After an uneventful RyanAir flight (the Dublin airport was MUCH better than our Beauvais experience), Jake and I arrived in Glasgow. We hopped on the shuttle to the city center, grabbed a bus (a double-decker city bus!), and arrived at our Airbnb apartment just before the rain started - perfect timing! As our host, Rodrigo, greeted us a showed us around, we noticed the weather had taken a turn for the worse…it was SNOWING! Just minutes before there was sunshine, and now there were snow flurries outside our bedroom window. Five minutes later it was back to sun! Lesson number 1 - Scotland experiences all 4 seasons in approximately 20 minutes.Our wonderful host gave us a map with recommendations of where to walk around, what to see, and where to eat. After a delicious dinner at Stravaigin where we treated ourselves to Indonesian fried rice, hake fillet, and incredible gnocchi, we headed to bed. We had a limited amount of time in Glasgow, so we didn't want to oversleep! We took off on foot, our favorite mode of transportation, the next morning to wander around Hogwarts, AKA Glasgow University. This has to be the most spectacularly beautiful campus I have ever seen- stunning buildings with such detail surrounding perfectly manicured lawns and trees that are gorgeous even when naked in the dead of winter, archways that look like artwork, and a clock tower that rivals all clock towers. Oh to study witchcraft and wizardry there!
We took our time walking through the park, looking at murals painted on the walls near subway stations (the murals detract graffiti artists), and shopping. Ugh, yes, shopping. Turns out that the zipper on my jeans broke in Dublin and I needed to find new jeans. Considering I don't particularly like shopping, and shopping for jeans is always especially difficult, I was not looking forward to it. Thankfully, I have the best trooper of a husband ever and he helped me pick out jeans to try on in about 5 different stores. I ended up with a pair from Gap (USA! USA!) and arranged to pick them up the next day after they hemmed them for free (a new service Gap is trying in some stores…sweet! Every store should do this!).
Happy that shopping didn’t take all day long, we celebrated with a couple pints of West heffewezien, a local Glasgow brew, at the best bar ever, The Sparkle Horse! We enjoyed our conversation with the bartender, Barney, so much that we had 2 rounds before setting our to find dinner. Barney also introduced us to the local soda, Iron Bru! This stuff is neon orange and tastes like pure sugar, and it should since each can has 34 teaspoons of real sugar in it! Everyone here drinks it and I suppose we can see why- it's delicious! But once can of that stuff has got to give you diabetes. We stuck with our beers, the more medically responsible calories. Considering this place is named after glitter and ponies, 2 of my favorite things, and the bartender goes by Barney (for those who don't know, my dog growing up was a beagle named Barney), I was one happy girl!
We finished off the night with Japanese food and a visit to a church! Well, it's not a church anymore, it's a pub called Oran Mor that was re-purposed as a pub about 30 years ago! We enjoyed another local brew, Oran Mor Gold, and chatted with Stu, the bartender. He liked us so much that he showed us around the place and told us about the various events they have there. The event space upstairs was pretty awesome with the barrel vaulted ceilings painted by a local artists, original stained glass windows, and a feeling that you're getting away with something (like drinking in church!). We loved it.
We spent our last half day in Glasgow exploring the Necropolis, picking up my newly hemmed jeans, and running around trying to find an embarrassingly large chocolate egg to give to our friend Chic who was picking us up to take us to his house in Stirling. Since the giant egg we wanted was made out of milk chocolate (if it's not Hershey's milk chocolate, I don't want it), we settled for a smaller dark chocolate one filled with hazelnuts and brownie bits. Since we're spending a week at Chic's place over Easter weekend, we wanted to get him something to say thanks, but something that would also get a laugh. We were quite successful and look forward to eating it on Sunday!
Our visit to Glasgow was a short but good one. Jake and I have noticed that our favorite places have been those where we have had fun conversation with the locals, and that usually happens in a pub! Glasgow has, thus, made our list of faves. We love interacting with lively people who show us what the culture of a place is all about. Glasgow was a friendly, upbeat town and we would definitely return.
We spent the next week with our friend Chic McSherry, a fascinating, boisterous, and extremely kind Scotsman who we met on our honeymoon - long story short, we made a lifelong friend in Belize and he invited us to come stay with him when we blow through Scotland. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity! Thanks to Chic, Jake and I got to see a slice of Scotland that I'll bet few tourists really get. He picked us up from our apartment in Glasgow and drove us to his home in Stirling.
