After a productive morning’s work I decided that I would take a little jaunt around town, trying out some new and old favourites… an experimental day.
I headed to Babu Bombay Street Kitchen, which is a delightful place full of special Indian street food (and Maaza, a wonderfully pungent mango flavoured drink, which goes down well with dhal and brings back happy memories of India). I got a lovely take away selection, veg dish of the day and dhal of the day, with tamarind carrot and a roti. I also used my Swipii card, which is a new Glasgow card which ‘redefines loyalty’ (you use it every time you go to the places which have signed up, and instead of 20 different cards for 20 different places, everything is stored on your little key fob (or your app on our phone), and it give you things you might actually want like ‘learn hindi words’, cookery lessons, free tea/ coffee and even starring in a film!) I am a sucker for these things, I used to love my student snap fax, but this particular scheme seems both useful and friendly, given that I actually do use quite a few of the places on their list (I’m never going to get my nails done, or buy a comic book, but I do love my Indian food, and supporting local places).
I was taking this to my hard working husband, who was volunteering at the Glasgow Real Ale festival, and what is the best way to go from Blythswood to Briggait? Bike! “But Alison, you didn’t bring your bike in today?” I may hear you say… well, that meant I did not have to cycle up the hill and also meant I could try out the new Glasbikes! I don’t know what they are called, everyone I saw seemed to say a Glasgow Boris Bike, but I had registered for the scheme when I had chatted to the guys at the Glasgow bike show in April, and this was the first time I had got a chance to try one in real life.
I saw 2 people cycling away from the stand in Wellington Street just as I got there, I was worried that there would be none left (but had I glanced at my app beforehand, I would have known the number of bikes available, no need to stress about that). After an initial fumble with the lock it was easy enough, all you do is hold your card against the reader (or use the app on your phone to scan the bike’s QR code), it then gives you the number to unlock the bike lock and away you go!
I am not used to 3 gear bikes, my own bike is a comfort hybrid with 15 gears, which I love to bits even though it is a little heavy. These bikes are quite light and go with ease, the seats are easy to adjust if you need to, and they come with a stand (I have never got round to putting one on my own bike, so it was kind of a novelty for me when I stopped to be able to use that). I was off to the Briggait which is pretty easy to get to from Wellington Street, so only a little ride to test it, but great fun. It was only when I reached a more busy area that I realised that I did not have a helmet. A mixture of panic and ‘oh, how European I am’ flew through my mind (I have been attuned to too many ‘bike helmet saved my life’ type articles on TV, yet have also spent time in cities like Ghent or Amsterdam where cycling is totally normal and everyone rides without a helmet). I did feel like a tourist in my own town…especially as the bike bell and gears were so different from my own (turning wheel bike bell, and gears like I imagine are on a motorbike).
The bikes are quite new to the city, I actually felt like a little bit of a tourist attraction myself as when I was stopped at traffic lights I could hear people going “oh, there’s one of they new bikes” (sic), someone even took a photo of me at the lights. Weird!
At the Briggait my lunch was warmly received; if you have free time this weekend, do go and visit Glasgow’s first real ale festival in 18 years, it is a dramatic architectural setting and a great range of beers, ciders and perry (soft drinks and food are also available). It is called the giraffe (pronounced Gee-Raff, given the initials Glasgow Real Ale Festival– G: RAF). The general verdict of the bikes ranged from curiosity to ‘yes I have signed up’.. several folk were quite fascinated by the concept of Glasgow’s latest form of transportation, and a few volunteers had even travelled in on the bikes earlier that day. The fact that the basket did not move when you turned the wheel also seemed to be a source of amusement.
I sipped my Maaza and enjoyed my meal and lots of chat.. then headed to Queen Street to drop off my bike (same check out process, with the opportunity to leave a comment, should you wish).
After a whole 5 minutes of cycling I of course deserved a little refreshment (well, it was more to fuel my afternoon’s work actually, but I thought I would go to Tempo Tea Bar, another Swipii place, and try the seasonal special Copacababa- a mango and passion fruit tea with mango bubbles. mmmmmango!).
