Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Glasgow or Bust, by Dave Jones

Saturday morning came too quickly. I woke this morning with that sad thought. Betsy and I were unusually quiet as we packed for the last time. I was up earlier than Bets so I dressed and went downstairs to settle the bill before the desk got too busy.
I bumped into Rich I., and learned that we had another meeting planned for 9AM (in the hotel lounge). We finished packing and headed for the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Several from the group were already seated. As we grabbed a table Mike came by to tell us he had an appointment at 8:30A.M. with the documentary film crew. He advised that he wouldn’t be able to travel to Glasgow with us (that morning).
We said our goodbyes, the first of many that day! By 8:50 most of group had gathered in the restaurant, so we held our meeting there. Sheila reminded everyone to be sure to send any radios back with someone who was returning to Kircaldy. Then we figured out who was going with us on the train to Glasgow. It turned out that a majority of the group planned to go. Some of us would stay in Glasgow that night while others would return to Kircaldy for their last night.
We hugged and said goodbye to Chuck and Theresa as they would not be joining us in Glasgow. Our train was scheduled to arrive at 9:50 and we all decided to head for the station about 9:30 so we would have enough time for the walk. Bets and I went back to our room, retrieved our luggage and made our way down to the lobby to wait for the others. I was ready to go and moved outside in front of the hotel. As I pushed through the door I heard the loud cries of a seagull. I looked up and spotted him sitting on the hotel roof. He called out again and I imagined that he was also saying a goodbye.
Soon everyone had filtered out of the hotel and we were ready to go. We had decided to take a shortcut to the station that morning. I was in the lead so I headed around the side of the building towards the back. As I cleared the rear of the hotel I noticed an old graveyard just across the street. I had to fight the impulse to drop the bags and go explore the eerie markers that were placed there over the many years. Our time was short so instead I headed for the shortcut…The Secret Stairs! The Secret Stairs was the name Betsy invented for the path that led from the back of the hotel down to the street that ran behind the hotel. This name was quickly adopted by the group, since the path passed through some heavy brush and a green garden setting. It was not easily seen until you stumbled upon it. As we waited on the platform for our train we learned that Richard R. had “caused” a car wreck just moments earlier. Apparently he had been preparing to leave the curb & cross the street and a car had stopped to let him cross. The car behind failed to notice and bumped into the first car. Reportedly no one was injured and we all got a laugh at Richard’s expense!
The train was on time and we all rushed to get aboard within the allotted 45 seconds the train stopped in Kircaldy. As usual the luggage was the biggest hurdle, but we finally managed to get it all loaded. I was last to board the train, and as I stepped in I noticed the conductor watching (from down the line). He had held the train to make sure we had all made it safely. I smiled and gave him the thumbs up signal. At this point there were about 10 of us and we all grabbed a seat for the 30 minute journey to Edinburgh. Rich and Jason sat across a table from a fellow who noticed Jason’s computer and instantly began asking questions. He said he was employed in the IT profession and wanted to know all about the BrailleNote. Between the two of them they answered all but the most technical questions. He was on a six month paid holiday and was spending the time traveling about Europe. Naturally he was most impressed with the group and how independent they all were. The train was full of people that Saturday morning, but we arrived at the Haymarket Street Station without incident. We again rushed to unload the bags within the allotted time. The route took us to Glasgow through Edinburgh where we had to switch trains.
Unfortunately we had to get from platform #4 over to #1. The station had a raised pedestrian crossway to each platform and there were too many stairs involved! We were forced to pull the luggage up those stairs and then down the other side. This process was a challenge, to say the least. We were pooped by the time we landed on the #1 platform. The good news was that there was a train to Glasgow scheduled every 10 or 15 minutes, so the wait was not long. About that time I heard my name called from across the platform. I turned to see four more of our group just coming down the stairs. They had been separated from us in Kircaldy and we had not noticed! It was like a happy reunion as they joined us. Now we had 14 in our party.
