After several days of watching the forecast in Glasgow & Edinburgh, we set out from Malaga airport with our bags packed and our fingers crossed. We arrived without delay in the Glasgow Prestwick airport, thanks to Ryan Air. I forgot how amusing it is to watch everyone crowd the entrance to the gate to ensure that they will have a seat on the plane … (see: Paris, 2004).
We took a train in to Glasgow city center, armed with coats – hats – gloves – scarves and many layers. It was hovering around 32 degrees Farenheit (a much more startling 0 degrees in Celsius). Crunching our way through a layer of snow and ice we made our way out to Queen Street station and began our trek to the suburb of Dennistoun. While we laughed about the snow and the actual December feeling that Glasgow was giving us, we came upon George Square which was decked out in full Christmas dress – lights, trees, music, snow. Spain has been depriving us of this magic … I smiled the whole way.
The following day we took a train to Edinburgh through the snow-covered countryside. Scotland is way ahead on the Christmas celebration front – there were Christmas carolers and brass players in the train station, and decorations galore. With the snow on the ground and a chill in the air, it was exactly what I needed. Fellow Freedom choir grads – would you believe me if I told you they played Once in Royal David’s City? I almost fell out of my seat.
Edinburgh Castle is tremendous. Old, musty, huge, and covered in snow. Luckily this also meant a reduced entry fee. Of course there was a guy dressed up / painted like William Wallace outside of the castle trying to make a few bucks in the cold. The Royal Mile also had a few bagpipers, and a lot of cold tourists. There were a fair amount of Spaniards, which made us laugh every time we overhead a conversation. Just can’t seem to escape!
Holyrood House was closed when we arrived at the other end of the Royal Mile (post kebab and almost frozen), but we made our way around Calton Road and up some perilous steps for a view of the city. The view from the top of Waterloo Street was eerie – full of snow and a pink sky at twilight, with all the streetlights just coming up and the ferris wheel from the Christmas market in the distance. Needless to say my camera got quite the work out on this trip. One of my favorite stops in Edinburgh was the Greyfriars Cemetery. Night had fallen by the time we got there and it was just the right amount of creepy and beautiful. We warmed up at White Hart Inn on Grassmarket and heard the news of the budget airlines strike in Spain, which we miraculously missed. Our night ended at a Christmas market spread out on Prince’s Street. A chocolate covered banana and some hot mulled wine were a perfect ending before our train ride home.
Sunday was full of sunshine, which was blazing on the snow. We spent a good part of the morning walking around the Glasgow Necropolis, which is an an endless cemetery on top of a hill. Not sure why I found cemeteries so amazing, but this one was spectacular. We made our way down to Tollbooth Tower, and walked around with the Christmas shoppers on Argyle and Buchanan streets. Thanks to the recommendation of one Holly Kent, we stopped at the famous Willow Tea Room for a hot tea + shortbread fix. Rounded up the day at People’s Palace – a pretty interesting social history museum that talks about life back in the day for the people of Glasgow.
True to my foodie ways I was dying for some local Scottish food and we asked at the museum for a recommendation. Some 10 minutes later I managed to escape the old man giving me advice (the same restaurant, five times over) .. and we made our way to Blackfriar’s. Let me just say that the steak & ale pie was awesome, the sweet potato & ginger soup was perfect and the haggis .. was delicious. Sorry, veggie friends but I loved it! We rolled ourselves out into town for some groceries and returned home to make dinner for the group (chicken parmesan). Happy to say that we ended the night with some Scrabble, some wine and a good night’s sleep. Traveling is tiring! We rode in style to the airport in a London black cab at the crack of dawn (5:30 am). An early flight courtesy of Easy Jet deposited us in Malaga, Spain around noontime and we frantically shed layers of clothes in the 20 degree (70ish) heat. An afternoon in the Picasso museum was followed by a bus ride through epic thunderstorms back to not-so-sunny Sevilla.
I should add that this was my first Couch Surfing endeavor, and it turned out to be a fantastic experience. Upon arrival, our host took us out to dinner at a delicious local restaurant (mmm, fish & chips) and we had a wonderful time with both he and his Hungarian roommate. He also sent us out with a map and some suggestions on both of our excursions (Saturday to Edinburgh and Sunday in Glasgow), both of which were very helpful. We brought along polverones (a Spanish Christmas sweet made of almonds) and made dinner for the group on our last night in town. Based on this experience, I intend to couch surf again on another trip. Remember I did not travel solo, but with a (male) friend. Safety first, people!
Photos soon 🙂