Follow the travel diary of Val and Rosney (The Man) as they travel to the UK via Vancouver one way and San Francisco on the return trip. The self-drive ‘innocents abroad’ expedition was planned in celebration of The Man’s 70th birthday to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.
The Glasgow part of our journey was very important to me, as this is where my great grandmother came from, and after finding a long ago photo of her in the Dunedin Settler Museum, I’ve felt a generational bonding.
After a slight problem with our exit from Carlisle plan, and being chauffeured out of town by a kind driver who rescues lost tourists (follow me: he said) – and another change of plan after missing a turnoff (tense times) our trip went pretty well – I take note of the difference in scenery as we venture into Scotland with the beautiful green rolling hills, houses painted sparkling white instead of grey and brown stone, looks just like New Zealand country side.
We managed to take the right connecting road into Glasgow but then got hopelessly lost in the narrow streets while trying to find our accommodation. After stopping and asking directions we found we were well off the mark, and a nice man put us firmly put back on track. We were so relieved when the Ambassador Hotel sign came into view. Wow! We scored a huge self-contained luxury apartment overlooking the river.
Went for a walk to explore the local area, the botanic gardens being just up the road, stopped and bought a bottle of wine, sorted out a pub not too far away to eat an evening meal – which looked good at the time, but when we went back it was overcrowded, noisy people elbowing each other through the crowd while looking for somewhere to sit, while the cook yelled out ‘NUMBER TWENTY-FIVE come and get your meal.’ Turned out there wasn’t anywhere to sit so we left, taking note of the general litter and outdoor rubbish tins overflowing into the street. I have another note here saying Glasgow has a big-time litter problem! We ended up waiting for a table at a nearby Italian Restaurant, which while being crowded was a much better choice.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast (bed and breakfast deal) I congratulated myself on finding this accommodation. We then hailed a taxi and it was off to discover where Great Grandma lived before she set out to NZ. We were lucky to have found an honest cab driver, who considered our request to find Gran’s abode a challenge (he seemed to enjoy it) and turned off his meter when we got held up in traffic, and endless road repairs, and we even got lost – turned out that Great Gran lived in Johnstone, not Paisley – so pleased we didn’t attempt this journey in our little merc rental as even with an experienced taxi driver it seemed a bit like Livingstone taking on the jungle. We find the place where Gran once lived is no more – there’s mostly a new housing subdivision (very bland and basic) small houses cluttered together with no fences/no private yards – there’s only some ugly old original buildings left with barbed wire along the fences. It’s impossible to tell where Great Gran may have lived, but I get the general idea.
This place is grey and dreary, I could feel my heart sinking down into my shoes and if I wasn’t an earth-adult would have burst into tears – to get some further feel for the place I stopped and talked to a local young guy with a bunch of children who were going for nightmare rides on a kids trolley down the sloping street (they kept falling off and crying) – I had trouble understanding his heavy Scottish accent, but apparently he’d moved out to the new subdivision from an apartment in central Glasgow and thinks the whole place is Christmas (in NZ it would only be Labour weekend). He stuck his chest out and reminded me how proud I should be of my Scottish ‘eritage . . . this with rubbish blowing in the wind and the sad-looking crying children who viewed me with suspicion. I wondered what exactly at this point in time I had to be proud of.
Caught the train back to the city, and found it filled with cheerless, grey looking people who avoided smiling or looking at each other. I now knew why Great Gran had left . . .
I should mention here that the CDB of Glasgow, the statues, old buildings and the new shopping mall were fantastic and pedestrian friendly. Ate our evening meal in the noisy pub (supposedly to get the feel of things), found a window seat alcove out the back by the loos, the view out the window was of an overflowing rubbish bin. Bye, bye Glasgow.
Also an article on a rare BIG spider featured in today’s paper. The spider looked just like the one I found in the bath in Carlisle.
To be continued….
By Val Bird