Saturday morning we don’t miss breakfast, and once again prepare to lug the luggage. We speak to Adam, our host at the Guesthouse, of bus schedules and routes, then make our way to the main drag to wait for one of these behemoth double-deckers to take us up to Princes Street, where we will descend the Waverly Steps to yet another train.
As we walk along Princes Street, having the spectacular north side view of Castle Rock and the steep green park at its feet on this side, I feel a loss and breathe deeply the sweet air of the city on a sunny brisk morning. I am not ready to leave, but leave we must, as we’ve made plans. (Without realizing it at the time, I think I was already feeling a slight resentment towards poor Glasgow, for taking us away from this fairy-story city too soon.)
A swift train ride (just under an hour) and we step out upon the pedestrian mall on Souchiehall Street (that’s pronounced sookee-all, folks). As the mall is very crowded (Saturday afternoon, and sunny), we divert a few blocks then head in the general direction of our hotel. The walk is long, and my neck had got a crook in it even before our hippie-crawl day, and the lugging has worsened it, (not to mention having left Edinburgh behind!) so I’m feeling pained and I whine at poor, patient Anders all the way. Our route takes us through industrialized and architecturally communist-minded areas of the city, so this inevitably becomes the “March of the Uglies”.
We finally arrive at the lovely crescent in which our hotel is situated and land in our new home. It is the best room yet; complete with phone and telly; it is neither cramped nor up too many flights of steps, and has a really lovely view out upon the crescent. Glasgow is in phase one of redemption after our dread march. Incidentally, we realize our crescent is just off Souchiehall Street, and had we simply stuck on the mall, we’d have had a shorter and much lovelier walk. But here again I will remind the reader of that phenomenon known as contrast. That horrible grey march proved important for two reasons: (1) it made the remainder of our time in this modern city that much sweeter and (2) it set in my head the notion of a return to Edinburgh…
Later on, after a lunch upstairs at the very crowded White Horse Tavern downtown (for example: you are directed to any available seats, as opposed to the next empty table– we had two different sets of companions at lunch)- started with a brilliant homemade vegetable soup, and thank god, for the mains were rather soggy and bland. No matter! A new city awaits! We head out and find a little rock-n-roll pub called Rufus T. Firefly. It is half-filled with weirdos of a familiar ilk, and we nab a table for some relaxing post-lunch pints amid familiar music. The books come out; post cards on Anders part (I lost all verve for postcards about halfway through Edinburgh days- was more interested in writing keepers in my book.) It is in Firefly that I put on the table (not whining this time!) the notion of canceling one of our London days in favor of a bonus day in lovely Edinburgh. I remind Anders that we didn’t get a chance to walk the Water of Leith; I remind him we’ll still have three full days in London, as our flight home (:: shudder even thinking on it! ::) is not until 8:00 pm on the 20th… Anders says he will mull a bit and get back to me later.
Back to the pedestrian mall; a leisurely stroll mid-afternoon, checking out the scene, the shops. Anders steers us into a lovely place known as “Lush,” makers of subtle-smelling organic cosmetics; as we browse, test, and inhale deeply, we choose a few products with which to pamper ourselves and, upon stepping back out into the busy street, realize we’ve just had a much-needed sanctuary moment, and we feel indulgent and happy.
When we return to our room, Anders consults his itinerary for a few minutes, and then agrees that, yes, we shall have one more day in our “brown Prague”.” Yay!! I call Adam, who of course remembers us (it’s only been a few hours, remember-) and of course has a room for our additional night. I then call Palace Court in London to change our plans. It is sketchy, but I inform Anders that if they do charge us for all three nights in London after all, it will be on me- a birthday present to myself- one more day in Edinburgh. Having sorted that, we indulge in one of our few “disco naps” of the trip. An hour only (i was completely unable to sleep, but it was refreshing to simply lie there nonetheless), followed by a “rally” before dinner. Anders has invented a drink called “Jack the Ripper”, in honor of stabbing our brains and -more importantly on such a trip- our tired bodies (my neck!)- It is one-third whiskey to two-thirds Red Bull, and quite tasty once one is accustomed to the sweetness and bizarre tang of it. It WAKES YOU UP! RALLY FOR SATURDAY NIGHT ON THE TOWN! Like that.
We head out.
Right in our own lovely off-the-map neighborhood (we are Further-Afield Agents– more on this later) we find a lovely restaurant-style pub (which i alluded to in the ramblings regarding day one, London) known as The Goat (though for some reason it stuck in my head as The Duck). Exceptional light and tasty fare and amazing cheeses, properly served up with apples as well as crackers. We sat on the balcony level and enjoyed the music, the low-light and candle glow of the place. Glasgow: still headstrong in her designs to redeem our initial misgivings. Following dinner we nip into the Ben Nevis; a brilliantly designed pub of an archaic modern style, with great high shelves of a million single-malts, lit up and casting an orange glow to contrast the stony parts of this singular interior. A modern city indeed, but in such a different way than the word normally calls to mind.
Post-Nevis, we wander in search of *Saturday Night*. We head back down Souchiehall to test the Nice n- SLeazy, a rock pub in the tradition of our old East Village. It is packed and smoky; too brightly lit to recall any East Village haunt I’ve ever attended (save after-hours at diners), and filled with twenty-something duplicates of all our former New-York-in-late-80s selves. Well, we came, we saw- time to move on. (A bit disturbing, really. You just can’t go back- speaking on former times, other days. Wise not to try.)
Off the pedestrian mall, down a street whose name I didn’t even read, and we are suddenly being drawn into a pub by a very enthusiastic man whom we both assume works at the place into which he invites us. But no, he is one of the karaoke-ers inside, and apparently was simply looking to increase the breadth of his audience! Here was a lively crowd, and diverse. Anders did a fine job belting a tune (Drops of Jupiter, by Train, which was apparently one of the karaoke DJ’s usual tunes, so he became a bit of a petty tyrant for the remainder of the night-). We talked of our travels with our “host” Pat who’d lured us (who also bought us each a full round- pint and a whiskey for each- he was duly impressed that I wasn’t doing half-and halfs!), as well as a couple of youngsters, Charlene and Mark, whom we invited back to our room for an after-hours whiskey and more talking. A long and whiskey-soaked night. Welcome to Glasgow.