Sunday, July 11, 2010


I'm writing this on Friday about 5:30 p.m., UK time. The two-star hotel I'm staying in doesn't have Internet access, so I'll post this blog entry later -- probably when I'm back in the States.

Yesterday, Thursday, was mostly a travel day. I had breakfast at the hotel in the Portmeirion village, then caught the shuttle to the Minffordd station for my 10:05 a.m. train. Weird thing was, it headed back towards Liverpool; I got off a few spots before the Beatles' birthland at the Wolverhampton station, around 12:30 p.m.

The actual train to Glasgow left a little before 3 p.m. I was looking forward to it because it was Virgin -- I've heard good things 'bout their airline -- but it was a letdown (little legroom and the spots didn't have any racks, unlike the Wales Arriva line). On the plus side, a senior sat next to me and she turned out to be good company (even though she read from a Christian pamphlet). She lives in Glasgow, though I think she grew up in Wales, and was coming back from visiting a friend in south Britain.

The Virgin train rolled into Glasgow on time a bit after 7 p.m. I grabbed a taxi to my lodgings: don't laugh . . . it's called the Swallow Hotel. OK, now laugh!

The hotel is right off an interstate and half the shops around here are out of business with steel shutters closed down -- very gritty. Reminds me of South Philly, the part down by the shipyard and industrial parks.

After checking in, it was a bit past 8, so I got dinner in the hotel's restaurant. I ordered fettuccine in a liquidy tomato sauce with a coating of cheese on top.

I crashed a little before 11 after watching some telly. Of course, there's a Scottish channel.

Today, Friday, I got up before 8 a.m., then had breakfast downstairs: two pieces of toast, beans, sausage and OJ.

I hopped in a taxi around 10:10 a.m. and told the driver to take to the Glasgow Science Centre. Before I went in, I took some pics of local landmarks, including BBC Scotland, a blue bridge and an amphitheatre where there are evening concerts.

The Science Centre cost 9.95 to get in (not that I minded -- need to get rid of all these pounds before I go home), but it was bit of a letdown. It's geared more towards kids. My two nephews, ages six and five, would've loved it. Only thing that made me smirk was the stringless harp: invisible lasers create sound when you pluck it.

Leaving the Science Centre, I opened my Union Jack umbrella (can't believe this London purchase still works) to battle a drizzle. A cab took me to the Botanic Gardens.

A light rain began falling when I passed under the Botanic Gardens' concrete arch. I made a beeline for the Kibble Palace, a glasshouse that is awesome! Inside are circa 1900 sculptures of Biblical figures. Near the entrance is a leafy display with a circular pond as a base; in the pond are koi fish. Also inside the Kibble Palace are plants from Australia and South America, as well as carnivorous plants including everyone's favourite: Venus flytraps, though they're real small.

The Botanic Gardens also has a main greenhouse, which is pretty extensive -- has something like 10 rooms. Real humid in some of them. What caught my eye were petrified termite mounds and a plant that eats insects like ants. The plant is cup-shaped and its aroma lures in pests; once they go in too far, they can't escape the stick-sweet.

Next stop was the Glasgow Necropolis. On paper it sounded cool. A bunch of affluent, 19th-century Glasgowians paying homage to themselves with ornate crypts, but the rain was still coming down, so I ducked into a nearby religious museum, where the third floor gave me a good pic of the Necropolis. The museum also had a "Digging Up Glasgow" exhibit, which featured a 3,000-year-old arrowhead. Wow!

Afterwards, I walked several blocks to a cafe. I had to go that far because most shops were closed up. As a dried off in the cafe, I had a bacon cheeseburger and Old Jamaican ginger-beer soda.

The rain really started to come down now (about 2 p.m.). I tried waving a cab down but he pointed behind him at a taxi stand. I caught a cab that took me to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, a recommendation from that old bird on train yesterday.

The Kelvingrove Museum was amazing! They stress Scotland's history but also have other art, such as Italian, Dutch, French, etc. And on one of the upper floors, they had a small sculpture of FDR. Oh, and there were some modern art, along with exhibits dedicated to dinosaurs and Ancient Egypt (they had tombs from 2,500 BC, if memory serves).

It's about 6:30 p.m. right now. The plan is to get some fish and chips for dinner then try and crash around 9 'cause I gotta get up at 3:30 a.m. for my 6:55 a.m. Not looking forward to that. Three connections: Glasgow to Birmingham to Paris to (finally) Philly. Hope they're all running on time. . . .

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