Sunday, June 30, 2013

Christmastime in Glasgow with a West End Tour

It's Christmastime in Glasgow, which means that George Square (pictured above) has been transformed into a winter wonderland. When I heard that George Square would be decorated for Christmas, I envisioned elegant, white lights tastefully decorating the square. There was even a huge fireworks celebration for the lighting ceremony, which I caught a glimpse of at the start of my last game night while I was letting my visitors into the hall. When I finally had the chance to see the square in all of its Christmas glory, I realized that the image I had in my head was very different than what it actually looked like. It looked more like a carnival decorated for Halloween! There was a long, winding slide, which you can see in the left of the picture, carnival swings in the foreground, a Christmas tree, a choo-choo train, and there was even an outdoor ice skating rink! For fear of breaking my leg in a foreign country (but really for fear of the loss of my dignity), I refrained from participating in any ice skating activities.

As flatmates, we wanted to get together for another dinner before it was time for some of the Europeans to start heading home for Christmas break. My German flatmate had the fantastic idea of having a cookie baking night instead, so we did this Saturday night, the 15th of December. We had so much fun and it was such a treat to try cookie recipes from other countries. I offered to make gingerbread cookies. This was tough because I had to find a recipe that didn't require a beater and then I couldn't find the proper ingredients (like ginger!). I modified this recipe: Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cookie Recipe by using a spice blend from Aldi's that one of my flatmates suggested, and because I couldn't find molasses anywhere (I know, right?!) I took a stab in the dark and substituted golden syrup. I made the icing with powdered sugar and cream. They ended up tasting even better than gingerbread cookies! 

I didn't have cookie cutters, so I cut out different shapes with a paring knife, which was actually more fun than using cookie cutters. I was able to make Scottish-themed cookies, like this cookie, one of my favorites, the Highland cow

I made little piping bags out of parchment paper and my flatmates and I decorated the cookies. This is the Scottish flag gingerbread cookie. I was quite proud of this one. :)

Here is a plate of all the different cookies we baked that night. The big cookies on top were made by my Norwegian flatmate. They were somewhat savory and had saffron in them. Below are the gingerbread cookies, and the one with the squiggle on it is the Scottish Highland sheep cookie. The round cookies were made by my Canadian flatmate. I believe she needed graham crackers for them, but couldn't find any, so she had to make a substitution and it worked out great. I think the cookies were called cherry delights. The cookies with the powdered sugar were made by my German flatmate and they were similar to almond crescents. All of the cookies were delicious and it was such a wonderful experience to share different parts of our cultures for the same holiday.

As a parting gift/Christmas gift, I gave the girls each a picture book of Glasgow to take home with them. 

I hope they enjoyed the gift!

This was an incredibly delicious breakfast. I topped a crumpet with an egg and brie omelet, and a sautee of red onions and bell peppers.

On Monday, my Norwegian flatmate left to go home to Norway for Christmas break. The poor girl was my first goodbye and I was a tearful mess. I couldn't believe that this journey was starting to come to an end and I wasn't ready to say goodbye to any of the wonderful people that I had met. On Tuesday, my Irish friend and I went off to explore the West End before she left for Ireland. How could I leave Scotland without spending time there? I had gone a couple times before, once to see the Botanical Gardens, and another time to have lunch, but didn't do much exploring. This photo is from the City Centre, on the way to the subway station. We took the very short ride to our stop in the West End and started our little tour.

From all the talk about the West End, I thought we would come across all of these posh places. This just looks like rows of tenement housing to me... and so many streets looked identical to this.

We decided to stroll through the University of Glasgow campus first, as we wouldn't have much time before the sun set at 3:30. (Yes, that's right, I said 3:30). The buildings are gorgeous, aren't they? I wondered why the University of Strathclyde didn't look as beautiful as this... Let's just say, if the University of Glasgow is like a majestic butterfly, Strathclyde is the caterpillar. 

One of the buildings on campus.

Can you imagine going to school here???

We must have been walking by at just the right time to snap this shot of the sun shining through the archway.

I really liked this building; it's very stately.

The details in the architecture are just fascinating to me.

It was impossible to get this massive building all in one shot.

A view of the left wing of the building.

A view of the right wing of the building.

 A close-up of the exterior.

This was a door inside the building. Where does it lead to? My Irish friend tried to take a peak, but I wasn't sure if it was an off-limits area (doesn't it look intimidating?). I'm such a nervous nelly!

