Glasgow: Aimless Wandering

As appears to be becoming my standard operating practice when I visit a city for the first time, I occupied much of the remainder of my day after arriving in Glasgow by wandering aimlessly. And eating meals. If you’re reading my journal, always take meals as a given.

For the most part, the buildings near my hotel are nondescript. A demolition site, which I assume will eventually become a construction site, sits across from my hotel. With a couple of exceptions, the buildings within the few blocks surrounding my hotel are not notable. Then again, I’m not one to take many notes in any case.

To begin my wandering, I headed in the direction that I thought would lead me to the River Clyde. (Alright, maybe it wasn’t entirely aimless, but give me a little literary leeway here.) It turns out that I thought correctly. It did take me to the Clyde.

I’m always surprised when I’m right about that sort of thing. When I am, a little voice in my head says, “Good job, Joel. Good job.” At least I hope the voice is only in my head. It’d be embarrassing if I said it aloud in a crowded street. If that sort of thing starts happening regularly I will have to take to wearing earbuds all of the time so people will think I’m talking on my phone rather than to myself.

The walk to the Clyde didn’t show me many attractive buildings or streetscapes. I began to think I’d made a mistake coming to Glasgow at all.


Think before you step out in Glasgow. (But looking would probably be helpful too.)
Think before you step out in Glasgow. (But looking would probably be helpful too.)

One thing I noticed on this otherwise uninspiring part of my walk was the lamppost banner to the right. “Think before you step out.”

I thought that was a brilliant idea. Most people don’t think nearly enough when they step out, or when they sit in either for that matter.

However, as a pedestrian safety notice, which is what I think they were aiming for, I’m not sure the message is right. “Get your eyes off your damn smartphone and look where the heck you’re going, and particularly look for oncoming traffic, before you cross the street,” would probably be more helpful. The words will need some copyediting to get it to fit on a banner, but I think that’s a more important message.

Sure, thinking is always helpful, but keeping your eyes on traffic will more likely save your life when crossing the street.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a few grumpy old man moments before I continue.

OK. I’m ready to move on now.

Red Brick/Block

To get back to what I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself with that “Think” thought, I didn’t mean to say there were no interesting buildings. There were a few. One common architecture appeared in a few spots, sometimes side-by-side buildings and sometimes in different buildings scattered over a few blocks. They were imposing buildings made of, I was about to say red brick. However, strike that. To my mind, “red brick” conjures up an image of a single family residence or maybe a duplex or semi-detached home made of red bricks of a size that’s standard in North American suburban homes.

Come to think of it, “red brick” makes me think of the home I grew up in. So, maybe it’s just me. Never mind.

These buildings were made from larger red blocks than what I think of as “red brick.” And, to be honest, I have no idea if they were bricks or some type of cut stone.

What made them handsome was the filigree or, in one case, a statue they often sported on top and other subtle decorations on their sides.

I know; I know. No need to tell me. I truly missed my calling as an architecture critic, didn’t I?

Alright. Here are some pictures to show you what I mean.

Uninspiring Clyde

One thing you should know before I continue, because it will help later in this post, is that the railway tracks into Glasgow cross a bridge over the River Clyde. The central railway station is just a couple of blocks north of that bridge.

When I reached the Clyde on my walk, if I turned left I’d walk along a sidewalk under the railway bridge. If I turned right I’d walk along a sidewalk that took me away from the railway tracks. I turned right.

Many cities turn their waterfronts into vibrant areas. On the section I walked along, Glasgow hadn’t done that. There was a fairly wide sidewalk. For most of the portion I walked along, there was a narrow green space beside the sidewalk. A busy roadway sat beside the green space. And uninspiring buildings that did not present much of a face to the street sat on the other side of the road.

For one stretch, what I think was an apartment building with ground-floor suites was immediately adjacent to the sidewalk, eliminating even the narrow green space. A waist-high brick wall separated the ground-floor units from the sidewalk.

