12 September 2012

Scotland: A Tale of Two Cities

Here is a tale of two cities, a very memorable trip shared with two sensational friends. This tale began on the eve of my twenty first birthday. Scotland being our destination and me being the diva that I am we took the train to Glasgow. As I mention the expression 'we' this escapade wouldn't have been anything without Filipa and Ines, my Portuguese lovelies. Go!

Hello Glasgow! A city so bizarre I'm finding it challenging to begin with the best part because Glasgow showed us some pretty unique sights and sounds. From the swish Clydebank area which looked quite picturesque in the early evening sky to the nightlife of Princes Street there's something for everyone, well not for the faint hearted. I'm a person who prefers to fly to a destination, but in this instant our mode of transport happened to be a very speedy and punctual Virgin Train from Birmingham New Street station. From our mid-morning arrival the sights of the main historical area was accomplished quite swiftly. Climbing to the top of the Necropolis beside Glasgow Cathedral gave us a panoramic view of Glasgow's cityscape, we stumbled upon that house of worship by chance, leaving the charming buildings around Queen Street. Getting to know Glasgow more it was clear to see that it had an honest vibe. Yes!

To be honest Glasgow fared to be a great place to observe the local revellers with their shopping bags going about their business, a fascinating observational picture it did paint. Jeremy Kyle would of had a field day by the general feel of the city. The folk of Glasgow certainly have a flare that matches the feisty nature of this Scottish city! I had never been to Glasgow before my second trip so I was looking forward to something unexpected because I had heard a few things about this city. Glasgow certainly had its own personality that's for sure! Looking back at our time in Glasgow I feel the amount of walking we all did was crazy, but its the best way to see any city! Glasgow presented itself as a modern European city but I wanted to see more, I know I will return in the future for another visit. Our hotel was a trifle difficult to find, regardless of that it was conveniently located from the Buchanan Station, making our connection to Edinburgh seamless. Come on GLAS!

As day turned into night the banks of the Clyde river took our fancy. Amongst the hubbub of the city a walk along the banks of the Clyde gave us the opportunity to see a different side of the city of Glasgow. From the groups of teenagers drinking their bottles of 'buckie' Buckfast to the positively ridiculous, for which I'm not going into. By the look of the younger Glaswegians I should of joined them and got my Buckie on! Whilst sampling the flagship McDonald's restaurant we learned to adopt an air of caution due to witnessing a group of severely intoxicated middle-aged women threatening to beat each other with their stilettos heels. I guess we shouldn't of been surprised about the antics of Glasgow's city folk because we had a show! It was hilarious! We needed a place of refuge to finish our memorable day in Glasgow, Times Square called our names, we needed a strong drink to toast our Glaswegian day!

Times Square, you say? Yes, I believe that Glasgow boozer was a sign because I'm now living across the Hudson River from New York City in Newark, New Jersey. The atmosphere in the city centre during the early evening was electric, the pubs were bursting at the seams, people were on their best drinking form! I knew in that moment for my return trip to Glasgow it will definitely be a messy affair filled with drunken antics and crazy! The riverside surprisingly had a modern feel to it, although it was shrouded in shadiness in parts it was nice. The Glasgow Green didn't present itself to us, that's another sight I'll need to see! We had seen so much packed into our epic day of exploring, since stepping off our Birmingham train we took in the Georgian splendour of Scotland's second city, seen a drunken brawl in McDonald's it was definitely eventful for one day! Calling it a night a little bit too early for my liking, it was time to rest before our early morning Megabus that to Edinburgh.

Our Megabus from Glasgow's Buchanan Station whisked us three excited tourists to the nearby city of Edinburgh, would we have the pleasure of witnessing another drunken McDonald's brawl? Thankfully not! Edinburgh fared to be a adventure which I partially remember bits of maybe due to the amount of Whisky I consumed on the eve of my birthday. Feeling fresh from our super long day in Glasgow it was time for us to discover a new city. The architecture and history that Edinburgh possessed was mesmerising. Edinburgh is beautiful, so I knew that the girls would love this city! Yes, I had been to Edinburgh once before with during my time at City of Wolverhampton College during our memorable Residential Study Visit, but for Ines and Filipa, it was a first time discovery! No Royal Yacht Britannia the second time around but I loved spending some time in Scotland's showcase capital city! It's official, I can't keep still! No way!

No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a shopping trip at the 'The Whisky Experience' to purchase some supreme liquor. With so many brands I was literally spoiled for choice! The vibe in Edinburgh couldn't be more different compared to Glasgow, even with the chilling temperatures the culture and history of this city proved to be on point. From the cobbled back-streets to the typically tourist gift shops we loved this city for sure. I could feel that the girls were enjoying themselves in the land of the legend brave-heart! Not feeling too content that our tourist attraction mission had been accomplished we visited the marvellous Edinburgh Castle, a site that gave a feeling of strength and heroism but we didn't feel brave enough to pay the entrance fee, so we admired the grandeur of the castle from outside the walls. Princes Street took me back to my college trip for sure, the hustle and bustle was great to be a part of during that Edinburgh rediscovery.

Our final evening loomed, the eve of my twenty first birthday needed to be fabulous! After having our tea at McDonald's for the second time in two days, we had a great appreciation of Scottish fast-food. The best thing about Scottish McDonald's was the Iron Bru option, something we don't get in England! We made our way through the main streets of Edinburgh with the joys of festive season in our hearts and minds. The Christmas lights gave Princes Street a great seasonal feel in the air as we made our way to the Travelodge hotel that proved to be basic but comfortable, we're students with a low budget so don't judge! We all retired back to our hotel rooms to watch some television, queue me to open my bottle of Hankey Bannister Whisky! After numerous Whisky and Lemonade's and with the night's X-Factor finished it was time for myself, Filipa and Ines to find a place to sample a slice of Edinburgh's pub scene.

The night was ours and we were ready to find a nice pub to drink in my 21st birthday in true Scotch style! One pub caught our eye, we chose to trust the 'Royal Mile' which in actual fact showed us a great time. From what I can remember the early hours of my twenty first birthday was fantastic! I must have sank a few doubles because the next day I was feeling quite tender, let's just say I just wanted to get back to Birmingham but the wait for our train seemed to drag on and on, it was my birthday so I had permission to be dramatic! Scotland treated us to an amazing whistlestop trip, as mentioned before I will be returning to Glasgow in the future as I feel there's more to see. Edinburgh was great to revisit but I think it would be better to take a chance on another place in Scotland opposed to making a third visit to the Scottish capital. Nevertheless, Ines and Filipa had a wonderful time exploring Scotland with me, they had a great time too! So, Aberdeen or Dundee next? 

Oh, Bonnie Scotland!

Joseph Harrison