The Merchant City neighborhood is home to a number of restaurants and pubs. // © 2010 Bethany Weeks
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into Wales’ famous Big Pit.
The thought of being stuck anywhere is unsettling. As someone who was caught up in the aftermath of the volcano eruption in Iceland, I know the feeling. But if anyone asked me how I fared throughout the chaos, I would readily answer them with a thumbs up. This is because I was fortunate enough to be stranded in Glasgow, Scotland, where my dilemma turned into a wonderful opportunity to peruse the city’s gems.
As Scotland’s most populous city, Glasgow has a vibrant and diverse atmosphere — a juxtaposition between the old and the new, where chic coffee shops sit atop cobblestone streets and modern lofts face historic buildings fronted with unmistakable Victorian facades. What’s more, Glasgow is an easy city to tour on foot, making it very accessible.
Food & Drink
One of the best examples of the city’s diversity lies in its eateries, many of which are located in Merchant City, a neighborhood hailed by some as Glasgow’s cultural center. Cafe Gandolfi, located on Albion Street, was a particular favorite of mine. It specializes in fine Scottish cuisine, and every meal is prepared with native ingredients, including a smoked venison plate, sourced from Rannoch Moor in the Scottish Highlands.
Glasgow also has a wonderful pub scene. It includes the Counting House, a former Bank of Scotland that houses a magnificent dome ceiling and ornate furnishings, making it a popular spot for an afternoon or an evening pint; and the Horseshoe Bar, a legend among locals for its relaxed atmosphere.
Savoring food and drink aside, shopping is near the top of must-do activities in the city. Glasgow’s Style Mile is a good place to start. Celebrated avenues such as Buchanan Street, Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street make up just a part of this square-mile district, where exclusive designer boutiques (try Princes Square shopping center on Buchanan Street) compete alongside edgier street retailers.
Style Mile is also home to the two famed Willow Tea Rooms designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Afternoon tea at the Buchanan Street location afforded me the perfect opportunity to people watch in an enchanting, almost magical, setting.
Another borough worth scoping out is the West End, home to the University of Glasgow and a large number of urban cafes, funky boutiques and vintage shops that line popular streets like Byres Road.
Art & Culture
The West End is also home to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Its current exhibit, on display until Sept. 27, showcases the brilliant work of the Glasgow Boys, several Scottish men whose artwork captures various Glasgow scenes.
My favorite display of art, however, was discovered in a local theater. At the West End’s Oran Mor, I saw a hilarious rendition of the film “Casablanca.” A bonus was that it was part of the theater’s regular lunchtime program, called “A Play, A Pie and A Pint.” At 1 p.m. during the spring and fall seasons, guests can enjoy all of the aforementioned goods for a single ticket price.
Such pleasant — and unexpected — experiences await visitors to Glasgow. And although I stumbled upon them thanks to my unplanned layover, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.