Our journey to Glasgow was long and slow. We woke up in Islay and took the early ferry back to Kennacraig. It's a nice ferry with a lovely enclosed viewing area up top which was filled with sleepy travelers. From Kennacraig it is about a three-hour drive down to Glasgow, but it took us a bit longer since we were stuck behind some slow-moving vehicles. Scotland is a great place to be stuck in traffic though because the country is so gorgeous. Even off the freeway, you have these beautiful views of the countryside and lochs. When we finally arrived in Glasgow, we went straight to Arnold Clark and said goodbye to our lovely rental car. The folks over there were so nice and were kind enough to suggest a bar for us to go go while we waited for our Airbnb check-in time and gave us a lift.
The bar they dropped us off at was called Granny Gibbs and we were in for a bit of a surprise. It was a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon, so what did we expect to find there? We're not sure, but it wasn't what we found. We were welcomed with stares but we didn't think much about it since we were loaded up with giant backpacks. I held down the fort at a table while Kim went to grab us a couple of beers. While she was up I had a second to look around and realize we were the youngest people in the bar by a good twenty years and also the only women. As soon as Kim opened her mouth, the men at the bar had to ask her questions about where she was from and one man even proceeded to talk about the "War of Northern Aggression" which is a phrase we never expected to hear outside of the United States. Heck, I've never heard anybody say it inside of the United States and not be joking. It was so strange to stumble upon this kind of atmosphere in the middle of a Scottish city, but luckily we didn't have to stay too long. We sipped our beers until our hosts were ready to welcome us and then headed straight over.
Our Airbnb hosts were LOVELY and we totally recommend their place. It is a little bit outside of the main city of Glasgow and public transportation isn't the best, so if you do stay out of the way like we did just be aware that you'll have to take a couple of busses or get an uber or taxi in order to get into the city center. Unfortunately our check-in was late so we were only able to unpack and get dinner before we went to bed. We went to a Lebanese place down the street which was really great until I found a live worm in my food and then we both lost our appetites. Lucky for our stomachs we were at the end of our meal anyway and neither of us got sick so --- no harm no foul? They did comp my meal which was really nice.
Our first day in Glasgow was actually spent on a tour with Discover Scotland that you can read about in our "Just Oustide Glasgow" post. We didn't schedule that much time in Glasgow, and I'm hoping to go back and explore more of the city one day. We did get to do some VERY fun things in the short time we had. The night of our first day in Glasgow we headed out to Waxy O'Connors which was recommended to us by one of the men we met in Inverie. It's an adorable bar/restaurant with a cabin clubhouse type theme and many rooms and levels. I'm sure it's a bunch of fun at night but we only stayed long enough to have dinner - 10/10 for the atmosphere, 5/10 for the food. Note about food abroad - I keep forgetting that if you order a hamburger in Scotland they will automatically put ketchup on it for some strange reason so if you don't like it (like me) always remember to ask for no ketchup!
Our second (and final) day in Glasgow was an amazing day full of art and spa treatments! We checked out of our Airbnb early and headed out to Queen Street Station where we stashed our bags for the day. There is a little room with an attendant towards the back of the station where you can store your bags for a small fee. We were so happy to take advantage of this! After we stored our bags we headed out to The Gallery of Modern Art. The gallery is small, but it's FREE so we enjoyed it while we waited for it to be time for our spa treatments. The Gallery is about 4 small floors and we were able to see everything in the museum in about an hour and a half, so if you're in Merchant City, we suggest you check it out even if you only have a short amount of time. As it is with all modern art, some of it was lovely and some of it was. . . well. . . something. They had some Warhol works so that was very neat! Their book shop is super adorable and they have a lot of fun trinkets in there if you are looking for souvenirs or gifts to take home with you.
After the museum, it was time to check into The Gin Spa (also in Merchant City.) I read about the Gin Spa about a year ago and thought it sounded really cool. The entrance is in an adorable little alley-way turned communal patio on Virginia Court. The spa was much smaller than I expected it to be, but the treatments didn't suffer for it. We arrived just before our appointment time and we were seated, given slippers while our shoes were whisked away, and handed paperwork to fill out - the standard forms you'll get at any spa about medical history and preferences. We opted for the Botanical Bliss package so while we filled out paperwork we were given cups of hot herbal tea to sip and then asked to choose three face-down cards each from a deck. These cards were to be our intentions for the treatment. Mine were: "What are you waiting for?", "Give yourself a break", and "Don't be limited by where you are now." They didn't really seem to fit my current state - maybe my state of being BEFORE I quit my job and decided to go on this life-changing adventure! It was still a cute idea though - getting an odd fortune in a fortune cookie doesn't ruin the Chinese Food experience, does it? Kim’s were “Just be you”, “Detox your mind”, and “Knowing what you know now, what can you do differently?” Kim’s were similar in that they were some of the things on her mind prior to leaving for our trip.
