The Modern Wayfarer series is back. Every Sunday, The Paper Airplane will feature personal travel essays and interviews with modern wayfarers who are experiencing their cities in unique ways.
A DOUBLE SHOT OF HISTORY AND WHISKEY IN GLASGOW, SCOTLAND WITH EVA S.
Originally from sunny Santa Cruz, California, Eva S. is one of those friends that you just can't live without. Eva and I became fast friends after studying abroad in Italy together in college. We bonded over a shared love of vino, ghost stories, and spontaneous Italian train rides, and have remained close friends ever since. She's the friend who has your back whether you're in need of sound life advice (or rap lyrics), hunting down that infamous taco stand in the wee hours of the morning, or navigating the streets of a new city like a local. There's never a dull moment with Eva around.
Eva is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Museum Studies in Scotland and exploring all of the authentic experiences that her new country has to offer. Without further adieu, I'd like to present a double shot of history and whiskey in Glasgow, Scotland with my good friend and favorite history buff, Eva.
What brings you to Glasgow? How long have you been living in Scotland?
EVA: I came to Glasgow to pursue a Masters of Science in Museum Studies, could I have done this in the States? Absolutely, but I’m young, unmarried and healthy so the obvious choice was to travel and get my degree. It was a leap of faith but that’s what youth is for. I’ve now lived here for about eight months, so I’ve finally begun to feel like a local, which is the best feeling you can get as a traveller.
So, you’re a history buff. How has studying history made an impact on your perception of your new city? On traveling in general?
EVA: Oh man, well when you study history you really start to see new places as big story books, full of experiences of the past. Glasgow has an amazing story to tell, so many people have lived here and contributed to its industrial past and dynamic present. Once you think from a historical perspective you start seeing history and the human experience everywhere, from the architectural style of the buildings, to the food, to the music, I feel like you start building a deeper understanding of the city and its people. I encourage everyone to do a little historical background research on wherever you plan to travel, especially places that are off the beaten path. It really changes your experience.
What was your first impression of the city upon moving overseas? Has anything surprised you about living in Scotland?
EVA: I visited Glasgow in 2013 and fell in love with the city, In part because it really feels like an industrial Victorian city, there’s still some grit to Glasgow, it's not your average British city swamped with tourists (they all go to Edinburgh). Now that I’ve lived her for nearly a year I find myself loving this city more and more, it has a reputation for being rough but compared to the big American cities I’ve never felt safer in any city of this size.
The most surprising things to me about living in Scotland and in Glasgow in particular are the friendliness of the people. Glaswegians are seriously some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered in Europe. They are extremely sarcastic and have a sharp wit, but strike up a conversation and soon you’re getting a round bought for you and have made a new friend. That goes for all Scots in general actually, mostly because I feel that they’re genuinely curious about why you would choose to come live here, they are hilariously self deprecating.
The food is also insanely good in Glasgow, which was a double surprise. It’s the most Vegan friendly city in the UK which was a huge surprise, and it also has a myriad of really talented chefs that have opened incredibly successful restaurants. You obviously can still get haggis, fried haddock and deep friend mars bars but there is a food revolution going on here that is really fun to be a part of.
Where are your go-to, off-the-beaten-path spots? Any places you’ve adventured to outside of your city?
EVA: The great thing about Glasgow is that it is full of cool hole in the wall spots to drink, eat and hang out. The main spots that most people choose to live in are either The West End (by the University of Glasgow) or the City Centre. My favorite spots are in both of these enclaves but if I were looking for student friendly prices and good food, I would stick to the West End.
For drinks I love Sparkle Horse just off Dumbarton Road, Bloody Mardy’s off of Byres Road, and The Finneston in the West End. City Centre you can’t go wrong with The Pot Still ( a huge whiskey bar that has literally hundreds of choices, when in Scotland!), Mono for a chill vibe and vegan treats, and Drygate Brewery and Beer Garden for some craft beer goodness on a sunny day.
Food-wise you can find me ordering pizza from the Little Café on Argyle Street, sipping coffee from Artisan Roast and tea from Chai Ovna. The Hanoi Bike Shop off Byres Road has INCREDIBLE Vietnamese street food, my top choice for food near Glasgow Uni, followed by The Ubiquitous Chip on Ashton Lane for traditional Scottish fair. For a boozy brunch and great fusion go Stravaigin.