Happy holidays! I loved the umbrella touch. Back to work now… happily sipping a piece of tropical drink, after a nice few hours of tourism in my own town.
architectural cycling sightseeing!
Day 27 of day 30, a day of cycling sightseeing combining art, architecture, digital photos and cycling. I went to see the Glasgow architectural masterpiece which is Scotland Street School. This is a wonderful and free tourist attraction, easily accessible from the city centre via cycle routes from Bells Bridge, and also subway (it is opposite Shields Road station). It is not your ordinary school, it was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is fitted as a museum with class room s from various periods (Victorian to 1960’s).
There are wonderful architectural details, typical of Mackintosh, with nature inspired motifs, vibrant colours and Locharbriggs red sandstone.
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So, when I was in Bristol I commented on how much I liked my “bike experience” there, and a few people (James Corner and Calmgrove, do check out their blogs) mentioned I should seek out the cycle map. I do indeed rather like it, a 3D view of all of the major cycle routes.
The map is located by the new square, which contains @Bristol and the planetarium; it made me think about the big distances which my family have moved over time, something I am considering for my art project. How did they get where they were going and why did they go there? Where have your family moved to or from? Do you have any exciting genealogical adventures to share?
My bike needs to get out, it is feeling sad attached to the railings where I am staying! I have been walking everywhere here.
After only just finding out about these, and mentioning them earlier today, look what I got in my change today when I went to St Nicholas’ Market 🙂 Aren’t they fabulous?
Today I went to three museums… the Architecture Centre (well, I would, wouldn’t I.. the planner and conservation-ist in me can’t help it!), Arnolfini and M-Shed. I also wandered along the river and took lots of photographs.
At The Architecture Centre they have an ever changing programme of events and exhibitions, sited in a harbourside building. The current exhibition focuses on what the future of the city could look like, and invites lots and lots of post it note contributions to add ideas to the city map. There are showcases of successful environmental schemes and projects, I was amused and intrigued to see “The Bristol pound”, first of all it looks really aesthetically pleasing, but secondly it is run on the basis of community good and helps support local businesses. Great idea! A small display on “Bristol Opening Doors” was really interesting as it invited people to contribute stories and “favourite buildings”, and also showcased a new app which is a walking trail (available on www.bristolopeningdoors.org ). I enjoyed the illustrations and design of this, and of course the wonderful buildings! I am starting to recognise more and more of the streetscape and landmarks here, and this will help discover more. Chatting briefly to the friendly staff there I also was given a flyer for a website called “Know Your Place: Learning and Sharing Information about Historic Bristol”, run by English Heritage and Bristol City Council. I am looking forward to exploring this properly, as yesterday (on my visit to the City Art Gallery and Museum) I was fascinated with the historic maps… this site lets you overlay and integrate different maps from various eras. Oooh! Just what I am after, as I can spot the places where my ancestors lived. Ideal for “Are You Here” research!
This was my first visit to Arnolfini, I have walked past it many times but always en route to somewhere else or whizzing past on my bike. I enjoyed the Susanne Kriemann’s Modelling (Construction School) exhibition, it brings a little of an “art- planning- environment” discussion into a contemporary art environment. The photographs of quarries were quite spectacular, many of the works are designed to provoke discussion on archives, and also problem solving in design education.
M-Shed could keep me amused for hours, it is full of all sorts of historical bits and pieces, I really did get lost in history. Interestingly for me, there was a whole section on Bristol people and families, saying “it’s important to know where you’ve come from so that you know where you’re going”… the question was posed “why did you leave?”.