For another small portion, there was no sidewalk beside the Clyde. Instead, the sidewalk was adjacent to the busy street, with a narrow green space between the sidewalk and the Clyde. A barrier prevented people walking on the green space.

All in all, my dominant thought while on this portion of my walk was, “Hey, Glasgow, you’ve got a lot of city-building work to do here. You can make way better use of your river.”

Here are some pictures of the uninspiring Clyde.

Clyde River, Glasgow
Clyde River, Glasgow

After a while, I retraced my steps. When I got to the railway bridge I continued on under it. The view in front of me was of a River Clyde bank that was somewhat more verdant than the one I had been on. That’s a picture of it on the right.

Despite this improvement, I’d had enough of the River Clyde and turned to walk into the centre of town.

Vibrant Glasgow

What I found in the city centre was much more vibrant city than what I’d seen to that point. There were very busy shopping streets. Two wide, perpendicular shopping streets were restricted to pedestrians. One of the two was particularly lively, with buskers working on them. That street was home to the usual collection of international retail chains, along with some unrecognizable names (recognizable to me, that is).

The other pedestrianized street was a little lower-end, with fewer recognizable store names. There were a few empty stores on that street, but it was crowded nonetheless.

One of the non-pedestrianized shopping streets had a rough looking laneway running off it. However, it was made to feel a lot less foreboding thanks to the murals painted on the walls.

You can probably spot the pictures of the wall murals in the photos from the shopping district below. They’re the two pictures that look like murals painted on the wall. (Come on, this really isn’t that hard. Stay with the program.)

Do you see the mural that looks like it is painted on a brick wall? It’s not. The wall isn’t brick. What looks like bricks is part of the mural.

My Side of the Tracks

I then walked north, beyond the street my hotel is on and then further west than my hotel. There I found another interesting area. It contained a variety of housing forms, including Georgian townhouses, businesses, towers, churches, and some parks. (More on the parks after this brief interlude to show you pictures of some of the buildings in this section of Glasgow.)

Glasgow Parks

Private gardens. No dog fouling. As if anyone would.
Private gardens. No dog fouling. As if anyone would.

In one of my posts on Edinburgh, I mentioned that I came across some private parks that took up whole blocks. I thought it was odd that they should be locked and private considering they were not attached to any homes. Well, I came across a couple in Glasgow as well, including the one in the picture to the right. The sign a little beyond the locked gate read, “Private gardens. No dog fouling.”

What a stupid sign. Who would want to foul dogs? Do these upper class snobs with their private parks think that commoners prowl in public parks and foul every dog they see? Ridiculous.

Walking a little way beyond the private parks I came upon a public park. A very big public park. It was much, much bigger and nicer that the private parks. It had lots of grass, trees and flowers. There were some statues and a fountain. And a river meandered through it. So there, private park people!

When I looked on a map just now, I found that the park is called Kelvingrove Park and the river is the River Kelvin. I also learned that if I walked a little farther in the park I would have come across an art gallery and museum that I plan to visit during this trip.

The two statues I saw were of Joseph Lister, of germ fame, and Lord Kelvin, of temperature scale fame.

Lord Kelvin gets no respect
Lord Kelvin gets no respect

When I was there, a large traffic cone that looked like a dunce cap sat on Lord Kelvin’s head. Lord Kelvin invented a temperature scale that absolutely everyone learns about in school and then never uses again unless they become thermodynamics academics or some such thing. He’s a famous guy, with a temperature scale named after him. And I assume Kelvingrove Park was named in his honour. But how much respect did the person who placed the traffic cone on his head give him? Absolute zero. That’s how much.

Oh, by the way. When I was in Kelvingrove Park I saw a few dogs being walked. Nary a one of them had been fouled by anyone. Stupid, superfluous sign.

Here are some more pictures of Kelvingrove Park.

Still More Glasgow

The pictures below are some random shots I took on my mostly aimless wandering. But before the pictures, a brief summary. It seems that the first part of my walk took me through one of the least interesting districts of the urban area of Glasgow.

I take back my earlier thought that I might have made a mistake coming to Glasgow. I think I’m going to like it here.

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