British Isles. Day 11- Glasgow, Scotland
Saturday, July 23,2011- Glasgow, Scotland
The sun was already shining at 5:45 A.M. as we arose to greet the new day. It was 53 degres and cool outside. The great ship was making her way up the Firth of Clyde on her way to Greenoch, the ocean port for Glasgow. We made ready for the day and then breakfasted in the Horizon’s lounge on deck 15. The green hillsides of the Firth are pastoral of visage and restful to the eyes. WE enoyed them over a leisurely cup of coffee.
We gathered in the Deck seven Explorer’s lounge to meet for our day tour of Glasgow. The ship had berthed at Greenock as we met. The group descended to the shore gangway and we walked onto the dock. Scottish pipers, in kilts and full regalia, were playing to entertain the cruise ship passengers. Touristy or not, it is a picturesque and much welcomed touch for our arrival.
Jim, our driver, and Ludtka our guide, welcomed us aboard the bus. We set off. Ludtka gave us a brief history of the area. The River Clyde ship builders had been preeminent in their field. The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth ocean liners are among many others that had been built in the 30 odd ship builders here along the river. There are but a few left, Bae Systems and The Ferguson ship builders. They do mostly ship repairs now. The industry had fled here and Belfast for places where cheaper labor is available. Just across the Clyde, a Trident submarine base still operates.
In the 1700’s Glasgow had been one of the chief importers of Tobacco, grown in the Americas and distributed to the British and European markets. Along with Iron and steel production and ship building, tobacco had given the area its economic base.
Glasgow was to become a pleasant surprise for us. THe ornate Victorian architecture and the charm of the red sandstone buildings, from the 19th century, are captivating to the eye. The City looks comfortable to live in.
City Hall and George Square are charming. Statues of a very young and equestrian Queen Victoria, Robert Peel, after whom Policemen had been called “Bobbies,” James Watt, the developer of the Steam Engine.Walter Scott and other worthies are memorialized here. Hanging baskets of flowers and green lawns mark the Square as a wonderful gathering point for all of Glasgow.
We stopped for a brief visit to the Glasgow Cathedral, the Church of St. Mungo. He had been a 6th century religious cleric who had founded a religious community here. The aging, red-sandstone church is a built on two levels like the Church of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. The architecture is charming. To its rear, we could see the varied and ornate headstones of generations past. Behind the church is the old Royal Infirmary. In these Halls, Joseph Lister had tested and perfected his theories about germs and antiseptic treatments.
In the square, between these buildings, we looked up and saw a sign with the City’s unique seal. A bird on a tree, a fish with a ring and a bell. I am sure we were told the meaning of this quaint seal, but it is lost to me in the retelling. We reboarded the bus and drove through the quaint old city. Jim drove along Rottenrow, across Macleod St. and down past the old
seaman’s hall at 100 Duke St. The tales these streets could tell are without number. High street and Gallowsgate took us to Glasgow Green, one of the many green parks of the city.The aging bulk of the restored “Peoples Palace” charmed us, as did the Victoria Monument in front of it, donated by the folks at Royal Dalton China. We passed by the towering Trafalgar Monument and made our way into the city’s west end, through the business district along the Clyde River. A graceful “Arc Bridge” crosses the Clyde here. It has a bend in the suspension cables, so the locals humorously call it the “squinty bridge.”
The Finniesten area is one of old slums cleared for urban renewal. I thought then of my great grandmother, Elizabeth Smith. The poor had lived in this section in the 1800’s. She was probably among them, though I have no way to check on that. Suffice it to say Lizzie, you are remembered this day by one of your own who came back to commemorate you.
The far west end is a tonier part of Glasgow. The University of Glasgow, with all of its charming, red sandstone and ivied buildings, sprawls across the district and enhanced by the picturesque Kelvin Grove Park. Engineering and ship building are important elements of the curriculum.
Nearby the University lay our next stop, The Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
The massive three-story edifice is constructed of red sandstone in the Victorian style. Crenelated bastions and turrets bedeck its roof line in charming array. We entered and spent an hour in this wonderful art gallery. The central atrium is two stories high of space lined by galleries in a large rectangle. Down each of several corridors are an eclectic array of exhibits that hold your interest. Great paintings by Dutch and Italian masters wait for you in the upper galleries, along with works by Monet, Millet and Titian. A scuplture by Rodin seemed right for the long gallery hall.
In curious modern juxtaposition, and hanging out over the atrium, is an array of painted face masks that startles you. A replica of a W.W.II Spitfire, hanging from the ceiling, seems somehow proper in its place. We saw and enjoyed Claymore Broadswords, suits of armor from several counties, interspersed with a stuffed elephant and other wild creatures. The curators had laid out their exhibits in an eclectic array that both startled and amused us. IT felt like we were walking through someone’s very old but very orderly attic. We were absolutely charmed by the place.
The museum glaze soon sets in, even in so interesting a gallery as this one. We repaired to the first floor cafe and enjoyed some good coffee and those delightful scones with clotted cream and jam. Now we have to figure out how to get this delightful treat back home:)
The museum was filling up with students and other tourists as we left. Admission is free and a visit here is a worth the time and expense.
On the way back to the ship, we passed through the Clyde Tunnel. Traffic into the city was at a standstill. The Glasgow Rangers were playing this afternoon and the city passionately loves all of its “Football Teams.” (soccer to Americans) We drove along the Clyde. It is a tidal river and at low tide, the only navigable channel is the one that had been dredged through its center. The rest t of the river becomes a gooey mud flats until the next high tide.
We arrived back at the dock and walked through security. A Scotch distillery exhibitor was handing out drams of the nectar. Why not? The sun was over the yard arm someplace on the planet. It tasted like malt with a breath of peat and heather. Not a bad way to end the day with a dram or two of this.
Aboard ship, we had lunch with a couple from 1,000 Oaks, California and chatted amiably about our tour and theirs. This too is one of the more attractive features of cruising, sharing a meal and touring experiences with interesting people. After lunch, we repaired to our cabin. I wrote up my notes and we settled in for a delightful two hour nap. LIfe is good.
Five P.M. found us in the deck 18 gym for a one hour workout. We were struggling mightily with the caloric battle, but determined to at least wage the battle.
The ship was pulling away from the dock as we sat on our cabin balcony and watched Scotland drift behind us. I sipped an estimable nectar of Glenfiddich as we motored up the Clyde. I thought then of Lizzie Smith leaving here so long ago. She must have been a formidable woman to leave here for a far America and a hoped for future. Bless her for taking the initiative. I raised a glass to her memory and to all of the Scots. They are a hearty and much admired breed of rugged individualists whom I much admire. Should Auld acquaintances not be forgot,right Robbie?
We met Mike and Kathy MacDonald for dinner in the Davinci dining room. Mike is a Pediatric Diabetes researcher and Physician. Kathy is a computer, hi- tech person. They live in the Madison, Wisconsin but winter
near us in Bonita Springs, Fl. We had met them a few times before on the ship and enjoyed their company. Hal and Linda, from Colorado, and Dave & Judy, from New jersey also joined us. It was a lively dinner conversation. A Crab pastry appetizer, gaspacho, salmon filet, and chocolate pie, washed down with Mondavi Cabernet, made for a great meal. We enjoyed the evening.
It had been a long day and we were tiring. We repaired to our cabin to read and retire. It had been a wonderful visit to a very charming city in Western Scotland. We were glad that we had come.