Sunday, 6 December 2009

Glasgow in Lights

I've been living my life in Glasgow for the past few months, yet have neglected to relay any of it on here. Very naughty of me. I will now vow to update this more often, which will be challenging whilst writing a dissertation, yet I have made the vow...

This seems a pretty perfect time to resume this blog, given that Glasgow is now buzzing with activity as the Christmas countdown begins. George Square is once again glittering with Christmas lights and the whole of the city seems to be under the magical Christmas spell. I love this time of year in Glasgow. George Square is arguably the place to be if you want to be filled with Christmas spirit, and I'm not just taking about mulled wine. What could be more Christmassy than holding hands with your best friends as you try to stable each other on the ice rink, or cuddling up with a loved one in the carousel as it spins you round and round and reminds you of those happy days of your childhood? Where else would a 30 minute queue to visit Santa not bother you at all, because the smile on a child's face as he leaves the Grotto makes it all worth it? How better to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas than being there for the blessing of the crib and admiring the beautiful Nativity scene encased in glass? There is plenty of cheap, mass produced and tacky merchandise around at this time of year, but visiting a place like George Square, where you are surrounded by people who share your desire for festive cheer, allows you to forget the mountain of work on your desk and just be a child again. There's no doubt the magic of Christmas does dwindle somewhat the older you get, but it's places like this that permit you that brief nostalgic moment.

Some may argue that this extravagant and 'glitzy' display distracts from the true meaning of Christmas Maybe it does a little, but as a Catholic myself I have to say that the glittering lights and festive atmosphere creates a happiness that is very much needed at this time of year, particularly as so many people are suffering financial hardship and employment uncertainty. I genuinely think people are thinking more about the true meaning of Christmas this year. Of course, not everyone is focusing on this being the season of Advent leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ, but people are realising what is truly important to them; family, friends, happiness. I'm sure that the feeling that many of the children have when they meet Santa in his Grotto will stay with them far longer than the must have toy they unwrap on Christmas morning. The memory of your friends giggling as you fall bum first on the ice will still remain long after you have eaten the chocolates and drunk the wine you received from your 'Secret Santa'. Christmas isn't just about the glitter and the tinsel and it isn't just about Jesus (my priest may choke on his tea at that), not in 2009. Christmas 2009, for me, is about spending time with those you love, really thinking about what you have and appreciating it and having a little fun for a change. This December, I'll be spending more time in George Square and less time surrounded by books and a computer, making memories to last me a lifetime and sharing the Christmas spirit with everyone I can.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Summer Eating in Glasgow

When the sun is blazing in the sky and a heatwave is sweeping the city, what do we Glaswegians do... venture outside of course. Sunshine and rising mercury is not a common occurrence in Glasgow, especially in July. Our summers of late have been dampened by heavy rainfalls and temperatures barely staying in double figures, with umbrellas and Macs outselling bikinis. Therefore, when we wake up to glorious sunshine and can feel its heat penetrating our window pane, our immediate reaction is to hunt down those short skirts and vest tops that are hidden away in the backs of wardrobes, dig out the sunglasses and head out into the sun, where we will lay all day in the hope that our ghostly white legs will darken to appear almost normal, at best, tanned.

A heatwave in Glasgow is a strange phenomenon to witness, mostly due to the fact the population of the city appears to double almost instantly. Cafes, bars and restaurants are bustling with activity, especially in those 'cosmopolitan' areas such as Merchant City, Royal Exchange Sq, Ashton Lane, as well as any eaterie which conveniently hosts an outdoor terrace or beer garden. Parks and green spaces are filled with a sea of multi-coloured excitement, with children playing games among groups of teenage girls in matching bikini tops topping up their tans, and old couples resting on park benches, with an obligatory handkerchief or newspaper protecting their heads from the sun. Ice-cream vans happily sing out their chimes, tempting the young and old to sample their frozen delights and cool off in the sun; a 99'er being the most popular choice by far.