The Glasgow train arrived and was even fuller than the previous one. But the ride would only take 45 minutes. As we arrived at the Queens Street Station I noticed water trickling down the hill next to the tracks. I wonder if our good luck with the weather had finally run out?! This was the end of the line for the train and we all unloaded a little more leisurely. We had planned to locate a paid locker room for our luggage. This would make our sight seeing and shopping much easier to manage. Instead, we were very fortunate to be assisted by some very friendly station attendants. They offered to store our bags in the locked manager’s office until we came back for them later. This was an offer that went way beyond the norm and we were pleased to accept. As we all moved through the ticket gates and into the main lobby of the station I had my first look around. This was a huge building and it was filled with people either just arriving or lining up to board for a different destination. Initially our group was a bit overwhelmed and we huddled together to figure out what to do next. I decided that we needed to locate Jason’s friend Monty, whom we planned to meet at this station. I grabbed Jason and we two headed for the Dundas Street exit. Betsy and Val also broke from the group and headed to the tourist board where they hoped to obtain sightseeing info for Glasgow. Jason and I walked out the exit and into the open air. It was still crowded with people. But I quickly spotted a tall, dark headed young man moving towards the entrance to the station. I instinctively called out to him and he stopped to look towards my unfamiliar voice. Jason and Monty were quickly talking, as old friends do when they had not seen each other in a long time. I left those two and went back inside to retrieve the rest of the group. However, we were forced to say another goodbye. Carl & Elaine, Mark, and Ilona had decided to break away. I was surprised by my own brief emotion as I hugged Elaine. I realized that I had formed a bond with all of these people and didn’t want them to leave. As we made our way out of the station I was pleased to note that the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to pop out from behind the clouds. After a few moments of discussion we decided to follow Monty to the local shopping district. It was only a few blocks over. As we rounded the corner and stepped onto Buchanan street I was again amazed at the number of people moving along on the street. I realized that this was a different world than the malls I was used to back home. This street was lined on both sides with individual shops of all kinds. Almost immediately the girls stopped at Thorton’s, which is a chocolate shop. During our travels this became a favorite stop whenever we were out shopping. And their candies were all very delightful. We made another purchase to make sure we had plenty for our girls back home in KC. Just next door was a Tea and Coffee shop. This too proved to be very popular, and almost everyone from the group bought something here. As we moved along the street we heard a street musician playing a song with his pan flute. We stopped for a moment to enjoy the sounds. Only a few steps further along was a man with an acoustic guitar. More shops and more purchases. Then we noticed a crowd gathering just ahead. As we moved closer we heard a street band and the booming sound of drums. I had Rich in tow and moved us into the crowd so we could see what was going on. To my surprise I found a group of five men playing traditional Scottish music. There was a large open area in the street and these guys were playing music and running around and having way too much fun. Each was dressed in a kilt and other traditional garb. The scene was very exciting and we stayed for a while just to soak up the atmosphere. My stomach was growling and I noticed it was after one o’clock. The group decided that we should try to find a place to stop and eat lunch. Monty said he knew of a good place for our large group, only a short walk away. He led us to the Crystal Palace, a well known spot in Glasgow. We were led upstairs to a second floor dinning room. The room was very large and we easily found a couple tables. The menu had a good variety and Betsy and I soon settled on fish and chips. Our table had a unique number stamped into the surface, and I was directed to place our order at the bar across the room. This bar ran the length of one side of the room, and I noticed an excellent variety of beers on tap. I placed my order and carried a couple of pints back to the table. The food arrived quickly and I enjoyed the meal, which included green peas. I learned that this is a very common side dish when serving fish and chips. I also noticed an odd condiment available at the table called “brown sauce”. My curiosity got the better of me and I just had to try it. It turned out to taste a lot like the Heinz 57 sauce we use on steak back home. Valerie ordered a chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert. She shared a taste with us and it was wonderful! It was tempting to stay here and drink another pint. But, the group grew restless and wanted to move on. On the way out I discovered a small, old fashion style lift (elevator). This one even had the double set of black iron gates we have seen in the movies. Several of us had to try it since it was still working. We stopped just outside the restaurant and I took a picture of the group. Next stop…Woolworth’s. Inside we all recalled these stores from childhood many years ago, before they went out of business in the states. Many were dime stores, ours were known as T,G & Y. It was fun to look around see the deals available. Soon the group was off again. We headed back up the street in the general direction of the station. But, we soon discovered that we had left Richard R. back at the store. Luckily we had a working radio and were able to contact him. I ran back to help him rejoin the group. We walked and shopped some more. It wasn’t long before we all needed a break and Monty knew of a pub that didn’t allow smoking. We soon arrived at the Phoenix Tavern, and again found some inviting chairs in the upstairs section. Betsy and I sat with Richard and Janet. They told us about the plans for their daughter’s wedding next spring. Paul and Kat and Rich I. ordered some Scottish whiskey to sample. Then Richard B.’s cell phone rang and it was Mike calling. He had just finished up with his film crew and was not going to come over to Glasgow (as originally planned). As Richard held up the phone we all yelled “goodbye, and thanks” in unison. Then we raised our glasses to toast to his friendship and leadership. The time had slipped away. We had all planned to have dinner at a local Indian food restaurant. But Richard R. decided that he was ready to head back to Kircaldy. And we all had had enough, so we returned to the station to retrieve our bags. This was the hardest parting for me. As we took turns hugging and shaking hands I felt another wave of emotion sweep through me. This was not like me and I knew I was leaving something special. I was especially sad to part with Richard B. We had shared some great times together and hoisted a few Guinness pints (more commonly known as “black gold”). Jason and Lalena were staying with Monty overnight before taking a train to London. Richard and Janet were headed back home to Edinburgh (pronounced: edin burra). As they all walked away I hoped that we might meet again. The rest of us were taking a Sunday morning flight and had a room reserved near the airport, so we found the exit and headed over to the bus stop. After waiting for twenty minutes we all decided to take a taxi instead. A few minutes later we were headed out in the right direction. Valerie rode with Betsy and I, and our driver was friendly. As we crossed the Clyde River he proudly told us that both the Queen Elizabeth and the QE2 (world famous ocean liners) were built right down there on the docks. We all arrived at the hotel to find a very busy front desk. Turns out we were fortunate to have made a reservation in advance because the hotel was sold out! To make things simple we decided to eat in (at the hotel restaurant) instead of trying to get back out. Now there were only six of us left. We sat around the round table and reminisced. Rich I. wanted each of us to pick a favorite place. We shared this last meal and then turned in for the night. We planned to meet again to catch the 8:30 shuttle over to airport. Turns out that Valerie, Paul, Kathy, and Betsy and I all caught the same flight from Glasgow to Chicago. We arranged to switch seats and were able to sit together as we headed for home. group in Glasgo

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