Outside Glasgow: I’m gonna exclude Edinburgh in this as everyone pretty much knows about that historical old spooky city. I love exploring and hiking in the West of Scotland. The Trossarchs and Loch Lomond are beautiful and hiking up Ben An or Ben Lomond are great experiences. For the beach and some history you can always catch a train down to Troon, Oban, or Ayr. And for you castle lovers, Stirling and Linlithgow have some great old castles to explore.
Do you have any advice for travelers to truly get the “Glasgow experience?” (Good areas to visit, tips on getting around, etc.)
EVA: The best thing about Glasgow is that it’s still relatively free of tourists and so it really is begging to be explored! Glasgow is also relatively small, so it is extremely walk able. If you do not want to walk or its raining (its probably raining) just hop on the “Clockwork Orange”, Glasgow’s brightly colored subway that has one route in a big circle. Easiest public transport ever.
As far as places to visit, Glasgow doesn’t have any HUGE tourist attractions like Edinburgh, so it’s a cool city just to go to and wander around. My top places to go are definitely The Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery for some culture (it’s the most visited museum in Scotland), walk around Glasgow University (rumor has it the main building was one of the inspirations for Hogwarts), and then just wander around the City Centre, Glasgow Green, and The West End popping in and out of shops. A stroll through the Botanical Gardens is always fun and be sure to walk along the River Clyde, the lifeline of Glasgow’s history. Above all else, talk to the Glaswegians, go to an old pub (The Curler’s Rest on Byre’s Road is 600 years old!) and have some banter with the bar men.
If you’re here at Christmas, check out a classic British pantomime play, the Christmas Market, and take time to have a cozy wee tea time at the Mackintosh Tea Rooms or The Hidden Lane Tea Room (actually do that whenever…tea and cake is the BEST combo).
What’s the best meal you’ve had so far in Scotland?
EVA: Some friends of mine had me over to theirs and prepared Haggis, Neeps and Tatties for me along with some whiskey gravy and it was actually heaven. Never underestimate the power of a good home cooked Scottish meal to make animal parts in a lamb stomach seem amazing. Wash it down with a wee dram o’ whiskey!
Is there anywhere else in Scotland that you’re hoping to visit soon?
EVA: I’m planning on getting out to see some Islands really soon. The West coast of Scotland is gorgeous and is full of groups of small islands that have a lot to offer. Arran, Uist and Skye are on the list! Also have not been up to Loch Ness yet, gotta find Nessie while she’s still lurking!
Have you found it easy to meet people and make friends in Glasgow?
EVA: It is so easy to make friends here. It helps that I am a student so I am constantly surrounded by young people. However I think even a short time interloper would have no problem meeting people and making connections. Just go to the nearest pub or cultural event!
What is your favorite line of Scottish slang?
EVA: Oh Scottish slang is THE best. My favorite slang word by far is “numpty” which means “dummy or idiot”. I’ve also caught myself say “wee” a lot more to describe small things, much cuter. Not sure how down I am with being called a “hen” by guys but I do love “takin’ the piss” (making fun of) outta them.
What’s your best spooky, historical tale from Glasgow? (I know you have a good one.)
EVA: Oh jeez I love spooky stories Chloe it’s true. While Glasgow doesn’t have quite the spooky reputation that Edinburgh (atmosphere helps a lot), there are some interesting, creepy places to explore. My number one pic is the Glasgow Neocropolis in the East End of Glasgow behind the Glasgow Cathedral (one of Glasgow’s oldest surviving buildings). It is a huge Victorian cemetery on a hill and these fabulous, enormous grave stone sculptures, monoliths and mausoleums loom over the city. Glasgow’s industrial titans are all buried here and walking among the enormous tombstones can be both creepy and weirdly calming after the hustle and bustle of the city. The crypt in Glasgow Cathedral is where you can see the coffin of St. Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint and old tombs from the 12th century.
For more creepy fun I would definitely head over to the University of Glasgow and the Hunterian Anatomy Museum for a startling compendium of things floating in jars including more babies and body parts than you ever thought you would see. It’s creepy for sure, but the old anatomy theatre it is housed it is still used for lessons today. This is also where the rumored inspiration for Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” took place, when a Glaswegian Anatomy professor attempted to use electric jolts to bring the dead back to life. SPOOKY.
Well, there you have it. There's a little bit of whiskey, haggis and history for everyone in Scotland. Thanks, Eva for sharing your Glasgow!
Dear readers, stay tuned for more interviews, stories, and travel advice headed your way. After my summer blogging break, I'm eager to share all of my latest adventures with you all. Stay golden.