The sunshine it seems, brightens up more than the sky on days like this. Everyone appears happier and everyday woes are cast aside to make way for enjoyment and fun. Throughout this week I myself have part of this strange phenomenon. I have been thankful that my summer job allows me to finish at lunchtime, giving me the rest of the day to bask in the glorious sunshine. The sun I've discovered, makes you do very strange things indeed. The past week has seen me transform from an indoor, book reading and I hate to say it, boring 22 year old, into an outdoor social animal who has developed a sudden love for eating out in the city. Don't get me wrong, I have always enjoyed the occasional nice meal out with friends, but this week has seen me dine out EVERY NIGHT. This is an almost alien concept to me, as someone who typically needs a week to recover from such an event. However, this week I have sampled the delicacies of several establishments in this fine city and am very glad to have done so.

My first venture was to a hidden gem within the city, tucked down a little lane off Buchanan St, and alas aptly named. 'The Chippy Doon the Lane' was a delightful little surprise on a Monday afternoon. A lunch date with the uni girls called for somewhere different and fun, a change from our usual Wetherspoons or Yates pub chain lunches. I must admit, the thought of visiting a 'chippy' for an afternoon catch up with friends was not what I had in mind, but a good friend's insistence that this place was 'something else' intrigued me enough to give it a bash. Not being a lover of greasy chips or battered fish, I was apprehensive at the selection that would be on offer here, and so was pleasantly surprised when I saw the menu.

After much deliberation I opted for the Cajun Spiced Salmon Fillet with Garlic Butter and Lemon with a side salad, priced at a very respectable £6.45, while friends unanimously chose the Haddock Supper, again well priced at £7.95. We sat on the outdoor terrace nursing our cold drinks as we waited patiently for our meals to arrive. The sight and smell of other diners receiving their orders only increased the girls' hunger and it was smiles all round when their suppers finally arrived, encased in cardboard newpaper-esque parcels for that 'authentic' chippy feel. We spent a lovely afternoon on the terrace enjoying our beautifully cooked cuisine and catching up with each other. The girls thoroughly recommend a fish tea and apparently the home made tartar sauce is to die for... I'll leave it for you to decide. All I can say if the food is exquisite, atmosphere relaxed and intimate and the staff are very helpful. On this particular day they were short staffed and two poor girls were rushed off their feet, however, they didn't charge us for any of our drinks as we had to wait so long for our meals. Gold stars for service, food and decor however we all felt the desert menu was rather disappointing, offering only three choices. Perhaps something to look into in the future, but I would still urge anyone who is in Glasgow for the day to venture off 'doon the lane' for some lunch or a little super, you won't be disappointed.

With the girls feeling a little hard done by at not rounding off the day with a sinful desert, we decided to head to Di Maggio's in Royal Exchange Sq for a more generous desert menu. Not being one for indulgence after an already filling meal, I grudgingly sat down at the outdoor table to peruse over a menu. We finally ordered a selection of deserts including some Toffee Crunch Eggstravaganza, Crusty Apple Pies, Chocolate Fudge Cakes, the amazing Caramel Shortcake Sundae and I myself chose a Raspberry Cheesecake. As we waited in the sun for our deserts to arrive we noticed Elaine C Smith at the table next to us, tucking into a very delicious looking meal. My friends were suitably starstruck at sitting next to this Scottish Celeb and we continued to people watch until our deserts appeared. After saying I wasn't really in the mood for a desert I realised I was lying and amazed myself by eating more than half of this gorgeous cheesecake before my stomach cried no more. Don't get me wrong, it was bloody gorgeous, but one would have to starve for the day to be able to consume such a delicacy in full. Quality of the deserts in Di Maggio's is definitely high, however, the quality of service from some of the waiting staff left a lot to be desired. One gentleman was very helpful in accommodating our large group of girls in the small outdoor area and was very friendly, however some of the female members of staff need a lesson in manners and could do with smiling occasionally. One waitress sprayed my friend with a bottle of water/detergent whilst cleaning a table next to us, and not as much as a sorry. Not good enough Di Maggio's. If we venture here again it will only be due to the quality of food and the hope that your staff were maybe having a bad day.