In the case of my family I suspect it was for work as it would have to be a fairly major reason such as this to move to the opposite end of the country. There are themed galleries at M-Shed, Bristol people, Bristol life, Bristol places (and a special exhibition, currently on chocolate!), all of them have real objects to explore, some thought provoking interactive displays (I loved the one on “what makes a Bristolian”.. very funny mixtures of answers come out of that!), video and multimedia and also lots of transport to explore. No “please keep off” signs here. I am even starting to recognise the different Bristol districts, having passed through them by bike or bus at various points of my several visits over the years, it is nice to recognise things in a “technically not home” city! M-shed cafe is worth a visit, local produce, family friendly, vegan friendly and lovely views.
Oh, and did I mention the view from the roof terrace….
Cycling is so much fun in Bristol, even despite some of the crazy hills! It is seen to be the norm here, it is not unusual and as I said in a previous post I feel like a proper Bristolian now I’m on my bike and exploring the city. Someone even asked me for directions yesterday, I must look like a local now 🙂
Some of the many reasons why cycling here is so much fun:
- there are cycle lanes on most roads
- traffic lights have a “cycle” light as well
- the provision of cycle racks is plentiful (and they are all well used, sometimes you have to go elsewhere to find one, which could be annoying but as a visitor it actually lifts my heart)
- dropped kerbs are everywhere, useful not just for cyclists but for those with limited mobility and with push chairs; less obstacles to overcome
- shared bike and pedestrian routes seem to be the norm and are well signposted
- there is a bike culture (there is a bike cafe, I have seen numerous bike shops and repair centres and even specialist shops)
- people use bikes for everything.. yesterday I saw someone who appeared to be moving house from the level of what they were carrying (full panniers, guitar on back, basket on front, bag over handlebars), and also someone who appeared to be making some sort of protest carrying a billboard on their back making a comment about something (they whizzed past me so quickly I did not actually get to see what they were about!)
- the provision of cycle tracks and traffic free paths is extensive
- there are cycle events (I saw bike tag yesterday and there is a “biggest bike ride” planned in June, which has been running for 20 years)
- even pop up events have cycle parking (or so it seemed in Queens Square, where there is a food and drink event in huge tents)
- cyclists are friendly and smiley people here and people of all ages and backgrounds are out and about with friends and family
- Sustrans HQ is here (an added “nice little sustainable transportation fact”)
“Bring bring”.. my bike bell toots with joy.
I think it is time to go off on some cycling explorations, camera and sketchbook in pannier 🙂
I took these photos in Bristol and London, I am not entirely sure what the wrapped bike is for (perhaps an advert) but now that the sun is ever so slightly peeking over the horizon it’s definitely time to metaphorically unwrap it and get back on my bike on a more regular basis. I love it in Bristol as there are so many cyclists, it is a great way to see the city and I feel like a proper Bristolian when I am out on my bike.
In this year’s Edinburgh brochure there were little bikes… inviting us to explore a building by following the extensive network of traffic free paths in the City. A relatively new initiative by those who are passionate about cycling in Edinburgh has resulted in the “Innertube map”, which highlights all the traffic free routes in and around the city, as well as links to other Sustrans national cycle paths. It looks a little like the London tube map, and can be downloaded from the Bike Station website. I used the paper version, with the Spokes map of the city to plan out a potential route. It’s hard planning routes in a city whose geography with which you are not all that familiar; the combination of these two maps, an Edinburgh A to Z and the Doors Open brochure made it a little easier, however. First stop was AiA- how could we ignore a building which was reporting to be one of the oldest buildings in Granton, and combined two of my favourite things, art and architecture? The journey from Haymarket station was wonderful. A quick stop en route at the smartest supermarket ever, Margiotta, whose ceiling has to be seen to be believed (check out the cornice, and the plaster faces.. 38 Haymarket Terrace, trust me, a visual feast to go with the sustenance with a smile) was needed for some in journey snacks. We got into the Innertube network by the red route (Balbirnie Place), then “changing” at Fiveways for the Trinity path. I had been on some of this route a few weeks earlier for Pedal for Scotland and it was nice to re-experience these ex-railway paths which criss-cross the Lothian landscape; they are so well maintained, flat and landscaped that I would challenge anyone not to develop a wholehearted love for cycling after being out and about for a short while on them. We also got to go through a tunnel on the way, what excitement!
