55pm, about 15 minutes late. But we made up the time during the flight and landed at Heathrow Airport in London at our scheduled time. It’s such a big airport, and we had to go through UK border control, so we hurried through the terminal and went through all the checks. Eventually we made it to our departure lounge with 10 minutes to spare. Then they announced that they’d had to switch planes and we were on a smaller one to Glasgow. Anyway, that was a really comfortable flight and it didn’t take long to get there. The transfer I’d organised only took about 20 minutes on the freeway to get us to our hotel, situated right on one corner of George Square, just about 100 metres from the City Hall. We arrived just on 10 pm. Marg’s brother Neil and his wife Janie will be touring Scotland with us. They’re also staying in this hotel. Neil came down to greet us, but we were tired so we said goodnight almost straight away. That’s why I did not write a blog post last night.

I remember when I booked this hotel I had a choice of two rooms. I opted for the one advertised as having a window view and paid a few bucks extra for it. You can see it here – just a few old roof tiles. I think I should have saved my money!

We caught up with Neil and Janie over breakfast and headed out to begin our month-long Scotland tour. We’d booked tickets for the hop on, hop off bus tour today, which conveniently begins its journey at George Square, right around the corner from our hotel. Our first stop was Glasgow Cathedral, which adjoins the Necropolis, so we climbed to the top of the hill and spent a little time musing over the gravestones. Some were really sad. I read the epitaph one young man who died of wounds suffered at Gallipoli in 1915 and another who died shortly after being struck down in the opening days of the Somme campaign in July 1916. The guy who wrote Wee Willie Winkie has a prominent spot overlooking the cathedral. I wonder if he wrote anything else of any great importance. Towering over them all is the tomb of John Knox, the Reformer who renounced the Catholic Church and founded the Presbyterian Church. In doing so he changed Scotland from a Catholic country to a Protestant country.

We walked back to the cathedral and entered. Glasgow Cathedral is very impressive. Some parts of it date back to the 12th century. Work continued on it and it wasn’t finished until the 1500s. It is dedicated to St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow. He is also known as St Kentigern. He is reputed to have performed four miracles, one of which was to retrieve a missing wedding ring from the mouth of a salmon caught by a fisherman in the Clyde River. Luckily it survived the Protestant Reformation in 1560 and also survived the German bombing of Glasgow during WWII.

We’d only been inside the cathedral for about five minutes when a familiar alarm began to sound very loudly. It’s the same sound we’ve heard in our workplaces during our annual fire drills. It was a fire alarm. People were looking around at each other a little perplexed as to what to do. About a minute passed before one of the church wardens began announcing loudly that we should evacuate the cathedral immediately. The other wardens joined the chorus and began shooing people outside and directing them to move away to a safe space. Then they formed a human barrier to ensure no one could enter the cathedral. Marg and I had been in Europe, on our way to Paris, in 2019 when Notre Dame went up in flames. Here we go again, I was thinking!

Soon we heard sirens, and three fire trucks arrived. Firemen clad in heavy protective gear entered the cathedral. We stood at a safe distance and watched. Perhaps only five minutes passed before they came out again. It was a false alarm. Perhaps the bishop had let the toast burn in kitchen or something. We all re-entered the cathedral and carried on marvelling at it beautiful stained glass windows, massive organ pipes and fabulous stone columns as if nothing had ever happened.

While the drama at the cathedral was being resolved, we wandered across the road to check out the Barony Church. Marg and Neil’s great great great great grandparents Edward Cullen and Catherine McKenzie were married in this church in January 1827. Four months later their son Murdoch Callen, Marg’s third great grandfather, was born. I’m not sure why the spelling of the surname changed. He was baptised in this church in July 1827. Edward and Murdoch were both sailmakers in the booming Glasgow shipbuilding industry. They lived in York Lane on the banks of the Clyde. Murdoch emigrated to Melbourne and died in 1907. We could not enter the building as it is no longer a church. It now belongs to a college and students were sitting exams there today.