My next dining out experience was a more back to basics experience while treating my younger brother after a hard days shopping at Glasgow Fort. My little brother, being the fussy teenager that he is, demanded we head for Pizza Hut, possibly the least healthy establishment in the place. After choosing a table outside, as it was turning out to be a very warm summer evening, we were presented with the menu by a very cheery waiter (you can tell they need the tips in this place). We settled for a Chicken Supreme Pizza for my brother and a trip to the salad station for myself. I'm glad I opted for the salad, as it was after this we spotted an item on the desert menu we couldn't resist. Hot Cookie Dough Desert. And yes, it really does taste every bit as good as you would imagine. Neglecting the thought of how many calories this delight contained, we shared it between us and I am so glad I tried it. I never have been a fan of Pizza Hut, but I think I may be visiting again, even if it is only for desert. They serve up this sweet treat on a large saucer, containing a half cooked chocolate chip cookie, with a dollop of slowly melting ice cream and chocolate sauce. For anyone who is a fan of Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream, this is a hotter, sweeter more intense version. For anyone else who is just a fan of deserts, pop into Pizza Hut and give it a try.

Next stop on the eating out extravaganza was Wagamama in the City Centre. I went here with two very good friends as we were looking for something different, and we were very happy with our choice. One thing you will immediately notice as you take your seat in Wagamama is the speed around you. The waiting staff race around table scribbling on your placemats (I'll get to this in a minute) and you sit at long tables next to strangers, almost like when you were at school. This was all a little weird at first, but we soon got into the swing of it. When you order the waitress writes the numbers on your placemat, helpful as I couldn't pronounce what I had ordered and wouldn't have known which dish was mine when it arrived. We also had to request cutlery, as we were not getting the hang of chopsticks at all. I ordered some Gyoza; a selection of steamed, grilled chicken and vegetable dumplings, served with a chilli, garlic, sesame and soy sauce. I also ordered some Yaki Soba; teppan fried soba noodles with chicken, shrimps, egg, beansprouts, peppers, white and spring onions, garnished with fried shallots, pickled ginger and sesame seeds. The service was very fast, and food exquisite. Not somewhere to go for a quiet meal, but ideal for a fun evening with friends to sample something a little different, albeit a tad more expensive. We will definitely be returning soon.

Last on my list of eateries I graced this week is Frankie and Benny's at Glasgow Fort. This was the setting of an informal family meal and works out at excellent value for money. I decided to go all out here and have 3 courses, throwing diets out the window and ignoring my built in calorie counter. With such a great selection of food on offer it was difficult to decide on my courses. I eventually settled for Little Italy Mussels for starter, Oven Baked Pesto Salmon and Mamma's Apple and Rhubarb Crumble for desert. The food was absolutely amazing and my only complaint is that there weren't enough delicious mussels in my starter! I must admit I did struggle to eat my desert, but only because I enjoyed the first two courses so much. Everyone was very pleased with their meals and my parents couldn't believe the bill when they saw it, they were expecting it to be a lot more. I also sampled some delicious cocktails at the bar before we left, and will definitely be returning here very soon. The family friendly atmosphere and great service and prices make this an ideal place to visit after a hard day's shopping.

Hopefully you get the chance to sample these delights if you are in and around Glasgow, and hopefully I will be visiting some more soon. Will be in touch.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

First Posting =]

If you are reading this, then thank you and welcome to my blog!

I'm currently sat in the garden of my (ok technically my parents') semi-detatched property in Glasweigan suburbia. To some, this may not be the most glamourous of settings, however to me, it is home and I love it. The gorgeous sunshine that enticed me outdoors in the firstplace is slowly disappearing behind the clouds and I may be venturing inside sooner than I anticipated. However, this moment is exactly what has spurred me on to start this blog. I will be the first to admit that I do that have the most exciting of lives - I am not famous, nor exceptionally talented in any way shape or form - but nevertheless, I live and breathe my every moment in this wonderful city and there can be some pretty magical moments in Glasgow. I want to share these moments, as well as anything else I feel the urge to inflict upon you dear readers of this blog.

For now, in this moment, I am enjoying the view over the beautiful loch behind my house that almost disguises the fact I am living in one of the UK's busiest cities, while smelling the dinner my mother is cooking (thankfully I'm starving) and listening to delightful little children in the swing park next to me shouting 'ye want a game a fitba?'... love it!