It wasn't long after our cards were chosen that we were taken back for our treatments. We were given a moment to undress in our separate rooms. The rooms were quite small, just really enough room for the table and the therapist to walk around! The Botanical Bliss package offers an hour long treatment but you can choose from a few options or combine two thirty-minute treatments. I opted for a 30-minute massage and 30-minutes of reflexology. My feet and my back both needed a little love! I was glad I chose the way I did, the massage made me feel relaxed and loosened me up. After the treatments, they give you a card explaining the products they used and some products they think you may enjoy and put those products on a tray along with a bottle of water. The therapist also went over the sore points on my foot that she thought were connected to other issues in my body which I always enjoy! After the treatment, they take you to the back where there are some little cushions to sit on while they make you a gin & tonic. They have a whole cart full of gins for you to choose from, and about six different flavored tonic waters. The employees are very knowledgeable so they will help you choose a cocktail that you'll enjoy. The cocktails come in HUGE glasses so you have to either drink fast or have tea scheduled afterwards because it won't be long before you'll need to head out when it's time for them to bring another customer to the back. They do pedicures back there and it's a very small space so they only have room for three people to sit. Lucky for us, afternoon tea was part of our Botanical Bliss package, so we headed out to Cup of Tea (right next door) and were allowed to bring our gin drinks with us!
I'm sad to say that the afternoon tea at Cup of Tea was not my favorite. It's definitely not a tea-house atmosphere just a modern restaurant that serves tea, which is fine, but not my favorite way to enjoy tea! We didn't have many choices on the menu, you get the sandwiches and scones that are part of the tea - I prefer when there is some choice involved. I found the sandwiches to be dry, the desserts lacking flavor, and the clotted cream tasted a whole lot like butter. We even asked the waiter what it was and he said clotted cream, but we've both had it other places in the UK and we're pretty sure it wasn't anyone else's definition of clotted cream. The tea was really good and of course we enjoyed some snacks after being pampered. I will say this, you won't leave there hungry!
After tea, we had some time so we headed out to the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre which was one of my favorite theater experiences ever! We were planning to go the night before, but since our tour group was stuck in traffic we weren't able to make the performance. We were very lucky that the performance this afternoon wasn't totally booked up! The space is a little hard to find, it's inside an office building without any signage out front (see picture below) so you have to know the address and then go inside and up the stairs to the theatre. Sharmanka (Russian for Barrel-Organ) was founded by Eduard Bersudsky who among other things created kinemats (kinetic sculptures driven by electrical motors and controlled by sophisticated electro mechanical devices.) Bersudsky along with Tatyana Jakovskaya founded the Sharmanka Kinetic Theater in St. Petersburg in 1990. The theater showcased a mechanical movement of kinemats supported with music, light, and shadow play. The show was driven out of Russia in 1993 due to economical depression and lack of funding for the arts at which time some of the exhibits made their way to Glasgow and in 1996 Sharmanka Kinetic Gallery/Workshop was opened in Glasgow Merchant City. The kinemats in the space are amazing and the show that they put together is pretty fun too. Unfortunately we only got to see the short version. If you can, see the long version because more of the kinemats are turned on. You can look at them all of course and I suggest that you arrive early so you can walk around and check out the artistry of each piece. You won't see them all move, but if you go to the longer performance you'll get to see more! They have some raised seats at the front, don't worry about where you are sitting when the show starts because you only stay there for a very short period of time. Most of the show, you're walking around from piece to piece directed by the lighting and music. They put out some chairs and sometimes people were shy about sitting in them, but if nobody sits in them then it's hard for everybody to see the artwork, so don't be shy about sitting in the chairs if they aren't being taken up by others who need to sit more than you do. The performance was lovely, and definitely had a darker vibe (hello it's Russian!) which I love so I thoroughly enjoyed myself. They change it up every once in a while so if I'm ever back in Glasgow I'll definitely check it out again so I can see new pieces come to life.
After the theater we headed to the train station to catch our train to Edinburgh. Glasgow was a fun city, but it's definitely industrial- it reminded me a lot more of cities in the North Eastern part of the United States than it did of European cities. Their slogan is "people make Glasgow" and now I know why. Glasgow can't compete with the charm of Edinburgh or Inverness and certainly doesn't compete with the beauty that abounds on the Scottish countryside. We didn't meet too many people, but we enjoyed most of the people we did meet. I hope in the future I have time to explore more of Glasgow, maybe something in that city would take my breath away. What are your experiences with Glasgow? Love it? Hate it? Hidden Gems that we totally missed? Let us know!