At the end of the yellow path one is treated to a fabulous view out to sea, a dramatic full stop to the landscape of the Innertube.
At AiA we learnt the story of Granton Harbour, saw some beautiful artwork and some photographs of urban spaces in the city as well as Granton Improvement Society plans for the area. They were playing the Chariot’s of Fire themetune when we walked up the stairs, it really was quite difficult not to do some sporting themed slow running along with this (this year’s Doors Open programme had a sports theme). Newhaven station was a short trip along the shore and up Craighall Road. This is a community project to renovate the last remaining Caledonian Railway building on the Leith branch line.. here on Google maps you can see a “before” picture, today the station is being converted into a community space for small businesses. The sign made me think of what a beautiful place to work it would be if you were looking for a small office; I am a fan of found poetry.
I really liked what they had done with one of the entrance doors, a nod to the old ticket purchasing through the window.
Lothian bus depot was a short cycle away; not technically on the Innertube but a short hop away via St. Mark’s Park and up Macdonald Road. Ever been through a bus wash? Thought not! This was but one of the things you could do at the depot; sitting in the driving seat, testing your braking skills and having a nosey at the new super environmentally friendly hybrid buses were also on offer. As a bonus, the building itself has some interesting features. We also got some free fairtrade peanut butter, recycled notepad and pen, fairtrade teabags (branded with “route 10” bus) and a bookmark.. all to celebrate the green buses, an unexpected marketing treat.
It is not too far from the depot to the Botanic gardens, again via a short section of Innertube once we got back to the park, and given the fantastic sunny weather a bit of outside greenery seemed an ideal option. The Chinese gardens in the Botanics have a huge selection of plants, and a lovely pagoda structure complete with dragons and eternal knots.
Our final open door of the saturday was the James Muir building. Tom the thoroughly knowledgeable engineer gave us information about the materials used within and outwith the building, with a particular emphasis on timber products. It was very grand designs; “glu-lam” sounded like something Kevin McCloud would talk about, but also the visual effect of the natural materials, sustainable energy features and beautiful decoration was quite stunning. I think I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
Edinburgh’s cycle population is booming, in our day we saw…
- one tandem
- at least three “tag along” adult bikes which have the large adult bike at the front then a smaller child’s bike at the back
- one super adaptable “compost on the back, full panniers on the front, fully laden” bike
- a family bike which combined a seated trailer for one child, padded seats with a pannier for luggage and a passenger on top and the adult bike at the front
- a dog basket bike (complete with a rather contented bichon frise)
Take your bike on the train and head for Edinburgh.. go and join them. Concluding our day back at Haymaket we ate at a nearby Edinburgh institution, Chop Chop in Morrison Street.. award winning for a reason with beautiful chilli-tofu balance and super friendly staff, very much to be recommended, “can a billion people be wrong?” they say on their restaurant shop front which ordinarily would be a bold claim but we thoroughly enjoyed it as a pleasant and spicy end to our energetic architectural day.
Day two was another train trip, if you book in advance sometimes there are discounted bus tickets with Megabus and Citylink but we had left it until the day so a wee ScotRail day out seemed appealing. Interestingly, if there are 3 or more people, you can get group save tickets on the train which gives you a good deal (even on the day), great value. First stop of day two was the category A listed Beaux-Arts Edinburgh College of Art. As well as the fabulous marble casts, an Anish Kapoor exhibition was in situ, the “Flashback” works. Watching the wax gradually erode away was rather mesmerising. ECA listings note that this is the first time it has been displayed in the UK. Bonus! I did not expect to see an international art exclusive as part of Doors Open Day.
The vaults in South Niddry Street were superbly popular; we had to queue for a while and there was also a rapidly developing line of people behind us, for it was such an unusual attraction. This is a first for me, I don’t think I have ever had to queue to get a place on a Doors Open event before. The spooky ambience created by the guides was very entertaining, at times we could barely see and the grizzly tales of what might have gone on in the arches under South bridge were adding to the atmosphere. The candles which flickered on the walls coupled with the occasional slime green lights gave the impression that former “residents” were still very much about.
