Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Great Glasgow Getaway

As an official Edinburgh resident several things are expected of me. I must possess a burning hatred for the tram project. I must roll my eyes every time I see a street performer playing bagpipes, and murmur something about Edinburgh having "so much more to offer than that." And I must have a condescending, disparaging opinion of Glasgow.

And to be honest, I am a little critical of Scotland's other major city.  Despite the fact that it has over 200,000 more people than Edinburgh, I find it a lot less exciting than the capital city; over-industrialized, a bit dirty, and not nearly as historic.  However, it does have a thriving underground art scene, some amazing restaurants, and great live music.  Oh, and you're much more likely to meet actual Scottish people in Glasgow than you are in Edinburgh.

A few weekends ago, I boarded a train and headed West for a days' sightseeing with my pal Marc. Here are a couple of highlights of our day:

Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis

Dedicated to Saint Mungo, also known as Ninian, this medieval cathedral is one of was built in the early 12th century.   It's an imposing and impressive structure, and it looks strange in the middle of Urban Glasgow's city center.  Built on a hill behind it is a Victorian garden cemetery, with 3,500 tombs and 50,000 graves dating from 1832.  Both the Cathedral and the Cemetary are fascinating, scenic, and well-worth visiting.

Glasgow's Christmas Festival

 Glasgow's George Square Christmas display was impressive, with a big "observation" wheel that made the ferris wheel in the Princes Street market look like a kiddie ride.  While it will never beat Edinburgh's Christmas Market in charm and authenticity, Marc and I thoroughly enjoyed our deep-fried veggie burgers while people watching for a lunchtime break at Glasgow's Christmas festival.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Claus is Running Through Town!

Here comes Santa Claus, 
Here comes Santa Claus, 
Right down Princes Street...

Hold on.  Make that 1,000 Santa Clauses.

Every December, Edinburgh's Christmas hosts a Great Scottish Santa Run to raise money for When You Wish Upon a Star, a charity that grants wishes to seriously ill children.  For a seriously small registration fee (5 pounds!), I got a free Santa Suit and beard, a warm-up Zumba class (gosh did I feel ridiculous doing that), and a chance to exhaust embarrass myself with 999 other maniacs for a mile.

And a lovely finishers medal.

Here's a video of the madness:

And the Scottish holiday-insanity doesn't stop here.  Next on the agenda: The New Years Loony Dook!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Edinburgh Christmas Markets

There's a lot to complain about during December in Scotland.  To be specific, the weather sucks.  The days are short (the sun's setting at around 3:45 pm now), cold, wet, and windy.  It takes a lot to get me to leave my flat right now, but one thing has tempted me out several times: Edinburgh's Christmas Market.
Princes Street Gardens, home of the Scott Monument, is completely transformed during December, with an ice rink, carnival rides, gift stands, and food and drink stalls.  On the East end of the Gardens you can sample scottish goodies like haggis, hot cider, and mulled mead.  The West end of The Gardens is home to a little German Christmas Market, run by a company from Frankfurt.  There you can try all sorts of German goodies like Käsespätzle (I'm not even going to attempt to explain it- see this video if you're curious), and the all-important Glühwein (mulled wine).

How could I complain about weather when I have this to look at every day?