Back on the bus we continued our tour of Glasgow. We saw some, but not all, of its famous street art. It’s so good in this city that the council promotes a walking trail of the finest works. Here’s a few quick snaps from the bus.

We climbed back onto the next hop on, hop off bus and travelled a few stops. We hopped off again at the People’s Palace. It’s a museum that essentially tells the story of Glasgow. It was built in the late 1800s. A large terracotta fountain adjacent to the museum features the different dominions ruled by the British Empire during Queen Victoria’s reign.

We had a quick look at the fountain and were walking down to the museum (all museums offer free admission in Glasgow), when Marg missed a step and fell. She said she heard a crack in her ankle as she fell. When our kids were little, Marg fell and did some nasty ligament damage, and today she feared that she might have done it again.

It took some time for Marg to get up. She could stand on the right foot, but it was quite painful. Janie went over to the museum and soon returned with a first aid guy. He gave us some first aid hints and some bandages from his kit. He told Marg she should get some ice on it soon and pointed out a brewery just across the lawns. Janie helped Marg as she hobbled over to the brewery and a guy there found her a plastic bag and filled it with ice from behind the bar. We decided to stay for lunch so the ice could do its work. Marg checked out her left knee. There was a fair bit of skin off that too. She elevated her right foot onto a chair and ate lunch with her leg up and a bag of ice perched on top. It was painful, but she kept her spirits up.

We’re all a little worried about Marg’s ankle. If it swells up overnight, moving around is going to be challenging for her. And we will certainly be moving around a lot on this tour. She’s done a fair bit of walking on it since the fall, but it is swollen and there is some bruising. Late this afternoon we found a pharmacy and bought a compression bandage and some more ice. Fingers crossed.

Back aboard the next bus to come along, we drove along by the Clyde through the district of Anderston, where Murdoch Callen was born. We passed the place where he was raised. York Lane is no longer there. It’s just a big, empty fenced-off space at present. A massive crane still stands to remind people of Glasgow’s past association with shipbuilding along the Clyde. Those days are long gone. Our bus route took us past some of Glasgow’s most historic buildings, including universities, churches, museums and art galleries. Many appear to have been constructed during the Victorian era.

We got off the bus again to visit the Riverside Museum’s fantastic collection of trams, trains, automobiles and more. It was an interesting space to wander through. We really enjoyed looking at lots of the exhibits. Some brought back memories of the time we were growing up, but many more went back to the 19th or early 20th century. Without doubt, the highlight was the tall ship Glen Lee. As Marg and Neil’s ancestors had been sailmakers, we had a close look at the sails and the sailmaker’s implements.

Back aboard the bus once again, we returned to George Square where we had boarded the first bus this morning. Google Maps directed us to a pharmacy a few blocks away. Marg was doing her best to hobble along, but her ankle was still really sore. We got what we needed and headed back to our hotel, past the famous Duke of Wellington statue, perhaps better known these days as Conehead. It started as a uni student prank. Every time the cone was removed, someone replaced it. Eventually, in the spirit of fun, the city council left it there and now they actually use it in their promotion of Glasgow.

We found a bar near our hotel that was serving dinners. We got a table for four and Janie asked a guy sitting nearby if she could have one of the chairs from his table too so that Marg could use it to elevate her leg. He came over after finishing his meal and we had a bit of a laugh chatting to him. He eventually got around to the fact that he had written and published a few books on subjects such as Scotland’s favourite poet, Robbie Burns, and Fingal, a character from Gaelic folklore. He even pulled a copy out of his bag, signed it and gave it to Janie. He’s fairly typical of the people we’ve encountered in Glasgow today. Friendly and good fun. Lots of smiles. Happy to oblige when they sense you need help. I’m not really surprised. The city’s slogan is ‘People Make Glasgow’ and it seems to be very fitting indeed.


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