This building houses the Hunterian Museum. It was pretty interesting, though we kind of did a fast walk through because we had so much left to see and so little daylight left. One of the exhibits in the museum is, "The Antonine Wall: Rome's Final Frontier" which immediately caught my attention because I had visited part of the Antonine Wall just weeks earlier. The following is an excerpt taken from the Hunterian's website: "Built on Dr William Hunter’s founding bequest, The Hunterian collections include scientific instruments used by James Watt, Joseph Lister and Lord Kelvin; outstanding Roman artefacts from the Antonine Wall; major natural and life sciences holdings; Hunter’s own extensive anatomical teaching collection; one of the world’s greatest numismatic collections; impressive ethnographic objects from Captain Cook’s Pacific voyages and a major art collection." 

On the University of Strathclyde campus, there are remains of the Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital, which was built in 1860, but moved to a different location in 2001. (If you were to see the very steep hill that this hospital was located on, you would not believe that anyone would think to put a hospital there, especially one for pregnant women. It seems rather cruel.) Anyhow, when I was at the Hunterian, I was reading about how the first Caesarean section (under modern antiseptic conditions) was performed at the Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital in 1888. I couldn't believe that I was living just mere feet from where such a huge advancement in the delivery of babies occurred.

This is an unfortunately dim and blurred picture of the Cloisters at the University of Glasgow. It was already starting to get dark, so my camera was not cooperating. 

This is another view of the Cloisters.

This is another road with the identical looking flats.

This building is not on the University of Glasgow's campus. It is on one of the main roads in the West End and actually houses a restaurant, bar, and theater! It is called Cottiers. I didn't get a chance to eat there, but it looks like it would be a fun place to go.

We did stop at Crepe a Croissant for lunch, and I'm glad we did! It was reasonably priced and we both thoroughly enjoyed our crepes. I had the Ravishing Ratatouille crepe. I wish we had one around here, but that would probably be trouble for the waistline!

This is a view of the back of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, our next destination.

This picture looks like it could have been taken in a completely different era. 

Approaching the art museum. It is one big building and closing time is 5:00, not leaving us a great deal of time for a leisurely stroll through the building.

Here I am, in front of the museum. I don't make too many appearances in this blog post! This is another building that is just too huge to capture in the front view in one frame.

This is really neat. It's a map of Glasgow, on the floor of the museum. Glasgow is one big city!

I can't figure out if I liked this display, or if I thought it was just creepy. Each face wears a different expression.

The first floor housed a collection of taxidermied animals, as well as a few other exhibits. The second floor held European art, mostly paintings. Unfortunately, the museum was closing just before we finished the second floor, so we were chased out by the security guards. When they say the museum is closing, please leave, they mean business!

This picture of the exterior of the art museum was taken at 5:00, but it was pitch dark well before then. It was now time to head back to the city centre!

We decided to stop at the Christmas market at the St. Enoch Centre for another look around, as we had stopped here once before a few weeks back. Look at all of this candy! I wish I had taken more pictures of the market, but this is the only one that I took. 

This is a picture of some of the Christmas decorations adorning the shops and streets in the city centre.

I stopped in this mall a few times during my stay. 

This is Prince's Square on Buchanan Street. Until this moment, I had no idea that this was actually a gallery with stores inside. My friend had been inside once before, so she showed me the way in for a look around.

It was really decorated for Christmas in here!

The gallery was gorgeous. I can see why the designers won awards for the architectural design. It's a hidden treasure!

I like these lights a lot! They give the streets a cozy, intimate, warm feeling.

Thank goodness for this shop's quirky storefront of old sewing machines! When I first moved here and would go down to the shops, I always felt reoriented when I stumbled across this store because I recognized it easily.

George Square was always involved in the walk back to campus. It was bittersweet to share this walk with my friend one last time. 

A picture of Glasgow City Chambers, an ornate, stately building that I saw photographed by many people during my walks through the square. Incidentally, I neglected to take a picture of it during the day, and before all of the Christmas decorations in the square went up.

The Christmas Tree. It was quite tall, though it is hard to discern that from this picture. The statue of Sir Walter Scott that is set in the center of the square is in the background.

This is a somewhat better picture of the Glasgow City Chambers. In the foreground is a cenotaph that commemorates the Glaswegians killed in WWI. It was erected in 1922. 

At the top of this column is the statue of Sir Walter Scott. I know, you have to use your imagination a little bit, but there is a better daytime picture of this statue in my Greetings From Glasgow post in October 2012. I will say that he is the most popular with the birds in the square.

That was the end of my brief tour of the West End. I wish I had just a little bit more time to explore that area, but I was trying to cram all I could into these last few days while still making progress on my essays for school. 

Coming up next: More goodbyes, a multicultural Christmas, my last solo tour, and the end of my journey.

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