Glasgow

I'm a city girl.  After years of travel I can admit that without fear of scorn from my nature-loving pals who wither in the glass and concrete jungles I've come to love. Not that I don't appreciate and admire wide space and skies. I love the mountains on bluebird days and the smell of pine trees, and I could watch sunshine twinkle on the sea for hours at a time. But there's something about a city that makes me feel at ease. The noise; the people; the anonymity; the purpose. The combination of all of it calms me and excites me.

 

The last time I was in Glasgow was at least 10 years ago and it snowed. This time I've joined the masses in George Square who've come to take advantage of the rare sunshine and warm weather.

"We've brought in our year's worth of sunshine just for you," said a Glaswegian when I said I was visiting from San Francisco.

"The California girl in me appreciates that," I laughed.

When I told people I was coming to Scotland, the majority response was, "Go to Edinburgh."  I've been there a few times. It's pretty. The castle is fairytale inspired. The shops and restaurants are lovely. Like every Scot I've ever met, the people are friendly, and that accent? Swoon. I could listen to it all day. But Glasgow is a city that thrums with a different energy. It's both proud and self-deprecating. It's beautiful, too, filled with Gothic shapes, golden sunlight (when it shines), and red sandstone edifices. It has a creative edge, a sense of humor, and a grittiness I love, perhaps stemming from its working-class and shipbuilding history. It's a city that embodies the same characteristics as the people I invite into in my life. Perhaps that's why I've become so attached so quickly. It's a love at first light kind of place.

On my first day, in order to combat jet-lag and in need of a more comfortable pair of walking shoes, I strolled down Glasgow's main shopping vein, Buchanan Street. A girl in her 20s with blue hair, wearing ripped black stockings under a short skirt, her feet laced up in black work boots, tuned her guitar. Expecting to hear punk rants or some similar sound I'd predetermined would match her image, I kept walking. Then she started to play. The sultry plucking of the strings slowed my steps, and the rich notes of her voice stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn't recognize the ballad, but I didn't need to. Her song hooked me, turned my head, and pulled me back with a new set of eyes. A crowd swelled around her. They felt it too. When she finished we cheered and tossed coins into her guitar case. She smiled. I wonder if she knows how good she is or how her music makes people feel? I hope I see her face on an album cover soon. Another day, a thin man with long dark hair tied in a ponytail and wearing a black wool kilt drew a similar crowd. Everyone wants to hear bagpipes when they come to Scotland, right? Yet somehow this lad made the thousand- year-old tradition seem modern. He'd ditched the tweed jacket and plaid, and played top forty tunes---on a bagpipe. I smiled for hours. The juxtapostion of the time-honored and the current was more than just skill, it was inventive. It was spellbinding. The next day I went back to see if they were there again, but they were gone. In their places, new musicians, new singers played.

And that's what I love about Glasgow. Every night, when the streets roll up and the lights dim, the canvas of this city is wiped clean. Come sunrise, new people are out tuning guitars, soaking up the rare sunshine, telling their versions of stories, and chasing their dreams. Everyday, around every corner, wonder materializes if you're willing to stop and see it.

Glasgow is my kind of town.

Traditional piping by a modern man

Traditional piping by a modern man

Possibilities are endless

Possibilities are endless

Dream chasing

Dream chasing

Statue of the duke of wellington

Statue of the duke of wellington

 

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Kimberley Lovato

Kimberley Lovato has written about travel, lifestyle and food for national and international publications and websites including National Geographic Traveler, Executive Travel, American Way, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveller (UK), Ryan Air, b.there, Easy Jet Traveller, leitesculinaria.com and frommers.com, among others. She is the author of a Michelin Guidebook on Brussels, where she lived for six years Her culinary travel book, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, about the Dordogne region of France, won the "Best Travel Book" nod in 2012 from the Society of American Travel Writers, as did her personal essay, "Lost and Liberated," which also appeared in Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8. When she's not plotting her next trip or her annual pilgrimage to France, she resides in San Francisco where she is a correspondent for BBC's Passport Blog, a student in Stanford University's Creative Writing Certificate program, and a brave mother of a teenaged girl.