Scotland Tour – Day 1

27-April-2013

Gretna Green and Glasgow

The tour for Scotland started from the Star Tours and Travels office in Wembley, which is much near the stadium. My friend’s husband dropped me off after some drama (I forgot to take my backpack from the car and after he left, had to call him back for it…you should not get up at 4 am for a tour..this is what happens, paavam…he drove for almost 40 mins to drop me from Sutton to Wembley). If I had thought that it would be a tour like the previous European one, all my hopes got crushed when I saw that it was an all Indian Tour. Not that I was prejudiced or anything, its just that I liked to mingle with people from different countries when I am on a tour. It was a fully booked tour and guess what only I had an empty seat next to me because I was travelling alone….good for me naa..

We started at around 6.45 am for the long drive to Gretna Green. In between we had two stops where in we had to pickup a few people on the highway. The tour director, a Parsi from Mumbai (who conducts tours for 6 months for Star Tours from March to September) tried to break the ice and get people involved etc. Well I guess all of them were tired because they had to get up early. So there was not much response. The only English person was the driver (I really felt sorry for him, because right from the start most of the conversations were in Hindi).

During the first stop, one guy was almost 10 mins late. So the tour director told us that there will be consequences if we are late next time. And guess what during the 2nd break, I got a minute late and except for one more person everyone was in the bus (The girl in the Costa coffee shop took her own sweet time to make the coffee and I got a minute late). This time he said that we have to do something about the tardiness and that the people who were late should sing a song in the mic (which is kept in the front of the bus). I was like ‘No way’ and continued with my coffee. But God, this guy can be persistent. He would not let me or the other lady who came late after me, rest. And for some unknown reason, I got so frustrated, I said ok and went on to sing a song. Only when I got hold of the mic, I started getting jitters. I know no one from the group and here I am trying to sing a song. First in my life. And after a small intro of myself (which was actually forced out of me) I sang ‘Chura liya hai’ because there were no Tamilians in the group and all of them understood Hindi. Talk of breaking the ice. I never thought I will be that person. But once I sang and came back to my place (amidst cheers and congratulations…which made me feel good though) there were quite a lot of people who were now willing to try their hands in singing. There were two women , actually girls, who sang very well. One of them is a classical singer and her voice was amazing.

After the pickups, we drove straight to Gretna Green for our lunch. If you have read historical romances, you would have heard of Gretna Green one too many times for it is the famous place for eloped marriages. Be it Pride and Prejudice , Lisa Kleypas Romantic novels, everyone goes to Gretna Green if they wanted a quick wedding. And especially in the Blacksmith’s shop. That is where we stopped for our lunch. There was a wedding going on. Nowadays it is famous for normal weddings too. We have this structure depicting the joined hands in a dance form and the marriage takes place beneath the arc with horse shoes in it. You can see the wedding but cannot go near that place. They have cafe’s, shops and everything. It is famous because of the old Scottish laws related to marriage that were different from the English ones. After the lunch, browsing (and buying a magnet for myself) and lot of photos (even that of a Piper who was playing for us) we headed back to our bus at around 2 pm. After we started from the place, the people from the back of the bus shouted that a couple was missing. Great!!! We came back again and parked and the tour director went in for a search. Thankfully he found them somewhere there (its not a big place, but still it would take some time to look around). They misunderstood the return time as after 2 hours instead of 2 pm. Paavam, they were old couple and can’t blame them for the misunderstanding. But what if someone did not notice them.

Then again we started our travel to Glasgow, where we would meet our Scottish Guide who will be with us for the next three days during the trip. We came around 5 pm or so to the central place of Glasgow, where we met our tour guide, A Hungarian cum Scott (who is a private tour guide) and who was very good looking and his accent was not pure Scottish but bordered there. It was nice to hear it. I like hearing different accents  and his accent was cute in a way (not like Sean Connery’s which I adore). Our first stop was the Glasgow Cathedral, which was undergoing renovation on one side, built by Saint Mungo and very near to the famous Infirmary (aka hospital) and the Necropolis (aka Cemetery  and a small Museum. It belongs to the Church of Scotland (different from the Church of English or the Roman Catholic Church or in other words they are Protestants in a way). It was not a very huge church, but it was a old one and you see the interiors almost the same as the catholic churches in Italy. Because in Scotland it was Catholicism earlier, but after the Reformation that happened in Scotland, they changed to Protestants. The guide said that the followers of the Church of Scotland are dwindling in numbers and so many Churches are being abandoned due to lack of funds for maintaining. There is a underground path  (which we did not visit) to the Necropolis on the other side of the road which used to host the burials of rich and the renowned. The hospital (or the infirmary as they call in Scotland) is built near the Cathedral and is the oldest one where experiments were conducted during the discovery of xrays it seems. It has now a new face on the other side which is a modern building but they still have maintained the old one too.

After the visit to the Central Place, we drove around the city seeing the important places and all, like different squares. the tolbooths (i.e the towers), the University of Glasgow and the University of StrathClyde are two big Universities from Glasgow and is well renowned in Scotland (the others are in Edinburgh). We stopped near People’s Palace Museum, where in there we see a fountain, representing 5 countries (including India , depicted by a person in turban and his wife in saree) and was built for the Queen’s Golden Jubliee. This is near the place called Glasgow Green which is nothing but a huge park with some monuments (and is near the river Clyde which flows in Glasgow). After that again we drove around the city (its quite huge). They have two main languages here, English and Gaelic and all street signs are written in both. All the time, the weather was cold, very cold and windy. We were almost frozen due to the cold winds when we got down near the People’s palace. And they say that the summer had arrived in Scotland !!!! We also made a quick stop in the George’s square. After the tour of the city, we ended up in our hotel which was located near the Charring cross underground station. Just across the street was our tour arranged Indian Dinner (which I didn’t want..I wanted something English or Scottish.. even if it is vegetarian 😦 , but well this is sort of included so I didn’t have a chance). That street had 2-3 Indian restaurants. We checked in our hotels and then after a short break , went for our dinner (which was in a very small restaurant..actually all restaurants were small there) . It was the typical North Indian buffet and after the dinner walked back to our room by around 8.30 or so. By that time, the whole place was deserted and was very quite except for the few cars.

I was so tired after sitting in the bus for almost 6-7 hours that I went ahead for a deep sleep coz we were supposed to get up by 6 am the next day.

So far, the Scotland looked pretty cool with the every hour changing weather and the vast vacant lands and long mountain ranges and lot of rivers. And we are still in the lowlands. We still have to go to the Highlands the next day.

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