Chic lives on a working farm with a view of fields in all directions, and in the distance, a clear shot of Stirling Castle. The house is older than the US. Since the US is so young compared to the rest of the world and our structures were largely built within the last 100 years, it still amazes me to be in buildings and see monuments that are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. Wild! When the wind blew in the right (or wrong direction, really) you could get a nice big whif of the cows in the barn 10 yards away from the house. Boy oh BOY did they stink! Out front, Chic built a beautiful garden with fish ponds and bird feeders. I spent most mornings drinking coffee in a big comfy leather recliner, watching dozens of different types of birds eat the fill at each feeder, and big hares chase each other around the grass. It was perfectly peaceful. Chic's boys, Scott and Jamie, grew up on the farm, tearing through the fields on 4-wheelers and running around like the wild animals surrounding them. As the boys are now 19 and 22, they're not at home anymore, so Chic had plenty of room for us (Except when the boys decided they were coming home for Easter!
Sorry to take your room, boys!) Now, when Chic isn’t traveling, he spends his time hunting with his falcon, hawk, and ferrets, which all live in large enclosures he built in the garden. No guns for this man, he likes to let nature do the hunting for him. We were lucky enough to get to meet all of the animals, and see a side of Chic that we didn't know existed. Since we met him, we have told people that Chic is "the most interesting man in the world", little did we know just how true that is! (Go ahead, Google him!) Chic spent the week showing off his beautiful country. He played personal chef, chauffeur, tour guide, and drinking buddy. We even got to spend Easter with him and the boys- how nice to be with friends on a holiday instead of by ourselves! We feasted on turkey with sausage and haggis stuffing, potatoes, and broccoli. Yum! Yes, you read that right- I ate haggis and it was DELICIOUS! So rich and velvety and flavorful, it's really too bad it's illegal in the states.
Of all of our excursions led by Chic, my top three are driving through Glencoe (he took us on a 6 hour road trip through stunning snow-capped mountains, valleys made mysterious by ribbons of fog and mist, and lakes so clear you want to drink the water right from it. He even pulled the car over every time we wanted to take a picture, which of course was every 50 feet or so), exploring Stirling Castle and learning about the extremely violent history of the area (and being able to see his house from the turrets!), and wandering Edinburgh on a day trip to see the famous Royal Mile. Each night Chic prepared incredible meals, lamb leg curry, spaghetti carbonara, fish and chips…I think I gained 10 pounds over the course of the week. The haggis and lorne sausage (as fresh as fresh can get, mind you, the farmer next door made the sausage!), tatties, bacon, and loads of wine probably didn't help my waist line either! Hey, when in Scotland!
Since you've had some time to Google our host, you know that he is the lead guitarist in a rock band called La Paz. Jake and I got a special treat after dinner one night, well into our 3rd bottle of wine- after much pleading, Chic took us to his home studio to show us how he and the band work on songs. Presently, the band is working on a new album (to be released hopefully before the end of the year), and Chic showed us how he mixes the songs together with the different vocals, percussion, and guitars. We rocked out, the speakers as high as they could go, to his impressive guitar solos. Something special happens when people teach you and talk to you about what they are passionate about. Their faces come alive, their energy goes up, you can see the joy course through their veins. Chic is passionate about his music and it shows when he talks about it.
To continue our rock and roll theme, the three of us decided to watch "This is Spinal Tap". Watching this movie with a man who has been in a rock group for the last 30 years was truly special- after another hilarious scene ended, Chic regaled us with stories about the antics his bandmates used to pull and how much fun they had. "So you were Nigel, basically," Jake said. "Yeah! I was like Nigel!" Chic responded. He was beaming from ear to ear, and we felt so privileged to be in the home of such a generous and talented friend.
One more Scottish breakfast and a short goodbye to the hawk, falcon, and ferrets, and we were on the road again, heading to Edinburgh Airport. On our drive we kept commenting on how perfect the weather was during our stay- who knew that Scotland was sunny and mild?! One thing is for sure- Spring definitely sprang while we were there! Staying with Chic will forever be one of the highlights of this whole experience. We can't wait to visit him again!