Breakfast the next morning consisted of cold pasta, which was a whole new experience for me. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t that bad. It was our last chance to get rid of the rest of our food so we powered through our less than conventional breakfast. We managed to see Maya and Malc before we left and we thanked them again for watch our stuff while we were gone. Then we were on our way back to Haymarket Station.
There was still plenty of time before our train left. In fact, there was more than one train we could’ve taken, so while we sat and had a cup of tea in the café on the platform, we deliberated about which would be the best to take. We went back and forth, weighing our options and the benefits, but in the end we decided to stick with our original time. It would work out best for our meeting time with our host, Rhona. She had been kind enough to meet us on her lunch break so we could get into her flat instead of having to kill several hours in Glasgow while she was at work.
We passed most of the time on the train to Glasgow playing cards again, but this time there were no epic battles between spades and clubs. An hour later we alighted the train onto the platform and climbed up to the street level. It took me a moment to orient with the street and my phone once we were outside the station. A few turns and a short walk later we were outside the large department store Rhona had said she’d meet us in front of. On our way, we walked by the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington. As some Tumblr post had promised me, a traffic cone was perched on top of his head. The act of placing a traffic cone on the Duke’s head has been a long-standing tradition, and despite efforts to stop it, the cone remains.
We planted ourselves next to a short stone pillar outside the store and waited for Rhona. I kept up a watch for anyone that remotely resembled the person I could only see half of in the AirB&B picture. In the end Rhona spotted us. She handed over a key and a slip of paper with some directions scribbled on it. She walked us through the steps of which bus to catch and which stop to get off at and was then off to enjoy the rest of her lunch.
The walk to the bus station took us by a bookstore, so we had one thing we knew we’d be doing when we came back into town. We actually stopped in before we went to Rhona’s but that was just because Mom needed to use the bathroom. I have rarely been in a bookstore like it. It had at least three floors, maybe more! I didn’t even see them all. It was insane! There was no way we weren’t coming back.
The bus ride took us out of the heart of the city and into a much quieter suburb. Glasgow has a much different feeling that Edinburgh does. I could feel it as soon as we stepped off the train. Everything is much more industrial and not nearly as cultural and historic. The buildings feel newer and have substantially less personality. The history feels like it started in the Industrial Revolution. But Rhona’s place was far enough away from it all that it felt peaceful again. I didn’t learn this until we were in Berlin, but Glasgow was actually a target for the German’s in World War Two, for the simple reason that it was an industrial center. Edinburgh, for the most part, went unscathed.
We had a bit of trouble actually finding Rhona’s place. We got off at the right stop and turned down the right street and came right down to the street she lived on. But the numbering on the buildings threw us for a loop. I can’t even really explain how anymore. I can’t quite remember why the numbers confused us, it was something like, the numbers in both directions from the first house we saw went up, or one way the numbers went up numerically and the other way they made large jumps, I don’t know. We asked two people if they knew where this mysterious building was, and neither of them were very sure.
Finally we were smart and just walked down the street a bit further and found number 62. No sooner were we inside the building, however, we started fighting with the lock on Rhona’s door. It turned out the door was just a little snug in the frame and took a bit of muscle to push open. Having overcome the last of our obstacles, we shrugged of our bags and relaxed for a bit inside our new accommodations.
It was a nice sized room, big enough for two people to move around in comfortably. The window overlooked the street and park below and the sun cascaded in and spilled onto the floor. We poked around the rest of the flat a bit. It wasn’t big at all but felt the perfect size for one person to live in. The bathroom was tiny and the shower had no curtain to it, which I thought would make for an interesting experience when I showered later that night. The living room was cozy and had lots of personality. There was a large window in here that made the space feel more open and inviting.
After we had regained some momentum, we left the flat and walked back down to the bus stop. We hadn’t had anything to eat since out breakfast of pasta so we were headed to a place called The Flying Duck. It was another restaurant Happy Cow had recommended to us. They hadn’t been wrong yet so why should they be now? They weren’t wrong, but they also weren’t the best about telling you the place was undergoing renovations and that to enter you had to go down some sketchy-looking alley and a stairwell that made you feel like you were walking into a horror film.
No unexpected stabbings took place, however. We ambled into a dimly lit space with an assortment of tables and chairs. The bar was across the room from us and next to a hallway that I think lead to the kitchens. There was only one other person there that I could see. The whole place felt very similar to a 24-hour café that was back home. We crossed the room to the bar and the woman behind it greeted us. Mom asked if they still served vegan food. I imagine she wanted to confirm just because the whole excursion had not gone quite as expected and she wanted to be sure we would be getting what we had been promised.
The woman told us they did indeed have a vegan menu. We each ordered a different kind of veggie burger and a cider from the bar and took a seat. When we had finished eating, we finished our ciders as I flipped through a book of pub trivia, quizzing Mom on biology, movies, and music. When we had exhausted all of the good trivia topics, we left the bar to explore more of Glasgow. We walked to a street a few blocks away from The Flying Duck in hopes of locating a bar that Darren (the waiter) had recommended we visit. He told us they made a knockout cocktail that was definitely worth a try.
I couldn’t get the place to come up on Google and we didn’t see a sign for it anywhere along the street. It was probably for the best we didn’t find it though. The street seemed very high end and posh for us and I’m sure the drink would’ve cost us way more than anyone should ever pay for a drink unless it was served in the Holy Grail or something. When we came to the end of the shopping strip, we turned right and discovered there was some sort of open-air street fair taking place. It looked a bit like our New West Fest that we celebrate back home.
