Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Style Mile: An Afternoon in Glasgow, Complete With a Great Soundtrack

This post originally began, Sunday, November 15 in a booth at a restaurant in the Edinburgh, Scotland Airport waiting for the university tour in which I was participating to commence.  Prior to to this post, I hadn’t been inspired to write. Nothing was coming to me, nor had presented itself. I spent the previous day (Nov. 14) in Glasgow, Scotland, and Glasgow was my muse. 

The first time I visited Scotland, I was 17 years old. The trip was a high school graduation gift and it definitely helped to plant the seed for my future wanderlust. The trip was part of a 12 day tour with a group of students, that was a whirlwind tour of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The tour made quite an impression on me in a few different ways. One, I quickly realized traveling with a tour is not for me (Different reasons and this may change as I get older.), mainly due to lack of autonomy. Two, I really dug the UK! I knew I had to return one day and was confident that I would. And, three, Scotland emerged as my favorite part of the trip. Three things stood out to me about Scotland: the people, the food, and the vibe. 27 years later, the same was true on this day in November.

It was a Saturday afternoon in Glasgow, and the soundtrack of my life was playing in different parts of the mile long walking street. I checked into my hotel and Paul Weller was playing over the speakers in the lobby, it brought a smile to my face and it will bring a good rating on Trip Advisor for the hotel ;). It was an overcast day with the sun shining its face intermittently. I walked the Buchanan Street Style Mile, as it’s called. Shop after shop, street musician after street musician, playing all types of music. No surprise that Glasgow is named the UNESCO City of Music. People would stop, nod their heads along to a tune, or just get down and dance.

The Buchanan Street Style Mile
It was nice to be out and about, especially in cooler weather. Cuisines from Turkish doner kebabs, Italian, Mexican, and Thai (I always seem to find a Thai restaurant :)), were all on offer and I was hungry after flying all night. After walking for awhile and taking in the sights and sounds, I decided upon a restaurant called Wokabout. Made to order fresh ingredients cooked in a wok, of course, and the restaurant had free wi-fi, which I was looking for. The music in the establishment was great, as was the food.  I created a dish the proprietor claimed she had never made before with a variety of spices, sauces, etc. She was intrigued and decided to make some of my dish for herself. At the restaurant, I was able to Skype Eleanor and e-mail colleagues. At one point, hearing all the music in the background, Eleanor asked, "Where are you?!" It felt great to connect and be in touch after traveling all night, while being fed, with great tunes being played about.

After lunch, I came across a vigil for the victims of the Paris terrorist massacre on the steps of the Royal Glasgow Music Hall. A bustling street came to a halt and was respectfully quiet, paying homage to those who had been killed.

After paying my respects, I continued down to the Christmas market, food galore: German sausage makers, spit-roasted pork, paella, Mediterranean fare, doughnuts, beer gardens, exotic meat burgers, there was something on offer for everyone.

As I was walking through the Christmas Market, I heard one my favorite Fine Young Cannibals (FYC) songs, "Johnny Come Home" and  it brought a smile to my face. 

Smiling, listening to FYC, I saw a coffee stand that was selling hot chocolate in different varieties: Plain, with Baileys, with caramel Baileys, with mint Baileys, you see a theme with this coffee stand. I never tried hot chocolate with Baileys before and I asked the proprietor what she recommended and she said in a great Scottish accent, “Caramel Baileys, luv,” and she was right, it was fantastic! As I savored every sip, Sade came over the speakers. I hardly ever hear Sade out in public, I enjoyed the moment.

In traveling, I’ve noticed, especially in Europe, many places play great lounge or cool background music, not canned Muzak.

I returned to my hotel and about an hour later, went out for dinner. I felt the need to suit up, I was in Scotland, had to break out the tweed sports coat, plus it was chilly. I would combust if I ever wore tweed in Thailand. It was nice to wear dressy warm clothes again. It was great to see people dressed up for a night out. Ladies all dolled up, wearing stylish boots looking lovely, despite the inclement weather and guys suited, well booted as well, and wearing overcoats. I had dinner at a friend's restaurant and the manager and waitstaff took great care of me. As I was dining by myself, the staff would come by, chat me up, inquire about my well-being, it was nice. The cook who was preparing my food was a friendly cat, with whom I think I had a good conversation. But, it was a little tough to tell with his thick Scottish accent, I caught about everything other word he said. As a Scottish friend of mine says, "If you don't understand what people are saying, just smile and nod your head. My husband has been doing this for years with my family." 

I then strolled to a couple of pubs to see what ciders were on offer to sample. As I strolled, it was good to see pubs and clubs, cavernous to holes in the wall, playing great music, and seeing people groovin’ and enjoying themselves. I was enjoying the festive vibe. It was a fun day, but as jet lag hit me like a hammer, I returned to my hotel and promptly fell asleep. The next day, it was time to get moving again, to begin the university tour. 

Part II: A few days later, while on the university tour, I was getting ready to check out of the hotel where the group was staying and I got locked out of my room. I had the key, I tried it multiple times in my door, but the door just wouldn't open. As a result, I encountered a maintenance man named, Sam. This experience with Sam pretty much summed up my time in Scotland in regards to the wonderful people I encountered.

Regarding Sam. If you are from the U.S., remember the 70's-80's tv show, "One Day at a Time?" There was a great character who was the maintenance man/building supervisor named, Dwayne Schneider or just Schneider. Sam and Schneider could be twins. If you are not familiar with Schneider, picture a 50'ish man with a pencil mustache, wearing a white t-shirt, who has lived life and has a lot of stories.

I was standing outside my door, Sam approached and I told him my door wouldn't open. He asked, "Anyone in the room?" I replied, "No." He then inquired, "Window open (It was 30 F (0 C)and raining)?" I answered, "No." Sam then proceeded to take a screwdriver pen from his pocket and with the precision of a surgeon, took off the panel frame to the doorknob and proceeded to pound a metal plank in the door, while carrying on a conversation with me. With the noise he was creating, I could barely understand what he was saying. He then reinserted my card key and it worked! I was back in my room and was grateful because people were beginning to load up the bus. Sam then commented, "Oh, the door gets stuck from time to time." While I resumed packing, I happened to look up and there was Sam, standing in the threshold of the doorway (He reminds me of a colleague that I currently have) asking me, "So, where you from?" I'm thinking to myself, "What?!" I then began explaining to him, I was with a group of counselors, I work in Thailand." He cut me off and said, "Nah, nah, nah, so where you from? For simplicity sake, I said, "Washington D.C." From my U.S. accent, I think this was the response he wanted to hear because he then proceeded to tell me about his itinerary for his upcoming cross-country U.S. trip this coming summer. "'Y'know, I haven't been to the U.S. since the 70's, I'm sure it's changed a bit. I went to Hong Kong last year, that's a fun city! I almost went to Bangkok, but I want to Bali instead and he proceeded to tell me his travels for the past year and it was impressive! Sam loves to travel! I think he would have kept chatting me up, but I now had to cut him off and say, "Sam, thank you for getting me back into my room, but I really need to go. It was nice meeting you, save travels, all the best. Sam, replied, "All the best to you as well and he gave me a hearty handshake as I was departing the room. Meeting Sam, taking the time to talk with him, I should say, listen to him and hear about his travels made my day and contributed to another memorable experience to Scotland!

1 comment:

Dick said...

Another enjoyable post, Ryan. It certainly makes one want to visit Scotland and especially Glasgow. Dick