Glasgow: First glimpses of the city

The jet lag continues. I took a pill for it several hours ago, so I’m no longer as dizzy as I was, but it makes me ridiculously slow and drowsy. I just said to Erik, “I’m so sleepy I’m having trouble falling asleep… I mean… staying awake.” It’s only 9 PM but my eyelids just keep dropping. It’s very hard to fight sleep but I think I should give it at least another hour before going to bed so I don’t wake up at 3 like I did this morning.

We got a late start on our day today, but we did get out to Glasgow. Public transit is a little confusing here. There’s a rail system, a subway, and buses, but the three don’t seem to talk to each other. We can take rail to get into the city (about 15 minutes), but since rail can also be used for long journeys (to Edinburgh, the Highlands, or even across the border into England), the train feels like a big, daunting thing. The subway is one of only three underground transit systems in the UK (the London Underground is one of the others), but it only runs in a circle underneath Glasgow proper; we can’t take it from here. Then there are the buses… I read somewhere that there are several bus carriers and they don’t all accept each other’s passes. And if you only want a single fare, you pay for it on the bus and the cost is determined by your destination — all the websites said “exact change recommended” but gave no sample fares or other hints as to what the amounts might be! Since we arrived here I have spent a couple of hours browsing various websites and fare charts and have succeeded only in getting more and more puzzled. It makes me miss Toronto!

Cathcart Station

Cathcart Station

Ultimately, we decided to stop worrying about it and just take the train into the city and go from there. Cathcart Station is a mere few minutes’ walk from the flat, so we went in and paid our £4.40 for two return journeys to Glasgow Central. The train car reminded me quite a lot of the older trains in Taiwan.

Cathcart to Glasgow train

I sat looking out the window as the grey, brick, and sand-colored tenements gave way to bigger commercial buildings with graffiti on their sides. Then Erik read off, “Welcome to Glasgow Central.” I said, “What, already?” and didn’t believe it until I spotted the sign myself. The train slowed and we pulled in right alongside a newer Virgin train, under a beautiful early 20th-century ceiling of glass and metalwork, and the biggest train station I’ve ever seen in my life.

Glasgow Central Station

As we walked out onto the platform, I was trying really hard to be cool, but I think my mouth may have been hanging open. Certainly my eyes were bugging, even more so once we passed through the automated ticket gates and into the vast main concourse. In front of us were long benches where passengers sat waiting; all around us, shops lined the walls. Everywhere we looked, we saw businessmen in suits and briefcases, leisure travelers wheeling their suitcases, and everyone in between. I could happily have stayed there for hours.

Instead, we made our way down a flight of stairs and out onto Argyle Street, and began walking away from the station. The sidewalks were swimming with people, most of them striding briskly, on their way to work or lunch or shopping in the nearby Merchant City. (That was gorgeous too — even if it was all chain stores from Hermès to H&M — but I didn’t want to whip out my camera like a tourist.) We wandered around for a little while, still gasping and staring, until finally we decided we needed a direction. I knew the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) was in the area so we went there.


Rather than choose from the many unfamiliar restaurants in the area — Erik spotted a Japanese restaurant advertising “fish sushi” (?!!) — we opted just to eat in the museum cafe, which proved a good choice. Their sandwiches were good and cheap, and came with green salad and a small cup of coleslaw (which seemed to be made almost entirely of mayo… I love mayo but even I couldn’t eat it).

Ham, cheese, and tomato panini

Best of all, the cafe shared its basement space with a public library, so we were surrounded by books and CDs and library patrons. And admission to the museum was free, which added to the community feel.

Cafe at GoMA

Remembering my recent resolve to take more time in museums, we browsed the collection slowly. As the museum wasn’t very large, this wasn’t hard, and I think we actually did look at every single piece, from a half-hour video of a Rube Goldberg machine to “ventilation panels” bearing words from a John Donne poem. One of my favorite among the works:

John Byrne, "Stuart Hopps," 1975.

John Byrne, “Stuart Hopps,” 1975. Image from

It was a cozy museum and we made our way through it with time to spare (Erik had a phone meeting in the evening so we had to get back).

Inside GoMA

Afterward we went across the street to a conveniently located art store, and I happily added a few more pencils and pens to my stock. Evidence that I am badly jet-lagged: I actually left my wallet on the counter, and the nice cashier ran out and gave it back to me. Thank goodness I decided to play tourist and take a couple of photos outside the store, or we wouldn’t have lingered!

We took the train back (much more crowded at this hour), walked around our neighborhood, bought some snacks, and then I had a late tea using our host’s adorable mismatched china. Still later, the sun came out.

Herbal berry tea and an iced bun

Here’s hoping I get a full night’s sleep tonight.