Part of the vaults is actually part of a public house called the Rowantree which holds concerts, meals and even weddings.. fortunately in a slightly less spooky area of the building. It is well worth a look, I imagine the acoustics are rather dramatic and it’s not exactly your everyday bar. On the Royal Mile it was particularly noticeable that Jungle City was taking over; dotted around the city are elephants, tigers, orangutans, crocodiles and hornbills to raise awareness of endangered species. I had previously seen “Wow Gorillas!” at Bristol and remember the cow parade in Edinburgh (Superlambanana in Liverpool was particularly good too; yes I am a public art geek at heart). A particularly inviting green furry elephant called “padma” sat outside the alleyway leading to the Cockburn Association, smiling at the passers by. The Cockburn Association help co-ordinate and run events for Doors Open Day in Edinburgh so it was nice to go and say hello. Their garden is a particularly lovely space, it has a rather zen like circular space (good for circular perambulations, deep in contemplation), quite an oasis compared to the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile. The offices were once Moubray House vaults, the brochure noted that they were converted in 1990 and also were once used as air raid shelters.. now they form a beautiful space for the Association to go about their work in heritage and conservation projects.
A converted swimming pool is now the home of Dovecot studios; a weaving and tapestry centre. There was a spectacular sculpture made from weaving and embroidery threads moving its way up the stairs, drawing you in to the viewing gallery. It reminded me of Govanhill baths a little (though no famous curved concrete beams here), the sense of space was enhanced by the light colour scheme and the wooden floors, it must be such a busy space when in use. This building was the first baths open to the Edinburgh public, its new life as a studio attracts local people in through the cafe and exhibition areas, also offering office space to businesses. There are even some flats in the building, and more jungle city inhabitants keeping us company.
Glancing at our booklet, we had hoped to go to the Old College buildings and the Talbot Rice Gallery next, but when we got there unfortunately they were closed, but there were some very busy people working away on the hard landscaping. Off on a wander in the South of the city it was too late in the day to visit the Royal College of Surgeons but we did admire their beautiful palmette gates and the personalised lampposts.
Studio Dub architects had opened their home (and workplace) for all to see at West Cross Causeway. There were images of the former printworks building (once owned by the University of Edinburgh), and a showcase of some of their projects. Rows of inspiring architectural magazines, and some quirky colour choices set off the design rather nicely (especially with the Beetle car outside, a finishing touch to a creative persona). Their work seemed very inspiring, for it also encompassed some rather imaginative buildings, urban design, ecological technology, regeneration, masterplanning… quite a long list for one office! Upstairs, a metal spiral stair led to flat 2, a light and airy space with some rather fine views
The last stop on out tour was the Scotsman Steps, featuring 104 marbles from around the world and leading down to Waverley station. There is a video and news report of them opening on the BBC Scotland website which shows what they used to look like. They are now a light and airy space, with lovely views through the gates to illuminated Princes Street buildings. Quite an end to a whirlwind tour of ten buildings by bike, bus, train and tired feet!
A short blog entry on the joys of mixing a love of cycling with a love of buildings… all in the name of a good cause.
Yesterday I cycled from Glasgow to Edinburgh. All 48 miles! I have never cycled that far but it was a fantastic experience. Pedal for Scotland… pedal for Maggies.. pedal for the challenge… pedal for a picnic in Linlithgow Palace grounds.. pedal for a nosy round Murrayfield pitch. The ups and downs of the journey were amazing (hills wise, more downs than ups I think.. and I enjoyed the emotional “ups” of the sights and sounds along the way).
