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Day 12 – October 21, 2010

Drove back to Glasgow from Glen Nevis today. Had to return the rental at Glasgow airport and then go into the city to my hostel for the night. What I didn’t expect was company in the car on the way back.

The last evening at the hostel there was an elderly gentleman who was staying in the room for the night, and he happened to be quite chatty. We spoke for a while at the breakfast table the next morning too, and he told me he was headed to Loch Lomond the same day along with his daughter. Since I was going to Glasgow anyway I offered to take the two of them along with me to Loch Lomond, which I would pass on the way to Glasgow. They had been planning to travel that day by bus, but accepted my invitation. So my return journey ended up being done on the old route I had taken while driving up a few days earlier, in half the time I had reckoned it would take. I kept talking to this old fella’ all the way through, and it was interesting to hear him talk of all the things he had done in his days gone by (he is 72 years old), especially his Indian experiences. The only slightly disappointing bit was the fact that the daughter was asleep the whole time (darn!) Oh well, this was how change was coming in on the last day of my first leg of the Scotland trip.

So, eventually, I dropped off those two at Loch Lomond and made my way to Glasgow where I returned the rental car and made my way to the city in a bus, feeling relieved at not having to navigate the streets of the city on my own. Glasgow seems to evoke very mixed feelings in me. On the one hand you have these typical (in some way) church buildings, promenades, and squares that seem to pretty much be a part of most major cities around the world, and thereby seemingly comfortable, only because they appear somewhat familiar. At the same time, take off into some off the streets of the city, going uphill (or downhill depending on which way you’re travelling), or wander into a narrow lane and you feel like you might have entered into an early 20th century area, except for the way people are dressed up and their vehicles. Then, when you get into the subway, which screeches and screams while tearing through narrow tunnels under the ground, all the while throwing you around as if suffering from a sudden bout of hiccups, you could be forgiven for feeling like you’re in erstwhile communist USSR (for some strange reason that’s how I felt although I can’t fathom why). So it’s a queer mix of the common, the strange, and the old. I didn’t dwell on this for long though, because sometimes carrying heavy backpacks can do wonders for your sense of purpose. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then I suggest you go load up your nearest backpacks with a bunch of heavy boulders if you can. There, see? Good. Now then, back to Glasgow.

Walking through Glasgow

Having coffee at Costa

The hostel I’m sleeping in tonight isn’t an SYHA hostel, but a privately run place by the name Westend Backpackers. It’s an old place that’s frayed at the edges but is mostly all right. You get free WiFi and breakfast included in the price, which is better than the SYHA hostels, although you do get more variety in the breakfast at the latter. Then again I’m trying to travel on a budget, so minor stuff like this doesn’t count for much, although I really think the tap in Room 5 needs to be made non-squeaky when it is turned on, so that the occupants of the room don’t get disturbed when other inhabitants (such as me) use the facilities early in the morning. Also, it would be reassuring to have a latch on the bathroom door, yeah. And a bit more space in the shower section would be nice, because I think whoever designed it might have been just a wee bit larger than a 5-year old! Otherwise it was good. The sheets were clean, and the beds were bug-free. So it was a budget accommodation that sticks quite literally to the ethos of being budget. Functional, but a bit dodgy. Emphasis on dodgy. Yeah.

So I’m off to Inverness tomorrow to start of with the five-day workshop I’m attending. The guy conducting it, Bruce Percy, has this really bold and colourful palette in his landscape images that I like. What’s more interesting is how he uses colour to create mood, which I’ve usually associated with tonality, so it should be interesting to see him working through his approach to images. Should be a good five days.

Glasgow Video

A small set of images shot in and around George Square, Glasgow.

Music courtesy the street violinist who appears towards the end of the clip.

Day 2 – October 11, 2010

George Square, Glasgow

So I (or my groggy, tripping self) got to Stansted airport at 00.25 owing to my flight being at 08.30, and there being limited transportation options from my aunt’s place in Hanwell to the bus pick-up point at Gloucester Place. Some holiday this! Anyway, got there, found an empty row of check-in counters against whom other passengers like me were resting, so I decided to grab one for myself too. Slept on and off for about three hours when a security guard came and told everyone there to get up because it was time for staff to start coming in for duty. Great. :/ Had to spend the remaining five hours roaming around aimlessly, sometimes in and around the check-in counters, others in each on the many cafes at the terminal. Finally got the check-in call around 8am, and completed all formalities in a short while.

Boarded the flight to Glasgow at 8.40, and as soon as the plane started moving out of the bay I realized that I left my 45GBP brand-new jacket, which I had bought the previous day, at the boarding gate! My only jacket for Scotland, waterproof to boot and brand-new on top of that! NOOO!!! But then neither am I Madhavan, nor was this a movie, so feigning a heart attack or other terrible ailments was beyond my sleep-deprived brain. And so I fell asleep. Landed at Glasgow after what seemed like many lifetimes of drifting in and out of consciousness. Despite my lost jacket (sniff, sniff) I managed to stay upbeat about things. I decided to pick-up the same jacket again from another outlet of the same store I had bought it from, in Glasgow. Took my rented car into Glasgow and realized I was hopelessly, terribly lost. No GPS, no map, no sense of direction. Stopping and asking for directions is not quite as simple as it is India, where you can afford to suddenly go left, stop by the roadside and check with anyone walking by. That lead to a torrid 3 hours before I finally somehow stumbled into George square in Glasgow (don’t ask how, I have no clue!), and involved another frantic two hours of trying to find out where I was, running back to the car to get another parking slip for 15 minutes, and repeating the whole thing after another 15 minutes. At this point you might wonder why i didn’t just get a slip for an hour or two right away. Oh, but I did try to, except the parking machine had ideas of its own and it decided to swallow my two 2 pound coins, but give me a single slip for 15 minutes (it’s 60p for 15 minutes of parking, so ideally I should’ve got a slip for 45 minutes). So I said thanks to the machine for shafting me, and went on with my sprints across different parts of the square till some kind soul told me exactly where my shop was (a mere 5 minutes away on foot, as I found out much to my chagrin and relief ). I finally managed to get my jacket after a good two hours of running around like a headless chicken. I thank the almighty that he gave my sleep-deprived brain enough sense to get hold of one really good map of Scotland while I was running around. That helped me get on my way towards Loch Lomond, which was to be my first stop of my Scottish sojourn.

Loch Lomond is about half an hour from Glasgow, and I was headed towards the Scottish Youth Hostel at Loch Lomond (17.75 GBP per night), which was up a small pathway off the A82. The hostel was formerly a castle, and gave me my first flavour of Scottish heritage. The interiors of the castle, oops… hostel, are made of carved wooden roofs and carpeted floors running from edge-to-edge with wooden walls on all sides. There are stained glass windows up the stairway, which lend the building a very old-world charm to the building, and you can’t help but be impressed when you first lay your eyes upon them. The views from the upper floors, where the rooms are, are fantastic, overlooking the Loch and the hills in the distance. The gardens around the hostel are very well maintained, and are a pleasure to behold. In fact, I spent my whole evening taking pictures of and from the garden, never venturing out of the boundaries of the hostel compound. This is going to be a great trip!

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