Lovely Cadiz

Lovely Cadiz
Cadiz - my favorite place so far in the trip to Southern Spain

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bloggo Diciannovesimo: Highland Fling 3: Wrapping Up Glasgow and Investigating Inverness

After the exciting trip to Oban, Glasgow was bound to be not at all disappointing, but somewhat mundane in comparison. Also, the cold/flu/whatever-the-bug was worsening, and with several highlights of me wee Highland Fling still to come, I took it somewhat easy. 
Glasgow University in the distance
open top bus tour

I opted for the open-top bus tour of Glasgow, which offered lots of photo opportunities, but was a bit comical in its errors – trying to do too much, getting behind schedule and racing to the finish. The tour lasted nearly two hours – it was meant to be informative, but I was surrounded by a gaggle of Scottish women who could not stop talking and frequently screeching with laughter, so that much of what the tour guide had to offer in way of information was drowned out, either by them or the noise of traffic or construction work. Still, the tour gave me chance to see, albeit only briefly, a good bit of the city that I’d not have been able to hoof it to, especially the charming university area and the hip west end surrounding it. Seeing that part of town left me wishing that I’d booked one more day in Glasgow, but onward and upward Dottore Gianni goes – he knows, after all that la vita e troppo breve and that he must charge ahead!

After finally leaving the bus I was quite hungry, and took a chance that probably the best known place to eat in Glasgow, The Willow Tea Rooms, was not completely packed. 

I had to wait only a few minutes for a table at this art nouveau dining spot, bright because of the skylight, and of course delightful because of the Rennie MacIntosh design. I meant to have tea and soup, but instead opted for the special, the Willow Tea Room chili made with Scottish beef – I have had more red meat this trip than I had in the entire year preceding it! But it was quite lovely, and I met a couple from New Jersey, she American, he Scottish, who had just been back from the highlands, so there was pleasant conversation as well as good food to be had in the Willows…

Then I returned to the hotel and crashed for a while, in fact too long, because by the time I got out again the drug stores had closed and I was running out of vitamin C etc. So I decided on a different kind of medication – spicy penne con salsiccio (more meat) and vino roso and a run-of-the-mill Italian place. Quick note – the Scottish seem every bit as in love with Italian restaurants as we in the U.S., or at least ME in the U.S. or wherever else I may be. It struck me while I observed the clientele that I had never been to a Scottish city and not eaten at an Italian restaurant! Sorry! Oban was an exception, but then I had under two hours there an no gelato shops were in evidence on my quick tour.

And then I pretty much crashed again. One of the many difficulties in becoming ill within about 24 hours at the beginning of a long-ish jaunt is that I was constantly trying to catch up and never quite able to do so. Too exhausted to write, I opted for the mechanical task of getting my photos labeled and cropped and tidied up for blogs, Picasa, facebook. I’m falling behind on those as well.

Then I slept, had a last breakfast in Glasgow, and caught the train to Inverness. I’m delighted to say that the weather brightened more and more as we headed north! We changed trains in Perth, which was an ordeal because there were 6 minutes to change, and seven tracks to choose from, with no central board announcing which track would take us where. Several other passengers and I were searching, finally caught a rail official who pointed us to the proper track – of course it was number seven, and we had been dropped at number one. But as with the train from Glasgow to Perth, the seat reservations had not been able to be arranged (a continuing theme on Scotrail) so it was every passenger for her or himself. Fortunately the train was not full, we all got on just as it was pulling out, and had an enjoyable two-hour ride through highlands, not quite as dramatic as I’d seen on the way to Oban, to the lovely city of Inverness.

Of which more after breakfast!
Inverness from a bridge on the river
And a tasty breakfast it was! Take a note: You want the Winston Guesthouse when you visit Inverness. There is a tough, compact, middle-aged woman who runs it practically by herself (along with “the boss,” as she calls him or her, a shadowy figure I’ve never seen). As friendly as she can be. The room is more like a bedroom in a house than a hotel room, small but with all the amenities. The breakfast offers a choice of cereals and fruits – in the fruit bowl bananas, fresh plums and peaches and tangerines, as well as yogurt (I had peach and passionfruit, a yummy combo). I also had freshly scrambled eggs and bacon and wheat toast. Good start to a long day of touring.
The River Ness

The Winston sits on the River Ness, just across the bridge from the old downtown, less than ten minutes’ walk from train and bus stations. When you walk out the front door of the hotel the first thing you see is Inverness Castle, a series of church spires, and bridges down the river to what I can only assume is the famous Loch beyond. Just across the nearest bridge is the tourist center, so along with fine appointments a fine location. And only £60 a night, in this their busiest season.

So, back to the beginning. I took a taxi to the hotel. The driver was very friendly, pointed out the visitor center to me, and jawed a bit about the weather, which yesterday was simply gorgeous. Admittedly even a hint of sun seems wonderful after days of gray, but yesterday the sky was a deep blue, with large puffy and occasionally threatening clouds, perhaps 69 or 70 degrees with a brisk breeze. Beautiful weather for walking. The short walk I planned turned into a two-hour investigation of a place that, after the first touristic blush wears off, shows signs of a faltering economy, and as all over Great Britain disaffected youth. Still, many of the old buildings were quite nice, the walk along the river was one of the finest I’ve had since I’ve been on this side of the great pond, and I was also able to pick up vitamin C and the British version of Tylenol. While I walk, I of course look for restaurants. 

Many along the river were quite pricey, as you’d guess, but I found The Waterfront, a pub/restaurant (I mean this in the sense that as usual you order drinks from the bar, but if you let them know you’re eating you’re immediately seated and waited upon), at about 4 pm, discovered that they started serving dinner at 5, had a pint of McKewan’s 80, a powerful choice on an empty stomach, headed back to my hotel, and back again a bit after 5 for an early dinner. Advertised as featuring local fish, it was not quite as brilliant as I’d hoped, but tasty local salmon with potatoes and “summer root vegetables” slightly overcooked, was, for £9.95 not bad at all.

No matter how much I enjoyed myself, I was quite tired upon my return to the hotel, and had no energy to write. Managed to remain awake until a bit after ten pm, dosed myself with medication, and slept until breakfast, just described, and am now making up for lost writing time just before I get on the tour bus to The Isle of Skye.

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