Throughout the day I had many “ooh” moments as the landscape and buildings changed en route, there were some great views. Dennistoun red sandstone tenements turned a beautiful shade in the mixture of sun and rain. In Drumpelier we shared the route with some lakeside ducks, and small dogs who seemed intent on keeping up on the way to the feed station (feed station, I learnt, is sport event speak for “where you get nourishing food and drink”). I was almost disbelieving of the Falkirk Council sign, it seemed too early to have crossed that many Council boundaries. The Loch near here was rather lovely, it stretched out for some way lapping its way along the road. In West Lothian it was good to cycle under the viaduct which I had previously only seen from the train or from the motorway, spectacular towering arches of sandstone. The streets of Linlithgow are also a beautiful sight, a feast for architecture fans, whilst shortly after this, the picnic in the park by the Loch with a view of the palace was stunning. You couldn’t invent a better spot for a rest for weary legs.
I had never been so excited to see an Edinburgh bus stop in my life when I got to Kirkliston. Shared my excitement with some nearby participants who also shared my enthusiasm… hoorah we are officially on the other side of the country! The latter part of the route was also fully traffic free as the Edinburgh bound route was solely belonging to cyclists for this day only, then we joined one of the national cycle routes.
The sense of community and fun all along the route was great; the local church did a home baking stall in Avonbridge, small children gathered at various points on the cycle path to shout encouraging things and at Murrayfield many people joined to cheer peoples success in arriving. Even though I had read my Pedal for Scotland ride guide, I think the fact that I was going to ride through Murrayfield had slightly bypassed me. I’m not exactly a sports aficionado, but it was really exciting to go through the big gates and arrive in the middle of the stadium!
For more information on the route, or to register for next year go to http://www.pedalforscotland.org/ and to help Maggies go http://www.maggiescentres.org. They help so many people, and have amazing buildings too!
I went to the East End of Glasgow to have an explore of that famous place which is “the barras”. For those unfamiliar with this, watch the video and you will see what I mean!
Previous to this visit I did not know about B.A.A.D, I saw a little hand painted cardboard sign up an alleyway and pondered what could be behind it. BAAD is “Barras Art and Design” an amazing place with a pink roof and cast iron columns, a beautiful airy and light space which screams “draw me!”. What a lovely find. Do look them up; http://barrasartanddesign.com/; 54 Calton Entry. I enjoyed listening to Tragic O’Hara and soaking up the atmosphere. Drank Irn Bru and a lovely espresso and chatted to Marie Hay who has a stall there. Her work is beautiful, I bought a print of Paisley Abbey which has such vivid colours and free flowing lines, Paisley has fantastic buildings, well worth a visit.
I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed looking around the antique markets; such treasures to be seen (and bookshelves falling over with the weight of their volumes). Sweetshops which remind you of childhood penny mix ups. Signs which profess to mend anything and find you parts for the most obscure item. A treasure.
The Glasgow Bike Shed is another gem, they are an environmental charity, run by volunteers, who offer reconditioned bikes for sale and also space to mend your own bike. I bought a new (to me) ring ring retro bell, in preparation for my Pedal for Scotland run.. only a few weeks to go so a little present to my bike seemed in order. Glasgow to Edinburgh… here I come!
On the way back into town paused to look at the beautiful buildings in Gallowgate, there are some beautiful sandstone tenements such as the Meillor building. The City Council has recently produced a heritage trail about this area, which is fascinating reading.
The Merchant City area of Glasgow is a short walk from the Barras, here I found another art and craft market in Merchant Square. Met Adrian McMurchie and bought a print, it was so nice to see a selection of his work in one place as I am used to seeing it in the Sunday Herald next to the Food Reviews. I really enjoy his work as I think it captures the spirit of a place so well. Decided to sketch one of the buildings in Bell Street, along from Candleriggs, as its curved window was calling to me.
I posted a video on Vimeo of the day, I would highly recommend that you go and explore the Barras and Merchant City yourself and I hope you enjoy my wee slice of the day. I’m learning to use I-Movie, it is a little flickery in parts, if anyone knows how to prevent this please let me know, but I still enjoyed the result and wanted to share it.
Sketching and exploring the architecture and art of the East End and Merchant City of Glasgow.