We were just window-shopping, that is until we came to the giant display of fudge. I had never seen so much fudge in my life, and in so many different colors and flavors! They were most definitely not vegan but we had to try a few. It was too tempting a display not to! We picked out four different kinds, a banana and chocolate, one with Bailey’s, orange crunch, and ginger. As we began back down the other side of the street, we came across a French Artesian Bakery stand. We caught a few words of French from the woman helping customers and took the chance to go practice our dismal amount of French and get a baguette. Our last purchase at the fair was something called a Clootie dumpling. We mostly got it because it had the word clootie in it and we had really enjoyed the Clootie Well. If you’re not familiar, a Clootie dumpling is kind of like a fruitcake, only probably better than most fruitcakes.
We came to where we had started, now loaded down with lots of edible goodies. It was still early but we were starting to slow down, so we headed back to the bookstore called Waterstones. Most of the bookstores we had been in up until Blackwell’s and now Waterstones were nothing like my bookstore back home. They dealt exclusively in used books, most of which had been published many years ago. Waterstone’s was all new books, so many of the things I saw I knew I could get back home. Though some books did have slightly different names. Like one, called The Intern’s Handbook in the States was called Kill Your Boss in Scotland. So that was cool.
Anyway, we started off meandering through the many tables that occupied the ground floor. There were so many more shelves here than back home and books I had never seen before. The place was brightly light and explosively colorful. The kids’ section was shelf upon shelf of red, blue, green, purple, and orange spines. There were displays of puzzles and games and mugs and notepads. Mom picked out one that had a Highland cow peeking over the bottom of the page. I was still on a mission to find something else unique to Scotland, something by a Scottish author that I could not easily obtain in the States. I went to ask the clerk behind the counter.
He suggested a few authors I was already familiar with and some that I could get back home. I thanked him for trying and went back to browsing on my own. A short while later, however, he came and found me and told me a girl named Emma had some other suggestions that matched what I was looking for. A girl with brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and who was a few inches shorter than me came over and asked if I was the one looking for Scottish fantasy writers. I said I was and she motioned for me to follow her upstairs.
This is where the fantasy and sci-fi books were. She showed me several different books, all that sounded very interesting, but there were two that really jumped out to me. One was the first book she showed me. She pulled a bright yellow book off the shelf. The cover had a black island city in the middle of the ocean on it with a fading sliver of moon hanging high above it. The title was The Moon King. She explained that the setting of the book was in a fictional city called Glassholm, and that the emotions of the city’s inhabitants were connected with the waxing and waning of the moon. The author was from Glasgow and a small press published the book. Sale number one.
Emma showed me a few others and finished with JD Oswald’s Dreamwalker. It tells the tale of Benfro, the first male dragon to be born in hundreds of years. She needn’t have continued past ‘told from the dragon’s point of view.’ I was going to read it. The book was part of a trilogy, and they had the second one there so I was tempted to pick it up, just in case I couldn’t get it back home. But I didn’t, I was trying to not go completely book crazy. Then guess what I discovered upon my return home? I couldn’t get it! You’d think that you could get a book published by Penguin over a book published by some tiny press but nooo, that would make too much sense. Oh well, if I need to I can order straight from Waterstone’s. In your face, Penguin.
I thanked Emma for her help and then Mom and I left before we bought half of the store. We walked the short distance to the bus stop and headed back to the flat. Rhona was home when we got there. She was in taking a shower so we went into our room and started on our Clootie dumpling. After Rhona finished her shower, she came in and asked us how the rest of our day had gone. We told her about The Flying Duck and the street fair. She wasn’t sure what the fair was for but it wasn’t really important to know.
Rhona offered to make us some tea and of course we couldn’t say no. The three of us stepped across the hall and Mom I stood in the entrance of narrow kitchen while Rhona busied herself making tea and dinner. She filled a frying pan with tomatoes and sausage and noodles while we talked about what she did for a living and how our trip had gone so far. I asked about her cat, which she had mentioned in her AirB&B posting, but sadly Sammy had passed away a few months ago. We offered our sympathies. Mom and I both had cats at home we were missing and also new how hard it was to loose a pet.
With her meal fixed, we all moved into the living room to keep chatting. We admired some of Rhona’s art projects she’d done and then began talking about books, which I always love to do. When Mom and I retired back to our room, Rhona came in a bit later to show me a book she had said she really enjoyed. It was going to be an early morning for us tomorrow. Our flight left just after eight in the morning so we would be leaving the flat in the neighborhood of seven. But I was in need of a shower, so I finally plucked up the courage to go and shower in a shower with no curtain to speak of.
It was an interesting experience to say the least. It was one thing to shower with nothing more than a panel of glass half the length of the tub to shield you but it was another entirely to shower with nothing at all. The feelings of vulnerability and exposedness were overwhelming. I kept watching the door, afraid that Rhona or Mom would, for whatever ridiculous reason, come walking through the door and see me there in all my wet, pale glory. I was staying as close to the wall as I could without touching it and receiving a small jolt if cold down my spine.
I finished my unconventional shower experience without getting too much water on the floor, and without anyone walking in and seeing my bare bottom. I dressed with some difficulty in the cramped space, my clothes sticking to my damp skin and the twisted towel on my head wobbling dangerously. At last, I was clothed and had brushed my teeth. I went back to the room and told Mom it was her turn. Before we both got into bed that night Rhona came in and told us she had gotten our taxi booked. We thanked her again for all her help and hospitality before switching off the light and going to sleep.